Spike Milligan circular walk from Rye to Winchelsea

This Spike Milligan-inspired walk works two ways…

Spike Milligan's grave, Winchelsea, East Sussex

If you love Spike Milligan but hate walking, you can tackle it as a tribute to the great comedian.

If you love walking but aren’t interest in Spike, you still get a wonderful circular walk in beautiful Sussex countryside, and see two of its most perfect towns: Rye and Winchelsea.

And if you love both the late, great comedian and walking, you get a double bonus.

Spike lived in Rye in later life and died here, of liver disease, in 2002, aged 83. He is buried in Winchelsea, beneath a tree in St Thomas’s churchyard, and the epitaph on his gravestone – in Gaellic which translates as ‘I told you I was ill’ – has been voted the nation’s favourite.

He got to know the area because the producer of The Goon Show, Peter Eton, lived at Winchelsea. Spike would often come down for weekends.

He lived in a house called Carpenters in Blind Woman Lane, just outside Rye in Udimore and claimed to find it so ugly that he put up an alternative name sign: The Blind Architect, and even put it in Room 101 when he appeared on that BBC show with Paul Merton.

In Rye, Spike enjoyed jazz sessions at the Plough at Cock Marling and held book signings at Rye’s Martello Books.

He attended St Anthony’s Catholic Church in Watch Bell Street, but his periodic bouts of deep depression meant he was often unable to get to mass. His priest was known to say: “I’ve taken the sacrament of the sick to that man more than to any other living soul.”

Although his funeral was at St Anthony’s, Spike is buried across the marsh at St Thomas’s in Winchelsea, in a plot he could see from Carpenters.

The Prince of Wales sent a wreath of white roses with a hand-written card that read: “For Dear Spike, in grateful and affectionate memory.”

Anyway, on to the walk.

This route is covered on Ordnance Survey Landranger map 189. Allow about three hours.

Begin at St Thomas’s Church in Watch Bell Street, Rye.

Turn left out of the church and walk to the end of Watch Bell Street. Take the steps or footpath down to the A259 and turn right, following the road past Strand Quay until you reach Harbour Road, which leads off to the left, and is signposted for Rye Harbour.

Almost immediately you enter this road, take the footpath on the right that leads alongside the Royal Military Canal.

The path takes you over marshland all the way to the outskirts of Winchelsea.

About a mile along the way you pass Camber Castle, built by Henry VIII

When,  approx 1.5miles after the castle, the path meets a road – it’s the road to Winchelsea Beach – turn right. In a few hundred yards you’ll reach the A259 Rye-Hastings road. Turn left onto it and, just past the Strand House B&B, you’ll reach a narrow lane leading off left and steeply uphill into Winchelsea.

Follow the lane until you come to St Thomas’s, on your left. Spike’s grave is on the north side of the church, beneath a tree. Just follow the flattened grass.

Just beyond the churchyard is the New Inn, which is a good place for lunch

The return journey

Retrace your steps down the hill you took into Winchelsea. When you reach the A259 at the bottom, cross over and turn left. In a few hundred yards you’ll reach Ferry Road, on your right. A few hundred yards down this lane – which also leads to Winchelsea railway station if you fancy training it back to Rye – you’ll find a footpath on your right beside a bridge over a stream. The path takes you directly across the fields and back to Rye. It’s well signposted, and there is generally a clear path through any crops.

You emerge back on the A259 with Rye on the hill ahead of your. Turn left to get back to town.