31 July 2020

Day Trip to Rye and Camber by Brompton Bike and Train

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that I bought a bike a couple of months ago. I cycled a bit at university, but living in a small, second-floor flat in London with nowhere to safely keep a bike and the busy London roads put me off cycling in The Smoke. As lockdown progressed, however, I felt increasingly limited in the places I could visit on foot, and I finally pushed the boat out and bought a folding bike: a Brompton B75, to be more exact.

The B75 is the 'cheaper' Brompton model (NB: it's not cheap), and it comes without some of the standard Brompton features — mudguards and a front luggage block, for example — and with lower-end versions of others, such as the saddle. But it was in stock in late May when I ordered it, and it only comes in my favourite colour: turquoise, or water blue, as Brompton puts it. I've added a few upgrades — a more comfortable saddle, a folding pedal, a luggage block and mudguards — as well as the small Borough bag, a waterproof bag that converts to a backpack and slots onto the luggage block (pictured in the first photo below).

I thought I'd use it for making a few little trips around London and potentially for commuting to King's Cross, as and when I return to the office. But I've got a lot more use out of it already, including visiting the Olympic Park and Amoret Coffee in Notting Hill. And on the final day of my staycation, I decided to take it on a train ride. 

London Bridge station is only five minutes or so from my flat by bike but I allowed extra time for faffing. You can take fully folded bikes on most trains, and I could slide it easily into the space on the floor in front of the empty seat next to me; as the trains I took were so quiet, I probably could have left it unfolded. I changed at Ashford and then took another train down to Rye in Sussex (if you're closer to St Pancras, the journey is a bit faster). My only luggage was my small Borough bag, in which I fitted my beach towel, lunch, water, bike locks and my Kindle, as well as a few other bits and bobs.

I arrived in Rye just before noon, unfolded my bike and followed National Cycle Route 2 to Camber, a 3.5-mile ride, mostly along a path separated from the main road, although with a few gates to go through and sheep to navigate around (says the city girl). Twenty minutes later, I was at Camber Sands, and parking my bike in the Camber Central car park. There were only a few bike racks and I rather nervously locked up my bike — its lovely colour does make it rather conspicuous — and walked back to the beach. One of the joys of the Brompton is that you don't usually have to worry about it being stolen as you can take it inside with you, but as I wanted to go for a swim, I thought locking it up was the best option (although lightweight, it got a bit heavy carrying over the extensive and deep dunes).

Although the weather was warm, it was a cloudy day with the sun peeping out only intermittently. It was also very windy, and most people were using windbreaks. But I enjoyed my picnic on the beach and then waded out into the sea, which was mild but with strong waves as the tide rolled in.

Then it was time to cycle back to Rye — the walk would have taken me an hour each way, whereas it was an easy 20-minute cycle ride. There wasn't much bike parking in Rye itself, so I rolled the bike with me as I spent a couple of hours wandering around the pretty, historic town. First stop was Knoops, a cafe on Tower Cottages that specialises in speciality hot chocolate, although they also do milkshakes in the summer. White chocolate is a guilty pleasure of mine, but I opted for a single-origin Peruvian dark chocolate, which was delicious. Continuing along East Cliffe, I reached Rye Chocolates, which sells beautifully packaged chocolate bars. I may have bought a few...

I continued winding my way through the steep, cobbled streets, admiring the views and taking in the historic buildings. Mermaid Street is particularly lovely, as is Watchbell Lane and Traders Passage.

The town has more than its fair share of interesting independent shops, such as: lifestyle and interiors boutiques Ethel Loves Me, Simply Rye, Pale and Interesting, Hunter Jones and Mccully and Crane; Rye Pottery; book store The Tiny Bookstore (not to mention the Lockdown Library!); and Grammar School Records, located in the old grammar school. There are plenty of vintage and antique shops too.

As for eateries, The Fig, Hoof, Whitehouse, The Devil in Rye and Rye Deli all looked great. Next time, I'll have to stay overnight so I can visit some of these and do a bit of shopping. Most places were open, but it's always worth checking in advance in these COVID-19 times.

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