Friday June 1st 2018
It was a pea-soup fog and 14 degrees that greeted us for our final morning at Ramsgate and the first day of summer. We took the southern coastal path for our morning walk with a final visit to RVP for coffee. As per usual, no other patrons out exercising in their active wear, just a few dog walkers. We also haven’t spotted a single Fitness First or Anytime Fitness or any similar style exercise-based institution in Ramsgate and we’ve pretty well covered nearly every street.
We’ve enjoyed our time in Ramsgate though but we’re ready to move on. Our next destination is Hastings, a 2 hour drive away. However, given check out here is 11 am and check in there is not until 2 pm, we’re visiting Sutton Valence Castle and stopping off for lunch at The Three Chimneys on route.
The garden route to Sutton Valence Castle took us along some very narrow lanes and via numerous small villages. One very pretty medieval village being that of Lenham and I did feel at times like we were passing through the various sets of Midsomer Murders!
After navigating these narrow, often heart stopping, lanes we finally made it to Sutton Valence Castle. There is little left of the 12th Century structure, just some stone ruins of the Keep, but at least Mark had some fun with the selfie stick; he developed a 360 thing on this particular stop. He’d given the device to me for Mother’s Day saying he was sure I wanted it. Not true at all but I now realise that he had wanted one! So, I’ve told him I’m going to wrap it up and give to him when Fathers Day comes around!
It was a 20 minute drive from Sutton Valence to The Three Chimneys and we passed through another pretty village of Headcorn. We didn’t stop at any of these smaller villages but if you’re ever in the area make a note of their names and give them a visit. The Three Chimneys was worth the visit although it would have been nice to have longer to dine and enjoy the surrounds as the menu was quite tempting. Given we were only making a relatively quick stop we just shared three small plates and these were delicious.
The drive from lunch to our lodging in Hastings took an hour and continued to be a path of narrow and high hedged lanes. Why the high hedge? I shudder to think what their road toll must be here! The apartment was easy enough to find and, even more importantly, we also found a parking spot nearby. We then met our host, Katie, who gave us the keys and showed us around. It was a smaller apartment than our first one but also offered great views over the water.
Link to our AirBnB: https://www.airbnb.com.au/rooms/21707990
Once settled in we decided to walk up (actually eastwards) to Hastings Old Town. This proved to be further than first thought and took 45 minutes but at least the path along the seaside promenade offered much to look at along the way. In fact, whilst our listing appears in AirBnB as Hastings, it’s actually located a bit further down the road at St Leonards and so our walk to Hasting Old Town took us first past St Leonards proper and then past Hastings (new town) on the 3,2 km journey.
The walk was worth it though as Hastings Old Town had lots to offer; there were cafes, pubs, antique shops, bakeries, delicatessens and all sorts of quirky gift and novelty shops. It was a pity it was so late in the day though as many shops were closing so we will have to journey back here. The pubs weren’t closing though and so that’s where Mark headed to try some locally brewed ales. First stop was The First In Last Out but this was only so-so. Never fear though, Mark quickly Googled an alternative for our next stop and this was The Crown which was a highly reviewed gastro-pub with a much better atmosphere than the previous one. The Crown’s front bar was full but we were lucky enough to score the second last table in the dining section and so we settled in for a drink and a meal. Our meal was delicious but we were too tired to walk home so caught a taxi. Sadly, Mark got our driver chatting and he was from Afghanistan so we then got a propaganda lecture for our trip home, thankfully this was a relatively short journey!
Saturday 2nd June.
The forecast for our first Hastings morning had been for rain so we were pleasantly surprised to wake to foggy skies but no precipitation.
We set off for our morning walk at 8 am and explored to the west before turning back to head east towards the Old Town. With fewer people about and feeling less weary we were able to take in more of our surroundings. We decided to step off the beach side promenade and cross the road to better check out beach front properties. The properties in St Leonard’s/ Hastings are much better maintained than in Ramsgate and the streets are much cleaner. There are also plenty of interesting shops dotted along the main harbour front road, Grand Parade. There were small art galleries, jewelry shops, furniture and antique shops and even a wine bar! Our coffee stop was at Bonjour Cafe and Restaurant where Mark sampled a Pasteis de Nata along with his long black.
Our plan had been to visit the medieval town of Rye for the afternoon but we discovered that the monthly St Leonards by the Sea markets were on so thought that this might be a cultural event worth investigating and we’re glad we did! In as much that the walking route to the King Street markets took us via some back streets of St Leonards that were as diverse and interesting as the markets themselves. The morning fog had cleared and the sun was out making for a very pleasant outing. St Leonards by the Sea has a Darlinghurst (Sydney) / Prahran ( Melbourne) / Portobello Road (London) vibe to it and, if Vintage is your thing, this is the place to head. The markets weren’t that extensive but all the stalls were worth checking out; whether they offered food, jewelry, clothing, Owls or Vintage wares. Yes. You read correctly, Owls of the feathered variety!
We bought a few food items before heading home and then set out at midday for the 30 min drive to Rye. Our first stop was at the Rye Heritage Centre where we took the 20 minute ‘History of Rye’ light show that gave an overview of the key events of Rye’s history. A large 3-dimensional model of the historic township formed the centre of this presentation and lights were used to illuminate pertinent sections of the town as they featured in the narration. The model was an amazing feat in itself and had been created over a four year period in the 1970s by a retired couple. They had gone to great lengths to research the towns history so as to give this accurate visual display of 1300s Rye. The Rye Council then bought this off the couple in the 1980s before dissembling then reassembling the model in the current location.
Following this light show we collected our audio guides and set off to walk the cobbled lanes and inspecting the 20 points of interest. We didn’t get too far though as the 12th Century Mermaid Inn was nearby and guess who wanted to go in and sample the beers? We decided to make this a lunch stop and set off after that to complete our self guided audio tour. We had been advised that the 20 stop route would take about 30 minutes but we found you need the best part of three hours to do this justice; and that’s without stopping to enter many of the featured venues along the way!
It was 4.15 pm before we completed our last stop and we returned our guide sets and journeyed home. It’s exhausting work trying to keep track of all the historical information; and that’s apart from the walking of 10-15 km each day. This is how Mark justifies his beer intake though. He says he needs the calories!
Our first full day in Sussex county had been a great one and made all the more pleasurable by the sunshine and warm weather. Mark had a long bike ride planned for Sunday morning and so we opted for a quiet night dining at home.