Posts tagged Rye

Crowhurst to Rye… 20 miles across 1066 country

The longest and most challenging of our walks so far (actually, ever, for either of us), this was our “ultimate fitness test” before the Pennine Adventure begins. Our longest day’s walking will be 19 1/2 miles from Alston to Dufton, so if we could walk to Rye, we’d be okay for that yomp. (Let us, for now, gloss over the fact that the days either side of that particular walk will see us marching 16 1/2 and 13 1/2 miles respectively – not much chance of a rest-up… gulp). This walk followed the 1066 Country Walk, which we picked up just beyond Battle and which culminates in Rye.

We set off shortly before 11 on Saturday morning, a backpack between us containing a bottle of water, some of Jem’s home-made sausage rolls (with added red pepper – scrumptious), some beef jerky and a cereal bar or two, not to mention our aforementioned waterproof coats (which, in the event, we only needed to keep out the chill at the end of the night). We also decided (given my hurty knee – altogether now… “Awwwww!”) to give our new walking poles an outing. Mine are a gorgeous pink (which in my world of blue is a wonderful thing) but are sadly lacking the funky little compasses that Jem’s splendid blues ones sport in their handle.

Brakes Coppice Park to Crowhurst Park

Initially, we planned to cut out a little of our route by getting a train to Battle first but having realised that if we just walked across country from home it would make no difference to our journey, we did precisely that and it was beautiful from the outset. A little country lane took us past Brakes Coppice Park campsite, which we have not visited but can certainly advise couldn’t be in a much more secluded and beautiful spot. We walked through stunning avenues of immensely tall trees and a well-signed footpath (much of which was rather steeply uphill) brought us out past Crowhurst Park – a holiday park of pine lodges and leisure centre with stunning views, but a little crowded together for my personal taste – to the main Battle to Hastings road. Where we came a little unstuck. It has been hammered home to us on several occasions now how very much people tend to dislike maintaining a footpath (or indeed even leaving the sign up) when it passes across or very close to their land. Harumph. Grumble over. But after to-ing and fro-ing countless times, disappearing behind a Church and an abandoned pub in our hunt, we finally found several notices warning the daring rambler to close gates and keep dogs on leads and on no account to even think about bringing an unauthorised vehicle anywhere near them.

It was another beautiful lane taking us down into some woodland (where a dog sailed over a gate to get to us, thus proving it utterly ineffectual), past some of the most beautiful wild-flowered meadows (complete with rather picturesque beehive) and onward through the uncultivated countryside.

When we reached Westfield, the first place with a pub, we decided virtuously to wait until we got to Icklesham before succumbing to the temptation of a cold pint of beer on this hot and sweaty walk. We were actually to rather regret the decision as Icklesham seemed to get further away rather than closer. But it was a positive delight when we did get there (in spite of the rather rowdy clientele in the very beautiful, olde worlde Queen’s Head). Squirreled so effectively away that we managed to walk straight past it, the Queen’s Head has (I hope this description is not yet getting boring) stunning views, a play area for kids, a perfectly good looking menu and sensibly advises that it welcomes children but they should not come to the bar and adults are cordially requested to remove them before 8.30pm. All very sensible.

Feeling decidedly hazier, we crossed the busy road to rejoin our 1066. It was pointed out to us by a very friendly and keen-to-be-helpful chap driving past us and off we yomped again. This part of our walk took us past an over-laden plum tree (not on anyone’s land as such and therefore easy and delicious pickings), through extensive orchards (I am always impressed when landowners do both mark and adhere to the original footpath and this one surely did) which we surmised must be a cider orchard and at the end of which we espied a rather beautiful black windmill atop a hill. Here we stopped for a picture and, as we did, encountered said friendly, keen-t0-be-helpful gentleman walking his dog. He informed us, in his helpful way, that the windmill belongs to Sir Paul McCartney and that the ground floor is used, occasionally, as a recording studio. It was, allegedly, as a result of the land belonging to “McCartney” that the field was full of rabbits…. I’m afraid I failed to follow that logic. Nice spot, though…

McCartney's Recording Studio

And on we went. Through vast fields full of sheep, past the odd chained up sheepdog causing the lovely Jem to fair leap out of his skin, over a traditional unelectrified railway, to Winchelsea. On the approach to Winchelsea, the views were… okay, okay, you come up with another word…? Breathtaking. That’ll do. From one of the very few benches we encountered, we looked out over Pett Level to the sea. It was, all praises be to the gods of the weather, the most glorious of days and, although rather sweaty (quick drying, high wicking tee-shirts to be reviewed upon our return, when we’ve had a chance to test them) we couldn’t have asked for more.

The descent (and it really is a descent) from Winchelsea towards Rye was nothing if not painful. My knee, in spite of having worn a support which seemed to do little more than give me a rash thanks to the tightness and sweatiness of it all, was becoming excruciating on the downhill. Uphill and on the level, it was just peachy, but downhill… not. Really very not. Jem’s calves, too, by this stage were causing him some considerable discomfort, but the end was in sight. We were grateful for our walking poles, although we did only discover within two miles of Rye that we could tighten the handles and put considerably more pressure on them. Doh! Duly noted for those trekking days, huh? Jem has also just read that one walking pole is about as much use as one shoe. Daily rambles are one thing, but climbing the Fells – you need two. The last stretch to Rye was a feat of enormous effort and stamina, I have to confess, on both our parts. When we emerged blinking into the town, the signpost proclaiming one more mile to the centre almost forced a sit-in. I threatened, bottom lip wobbling, to sit and wait for beer and food, but Jolly Jem kept my smile in place and on we trekked for a pint in the Mermaid Inn, one of Rye’s oldest establishments, I believe used for smuggling in them there olden days, and also quite possibly haunted. But I might be making that up… It is situated in Mermaid Street, a picturesque cobbled street of pretty cottages covered in climbing flora and home to a very cool black cat. Truth be told, though, it was a little upmarket for two sweaty walkers and, our first drink duly consumed (they even decanted our bag of dry roasted peanuts into a little bowl for us – there’s posh!) we headed down to the waterfront where we found the much more downmarket Baileys. There we had another beer and a massive cheeseburger with chips each. Probably not the best burger we’ve ever eaten (that honour would have to go to Cafe Belge in Bexhill – I swoon salivating just thinking of it) it was from. the. gods. on that particular evening. We engendered much curiosity with our walking poles slung through the straps of our backpack and utter disbelief that we could, would or might even have wanted to walk so far in one afternoon.

Mermaid Street

Sore and aching, and just one more beer for the road from the Old Bell Inn – much more spit ‘n’ sawdust and rather full of unutterably bored-looking teens – we headed for the station. Once on the train we were informed that we couldn’t get as far as home that night. Trains run till all hours in the opposite direction, but who wants to get from Hastings to London after 10 on a Saturday night? We did. Or at least part way. Sigh. So we hopped out into the middle of a very scary Hastings night, with drunken arguments and much chip-consumption going on all around us, and found a very affable and affordable taxi driver to take us home where we tumbled with gratitude and relief into our bed for a very well-earned sleep.

On Sunday, we did nothing. I mean, nothing. At all.

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Training Days and Kit Reviews

Filthy weather...

Filthy weather...

An opportunity then, to say hello and review a couple of pieces of kit. As an astrologer (with Saturn in Aries for those in the know) there’s nothing I like better than to tramp off into the wild and walk a few hundred miles (with frequent beer stops). As a Libran, I like to drag Al along too, and not just so I can delegate all the decision making.

The photograph shows me wearing my new coat, new boots and new rucksack, all of which are replacements for older or unsuitable items, or replacements for those things which my ex-wife decided to keep after we split (which means pretty much everything I owned).

Very shortly we will be setting off on our next great adventure. It ought to – in theory – encompass the following itinerary:

  • A half hour walk to the train station in our village.
  • A train journey to London.
  • Across London on the tube to Victoria.
  • A coach journey to the Toon (Newcastle).
  • A train journey to Haydon Bridge
  • A night’s camping on the bank of the South Tyne River
  • A day’s walking along Hadrian’s Wall
  • A week’s walking South down the Pennine Way for a hundred miles
  • A night spent at the White Bear, home of the Theakston Brewery where they sell Old Peculier (in pints! On tap!)
  • And all the way home again…

As a result we need gear that is lightweight and affordable, so we have spent a few weeks planning and organising on this basis. I aim to review all of the clothing and equipment we buy over the next few days and weeks and obviously, I’ll wait until I’ve used the new kit before writing it up.

With a view to getting fit for the gruelling trial ahead we spent last weekend walking. On Saturday, rather than taking the car to the supermarket we walked a circuitous route to that Cathedral of Despair, Tesco and we carried the groceries home in rucksacks encompassing maybe ten-miles all told in some extremely variable weather. My Green Party tee-shirt didn’t fare so well being made of rather heavy cotton (and you should never wear cotton while hiking because it doesn’t breathe well), so I was uncomfortable toiling up some of the hills in the sunshine. The way home was characterised by some fairly torrential rain, which actually I didn’t mind, especially with my new boots and coat.

Karrimor mens Mount Mid weathertite Hiking ShoeThe boots I bought because my old Caterpillar walking boots were fairly worn out and too big for me in any case after I lost a fair amount of weight a couple of years back. I wasn’t sure about needing new boots but, boy, am I glad I decided to go for some new Karrimor Mount Mid Weathertite Hiking Shoes. We followed this trek up with a 14 mile, village pub crawl on Sunday and I was impressed with the boots to say the least. They are extremely comfortable and at only £30 (down from £75) you can’t really go wrong with these. The only very minor problem I’ve had with them is that they rub a little on the toes of my right foot but I think I can fix that with judicious use of a broom handle. I bought a good pair of walking socks (at the aformentioned Cathedral of Despair) and they were very much improved as a result.

The boots have radically improved my sure-footedness on difficult and uneven terrain and they are totally waterproof. When it rained very heavily the water would run down my legs into the tops of the boots however, but this would be fixed with wearing trousers rather than shorts of course. A pair of gaiters would do the same job too. All said, I cannot recommend these boots enough, extremely well-made, comfortable and durable, and for the price, what’s to think about?

Let me take this opportunity to agree with Jem. These boots are a blooming marvel. I have heard, on many an occasion, the words of wisdom: “Make sure you wear new boots in” but these just don’t need it. Straight on and off for a trek with no sign of a blister or rubbed ankle. Nothing. (Sadly, I don’t think we can say the same for the aforementioned socks – false economy frankly – but I’m sure Jem will fill you in). I have to say, I am glad we did get them a bit mucky first, though, if only to avoid the rather un-cool “virgin boots in the Pennines” factor 🙂 Oh, also available in two colours, so not too “his ‘n’ hers” either.

Trespass Packa Unisex Tech Pack Away JacketThe coat too is a marvel. It’s one of those pack-away, compact, lightweight marvels made by Trespass and it cost me a rather precise £16.63. It weighs in at a mere 330g and is about the size of the body of a wine bottle when packed away. As for the features, it’s waterproof with taped seams, breathable and windproof, and so at that weight and price it’s ideal for the journey ahead and I found it to be very comfortable. Of course, bearing in mind the price it’s not premium quality, as with all pack-away jackets the hood leaves a lot to be desired, but I’ll be wearing a hat in any case, and it would keep the rain out if I had to use it. Sizing is not so easy since it’s a unisex jacket; Al, who is slim and gorgeous but rather tall at nearly 5’10” and a size 10-12 got the small and it fit perfectly: if you’re shorter or more petite then an x-small size would be the way to go. As for me, at 6 foot and – despite a liking for beer and chips – with no noticeable excess around the middle, the medium fits just right. I’m not entirely sure what kind of gargantuan freak you’d need to be to merit the xx-large.

Once again, totally in agreement. Snug enough to provide a layer of warmth as well as weather-proofing, it is also roomy enough for an extra layer underneath in chillier climes. Perfect cover from ear lobe to upper thigh. However, as already mentioned, the hood, like most, is not brilliant. It has elasticated adjusting strings, meaning you can create a hole the size of an orange to breathe through (but not see much), or it’s too loose and flies off. Needless to say, though, it wasn’t until we got home and were packing them away again that we noticed the velcro adjustment. Doh! Would probably have helped a great deal. Our plan, though, is simply to wear a hat / cap underneath and leave it relatively loose for some extra, albeit none too reliable, cover. Oh, and one last word: packed away in its snugpack, it’d probably make a pretty passable lightweight pillow, too…

I’ll add any supplementary news about the gear as it gets tested, along with reviews of our further travels and other good stuff as and when it occurs. Tomorrow we’re planning an 18-miler to the beautiful coastal harbour at Rye.

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