We have finally, after much backwards and forewords and discussion this way and that for many weeks, decided which ferry to catch when we leave England. This decision would affect the direction we take during our final weeks in England, so it was a decision that needed to be made sooner rather than later. We have finally decided to catch the ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland, so this meant we could plot our onward route in England. With the decision made, we are now gradually making our way north east, so today we set off in that general direction.
Despite the end of our sun and the return of the grey skies, the morning was mild and still and we had a terrific ride, back towards Rye, before turning off and riding along the flat of the marshes. We were cruisin’! We pedalled along at a constant 23km/ph effortlessly and the nice flat road kindly helped us along. A little sooner than we were expecting, we wheeled into the small village of Appledore. What a lovely little place. It was quiet and peaceful, with gorgeous cottages lining the street, some of which dated from the 15th century. I loved the “Produce in the Porch” stand inside
the church. You know you’re in a nice little village when there’s a table of produce and marmalades and chutneys sitting on a table in the church “porch”, all for sale on an honesty system with a plastic container for payment. Ah, village life.
After picking up a couple of bibs and bobs from the village store for elevenses, we pedalled on, along the road, through Woodchurch, another little village and on we went.
Back on the road, with some hills thrown in now, we rode through some lovely scenic areas, with farmland, golden wheat and country roads that took us under canopies of trees. Beautiful. On we went, up this hill, down another, glancing either side at the scenery and firing up the legs.
A cycle path then took us into the bigger city of Ashford. We didn’t actually go into the centre, because the cycle path skirted around it, which was fine because we were in no hurry or need for the rushing and racing of riding in busy traffic. We found a park on the outskirts and stopped for elevenses, having ridden 30km, then off we went again, still with a cycle path to carry us away from traffic.
That cycle path soon ended and we were once again on the road, but we were still presented with a delightful tree lined route, along the quiet roads, past rolling countryside and in cloudy, but warm weather. The hills kept coming. Push on…push on… Forget about those infomercials for “Thigh Busters” or the “Thigh Burner”, this is the way to harden up those quads, just pedal a 20kg bike with a 30kg load up the rolling hills of Sussex! That’ll do the job!
After powering along the roads and hills, we climbed up into the teeny village of Westwell. What a gorgeous little place, with just a few houses but bucket loads of charm. I loved that there was a little dog sitting in the window of the pub, looking out on the world and just checking all was as it should be in this peaceful part of the world.
We found a very nice park, sat at a picnic table and had lunch, while we researched possible campsites for our final destination. We located one about 20km away, along the Pilgrim’s Way, an off-road path that would take us through the countryside. Perfect.
The first thing we encountered after lunch was…a hill. I heard Steve shout in front me, “What is it with hills after lunch?!” as we tackled our post-lunch upward climb, for the second day running. We made it onto the Pilgrim’s Way and had a nice path that did indeed take us through countryside, with the busy road way down below in the distance. We love these paths, they are peaceful and scenic and give us time to take in our beautiful surroundings.
Unfortunately, we lost the love for Pilgrim pretty quickly today! After having such a nice cruising ride for the first half of the day, hills and all, things became decidedly less cruisy as we followed Pilgrim’s progress. The path became a track. A bumpy track. A rocky track. A narrow, rutted track. A track full of holes and deep grooves with high sides, just waiting to catch a pedal and send a rider tumbling off to the side. We gritted our teeth, I willed myself to balance and keep the bike straight along the narrow grooves in the path, so as not to catch my wheel on the mound of grass between these grooves and end up tail first on the ground.
“This is getting ridiculous,” said Steve, “it’s ruining our nice day.” We ploughed on.
We came to a road and had about 100m rest from the bumps and rocks and slippery gravelly hills of Pilgrim, before the road once again put us onto the rocky track again. I asked Steve if there was an alternate route. It had taken us 90 minutes to ride 10km! That’s more than twice as long as it would normally take us to ride that distance. We consulted the technology. There was another route, if we followed the road. The good thing about this was, it would be a quicker ride along the road, even though it was a bit longer in distance. The bad thing about this was, it meant we had to put our trust in “Dodgy Dave” the GPS, in order to follow the route. Our alternate route had been plotted by Dave the GPS and Dave has taken us on some doozies of routes in the past. Only the other day, when we’d asked that GPS to take us to Hastings, he said we had 20km of our ride remaining to reach Hastings. The thing was, he told us this while we were riding down the main street of Hastings! See why we don’t have a lot of faith in his navigational skills and what he tells us! Oh well, today it was go with the terrible track, or trust Dodgy Dave. We put our shaky faith in Dave the GPS.
We wheeled down the road and thankfully, rather than take us along a busy main thoroughfare, the route took us along quite roads again. We were able to make better progress, without the resistance of rocks, holes and slippery gravel on hills. We came into another lovely little village, the hamlet of Lenham. Quaint shops surrounding a square, peaceful and another picture postcard little place. I love that we are discovering these sorts of places again!
There shouldn’t be far to go to our campsite now. Push on…push on…
Our research had told us there weren’t any supermarkets near the campsite, so it would mean another bike ride into a town to get supplies. By this stage, we weren’t too thrilled at the thought of having to set up camp late in the day, then head off again to find supper. Just as we had exchanged these thoughts up and down the road to each other, what should appear before us, but a roadside produce stall. Thank you! There were berries on offer and farm pressed juices and I walked out with a supply of raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and a giant bottle of apple juice for Steve. Steve drinks at least a litre of this every day, so now he got to have the top of the range variety! Food is our fuel, we put petrol in a car to keep it going, but a huffing and puffing touring cyclist puts food in the system to keep things moving, so after today’s ride, we figured we deserved the premium, high octane fuel!
The final few kilometres were on a really busy road, the kind we really don’t like, with zipping and whizzing traffic beside us. Thankfully it wasn’t for long and we pulled into Bearsted Camping and Caravan Park. Dave had come up trumps today!
We were given a lovely pitch, under trees and the site is so peaceful and quiet. We are surrounded by grey nomads, which we love! We’ve decided they are our people. We don’t seem to fit in with our own generation at campsites, because they always seem to be so loud! We like the older generation! We managed to find a tin of soup and a tin of spaghetti in the small camp shop, so in the end we didn’t have to ride out to find supper supplies. Our ride for the day was at an end after 68km. We had a simple but adequate supper from our tins and I ate the very best strawberries I have ever tasted! The little road side stall delivered the goods because they were superb! The perfect dessert after a tough bit of riding.
We felt we blew the cobwebs out a bit more today and we felt we went part way to redeeming ourselves after our lazy day of riding yesterday. We clocked up a few more kilometres and we tackled a few more hills, we rode some more tracks and bumped through some more holes. We also got to see some more gorgeous little villages and beautiful scenery and that always makes a ride special, even with the bumpy bits. On we go tomorrow, lapping up every last experience, scene and moment of our final days in England. Pedal on. Wheels away. Look. Gaze. Discover. Wonder. Love.