Naturally, our optimism proved totally unfounded, which it should have been anyway since we'd checked the weather forecast for Saturday and it unequivocally declared that there would be rain. Lots of it. When we rose, however, the sky was a pale unthreatening grey, so we picked up our packed lunches and got in our cars.
We parked in Emsworth, where our walk started. Shortly thereafter, the heavens opened. We gritted our teeth and plowed onward to Thorney Island, which is actually a peninsula.
There were two things about Thorney Island that we didn't know until we arrived. First, that it is an active military base and the use of photographic equipment is forbidden. Second, it is protected by fearsome SAS sheep. Seeing them convinced me that it would be impossible to take photos covertly.
Our guidebook instructed us to go all the way around Thorney Island (~9 miles) and then continue on around the adjacent peninsula (~5 miles). However, after a nine mile trudge through horizontal pelting rain with sufficient wet weather gear for four people divided between seven, we surrendered to the temptations of a hot cup of tea and a...well, we couldn't sit down. The chairs were covered in velvet and we were soaking. We took turns taking trips to the toilet and furtivelyy attempting to dry our wetter items of clothing with paper towels. Not furtively enough to escape the notice of the locals, however. A man went to the toilet while one of the lads was wringing out his socks in the sink and announced, "There's a man in his pants in there, washing his feet in the urinal."
We departed swiftly.
Of course, as we walked towards the car park, the sky became lighter and lighter, until a weak sun shone through, illuminating such peaceful scenes as a nest-building swan on a tranquil pond.
We were not amused by nature's irony, and used the whole experience as an excuse to gorge ourselves at our pub supper. Three courses with double drinks orders and our equilibrium was restored at least. Returning to our hostel, we relaxed by playing games, e.g. foosball and that terribly addictive flag-identification app for the iPhone. I can safely say I'll never forget what Micronesia's flag looks like.
The following day, we went to Arundel Castle because we heard there was going to be a siege. We were welcomed by a piper.
We walked through the grounds and the reenactment preparations, making special note of the hog roast, which was already smelling appetizing at 10 AM.
Arundel's newer walls
We passed an imposing gate that appeared to lead nowhere.
Finally, we reached the formal gardens. On arrival, we paid a visit to the petting zoo, because of cute baby animals. Little goats and tiny ponies and baby pigs, oh my! Also, we saw the Duchess of Norfolk, to whom the castle belongs. We didn't know it at the time, of course, but some amongst our number had an inkling and when we looked her up on the internets, we found we were correct. I am proud to say that we were civilized enough not to ask to pet the Duchess.
In front of the bizarre indoor fountain
The crown is suspended by the jet of water alone. The inscription behind the fountain reads: "This building based on a design by Inigo Jones for the masque Oberon the fairy prince performed at the command of Henry, Prince of Wales, January 1st, 1611. Was opened by Charles, Prince of Wales, May 14th MMVIII".
Arundel Cathedral viewed from the castle garden
Once we'd emerged from the garden, it was time for the siege. We found a good spot on the grass, sufficiently behind the children so as not to appear overly eager, and sat down to watch the men in shiny suits clunking towards each other while the smoke from the guns filled the air. I believe some kind of narrative was being followed, but to be honest, we were too absorbed in providing running commentary amongst ourselves to notice.
Why Is It Always The Little Dude Out In Front
We unwound after the battle by strolling along the castle walls and taking in the view.
View from the castle walls
Before we left Arundel, we celebrated our achievements with a roast pig sandwich and apple sauce. It had been a hot day's strolling already, and we needed to ensure that we had sufficient energy for the beachside lounging that followed.
We drove to Hove and parked by the promenade, to facilitate ambling towards Brighton in a vague quest to find fish and chips.
Walking down the promenade
Old Brighton Pier, succumbed to fire and crumbling into the sea
New Brighton Pier
Blokes on Brighton Beach
Me on the promenade
From the washout of the main event, I think we managed to salvage quite a nice weekend. A+; will walk again.