Well it’s been a while since we last posted – largely because we have been downsizing our goods and chattels, prior to moving to a new flat. Every weekend for months and months, it seems, has been tied up with sorting stuff into four piles – Keep, Tip, Sell or Charity shop. It’s just amazing how much stuff you accumulate in a lifetime.
We finally moved (after an agonisingly slow sale and an equally agonising but not-quite-as-long purchase) on 29th November. It soon became evident that, despite our best efforts, we had not got rid of enough “stuff” and for the first month we could not actually find enough space for a bed so the beloved caravan came in to play. We sited it a local pub – The Traveller’s Rest in Newtown – and we have spent our days and weekends at the flat, Paul working and me sorting stuff out and then sleeping in the caravan. It hasn’t been at all onerous – we love it. It’s very quiet at night – we don’t even hear noise from the pub – just owls at night and pheasants in the morning.
20th – 27th December
We were scheduled to be spending Christmas at my brother’s place in Beckenham, and had a slightly madcap plan to site our caravan on his drive, mainly to help with the pressure on accommodation. Measurements had been taken and it all looked feasible. We arrived later than planned (in the dark) but the van fitted pretty much perfectly – thank goodness! The journey had not been without stress and it was a relief to drop the steadies and relax.
We arrived on 20th Dec and left on the 27th, enjoying the run up to the big day, the day itself and leaving on the morning of Evie’s 14th birthday. We had such a great time and were sad to leave but new adventures on the South Coast beckoned.
We left at around midday and set off for Kloof’s, near Bexhill on Sea, in East Sussex. It was an easy journey – less than 2 hours on good roads – apart from the approach to the site – which was pretty narrow and which required strict adherence to the instructions posted by the campsite rather than listening to the Sat Nav.
On arrival – whilst the campsite was open for business – there was no-one physically on duty and you had to ring through to find out what pitch you were on and where it was. The instructions given over the phone did not translate very well on the ground and we ended up overshooting and going round again, but we were soon all set up with the obligatory kettle on.
The pitches are very nice – level and with a picnic bench, a place for a barbecue and water and drainage. Our favourite type of pitch. We got ourselves sorted out , had a cuppa and a light snooze, walked the dogs and then set off for Eastbourne, where I had arranged a grocery collection at Sainsbury’s. We drove there via Pevensey and Pevensey Bay – where there has been much building of new houses and if William the Conqueror were to land here today, as he did in 1066, I think he’d feel very lost! It was getting dark so we didn’t actually see that much – apart from houses.
It was the first time that I had done a pick-up for my grocery shop and it went very smoothly – apart from the fact that single-use plastic bags are not used any more and you have to very quickly unload everything, item by item. But it’s the same with Grocery delivery these days, too. Quite stressful when you have someone waiting at the door for you! But we were soon on our way “home” again, where we had dinner, watched a spot of television and then turned in early.
Saturday 28 December
Our first priority was ablutions! The boiler at Bruce’s had packed up on Boxing Day – it still gave heat but no hot water, so showers had been impossible. Whilst we could not have been described as dirty, it was nice to feel fresh!
Ablutions completed, we set off in search of adventure and a coffee – not necessarily in that order! We had a drive along the front at Bexhill and then parked at Cooden Beach, where we let the boys out for a run on the dog-friendly beach. It was breezy and there were plenty of dogs to play chase with, including a sweet Border terrier bitch called Tilly. Border Terrier people always seem extra friendly and always seem interested to talk. Tilly’s Ma and Pa were no exception and the boys loved playing with her.
Having grabbed a coffee at the Cooden Beach Hotel, we pressed on along the coastline, via St Leonard’s to Hastings – a favourite of ours. But for the first time in all our visits, the East Hill Cliff funicular was running so we had to grab us a ride on that! There is a Country park and a beacon at the top and the boys had a good old romp.
Hastings was pretty busy and we struggled to find any where for our – by now – late lunch. A quick bit of research on the very handy “Doggie Pubs” website, found us heading off towards the Three Oaks pub, which is aptly named as it is in the village of – yes – Three Oaks – up on the downs above Hastings.
The decor is quite interesting – consisting of what might be described as an eclectic collection of “pub ephemera”, including an enviable (if you’re in the market for one) collection of chamber pots! It might also be described as clutter! I’ll let you decide. But it also had on the menu Steak and Kidney Pudding. This is an increasingly rare sight, these days, where carbs are the enemy and many people eschew offal. We both opted for it and could not believe the size of the mighty meal when it arrived. I have included a picture below, but it does not do it justice. I reckon there was an entire bag or frozen peas each for starters! It beat both of us fairly and squarely and it was almost embarrassing sending the plates back, seemingly hardly touched.
As it was now late afternoon, we set off for home and a little nap to sleep off the effects of the food! We spent the evening playing our new board game – Sequence – which is thoroughly entertaining, followed by TV and bed. No tea required!
Being Sunday, we had our traditional boiled egg breakfast, before setting off for Kent and our destination – Hythe, one of the most important of the “Cinque Ports” – a collection of five towns who banded together – originally for military and trade reasons. The plan was to ride the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway to its terminus at Dungeness. Now – in all their blurb – the trains look like normal, full-sized trains. The reality is quite different, however. It is a narrow-gauge railway and the carriages fit 2 medium build people sitting side by side snugly. And the carriage height is less than 5 feet. You had to stoop to get in.
It dawned on us that we would be spending a good hour on this tiny train – not including a half hour “lay-over” at New Romney. How we laughed. But it was actually good fun and the boys – as usual – took it all in their stride.
Dungeness is special. It’s like nowhere else I’ve been. For a start – it has one of the largest expanses of shingle in Europe. It also – and many of you will have heard of this – has a lighthouse. Or rather, it has had a succession of lighthouses – seven to be precise. There are currently two. One which was built in 1904 and still stands but is not used. The newer one was built in 1961 and looks very elegant in my opinion.
The newer one was built partly because the sea had receded and partly because the older one’s light was obscured by the building of the Nuclear Power station, another Dungeness “feature”.
The houses are quite quirky too, being mainly wooden weatherboard beach houses, but there are also quite a few, built in the 1920s, around old railway coaches. One of the houses – the attractive Prospect House – was once owned by artist and film director Derek Jarman.
The Nuclear Power Station dominates the skyline in quite an ominous way – although that may just reflect my fears over the use of Nuclear power and what happens when it all goes wrong or is shut down. Probably largely fuelled by the Chernobyl disaster.
Dungeness is one of those places that you have to want to go to. Being on a headland – or “cuspate foreland “, it’s not on the way to anywhere. There was an hour to kill there, and I really wished I had worn something warmer as there was a stiff and quite chilly breeze. Paul took the boys for a walk on the beach while I ordered our lunch. As you might imagine, everyone pours off the train and makes straight for lunch – it was a long queue! We were glad of our soup once we sat down (outside because of the dogs). Just what the doctor ordered.
The return journey by train was uneventful – although I did get stung on the arm by a confused bumble bee, which had somehow – and unbeknownst to me until just before it stung me – crawled inside my shirt and down my sleeve! I don’t know who was more shocked.
We finally arrived back just after sunset. The journey home was about an hour. Ted was sick a couple of times during the evening and we wondered if he had perhaps picked up something vile on the beach? We hoped he’d be better by morning.
Poor Ted was still poorly, so we decided he needed to see the Vet. Luckily there was one close by, who were able to see him. She gave him an anti-emetic and prescribed the usual chicken and rice diet and said to bring him back if he continued vomiting. We hoped we wouldn’t have to.
It was a coat and sunglasses kind of a day. We bought coffee and went for a walk on the beach at Bexhill. Interesting modern seating. I liked. Apparently the bit we were on was “the posh bit”. But of course!
As we needed petrol, we went to Sainsbury’s (Nectar points) and what a nightmare THAT was! Le tous Eastbourne was on the road. Vexatious in the extreme. But soon we were off to Beachy Head (breezy!) where the boys had a nice walk.
Our next port of call was Birling Gap. The last time we had visited Birling Gap (some 10 years ago) it had been pretty much deserted. We watched the RNLA assisting what looked like illegal immigrants on the beach below. But since then, it’s been “National Trust-ised”. There is now a large cafe and gift shop and – consequently – hordes of people. Particularly Japanese tourists, who were really quiet numerous!
We had had a late start and it was late afternoon and a long time since breakfast and we fancied a spot of of (late again!) lunch. Well, parking was the first difficulty – luckily, after a couple of circulations, we saw a guy who was just leaving and grabbed his space. He even gave us his ticket, which was handy. And food? Forget it – the cafe was literally stripped bare! The ravening hordes had eaten pretty much every savoury thing and left just a few bits of cake, which we eagerly snapped up.
As the light was imminently going to fade, we made our way home by a quite circuitous route – as is often Paul’s wont – but including a stop for the boys to have another run around..
We decided to eat out and went to the Lamb Inn, which we had passed several times and thought looked nice. My review on Trip Advisor, entitled “Distinctly Mediocre” says it all, I think? Rather disappointing.
As we were off home tomorrow (New Year’s Day), we spent some time rationalising all the stuff in the boot and in the van to save time the next day. We also did some washing, using the great laundry facilities at Kloofs. Mainly bedding and towels, but a job well worth doing, if a little tedious. It was lunchtime before we ventured out.
We set off for Battle – a nice little town, with a great traditional butcher and some nice independent shops. I bought some fillet steak (for our New Year’s Eve supper) and a birthday present for a dear friend with a birthday in January. I’ll say no more in case she is reading this!
We also popped in to Jempsons for some bits for lunch and a coffee. Jempsons are a local bakery/supermarket chain, who have a number of cafes, convenience stores, supermarkets and even a petrol station in the area. They even have their own foundation, set up to help community projects. Nice to see an independent giving the big guys a run for their money. Long may they continue to do so.
The next stop was Herstmonceux, former site of the Royal Greenwich Observatory (now in Cambridge). Sadly the 14th Century moated Castle was closed, but we could see some of the Grade 2 listed telescopes, from the footpath, where we walked the dogs. The largest telescope, the 100 inch (254 cm) aperture Isaac Newton Telescope was moved to La Palma, Canary Islands, in the 1970s.
Our NYE supper was Beef Strogonoff – served with Pappardelle and pronounced delicious by my main food tester – Paul. After supper – although we hadn’t planned to stay up – we spent until gone midnight planning our next trip away. Sadly we had some very nosiy and inconsiderate neighbours who were talking very loudly, laughing and playing loud music until the early hours. But it was NYE so live and let live. I finally fell asleep around 2:30 and they were still going strong.
We all awoke late and finally got packed up and on the road by midday. But the first thing we encountered was a road block, and what looked like – although we didn’t gawp – a fairly serious accident. We had to reverse and turn round but were aided by a friendly pick-up truck driver. This led to a bit of a detour, but we were soon on the dear old A27 and thence back to our temporary home in Newtown.
We particularly noticed, on this trip, what a bad state the roads are in and wondered why motorists weren’t up in arms about it. What actually happens to our Road Tax??!!
We arrived at about 2 pm, got ourselves set up, had a quick snooze and then went over to the flat, where George and Beth had cooked us a lovely meal of Fajitas. Yum. It was nice to be home, but we will soon be heading off on a bit of an adventure, so watch this space!