Category Archives: Physical Activities

Learning Archery – 21st February 2015

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I have always fancied taking up archery, so when my friend RJ invited me to come up to our local sports centre and shoot with her, I gladly accepted. It quickly became evident that it would be a good idea to take some sort of lessons, so I signed up for a six week beginner’s course.

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Me and RJ

Here are some of the things I learnt:

  • Even though I am right-handed, I am a left-handed archer, because apparently I aim entirely with my left eye.
  • This makes it awkward in several respects, because it means I have to fasten my arm guard and nock arrows on my bow with my non-dominant hand.
  • I also feel really puny because my left arm is only strong enough to manage a 14lb draw.
  • Although I love the idea of the horse bow, it is much easier to sort out components for a 14lb draw, left-handed recurve when you are having to borrow equipment.
  • Getting hit by the bow string hurts.
  • I have a terrible habit of sticking my elbow up in the air instead of keeping it level which may be throwing off my aim.
  • Every time you think you are getting the hang of it, you change something (smaller target or new sight) and you are back at square one.
  • Archery can be very frustrating but nonetheless really enjoyable.
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My favourite one of me

Well, since I found out I’m pregnant I have not been shooting (I’ve stopped all my sports over the pregnancy as they became harder to manage or just unsuitable) but I will go back to it when I can. In the meantime, I’ll just enjoy the pretty pictures RJ and I took of each other (I borrowed a horse bow from someone since I don’t own my own bow. I don’t know if you can tell but I actually couldn’t bring it to full draw.)

I may not be able to go back to it any time soon (it’s money and child-care dependent) but I can be very patient (about some things, anyway.) Once I can take it up again, my next plan is buy my own bow and start thinking about competitions.

 

5th July 2014 – No.72: Abseil down Ocean House

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Every couple of years, St. Michael’s Hospice in Hastings holds a sponsored abseil to raise money for their charity and their partner charity of the Sara Lee Trust. I signed up partly because I like to raise money for this cause and partly because I really wanted to abseil down something larger than 30ft, like the last time I went abseiling. So, I paid the £10 admin fee and set about raising sponsorship, ready for the 10th of May. Alas, when the 10th arrived, so did winds of nearly 40 miles an hour (at ground level, who knows what it was higher up the building) and the abseil was postponed for reasons of safety. I didn’t mind as much as one might suppose; it happened the first time I was going to go skydiving too and actually I wasn’t really feeling up to it that day.

My abseil t-shirt

The abseil was moved to the 7th of July. On the day I showed up at my assigned time of 11:15, to be told that there were delays due to strong winds and it would be another hour or so. I signed in, collected my t-shirt (to show which of the two charities I was supporting) and was given my name and number on paper so I could be identified (in photo’s, not in case I fell off. That’s just ghoulish.) I went for a coffee in a nearby cafe and came back an hour later to be told it was still an hour’s wait. Some time later, I was called into the reception of the building to get harnessed up. Here’s a lovely picture of me looking far more worried than I thought I felt.

Getting ready

I waited around in my harness for at least another hour as the wind speed kept picking up and dropping but the organisers and participants were all determined to go ahead with it if it took all day, so we tried to be patient. Eventually, at approximately 3pm, my small group was ushered into the lift and we ascended the building to the top floor. It was full of machinery and insulation and had the definite atmosphere of somewhere prohibited. Walking into the final stretch of corridor, we could see the open door and the last member of the previous group waiting her turn. I asked the people in my group if they would mind if I went first, as Elliot, who had come with me for support (and taking photo’s) was really not feeling very well and had been wishing himself in bed for the last few hours. None of them minded, so when the next person was called, I  stepped out onto the scaffolding rig from which I would descend.

The 128ft of building that is Ocean House

Standing up there, with St.Leonard’s spread out beneath me and the wind in my face, I felt my nerves peak. The extended wait had done nothing for the butterflies in my stomach and as hard as I was squashing them down, they were still there. I listened carefully to the instructions I was given as the people up there attached ropes to my harness. Then, I very slowly lowered myself backwards into thin air. It took longer than the first time I had been abseiling; I had thought I would be less scared because I’d done it before but actually it was worse! There is something in it when people say ‘ignorance is bliss’.

Me, coming down

After I got a short way down, I heard the photographer on top of the building call my name, so I paused and looked up so she could take my picture. (I’m really looking forward to seeing it and I shall definitely post it on here when I get a copy.) I made my way very slowly down the building. It was hard to keep my feet on the wall because of the wind and after a while I somewhat gave up and just sat in the harness as I lowered myself down. I wish I could say I took advantage of the view but I spent most of my time staring at the brick wall in front of me. It took such a long time for me to get to the bottom (or at least, that’s what it felt like) but eventually I got close enough to hear Elliot yelling encouragement. Finally, my feet touched the ground and the gathered crowd applauded (in that polite British way we have that conveys approval rather than enthusiasm.) We posed for a picture, and then I took poor Elliot home and looked after him because he was really not well.

I’m mildly disappointed that my nervousness didn’t dissipate on the way down, however I did accomplish what I set out to do; namely having a longer go at abseiling as well as raising money for a good cause, so overall, I am happy with my experience.

Me and Elliot after the abseil

Me and Elliot after the abseil

Quick update, St.Michael’s Hospice doesn’t have my pictures from the top. Nor do they have a bunch of other peoples. They are not sure what happened but it’s obviously very disappointing because it would have given you more of an idea what it was like up there.

26th June 2014 – No.68: Go Fishing and Catch a Fish

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Emi and her friend

So, my daughter Emiko recently had a day off school due to an INSET (teacher training) day. I was just planning a bit of a ‘cuddle on the sofa with a movie’ thing, until the father of one of Emi’s friends invited us to join them on a fishing trip to the local Wishing Tree Reservoir. I was really pleased to accept; not only does Emi love spending time with her friend, but bonus -I had an opportunity to achieve something off my list, going fishing…and actually catching a fish!

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Emi fishing with her friend

I had actually been fishing twice before, both times in Fethiye, Turkey. The first time was off the top of a cliff with hand reels at a BBQ. I was the only member of our party to catch anything and it was neither a fish, nor was it edible. It was about a foot long and pinkish and spiny; I was told it was a sea slug and it was toxic. The second time was off the back of a speedboat we had rented and that time I came up empty handed. Other than that, there was a blue-clawed crab my friend Jess and I caught in Sugar Beach Lagoon but I’m not sure that counts as fishing. Since it’s a bit of a digression, I’ll put that story at the bottom of this post and you can decide for yourself if it counts 🙂

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Me, fishing off a cliff in Fethiye, Turkey, and the thing I caught -sea slug?

So back to the third fishing attempt. We only had two rods between the four of us, so we let the kids have a go first. Emi’s friend caught an eel and then a roach without too much effort. Emi didn’t catch anything on her first few tries. Then us adults had a go and after a couple of attempts, I got my maggots on the hook and cast the line. The first fish just nibbled the bait and got away. The second time, though, my hook had a little fishie on the end! I was ridiculously pleased for such a tiny fish (although we wouldn’t have caught much else with maggots).

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Me with my very first fish!

Next, the friend’s dad caught himself a roach and shortly after (me having handed the rod back to her,) so did Emiko. She did try to hold it for the picture but I don’t think she was expecting it to be so slippy and wiggly because she dropped it and after that she made me hold it. Which is amusing because when not fishing, she and her friend spent most of the time playing with the maggots. Since we’d all caught something and it was getting on a bit, we packed up to head back. The kids and I chucked our leftover bait in the reservoir for the fish and ducks. They got bored before we’d finished, so I just lobbed the rest out the tub…bad idea, because the wind changed and I ended up inhaling a bunch of maggot dust (or whatever the dust in the bottom of the tub was). I spent the whole evening after sneezing uncontrollably 😦 Regardless, it was a great day out and I have dreams of one day fishing from a little wooden boat in the middle of a lake with only my fiance and some beer for company. Oh yes, and I need to catch a bigger fish now 🙂

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Emi with her first fish

Still here? Great, then I’ll tell you a tale…the tale of Lazarus the Crab.

So, this was on my first visit to Fethiye to see my friend Jess and her then-fiance. Jess and I were having a lovely day at the lagoon (despite the feral cats that stole the last of our lunch, which we had left unattended) when we spotted a blue crab meandering around in the shallows. Jess was on the phone to her fiance at the time and mentioned the crab, he said we should catch it and bring it home to eat. He was actually joking but we thought he was serious. I remembered reading that if you can get a crab to think a stick is an attacker, it will grab hold and not let go, so we annoyed the crab with a long stick we found, and it did! Hooray! We wrapped it in the remains of the lunch bag we’d retrieved from the feral cats and took it back with us, much to the amusement of the other passengers on the bus home.

My trip to Fethiye, Turkey (106)

Lazarus, the blue-clawed crab

Having arrived home and surprised Jess’s fiance with our catch, we announced our intention of boiling it alive, which is what you are meant to do. Jess’s fiance said that was cruel and that we should kill it first. He then stabbed it with a knife and assured us it was dead because it was ‘dribbling’. We left it on the kitchen counter while we had dinner and when we returned, it had disappeared because it was still alive. Some playful havoc ensued as we tried to locate Lazarus (Jess named it so because it ‘rose from the dead’) and eventually he was found and Jess’s fiance lobbed it in the sink, whereupon it picked up a knife that was waiting to be washed and started waving it about aggressively. Honestly. Jess and I then boiled the crab like we had first planned to do and ate it the following day. It was delicious and although I’m sorry the poor crab went through such trauma, I’m still quite pleased we caught it, as it’s the first time I have ‘hunted’ something and then killed and eaten it. It justifies my status as omnivore 🙂 Even so, I still don’t think it counts as fishing, which is why I didn’t cross that off my list then.

Hope you enjoyed this little addition to the post!

5th May 2014 – No.77: Run the Keith Chandler 5-Mile Memorial Race

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So, in my last post, I wrote that I had started training, by which I mean I’d been jogging a couple of times. Well, confession time, I went maybe once more after that. Running alone is really boring and I have much more interesting stuff to do. Consequently, I had very low expectations for my goal of running more of this race than the last one and assumed I would end up walking most of it.
For the first part of the race, it seemed my earlier assumption was correct; I started too fast, couldn’t hold my pace, and ended up walking, just like last time. Then, around one and a half miles in, I passed a man accompanying a blind female runner. (Well, she may have been partially sighted, I didn’t ask, but they were each holding one end of a short skipping-rope-like thing and he told her every time we approached uneven paving etc, so, I’m going with blind.)

“Are you alright?” he asked.

“No,” I replied, “I’m having trouble keeping pace.”

“You can run with us if you like,” he offered.

I accepted eagerly; and started running again. The pace was good and I found to my surprise that I could actually sustain it. It was nice chatting to my fellow runners as we went. I began to believe I could actually make it to the end. Then we turned into the wind and it got tough. I struggle to breath properly with the wind in my face anyway (it feels so horrible it might as well be drowning) and fighting wind resistance is, I think, what caused the stitch to kick in.

With the finish line just around the corner, I faltered. I nearly stopped. The stitch was bad, I had never run this far consecutively in my life (no, really, the most I ever did in school was the timed mile we were forced into- 8 mins, if you were wondering) and I nearly gave up. Then a hand grabbed mine and a voice said;

“I’m eighty, if I can do it so can you!”

And the lovely man ran with me over the finish line, my octogenarian hero 🙂

My time was 1 hour 5 minutes and 52 seconds. I came in 358th out of 367, which is in the bottom 2.45%. And yet, the medal I got for finishing means so much more to me than the one I got for the half-marathon because although it was a shorter distance, I ran more of it. It was a huge personal achievement for me, although an hour an five minutes isn’t a particularly fast time for five miles. The whole experience of this race was better because other people buoyed me up. The man and woman I ran with, the old guy at the end, I may not know who you are or ever see you again, but thank you, if you are reading this, thank you.

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I decided to go all Olympian for this one 🙂

Oh yes….because somehow I’m determined to keep torturing myself (emotional and mental gains from these races are epic but physically…ow), I am planning to enter a 16k obstacle course with a couple of my fiances cousins in November. Wish me luck!

UPDATE: Although I didn’t manage to enter the obstacle course last year, it’s still on the list. However, I have entered this 5 mile race again for 2015, with my friend RJ, who I’ve been regularly training with (yes, you read that right, actually regularly training)! Once we’ve done it I’ll post a photo.

Me and Rachel

Me and RJ

23rd March 2014 – No.17: Complete the Hastings ½ Marathon

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When I was in school, I hated P.E. (along with Mathematics, it was my least favourite subject). So you can be forgiven for wondering why I would sign up for an endurance running event of 13 miles, covering some very steep terrain in a circuit following the original town boundaries. I had one motivation for this and it’s ridiculously shallow; I wanted the big shiny participation medal you get if you finish. So, I entered soon after the 2013 half-marathon, fully intending to do the thing properly. I would start training in January 2014, as recommended by the organisers. I kitted myself out with suitable running gear, sports bra, trainers etc. Well, the utterly atrocious weather that winter put paid to my training before it had begun. I’m not kidding, rain, hail and gale force winds battered the whole of Britain for weeks and caused cliff-falls and sections of train-track to collapse; it wasn’t an appealing prospect to go running in it. The race route goes up Harley Shute (very long steep hill) and onto Queensway (this is a road race, so the motorway was closed to traffic), in the middle of which is the five-mile point and a clock. I was surprised to discover my time was just over an hour. I began to hope that my estimated finish time of 3 and half hours, which I had calculated based on apparent walking speed during the walk to Rye (it being the same distance of 13 miles), minus lunch breaks etc, might be erroneous. I ran occasionally, mostly getting tired out quickly but once finding the rhythm of it and doing quite well. I came to the conclusion that my poor running skills might be due to technique and not fitness; after all I was walking the route with no problem, faster than some of the runners.

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route

(Or go to http://www.raceroutes.co.uk/route/156/196/hastings-half-marathon for an excellent map of route with interactive elevation display)

Around the halfway point, up on the Ridge, the weather changed. The sun disappeared and a light rain began, followed by a sprinkling of hail. My fingers swelled, numb with cold, stiff in their movement. I distracted myself with the excellent running playlist my fiancé had put on my phone and kept going. Occasionally, I would pass groups of scouts holding out cups of water, or members of the public holding out sweets and orange slices. I was grateful for all but none more so than in the last mile, where I think if the peel was edible I would have swallowed a quarter of an orange whole. At the ten mile clock, I noted my time was 2 hours 16 minutes. I pumped my fists in the air, celebrating, only three miles left. I sent a text my fiancé to start heading to the finish line to meet me. A second lot of rain and hail began, worse than before. I bore through it, turning onto All Saints Street, where I spotted my mum. I was pleased to see her cheering me on, got pumped up and started running again, which I had been doing periodically, forgetting each time that I lacked any real ability.
The final three miles of the race are totally flat, familiar territory to me and should have been relatively easy. However, a combination of dwindling energy resources and a brutal assault of hail so thick I had to shield my face reduced my speed to an almost-crawl. I could barely force my frozen limbs to keep going, even when the finish line came into view. Marshalls and spectators called encouragingly that I had only meters to go but exhaustion convinced me running was not in my best interests despite this support from strangers. I may well have walked over the finish line if I hadn’t spotted the clock, reading just a few minutes less than three hours. Suddenly, I’d be damned if I finished over three hours, so I dredged up one final burst of energy and crossed the line running.

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I stopped, bent over, gasped for breath. A small person wrapped itself around my waist, shouting ‘Mum, you won!’ I hugged my lovely, well-meaning (if somewhat mistaken) daughter and staggered over to my fiancé. He helped me sit until I’d recovered enough to go collect my finisher’s medal, the big, shiny lump of brass I’d worked so hard for. Afterwards, I discovered my biggest issues were not the sore feet and legs I’d expected (they didn’t even hurt) but the violent shivers that continued well after I’d peeled the sodden clothing from my frozen skin and the stomach cramps and persistent nausea that refused to dissipate until I finally managed to eat something later (at which point I ate a massive bacon sandwich and bag of Doritos and none of it touched the sides.)
So, I finished 3257th out of 3428, beating the bottom 5% of runners (171 people) with my time of 2 hours, 58 minutes. Everyone says this is a perfectly respectable time, especially in view of the fact that I walked most of it and didn’t train. Oddly, I find myself unsatisfied, not with the time but the amount of actually running I did. So, the day after the Half-marathon, I signed up for a five-mile road race that’s in May. I have started training, (e.g. I’ve been jogging twice) so maybe this time I can run more of the course instead of walking it.

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Me just after the half marathon, with my daughter Emiko

Me just after the half marathon, with my daughter Emiko

7th December 2013 – No.47: Go Ice-skating

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image from pixaby

image from pixaby

Ah, ice-skating…that most wintery of pastimes, a sport I have have adored since I was a little girl and saw figure skating on TV.  Torville and Dean, Dancing on Ice…all making my little Wiggle heart go flutter. Alas, the Hastings ice-rink has been derelict since it closed in 1997 and I never did get to go when it was open. The nearest permanent one is too far away to get to without a car, so my only recourse is the temporary one which opens in our shopping centre every December for around a month.  It’s only been going for a few years and I just hadn’t got around to going yet, so when my friend Louise’s teenage daughter Lexy asked if I would go with her, I jumped at the chance. I met up with Lexy on the 7th of December 2013 at Priory Meadow Shopping Centre. We paid for our session and found skates in our sizes. We had a little wait for the previous session to end, so we watched the other skaters for a while.

 

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I’m the one in the rainbow hat 🙂

When it was our turn, we filed onto the rink one-by-one. I’m afraid I kind of stepped on the ice, froze, and then inched out of the way when I realised I was blocking the entrance. I haven’t got very much experience with roller-blading and none whatsoever with skating, so it was always going to be a little awkward, especially as it takes me a few minutes to convince my legs to move, but eventually, I was off, like a snail in a race! It is quite a small rink and there were quite a few people on it, but I soon realised the greatest liabilities were the children, many of whom were aided by giant penguins that they pushed about whilst flailing madly with their legs. Prone to changing direction without the slightest warning, they each consumed around a square meter of ice and collisions were sometimes impossible to avoid. Lexy, being a keen and practiced skater, was literally skating circles around everybody at high speed, but she did stop to take some photos for me towards the end of our half hour.

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Afterwards, we went back to Lexy and Lou’s house and Lexy made me some hot chocolate, which is just the thing for a cold winter’s day. I was pretty pleased with myself; I had a lot of fun, I didn’t knock down any kids and I didn’t fall over once (although there was one dodgy moment.)

A day or two later, I showed my friend Thea my photos and she got no end of amusement from them. She says it’s funny seeing an adult skating like a beginner because she mostly sees young children skate that way. Being Canadian, obviously she was born ice-skating 😛 I offered to film it next time and she was quite taken with the idea, so come next December, I may well add a video to this post.

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