I had been meaning to post this for a while, but due to other commitments I had put this on the back burner so to speak.
A few months ago I embarked on a 25 mile walk from Horsham to Brighton via Shoreham-by-sea. If you are not familiar with the area I have enclosed a small map at the bottom of the page.
Accompanying my walk was a good friend of mine, Nad, who, just like me, likes to set last minute crazy goals without thinking about the scale of the task – namely the distance involved (25 miles on a map doesn’t look that far), while haphazardly packing a small rucksack without all the necessary gear – i.e. spare socks, provisions, waterproofs, clothing etc – on a day billed for heavy rain. Heck I hadn’t even had breakfast and Nad wasn’t even wearing decent trainers or had a coat with him. The only thing I packed was a couple of cotton pullovers as though thinking this would be suffice.
It trickled with rain from the outset (which was comforting as it cooled us down) as the first 5 miles took us to the small village of Southwater. We thought it would be a good idea to get something to eat so I bought a small baguette and some chocolate chip cookies for the road. We headed straight for the Downs link – a 37 mile dirt track that attracts dog walkers, runners and cyclists on a daily basis – and proceeded to walk it all the way Shoreham….and boy what a stretch it was. The trickily drizzle soon turned into heavy rain which completely soaked our pullovers while adding that extra weight we had wanted to avoid. As it had been raining quite heavily for the past couple of days the muddied track was water logged so we had no option but to walk through the large puddles which isn’t good when you’re wearing trainers with holes in it. Mine had held up quite well considering I could feel my toes swimming inside the water logged insole. But It was Nad’s feet that seemed to be doing the most swimming as he was complaining of pain and discomfort for the next 10 miles before we could find anything to sit on which in the end, as the pain grew progressively worse, we had to make do with an old rusty wobbly gate. In an attempt at drying his soaks, he hooked them onto some thorns on a nearby bush as the rain calmed and the sun made a shock appearance from behind the grey clouds. We constantly danced to the pattern of the sun throughout the day – putting on our wet pullovers when it rained, only to take it off when He decided to make an appearance. Walking around with soaked feet ignited discussions around the important role socks – as well as dry feet – played in our life and how we took them for granted. And we vowed that should we take this journey again we would take an ample supply of socks.
Many people described this feat as mad or even crazy. Indeed, when we asked a dog walker we had just so happened to bump into asking for directions, a look of astonishment would capture her face as though something heavy lingered over them (it could have been our socks) when we told them where we were heading.
‘It’s a challenge’ we replied clinging onto our rucksack over looking the road ahead.
‘Good luck!’ she smiled with a rather you than me look.
The public are a strange bunch I thought. In the distance they look, as Dylan Thomas’ wrote in Fern Hill ‘as happy as the grass was green’, but as we progressively journeyed closer to them you just feel this uneasiness about them. Should they have a dog or mobile phone upon their person then this serves as an apt distraction in order to deploy the ‘look everywhere else apart from the people in front of you’ technique.
Once we had made it to Shoreham we stopped off for a much deserved dinner at one of the local Inn’s. We were absolutely starving and would devour the entire menu and the waitress if we had the chance. Our appetite grew more hungrier while we sat and waited for dinner to be prepared.
‘The longer it takes the better’ I said to Nad. His nod implied agreement but I knew that if his stomach had hands it would put on some boxing gloves and knock me out as it demanded to be fed there and then.
When the food was ready we stopped talking to each other immediately and tucked in eating everything on our plate in lightening speed. At that moment I wish I could have been forgiven for being dog-like as I so wished to lick the plate clean! But with the advent of a conservative couple sitting opposite us in their somewhat exaggerated English upper-classiness I didn’t attempt it.
We paid and hit the road again. Our socks were so drenched we went into a store to buy a new pair. Nad made the suggestion that we should put them on by the sea – he had figured that putting them on in the middle of town wasn’t exactly pleasing on the general public’s eye which was very thoughtful of him. But after walking for such a long time I didn’t really care who was watching, I just wanted to put on these new socks.
We journeyed along the sea front for the majority of the walk toward Brighton, passing garages, Car dealerships and the Shoreham-by-Sea port. While we were walking past, I wondered to myself if it was possible to take a boat or cargo hull across the sea to France. Nad was under the impression that this wasn’t possible, but I think he just said that because he knew what I was thinking! We had always loved walking, and the dream to walk around the world had at that point in time inspired us. But alas, today Brighton tomorrow the world!
Along the coast we slowly made it to Hove with the distant pier of Brighton looming on the horizon. A sudden sense of achievement started to trickle through our veins just like the rain which had continued to drizzle down on us. We took one last stop at a pub and had a coffee and rested our feet for a short while. At this point Nad was in excruciating pain. I felt some tenderness on the sole of my feet but I still felt OK. Nad on the other hand was struggling, but we pursued along the wide boulevard connecting Hove to Brighton. Passing groups of joggers, runners and walkers, we turned inwards toward the town centre which lead straight to Brighton train Station. By now we were feeling extremely tired and hungry again. Indeed, the rich combination of the wet and body odor didn’t exactly help either. Being a weekend many people were smartly dressed ready for a night out on the town. Nad and I were both wearing the same colour cotton pullover and dark tracksuit bottoms and a cap. If anything we must have looked like a couple of Romanian gypsies given both our dark complexions.
At any rate, we had to wait for an hour for the next train so we just took some well deserved rest outside the station under the canopy of darkness and the gentle mist of white fumes emitting from the many smokers until the train arrived.