I could have had a plan to wake up early, eat and leave before anyone else was up, but it didn’t happen. I was up by 8 and by 9 I was on the road, which for the first time ever packing did not seem too bad. I had a small bit to eat with the idea of if there is a nice looking cafe along the way then I would stop, or a nice shop where I could pick up breakfast and lunch. Weather wise it was promising to turn into a nice warm day, totally different from the endless cloud and drizzle of the day before.
The route back home would be different and follow an inland route, not wanting to spend the day retracing my steps. I was not too sure how the GPS would go, lots of turns onto small roads although no offroad planned until they very end. I also wondered how interesting it would be, riding along coastal roads seem so much more interesting than going along yet another country road. I also too had in my mind that the wind may be against me, infact for the first 10 miles I would be heading mostly North West directly into the wind.
I set off and straight into fenland Norfolk, flat land, dykes, fields full of potatoes and roads that were dead straight for miles only to encounter 90 degree corners now and then as they snaked around the fields. The wind was there, not strong but given the flatness of the land it kept at me. When it was not potatoes it was sheep and the odd stream or possibly drain (if keeping with the fen way of thinking).
So far not a single shop, cafe or even house, but plenty of wind and many times there the landscape would not change for seemed like ages. As the roads skimmed the edge of fields you found yourself seeing the same landscape at many different angles. I all changed though when I met Britain’s final line of defence against invaders, the Royal Military Canal. Built at the edge of Romney Marsh in the early 1800s in case of invasion from the French during the Napoleonic wars. It runs for 28 miles and was made to halt any invasion from the marshlands, it was never needed. It was later used to fight the battle against smugglers, with guard houses built by bridges to prevent the trade, although as most of the guards were corrupt at the time it had little success. It’s biggest day nearly came with the planned invasion of German forces during World War 2, many pill boxes and defences remain, all with the aim to slow down Hilter’s march towards Butlins holiday camps sited off the south coast no doubt. Again, it was never needed.
It would not be for a good 20 or 30 miles until I found the first shop, annoyingly I did pass a farm shop on the side of the road but decided not to stop and I had regretted it for a number of miles. I arrived in a town that had little else but a massive Tesco and a massive Lidls, where I picked up breakfast and some bits for later on lunch. Stopping just outside of town I found a bench and stopped for a bite to eat. The bench was in memory of “The Miss Hardcastles of Chittenden”. I’ve no idea who they were or been able to find anything about them on the internet afterwards, but whatever they did it was good enough to have a bench (looking pretty old now) which in turn gave me somewhere to stop, so I joined in and praised the Miss Hardcastles too.
As expected, the journey was road after road, sometimes busy sometimes small country lanes. I learnt quite soon that possible more direct routes on the map that look inviting normally include a massive dip into a valley and back out the other side, probably why the more major roads went round such things. The roads would be so little used that going at any speed downwards was a bit scary which left you with an impossible road going back up. By now, it was sunny and warm, I was walking up some of these long lost roads.
I cycled into Ticehurst, a small pretty village that not only I share my name with but I am happy to say it has (nice) public toilets too, which was long overdue. It turned out to be the day of the village fete and preparations were going on all over the place making it all feel like a friendly little village out of the sunday afternoon detective TV series, including the many classic cars being worked on in preparation of them being shown off at the fete when it started. I wanted to stay, but it did not start until later on in the afternoon and I had to get on my way. I really wanted to turn up and shout, “here I am, Mr Ticehurst!” in the middle of the fete of Ticehurst village and upon doing so be crowned as the village king for the day and given treats and kindness by all. Or maybe people would look at me and think “nutter” and carry on. I stopped to take the obvious photo of my bike and the place name, and carried on.
More country roads, a couple of “closed” roads which I never did find out where or why they were closed, lots of valleys and hills. I stopped for a spot of lunch after what seemed like hours of uphill, sitting at a crossroads watching the odd car go past.
For hours after lunch it was just roads and roads and pretty dull. Nice to be out and about going through unknown places, but nothing like the day before with constant change. I got to Chailey where my route would start to take a more southern direction and at the same time got my first view of the South Downs, I was nearly home. Strangely I am pretty sure I passed a dead monkey on the side of the road, not the normal sort of road kill you find. No one believed me, I wish I had stopped to take a photo, although I don’t suppose it is the done thing.