Cycling in the land of the Romney Gypsies

About Sunday night.

We wandered into the small town of Sandgate looking for a couple of beers and possibly some food.

We were told the ‘Earl of Clarendon’ pub was worth a visit and trudged up the hill to the place. They were not doing food, but it was a small quaint pub, which looked like it used to be somebody’s house.

There were only four of us in the place and we were eventually drawn into conversation with the other two, a retired couple who had just lost their dog and cat in the same week. And we then realised they were very pissed.

We were getting a bit fed up with conversing with them, particularly as the now dead dog kept repeatedly coming up along with some tears. Not from us obviously.

However, we were spectacularly rescued by the landlord. He had been sitting at the bar drinking and clearly knew the two drunken pensioners. He had chipped in once or twice and claimed to be French, though his cockney accent belied this.

I really don’t know what triggered this, but the next minute the Landlord is ranting about the Falklands war and how the British should not have sovereignty over the Islands and should never have entered into the war. Cringing I go to the loo, but by the time I return he is ranting about Dunkirk and the ‘cowardly’ action of the British Expeditionary Force. When our drunken friend dares to point out that the French army was a badly-led rabble in 1940, who couldn’t defend their own county, the landlord goes apoplectic.

It was like something out of a Monty Python sketch as, purple faced, he raged, ranted, and swore about the British bastards, the empire, the Falklands, you name it; anything anti-British.

We all made our excuses and left. Perhaps in the future he could just call time instead?

We walked some of the way back with our new drunken pensioner friends, until he needed to go for a wee on the beach…..

Having escaped, our thoughts turned to food. The local Thai place had been recommended, so we ventured in. We are greeted and order, to find that it is a family business and they all sit, along with the dog, on a settee watching the telly in the same room as you eat. It was like eating in front of the Royle family. As we take in our food, they discuss what is on the telly, the lack of customers and, horribly, how many movements the dog had on his walk.

We wonder how it is possible that we have never been to Sandgate before.

So, Monday morning. After a massive English breakfast and a bit of a wait until a heavy shower disappears, we are on the road.

A rain delayed start.
A rain delayed start.

The plan is to see if we can get the c 48k to Rye. With no maps and relying on the National Cycle Route 2 signage it is a bit of a leap into the unknown, but there are a few other places we could stop if we need to.

After a bit of a fractured start as we pick our way through Hythe, we get onto a path next to the Royal Military Canal. We were surprised to learn that this was built in 1804 for defence purposes against Napoleon, rather than to move goods by barge.

Bit of a fractured start as we pass through Hythe.
Bit of a fractured start as we pass through Hythe.

We then move onto a route which takes you across the flat but windy Romney marshes. The first stretch is a bit long, but we manage to find a pub to grab a coffee in a small village called St Mary on the Marsh.

A typical English pub in St Mary on the marsh.
A typical English pub in St Mary on the marsh.

We then follow the same kind of terrain, dotted with sheep feeding on the marsh grasses, to the town of Lydd, where we find some lunch.

As we cycle, we have a classic tandem moment; Louise asks if this the area is where the Gypsies are from. For a second I am puzzled, we are in Romney, Gypsies? ‘No Louise that will be the Romany Gypsies’.

The final stretch takes us towards the coast and past an Army firing range, which was in use. It was a surreal experience cycling along with heavy machine guns going off in the background.

On the way to Rye, we pass through Camber Sands with its trailer parks, Pontins and ‘BJs Beach Hotel’. It really looks a horrible dump, which at least encourages us to cycle faster.

We find The Ship Inn, our accommodation for the night, and stroll into Rye in search of Maps. We at least manage to find a cycle route map, not as detailed as we hoped but it will have to do.

Rye is a beautiful place, slightly spoiled by the fact that it appears to be inhabited entirely by posh people, many dressed like they are out on a hunt. When walking the High Street, all you can pick up are the ‘OK yars’ and ‘when we were in Tuscany’s.

Rye - Nice but bloody posh!
Rye – Nice but bloody posh!

So, as a kind of protest we eat in the chippy; every little helps.

I had posted a couple of photos of the Ship Inn on Facebook and Jasper from Cycle Nation, who fixed up Claud in Arnhem, comments to say he stayed there in August. Small world.

Jasper is obviously keen to follow us around Europe!
Jasper is obviously keen to follow us around Europe!

Today was an unexpectedly tough day, possibly one of the toughest of the tour so far.

Nothing to do with the comedic start where in the first hour we had taken the wrong route, then found the right route, but took it the wrong way, then broke the Garmin holder (fortunately not the Garmin!).

Once we started cycling the right way, the National Cycle Route 2 was good and well waymarked. The main problem for us was the very strong wind which was inevitably in our faces for the whole ride.

The National Cycle Route 2 was pretty good today - apart from the climb!
The National Cycle Route 2 was pretty good today – apart from the climb!

At a place called Pett Level we stopped for a break and had a chat to a couple of fellow cyclists who warned us that the next section was ‘undulating’ with ‘quite a climb at the end’; they were not kidding.

An undulating route and three steep climbs later we were at the top at c. 150 metres. The climbs were far too steep for us, so plenty of pushing. The views were fairly stunning though as we sat and caught our breath!

At the top - Though we never received the memo about this climb!
At the top – Though we never received the memo about this climb!

The rest of the ride through Hastings, stopping in Bexhill for lunch and on to Eastbourne should have been a doddle. However, the wind at this point was very strong, making it a real slog.

We had planned to stop for a coffee mid-morning but found ourselves on a path bounded by the sea one side and a railway line the other. We were trapped on this route for ages and the only cafe we came across had a snotty sign outside about the parking of bikes; therefore we starved out of principle.

Very windy on the exposed sea front.
Very windy on the exposed sea front.

We arrived at our hotel on the seafront completely knackered. Only 50k, but in tough conditions.

We are faced with a bit of a tough climb out of Eastbourne tomorrow so will perhaps need to moderate our distance. We have 3 days to get to Portsmouth.

We need to keep rolling………..

Tough day, but still smiling!
Tough day, but still smiling!

2 thoughts on “Cycling in the land of the Romney Gypsies”

  1. Your bit about Sandgate was hilarious, reminded me of a stay I once had at a pub on Lindisfarne. Been thinking about you heading this way in the wind and yesterday’s rain, we drove to Portsmouth and the weather was just dire.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *