A couple of weeks ago Mr London Cycling Diary and myself went to East Sussex for a week's rest and recreation. The rest element largely comprised reading books and going to the pub; the recreation element was a little more adventurous — we went on two long cycle rides.
In this post I'll write about our first cycle ride; I'll write about the second cycle ride in a separate post at a later date.
Both cycle rides were based on East Sussex County Council's Rye & Romney Marsh Circular Route Guide [download PDF] , a leaflet which we picked up by chance at the Tourist Information Centre in Rye.
On our first cycle — on November 1 — we opted for the shorter of the two rides. Beginning and ending in Camber Sands, where we were staying, the route took in Rye, Appledore and Lydd via Walland Marsh. The terrain was flat, the traffic pretty much non-existent and the weather pleasant, which made for comfortable cycling.
But the first long stretch — six miles between Rye and Appledore — was tough work, mainly because (1) we didn't know if we were going in the right direction (the signage in this part of the world does, occasionally, leave a lot to be desired); (2) it was a relatively long, straight A-road with little variation in scenery — in other words, it was pretty boring, and (3) typically, the only time we met traffic was when we hit the succession of S-bends, a couple of miles apart, that form this section of the route, which felt slightly dangerous, particularly if traffic was coming both ways.
But once we reached the town, found the turn off for Regional Cycle Route 11, trundled across the Royal Miltary Canal (above) and headed into the quiet lanes it was worth the effort.
We knew we were out in the sticks when we came across a turkey farm (above) — yes, that's likely to be your Christmas dinner running around. The birds all looked lovely and healthy, with free reign of a large field, and judging by the sound of them they were pretty happy too — or maybe they were just excited to see our bikes.
A little further on we came across the 15th century church of St Thomas Becket (above), which is sometimes known as "the isolated church".
It's actually slap bang in the middle of a sheep paddock. In fact, while we were parked up we managed to watch a farmer on a quad bike round up a flock of sheep with the help of a sheep dog. It was like having a front row seat to the World Sheep Dog Trials, but minus the annoying commentary.
A little further on and we came upon possibly the greenest and lushest fields I've ever seen. They stretched into the distance and looked like the top of a giant billiard table. It was only later that we discovered it was Britain's largest (garden) turf farm.
After a somewhat hairy crossing of the A259 and a little bit of confusion about which direction to take, we came upon the Woolpack Inn, where we stopped for a quick drink — a pint of soda and lime for me, something more "heavy" for Mr London Cycling Diary — and a packet of crisps. Yes, we know how to refuel properly after about 17 miles of exercise… not.
We then cycled through miles of lovely narrow lanes, some of which were lined with tall hedges, as we criss-crossed the flatlands of Romney Marsh.
While we followed the signage for National Cycle Route 2, it was Lydd's picturesque church tower, sitting on the horizon, which acted as a landmark guiding us towards home.
Once through the township of Lydd, we cycled along a traffic-free shared pedestrian cycle path that covers the five or so miles to the coast. Admittedly this was tough work: we were both tired after almost two hours of solid cycling and limited carbohydrate intake. The strong sea breeze and exposed nature of the track didn't help.
But once we hit the coast a mile or so out of Camber Sands, how could we not feel joyful cycling along the top of the sea wall. It was wonderful!
It was even more wonderful when we stopped at a cafe at the end of our route for a feed of cheese toasties, chips and ginger beer!
Total distance: 25.93miles (41.72km) | Ride time: 2hr, 13min and 56sec | Average speed: 11.6mph | Top speed: 18.2mph