On one of the first days after the lockdown here in England was eased, Ellie & I did the Rye to Hastings walk for the third or fourth time. It’s one of our favourite walks and this time around we did it without a guide.
How to get lost on a coastal walk
I hear what you’re saying: why would anyone need a guide for a coastal walk? You simply walk along the coast. Water to your left, land to your right, right? What’s the challenge? Oh well… there are plenty of more talented navigation experts out there, but it’s not that we are the only people that sometimes get lost on coastal walks.
You will, of course, usually have a pretty good idea of which direction your destination is, broadly speaking. However, you might not always have a clear view of the sea and there are many cases where the best route might take you inland for a kilometre or two across a bridge over a little stream or around a bay, there might be cases where you even walk slightly away from your destination on your route in an S-shaped movement. There are paths that lead to nowhere and other paths that lead away from the right path in a U-shaped movement and simply add a few hundred metres to your hike before they meet the main route again.
So, on the one hand Ellie & I felt rather brave to embark on this adventure. On the other hand we were quite convinced we could weather any storm ahead. We had downloaded Komoot a few days earlier. A friend had recommended this navigation app for hikers and cyclists. We had completed a one-day navigation course for hikers last autumn. And it did of course help that we were going to do a coastal walk, not some crazy zig-zagging cross-country without significant landmarks.
Pirates, Privateers, Smugglers, and seafarers
The train from London St Pancras to Rye via Ashford International takes an hour and ten minutes, which is pretty good in our book. We spent the first half hour or so strolling around Rye, checking out all the sights and buying fresh crab and prawn sandwiches to pack as lunch. Rye is one of the most picturesque little English seaside towns. We love the rich history of pirates, privateers, smugglers, and seafarers.
The walk starts out over marshlands with relatively unexciting views. A couple of times you are crossing streams or agricultural water canals on wooden footbridges and planks. The countryside becomes gradually more interesting and after a while you arrive at Winchelsea. We couldn’t believe that this tiny village had somehow managed to acquire town status, with mayor and all.
A significant part of the path that follows leads right along the coastline with perfect views of the Channel.
Our luck ends at Cliff End
As luck would have it, just after Cliff End we got lost three times before finding back to the right path again. But who could complain, if you can enjoy countryside like this.
Rush to the finish line
The past half hour of our walk we had to speed up our pace a bit, as we didn’t want to miss the train we had planned on taking. Some later trains had been cancelled or rescheduled and the train we had had our mind set on was by far the quickest train back to London.
We made it with no more than ten minutes to spare and slept most of the way back to town. We would recommend both this coastal walk and the Komoot app. We did not get lost because of the app, but despite it.