The Vanguard Way

66 miles from the suburbs to the sea

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HOW IT ALL BEGAN

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It had been agreed that the route should as far as possible follow public rights of way through the countryside, avoiding roads and major settlements, and that it should pass close to the three conveniently located youth hostels that existed at that time, at Crockham Hill, Blackboys and Alfriston.  However, complete avoidance of major settlements was tempered by the inclusion of Forest Row and Alfriston, attractive places offering good facilities and choice of overnight accommodation.  All this was achieved through careful planning, painstaking research and vigorous footslogging by several club members.

For the Vanguards themselves, it was to be a pilgrimage; for others - with an extension to the coast at Seaford (“from the suburbs to the sea”) - a fine walk of 102 km (63 miles), passing through some of the best and most varied scenery in southern England: North Downs, Greensand Hills, High Weald, Ashdown Forest, South Downs and finally a short but spectacular excerpt of the Sussex Heritage Coast.

We were following an illustrious precedent, as around 100 AD the Romans built a road from Deptford (on the existing Watling Street from London to Dover) via Lewes to one of their Channel ports, at what is now Seaford.  Indeed, the routes coincide twice: near Crockham Hill and in the Ashdown Forest.

The story has now come full circle, as Alan Smith currently organises the very same Ridgeway Walk event that started the ball rolling – and several Vanguards still manage to complete its 40 miles.

Not surprisingly, one or two Jeremiahs expressed doubts about the Club’s ability to organise itself sufficiently to get such an ambitious project off the ground, but they were to be proved wrong.  Alright, the route was not formally launched until 3rd May 1981, but a route description was published in 1980 in the form of a booklet.

First edition of the Vanguard Way guide book First Edition of the Vanguard Way guide book

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© 2009 Colin Saunders