The Hendersons Acorn Chalet in Sussex
England and Guernsey - 2001
Saturday, July 7 - Lyndhurst - Sedlescombe
Today we have the opportunity to bicycle again, the first time in several days. We have a ‘full English breakfast’. I wonder how many English people eat all of this as a routine: juice, coffee or tea, toast, English bacon (less fatty than ours), sausage, egg, tomatoes, mushrooms – cereal also available. We set off on New Forest paths toward Brakenhurst.
The paths are quite good – well posted and mostly level, but they are gravel surface, which makes the going slow.
Our original intent was to keep to the forest paths because they are traffic free, but we come upon a good ‘B’ class road back to Beaulieu and thence to Lyndhurst and decide that even though the distance is double the paved surface will be much quicker.
We peddle through mostly flat territory, a bit of traffic, but not bad. The speed limit is 40 mph because of the ponies, which wander very freely. Although many people exceed the speed limit, we feel quite safe because the road is reasonably wide.
We return to Lyndhurst, pack Tucats in the boot, lunch at the pub across the street from the B & B and head towards Sedlescombe.
The drive is mostly on dual carriageway, so is reasonably quick, although we encounter heavy showers in spots. We by-pass must major cities, so that helps our timing as well. We drive through the village of Battle, scene of the famous battle in 1066 between William the Conqueror and Harold – the last successful invasion of Britain. We had a wonderful tour of Battle Abbey in 1976, perhaps will do it again.
We find Acorn Chalet outside of Sedlescombe without much difficulty – what a change from Spillway! A full kitchen with a microwave, dishwasher, very well equipped. A bathroom with a tub, shower (oh, joy of joys), a bidet, toilet and lav. Two TVs, a CD player and beautiful garden. After putting up with the Rayburn, I feel I can do some great meals here!
We drive to Hastings and do the shopping at the local Sainsbury’s. We have noticed that many English children are very ill behaved. It is probably a sign of the new way to raise children – distract them, but don’t discipline them.
We have chicken limone for dinner – what a treat. Then we watch British TV – “The Vicar of Dibley” – such an irreverent show!
Sunday, July 8 - Sedlescombe - Hastings - Battle
Today isn’t especially promising. It is overcast and threatens to rain. After breakfast we head to Hastings as we want to find a place to check our e-mail.
The waterfront area of Hastings is as bad as England can possibly be. Smelly fish and chips shops, incessant seagull cries, ‘leisure centers’ that are really Bingo games and video arcades. TI tells us where to find an ‘internet’ café, but it is closed. Tom finds the area repulsive, but I’m amused because it is so bad it is a parody on English seaside towns.
After that, things improve considerably – we drive to Battle. We’ve been to Battle before – in 1976 and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Today there is a reenactment of a battle from the English Civil War in Naseby in 1645. There are a few hundred ‘soldiers’ in period costumes with muskets, pikes and small cannon. In this battle the troops of King Charles were defeated and it proved the turning point in the English Civil War. Today’s battle probably had the same result, but it was hard to tell. Real war is most likely every bit as confusing.
We drive to a local English vineyard nearby – Carr-Taylor. We are the only visitors. It is a small vineyard – 37 acres. We wander among the plants then go into the guest area for a chat with the man who is tending the tasting room. He’s a former accountant, now retired, who does this to get away from the house. We sample two sparkling wines, which are quite good, a white (not bad) and a red (good). More importantly, we have a good long chat with someone who loves to talk about the wines, the business and England. It is a very pleasant hour.
We return to our digs and meet Linda and Ashley Daveys, our hostess and host. They are anxious to make sure we are comfortable. The wing our lodging is in was added by Linda’s father at some point, and he apparently furnished it as well.
While dinner is cooking we try to figure out what we’ll see in this area – lots to do within a reasonable distance.
Monday, July 9 - Sedlescombe - Rye - Buxhill
The weather today is promising. We decide to try a bicycle trail close to the channel, called (surprise), Dungeness.
On the way we stop at the beautiful village of Rye. This was one of the Cinque Ports towns – they supplied men and ships to the King in exchange for special rights. Rye is no longer a seaport, having silted up. It is a beautiful town with quaint buildings, shops, inns and restaurants.
While at Rye we learn we can check e-mail (that is, get on the Internet) at the local library. This beats trying to find an Internet café – at least the hours are predictable and there is a library in nearly every town.
We try on-line banking with our credit union. What a joy – we find we can check our balances, deposits and checks easily. This makes keeping track of our cash positions very easy!
We head over to Dungeness. It is a thoroughly unattractive area. There is a nuclear power plant there, lots of electricity stanchions. The wind is terrific. We decide to drive along the proposed route to see if the view improves. It doesn’t. We abandon the idea of a ride.
We drive to Hailsham where we know there is a trail called the Cuckoo Trail. It is an old rail trail. We pick up a map at the local TI and decide we’ll bike it tomorrow.
From Hailsham we drive to Bexhill. It is so different from Hastings! This used to be ‘the’ watering hole of the Georgians, then the late Victorians. It is a bit shabby now, but with beautiful seaside buildings. This was the home of British auto racing and each year, on the May Bank Holiday weekend they have a rally of the early racing vehicles. What fun that would be!
Last night Tom saw a badger. Seems there are some badgers living in the garden hedges. Our host puts food out for them (which the seagulls steal) trying to lure them out so we can get a good look.
The ₤ is down against the $ which makes our holiday cheaper – that’s nice!
There are a profusion of shrubs in full bloom with lavender-rose colored flowers – we stop at a nursery and learn they are called Lavatera, common name ‘mallow.’ The shrubs grow 4-6 feet and are a mass of flowers. We are going to find out if they grow in our area – they’d be a fun addition to our garden.
Tuesday, July 10 - Sedlescombe - Herstmonceaux - Brighton
The weather is less than promising today. We abandon the idea of a bike ride on the Cuckoo Trail and decide to head West for a look at some sites.
Our first stop is Herstmonceaux. Here there are a couple of cottage industry ‘trug’ manufacturers. Trugs are traditional Sussex baskets, made of willow and chestnut wood. I’ve seem flower trugs in garden catalogues, but had no idea how many sizes and shapes they come in – they were traditionally used for measuring out grain for animals, but have evolved to baskets for eggs, flowers, cucumbers, cats, you name it. There is a size and shape trug for everything.
We have a good chat with Sarah at “The Truggery.” She tells us about the process of making trugs, then our conversation turns more to the problems of the small business owner in today’s England. The bureaucracy is apparently incredible. She says she spends one day a week doing paperwork. She has one employee and grosses less than ₤50K per year. She believes the government wants to eliminate the small shop owner and farmer. This worries us, for without these people England will no longer be England. Rather it will be a small version of the U.S. with a country-side polluted by ‘mobile homes’ and small land holders who take from their land but return nothing.
We stop at a D-Day Invasion Museum in Shoreham by Sea. It is a very small museum, staffed with volunteers. While not impressive in terms of size or volume of displays, we find the statistics very troubling. More that 6,000 Americans died that day, more than any other nationality, except Germans.
We drive on to Brighton (our luggage situation doesn’t have space for trugs, but we can order some when we return home as The Truggery is ‘on-line.’ We had visited Brighton in 1975 or ’76 when we lived in Denmark. The Royal Pavilion, built by the Prince Regent, later George IV is fantastic. I believe that much restoration has been accomplished since our last visit. While the style and décor doesn’t appeal to us personally, the sheer opulence and gaudiness of it makes it a worthwhile visit. Most interesting is the kitchen with dozens, if not hundreds, of copper pots of various sizes and shapes.
Brighton has some beautiful Regency buildings, nice broad streets and tremendous architecture. Unfortunately, it also is torn apart for road works, and has a fair bit of trash and strange looking inhabitants who look not unlike students from Evergreen State College (I have no use for this travesty on the educational system sponsored by some wackos in our legislature)!
Wednesday, July 11 - Seddlescombe - Chartwell - Caterham - Leeds
Today is blustery – hard to believe it is mid-July. Biking doesn’t seem to be an option, so we head north.
Our first stop is Chartwell, the home of Sir Winston Churchill. What a marvelous place, reflecting the taste and life style of this incredible man. He and Lady Churchill purchased it in 1922. Apparently the house was somewhat a wreck, but they restored it and decorated it and here they raised their family. While not grand like a palace, it is substantial by today’s standards, yet has a feeling of warmth. Many of his paintings are on display – his style is Impressionist, although his colors aren’t as vivid as many of the Impressionists.
His study is very interesting – here he dictated many of his books. I am surprised at how prolific a writer he was. He won a Nobel Prize for literature in 1953 (I don’t know for which work).
The garden is magnificent. We learn that the plant with the huge leaves we saw at Beaulieu is Chinese rhubarb or gunnera. The leaves can grow five feet across. They die back in the winter, then come up in summer to more than 6’ in height.
Our next stop is the village of Caterham (pronounced Kay-ter-um) to the showroom for a type of racing car that is sold in kit form. This was the car driven by Patrick McGoohan in the opening scene of The Prisoner.” They’ve come out with a slightly wider model than the original, which makes getting in and out a bit easier – but it is still a very compact car.
Finally we drive to Leeds Castle, near Maidstone. The grounds and exterior are beautiful. It is a Norman Castle, surrounded by a moat. The interior is less appealing. There is some evidence of Tudor connections, then fast forward to the 20th Century to the rooms decorated by the last owner. It is very much a commercial enterprise and lacks the sense of place and time that even an oddity like the Royal Pavilion in Brighton has.
Thursday, July 12 - Sedlescombe - Hailsham - Westfield
Once again the weather is uncertain, so we take care of laundry in the morning, have lunch at the cottage, then drive to Hailsham, a village on the Cuckoo Trail. This is one of the rail trails sponsored by Sustrans, the volunteer organization whose mission is to plan bicycling routes throughout Britain.
We bike to Heathfield. Although not a challenging ride we find we are a bit heated up when we arrive (8 miles). We have a ‘cuppa’ then head back. Now we know why the ride was harder than it should have been – it was slightly up hill all the way! We coast virtually all the way back.
Tonight we meet Robert and Venetia Sanders at a restaurant (The Wild Mushroom) in the nearby village of Westfield. My mother and brother visited them in April. We have a wonderful, relaxing dinner in the beautifully done, under-stated restaurant. The menu has a wide offering – couscous, calves liver, filet of beef, lamb, pigeon breast, salmon, cod, sole. The presentation is very nice and the combinations imaginative. Added to that a wonderful and lively conversation, making for an enjoyable evening.
Friday, July 13 - Sedlescombe - Rye - Hastings
Tomorrow we leave for Guernsey, so we take it easy to allow time to pack up.
We go to Rye to poke around a bit – stop at a few antique shops and have lunch. Later we drive to Hastings to see Robert.
His adopted sister, Susan Sanders, is a professional artist. He has two of her watercolors – they are exquisite. Tom and I both love them, we’d love to see more and maybe buy one, but they are probably quite dear as she has exhibited at the Royal Academy.
Robert tells us we have a cousin in Kenya – he was a coffee farmer, sounds like he doesn’t do that any more, but is a recognized naturalist. He lives in Thikka (as in “The Flame Trees of Thikka”).
Tonight we have dinner at the Brickwall Restaurant in Sedlescombe with Chris duPres and his wife Annie. Tom ‘met’ Chris over the Jag lovers web site. Annie was raised in India, but she came to Britain for school as a teenager. They’ve both traveled a lot, which makes conversation interesting.
Dinner is good, but more expensive than The Wild Mushroom, and not as imaginative. The restaurant is run by Italian brothers, but the food is English- salmon, veal cordon bleu.
After dinner we go back to Acorn Chalet and have coffee with Chris and Annie. We have a good long chat about life in England. Housing is so dear that they don’t think their sons will ever be able to afford a house. They also don’t like Tony Blair – he’s far too left wing – Venetia said the same thing.