Downsman Hike – 2018 Report

On Saturday 6th October, 54 teams, formed from 238 Cubs, Scouts, Guides, Explorers, Network & adult Scouters took part in this year’s Downsman Hike. The route predominately followed the South Downs Way. There were 6 different Classes ranging from 12 miles in the non-competitive Open Class to the timed distance races in the 5 competitive classes.

Alarm clocks across the County sounded a rude awakening to summon Explorers, Network and Adult Scouters to Bignor for 05:30 am kit checks in Classes A and B. Between 06:00 am and 06:35 am, these teams started off into the darkness and thick fog with a keen determination to reach Eastbourne, some 55 miles away.

From 07:40 am, Scouts in Class S teams were arriving at Westmeston Village Hall, near Ditchling. From 08:20 am Explorers and “Veterans” in Classes E and V teams were arriving at Steyning Bowl, all with ambitions to reach Eastbourne. At 09:30, Cubs, Scouts and guides in the Open Class teams started to arrive at Westmeston with a goal of hiking to Itford.

The geography of this event is vast. This year, teams in the competitive classes were equipped with trackers and thank goodness they were. The thick fog blanketed the hilltops all day causing some teams to stray from the desired route. But with trackers monitoring progress, lost teams were soon ushered back on track.

The fog was eventually blown away by persistent strong winds and horizontal rain. Despite this, team spirits remained high and the enthusiasm to finish remained strong. Everyone from all Classes demonstrated a heroic effort to hike in utterly miserable conditions. Well done to all of them.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank the massive army of volunteers that turned out to make the event possible, this was much appreciated.

Three Explorer Scouts have written a paragraph each to describe their experiences of the Downsman. This year they were all in different Class B teams but collectively they have entered Open Class, Class S and Class E in previous years.

James –  “The Downsman is one of the highlights of the West Sussex Scouting Calendar. It is a great event as it is so simple, your team and legs against the clock. I have thoroughly enjoyed it every time I have done it and the volunteers are fantastic, even when it’s cold, dark, windy and raining.”

William –  “The Downsman is different to other hikes because of the endurance and determination that it takes to finish. I really enjoyed how different the Downsman is and loved the challenge it posed.”

Maddie – “Having taken part in many other hikes, this event differs greatly. Testing every participant in both a physical and mental way. The event is well run by many supporting staff who not only make the event easy to take part in but also show a huge amount of enthusiasm towards the hike. Having taken part previously, 2018 has to go down as one of the most challenging events. Mainly down to the high wind and torrential rains. Every member of the staff and support crew were friendly and made the day a better experience. As far as the hiking was concerned it was definitely a challenge, but the sense of achievement at the end is one of the most rewarding feelings I personally have ever felt. As well as the endless support from happy service crews, the relationship between teams also made the event worthwhile. It’s always good to get to know people throughout the day while sat in carparks waiting for your team on the course and helping each other up the hills. Overall the Downsman is an event I really enjoy and would recommend it highly to anyone considering doing it.”

The date of the next Downsman Hike is Saturday 5th October 2019. For further details please see www.downsman.com