Monthly Archives: November 2013

3rd of May 2013 – No.53: Walk from St.Leonards to Rye

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The walk from St.Leonards to Rye was an idea born many years ago when my father mentioned that it was possible to walk all the way to Rye by going along the clifftops. I decided then I was going to do it someday, although at the time I was too young to make such a walk unaccompanied. I intended to do it in 2011, then in 2012 but both those years the summers were really windy and rainy and the winters even harsher. Exposed on a clifftop, you really want no more than a light breeze and a little sunshine if you are after a pleasant walk. The summer of 2013, however turned out to be the hottest, sunniest summer we’d had since 2006, back before Emiko was born, when I wrote my list.
I mentioned my planned walk to my fiance Elliot to see if he was interested in coming with me and he was. Elliot loves hiking. He mentioned it to his cousin Be and he decided to come too. Finally, hearing of our expedition, our friend Sue decided to join us and so the date was set. The Long Walk, as it would come to be known, would take us 13.1 miles along the seafront from St.Leonards, where I lived, up onto the East Hill, which is part of the cliffs, through Hastings Country Park, which runs the length of them and then back down again. This was as far as I’d gotten before and the rest, while having been memorised from Googlemap, was technically an unknown.

Me, MEF and Be in a tree

Me, Elliot and Be in a tree

I liked the idea of setting off not knowing exactly how to get to my destination. I decided to use the occasion to test the weight of my disaster prep bag. I have been putting together three-day bags for use in an emergency resulting in us needing to leave our home (this is a government recommended precaution, not doomsday-prepper madness) and I wanted to make sure I could easily carry my supplies a fair distance.  We had planned to leave at 10am (because Be couldn’t meet us earlier), estimated the journey to take no more than 5 hours including breaks and aimed to arrive in Rye at around 3pm and celebrate with a well-earned cream tea. Life being life, of course that isn’t quite what happened. Various delays meant we didn’t meet Be until 12, so we were behind schedule.

The first part of the walk was lovely but hard-going. The clifftop is basically a series of hills, so you have to walk up and then down 4 or 5 slopes of varying steepness in order to get to the flat bit. While it kills the calves, going up isn’t too bad. You get beautiful views of parts of Hastings and the sea and the park itself is lovely. There are some really interesting plants up there. It’s a popular place to walk and we met quite a few people coming and going along the trail. We were asked to take a picture of a group of American tourists, who were quite pleased to discover Elliot is American too. When we were done, we got them to take our photo. Somewhere around 2, we stopped for lunch. Elliot and I had been to our local bakery before we left and had enormous rolls to eat. Mine was bacon. There is something really lovely about unwrapping greasy paper to reveal delicious meat and bread when you’ve been hiking.

L to R, MEF, Me, Sue, Be

L to R, Elliot, Me, Sue, Be

After lunch we carried on until we reached the village of Fairlight, where we proceeded to buy more water, having consumed all of ours during the last few hours. Once you get through Fairlight, you reach Pett Level and that is really where the Country Park ends. After that, you follow the Sea Road, a very long, straight and frankly, monotonous path along the pebble beach. It goes right alongside the old marshes, now home to numerous sheep. We did find an ice cream van though and I treated Sue and myself to an ice cream cone each.
Once you eventually reach the end of the Sea Road, you walk past a load of caravan holiday lets and take a shortcut across a field to reach the final stretch. This a road which has three very, very long straight roads, connected by corners, which means you can’t see Rye until you turn the last corner and even then it’s seems like a really long way away. By this point, we’d mostly stopped talking. While the uphill of the Country Park is harder on the legs, it’s variety and postcard views make it a more engaging walk than the latter half of the journey. I think we all just wanted to reach Rye so we could sit down, having not sat down since lunch, almost three hours ago.

The sign at Pett Level

The sign at Pett Level (that’s Sue and Be in the background)

We knew we were too late for cream tea, by the time we made it into Rye the teashops would all be closed, which was a little disappointing. Happily, while my feet hurt, the disaster bag wasn’t bothering me at all, which means I got the weight limit right. Plus, if anyone had needed first aid, I would have had supplies to hand. Finally, we spotted the sign that told us we had reached the official outskirts of Rye, at which point, Be took off running and crossed the invisible line.
“I win!” he shouted, and was promptly followed by Sue claiming second place. Elliot and I stopped to take a photo of me with the sign and before we crossed the boundary together. Then we walked into the centre of Rye and waited in the station carpark for Sue’s Mum, (whom everyone calls Mother because she mothers us all), to pick us up and drive us home again. All of us were exhausted and in dire need of a cup of tea but it was great fun and I am planning other Long Walks.

Me with sign at Rye

Me with the sign at Rye

17 of April 2013 – No.25: Go fire-walking

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image from pixaby

image from pixaby

I first came across the idea of fire-walking when I was a little child. I was going through a phase of fascination with all things paranormal and discovered an encyclopaedia in my local library detailing many things of a spooky persuasion, including the exploits of certain fakirs, who walked on burning coals. This is me we are talking about, so of course, my seven year old brain thought ‘I bet I could do that’ and yet another desire was born. I had known for ages that our local hospice, St.Michael’s Hospice would every few years hold a sponsored fire-walk to raise funds, but so far I had always missed the announcement and therefore the application deadline.  This year however, I was buying our local Observer on a weekly basis so I could keep up with the news on the Hastings Carnival Queen competition, so I did see it. I wasted no time in applying, paid my £10 entry fee and set about raising money.

On the 17th of April, my fiance Elliot and I went to William Parker School where the fire-walk was to take place. I registered and received my participation t-shirt. I could see the fire-pit laid out but not yet burning and began to get quite excited. There was quite a lot going on to entertain spectators while those of us taking part were getting our training/pep talk, so Elliot went off to get a burger and I joined my fellow fire-walkers in the school gym. The training was mostly designed to get everyone hyped up and confident and to lay potential worries to rest. I didn’t really have any worries or doubts about my ability to go through with it, because I had already researched the physics behind the act. Fire-walking is possible because of several things: firstly, by the time the fire dies down to embers, it is mostly carbon and ash, both of which are poor conductors of heat. Secondly, you walk across the embers quickly, so there is no time for heat to transfer (this is similar to the trick where you pass your finger through a candle flame, if you’ve ever tried it) and thirdly, at that time of year the grass is usually damp and forms a moisture barrier on your feet. There is actually an episode of Mythbusters where they demonstrate the effectiveness of the moisture barrier by dipping their hands in molten lead. So unless you stand on the fire, you will not get burnt.

An hour or so later, suitably pepped up by our training exercises, the participants and I exited the gym and assembled around the fire, by now at the preferable state for walking across. There followed some showmanship by the event organisers where they demonstrated the temperature of the fire with heat sensors and then they began sending us across, accompanied by furious drumming by the local Section 5 drummers.  I took off my shoes, rolled up my trouser legs and joined the queue. Finally my turn came. The guy running the event asked everyone by turn the same two questions to determine we were ready before they let us go.

“What is your name?” asked the guy.

“Elizabeth Fitzgerald” I answered confidently.

“Are you ready?” he roared at me.

“Yes!” I bellowed back, and walked briskly out onto the burning coals in my bare feet. I felt a cosy warmth beneath my soles and before I knew it, had crashed into the man at the other end who was there to stop people like me who over-enthusiastically carried on charging down the field after we had left the fire behind us. Then I turned around and joined the group of people who had completed the challenge to cheer on the remaining people. One girl even did the fire-walk in her bikini!

Afterwards I joined Elliot, who said it was awesome and then gave me the unfortunate news that none of his photos had come out. They were all blurred from the motion and the amount of ash in the air, so unfortunately I cannot show them to you. I was quite disappointed but I cheered up when the celebratory firework display started up at the end. A week later, I received my certificate in the mail, along with a letter thanking me for the £115 I had raised.

Despite the sad lack of photographic evidence, the whole experience was brilliant and I will always have my memories. I always knew I could do it and now I have proved I can. 🙂

16. 25. Firewalking