Day 97 – New Romney to Brighton

I was so excited when I set off this morning but knew that I had a tough day ahead. I wanted to get as many miles done as possible before the rain started. I cycled through the Camber Sands with holiday parks lining the road, there was a cycle path next to the sea defences so i cycled up and stopped to take some photos, there were wooden walkways leading from this level to the beach. In the background you can see the very ominous looking dark sky.

The road then took me towards Rye, to avoid a main road section I took a cycle path that lead to the bridge to cross the river, this was going quite well until it went through a field of sheep, there was lots of sheep poo, I was quite close to it on my trike – I tried to cycle as slowly as possible so it didn’t flick up.

These two didn’t seem too bothered by me

From Rye harbour there is a fantastic pedestrianised route alongside the beach and through the nature reserve. This is one of the nicest cycle routes I have been on, a fantastic place for scenery and wildlife with a smooth tarmac path! There were lots of yellow poppies dotted along the whole route, so I stopped to take a quick photograph.

The path joined the road again and it started spitting, the rain started falling from the sky heavier and heavier, I knew there was a village (Pett) around the corner and hoped I would find shelter whilst I sorted myself out. None of the buildings had overhangs and when I was about to give up I spotted a small church with a covered porch area: I cycled up to it, there was a step so my trike would have to stay outside. I took off the seat cushion and headed for cover. I had to go back out in the rain to find my waterproof jacket and make sure everything was packed away in dry bags.

After a short time someone came to open up the church and told me I would find everything I needed to make a cup of tea inside. A real symbol of my entire journey; it pours with rain but a small local community are there to welcome you (welcome everyone) and let you take shelter. I had a cup of tea and the rain started getting a bit lighter. It was set to be bad weather for the next few hours and I had too many miles to do to sit it out.

What I hadn’t realised is that after Pett there is a very steep 15 percent gradient hill that was not short and just kept climbing. As I got to the steepest part the rain was gushing down again and the road was like a river, not only was I having to turn the pedals against the steepness of the hill but against the strong current of water intent on pushing me back down. To make it ever worse it was foggy, the cars were not as visible as I would have liked them to be which meant I wasn’t very visible to the cars. They were all seeing me and carefully driving round so obviously my high-vis flag was doing its job.

I was absolutely soaked, you would have filled a bath with water if you wrung me out. I was very pleased when I reached Pevensey and a friendly face was stiff in the rain waiting to usher me into a cafe. I wrapped myself in my towel, reluctant to change clothes and I only have one other set and I didn’t want them soaked too.

I was treated to lunch in the form of a full English breakfast by Les and Vicky. They were some of the first people I had met and spoke to on the road when I was in Hayling Island. They were leaving the hotel early to avoid the bad weather whilst I was cycling into it. They have followed my journey the whole way round and waited to meet me in their home village on my way into Brighton. It rained very heavily whilst I ate and then seemed to die down almost completely. I still had a fair distance to cycle so I got on my way.

The next hurdle, once I passed along the front at Eastbourne, was to cycle up Beachy Head, the winding road wasn’t too steep and was reasonably easy, I felt quite proud when I saw some German cycle tourers walking to the top! It was a fantastic piece of road with a fast windy downhill section. What I hadn’t appreciated was that there was another climb after this which was much steeper and once it dipped down to the main road got steeper again. I had been told that once I had descended into Seaford the road was a lot flatter. It might have been flatter but it definitely wasn’t flat and there were some small hills all the way towards Brighton, luckily most of these could be climbed in the cycle lane.

There it was, Brighton Pier in the distance, I was now on familiar roads, roads that James and I had run in the half marathon over three months ago. I was running early so I stopped to have a drink, clean some of the mud off my trike and change my clothes. I had 2 miles left to go along the cycle path to the pier, I wanted company so I asked a guy with a fully loaded bike to cycle with me to the end. He took lots of photos of me and the press arrived. I feel rather bad that we didn’t get a photo together and I can’t remember his name. I hope he gets in touch and enjoys the rest of his cycle touring. I was elated I had completed the loop. I spoke to the local press and had some photos taken before finding my hotel next to the pier.

I made a video for you all to say thank you, I’m a little self conscious in front of the camera, especially when I had skin peeling from my nose and the most ridiculous panda eyes, so I didn’t watch it back and sent it to Danny instead.

It wasn’t time to celebrate yet so I had a bath, found some dinner and had a quiet drink. I had been invited to a local pub on Twitter, the owner is a very keen cyclist, she wasn’t around but I was welcomed in with open arms and it felt special to have found a pub in such a touristy place that is visited by the locals.

So a massive achievement today, I am the first female to have cycled around the coastline of GB on a trike, let alone with my medical conditions and the fact I have done it alone, self supported with a tent (I’m not sure another able bodied female has done that either). Tomorrow I will complete my challenge and cycle 70 miles back home. I was adamant that I wanted my journey to start and finish in the home town of Wokingham despite it not being on the coast.

It is a hard day’s cycle as it goes over quite a few rolling hills but I can’t wait to see everyone so hopefully that will make it easier!

Tomorrow may be the end of this challenge, but it is not the end! I want to continue to give out my messages about disability cycling and continue raising awareness of EDS. Continue following me as I am going to reflect and recap what I have done as well as decide how to take it forward. I am excited about finishing, excited about the future and excited that I have 100’s of new friends!

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