Thursday is quite a pleasant day - pleasant for driving anyway. I am off to Guiseley to meet up with Brian for the seventh stage of our walk round Britain. This year I will be staying overnight so we can get an early start for the drive to Ashford, Kent. Before bed however there is the little matter of the pub quiz. Every Thursday Brian; and two friends attend the quiz at the Regent. Guests have the option of staying in on their own or making up the team. This evening the guest goes with them. I feel I contributed something to our success by knowing who painted the "Night Watch" [Rembrandt]. My modest contribution meant that we shared joint first with friends John and Liz. The only fly in the ointment was that Brian and I would not be able to claim our prize - beer money for next week's quiz.
We set off shortly after breakfast for an uneventful drive to Ashford. As we headed down the M20 we saw a lot of earth being moved and shaped in preparation for the high-speed rail link from London to the Channel Tunnel.
We had planned to park in an NCP owned park car fairly close to the station. In the event we fail to find that one and end up in the multi-story car park
for Eurostar passengers. This is much better as it is directly opposite the station with an enclosed footbridge to carry us over the road. Getting lost does
have its compensations! During the few minutes we have to wait for our train to Sandwich a London bound Eurostar arrives in the station. It looks like a
long yellow and white snake as it winds its way across the tracks to the opposite platform. Our train duly arrives and we pass more earth works for the
new railway before passing the Channel Tunnel terminal just outside Folkestone.
Finally we reach Sandwich and the 12 months of anticipation are over - the walk can begin. As we leave the station at Sandwich one thing is clear - contrary to our firmly held belief we do not remember the way to the main road. We duly get lost in first 100yards [and never did find the main road]. We stumbled about through a housing estate en-route to a park with a path that leads to the golf course and the coast. In Roger's case it was literally stumbling about as he fell over on a footpath between houses. The net result was nasty graze on the shin, that needed bandaging up, and, to add insult to injury, a rip the trousers.
We finally reached the golf course and turned south-west along our friend from last year, the Saxon Shore Way, and started battling through a very strong head wind. The stretch of coast between Sandwich and Deal is reasonably interesting but is a twentieth century man made landscape. We passed 2 golf courses separated by a few 100 yards where some large houses front the sea with a yacht club next door. There is a distinct lack of shelter so we have to take our break huddled behind a wall near the yacht club.
On the Northern edge of Deal we stop in a pub for the first orange squash of the week and we are served orange juice & lemonade at an exorbitant price before being told there was no orange squash .....
During our short, but expensive, break the wind has not abated and we continue to battle through it and the town to find our digs at Kilgour House. We
get a warm welcome and are allocated a super room in the attic. Our stay here is very enjoyable - a lovely room and a great breakfast. Without a doubt this is
one of the best places we have ever stayed at in seven years of walking. The room even has a sewing kit so Roger can mend the rip in his trousers.
Deal to Folkestone.
We head out of Deal along the prom past Walmer castle. After about 25 minutes we pass through Kingsdown and feel the first spots of rain. There is a wide pebble bank to our left and a yet another golf course to our right. As we leave Kingsdown we pass some houses built right next to the pebbly beach. They have a rare mixture of names - Ocean View; Breezee [true today but a bit of an understatement if Friday's wind is anything to go on]; Pax; Takhoma. After about 45 minutes the low cloud begins to lift and the rain stops. We even have watery sun at times.
At the appropriately named hamlet of Oldstairs we start to climb up onto chalk cliffs. As we look back to Kingsdown and Deal we see a huge scout camp in the fields. There were dozens of tents. Hereabouts the Saxon Shore Way changes name, and becomes the White Cliffs Country Trail. In the far distance we can see the cooling towers of Ebbsfleet Power Station just to the East of Sandwich. This is the first truly rural stretch of countryside we have encountered this year. We have a pleasant undulating walk on the cliff top. There are huge fields of wheat and linseed. At various places there are a few bushes which mark the original field boundaries before the hedges were grubbed out.
We take one of our rest breaks at the monument to the Navy's Dover patrol, which served with distinction during the first world war.
We descend from the cliffs into the nearby St Margaret's at Cliffe and then out through the fields as we gradually climb back up to the cliff top. Our route takes us along a hedge-enclosed path leading to some steep steps down to the beach. We look around and see a small cove. We walk for 30 yards alongside the sea and start to climb up the road before taking to a footpath back to the cliff top. This is the start of a tiring climb to the South Foreland light. This is now owned by the National Trust and is open to the public. We are hoping there is a cafe, and the staff enquire if we wish to join the tour party. We are all doomed to be disappointed. We walk round the lighthouse and take a rest on the cliff top with the lighthouse towering over us like some giant sentinel. We think we can see France as a shadow on the horizon. We see the ferries leaving Dover as well as the shipping traffic along the Straits of Dover. There is not as much traffic as we had anticipated. I fell asleep [not for the first - or last time]. We have another undulating walk along the cliff top - some steep ups leave Roger breathless. As we get closer to Dover we wonder how we are to cross the A2 as it drops into town. We don't want to follow Saxon Shore Way as it swings inland of Dover. As we get closer we spot a cafe through the bushes above us. This is another National Trust property. We start our lunch in the grounds and down came the rain. A mad scramble for the cafe ensued. We have a lovely sit down inside and finish our lunch. From the comfort of the cafe we track a rainstorm as it moves up the channel. We leave on a marked path that turns into proper footpath past buildings and dives under the A2 and leaves us at the entrance to the Eastern Docks. We face a steady trek through Dover past the Western docks. A lot of traffic passes us heading for the A20 & London.
On the West
edge of town the A20 climbs steadily up to Shakespeare Cliff. The Saxon Shore Way rejoins us just before the road levels out into a cutting - our path
leads ever upward however over the cliff. Roger is finding the hills difficult, Brian is feeling much stronger. Roger is feeling particularly down-hearted as he
knows from photos that we will climb several 100 feet to the summit of Shakespeare cliff and drop down almost immediately. We start out and eventually
top the hill with frequent stops on the way. This has been one of the steepest & longest since we left Yorkshire. The views from the top are some reward
with a panoramic view of Dover as we look back. To the land-ward we see the A20 with its continuous stream of lorries, coaches and cars with the fields &
hills beyond. We can see traces of the Channel Tunnel construction site below us including the abortive 1970's scheme. There is another very steep climb
before we reach more undulating terrain. Roger falls asleep [again] at one of our rest stops. Near the outskirts of Folkestone we spot a cafe just below us.
We have two lovely cuppas each! Our descent into Folkestone is a bit hairy. The path gets steeper & steeper and less well defined. At the steepest section
Roger ends up on backside. We eventually reach a road that leads into town past playing fields and open parkland. My right knee starts to hurt a lot about
now. We have a bit of a wander round looking for digs and eventually find some near the pier. They are not as good as the ones in Deal. We are both in
bed by 9pm & the TV is off by 9.45 - we are both knackered.
Folkestone to Lydd on Sea
We leave along the sea front in under a grey overcast shroud with blustery showers carried on the gale we have to walk into. We pass the fair & hotels that have seen better days. On the edge of the prom we enter a park that is in pristine condition with a number of wonderful kiddies play-areas. We are amused by the CCTV cameras on their tall poles that we pass at intervals throughout the park. As we pass each one the cameras turn to track our progress through the park. Sandgate is the next habitation we encounter. We are hoping that we may be able to find a cafe to take refuge in out of the miserable weather. But it is Sunday and Sandgate is a relatively small place. The only shelter we can find is in the porch of the small local theatre. Sandgate provides us with our first look of the sea today. The water is boiling as the wind whips it into a vast cappuchino. We trudge doggedly into the wind on to Hythe. We are hoping that Hythe is somewhat more vibrant than Sandgate as we still have to get our lunch. We enter town along the prom and end up doubling back half mile to reach the local Waitrose. We take a long rest in their cafe and buy our lunch. Brian misses the sandwich bar just round corner from us, next to the fruit & veg.
We have to leave Hythe via the road because an army range blocks the coast route. The centre of Hythe is quite pleasant. We pass the terminus of the Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway. We soon catch glimpses of the trains through gaps between the houses. Walking on the road has been beneficial as we have been sheltered from the wind by the houses. We get a rude awakening as the full force of the gale hits us when we rejoin the sea wall.
The visibility fluctuates wildly. At times we can see Dungeness power station 10 miles away, at other times we can barely see a mile. By 13.00 we have reached the North end of Dymchurch, the rain has cleared and we even get some sun but the wind is unrelenting in its efforts to cut us in half. We are both very tired when we take a break in a cafe in the centre of Dymchurch at about 14.00
As mid-afternoon wanes and the late afternoon dawns we continue into the gale towards St Mary's and Littlestone-on-Sea; and start thinking about digs. Some earlier research has shown a lack of B & B's, which has been confirmed by the evidence on the ground - we have not passed a single B & B all afternoon. We even start thinking about booking in Hythe or Dymchurch, then continue walking and get the train back. We do pass a B & B at Littlestone but it really is too early to stop. We march on and receive more bad news in the pub in Greatstone. Apparently there are a lot of contractors in the area for Dungeness power station and they have snaffled the bulk of the beds that there are. The rain starts to bucket down as we pass a holiday park. We ask the receptionist there and we are told that there are at least two B & B's further on - one has vacancies - it's only a mile away.
Eventually, after a country mile, we reach Fairwinds; which is somewhat ironic given the weather today. At least they have vacancies and we are dry for
about first time that day. Our host - Tom Gilbert - is good company in the evening and at breakfast. There is only one fly in the ointment - no place for
an evening meal - but Tom saves our bacon by giving us bacon butties for tea. An added bonus is that we can dry our clothes in his tumble dryer. It's been
a very long hard day. Second 16 mile day, but the gales made it feel like 20 or more
Lydd-on-Sea to Rye
We have to back track about half a mile before heading cross- country to Lydd. We can't use the coast path because the Army's using the ranges to the West of Dungeness. Half of the journey to Lydd is across shingle - bloody hard work and dispiriting. Roger feels lousy - eyes stinging and runny nose, a bit like hay fever but no pollen because few plants grow in the shingle & none are in flower. We follow a railway and stream for about 2 miles. We cross the railway in the wrong place & have to back track. Brian falls into a ditch but no serious damage is done. We stop in a cafe at Lydd for a very welcome cuppa. Usual patter about what we are doing - the locals suggest that the oldest man in the cafe should come with us.
We then have a spell of road walking to the coast at Judes' Gap - waterproofs are on & off twice between Lydd and coast and we have to brave a hailstorm. We take our lunch in the sunshine in the lee of the sea wall. We set off for Camber along the sea wall and are buffeted by the gale again. We could walk on the road & shelter from the wind but the view makes the extra effort worthwhile. We call in at the Camber Castle pub. It has loads of football totems - Chelsea; Spurs; Borrussia Dortmund; Worksop ; Hastings to name but a few. We order our customary mid-day tipple of orange squash, which is free! The lifeboats gain an extra donation as we leave.
Then it's along the road for a bit before taking a path cross-country to Rye. Roger has had enough so we stop here. Rye now stands about 3 miles from sea but was originally an island. The town has a lot of history and the old town on the hill is full of quaint old buildings. There are bus-loads of tourists.
The information office find us some good, but pricey, digs - Mint Cottage - right in the middle of town. Our hostess brings us a cuppa to our room. Roger
is standing there in pants & knee supports & not much else as she enters. Roger is absolutely spent and sleeps for an hour. When we go out the family are
having their evening meal with our hostess embarrassed to be seen in rollers. There is a brief debate on whether knee supports or rollers are the more
sexy. Eventually we wander around town and find a bite to eat. The tourists have gone which makes walking easier except for our strength, which is at
a low level. We go to bed early.
Rye to Bexhill
We leave Rye in dry but cloudy conditions. The first part is along the main road out of town but we soon take to the fields after crossing the River Brede. Our path follows the river bank for the next mile or so. We pass the ruins of Camber Castle [the original not the pub]. The only invaders present today are some sheep & cattle quietly grazing amongst the fallen stones. We soon come to the outskirts of Winchelsea Beach & get provisions in the village shop. A Coffee morning is being held in the in village hall but we decide it is too early for a break. We do not see a single B & B in or around Winchelsea so vindicating our decision to stay in Rye.
We reach the coast and head steadily West on the sea wall. Two cyclists doing the South Coast Cycle Route pass us. Once again the land looks lower than the sea. After a mile or so we reach the small hamlet of Cliff End. Well named as we have to take to the road to avoid the massive cliff which ends abruptly in front of us. We climb up the road that winds around the land-side of the hill and eventually pick up a footpath back to the cliff top. We are looking forward to a cuppa as we approach Fairlight Cove - a large village just in front of us. We enter the village by a hedge-lined path and come out on a tree-lined lane with very individual houses scattered along its length. It doesn't look like cafe country. The further we go the more obvious it is that there will be no cafe. We are becoming more dispirited. The leafy lane finally ends and the road widens out as it enters a modern housing estate, the road swings sharp left and we are confronted by a very steep hill. We slog our way to the top and collapse in a heap on a bench that might have been put there just for us. Perversely the absence of cafes and the final uphill slog brings out some gallows humour. We are considerably more cheerful when we leave for the Fire Hills.
The Fire Hills are a stretch of wooded country along the cliff top. The map suggests that there will be a little bit of up & down as three streams cut their way through the cliff to the sea. As we approach the woods a signpost offers two routes - the direct route and one around the top. We decide to take the direct route. It is quite pleasant but very steep both down and up as each stream is bridged. Having climbed out of the first one we have the same choice for the second one. Man does not always learn from experience - we take the direct route again. Half-way through the hills we meet a Dutch family. I play the pulling the nose of the child game which amuses everyone except the child, who goes all bashful when I put it back [as well as checking that it really is there].
At the third steam we go round the top! The Fire Hills have been attractive and interesting but hard work. We eventually leave the Fire Hills and drop down into Hastings old town. We see the tall wooden buildings used by fishermen to dry their nets. The last bit is a real slog even though it is downhill all the way. Changing in & out of our waterproofs several times doesn't help.
Brian eventually gets his elevenses at 3.00pm as we finally pass a cafe close to Hastings sea front - it is the first since we left Rye. In the cafe when I go to pay I am told the dirty pound coin in my pocket is a fake. The waitress helpfully scratches off some of the gilt to prove it. I think an ice cream man in Rye passed it to me where change for a tenner was all in £1 coins.
After a well-deserved rest we set off westward along the prom towards St Leonards. Brian stayed here when he was nowt but a lad - apparently the family had self-catering accommodation above a shop just back from the sea front. We rest in a shelter at St Leonard's and the weather is fine - no sign of the clouds that have threatened all day. A Mum & daughter entertain us as they roller blade in a most proficient manner up & down the prom. The bit through Hastings is the first time we have had a clear view of the sea since we entered Fairlight Cove in the morning.
The road cuts inland hereabouts but the prom continues close to the sea. We follow it. Finally the prom peters out in a semi industrial area and finally
continues as a footpath along the railway line to Bexhill. We pass the railway sheds at St Leonard's and can see a big hill in front of us. Not obvious where
the path goes as the railway is in a steep narrow cutting through the hill. As we get closer to Glyne Gap we can see that there is a footpath over the hill.
Up & over, then on to Galley Hill, where the railway gently swings away from us inland. The climb up to Galley hill is fairly long but not too onerous. From
the top we can see back to Hastings and is that Dungeness in the distance? Bexhill is spread out before us. The weather is the best it's been all day.
Eventually we find some super digs just off the sea front near to Bexhill's town centre. Our room is large and airy with, en-suite facilities; a double bed;
single bed and still plenty of room. We wander around town looking for something to eat. The places we pass are not quite right for one reason or
another. We end up in fish restaurant. On the way back to the digs we pass a Chinese restaurant that would have fitted the bill!
Bexhill to Eastbourne
The weather this morning continues from the glorious end to the previous day. After buying our lunch we set off under a blue sky and soaring white clouds. We walk along the promenade for the most part. At one point we are forced onto a pebble beach. Our rate of progress is immediately halved. Fortunately we are soon on a more secure surface. There is a gentle breeze and we can hear the gentle lap of waves on the beach. This is such a difference from the weekend. On the far western outskirts of Bexhill we are forced onto the coast road with just enough traffic and lack of width to make it less than pleasant. The map suggests we will have to follow this road all the way to Pevensey Bay, including a detour inland that will add about half a mile. The reason for all this is there is a rather wide stream called Waller's Haven in the way. This is obviously part of the extensive drainage system shown on the map. As we start along the road there is a council road sweeper lorry in front of us. We soon realise that we are catching it up! After about 15 minutes it pulls over to let us pass!
At this point of our journey the scenery is pretty un-inspiring. To our left a scattering of houses between us and the sea. To our right a low railway embankment obscures our view. Eventually the houses peter out and very soon the road swings sharp right and crosses the railway line at a level crossing. We get a bit of excitement watching the barriers fall and rise as a train passes. Within minutes the act is repeated for a train going in the other direction. The level crossing marks the start of the detour the road takes. With some weariness of spirit we brace ourselves for a mile or more of road walking. We wish we could be a train and go straight on as the railway bridges the stream much lower down than the road. We then notice a footpath quite well worn running parallel to the railway. As there is no habitation between us and the stream there must be a way across on the footpath. The only disconcerting thing is that the path is not marked on the map. Leaving our doubts behind us we set off along the path and are rewarded by a bridge over the water.
The hamlet of Norman's Bay is at the mouth of Waller's Haven. There is not a cafe in sight, which is disappointing but there is a caravan holiday park with shop; toilets and cafe on the outskirts. We spend a pleasant 20 minutes or so resting. The cafe proprietor knows the people who run the little cafe hidden in the cliffs above Folkestone. We reminisce about the various paths along the cliffs there. The next two and half hours are occupied with some of the most boring road walking we have done. We cannot see the sea and the land to our right is low lying and dull. We pass Beachlands and eventually each Pevensey Bay. We go down to the beach and take a few minutes rest. We consider some beach walking to get off the road but it is all pebbles. So it's back to the road. Eventually the road rejoins the sea on the outskirts of Eastbourne. The promenade starts off wide and grassy, gradually getting narrower as we reach the town centre.
Today is going to be wash day and an early finish. We leave the sea front and follow the signs for the tourist information centre. It seems to take ages to reach the place. Eventually we get some digs in the New Wilmington Hotel. This is the first time we have stayed in a proper hotel while on our coastal walk, and are only doing so because they are offering a good discount. In many ways our room is not as good as the digs in Bexhill. The hotel is just down the street from Devonshire Park, home of the Eastbourne tennis championships, the traditional women's warm-up for Wimbledon.
After settling in we trek about a mile back across town to find the laundrette and get on with our laundry. Whilst waiting we peruse a shop window giving details of grants available to refurbish Georgian properties in the central part of Eastbourne. All sorts of conditions attach to the grant in an attempt to retain authenticity.
We have dinner in a lovely Italian restaurant that would have graced our end of walk bash. It is very small; lively and with a number of regulars who
received a warm welcome from the Maitre d', especially the women. Brian insists on getting tomorrow's lunch today - I don't like the look of the offerings
and decide to take a chance on finding something as we leave Eastbourne. We finish the night in a large pub close to the hotel and tennis stadium. We are
able to try several excellent beers from smaller breweries.
Eastbourne to Newhaven
Breakfast is a poor affair compared to our usual offerings. The hotel is host to a large number of pensioners and quantity is geared to their needs. The service is appallingly slow - satisfactory if one is taking a leisurely holiday but no good for intrepid adventurers like us who are impatient to defeat the worst excesses of West Eastbourne and the country beyond.
As we leave the hotel I begin to realise that I have to get my lunch and we are close to the edge of town and unlikely to pass many shops except newsagents. Brian's purchases of the previous evening now seem damn good sense. After about fifty yards my fears are increased as the street ahead of us and the one street we have passed have a distinctly residential air, but wait! What is this mirage in front of us, next to the newsagent? It is a sandwich shop. What is more it has just opened and the sandwiches are so fresh they haven't been made yet.
After a few minutes the fresh sandwiches are safely tucked away in my rucksack and Brian is muttering things like the luck of the Irish into his beard. We head for the sea front and west on to Beachy Head. Our path follows the road and gradually starts to rise as the prom carries on at low level. The weather starts to close in as the clouds become greyer and lower. At Holywell we leave the road and take to the foothills of Beachy Head. The area around Beachy Head is a nature conservation zone or some such, with a visitor centre. All that though is about a mile and a half away at the top of the cliff. We now have some serious climbing to do, fortunately it is not too long a stretch and we are soon on more gentle grades. After about 10 minutes we see a Land Rover approach. The driver stops and we have a brief chat. He is one of the wardens or whatever they call them - he has some grass control to do. He tells us that there is a bit of mist and drizzle on the top that will spoil the view but the terrain is not too severe.
Well they reckon two out of three ain't bad - and on that score he was OK. The climb was steep in parts but not too bad - the mist had lifted somewhat and the views were restricted, but the drizzle was pouring rain and we were a wet and bedraggled crew when we reached the top.
We never made it to the visitor centre and we did feel sorry for those who came up by road hoping for spectacular views over the sea and country. At least we were relatively warm and dry in our waterproofs.
As we head further West the clouds gradually lift and the rain stops. We can see along the cliffs for some distance and get a stark reminder not to walk too close to the edge. The sea has undercut the cliffs by up to 6 feet in places. As we approach the Belle Tout lighthouse we see a camper van pull into a lay-by. Almost immediately a little lad jumps out and runs toward the cliff edge. I have a mild panic attack but we are too far away to give a warning. Fortunately his parents get out of the van and call him back. When we get close I try to explain to Dad about the undercutting of the cliff. I get a blank stare as though he doesn't understand a word I say. This is hardly surprising as the family is Czech. Mother speaks English and I commit the classic faux pas of blurting out "Oh! You're from Czechoslovakia".
We continue along our way after a short break and a chat. We arrive at Birling Gap, a low lying break in the cliffs. There is a large cafe here with a bus- load of foreign school children. Things are looking up - the weather has brightened considerably and we can take a well-earned cuppa. Before us lie the Seven Sisters that magnificent series of undulating chalk cliffs that lie between Eastbourne and Newhaven.
They may be magnificent examples of rolling cliffs but they are exceedingly annoying. No sooner had we climbed to the top of the first then it was down into the gap between it and the second. Although the gaps don't go to sea level we probably lose a hundred feet between each one. The worst part is there is little compensation to be had from the marvellous views at the top. The downs seem to start within yards of the ups!
We pass a monument to the memory of two brothers killed in the war. One was in the Army, the other in the Navy. A third brother donated the land. It is on the top of the second [or was it the third - or fourth - we have lost count by this stage]. We take a rest here and at last we are able to enjoy the views out to sea and inland at our leisure.
Despite our rest we soon get cheesed-off by the continuous up and down, down and up. After a while we stop on the top of the next one and look back. We count the sisters we have climbed and do some quick mental arithmetic - only two to go! Twenty minutes or so later we are puzzled - we check our arithmetic and confirm the sums are correct. We could see 4 humps behind us, add the one we were standing on makes 5; take away from seven leaves two. So how come we climb another one and see two and not one in front of us? Have we been walking in some strange universe where walking forwards takes you away from where you're going? Leaving such deep and fanciful possibilities behind us we continue on our way. We soon reach the end of the high ground and can look down on Cuckmere Haven and can see the rooftops of Seaford on the other side of the Cuckmere River. We are faced with another of those little annoyances that plague coast walkers. Our path lies straight ahead, but a silly narrow strip of water bars our way. We will have to detour a mile or so inland and use the bridge. The South Downs Walk we have been following for the last few hours swings gently inland and gradually drops to sea level as it meanders through the Seven Sisters Country Park. Half way down a shower passes and we are forced into our waterproofs. There are lots of people out enjoying the countryside and as we approach the road [and with luck a cuppa in the visitor centre] we see several coaches in the car park.
The visitor centre is not ideally placed being on the opposite side of the busy A259 to the car park and the park itself. Along with others we wait for a gap in the traffic before making a dash for the other side [or what passes for a dash with our waterproofs and rucksacks]. We find the cafe and it is very busy. We share a table with an older couple and gently steam while we wait for our tea. We have a very pleasant time chatting to the couple who do a bit of gentle walking most weekends.
When we leave the visitor centre the weather has cleared considerably. We have about 200 yards of road walking to reach the bridge and so on to Seaford. We could follow the road straight into the town but we decide to follow a named footpath, the Vanguard Way that will take us back along the river. There is a reasonably large hill to the South and East of the town which blocks our view. The hill is named, with great originality, "South Hill". Again we are faced with decisions. Do we walk all round the hill at sea level; or do we go over. For some reason He Who Hates Climbing Hills says up & over. He thinks he has seen a path that only goes half way up and then round - a sort of compromise. The next twenty minutes rapidly remind me that I don't like climbing hills and the path goes straight up & not around. The end result is that I am knackered by the time we reach the top. We walk through the golf course toward the sea and are rewarded with a lovely view inland and the townscape of Seaford with Newhaven about four miles away.
We make our way down the hill and along the newly constructed Seaford prom. Apart from the ice cream van at the Eastern end it gradually dawns on us that Seaford is not a typical sea-side town. Although there are lots of buildings all along the prom they are all blocks of flats and houses. Looking down the roads leading inland reveals more of the same - no shops, no pubs, no anything! Our debate of where to spend the night held earlier in the day is now somewhat academic. We eventually reach the edge of Seaford and our maps indicate that the Vanguard Way passes through some derelict land and skirts a small lake to the North. Although a named footpath the Vanguard Way is not signed. The route to the North of the lake is not at all clear yet there is a well defined route in front of us to the South of the lake. With some trepidation we set off, although the evening is pleasant it has been a long day with no certainty of accommodation at the end. After a few hundred yards the first of half a dozen people pass us going the other way. After the third or fourth one we realise that they must have come from somewhere - and the only somewhere is Newhaven. After a bit of wandering around the town centre and questions in several pubs we find some digs.
Newhaven turns out to be a bit pricey. The digs are expensive and as we don't fancy fish and chips it's a turn at an Indian restaurant. We end the night with
a couple of beers in one of the pubs. Quite a mixed day that started out grey, then wet and ended in glorious sunshine. Today has been a big day - lots of
climbing in its 16 miles and when the weather lifted some wonderful views.
Newhaven to Brighton
After a modest breakfast and a quick visit to the supermarket we head out to the coast about a mile way along a road that runs parallel to the river and harbour. Newhaven has modest port facilities along the river-bank and we catch glimpses of them between the houses. The OS map indicates that there should be a path to our right that will take us up to the coast bypassing the wartime fort that overlooks the harbour entrance. We pass a playing field and can see some sort of path across it, but there does not appear to be any way up the steep bush laden cliff that looms in front of us. We continue along the road that begins to wind its way up the cliff side. We soon see a sign showing the way to the fort and after a stiff climb we mount the summit to be greeted with glorious views back towards the Seven Sisters and forward to Brighton. We can look inland and see Newhaven laid out before us with the cliff making a sort of natural amphitheatre for he playing field. The wartime fort is mostly a derelict ruin but enough remains to see the pattern of bunkers and gun emplacements. The cliff is particularly narrow here and we have to be careful as we scramble by. As we head West the cliff top gradually widens as the general land mass rises to meet us. The walking is fairly pleasant here but the climb up to the cliff top and the gently rising land makes it hard going for me. Brian has lost a fair bit of weight since last summer's expedition and he is coping much better than I.
After a mile or so we reach Peacehaven Heights overlooking the eponymous town. We have both been looking forward to this as towns usually mean cafes and cuppas. [Careful readers may recall that we have thought this more than once in this year's wanderings]. With hope springing ever eternal we drop down into Peacehaven and make our way along the seafront.
Before 1920 the town of Peacehaven did not exist, it was farming land as it had been for thousands of years. In about 1916 the local landowner, Charles Neville, decided to build a "Garden by the Sea". A competition was organised to name the new town with prizes ranging from plots of land to £1000 for the winner. The name originally chosen was "Anzac-on-Sea". However at this time Australian; New Zealand and Canadian troops were heavily involved in the ill-fated Gallipoli landings. As a result Neville decided to change the name to that selected by the runner-up - Peacehaven. His plans were thwarted almost immediately by the Government, who commandeered the land for agricultural purposes. By 1920 the land had been handed back and building commenced. The original winner of the naming competition took legal action to reclaim his prize. Neville just revelled in the free publicity and the town grew.
As we make steady progress along the sea wall between the beach and the neat rows of houses we realise that Peacehaven is not the natural habitat for cafes; amusement arcades and the other paraphernalia of the sea side resort. Just before the end of town we pass a plot of open land and spy a cafe on the main road. More than ready for our cuppa we make a bee line for the cafe. Unfortunately the seating area is on two levels - groundfloor & basement. We have to negotiate the stairs with packs on our backs and tea in our hand - tricky as the stairs turn sharp right just before the bottom.
When we leave the cafe we take to the main A259 road to Brighton. The next 4 miles or so past Saltdean, Rottingdean and Roedean School are some of the most boring and tedious we have encountered in the last seven years. The road is close to the sea but this does not compensate for the incessant traffic noise all the way. The coastline is almost straight with no bends and curves to break the view.
On the outskirts of Brighton we pass the Marina, which is full of sailing boats. It is much larger than either of us had imagined - a small village with flats; houses; shops and pubs and restaurants. It is the first interesting thing we have seen for some time! The walk through Brighton is quite interesting - lots of narrow streets full of shops; cafes and bars. Brian is keen to get some photos of the Pavilion, that wonderful Regency folly. We do not know exactly where it is and almost fall over it by accident as we wend our way through the streets. So shortly after lunch, and some seven days after we set out, we finally reach the station and the homeward journey is set to begin.
Only this year we are not going straight home. We are going to France for a few hours to stock up on a few essentials of life in the hypermarkets of Calais. The first step in this second adventure is to catch the train to Ashford; collect the car; find some digs in Folkestone [hopefully better than the first lot]; have our celebratory meal and then relatively early to bed to get up early-ish to drive to the Eurotunnel terminal and catch the shuttle to France.
The first and last parts of this plan went like clockwork - the bit in the middle was not so much a Swiss watch as a bag of hammers. The train ride was fine, including the change at Hastings where our connection to Ashford was chugging away in the opposite platform. The car was still in the car park with no evidence of vandalism. Then we hit the problems. The first was that the engine wouldn't start. We enlisted the help of another motorist and still couldn't get it to go - even when we tried to bump start down the exit ramps. Eventually we pushed the car out of the car park and Brian came to the rescue. He phoned the RAC and as a member could get assistance even if his car was not involved.
Eventually the RAC man arrived and declared the battery flat. Five minutes later the jump leads were being coiled up and the engine was running. We all jumped about a foot in the air as the car alarm went off - as it does when powered up after being disconnected. Of course the technical thingy-me-bob to switch it off was safely at home with the other set of keys. Fortunately we were able to switch it off with one of the keys.
Trouble was we were now very much later than we intended and did not arrive in Folkestone till about six thirty. The quest for digs began and poor old Brian was in and out like a fiddlers elbow as we pulled up at a procession of guest houses that were either full or too expensive. We drove for ages around the town with no success. All the time there was the constant fear that the car wouldn't start if I stalled the engine. [The RAC man thought we should be able to start the engine after an hour or so's driving].
We finally give up on Folkestone and head West. Eventually we find some digs in Sandgate. A week ago we had sheltered from the storm in the local
theatre's doorway. The digs we find are very pleasant and our hosts make us a cup of tea as we park the car a hundred yards away [on a slope, pointing
down hill - just in case]. The room has a single and a four poster bed! Our celebration is a little muted. We only just make it to the pub before the kitchen
closes. The food and ale are good however.
We have a fairly early start today so we can catch Le Shuttle to Calais and the booze. Fortunately the terminal is only a short drive away and we get there with a little time to spare. This is the first time I have taken the car on the train and both of us are impressed by the smoothness of the operation. Less than an hour after our arrival at the English terminal our train has come to a halt and we are preparing to drive in France.
We make a bee-line for the giant Carrefour at the Cite Europe and start buying. We fairly quickly fill two trolleys with beer and wine and cheese and - oh a few other things like more beer and more wine. We only have four hours in France and we want to get into Calais for lunch if we can. In our rush we make a tactical error and we each pay for our own goods. This means we miss out on a 200 FFr promotional voucher because together our purchases would have met the threshold but not separately.
After filling up with petrol we drive to the centre of Calais. Although I have passed through the town many times en-route to destinations in France & Germany, I have been to the town centre [or centre ville as us linguists say] only once. We eventually find our way by dint of following the signs and find a parking place. There are many diversion signs as the main street is closed for the day. We have lunch in a cafe and watch the world go by. We both wish we were staying longer. The main street is like one vast table top sale. There is a fair amount of bunting flying and it gradually dawns on us that today is the 14th July - le quatorze juillet - one of the most important days in the French calendar.
Unfortunately it is all too soon for us to return to the terminal for our return to England. So after a leisurely stroll down the main street, visiting some of the shops, we reach the town square where we see the Town Hall with its imposing and colourful clock tower.
The drive back to Guiseley is uneventful, the Channel Tunnel operation is as slick going back as it was coming. We reach our destination by early evening and after unloading Brian's packages its off to get the pizzas, crack a bottle or two of recently purchased wine and look back at the trials, tribulations and triumphs of the past week.
The walking this week was in some ways harder than previous years. The weather had a lot to do with it. We wore our waterproofs on more days in the week than in the previous seven years. The wind was, at times, a positive deterrent, especially early in the week. To counter this we walked through some magnificent countryside - Deal to Dover; the approach to Folkestone and the section to Bexhill and Eastbourne. Beachy Head and along the Seven Sisters was well worth the effort.