I’ve recently returned from 2 weeks in the UK. The first part was a city visit to London galleries. And the second part was meant to be a restful walking holiday in the South Downs national reserve area.

I stay in youth hostels and was looking forward to trying the new one at Southease, not far from Brighton. It is advertised as being rural, in the middle of the South Downs coastal walking area, and after 5 hectic days in an overfull 12 bed dorm in London, I was looking forward to some peace and quiet.

Getting off a the tiny Southease train station and walking the 200 meters to the hostel, it appears to be just what is says on the tin. It is a rebuilt farm with rustic elements, and looks great.

approaching from the station

approaching from the station

Here is the view looking back to the railway line.

Looking toward Southease

Looking toward Southease

Once in the hostel, I was shown to my dorm and regardless of my budget, immediately upgraded to a private room.  It was so narrow and tiny, and had no storage space for my  things, that I couldn’t face 5 nights there. Luckily there was a room available, and I began to unpack. But for a moment I couldn’t believe my ears- whoosh, whoosh, …..cars, trucks, horns! What is this?

So here is what they don’t tell you on the site or anywhere else about South Downs yha- namely, that it is located literally on the side of a major artery, A26 . And that there is heavy traffic there from 5AM to 11PM, and that the rooms are not well insulated. Underneath is a picture of one of my windows (pink arrow) , the other one is on the corner where the blue arrow is, the blue arrow is pointing to the road.

my window

my window

Below you see how close it is to the road, the blue arrow shows where my other window was. And there is are other bedrooms right on the road side as well.

approaching hostel

approaching hostel

In the photo below, the blue arrow shows the hostel.

Back side of hostel approaching from the otherdirection.

Back side of hostel approaching from the other direction.

I’ve already written to yha (see update below)  that I feel this is a gross misrepresentation. I didn’t sleep well at all, even with earplugs, and a quick nap during the day was impossible.

Still, I was there, and the surroundings were nice, so I did make the best of it. But I want to add that this hostel is designed badly, there is more emphasis on externals than actual needs of the visitors. There are many glitches besides not enough storage space in the dorms, which are more than just teething problems. Looks like it was done by a committee, with an eye to profits as the bottom line rather than creating a caring, comfortable place for hostellers to relax. I wouldn’t recommend this hostel to anyone.

Update March 20, 2014:
One good thing about YHA is their dedication to improving the quality of their product and services. After every stay you get an elaborate survey to fill in covering all aspects of your stay, from cleanliness to staff friendliness. I wrote a rather damning evaluation plus a separate detailed report to the customer care manager of all the things that were wrong, and requested a full refund. I received the most sympathetic and kind mail from Alice Brooksbank from customer care, going into every one of my complaints and either letting me know that things would be changed, or explaining why they might not be changed on the short term. Most important, the building will be better insulated for sound, this is already a funded project (YHA is a charity).

She promised me a 50% refund which I won’t complain about. So I’m satisfied.  Here is the last part of her letter:

I am really so pleased that you wrote in to express your frustration we love to hear from our guests and I encourage you to always give us feedback in the future. I have been made aware that the Hostel Manager did try his very best to resolve as many issues as possible at the time of your stay and we are extremely sorry that you found YHA South Downs so dissatisfactory and as a gesture of good will would like to offer a 50% refund…

 I would like to take this opportunity to express how valuable you are to the YHA as without your support we would never be able to meet our charitable objectives.

Image copied from here

I’m just back from 2 weeks in the UK and will post on that later. For now I want to let people know that my dear friend, Kathy Carr has completed her DVD, Whale Journey, connecting with Humpback whales.

Kathy and I go way back, from Findhorn days. We’ve worked together on several Findhorn publicatoins, one, Faces of Findhorn, published by Harper and Row.

She is a consummate photographer, and impassioned artist and activist. Kathy lives in Hawaii and swims regularly with dolphins. The Whale Journey film was made during several trips to Tonga where she swam with and connected deeply with humpback whales,  and photographed these encounters.

I have always been fascinated by dolphins and whales, and one of my dreams is to eventually be in the water with them. In the meantime, I live with the above image in my studio (available to buy from Kathy’s site), and feel daily the vast, benign presence of these intelligent creatures.