Propping up the pram. If I let go I’ll be flattened. This hill near Harting Down is a lot steeper than it looks. My right arm is quivering.

This summer I walked the South Downs Way with offspring in tow (Molly 13, Daisy 10, Jack 7).

The South Downs Way (a Bronze Age trading route) is 100 miles long (we went west-to-east – Winchester to Eastbourne) with a total of around 13,000ft of ascent. There were downhills too but, when you’re pushing what feels like the equivalent weight of half an elephant, most of the way felt very uphill. With various excursions to find food or diverting off course to look at interesting sights etc we did 118 miles altogether.

We started off heaving and hauling all our kit in a Dutch Walking Wagon (a glorified wheelbarrow) but it was so heavy and slow I swopped it for a fourth-hand pushchair. The girls walked while Jack pushed or cycled his bike.

Molly heaving the Walking Wagon with Daisy bringing up the rear.

My pushing-pulling team: Molly, Daisy, Jack.

We carried a lot of excess clobber with us including a dumper truck. But it kept Jack happy for hours.

We spent 3 weeks on the move (half of August and the beginning of September) which was about a week longer than I estimated (heatwaves and days of storms and rain at the beginning hampered progress).

The worst storm to hit was Storm Francis which the Met Office said had lashed the UK with ‘unseasonably strong gusts of nearly 80mph (129kph) winds and heavy rain’. We were camping near Cocking Down at the time. We nearly got blown into oblivion.

It’s raining men, hallelujah.

Life in tent during the build up to Storm Francis.

One of the advantages of living outside for 3 weeks is that children sleep through anything – even tent-flapping storms.

Jack relishing the sun again.

Heading down off Butser Hill, which at 271m (889ft) is the highest point along the South Downs Way. (Molly is with her school friend Lucy who joined us for some of the walk).

Jack had his 7th birthday in a rainy field above Buriton.

View from tent door near Forty Acre Lane near South Harting.

On the Downs what goes down must go up. Near Mount Sinai, south of Elsted.

Jack on large lump of chalk near Cocking.

Jack about to attack Daisy on Heyshott Down.

Chilly camping on Graffham Down. Wild camping is not allowed on the Downs so every night where we couldn’t get permission (which was most nights!) we tried our best to tuck ourselves out of the way.

Apart from one night in a hostel’s bunkroom at Southease, we camped at the side of the track every night, often sleeping on hard, lumpy ground beside old chalk pits, Roman roads and ruins, Iron Age hill forts and tumuli (burial mounds). The views from high up on the whale-back ridge of the Downs were constantly magnificent: a line of coast and expanse of sea on one side; the multi-varied patchwork of fields and woodlands and villages of the Weald on the other.

Crossing a stubble field on Littleton Down, west of Bignor.

Big skies and rolling hills near the Roman Road of Stane Street.

The rough and rutted tracks caused the pram to capsize far too often. The effort of re-righting needed a lot of effort. By the end I had a lot of names for the pram none of which were complimentary.

Heading up Amberley Mount.

Top of Amberley Mount.

View from tent on Kithurst Hill.

Puncture! All change.

About to put the tent up on Chanctonbury Hill.

Misty morning view from camp spot.




Jack and Daisy eating through some of the contents from the local bakery in Steyning High Street. We had to come down off the Downs to replenish food supplies.We carried enough food for a week (we only saw 3 shops in 3 weeks) and 8 litres of water, which was about enough to last 2 days depending on the weather. (Water taps are dotted along the Downs at rather irregular intervals).

Trying to dry our clothes on my homemade inner tent washing line.

Camping up near Ditchling Beacon.

Jack throwing a stone into a dew pond (no relation).

The windblown threesome.

Jack had his 7th birthday in a field above Buriton. Gary came out to meet us there with a prepared-before-the-programme cake I’d made and frozen.  It rained very hard and we sang happy birthday to Jack while kitted out in full waterproof regalia.

We had 1 shower, several washes beneath cold taps and 3 punctures in 3 weeks.

For navigation I used a small OS 1:25,000 scale map book of the Downs. I gave Daisy and Jack daily lessons on how to map read, identify symbols, read a compass and estimate the time of day from the position of the sun in true Rambo style. The advantage of using an OS map is that it doesn’t need charging – plus it makes great reading. It told us we were passing places like Scabby Brow, Plonk Barn, Cheesefoot Head, The Bosom, Mount Sinai, Muggery Pope, Granny’s Belt, Grandfather’s Bottom, Winding Bottom, Well Bottom, Bushy Bottom, Moon’s Bottom, Deep Bottom, Long Bottom, Loose Bottom and Breaky Bottom. Yes, up on the Downs you look down upon a lot of Bottoms.

Heading up the short, sharp steepness of Bunkershill Plantation.

The wind tends to blow from only one direction on the Downs (south-westerly) giving most exposed trees a bad hair day look.

A blue sky high on Iford Hill.

On the old military road with our first Seven Sister in sight.

In the field where we crossed from the Western Hemisphere into the Eastern Hemisphere.

Daisy climbing up the Down above Breaky Bottom Vineyard.

Daisy and cows Itford Hill.

Dog poo bag swinging in the breeze – unfortunately an all-too-common sight of fence adornments on the Downs. TAKE IT HOME!!

Full steam ahead with views of Mount Caburn and Firle Beacon.

Finally, on a perfect cloud-free day, we tackled the dramatic roller coaster coastline of the Seven Sisters. It was a long 13-mile day. Not long after the sun set behind Belle Tout lighthouse we donned head torches so as not to fall over Beachy Head by mistake and made it to Eastbourne in darkness.

Jack tackling a Seven Sister with Daisy bringing up the rear.

I would push the pram up one Seven Sister before running back down to push up Jack’s bike.

Sunset over Belle Tout lighthouse.

Daisy coming in to land.

Night time arrival at the end in Eastbourne. Or the beginning if you’re about to head for Winchester. (The signpost says: Winchester 100 miles.

We headed home inland for a while. Stiles and loaded prams are not a happy mix.

Waiting for the train home.


Molly, Daisy and Jack raised £370 for the NHS and around £2200 for our village primary school where Jack and Daisy still go to school.

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