Day 4 - From Dover to New Romney, 28.9 miles
We awoke to a light rain. The clock said 6:45, a more normal time for waking, our internal clocks were finally becoming adjusted to the time difference. We gathered up the now dry clothes that we had spread around the room and packed before we went down to breakfast.
A, "full English breakfast," is a pretty substantial meal and one that you get used to quickly when you're burning calories riding a bike. The starting course is cereal and juice, followed by eggs, bacon, sausage, beans, a fried tomato, toast, coffee or tea. When we finished we talked to Martin, our host, about the best way to leave Dover going west. Dover is at sea level and it was necessary to climb up to the cliffs again towards the Battle of Britain monument at the top, about six miles away. Martin suggested the Folkestone Road, a minor road that paralleled the A20.
We started fastening our bags on our bikes and I discovered that my Blackburn Trail rear rack had a broken weld and that the bottom bolt had fallen out on the left side. I borrowed a bolt from an empty mounting point on the bike and bungeed the broken weld together until I could find a replacement rack. When we started riding, Jeanette found that her computer, a Nashbar wireless, did not work as well. We'd have to deal with these matters at the next bike shop we came across.
The rain slowed to almost a mist as we rode up the hill towards the monument. Again, Jeanette had trouble on the steeper parts of the hills and had to walk. I walked with her to keep her company. The road leveled out as we neared the summit and Jeanette was able to ride and was making slow progress up the hill. I was in front. I suddenly heard a crash and looked around to see Jeanette crying, sprawled on the ground, her bike and legs tangled together.
I rushed back. She assured me she was OK but was still crying. I asked what happened and she said she had hit the edge of the curb and fell off. The road had an asphalt sidewalk next to it and the two were separated by a line of cobblestones. It had appeared to her that the stones were level with the surface of the road but they were actually up by about an inch and a half. When she transitioned from the road to the walkway, her wheel slid along the wet stones and she went down. We untangled everything and I checked the bike while Jeanette checked herself. Everything was OK. She got on and we started up the hill again, and soon reached the memorial.
Since my father was a flyer in WWII, I have always had a fascination about air combat, especially the Battle of Britain. Jeanette and I spent about a half hour walking around the monument, taking pictures and reading the inscriptions. We were thirsty and walked into the gift shop to buy some post cards and a diet Coke and maybe a hot cup of coffee. Almost as soon as we were inside it started raining hard. We sat at one of the tables and I wrote out the postcards and listened while the docent of the memorial talked to another couple about the monument. They left and I struck up a conversation with him.
The docent, Bernard Crowley, is a retired London policeman who moved to Folkestone and became involved with the monument. He and I talked for over an hour about the planes and men involved in the Battle of Britain. He had done his homework and I was moved by some of the information he was able to tell me. We had already seen indications of that terrible time for England in Canterbury where signs marked where buildings had stood and people had died during the bombing. Again, at the tour of Dover Castle, we walked through the communication centers, barracks and hospital buried deep under the castle walls. Short portions of Churchill's speeches went through my mind as I meditated on the pounding the Brits had stood up to in the war's darkest hours and the men that flew in the skies overhead, defending their island.
The rain stopped and we decided we'd better get on the road while we could. We rode down into Folkestone and found ourselves at the waterfront. It was time for lunch and we had a snack of a shrimp cocktail
The path took us directly into Hythe, again, a very pretty little town with more flowered window boxes and flower gardens almost everywhere. We had picked up some goodies to eat and I saw a bench in a park that looked like a nice place to sit. We cycled over and found that it faced a canal. A plaque was nearby and we found that we were at the Royal Military Canal, a defensive moat built as an obstacle to Napoleon's troops if they had attempted to invade England.
We rode along the canal, still following the Sustrans #2 signs and were soon joined by a group of four cyclists, two men and two women in their 50's. They had touring bikes and had panniers hanging from the rear racks. They had seen us from their house, cycling along the waterfront and had decided to join us for their afternoon ride. They said they did light touring regularly and took the ferry to France often for five day tours on the continent. We told them we were headed for the Romney Marshes and New Romney and eventually Rye. They said they'd lead the way and took us along the canal and then out into the marshes. They left us at a signed intersection, still on Sustrans #2 and told us to just follow the signs from there on to New Romney, a place they described as one of their favorite destinations, a really interesting little village.
Again, we seemed in a magical fairytale. The narrow roads through the marshes were practically deserted and the fields were full of wheat and Rape, a plant grown for it's oil. The farm houses, although isolated, all had flower boxes and gardens that were bursting with color. The roads themselves were lined with wildflowers between the road edge and the cultivated fields.
We reached the village of Dymchurch as we exited the marsh and were now riding on a broad walkway at the edge of a continuous stone beach along the sea. The walkway stretched as far as the eye could see. The rain, that had held off most of the day started coming down and the wind started to blow, in our faces of course. In a few minutes it was really raining hard. We had learned our lesson with our panniers and had put a plastic shopping bag over the top of each so were not worried about getting our gear wet but it was raining so hard that the water ran off the plastic bags we had over our helmets and spilled into our faces, covering our glasses with drops.
We had hoped to cycle through New Romney all the way to Rye but it was getting late and the wind and rain made riding very unpleasant. We reached New Romney and decided to look for a room. The TIC had just closed so I checked in at a local pub. They were full but suggested we try another up the street. They sent us to, "The Ship" along the main road. They didn't have any rooms available but the girls at the bar got on the phone and soon found us a room at a B&B. They gave us directions on how to find the place and we rode the few blocks, found the place and checked in.
The Broadacre Hotel on North Street in New Romney was OK as a hotel but very pricey for the small room at the top of the third floor stairs that we paid 55 pounds for. It was dry though and that was very important. The plastic bags worked well in keeping our stuff dry in the panniers. We unpacked, showered, cleaned up and were ready for dinner. The rain had stopped so we cycled back to, "The Ship" as a way of repaying their kindness.
Dinners and several pints and G&T's under our belts, we felt much better about the day than we did earlier in the rain. The ride through the Romney marsh and been almost magical and something that would not be forgotten. It was time for bed, we rode back to the hotel, had one more drink apiece as a nightcap and toddered off to bed.