Romney Marsh, Part two
A late summer ride through an area defined by the battle between land and water and filled with history, legend, ghosts, piracy and churches.
St. Thomas à Becket, Fairfield
The quintessential Romney Marsh church was also the scene of a wedding when I cycled up in the early afternoon. I snapped this quick photo and left them alone to their happiness. A cloud of red admirals and painted ladies like leaves dropping in a wind met me on the road.
St. Augustine, Snave
I think St. Augustine was my favourite church of the day. Inside and out it's absolutely fascinating. Yew tree; check. Pond; check. Weird, beehive-looking bell tower; check. I wrote in my notebook that "it's hard not to see its wilful unusualness". Light and friendly inside.
I didn't spend nearly enough time here, nor did I take enough photos, but I was pretty tired at this stage and preparing myself for the headwind-heavy ride up to Rye. But Dungeness is clearly as fascinating as it is surreal.
St, Mary, East Guldeford
Last church of the day. A squat, single-nave, early 16th century church with a warm simplicity and a perfectly metaphorical tree growing out of a grave.
Rye is an amazing town with one of the largest concentrations of historical buildings in the UK. I packed in as much as I could in the 14 hours or so I was there, but it's definitely on my list for a return visit. The Mermaid Inn has a Jamaica Inn feel about it – smuggling being the obvious connection – but another being the pastiche-heavy modern touches like Blackletter for all the signage. But it's definitely the real deal and the place to stay if you like your history.
St. Mary, Rye
I paid £4 to access the bell tower and go up onto the roof. Best £4 I've ever spent. The best £3.50 I've ever spent was on the sound and light show in the Rye Heritage Centre.
I haven't any photos from Hastings or Battle. The main project was Romney Marsh, and having been to Hastings the year before I was less eager to tote my camera around.
Romney Marsh was incredible, but also hard to penetrate with the approach I had taken. Even though I had done the trip on a bike I still felt like I had rushed around with too much on the agenda. More so than most places, I think Romney Marsh probably gains character the more seasons you spend in it and would certainly be worth returning to in snow, rain and wind, while the land is green and when the world goes grey and white.
Below is a photo from the last church of my trip, the Church of the Holy Spirit in Rye Harbour. Being a Sunday I decided against going in. But here's my bike, by the Lychgate, just before the rain and the ride over the hill to Hastings.