A year of centuries 5/12

A few weeks ago, +Hamish Gaunt contacted me and asked if I was interested in planning my century ride for May to include a trip to Udimore. He had something to deliver and thought if he came down to my neck of the woods, we could ride 100 miles to include a short detour to Udimore.

I'd already planned to make my Surrey hills ride at the end of the month my century ride for May but getting it in the bag beforehand meant there was no pressure.

I looked at the possible routes I could do and with many historical landmarks local to me I decided to take Hamish on a 1066 tour of Sussex. As it turned out, Hamish didn't need to deliver anything on the day we could take as it came. There was no pressure.

It can be difficult to dress appropriately this time of year but I thought I'd dress light and take arm warmers with me. Worst case, I could pop back home just before the 20 mile mark if need be.

I left my house at 9.45am and headed to Eastbourne railway station. The sun was shining and the forecast of light winds early on seemed spot on. The forecast was for stronger winds later on but that would only be an issue on the return from Rye.

Hamish arrived on the 10.14am train and after a brief chat we were on our way. Not only was I ride leader but also tour guide for the day. We headed for Eastbourne Pier and we stopped briefly as Hamish took a picture. Next stop Beachy Head. The climb to the infamous beauty spot is long and gradual. Hamish is a fast ascender compared to me and him disappearing up the hills was a recurring theme throughout the day.

At the summit the wind was more noticeable and I suggested that after we descended to the foot of Belle Tout (the old Beachy Head lighthouse) that we pull over so Hamish could get a picture of the famous lighthouse. We then carried on to Birling Gap and East Dean before a sharp couple of climbs to Friston. We were soon descending at speed toward Jevington, birthplace of the banoffee pie.

More fast descending into Filching and Wannock before arriving in Polegate. With the wind behind us the stretch to Stone Cross was fast and in no time at all we arrived in Pevensey. We took a brief detour into the castle grounds and Hamish had something to eat and took a few photos.

Back on our bikes we headed to Wartling and onto Herstonceux. A brief stop to show Hamish the old Royal Greenwich Observatory and a brief mention of Herstomnceux castle, although we didn't get a chance to see it. Back on the road and we headed east through Boreham Street and onto Ashburnham and then Battle.

The town of Battle is the home of Battle Abbey but more famously the site of the Battle of Hastings. We stopped at a quaint tea shop opposite the Abbey and had a coffee and cake. It was only a brief stop before we were back on our bikes. We travelled down Marley Lane and headed for Sedlescombe. Through the village and onto Cripps Corner before turning off for Bodiam. Bodiam is home to a beautiful castle, apparently the most photographed in Britain. We stopped for a brief snack and took some pictures.

Back on our bikes and we went over the Kent and East Sussex Railway line and ascended to Ewhurst Green. A brief pause again to take a photo of Bodiam Castle again. A few lumpy bits later and we went past Great Dixter as we arrived in Northiam.

Just as we entered the village of Beckly we headed south toward Udimore. It was a quiet lane that was wooded on both sides, if a little hilly at times. We were now on the road to Rye. We were about 150ft above sea level and to our right, we had a lovely view out to sea and standing out in the bright sunlight was Camber Castle.

Arriving in Rye, we rode around the one way system and I suggested we stop for an ice cream at the Strand Quay. A 99 with two flakes hit the spot! We were basking in the sunshine and sat amongst a load of motorcycles. I knew that when we started riding again we'd be headed into the wind. Just how hard it would be was yet unknown.

The ride to Rye Harbour meant we were headed south east. I could already feel the wind pushing strong from the right. As we reached the most southerly point of the harbour we saw a group of tandem riders, about five in total from what I remember. We stopped and I offered to take a photo of them. Riding again we were headed right into the south westerly headwind. We had to ride into it for just over 2 miles but it felt like much more. I was so glad when we could turn around again as we headed toward the medieval hilltop town of Winchelsea. The climb to Strand Gate was slow for me but not for Hamish. My left knee was starting to give tell tale signs that it would be hurting soon. We were quickly out the other side of town and through New Gate.

We were now on the road to our final climb. The little lane that comes out in Pett is quite lumpy and you gain and lose all of your elevation three times. The lane had recently been resurfaced and was a joy to ride, especially as there were no cars. Now in Pett, the final ascent beckoned. It climbs and levels off a few times and is quite steep in places. Just before reaching the main A259 I heard a loud BANG! I thought someone had let off a banger or fired something next to me. To my surprise it was my tyre. It had burst. I had to walk the last few hundred metres to catch up with Hamish at the top before having a go at fixing it. I had a tyre boot (a bit of card that patches a hole in a tyre from the inside) and put a new tube in and we were swiftly on our way again.

There's a small sharp climb to summit on the A259 before having a long descent all the way to Hastings seafront. There's a speed camera near the bottom and it's been an ambition of mine to try and set it off. Not even worrying about my tyre having just exploded, I was descending at speed and getting faster as I approached the camera. As I glanced down to check how fast I was going, I briefly saw 38mph and looked back to see if the camera flashed. It did. Challenge complete.

Hamish soon caught up and we had an exposed ride ahead as there was no shelter for the next fifteen miles. 5 miles into the wind we reached Bexhill. We met up with my friend Rob where we had an extra bit of distraction in the way of someone else to moan at about the wind. Rob had fresher legs than us so he hadn't earned the right to complain yet. The ride was a little slow but it wasn't long before we arrived in Eastbourne. As we turned right, off the seafront and navigated our way to the train station for Hamish, we were out of the wind. Once at the station we checked the train times and realised there was quite a wait. I suggested Hamish get some food and we headed over to the pub across the street. Food was served promptly and it wasn't long before we had to say farewell to my long suffering ride partner (or was that me?).

I rode with Rob for a little while and parted company just before my house. The final 5 miles home were not fast but not hard with the wind behind me. I was pleased to be home.

A big thank you to Hamish for inspiring this 1066 century and for joining me on it. Thanks also to Rob for joining us last minute. Thank you for reading this if you got that far. Enjoy the pictures and take a look at the route.

Waiting for Hamish

Pevensey Castle

Coffee break in Battle

Hamish with Bodiam in the background

A 99 with two, yes TWO flakes!

My exploded tyre!

Waiting for the train

Farewell Hamish

The lonely last miles

1 comment:

  1. The pleasure was all mine Toby. Many thanks for the beautiful trip and great history lesson. Also fun to meet Rob.


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