I was worried I might find the South Downs Way boring.
As a lover of mountains, I’m used to hiking along knife-edge arêtes and scrambling up exposed summits on my regular pilgrimages to the Lake District and Snowdonia.
So I feared walking the rolling hills of the South Downs would leave me disappointed.
But my time on the chalk and flint paths of the ridgetop – an ancient trade route used since the Bronze Age – was far from underwhelming.
There was an impossible-to-resist charm to the area and, before long, I’d forgotten about my doubts.
Of course, it was a different kind of appeal.
My four-day trek from Eastbourne to Amberley lacked the breathtaking beauty of Lakeland or the wild, rugged solitude of North Wales. There were no craggy peaks, glistening tarns or cascading waterfalls.
But, in its own understated way, the 52.5-mile section of the South Downs Way I walked with my brother Adam and friend Joe proved completely satisfying.
Tramping along the gently undulating route – a mixture of bare hills, corn fields, grassland and small woods – had a real therapeutic quality.
In fact it felt more relaxing to be out on the South Downs ridge than in the higher mountains.
Was it the lack of gruelling ascents that enabled us to easily switch off and develop that glorious mindset where your only responsibility in the world is to put one foot in front of the other?
Could it have been the simple walking on a predominantly flat, firm and dry surface that prompted us to take it easy and really enjoy the experience?
Or maybe the historic track – after millennia of use by humans – had acquired some innate, almost mystical, quality that soothes the souls of those who set foot on the ridge?
Whatever it was, I certainly felt de-stressed and happy with life after the hike, which I completed in two weekend stints.
But it would be wrong of me to paint a picture of a walk devoid of any wow moments.
The chalk cliffs of Beachy Head – an unspoilt coastline of wave-cut whiteness – were, in my eyes, as captivating as anything I’d witnessed in the mountainous regions of the UK.
Braving the nerve-testing 530ft drop, we perched on the edge and peered down to a scene of crashing waves, boulder-strewn beaches and a crumbling wall of white rock towering above a candy-striped lighthouse.
It was perhaps the jewel in the crown of South Downs Way landscapes – but it was far from the only highlight.
Walking the undulations – known as the “ups and downs” – of the Seven Sisters cliffs was coastal hiking at its finest while Cuckmere Haven in the glorious sunshine proved as picturesque an estuary as I’d ever seen.
And all of these were crammed into the first few miles of day one as we trekked west from Eastbourne.
Unsurprisingly though this quality level could not be maintained – and the stand-out spots became less frequent as we headed inland from the dramatic coastline.
Instead the pleasant walking was a blur of never-ending, rolling chalk hills and innumerable agricultural fields, broken only by our descents into quaint villages such as Alfriston and Southease.
It was the regularity of this somewhat featureless, manmade environment that I’d feared might be monotonous.
And of course there were negatives – ugly telephone masts spoiling some of the summits and noisy road crossings breaking the calm.
But all in all I found there was character around every corner of the South Downs Way.
The open, treeless ridge – a vantage point with 360-degree views that have remained largely unchanged for centuries – invariably filled me with a sense of space and a connection to the past, while helpful locals pointing us in the direction of much-needed water taps added a friendly element to the adventure.
Dew ponds – shallow, circular pools of water that are a remnant of sheep farming before the use of plastic water piping – were an intriguing sight and places such as the deep, dry valley of Devil’s Dyke provided a break from the norm.
Mystery was even injected into the hike at Chanctonbury Ring, a historic hilltop with a distinctive patch of storm-battered Beech trees.
The supposedly haunted site, which has more than its fair share of ghostly tales and claims of supernatural sightings, is known for a bizarre local myth.
So it goes, if you run around the trees seven times in an anti-clockwise direction you can summon Satan, who will offer you a bowl of soup in return for your soul.
With weary legs we opted against the extra exertion – even though we were tempted by a warm bowl of hearty broth.
But it was none of these interesting features that added the real excitement to our South Downs Way experience.
That came in the form of our overnight arrangements – wild camping under the stars at Beddingham Hill and Fulking Hill.
There is something magical about going back to basics. No bed, no electricity, not even a tent.
Just a mat and a sleeping bag. Fine views and fresh air. Simple food and the warmth of a fire. The rustling of leaves and the chatter of good friends sharing good times.
It was a magnificent way to complement our daytime walking, the icing on the cake of our South Downs Way experience.
An experience that had many more ups than downs – and was never boring.