Tuesday, August 4
Rain and more rain overnight at our nice campsite, but the day dawned clear, so at least there was the prospect of a dry ride. We set off towards Rotherfield, where we would join Route 21 of the National Cycle Network, which would carry us southward. The morning’s ride can be characterised by one word. HILLS!
We were on country roads, which is always nice, but the downside of this is having no shoulder on the road. A shoulder helps with getting out of the way when cars go past during a moment of the “slow wobbles”, so not having one leaves us a bit exposed to traffic. I think our slow wobble events have decreased markedly over the months and we tackle the hills quite well, but there are times when the gradient is such that forward movement is reduced considerably, which can bring on a bout of the the slow wobbles. In fact both of us experienced decreased forward movement on the hills, to the point that our Garmins went into Auto Pause mode, because they weren’t detecting enough movement!
Huffing and puffing up the hills brought with it our first reward – views and scenery. “Beautiful!” we both exclaimed on more than one occasion. We had the lovely lanes and hedgerows as we were climbing the hills, but then reaching the top also gave us the views across the farmland and hills. Hard effort well and truly rewarded.
We climbed up another hill into Rotherfield and stopped on the side of the road to check navigation and make sure we were heading towards Route 21. Yep, we were on track. As we set off again, a man and an elderly lady were crossing the street towards us. Steve had gone across the street, but as I went past them, I heard the lady ask, “How long are you going for? You seem to have your whole house on there.” I gave a brief summary of what we were doing and the man asked where we were from. When I said Tasmania, he said he had cousins in Tasmania. Another surprise to find people that know Tassie exists! I told them how much we were loving our time here.
“You have a beautiful country,” I said.
“As do you,” replied the man, “as do you.”
“I think England’s greatest asset is its people,” I added, “the people we have come across have been so friendly and kind.”
“Well, that’s very nice to hear,” the lady said, “it’s particularly like that outside the main towns.”
“The villages are gorgeous, “ I said, “and the scenery is magic. We are loving every minute of our time here”
We chatted and then they wished us well on our journey and I pedalled off to where Steve was waiting. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, those are the moments I love. The people who stop and chat and the strangers we get to meet who are so friendly. I just love it.
On we pedalled and up, up, up we went, more hills and more climbing. We also had the added element of wind today. Very strong wind. It was blowing at 29 km/ph with gusts of 47 km/ph and it wasn’t acting very friendly at all. It was blowing and rushing and pushing and shoving. Not a welcome travel companion at all! Part way up a hill, we stopped to look at the sign that was telling us to continue on Route 21, by leaving the road and following a track though a paddock. We stopped and thought about this. We could see the track leading into trees. Do we follow the number, and end up riding along a track again, or do we stick to the road, where we have hills, but a smoother riding surface?
“It may become a smooth path, once we get into the trees,” I suggested.
We decided to trust the route, and head for the paddock. We bumped over the field and into the trees, which did indeed give us a smoother, clearly defined path.
“Good call,” said Steve.
“Don’t speak too soon,” I said, “I’ve jinxed us before.”
As we turned the corner in the path, we saw a hill that was, once again, nothing more than a goat track. Rocks and a narrow track, all unsealed and just rocky. Steve had indeed, spoken too soon! Steve got off his bike and began to push, “I’m not even going to attempt to ride up that.”
“Do we keep going, knowing how hard these tracks have been in other places, or do we go back the 400m and take the road?” I said, “we’re going to have hills either way.”
We tossed this up briefly and then decided to head for the road.
Back on a smooth surface, we pedalled off and it very quickly became apparent why the cycle route had gone off road. I think it was to avoid the mountain of a hill that lay before us. It was steep and winding and long. It was a French/Portuguese hill! Up we went, huff…puff…down went the gears…crank…click… My gears were not behaving today at all. Three times on separate hills as I changed down gears, my chain came off. When that happens, all I’m doing is pedalling into thin air and I aint goin’ nowhere! I stopped and pulled over. Steve stopped beside me, so I could hold my bike up while he leaned over and pulled the chain back into place. The fact that it kept happening was annoying, because momentum is everything when it comes to slogging up a hill and momentum is gone in an instant when that chain comes off! We continued our slowly but surely pedal up the hills and were again rewarded with beautiful, stunning, gorgeous scenery. Magic!
Our route gave us some off-road sections and when the path crossed a road, we had kind drivers stop and let us cross, we had kind pedestrians stop and let us join the footpath, before connecting again with the bike path. “I just love it!” I called again to Steve. It wasn’t just where we were riding, it was once again experiencing the joys of the wonderful people. Receiving a warm greeting, coming across someone who stops and helps, being given time by a patient and gracious motorist, or space by a walker on a path, all these things mean so much and I am always grateful and warmed, when we experience them.
Well, as happens with hills, we eventually got to the top and were rewarded again for our hard work. Our reward this time was the Cuckoo Trail. This is a path that follows a one-time rail line and stretches from Heathfield to Polegate, just outside Eastbourne. What a splendid path. What a wonderful reward. We began pedalling along this fantastic route, with every passing walker and cyclist giving us a hearty greeting, until we came across a picnic table beside the path and stopped for elevenses. The wind was still fierce, but our table was tucked into a hedge, so we had a bit of shelter and enjoyed a well earned little stop and snack time.
The Cuckoo Trail gave us flat, somewhat sheltered, tree lined, forested, scenic riding. Another perfect path! We happily pedalled along, with frequent pauses to exclaim, “Beautiful!” “This is lovely!”
The trail took us through some small towns, but we eventually stopped by a cricket field in Hailsham to have lunch and research what to do and where to stay. We found some campsites in the area and even though it would mean a fairly short ride, we decided to take a camp while we could find one and since the wind was pretty fierce and we’d also been rained on during the ride, it might be a nice idea to have an earlier finish anyway and have a break from the elements.
The path took us almost to the door of a campsite, where we were greeted at the gate by John, who checked us in. He walked us across the site to show us where to pitch and chatted to us about our trip. He asked if we were writing a book about our travels, to which we said we weren’t but were keeping a blog. He asked for the details and was so welcoming and friendly.
We have a lovely spot in a field, beside trees and with horses next door. It’s a lovely place and even though we only rode 37km, which meant we didn’t really earn a reward for distance travelled, this place still gave us one anyway. It was a top spot to pitch for the night.
After settling in, we rode the bikes back along the trail into Hailsham to get supplies and then enjoyed another hearty Trangia supper. It was a top day. The wind was there but didn’t spoil things. The hills were there but didn’t spoil things. We put in some hard effort but were then rewarded with glorious, scenic, vistas and perfect, flat and smooth cycle paths. Oh, and the sun shone too! It was, as described by the weather forecast, a day of “sunny intervals” and that’s exactly what we had. The sun and clouds took turns owning the sky, but when it was the sun’s turn, it was magnificent. Our time in England is drawing to a close and it’s days like this that will make it very hard to leave. I won’t think about that though, I will just soak up every magic moment as they happen and love each day as it comes. Live life. Love life. Notice the small things. Appreciate the simple things. Seize the day!
Wednesday, August 5
What a brilliant start to the day! An early morning 10K run, along the quiet lanes, past hedgerows and back on to the Cuckoo Trail. It was quiet, peaceful, mild and just a fantastic morning run. Then the bonus of a fantastic shower with beautiful hot water. Joy!
We like our peaceful pitch in the paddock here at Peel House Farm so much, we’ve decided to stay an extra day. This decision brought with it some real treats – a leisurely breakfast sitting in the sun, time for an extra cup of tea and a relaxed pace to the morning. Bliss!
It also meant we didn’t have to search for a place for elevenses, because it was right here, and our daily morning snack time was enjoyed on the patio of Chateau Tent, in the sunshine. Perfect!
We decided to take a leisurely cycle into the seaside at Eastbourne, for a short exploration. We had an off road path all the way, some of it on the Cuckoo Trail but most of it beside a busy road. We passed a paddock of horses and of course I stopped to say hello. One in particular was very inquisitive and was more than happy to stand for a pat, so I was happy to have been able to say hello to another horse in our travels.
The path took us straight to the seafront. Eastbourne was as I had imagined it would be – holiday makers sitting in the sun on benches along the promenade, wearing bucket hats and eating ice cream, pebble beaches, streets lined with hotels and of course, the pier. I had imagined it to be a little like Weston-super-Mare and I guess there were similarities.
We walked the bikes along the promenade and then, as it was past lunch time, we decided to blend in with our surroundings and have fish and chips by the sea on the promenade. Our supplier of this fare had to be Harry Ramsden’s “world famous fish and chips”. Who could pass up something “world famous” in the heart of Eastbourne! 🙂 We didn’t opt for the fish, but we had chips and I had baked beans and mushy peas too – in for a penny, in for a pound! We sat with the locals, looking out to sea and at the people enjoying their day on the pebbly beach. We had some psycho seagulls to entertain us, who were becoming very pushy with anyone who looked like they may be a walking seagull buffet. I noticed children walk past and hide their ice-creams behind their backs until they’d passed by the seagull gang, so I think the bullyboy seagull behaviour was well known and evasive action was taken, lest an ice-cream become a victim to their squawking jaws!
As pleasant as it was to be beside the sea, our little camp was calling, so we set off, took a detour to the supermarket to gather supper supplies, then returned to the path to pedal back to the paddock. That was pretty much the day! A leisurely start, a leisurely pedal to the sea and a leisurely pedal back again. It was so nice to take things easy and have no set plans or destination for the day, just a slower paced day. Nice. Tomorrow we’ll move on and head back to the coast. I think we’ll be doing some shorter rides for a while, as we explore the coast a little. We may also need to abandon the tent for a night, since six days in a row of camping is leaving us in need of electricity to charge some devices. I think Steve is also looking for a break from squeezing his 6’5” frame into the confines of the tent. We’ll see what we can find and where we end up tomorrow. The unexpected and unplanned…something we live with daily! I’m learning to embrace the unknown and unforeseen. It’s still a tentative hug at times, but I’m embracing them nonetheless!