Day two: 62.3km, av. 15.3km/hr, max 49.2km/hr, time on bike: 4hrs 3 mins
The plan for day two is to take it easy, cycle to somewhere with a station and then head home. I debate heading deeper into the South Downs, towards Royal Tunbridge Wells or perhaps the High Weald AONB, but decide I’ve had enough of hills.
I think to myself that I’ll stick to the coast where it’s flat, and have an easy ride to Eastbourne. Unfortunately there’s the small matter of the South Downs where they turn into the huge cliffs at Seaford Head and Beachy Head to content with.
Once the morning rain eases, I head out of the YHA and head south towards Newhaven, via a field full of sheep and a path covered in sheep shit. Bike and, to a lesser extent, rider, are both covered in the stuff by the time I escape their enclosure.
There’s not much to see at Newhaven, so I head east – and into a strong headwind – toward Eastbourne, on NCN Route 2 . It’s not brilliantly marked but I do eventually manage to find the remains of Turnmills, a small village built around a tidal mill and evacuated in the 1930s after one too many flood. I also come across a bizarre road which ends with a roundabout and two roads to nowhere. Maybe the money ran out.
From here it’s on to Seaford, passing one of the Martello towers along the way. It’s unfortunately closed today. After admiring the spectacular cliff view, I head inland, following Route 2, but at a junction which is missing a marker, I decide to take a right, and end up at the top of the cliff, Seaford Head, and find myself cycling around a golf course / nature reserve! Exploring on foot, I come across a small wooded area / cubby hole with a path leading into it, so have a look. Inside I spot about 5 or 6 empty packets of codeine + paracetamol . Not a great thing to take when you’re next to 100ft cliffs. Hope the person didn’t jump.
Speeding back downhill, I pick up the route again, which then sends me cycling through more fields full of sheep. This is pretty off-road stuff that a road bike might struggle with, but I just about manage it on my tourer. It’s great fun though, and the views are pretty great too as you head down towards the Cuckmere River.
After crossing the river I again must have missed a routemarker as I find myself going uphill on the busy-ish A259, not a massively fun experience. At Friston I spot a chance to take a right and head towards Beachy Head, so take it. Immediately back on quiet roads and countryside, and the clouds start to lift. Beachy Head is spectacular, and spectacularly accessible. I don’t quite realise how close to the edge of the cliff I got (for a photo, obvs) until thinking about it after. Anyway, it’s a great spot for lunch.
From here, there’s more up, until eventually there is no more up, and it’s all downhill towards Eastbourne. By the time I’ve got there the skies have cleared and it’s positively beach weather. I celebrate with some fish and chips (eaten indoors, to avoid the seagull attacks), where I bump into the OAP guy from the hostel last night. He’s on a motorbike, and despite leaving the hostel later than me, arrived at Beachy Head much earlier, when it was still covered in thick cloud and drizzle. My timing, it turns out, was impeccable.
I then have a wander around the pier (there’s literally nothing to see) and a bit of a sunbathe on the beach. It’s even warm enough (just) to dip a toe in the sea.
It’s now decision time. Do I spend another hour or two chillaxing with all the oldies in Eastbourne, taking care not to be hit by a mobility scooter and maybe checking out the model railway village(!) Or do I cycle on to the next place of note, Bexhill, where I can check out the De La Warr Pavllion if I get there before 6. I decide to go for it. Into the headwind, again… Why Joe, Why?
The ride isn’t that great, mainly because I lose Route 2 somewhere along the way, and end up on the now massively busy, super-fast A259 instead of the no-doubt lovely Herbrand Walk route. And, truth be told, the Pavilion is a bit disappointing. I’ve seen it before, and think I was disappointed last time, too. At least I made it in time before it closed for the day.
And with that, the day is done and I hop on the train back to the Big Smoke. An enjoyable couple of days although I probably shoulda stopped in Eastbourne. Sometimes you can cycle too much!