A colourful, expressive pastel painting of Chanctonbury Ring - a line of distinctive trees on top of a rounded hill

My South Downs Way Journal

Updated December 2023

A messy desk covered in sketches and art materials from my South Downs Way journal

Sketchbook Pages

It’s a strange notion, really, (for me anyway) to want to fill a sketchbook with the story of just one hike. I usually fill them ad-hoc letting notes, ideas and observations flow, picking up whichever one has the right ‘feel’, shape, paper… So half-filled journals sit on my shelves, each waiting their turn for the next ‘right moment’. I decided I want my national trail sketchbooks to be different though, complete from start to finish – and my South Downs Way journal would be the first.

I got all excited at the thought of a neat row of 15 trail journals sat on my bookshelf in the future – which is basically a way of justifying a splurge on something I’ve coveted for ages…

Most of us convince ourselves we need new hiking gear, but no, what I needed was a new journal specifically for sketching on The South Downs Way. Of course I did. Small, square, full of beautiful paper and lots of possibilities (for the hefty sum of 17 quid). Get in my rucksack.

Sketching Come Rain Or Shine

Unfortunately, that’s where it stayed for most of the 100-mile hike – a raging storm, heavy rains and strong winds put paid to my lofty ideals.

Still, I carried on drawing at home and I’m happy to say that my South Downs Way journal is now full of sketches, notes and memories – and it even has pride of place on my shelf. I hope they give you a flavour of what I saw.

I'm standing with a large rucksack on my back about to go through a wooden gate. There's a fantastic view of a winding river going out to sea in the background

From The Trail

A couple of just a handful of sketches from my South Downs Way Journal made on the trail

Chalk Tracks, Big skies And Rolling Hills

A brooding sky over a hilly landscape on the South Downs
Chalk track heading to a pin point in the distance with a distinctive hill behind it

Chalk and flint. Hard and rough underfoot, slippery when wet. Ancient. Broad enough for rumbling cartwheels (and mountain bikes in pairs) or narrow enough for droves of single-file sheep…a defining feature of this verdant landscape.

Dew Ponds

A flat oval shaped pond with water muddy Water filled to the brim. There's a windswept hawthorn tree beyond the pool

Old layers. Chalk, straw, clay, flint. Perfect mirrors that look like they’ve fallen off a dressing table. The surface unrippled (if it wasn’t dried up) reflecting big clouds and lonely trees. They provide the only water on top of the South Downs, keeping the livestock slaked, and me captivated.

Chanctonbury Ring

A chalk path leads to a distinctive stand of trees on the horizon  under a bank of dark grey clouds

Mostly though, I was captivated by Chanctonbury Ring (Wikipedia) and it became a focus for a number of sketches. The distinctive beech trees were like a shadow play as leaden skies threw them into silhouette one minute and lit them up with golden sunlight the next – I couldn’t have asked for a more dramatic scene, played out to an audience of of one.

A colourful mixed media sketch in my South Downs Way journal

Small Oil Sketches

Simplified, moody atmosphere of trees on a horizon in oils
A loose, dark oil sketch of broody skies over Chanctonbury Ring

South Downs Way Trail Guides

Plan Your Hike

Find Everything you need to plan your hike on this epic trail in south east England.

South Downs Way Guide 100 miles from Winchester to Eastbourne
The South Downs Way - 5 great campsites right on the trail
Links to: The South Downs Way packing list (and how I got it wrong)

Be A Supporter

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my South Downs Way journal, as well as my guides to inspire and help you plan your own hikes. I absolutely love writing and sharing them with you – and keeping them free for everyone.

You can help me to write my next guide by joining my fabulous supporters and buy me a ‘Ko-fi’ to get to the next trail. Make a donation in the ‘Ko-fi box’ without leaving 10 Mile Hike or come on over to my Ko-fi page and join my supporters there – I’d love you to join us. It’s a mini blog where I publish my latest fundraising goal, regular behind-the-scenes updates, photos of my latest walks and hikes, and anything else I think you might enjoy!

Ko-fi logo
Visit my Ko-fi page

Thanks so much for your support – I really appreciate it.

Happy hiking!

Stephie x


  • Ruchard
    5 September, 2023

    Are prints available of you paintings? I really like “under the beech” a view of Chanctonbury ring.
    Regards Richard


Post a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.