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    CHICCHANTAL   29,221
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Fresh fields and pastures new

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

I felt I was getting a bit predictable, you know. So last night I saw the weather forecast and the forecaster said today would be 'sparkling' and I thought 'THAT'S my baby'. Got on the net and worked out the cost and timing of a trip to Rye in Sussex.

So there I am, up at 7 this morning, leaving home at 8am to get the 9.10 train from St Pancras.

Rye is an old, old town. I've been there once before, in summer about ten years ago. That was in fatter days. I want to walk round the coast a bit and I remember last time it was a mile or so along the estuary to the coast and it was a hot day and I thought it was too far.


Now I am just concerned I won't get a proper walk in cos a mile there and a mile back in only two miles. I go looking for the tourist information centre, in case there's a map outside it.

There's no map outside it but it's open. At 10.30 on a Sunday morning. Now that's my idea of impressive. Would they have a map, ideally an Ordnance Survey map that shows every blip? They have. 7.99 well spent (roughly the cost of getting a coat cleaned and no prizes for guessing which I think is better value) and I may get lost but at least I'll have a fighting chance of finding myself again.

Walk along various cobbled streets, taking photos. The old town is tiny, built on a hill. It's got a very old and famous pub, the Mermaid, cobbled streets, loads of gift shops and tea rooms. And at the bottom of the hill, the river.

Start walking along, then stop to check map. (Please don't tell me I should have checked the map first. I bet you read the instructions for flatpack furniture too.) To walk where I want to be, I need the other side of the river and the only bridge is back the way. Turn back, walk along taking photos. The tide's out - I believe them about the deep water though, it's a 20 foot drop, and there's nothing to stop you from tripping and falling in.

Step away from the edge, pensively.

The gulls are clearly a nuisance here and there was one sitting on this post till I got my camera out and it flew off.

Walk along the road and come to an inviting gate with a footpath sign. Gorgeous little path and the road's fairly busy and dull so it's no competition. I'm on Rye Harbour nature reserve.

There I am. Beautiful blue sky, no wind, flat marshy landscape. I'm walking along a raised dyke and it gives me a fabulous view. I can see sheep in the distance that make me think of salt marsh lamb, something you get in France a lot and also in posh butchers in the UK.

It's a long way from Epping Forest. I do see a thicket with a robin in it, warning me off.

Keep walking and the path comes out on the road eventually, at the village of Rye Harbour. It's 12 and I haven't brought lunch with me. I'm looking for food. There is a pub, and I am thinking freshly caught fish would go down well.

Go in the pub, order their fish platter, and take a seat outside in some trepidation. The price is low enough not to fill me with confidence and sure enough when my food arrives, it's gone from the wholesaler into the freezer and from the freezer into the deep-fat fryer and on to my plate. Ah well. Fuel not food. It's perfectly edible, just not QUITE what I was hoping for. In any case it's my own fault cos I was too lazy to make sandwiches this morning and I actually had soup made and couldn't be bothered to microwave it.

I am a fundamentally lazy person. There's your proof.

The view, on the other hand, is just what I wanted. And being able to sit outside for lunch in the UK in November is pretty unusual too. Peruse new map with interest.

Finish eating and drinking, set off along the river estuary.

There are a few boats about and I watch a yacht moving down the river the other side of the marsh. Walk along another dyke, then down the road. On my right is the nature reserve and loads of people are birdwatching. And bunnywatching. On my left the estuary. Get to the end of the estuary and there are massive dunes made up of pebbles, not sand. I turn and walk along the road that runs just behind them.

The sky is huge. On my right are the marshes, on my left, the dunes. I do walk up the dunes at one point, but it's really heavy going, you slither in the pebbles. Across the estuary are people on the beach (note to self, might be nice to go that way next time) and beyond, in the distance, the power station at Dungeness.

I pass a disused lifeboat station and clamber up the dunes next to it. There are lots of bits of disused wood from something or other - a mooring or harbour or something. Two people with bicycles are sitting eating their by the sea.

Regret again not having brought lunch. Am also regretting a bit that I didn't bring water but I hate carrying it. Too much effort. There's bits of sea kale along the dunes, I've never seen it growing before though I once bought some in a supermarket and ate it. It's cabbagey all right, I can tell you that.

Walk a bit further, sit down on a rustic bench and have a look at the map. I want to take the next path on the right inland, go up past a farm, and walk across to have a look at the ruined castle.


What could possibly go wrong?

You're way ahead of me aren't you?

Turn inland and keep marvelling at how blue the sky is, how clear the air, the reflections in the pools, the apparent fuzziness of the teazles.

Although I love forests, if I had to choose, it's the wide open landscapes for me. Am following a nice trail, and it's been a very gratifying feature of the whole walk that there have been regular maps along the edge of the nature reserve and nice little arrows on signposts. Keep following the trail. It gets muddy - and guess who thought she was going to be walking along a sandy beach and wore her new trainers today? Suddenly it peters out. There are tracks everywhere of course, but am not sure which to choose. Keep on keeping on straight ahead.

The track gets very narrow and is suddenly going through a thicket of hawthorn covered in lichen, horrible and it's slanting and so slippery I have to stop. At this point, I would turn back but I can't actually turn around. To avoid the ankle-deep mud, I insert myself into a thorn bush and lean on it to stop myself from slipping over. The bushes are full of birds and I swear this bluetit was giggling at me.

Step past the muddiest bit and I'm glad to say it improves drastically. Emerge on a nice wide farm track.

I can go left, to Winchelsea, back the way I came (not an option, trust me), straight up a muddy hill through a field with a horse in it or right, along a farm track and through a gate. I choose right. This is not marked as a public right of way, and there are two people doing something with a piece of agricultural equipment that is (I think) designed for punching holes in the earth to aid drainage. Hope that they don't object to me using the farm track. In fact they don't appear to notice me, which is a relief. In my teens I went on family walks and on occasion we were accosted by landowners rather hot round the gills even though we were on public footpaths and not doing anything noticeably obnoxious (interfering with sheep, greasing piglets, whatever). Keep walking round and come to another junction of tracks. Get out map again.

Realise I have gone about 50 metres the wrong way so turn back and am pleased to see two people a bit ahead of me who must have been more or less following me. They follow the track round a field with gorse bushes in. The castle is in the distance.

This flat landscape is weird. You can see absolutely miles and one effect is that even 20 minutes' walking feels as though you've hardly moved. The castle inches closer and I turn off towards it. Suddenly it's near enough to touch. I wander round taking photos.

So this is Camber Castle. It's a Martello Tower, built by Henry VIII in 1536. If you follow the link you can see an aerial pic of it.

Henry VIII was the guy who had six wives. He fell out with the Pope over divorcing wife one to marry wife two. My history is hazy but the Martello Towers were built to fortify England against invasion by the French and I think the expected invasion was one of the results of Henry falling out with the Pope.

Anyway, the invasion didn't happen but we still have these towers. They are interesting because by Henry's day, big houses were being built as palaces (eg Hampton Court) rather than castles, so these towers would, I'm guessing, have been purely built for military purposes.

But I could be wrong. Don't take my word for anything.

Anyway, Rye looks invitingly close now, just a short hop further across the fields. The path is not very well defined but you can see where you're going and I want to get back, I'd quite like tea somewhere and I wanted to have a look at some of the gifte shoppes. The woman in the tourist place mentioned a vintage car rally (not me) and a craft market (definitely me) too. So I take a track across the field and head by the shortest route back to the town.

And come unstuck, of course.

You'd be disappointed by anything else, wouldn't you?

What happens is quite simple. This is a watery landscape. It is drained marshland. There are deep ditches everywhere. Now, where I come from in northeast England, there are ditches and some of them are deep but it's rare to find one more than about three feet across. Even I can jump that far.

These ditches are seven or eight feet across, minimum. The opposite bank tends to be higher than the one you are standing on. They are brimful of water and in some cases swans.

They are long and interconnecting. I find myself walking up and down a field in a maze of ditches full of water (to say nothing of the boggy bits in the field itself). I'm tired, thirsty, hungry, need a pee and most unpleasant of all, the sun is getting very low on the horizon.

I do not want to be staggering around a field full of water features in the dark.

The two people I had earlier seen ahead of me, who were sitting by the castle, are also casting about trying to find their way out. I have a feeling they must have followed me, thinking I knew where I was going.

I should have warned them this was a bad idea.

Anyway, I am walking up and down a ditch and at both ends is another ditch so there's no way forward. Just the other side of it is civilisation, houses, a road etc, but there is no bridge and I'm stuck. I keep my eye on these other two people. They double back, go through a gate, and then another gate, and set off down the field. I follow. I go through one gate and then . . .

This is the scariest moment I've had since starting to walk. It might seem trivial, but the second gate is stuck because a clump of reeds has grown up and blocked it. You can only open it a few inches and edge round it to get through it.

Sounds simple?

It's situated right over a deep ditch full of water so when you edge round it, you are in fact hanging over the ditch and the only thing that stops you from ending up in the ditch is your hands hanging on like grim bloody death to the gate.

Before I can even give myself time to think, I edge round the gate and am safely on dry land taking the above photo.

I will be having nightmares about that for years. I once saw a guy perform the same manoeuvre round a fence that was right at the edge of the Corinth canal. It was clearly routine to him.

The two women have stopped another woman coming the other way with a dog and she's clearly giving them directions. I follow them, come level with her and she comments approvingly that I have a map.

The map's not much use I can tell you if you don't know which waterfilled ditch is which.

Shortly after I arrive back at the path I started on and ten minutes later I am back in the town. When I look at the time (confidently expecting it to be approaching 5pm) it's only 3.30pm. There is time for me to go and have tea etc, but there's a train leaving at 3.48 and I decide I'd rather catch that.

An interesting point: I'd assumed it would be ok to be out and about till 4.30, but clearly I need to be back in civilisation by 4pm at latest.

I walked a good ten miles, so no worries there. A new personal best. I'd go back to Rye any time.

And my new hiking boots are due to arrive tomorrow!

Member Comments About This Blog Post:
CATNCAG 7/30/2013 2:20PM

    Wow, thanks for sharing your journey & beautiful pics! U are quite the walker! I hope to get up to 5 miles! Way to go!!! emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

Comment edited on: 7/30/2013 2:21:03 PM

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IAMWINNING 11/23/2012 9:41AM

    I lingered over your words and pictures, thoroughly enjoying your walk. Thank you for your blogs.

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MARUKI52 11/22/2012 3:56PM

    This brought back so many memories. My parents used to have a caravan parked at Rye Harbour. Rye and Rye Harbour are lovely with the right weather but we found, on our visits, that the Harbour area often had brilliant sunshine and the clouds only puffed up when the air hit the higher ground so we had mostly great weather.

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IAMAGEMLOVER 11/22/2012 2:15PM

    I just love the pictures and I enjoyed the walk. Thank you again.

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ROSGETSSERIOUS 11/21/2012 10:50AM

    Fabulous adventure - sounds like fun!

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SQUIRRELLYONE 11/21/2012 10:23AM

    Great blog! What an adventure!

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CAMSEDGE 11/20/2012 8:51PM

    Thanks for sharing...great blog and pictures!

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BECKYSFRIEND 11/20/2012 8:23PM


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MILLIE5522 11/20/2012 4:50PM

    This was a great blog to read today. I didn't manage to get out and about this weekend so I got vicarious pleasure reading about your adventures. Great going on the 10 mile walk emoticon

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POLSKARENIA 11/20/2012 2:28PM

    Interesting walk and blog! I really wish I had more time for beautiful walks, although we do now make a real effort to go somewhere every Sunday!!

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SERASARA 11/20/2012 1:08PM

  emoticon emoticon

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GRAMPIAN 11/20/2012 10:18AM

  You're right about Martello Towers being built to warn against a French invasion - at the time of Napoleon. Good pictures.

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HFAYE81 11/20/2012 10:15AM

    You have such great adventures!

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BLUEJEAN99 11/20/2012 1:58AM


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TEMPENATIVE 11/19/2012 11:55PM

    oh i cant believe it missed this yesterday, i laughed out loud at the gate incident! oh, what adventures! im so glad you could have a lovely day outdoors in november yet, and the history lesson et all. emoticon YOU!

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ROCKYCPA 11/19/2012 11:17PM

    What a great blog - you always have great pics to go along with the photos.

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JAMER123 11/19/2012 10:47PM

    emoticon emoticon Great blog. Enjoyed the pictures as well!!

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CICELY360 11/19/2012 10:20PM

  Good blog

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HEARTS116 11/19/2012 9:23PM

    emoticon emoticon

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DR1939 11/19/2012 8:12PM

    We did a 50 mile walk in the Usk River Valley in Wales last year. I truly understand the feeling when you simply do not know which way to go. And you are right, sometimes the map just doesn't help. But we made our B&B every night and met some marvelous people along the way.

I am experiencing England vicariously through you. I'm so glad I found your blogs.

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TATTER3 11/19/2012 7:42PM

    Because of your writing skill, I have now had a walking tour of a wonderful area!!! Thank you for sharing.

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ONLYTEMPORARY 11/19/2012 7:13PM

    Beautiful pics!

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TERRIJ7 11/19/2012 6:53PM

    Lovely photos!

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MICKEYH 11/19/2012 6:34PM

    Looks like you had a wonderful time to trip to Rye in Sussex. I love those picture in there. These marsh is kind of remind me of Ever glade national park in South Florida.
Although, they are much bushier then yours. But they had lots of swamp in the park.

Sorry you did not prepared lunch like you normally do when you go to Epping. Would be nice a sandwich, your home made yummy soup and a small pot of..maybe ginger/lemon tea. To carry all the picnic basket will be a hectic but maybe worth it.( smile))
However, your fish and chips plate was looks good too. Although you said it maybe of frozen kind. I would love to have fried fish one in a while for fuel. Lol..

You must have a wonderful spirits with animals. And a animal lovers. You can be friend with them so easily. I am like you too. The animals are seems like laughing at me all the time. Lol..
Thanks again for sharing wonderful blog. I enjoyed it very much. Take care and have wonderful Thanksgiving if UK have one like us.

emoticon emoticon emoticon

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PATRICIAANN46 11/19/2012 6:18PM

  Another wonderful adventure. I have always wanted to go to England........It won't happen in the near YOU are my armchair tour guide. emoticon

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ALIDOSHA 11/19/2012 5:16PM

    emoticon emoticon

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DIANNEMT 11/19/2012 4:20PM

    Wonderful adventure!

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KONRAD695 11/19/2012 3:59PM

    If I ever come over to your side of the world, you can be most assured that I find you. I'll pack a big lunch, lots of water, and go whereever you lead. emoticon

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SJKENT1 11/19/2012 3:04PM

    What a wonderful adventure you had. Thanks for taking us along with you.

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EATVEGAN 11/19/2012 2:54PM

    What impressed me most right from the start of your blog is that hearing a weather report, you decided to take a trip...the next day, not some day. But reading comments I see that taking trips is not uncommon for you. Wonderful! I, too, have always wanted to wander around England and Scotland. Thanks for letting me go with you.

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HEYMOE012 11/19/2012 2:41PM

  England is such a great place to meander in. I wish I could get back there. I will just live vicariously through you. And I will love every moment of your adventures.

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MAMAOWLS 11/19/2012 2:38PM

    Another enjoyable walk with you. Thanks for taking us along.

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KARRENLYNN 11/19/2012 2:31PM

    What a beautiful place to hike. Glad you had a great time. Thanks for sharing!

Karen emoticon emoticon

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WORLDSERIES11 11/19/2012 2:05PM

    I SO want to visit England one day, but until that happens, your blogs are the next best thing to being there!!! Thanks!!!

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NEWHEARTSTART 11/19/2012 1:59PM

    Extraordinary, thanks again.

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FARIS71 11/19/2012 1:51PM

    Another marvelous adventure!

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ANDYLIN90 11/19/2012 1:22PM

    I'm exhausted! But what an interesting walk and as always I love your commentary. And what an accomplishment when you think that you had been to Rye in the past and thought a mile or two would be too much and here you are walking ten miles. Good for you!!

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LINDAKAY228 11/19/2012 1:20PM

    I loved the pictures of the area. So nice to get out and see something different isn't it! I just love the way you describe things too. I've had my share of adventures when I think I know where I'm going and end up in some situation or other. But we always come out okay in the end. Glad you had such a great day!

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SHOAPIE 11/19/2012 12:50PM


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FAVORITEAUNT84 11/19/2012 11:49AM

    Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful pictures and letting me live vicariously through you!

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NEWCHINELO 11/19/2012 11:42AM

    Lovely pictures . . . How do you do it?taking pics and your thoughts well put together,WELL DONE on your 10miles.

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HIKERGAL123 11/19/2012 11:22AM

  Thanks - great pictures!

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SLIMLEAF 11/19/2012 11:17AM

    I've walked there too - thanks for the photos and description, reminding me what it's like. You did really well - TEN MILES! emoticon

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WALLINMW 11/19/2012 11:05AM

  Beautiful pics

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GOOSIEMOON 11/19/2012 10:28AM


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MANILUS 11/19/2012 10:05AM

    Happy to see your new adventure! Loved the pics of the swans, reminds me of my hometown, Swanton, Vermont. The Queen gave the town 2 swans and I loved visiting them at the park every summer. Your new boots are coming, that's great!

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KAYYAK1 11/19/2012 9:54AM

  So appreciate your walks and adventures. 10 miles too! Keep up the good work.

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JOANNHUNT 11/19/2012 9:28AM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon The pictures are amazing. Just loving the veiw. emoticon emoticon

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MIMIDOT 11/19/2012 9:20AM

    Thank you for taking us on your hikes. You make it seem that we are right there with you. The pictures are great! I so enjoy your blogs! Thanks again.

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JANEMARIE77 11/19/2012 8:53AM

    So wish i lived somewhere that beautiful I love taking new paths with you

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