Every year, my dear friend Craig and I have our annual day trip. It used to be a tradition with our “team 3 is the magic number” magical third Ali (here we are in Eastbourne, here we are in the Isle of Purbeck) but now she is living it up being an arty boss lady in Winnipeg so we have to maintain the tradition and just imagine she’s along for the ride (although it’s never quite the same).
Year in, year out, we start the debate early about where on earth to go. Usually there are zip cars and mix CDs involved (a particular highlight was listening to “Go West” on repeat as we drove to Dorset…) but this year we needed somewhere we could easily travel to by train from London which narrowed the options down to an easy selection. In the end, we opted for Rye & Camber Sands. I’ve been to Rye briefly, during a wintery weekend away to Winchelsea, but I just skirted the edges for a hot chocolate before sneaking back to the warmth of my beautiful rented cottage. I’ve been keen to return ever since, then the coastal Camber Sands was a whole new discovery for both of us. The adventure really started in London, as to venture to Rye you catch the HIGH SPEED train from St Pancras to Ashford (then change onto a little rickety local train to whisk you to Rye). The high speed train whooshes through all the Eurostar tunnels, so that + pan au chocolats & sugary mochas was the perfect giddy solution to waking us up on our early morning start to the 2013 day trip.
Rye is a chocolate-box, quintessentially quaint British town. These are just a handful of beautiful buildings we pottered past as we explored the cobbled streets and nosied in a few shops packed with that kind of useless but gorgeous vintage tat that we both could spend a fortune on; vintage coastal seaside postcards, ladybird learn to read books, bird print pinnies… The church in Rye has a tower that you can pay £2.50 to climb to to top of and apparently take in a panoramic view. I wanted to save my money for cockles and whelks (!) but it’s worth hunting out if you do visit. There is also Rye castle, which at £4 again we gave a miss as we were short on time and funds, but it was fun to explore even just the outside. Rye is bursting with wild flowers and pastel colours and nautical niceties and we were gasping and instagramming around every corner! It doesn’t get much prettier than this.
A helpful, very cut-glass accented lady in the Tourist Information office (handily housed inside ANOTHER cute trinkets shop) gave us the knowledge we have woefully failed to Google/sort out during the week which was; is it possible to walk to Camber Sands. The answer was yes (phew!) lucky since our whole day revolved around some seaside action. Saying that, I think you could easily spend a day in Rye if you didn’t want to take in the sea air. To get to Camber Sands you can either walk along a very easy to navigate cycle path, or there is a bus every 2-hours (this ain’t London!) between Rye and Camber Sands which you could wait for. We were told the walk would take us 45 minute but it was more like 1 hour 30 minutes and that’s trotting at London pace. I would really recommend the walk though, as it takes you past the Rye harbour, through some sheep-filled meadows, out into wildflower wilderness and then eventually into the sand dunes. Craig wasn’t too sure about the sheep, mind. How is he going to cope with the creatures when he visits us in Guatemala..?
I have no idea what I expected from Camber Sands. I know it’s where All Tomorrow’s Parties hold (held, sniff) their festivals and I thought the name sounded very tropical. As we approached, vast sand dunes towered in the distance and this made me happy as I love a proper sandy beach over prickly pebbles any day. The first place we passed was the Pontins holiday camp – which has certainly seen better days. I would have actually thought it was derelict from the state of the dusty old signs, creaking gates and dilapidated apartment blocks… but then we saw some kids running about in an empty swimming pool so I am assuming it’s still open. This theme of the glory days being long gone, runs through the centre of Camber Sands. It definitely has seen better days and I imagine in years gone by it would have been one of the ultimate coastal destinations. I love the rickety signs, the old-fashioned shops and the ghosts of what might have been, it feels like going back in time in a way.
It is NOT a proper chippeh unless there is one of these fish wall-charts on the wall. I remember the one in the fish & chip shop back home was even laminated! We’re classy like that in Bradford. Clutching our bags of cod and chips we marched off towards the beach. The beach was beautiful, but absolutely heaving with families and kids and swimmers and surfers and sun worshippers. Wanting to snatch a bit of calm to eat in peace and people-watch, we staggered up one of the sand dunes. We perched at the top and inhaled our feast barely stopping for air, then lay back and watched the seagulls swooping and the kites dancing from the beach below.
In case you can’t quite make it out, the carrier bag claims Fish & Chips are “The healthiest meal for all the family”! All that batter and friedness ey? Not quite sure this is Ofcom approved. After a poke around the tourist tat shop and resisting buying a bucket and spade (I don’t think I’ll really need one on the Amazon) we decided to get the bus back to Rye. We walked back through the residential areas which had some sweet little cottages and every garden was teaming with flowers, butterflies and kitsch decorations. We were planning to just head straight to the town centre and have a cuppa in a tearoom before catching the train. However, from the top deck of the bus, we spotted some sort of festival happening on the harbour so raced off the bus to investigate instead.
It turns out we had just stumbled across the annual Rye Maritime Gala! Which consisted of stalls, food stands, tombolas, a local band murdering Mumford & Sons (!) and the best bit of all.. a group of pirates singing sea shanties. We treated ourselves to 99’s, although I dropped mine in the dirt after two bites. Is there anything sadder!
The gala was such a perfect end to a glorious day trip. I can’t recommend the Rye/Camber Sands combination enough, especially if you’re based in London and need an escape. We both felt like we’d had an actual holiday, it’s amazing what a combination of sea air, sandy chips and sunshine can do for the soul.
I noticed that Craig features in the last two blog posts, hello five minutes of fame! I’m really going to miss his face whilst I’m on the other side of the world. We are having our farewell night out tonight (as he goes on holiday this weekend and isn’t back until I have left London, what sad bad timing!) and accidentally ruined it by gatecrashing a media party at Soho house and drinking the free bar on empty stomachs. I’m a very special shade of green today as a result.
Tags: All Tomorrow's Parties, Camber Sands, Closest Beach to London, Day trips London, Fish & Chips, Fish and Chips, Harbour, Pontins, Rye, Rye Castle, Rye Maritime Festival, Rye Maritime Gala, Rye to Camber Sands, Sea Shanties, View of Rye, Visiting Rye, Walking Rye to Camber Sands, Where to visit for a day trip from London, Winchelsea