Day 88: ‘Elim’ – Brown Bread Street – Battle – Westfield – Three Oaks – Guestling Woods – Hastings Country Park – Hastings (East Hill – Old Town – Rock-a-Nore Beach)

23.1 miles – The shining perfection of a cloudless early autumn morning, the cloudy restlessness of a late summer afternoon, perfection again at close

Early morning sunshine.

It was the most beautiful way to have started the last day of my journey home.

Will and Noa accompanied me to ‘the giraffe’ amid the gold of the just-risen sun gilding the now-turning leaves, and all made pristine and new reflected in the jewelled dew. My walk was concluding in the first true day of early autumn, the season which, since my teenage years, has spoken to me of renewal. It felt like a blessing on my final day: my walk has thus encompassed the first unfurling of leaves in spring in the West Highlands to their falling in a blaze of dancing colour like children at play.

I strode forth into golden joy!

True autumn morning light approaching Brown Bread Street.
The quintessence of the Weald, still in unfettered sunshine: harvested fields, oak woods, and a cottage preparing itself to adorn a Christmas card four months hence.
Battle High Street from the entrance to Battle Abbey, the shadow of which holds court in the foreground.
Autumn arrives in Battle Great Woods.

‘Farbanks Henge’ inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry. The explanatory notice nearby states: “In Spring, the hawthorns growing within the oak monoliths will create a circle of blossom and the lambs love to play here too.”

To put a seal of joy on the day and on my walk, I was joined for the last few miles by my friends: Guy, who has brought the Route Beer page to life, my dearest Rachel, and for the final stretch by Peter, Rasj, Jennifer, Alistair and Lesley-Ann.

The beauty of Sussex at Guestling
The Church of St Laurence, Guestling.
The view looking southeast from Pett. Dungeness Power Station can be seen palely on the other side of Rye Bay. It is interesting to note that, although my intention had never been to walk from the extreme northwest to the extreme southeast, Dungeness is one of the two contenders for the most southeasterly point of England, and just one day’s walk further on.
Guy impressed me greatly by pointing his smartphone at this fungus and announcing with confidence that it was called Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) and that it was both edible and delicious. You may be surprised to learn that its flavour is a little like chicken!

The choice of my somewhat convoluted route home from the eastern end of the South Downs – roughly double the distance of the direct route along the coast – was one of the most important decisions of the journey to me. I felt it was deeply important to finish the walk along the paths which are my closest to my heart, those of Hastings Country Park, the place where I walk every day I possibly can. There had been a growing sense of ‘home’ from my first view of Lewes, two days before, but stepping into the Country Park was its consummation.

Hastings Country Park
Hastings Country Park – scene of my daily walks.
Rachel and Guy. It was an absolute joy to share with them the final seven miles.
Rachel and Toby a few minutes later
Deep in the beautiful woodland of the Country Park. The sunlight penetrates the shadow to illuminate tiny flying insects, and to etch the edges of these two twisting hawthorn trees.
The goblins’ cave is exactly one mile from the finishing point.
Perhaps my favorite view in or near Hastings: looking east from the East Hill towards Ecclesbourne Glen and the rest of the Country Park beyond. My ‘gravatar’ (the little image you see next to my comments in this blog or with my emails) is almost the same view but taken a little lower down in Ecclesbourne Glen one very bright winter’s day.
Toby crosses the drought-brown East Hill – just a few hundred yards to go now.
The fishing beach at Hastings Old Town. Hastings boasts the largest beach launched fishing fleet in Europe.
Toby crosses Rock-a-Nore Road, cheered on by (left to right) Alistair, Lesley-Ann, Rasj, Peter and Phoebe.
The Finishing Point
Final few yards. Rock-a-Nore Beach with Rasj and Lesley-Ann to my right.

There are only a couple of stills of me on Rock-a-Nore Beach, so you might enjoy the video of the last three minutes of my walk instead. Apologies for Guy, who found my dropping the Cape Wrath stone rather amusing!

Toby at the finishing point at last, Rock-a-Nore Beach, my pack at last laid down. Whilst appearing to be gazing longingly out to sea, I am in fact contemplating my first beer!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *