The walk from Rye to Hastings
ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT HISTORY AND WANT TO RETRACE THE PLACES THAT HAVE HAD A FUNDAMENTAL HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE FOR ENGLAND?
After several researches on possible walking routes to consider just outside London, I proposed to Marco, a Sicilian boy for some years in the City – but even more interesting he lived 10 years in my Friuli – from Rye to Hastings. He immediately accepts enthusiastic! The two villages have been part of the unique confederation of the Five Ports for over 500 years, which protected the king and the country from frequent and violent attacks. The Confederation of the Five Ports can rightly be called the cradle of the Royal Navy! The two towns are connected by a walking route called the Saxon Shore Way and belong to Sussex County. We take the early morning train from St Pancras Station to Rye, but since it is not direct, we have to make a change to Ashford.
In just over an hour we arrive in the delightful Rye, a medieval village among the most picturesque in England that is located in East Sussex. From the train station we walk towards the city center, until we find ourselves between cobblestone streets and old half-timbered houses – it seems to have catapulted back in time! We visit the church of St Mary, whose history is about 900 years old and is of Norman origin; you can climb the tower to admire the view of the city. We arrive at Mermaid Street, a street lined with ancient houses where there is the Mermaid Inn, an old inn renovated in 1420, where kings and queens stayed (it is said that many of its rooms are currently the home of spirits – shhhhhh! ).
THE BEGINNING OF THE WALK
We continue to the end of the road and then reach the port. We turn right immediately after the bridge and find the beginning of the path towards Hastings. The first part is located in the middle of vast expanses of meadows, animated by the presence of many sheep, up to Camber Castle, a fortification built by Henry VIII to protect the southern coast from possible invasions from continental Europe. We continued along the path until we reached the dirt road and then a junction, where we then turned left and continued straight until the view of the sea; from here we turned left again.
And here we walk along the enchanting unspoilt beach of Winchelsea, with many shells scattered along the shore and breathtaking views of the sea. Visiting Winchelsea is hard to imagine that more than 700 years ago it was one of the most important ports in England. The old city was devastated by a storm in 1287 which caused its destruction. It was later rebuilt thanks to the will of Edward I, whose wealth was mainly based on the wine trade. However, the city’s heyday lasted only a few generations, after which its decline began.
Immediately after the beach, we first come across a path surrounded by fields with cows and sheep, and then reach a canal uphill along the coast, until we get to the top view of Pett Level – along this fragment are wooden logs that mark the path of Saxon Shore Way
ALONG THE COAST
We arrive at the dramatic and hilly coastal path at the top of the cliff, through the picturesque nature reserve of Hastings Country Park, with fantastic panoramic views of the English Channel. Thinking about what happened historically and we were walking on those grounds is creepy.
We are approaching the city, but first we arrive in a large green space where we start to see more views of Hastings. After the meadow we have two options, if you go down to the city via the elevator or walking down the various stairs; of course we choose the second option.
Here we are in Hastings – famous for its battle of 14 October 1066, which saw the Norman conquest of England, where there was the invasion and occupation by Norman soldiers led by William the Conqueror, who established control over the island. We visit the old town with its traditional mesh shops, fishing boats and extravagant cafes and then bump into the ruins of the castle, built by William the Conqueror in 1067, shortly after the Battle of Hastings, that changed the course of English history entirely. We end the day with a fish meal before taking the train back to the City.
HOW TO GET THERE: You can reach Rye by train from London St Pancras station, the train is not direct so you have to change at Ashford Int the journey takes 1h 30min. From Hasting the train is on its way to London St Pancras Station. For timetables please visit www.southeasternrailway.co.uk
DISTANCE: 21 Km
TIME: 5/6 hours
WHEN TO GO: all year round
- If you do not want to do the walk you can just visit the two villages by public transport and it is also feasible in the day or another option is to do the walk in the opposite direction from Hastings to Rye
- Comfortable clothing and hiking shoes, bring water and food along the way there are not many dining options.
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