Thursday, September 29, 2016

Indian summer in Sussex

Poor Peter, despite his best efforts (nice tie, crisp white shirt, cheery good morning, Australian flag on the table he'd set just for me) the breakfast at the B&B in Hastings was uninspiring. Toast made from tasteless white bread, served with an equally tasteless egg and utterly tasteless mushrooms and what happened to the bacon, baked beans, tomatoes? A greasy little tasteless sausage and an even more greasy bit of colourless hash browns failed to compensate. I had been looking forward to baked beans too. Oh well. 

I didn't bother repeating the experience on Monday morning and slipped out early for a lovely ride along the beachfront to Bexhill where I was rewarded with the best croissant and coffee this side of the Channel from an unassuming Italian bistro. The English don't get going early. The streets of Bexhill were deserted and the only other cyclists I saw were a couple of kids riding to school. (So galling, they rode past me. But then I had more of a load then them.)

So nice to be exploring the coast of Sussex during an English heatwave - in September! I was lucky to have true Indian Summer weather, with day after day of glorious sunshine and temperatures in the high twenties, even into the thirties a couple of days. Unheard of! The crowds of summer had thinned out, the kids were back at school and there was just a touch of autumn in the air, a thinness in the mornings and a drawing in in the evenings. If you are headed to the UK, after the August Bank Holiday has to be one of the best times to visit. 

From Hastings, the National Cycle Route hugs the coast for quite a while before heading across fields along quiet country lanes lined with blackberries. Happy cycling for most of the morning, but what IS that smell? Pig sties? A few days later I read in the local paper that people were complaining about the fertiliser that farmers had been spreading on the harvested paddocks. They should be ploughing it in as soon as it is spread. If I had to live around there I'd be complaining too. Whew pooh. 

I skirted around Eastbourne and followed the edge of the hills of the South Downs to Lewes which is on the VBH side (very bloody hilly). 
But charming. I would happily live here. There is an old knitting factory that hosts a bunch of craft shops. There are heaps of antique shops and the local brewery still produces a good ale. In fact, it is just nice place to shop; it is worth scrolling this website to whet the appetite.

Talking of whetting, my local pub was a charmer too. 

On the way into town I cycled past the village of Glynde, which has a purpose built opera house situated in the grounds of an English stately home. Glyndebourne. The very name conjures up visions of picnics featuring quail's eggs and foie gras, ice-buckets on the lawns, women in hats picking their way over the grass and men in black tie carrying clinking cases of wine. But the opera season was over. 

Lewes has a castle and the ruins of a priory that was founded in 1078 by the Benedictines and sacked on orders of Henry VIII during the reformation, in a mass destruction called The Dissolution of the Monastries. In its time it was one of the wealthiest and biggest priories in England. 

Lewes' high street has been pedestrianised and the local branch of Waterstones has a cafe with tables that are spread out around the many corners of the historic building that houses the shop. You can sit for hours over a coffee browsing the books at leisure. 

I stayed at Hawthorne Farm, a working farm just outside the town via a dedicated cycle path. With a farm shop and a cafe, it is pretty much heaven, and only two other tents in the field. A loaf of sourdough bread, a box of coleslaw, a local cheddar, some heritage tomatoes and a jar of farm-style yoghurt. Who needs restaurants? 

My neighbour is almost glamping
in his bespoke tipi

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