Rye and Winchelsea

Fabulous weather for a walk yesterday. The forecast was correct for once and I’d had a couple of walks worked out, one in Essex and one in Sussex, neither of which happened in the end because the trains weren’t running (Essex, boo) or were delayed from Victoria (Sussex, boo hoo). Beloved suggested a walk closer to home but I wasn’t ready to give up on the coast that easily so I searched the south coast for a beach walk and National Rail website for getting to beach without having to do plains/ trains/ automobiles and there it was – Rye. Pretty easily accessible on the high speed train to Ashford and then a local train. We did 11 miles walking from Rye towards Winchelsea, then Winchelsea Beach and back to Rye via nature reserve.

This had pretty much everything you’d want from a good walk: great scenery with lots of changes, good nature, not too many people, bits of history… Granted, it was flat but we’re totally out of shape so that wasn’t a bad thing. First, as we walked along the Saxon Shore path, lots and lots of sheep.

sheep walking rye

These two reminded me of the trio of ‘gossiping sheep’ we saw on a walk in Wales last year so I thought this photo would make a good companion piece. Quite a few sheep in this flock seemed happy to even pose for photos, later on in the day they’d all run away. Shortly after, we walked past the ruins of Camber Castle and decided to take a closer look.

camber castle

 

It was built by Henry VIII as defence against a French invasion but abandoned by 1627. There was lots of dried grass around, which made me think of scorched earth tactics and storming castles but managed to contain self and just walk around.

camber castle ruin

 

Love a good ruin, point me in a direction of old crumbling stones and leave me to it. Shame you couldn’t go inside and climb about this one.

My original plan was to bypass Winchelsea but our water supply was running low and Beloved was also quite keen on a pub stop so we did a detour. What a pretty little village. We stopped for a pint and we got some water, then went into the local church, St. Thomas’s (named after Thomas Beckett) and got a brief lecture on its history.

winchelsea church

 

It’s a medieval church, renovated since and now featuring some pretty good Art Deco-ish stained glass windows.

stained glass winchelsea church

 

Not that you can see all that much in my photo. As we’d already been to the pub and the majority of the walk was still ahead of us, we didn’t stay long in the church. I’d also decided to do a shortcut and walk the quickest route to Winchelsea Beach, forgetting the Royal Military Canal route and going across sheep pastures and dikes. The beach was windy and almost deserted.

the sea at winchelsea1

 

We sat in silence listening to the sound of wind and crashing waves. I took a lot of photos of crashing waves. We walked along the shingle beach back towards Rye, then into the nature reserve, where the scenery was completely different again, still and calm.

nature reserve rye

Lots of birds, lots of wild flowers and only a few dog walkers here and there. Good view towards Rye Harbour too (at least that’s what I think it was).

view towards rye harbour

 

We didn’t go into Rye Harbour but came back via the ruined castle although this time, we’d put the map away, decided to be clever and find our own shortcut then promptly got lost in the labyrinth of dikes, scaring a lot of sheep in the process. Eventually found a way out and back to Rye where we had just enough time to sample some very good ice cream before catching the train back. When we got to the station, the tiny platform was already pretty full with ten minutes to train and Beloved had visions of a hellish train journey back from Whitstable last year but all was well in the end and we were home in no time, exhausted, sunburnt (me, despite spraying self with lots of protection) and happy.

South Downs, Devil’s Dyke

We haven’t done a long walk in a whole month and the weather oracle that is the BBC said it would be sunny today so off we went. Several trains later, we got to Fishersgate and made our way across South Downs to Devil’s Dyke. The weather was perfect, the expanse of the blue sky and the rolling hills just so life affirming. It was good to be out.

the hills are alive south downs1

 

the hills are alive south downs

 

Fields and hills on one side, hills, fields and the sea on the other. We stopped at the Devil’s Dyke pub for a couple of pints and a late lunch then made our way back to Portslade and trains back – walked just over 10 miles in total and the last 4 miles in an hour, just managing to catch the Brighton train. All together just glorious but legs a bit stiff now… Oh well, glad we finally have some fabulous spring weather.

devil's dyke coming up

 

view from devil's dyke

 

devil's dyke

London Loop, Orpington to Hayes

Glorious day for walking, I had plans to continue along the London Loop where we left it last Saturday, Beloved wasn’t quite so enamoured of going back to Bexley as it wasn’t very nice the first time around. Turns out trains were a bit funny around there today anyway so we just moved onto next section of the Loop instead. Off we went to Orpington, setting off quite late and then struggling to find the right path through Darrick Wood towards Farnborough Common. Once we got to the top of the common, however, it was rather lovely:Farnborough common topLondon Loop loops around the Common and this walk was just so much nicer than last week’s. Polar opposites pretty much. Everywhere was muddy, which slowed us down quite a bit but we still enjoyed the walk immensely. It was a bit ‘Hello birds! Hello sky!’ at times, I got very excited by the clouds.

sky on farnborough commonWhat can I say, I love a bit of winter sunshine. Especially good for one’s soul after being cooped up at work all week. While walking through various bits of woodland, I kept noticing first little signs of spring too, would be good to come back here when it’s all green and lush.

farnborough common w horses A little while after I took this photo we walked past a little William Wilberforce memorial, a stone bench where he sat with Pitt (methinks this was the Younger Pitt) and said he wanted to abolish slavery. We continued up across Keston Common towards Keston, passing some pretty little lakes in the last bit of sunshine.

lake at keston commonWalking in so much mud was quite tiring, I originally planned a nearly 11 mile walk but realised that would be best left for dry paths. We stopped for a pint of ale at a pub in Keston, friendly and seemed very popular with locals. Much refreshed, we continued on to Hayes station and got a train back. We ended up doing just over 7 miles. Signing off with a photo of a cute cottage with a clock tower, somewhere on High Elms Road.

Clock tower house

Christmas pudding

The first of the Christmas puddings this year, look at it aflame:

IMG_0477This was the first Christmas pudding I’ve ever made too, using Dan Lepard’s recipe from Short and Sweet. We had it a week ago at a family get together and everyone apart from the kids loved it. Many moons ago, when I first had English Christmas fare, I didn’t like Christmas pudding or mince pies either and, having been brought up not to leave food on the plate, I’d take the tiniest amount possible and never ask for seconds. Then I learned (thank you Delia!) that homemade mince meat can actually taste pretty good if you put nice things in it and that I can just about tolerate Christmas pudding. This one from Dan is really good though. I made Nigel Slater’s brandy butter to go with it, recipe here and I’d definitely recommend it – ground almonds and soft brown instead of icing sugar give it a really good taste.

The pudding was one of three I’ve made this year, also have a Plum Plum pudding from Dan for Christmas Day and another traditional Christmas one for another family get together but with slightly different ingredients – golden syrup instead of treacle and a different sugar (I think – I stupidly didn’t make notes as I made them!) so will try to see if this makes a difference to taste. Again, I used dried fruit that I like and no glace cherries! And, as we had our Christmas pudding last week, the sun was setting allowing for some great views of London:

IMG_0478These photos were taken with Nikon camera, don’t think iphone camera could have handled all those pud flames.

Cranes and blue sky

There is definitely something about cranes and building sites set against a clear blue sky, this was taken late morning near work,

 

Have put a tiny little filter on it but otherwise not messed with. Love a good building site, not so much finished new buildings most of the time. Need to take more photos when out and about, pity that all recent ‘out and about’ has been very rushed as work’s very busy so I don’t even notice much around me. Glad I did today. Also glad for having been able to get out of the office for a good little lunch at St. John (bar), crab on toast, salad with dried pig’s liver and a rather large slice of chocolate cake. Lovely

White cliffs coastal walk

Glorious weather yesterday, perfect for a long coastal walk. We used the 4 mile Wildlife walk over the white cliffs of Dover walk in The Guardian’s 100 great British walks for inspiration. We lengthened it by taking a train to Walmer, couple of stops from Dover Priory and walking the ten miles back to Dover along the Saxon shore way.

Yesterday was also the new camera’s first outing so we walked at a leisurely pace taking lots of pictures. This is of the beach at Kingsdown:

The weather continued to be glorious, wind blowing over the cliffs to stop you from getting too hot and, in my case burnt by the sun. The cliffs are pretty awesome, with rock pools down below and France visible in the distance (not quite in this photo):

 

There were butterflies and birds everywhere, not too many people in the first half of the walk. Ice cream van man just outside Kingsdown did complain about huge numbers of cyclists coming to these parts now (as a group of 50 or so French cyclists in full gear made their descent down steps from the cliffs) because ‘of that bloke’ winning Tour de France.

South Foreland lighthouse was a good spot for a stop, there was a guided tour up at the top, with the guide explaining exactly which house was Noel Coward’s and something about Moonraker that I didn’t quite catch,

I was quite mesmerised by this lovely kite to pay proper attention to the tour guide,

 

As we were nearing Dover, the path did get more crowded. First view of the port was the best (became more industrial the closer you got):

We didn’t stop in Dover, just walked to the train station and got on one of the new high speed trains that took just over an hour to get into St. Pancrass, they’re more expensive but definitely worth it for avoiding the busy Charring Cross or Victoria stations.

 

I hope this wasn’t the last sunny and warm Sunday this year.

Sunsets and change

Last night’s sunset, seen from my kitchen window. These lovely pinks lasted for a few minutes, long enough for me to take a few pictures. With the new camera. My first digital SLR too. I’ve wanted one for a very long time but since we have a perfectly decent (pretty good actually) digital camera already and I mostly only use iPhone or iPad to take pictures for this blog, I couldn’t justify the expense of a digital SLR. I was thinking I might save up and get one for Christmas and then a fairly extraordinary set of circumstances led to me getting this marvellous Nikon D3200. To say I am excited about it would be a gross understatement!

I am, of course, a complete novice. Have some vague memories of a photography class, long ago where I learned about apertures and shutter speeds with a borrowed SLR camera that I had to give back. I moved courses, unfortunately, too quickly to learn much. So I’ve bought myself a book for the Nikon that I am slowly reading. It’ll take a while and I don’t think I’ll stop posting iPhone and iPad photos here, even though my iPhone can now pretty much be classified as ‘vintage’ (am due an upgrade so will hopefully get a new one soon) and I know people mock those who use iPads as cameras (why? photo quality is pretty good and it’s very convenient for quick editing and uploading). Anyway, in a little while, the Nikon will get its first outing. The weather is meant to be sunny so we’re going to the coast for a long walk, yay!!

The sunset photo above was taken in ‘guide’ mode, which is pretty handy and I’ve resized it to post here. Will definitely be a while before I’m confident enough to do things manually…