Since 1967, the Downsman Hike has welcomed teams from Sussex and beyond. Set within the stunning South Downs National Park, it is a superb challenge that is open to all members of the Scout Association and Girlguiding UK, to include young people and adults alike. There are 6 different classes to suit age and experience, ranging from the non-competitive “Open Class” to the competitive classes of A, B, E, S & V.
The competitive classes are timed races. However, many teams will also enter the competitive classes purely for the huge sense of achievement, having demonstrated they have the physical endurance required to complete the Downsman.
HOW IT BEGAN
In the words of Frank Edwards the creator of the event:
The prototype “Downsman” took the form of a different circular route each year, the checkpoints consisting of “Incidents”.
On inheriting this I discovered after a few years that Scouting was changing and the project needed a fresh look to compliment the new look Venture Scouting.
The words still echo in my ears, “Foolish”, “Can’t be done”, etc. My idea of walking the entire length of the South Downs way in one weekend certainly did not meet with universal approval.
First I had to satisfy myself that it could be done and with my late mate Alan Paton set off to prove and time it.
From those results we softened it slightly by making the team consist of four members but only three need to be walking at any one time, thus one member could rest with a back up team, this idea also increased the team size and organisational qualities required, often involving parents to prepare food, drive mobile caravans, etc.
The immediate appeal astonished us with over eighty teams starting the inaugural “walk” with the majority accomplishing the full distance.
The following year, applications were received from outside the County and it became necessary to limit the number of teams to around one hundred.
As the years slipped by and the record times tumbled, acknowledgement must be paid to the bravery and fortitude of those taking part, the organisers for the enormous amount of time I know it takes and not least of all those helpers over the years without whom the whole event would not be possible.