I passed Southease Church, now over 1,000 years old. Remains of early 13th-century wall paintings peek through on the walls inside. It is a place which transports me back in time, wondering who has visited and what secrets it holds onto.
After crossing the bridge over the River Ouse, winding its way to Newhaven, the slow, painful climb up Itford Hill always catches me unawares. This was the final leg – I had just sixteen more miles and was on target for a mid-afternoon finish at Eastbourne.
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Being Monday, people were back at work and the hills were quiet once more. Just one more stop at my favourite village beckoned; Alfriston. This is a rare gem, the place I hesitate to name because I want to keep it quiet. It can be touristy at weekends – most of the shops cater for day-trippers – but it never appears busy, retaining a laid-back feel. The narrow main street forces vehicles to a sedate pace, centuries-old buildings of flint, red brick and oak please the eye and it is home to the Singing Kettle, a place where I always stop. Joyce recognised me as I entered and sighed because she knows I will always ask for something not on the menu.
“What do you want? I suppose you want eggs on toast, don’t you?”
I said nothing, merely smiling and raising my eyebrows expectantly.
“Well, I can do you poached, not fried. I don’t want to stink the place out. Black coffee, strong yes?”