We set off from Gulag Towers, after breakfasting in Café Illy again and parked the car at West Hythe, where we finished yesterday, prior to our detour to find some supper.
We decided to stick with the canal route along the Royal Military Road because we thought it would be much pleasanter than going on the road down to Dymchurch and then road all the way to Rye. It turned out to be an excellent choice. The scenery did not vary hugely, but it was pleasant and easy walking beside the canal, sometimes with an avenue of trees to protect us from the evil north-east wind, other times across the edge of wide open fields. We saw a couple of herons, and also several swans, sitting in the middle of fields, which seemed odd, as I had assumed that swans nested on water.
The Royal Military Road and canal stretch for some 28 miles, with a pill box overlooking a dog leg in the canal about every mile, and a crossing every 2 – 3 miles with the old crossing keepers’ cottages still in evidence. On the inland side (north) a series of mediaeval churches lined the route, and to the south the expanse of Romney Marsh stretches down to the sea.
We stopped for lunch in the churchyard of St Rumwold’s, Bonnington an absolutely gorgeous little church dating from the 13th century. The wind was still fierce, but we sat on the West side to chomp our way through a bag of olives and some cheese and tomato – not forgetting the pistachio nuts and the Green & Black’s chocolate.
Inside the church much of the structural woodwork was still visible, including the stairs up to the bell tower.
The path continued to meander beside the canal. The sun was warm on our faces, and there was hardly a cloud. We arrived in the quintessentially English village of Appledore at a few minutes to four. We had been fantasizing about the possibility of finding a quintessentially English tea shop, and that is just what was there – Miss Mollett’s tea rooms. Unfortunately, she closed a few minutes before our arrival so we were constrained to visit the pub instead, where Bridget sampled the local ale – apparently very good.
Next to the pub was the church of St Peter & Paul, which was another beautiful mediaeval church – rather larger than St Rumwold’s but no less attractive. The parish ladies sell jam and various other items of local produce in the church to raise funds for restoration, and Bridget purchased a chocolate Easter nest.
Next to the church, an elderly lady was gardening – the whole village looked like a set for Miss Marple.
We arrived in the charming town of Rye just before 7pm. Rye is another of the Cinque Ports, on the very edge of Romney Marsh, home to smugglers and immortalized in the weird tale of Dr Syn. Unfortunately, the hospitality is less charming than the architecture. In our first choice we were told the place was completely reserved, but we formed the impression that our less than pristine appearance made the waiter fear that we would lower the tone. The other pubs seemed equally full of reluctant staff. Eventually, we had a good meal at the ancient Mermaid Pub – dating in parts from 1156 and rebuilt in 1420 after the French burnt it down in 1377. It is extremely picturesque, perched at the top of a cobbled lane but a bit self-satisfied.
We took a taxi back to West Hythe to fetch the car and were pleasantly impressed by how long the journey took.