Dog Walks Across the Downs
One of the best walks I’ve done for a long time was on the South Downs at Harting Down. After a visit to Uppark House (a stunning National Trust House with gardens in a spectacular spot with views over the Sussex countryside with an excellent Tea-room) tired and a little sore after a day in the Blue Machine, a walk seemed the perfect tonic to blow away the cobwebs. The sun had just popped out as well, so all seemed fine on a mid-week evening.
This part of the Downs is far less populated than towards Brighton, although Chichester is only 7 miles away. From the National Trust Car park at Harting Down – just south towards Chichester out of the pretty village of South Harting – an obvious path leads you down onto the South Downs Way. This must be one of the most challenging parts of the South Downs Way. I’d meant only to walk up to the first ridge and admire the view, but as soon as I go there, a mile further on, the next ridge looked higher.
The views from the first ridge were wonderful, looking down onto South Harting and the Countryside beyond. I’d nothing to hurry back for, so I set off for the second ridge and what turned out to be the top of Harting Down. Whereas the walks on the South Downs at Ditching, and Chactonbury, stay relatively flat once you’re on top, the gap between the two ridges at South Harting transpired to be a deep and steep valley. I dropped down in the evening light through gorse bushes in full flower and windswept trees on a chalk path. In the bottom of the valley I stared at the slope to come, a certain black run and a long one.
Pausing once to catch my breath, the rewards at the top were sensational. On top of Harting Down you can see the Hogsback, near Haslemere at least 20 miles away, East Head the entrance to Chichester Harbour 10 miles away or so, the spire of Chichester Cathedral, the spinnaker tower in Porstmouth, Goodwood Racecourse and the Isle of Wight in the far distance all glimpsed across pristine and glorious countryside.
As I arrived back in the car park, a worried looking girl rushed up and asked if I’d lost a dog – obviously single men walking without dogs are highly suspicious! There in her car was a beautiful Lurcher puppy found on the busy B-road which ran between South Harting and Chichester. I’d seen one walker with two Labs, and not searching for a dog, and a runner without hound on my entire walk. The dog was muddy and out of breath and had obviously run a long way. We put a note up in the Car Park saying ‘Dog (Lurcher type puppy) Found on Road Unharmed. Taken to Vet in Chichester, and left the Vets number’. There were no other cars in the car park, and we both wondered if this was the correct course of action.
Just as I was jumping in my car, another car whistled into the car park with the Lurcher search party. It turned out that the puppy was called Darryl and had left his master on a jog 2 miles away over an hour before. The man had rung his wife in a panic saying he’d lost the dog. The search party were happily reunited with a bouncy Darryl…wonderful. I drove home thinking about what is the right thing to do if you find a dog – is it to ring the local police station or is a local vet the right course of action?
Dog or no dogs if you’re looking for some inspiration and a chance to raise the spirits high, pull on those wellies and test out Harting Down!