Seven of us left Ruth and Robert's house an January 20th on a cold and bitter day. Stuart, a new recruit, had joined us for the first time. Past the High and Dry pub, we took the track that parallels the A256 to Sandwich. At Eastry, at John's insistance, we took a diversion to visit the oldest house in Kent. This seemed to be masquerading as a fine Georgian mansion next to the church. We all rubbished John's source of information, until he took us round the back. There was an ancient half-timbered house, with the fine facade built in front. We wondered how the 500 inmates of the Eastry Workhouse built in 1835, felt at the sight of this up-market extension as they passed on their way to church.
From there we rode into Worth and found two pubs with quaint names: the Blue Pigeon and the Crispin. No one seemed to know how the Blue Pigeon got its name, not even Ruth, who used to work there. The Crispin we assumed was to commemorate Agincourt, for:
Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
Very suitable for our gallant band of brothers and sisters cycling on a bleak, face-numbing day across Sandwich Bay.
We then took a short cut across the Bird Observatory. This proved to be a long cut as Norman got a puncture, but at least during the ensuing wait, John saw a bittern. Back on the track across the golf course we soon reached Deal. There was a warm welcome at the King's Head with a fire, cod and chips and a number of luscious puddings.
Setting off again reluctantly, Stuart got a puncture, he was now a full member of the group!! Then up the long, busy main road out of Deal in the gathering gloom.
Turning away from the traffic, we rode merrily through through Ripple, Sutton and Studdal back to Ruth and Robert's house. At least the fitter members of the party rode merrily, Rosemary lingered and struggled a bit, rather concerned that darkness might overtake her, on the last, or last but one hill.
We were delighted to see Ruth and Robert's house and even more the lights, the wood stove, the cake and the tea. It felt like the last Homely House in the West, for those of you who are Tolkien fans.