Riding down memory lane: AONB & Herstmonceux Castle

It is the May holiday weekend, so I saddled up my pony and headed south. I had noticed a tantalizing acronym on Google maps “AONB”, which apparently is “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” which seems too tantalizing to resist. It certainly was beautiful, but what I should have known to interpret that as 100% hills. These stunning sweeping vistas do not come without lung-busting up and downs. DSC_5056.jpgAfter several hours of this, I came to Westerham, where there was a lovely grassy knoll outside a cycle shop/cafe. The Westerham Cyclery stocks some of the most delicious frozen yogurt I have ever have, and will bring your americano across the road so you can lie back on the grass while enjoying a cuppa. DSC_5062 Even though the route was a bit gruelling, this is an absolutely beautiful time to cycle tour in south England. The cherry blossoms and blue bells were in glorious bloom, scenting the air as I travelled up and down the gruelling hills. DSC_5082.jpgDSC_5259Despite the “outstanding natural beauty” and the tiny floral delights along the way, it was a really draining day. I could tell that I was physically and emotionally spent when I found myself sitting at a gas station waiting for coke to flatten. (Honestly, there is nothing better than a flat coke to buoy flagging spirits and complaining legs).IMG_1798.JPGAt the end of a long, difficult ride, I arrive in Herstmonceux. I stopped at the beautiful church yard.DSC_5162.jpgDSC_5171.jpgDSC_5169.jpgDSC_5198.jpgMy final stop of the day was Herstmonceux Castle. As I walked the castle grounds, I was flooded with memories of my time here 10 years ago as a student at the International Study Centre. This is a magical place that will always hold a piece of my heart. I arrived at the end of the day ate my dinner as I watched night fall around the castle grounds. DSC_5126DSC_5128.jpgDSC_5124DSC_5277DSC_5275DSC_5275.jpgDSC_5294.jpgDSC_5132.jpgDSC_5213.jpg

I made a nest with my bivy in a nearby woods, and was able to Breakfast at Tiffany’s with the castle in the morning, as the frost sparkled on the grass. It was a pretty great way to greet the morning.


Remember, this is all part of my “Pedalling for Mental Health” challenge, where I am hoping to raise money for mental health research. If you are able to support this great charity, please donate here!

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Today’s distance:  70miles/112km

Total miles logged: 352miles/564km

 

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