Great photo!Rail journeys back proved rather easier than the one going out....but more on that anon.
Another nice early start. 3.45 alarm, rolling to Fratton at 4.30 for the 5am train east. As on previous trips to Itsnotinternational, instead of changing at Hove for the Brighton service, I did the sensible thing and rode along the front, which also allowed for buying the second breakfast. As noted upthread, the direct Brighton-Ashford service seemed to have strangely disappeared (at least for this weekend) and therefore I'd have to change at Hastings. Four minutes allowed to change trains. And services not on neighbouring platforms. Oh, and this is Southern of course...That was going to work out OK, wasn't it? Not to my surprise, the train pulled into Hastings late, and the Ashford train had gone. If only I had set up a GPX with a route to Rye and hence Ashford...of course, I had. After early agonisingly slow progress (climbing out of Hastings was a real grind, and some atrocious road surfaces) the speed picked up nicely and I made Rye station (12 miles) in 55 minutes. Opted to wait for the next Ashford service rather than riding on (I'd have made it just after ten, and I didn't want to keep people waiting, as much as I like that stretch of road) and after negotiating the station (lift broken, grr) I joined User10571, who was just starting on that somewhat dubious breakfast.
After our little gang were gathered, we left not long after ten. And what followed was very nice indeed. Gentle pace, lovely scenery, great company, what's not to like? Nothing, that's what! Even us imperial century fiends like a pootle Lunch was very nice, most excellent sausage and mash (in my case) in Headcorn, though as Aušra's photo shows, I forgot the No Wasps sign...
My one and only photo, of two of my favourite people....
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After nosh and alcoholic carb loading, more gently paced pootling followed. Eventually We made it back to the station at 2.31. Next train to Hastings was 2.35…no, that wasn't going to happen! So the next one (one an hour, of course...it was). Thankfully, there was no bother whatsoever making the connection at Hastings- time allotted, you guessed, four minutes- service on time, Brighton train, praise be, on neighbouring platform. And that too ran to time, giving me enough time to buy food before the Southampton service at half six (sardines until two or three stops west, but enough room for me and the bike). Back home at eight.
Fine job @Charlotte Alice Button (what was your guy's name again? ) and thanks one and all!