Monday, 27 July 2009

Seaford to Eastbourne – (East Sussex) – 24/07/09 – 13 Miles – Helen

Despite the best efforts of the twits who read the weather to put us off going, me and Helen decided to take our chances anyway and head for the Coast. This being my fourth outing over the Seven Sisters in the space of the year, and Helen’s first. So needless to say the predicted rain never materialised with the Sun shining all day. That said it was blowing something of a gale for most of our time there, forcing me to keep on my fleece to avoid the wind chill, whilst hard as nails Helen mostly got by in just a t-shirt.

Anyway the train pulled into Seaford at 1216, and the first order of the day (alright then second after a pit stop) was to sit on a bench facing the pebble beach and sea, and then devour our sandwiches. To our left was an impressive airborne kite which was to be our first flying display that hour. So with grub down, a brief snoop at the outside of the multicoloured beach huts, and a walk around the Martello Tower, we were soon up onto the top of Seaford Head. Here the full power of the wind became immediately apparent, with my hasty decision to go into t-shirt mode myself, quickly being reversed. Once up there of course, the deceptivly close Seven Sisters come into view, with only our second flying display of the day, three helicopters, momentarily diverting our attention.

Past Hope Gap, where Helen thought better of taking a paddle in the Sea, and we were soon at the estuary at Cuckmere Haven. As you approach the watery inland diversion you come across the (former) Coastguard Cottages, which apparently survived the best attentions of the Luftwaffe during the War. That however was a mere local difficulty compared to the joint attack they now face from a combined attack of coastal erosion, and Environmental Agency apathy. Anyway the information board gives all the relevant phone numbers of people to badger, if passers-by want to support the current residents fight to have their seawalls maintained. So pretending to be anything but apathetic ourselves, we left the cottages behind as we had our second stop off of the day to attend to at the pub. Having not been overly impressed by the food the last time I visited the Golden Galleon, this time it was a case of drinks only, all the while sinking and snoozing into some comfy armchairs for the best part of three quarters of an hour. However we had to move sometime if we were to avoid having to get the bus onto Eastbourne, so it was the usual case of crossing back and forth over Exceat Bridge, returning along the other bank of the Estuary, and back onto the cliffs to get stuck into the Seven Sisters themselves.

Up and down, up and down, up and down we go, which is pretty much what the Seven Sisters are all about. One short sharp ascent, followed by a short sharp descent, and do the whole thing again six more times, all the while accompanied by the constant motor of the waves far below. As such the multi layers of blue on the Sea, makes for an idylic contrast with the light green of the grass, all the while separated by the brilliant white of the cliffs inbetween. They are brilliant white of course because more and more of it is falling into the Sea, one particular chunk (which you can see in the photo) looked as if it was about to go anyday now. Mind you all those badger holes everywhere you look, can’t be helping matters either.
Anyway having polished off all seven we found ourselves at Birling Gap looking for some afternoon Tea. There wasn’t much more than the most basic of fare at the café, however my coffee and Cadburys mini roll went down nicely, as did Helen’s coffee and rock cake. So by the time we were moving off again on the way to Beachy Head we were now into late afternoon. The wind had begun to drop slightly, but was still not enough to persuade me to take off my extra layer. Along the way we admired the Belle Tout lighthouse, which is now surrounded by scaffolding since my last visit (obviously moving house again), and Helen was able to spot some microscopic flowers, which oafs like me are more likely to just tread on. What I also hadn’t seen before at the top of Beachy Head, was a notice board by a telephone box giving the phone number of The Samaritans (some sad stories here of course, but are not worth dwellling on).

From that point we were finally in full descent mode as we headed towards the town of Eastbourne, and the pier which moved further away from us the more we walked towards it. After the briefest of peeps into ‘Helen Gardens’ (for no other reason than …… well you work it out ?) we were down onto the promenade in the beautiful light of the early Summer’s evening. I can’t say the beaches at Eastbourne look much to me, but with the fading sunlight on them, they took on a golden brown glow, as we were able to make out small figures walking dogs, and partaking of other activities upon them. Anyway fish and chips was our next mission, and after some debate as to whether there would be a shop on the pier itself, we instead found a more than acceptable Harry Ramsdens, on the other side of the road that led to our approach into town. Thus fully stuffed with cod and chips, we did the final grim mile through Eastbourne town centre, dodging the local feral kids, to make the 2031 train back to London. In the Time out Country Walks Book 2 (where this walk comes from) it suggests that you allocate 12 hours to the day including travelling (which I have scoffed at on my previous visits). On this day however that proved spot on, so by the time we finally got home, it was basically time for bed.

Walks since last blog entry: (1 x seven and a half miler – Grand Union Canal / Osterley Park).

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Boxhill / Headley Heath (Circular) – (Surrey) – 07/07/09 – 11 Miles – IVC.

With Andy Murray absent from my planned activity for this Sunday, a day in front of the TV thinking about what might have been, was definitely not an option. So just like last week it was a walk with IVC, and just like last week the tube was being engineered on, forcing me yet again onto the railway. Still £3.50 for an off peak return to the connection at Clapham Junction hardly breaks the bank. Unfortunately collaring me on the platform at Clapham Junction was a certain member who had bored everyone rigid on the walk I led through Richmond Park. Forced however to share the rail carriage with my new ‘friend’ to Boxhill and Westhumble, he eventually (albeit temporarily) got the message when I refused to look up from my paper as he was speaking to me.

So with our party assembled at our destination we were soon on a climb up onto Boxhill Country Park. To our right we were able to take in some stunning views across the Mole Gap. Somewhat stupidly however I had stopped to take a picture of the view, only to find myself stuck at the back of the group with my ‘friend’ downloading yet more interesting stories of his childhood onto me. Looking at the ground and hoping one of us would be struck by lightning, I inadvertently had been forced to slow down to his pace. Suddenly I looked up to find the whole group had left us, upon which point we both came to a fork in the path without knowing which way to go. So at this point my ‘friend’ went into a complete hissy fit saying how it wasn’t fair and he was 14 stone, and why didn’t anyone wait (probably because they had been on the wrong end of one of his one sided conversations). Anyway I decided that the logical direction was down, but he wanted to go up. So initially having it his way, it became obvious that was wrong and that we had to retrace our steps back to the fork. Unfortunately this made his tantrum worse and he said he was heading back to the pub (expecting me to join him ?). Anyway thankfully shot of him, I carried on and soon caught up the group, who had now sent out a one man search party for the two of us. So with him being rounded up in due course by said party, it became obvious that my ‘friend’ was now very cross and was not going to speak to me for the rest of the day (so that meant of course I was now free to enjoy the walk).

Boxhill Country Park is a really excellent place to walk with a whole series of challenging climbs and sharp descents. It is also somewhere however where you really need a map to find your way about. Thus even with three OS maps kicking about the group, there was constant stopping and discussing about which way to go next. Thus following a very steep descent we eventually made our way to The Running Horses pub in Mickleham for lunch. Now our leader had forewarned us in the bulletin that the pub could be very busy and that sandwiches would be a wise precaution. So following her instructions I bought the cheapest sandwich I could get at Clapham Junction, with a view to throwing it away if the pub was able to serve up their meals on time. Once at the pub however it became obvious that service itself wasn’t the problem, but instead it was the gastro pub menu prices. So I settled down outside with my pint of cider and sarnie whilst those around me ordered the meals. Feeling a little left out of proceedings however, I decided to order the desert which was white chocolate and strawberry crème brulet. Very nice too when it eventually arrived, although I had to go and chase it up 25 minutes after ordering (I expect faster service than that for £6.25). Anyway our leader had assured me our group wouldn’t leave without me. In fact to prove that she wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry, she inadvertently managed to be hit on the head by a flying table umbrella/canopy. No one was quite sure how it happened except for the small boy at the table, who had obviously been fiddling with it, who was convinced a freak gust of wind had got hold of it.

Following lunch and with me feeling slightly queasy after the sarnie/cider/crème brulet smoothie, we then had to go back up the formerly steep descent. Thus the second half of the walk found us on the way back to Boxhill and Westhumble station by a different (and explained to me as) a figure of eight route. This taking us via Headley heath which as you can see from the picture is owned by the National Trust. A few steep ascents followed by which time the crème brulet had long melted away from my stomach. The one real exception to the afternoons ascents being a really long descent of steps like the ones me and Helen so enjoyed making at Craflwyn for the National Trust. Far far longer in this case though, with the photo not really doing it justice (as only a small part is visible) and begging the question: how many working holidays did it take to put that together ?

With the walk coming near to its conclusion we stopped for afternoon tea in Boxhill at Ryka’s Bikers Café. In fact it was quite sweet to see this community of bikers all gathering here for their afternoon burgers and teas’, including among them some Police bikers as well. Anyway I put on as macho voice as I could muster when ordering my hot chocolate, whilst one of the lady bikers quizzed one of our lady walkers as to ‘where did you get your boots’. Anyway overall a very good days walking, with the temperature cooler than it was at the start of the week, but still warm enough to break out a sweat in a t-shirt.