Thursday, August 23, 2007

8.8.07: Dungeness to Winchelsea Beach

12.30pm :
Temperature 24C, humidity 37%, wind south/south-westerly. Day's mileage: 16 miles

Cars screech along the Dungeness Road to Lydd, and as I stop anxious to don the fluorescent cycle jacket my daughter Megan has loaned me for the trip, a car pulls up and Colin the fisherman gets out. He has caught seven mackeral and is off home with his catch.

Further along I pass a memorial to a young woman who died driving her car off the road. The flowers have changed since I first saw this memorial last year. Somebody's daughter or mother or lover ... the grief must be terrible.

I am on Cycle Route 2 again. It winds beside the road which runs between Ministry of Defence fenced-off shore - so many places we're not allowed to go and this one looks like a film set - and on the other side, farm land.

At Camber Sands, Dave the Coastal Control Officer tells me that, despite the No Inflatables flag on the beach, inflatables are being used in the sea by quite small, often unsupervised children. "We can only try to keep them safe, we can't make them", he says. But huge and exciting inflatables are on sale everywhere around us.

Beyond Camber, there is more fenced-off M.O.D. shingle, and on the other side gravel quarries with their resulting lakes and bird life. Huge flocks of migratory geese are making a racket and trying to make a temporary home. There is a caravan park sited next to a pylon with large Grecian style statues on high plinths.

Reaching Rye exhausted, I decide to cycle on to Winchelsea Beach where I am staying with Annie and Gina so I can rest tomorrow. I have a cold sore, and yesterday a swollen ankle - my body is telling me to stop. On the road to Winchelsea Beach, tucked behind the town is Solvent Resource Management, huge, shiny and a bit scary.

The route through Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is staggering beautiful. Wartime gunners' lookout posts by artists' installations at the river mouth.

An old lifeboat building commemorates the tragedy of the sinking of the "Mary Stanford" in 1928. Volunteer lifeboatmen set out in terrible storms to rescue the crew of a ship in trouble. With no ship-to-shore radio they never knew that this crew had been rescued safely, and their bodies were later found washed up on the shore. Reminiscent of eighties anti-nuclear protests at Greenham Common, the fence round the Mary Stanford building has been decorated in the area's beachcombing aesthetic.

Gina cycles to meet me and we return to hers and Annie's house to a vegetable curry and rice. Before going to bed, neighbour Elizabeth who runs the Winchelsea Beach website arrives with relatives to watch five badgers who regularly visit the garden.