What they don’t tell you (and you need to know) about South Downs yha

February 27, 2014

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.

6 Responses to “What they don’t tell you (and you need to know) about South Downs yha”

  1. decorartuk Says:

    Hi, Sarah,
    Welcome back! It seems your 2 weeks in the UK were full of all sorts of adventures…

    I can imagine how small your room was, because that’s the biggest problem in England – not enough space. On many occasions I feel claustrophobic! If we go to London we try to book a room in a hotel that wouldn’t be too expensive, do you know what we end up with? Once it seemed that the shower room is the size of a wardrobe, we’ve also had a bathroom where you couldn’t go to the toilet without putting your legs into the shower (trust me, you had to be a contortionist) or a room so small, that sleeping in a tiny bed next to a window it felt that you were sleeping on a windowsill!

    Well, I hope that during the last two weeks were there lots of bright moments that you will remember fondly. I also hope that people, who are going to travel to this hostel will find your review and will either get special sound proof sleeping gear or find another place to stay at. K.

    • Hi K, Thanks! It was great to come back to Holland.
      Funny story about the tiny hotel rooms. I can imagine! (Though usually as far as hostels go, the rooms are quite spacious since they need to accommodate about 12 beds).
      I hope the next time you go to England, you won’t have to sleep on a windowsill!

      And yes, there were bright moments. I’ll write about those later on. One was meeting Sonia from Androula’s kitchen, one of the other blogs I follow (besides yours and just a handful of others). So maybe you and I will meet too before long.
      cheers, Sarah

  2. What a shame this hostel was so bad and our poor weather can’t have helped either. My friend Sonia (Androulas Kitchen) was telling me about your meeting in Brighton and the lovely crafted items you gave her. What a fantastic idea. Hope Southease hasn’t out you off a future visit to the South Downs as they are very beautiful in good weather.

    • Thanks paisley, how nice that you know Sonia, even the virtual world can be small sometimes.
      Well, the weather wasn’t ideal, but it is so similar to Dutch weather I felt right at home. (Well, the flooding in the South West and gale winds in London were exceptional).

      I liked the South Downs, but by Southease, and on the way to Lewes (I took a muddy 2 1/2 hour walk between the two) I wasn’t charmed with the landscape. It was bare, the river seemed lackluster, a lot of it was by the ubiquitous road, and sometimes under huge electrical pylons.
      The villages of Rodmell and Southease, though, fulfilled my longing for typical English coziness. And I loved Lewes.

      I imagine in spring and summer in good weather though, the South Downs must indeed be beautiful and I certainly may give them another try.

      Oh do please spread the idea of ‘gifting’, the power of it lies in anonymity – ie. not going around broadcasting how generous you are giving away all your crafted prezzies to strangers, but I may write about it anyway because it is such a nice way to interact with the world.

  3. The other end of the South Downs, Chichester to Winchester has some spectacular scenery as well and the official South Downs Way footpath is for the most part a long way from major roads. If you do get the chance, do give it a go I am sure you won’t be disappointed.

    Sonia and I have known each other for several years and see each other regularly and I am looking forward to our meeting tomorrow when she has promised to bring your delightful gifts for me to see.

    • Sarah Zoutewelle Says:

      Thanks for this information, I will hopefully get a chance to explore that area as well. Hope you liked the gifts and got ideas for what little things you might make when you go ‘gifting’. I always have a small bag of tiny crafted items with me, for those special encounters that tend to make one’s day. Just that kind word, someone taking an extra moment to give real attention, or go beyond the mere necessities of doing their job in order to make a connection, those kinds of heart to heart moments when we feel seen and connected. I always say thank you in whatever way I can.

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