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3551 miles already walked

QUESTION. Has the Victory Walker vanished?

ANSWER. No - she's been too busy walking, with no time for talking. With Christmas approaching and presents to choose, she's slipped off her boots and will send you some news . .

Along the Way – Part 6  (Seaford to Littlestone) 

Ups and Downs and Along the Flat Again

Another duty stint in Portsmouth meant a late-night arrival on Seaford promenade. Soon the Victory Van rocked and shook as the Force 10 howled around us.  We slept little. The rain pummelled the Van and we woke to more rain, nil visibility and high winds: it was clear Beachy Head would have to wait. 

Next day was a complete contrast, cold winds and excellent ‘viz’. The Seven Sisters glared in the sunlight as I made my way down to the storm eroded hamlet of Cuckmere Haven, before joining the South Downs Way and my switch-back trip, via an equally eroded Birling Gap, to the famous Beachy Head. Both lighthouses seemed in appropriately placed: one below the cliffs at sea level, the other in-land following its move a few years ago.

The views were stunning and it’s clear why the memorial to the RAF Bomber Command was placed on the headland – it served as the airmen’s outward and (hopefully) homeward waymark.  Other memorials scatter the cliff walk, particularly at Beachy Head on the old Lloyds Signal Station.   

Eastbourne boasted distinct sea shelters with thatched roofs with a corporate colour of royal blue used on railings and benches which contrasted well with the golden domed pier.  Buildings ranged from historic splendour to shabby residences, eventually followed by acres of static caravan parks.   Pevensey Bay produced numerous ‘Keep Out – Private Beach’ signs which made for tiring and disrupted walking. Bexhill, the home of motorsport, used maroon as its corporate colour and will be remembered for the many, many blocks of flats.

Cycle Route No 2 provided a speedy approach to Bulverhythe, followed by St Leonards, then into Pier of the Year (2017) town, Hastings.  Despite the bitter weather, I had to spend time looking at this incredible restoration project after fire devastated the pier in 2010. Old Town was equally impressive with evidence of the town’s fishing industry and a superb Winkle Club monument. With the East Cliff Railway closed for winter it was a tramp up the steep cliff path, heading into snow flurries and freezing winds.  I joined the Saxon Shore Way which runs 163 miles from Hasting, east to Gravesend.  The only way to keep warm was to march along the steep ups and downs of the cliff path to Fairlight, onto Cliff End and out onto Pett Levels. 

Another long stretch along Winchelsea Beach heading for Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, before heading up the Rother channel to Rye. Along this stretch I passed the deserted Mary Stanford Lifeboat house.  It was left as a reminder of the 17 crewmen who all lost their lives when responding to a call on 15 November 1928. They went to their mission in a 14 oar pulling/sailing Liverpool Class Surf Boat.  They had no self-righting mechanism, no motor power, nor modern communications; the lifeboatmen failed to see a recall signal in the frightful conditions and sadly they all perished.

After Rye I made the mistake of arriving at the vast Camber Sands at dusk.  Acres of sand but I couldn’t spy the sea.  Next morning, after a noisy overnight layby stop I met the reverse view: daylight and little beach in sight.   With high water, and although the ranges were not being used, the detour took me on two sides of the Lydd triangle and into a new county, Kent. Soon I saw vast pylons with cables trailing back towards Dungeness Power Station appear out of the mizzle, shortly followed by the Old (1904) all black Lighthouse , now a Grade II listed building.  Construction of the Dungeness Power Station, which hid the light from shipping coming from the S West necessitated today’s black and white striped New (1960) lighthouse being built.  An eerie place but a very significant landmark for shipping in the Dover Straits, and the Victory Walker who rounded a corner.