SUNDAY MORNING – RISE AND SHINE
We decided on this walk after having walked Dymchurch to Folkestone – and my darling commented on how boring it was. Nothing interesting to photograph, apart from a few Martello Towers and the “odd seagull”…. huh!
Hastings to Rye, an approximate 12 miles or so, following the Saxon Shore Way, was selected. Knowing full well the section out of Hastings is a tough walk (hike), 4 steep climbs and descents. Hence the decision also to do that section at the beginning of the walk. Did not want to climb these at the end of the walk, we may have totally given up.
As we started our walk around 10.20am the temperature was around 8C, with a slight south south-westerly breeze blowing, and a beautiful sunny day. Wind speed and wind chill factor increased half way into the walk, so by the time we were walking the Royal Military Canal, it was way colder, and I managed to change from beanie in the morning, to sun hat on the cliff tops, and back to beanie with my hood up for last 5 miles. I am not complaining though, any walk without rain is always a good walk.
Normally we travel by bus around Kent from Whitstable, however, calculating the travel time by bus from home to start of walk was coming close to 3hrs 30mins (one way). OK, so we drive, only 1hr 20mins, parked at Rye Railway Station, parking for the day £2.50, and then caught the bus to Hastings. 40 mins later and we are at the start, alighting at the seafront of Hastings. And immediately you can see where we are heading, up to the East Hill Cliff. (see photo below)
EAST HILL CLIFF (top left/right of photo)
East Hill Cliff Railway, or East Hill Lift, is a funicular railway which provides access to Hastings Country Park via the East Hill, which overlooks the Old Town.
Below you have views over the Stade a shingle beach which has been used for beaching boats for over a thousand years, a use which continues to this day: it is now home to Europe’s largest fleet of beach-launched fishing boats. The word ‘Stade’ is an old Saxon term meaning “landing place”, and dates from before the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
This time we checked and took screen clips of maps from the LDWA website, although we didn’t have any written directions, we did our best to follow the sign posts along the way and used the map when we needed to verify which streets we had to walk along to get through Fairlight.
START: We climbed the stairs beside the lift, to the top of East Hill Cliff and looked back at the Old Town of Hastings and beyond, great views down along the coast (looking south westerly), it was a hazy day so it was hard to make out what we were looking at in the distance…. was it Eastbourne ???
We both realised how unfit we really are when it comes to climbing stairs…. the puffing and huffing was definitely beating us…. ha ha ha… and this was only the beginning…. yikes!
OK so I admit we both didn’t sleep well that night, my darling with blocked nose, and I was suffering with painful sinus headache from 2.30am until morning, so loss of sleep, is not a good thing before a major strenuous walk. But we had been planning this walk for a few days and were so keen to do it, we didn’t want anything getting in the way. Soldier on!
At the top of East Hill Cliff there is a nice map of the Hastings Country Park and all the trails, here is only a section of it in the photo. We simply followed the sign posts, (see photo) we were heading for Firehills, so we hugged the trail closest to the cliff edge and were relieved to find the sign posts on the way. Always good to know you on the right track.
HASTINGS COUNTRY PARK – Ecclesbourne Glen
REST BREAK – AND STRIP OFF – because of the cold morning and temperatures, I choose to wear leggings under my light cotton trousers… yep! they came off, and so did my woollen layer, as soon as we found this spot … I was getting way too hot with all the climbing and lack of breeze down in the glens. SNACK TIME!
GOING DOWN AGAIN – Fairlight Glen
What a fantastic walk, can you imagine this place in summer? with all the trees with super green leaves and all that wonderful shade? And there were loads of blue bells, but not yet in blossom. Still too soon. True signs of ancient woodlands.
GOING UP – AND GOING DOWN
Somewhere along here is suppose to be access to the beach below (naturist beach apparently), the area is fenced off, and a warning sign about cliff falls, and continuing at your own risk (see photo below). We could hear voices below, someone was walking the trail beyond the fence, and obviously taking the risk. Considering the length of our walk (12 miles) we weren’t going to do any extra “up and down” stuff unless totally necessary, so we did not go and have a look.
GOING UP AGAIN….
FINALLY GOING DOWN….
What a wonderful sight… the end of the ~”ups and downs”…. breathing normally now….
Photo below (top right) looking back along the coastal path (westwards) shows signs of where the cliffs have fallen away, houses have been lost along this part of the coast, and there are more houses, sitting along the top, waiting for their turn. Here also we could see the coastline eastwards which signalled that another descent was just around the corner.
This section of the trail hugged the cliff top, and the path narrowed quite drastically, we were walking with fenced gardens on one side and cliff edge with a good covering of vegetation on the other. Hoping the next slippage was not going to be here!
CLIFF END – this section of the walk takes you down a footpath between the old properties hugging the cliff tops. Lovely thatched houses from a time gone by. You pop out at street level, this is Pett Level Rd, turn right, take care no footpaths, just road walking with houses right up against the road edge, as you comee around the corner you will find the start of the Royal Military Canal.
AND here be toilets – just across the road from the canal are toilets, make use of them there is nothing along the canal walk till you reach Rye.
THE ROYAL MILITARY CANAL
Runs for 28 miles (45 km) between Seabrook near Folkestone and Cliff End near Hastings, following the old cliff line bordering Romney Marsh, which was constructed as a defence against the possible invasion of England during the Napoleonic Wars. However, the canal never saw military action, and it’s use was abandoned in 1877.
Canal was built between October 1804 and April 1809 at a total cost of £234,000. The longest section starts at Hythe and ends at Iden Lock in East Sussex; the second, smaller section, runs from the foot of Winchelsea Hill to Cliff End. Both sections are linked by the Rivers Rother and River Brede.
The canal heads north and away from the coast, loads of sheep farming, and being spring there were many lambs about. So cute. We hoped to find a bench or something to sit on so we could take a break, have a snack and rest a while, but there is nothing along the whole stretch of the canal to Rye. And to top it off the wind speed had increased, and with a wind chill factor, was making it really unpleasant to even contemplate stopping for more than a few minutes. So we soldiered on eating our snacks as we walked, not really my ideal – but it was cold and windy.
Somewhere along the canal, before you see the rise of Winchelsea there is a path which takes you up towards the town, and you can take the 1066 Walk instead. We have been to Winchelsea before a number of times, so we simply followed the canal.
Winchelsea is a small town in East Sussex, England, located between the High Weald and the Romney Marsh, approximately two miles (3 km) south west of Rye and seven miles (12 km) north east of Hastings. The town stands on the site of a medieval town, founded in 1288, to replace an earlier town of the same name, sometimes known as Old Winchelsea, which was lost to the sea.
Old Winchelsea was on a massive shingle bank that protected the confluence of the estuaries of the Rivers Brede, Rother and Tillingham and provided a sheltered anchorage called the Camber. The old town was recorded as Winceleseia in 1130 and Old Wynchchelse in 1321.
After the Norman Conquest, Winchelsea was of great importance in cross-Channel trade (acting in particular as an entrepôt for London) and as a naval base. In the 13th century, it became famous in the wine trade from Gascony.
In the 1260’s – there may have been over 700 houses, 2 churches and over 50 inns and taverns with a possible population of thousands of people at the time.
During the mid 13th Century, incursions by the sea destroyed much of the town until a massive flood completely destroyed it in 1287. The location is believed to be in Rye Bay.
Today’s Winchelsea was the result of the old town’s population moving to the present site, when in 1281 King Edward I ordered a planned town, based on a grid, to be built.
CLOSE TO THE END
Below the foothills of Winchelsea you leave the Royal Military Canal, cross the road, turn right and walk along Sea Rd until the road takes a right turn, opposite there is a dirt road towards River Brede Farm.
FINDING CAMBER CASTLE pathway – NOT SIGN POSTED
Along the dirt road you pass River Brede Farm on your left (see photo below), follow the road, past farm sheds and other houses, the path takes you to a large gate across the dirt road, restricting vehicle access. Just left of the gate is a small gate, pass through and follow the trodden path towards Camber Castle. You will see the castle ahead of you. Just need to head for the access gates in the fence.
Camber Castle is one of Henry VIII’s Device Forts, also known as Henrician Castles, built to protect the huge Rye anchorage.
It is approximately 2 km south of Rye and 2 km north east of Winchelsea.
Between 1512 and 1514 Sir Edward Guldeford built a circular tower to defend the harbour. This tower was incorporated into a new fort which was built between 1539 and 1544. It was expanded to become a symmetrical artillery fort. The original tower was augmented with four outer towers linked by an octagonal wall concealing a covered passage.
Finally, four large D-shaped bastions serving as gun platforms were placed in front of the earlier towers. As the shoreline receded south the height of the central tower was raised in order to maintain the range of the castle’s cannon.
However by the end of the 16th century the silting of the Camber made the castle largely obsolete and in 1637 it was abandoned.
We have a good look around the outside of the castle, and hide from the wind and have an apple snack. Leaving the castle head straight across the fields towards the gates in the fence and meet up with the Royal Military Canal again.
We made it back to Rye Railway Station, and after taking boots off, jumped into the car to get out of the cold wind, sat for a while, drank water, ate a snack and enjoyed the warm temperature in the car, a whole 13C. Much nicer than outside! Lovely country drive back home, 1hr 20mins. Home by 6.15pm. Nice!
STATISTICS: used my RunKeeper App to track mileage and elevation… love this app for our walks.