This was the longest walk we did and has some tough hills in it. But by Walk 5 we seemed to have built up some stamina and mostly took it in our stride.
The biggest climb of the day comes right at the beginning at Amberley with the two-mile long ascent of Rackham Hill. The start is beside the River Arun so is barely above sea level and ascends over 550 feet at an average gradient of almost 5 per cent.
If starting from the Station car park (details here) it is safe to walk up the pavement on the north side of the B1239 to join the SDW on the right where it rises up the lane called High Titten. To begin with this is metalled but after the farm it becomes the familiar chalky path which looks like it soars ever upwards. But taken steadily – and on fresh legs at the start of the day – it is soon managed.
Some of us have walked this section three times now and twice saw Red Kites here – once three in the air together. Our resident ornithologist Julian suggests that the name of the next summit – Kithurst Hill – is a historic reference to the preference of these birds for this locality in the past.
There are excellent views on this walk both to the north across the Amberley Wild Brooks to the heathlands of the weald, eastwards along the sweep of the South Downs escarpment and south towards Cissbury Ring and Highdown, with Worthing, Bognor and the sea beyond. On clear days to the southwest Selsey Bill and the Isle of Wight may still be glimpsed.
The ridgeway past Kithurst Hill above Storrington is barely undulating but eventually you descend to cross the busy A24 above Washington and face a stiff climb up to Chanctonbury Ring. This flinty winding track is steep in parts and caused a number of us to make several pauses. But all things must pass and the final romp to the (slightly bedraggled) ring of surviving beech trees savaged by the 1987 Hurricane is a delight.
From here there are still another 6 miles or so to cover – but all downhill and it seems like you are soon skirting the rim of of the Steyning Bowl coomb and descending through the rather smelly free-range pig farm above Annington and Botolphs. Once across the joint SDW and Downslink bridge over the River Adur, it is but a few steps to the A283 and the end of the walk.