Monday, August 15, 2011

Blooming heather again - 13,14 August 2011

Heather is blooming again, and although we have previously travelled to other parts of England, such as Yorkshire and the Peak District, to enjoy it, we hoped for better weather than last year to explore the heather right on our doorstep.

Cobham Common is the largest National Nature Reserve in southeast England, and said to be the best example of lowland heath.

We took Clara for a spin and then enjoyed a 7 mile walk all around the heather clad heathland. This was at it's best, and what can only be described as a totally bleak and barren landscape for the rest of the year, comes alive with the slopes covered in purple flowers.

The week of the London Olympic showcase to the world, as it ran trial events, was also the week of the worst riots since the 1980's, and the worst skyline for burning buildings since the blitz.

Today we drove through one of these events, although we were unfortunately unable to see anything, as we journeyed to Sussex, through the London to Surrey practise long-distance cycle race.

Sunday continued the heather theme. We took this as potentially our last chance to see the heather in bloom at Ashdown Forest, also the home of Winnie the Pooh. Last year we attempted this, but low cloud and drizzle forced us to abandon it. Today, the clouds rolled away to leave a pleasant day.

Our drive started in East Grinstead, a town we have often driven through, but today we stopped for coffee on the lovely terrace overlooking the church, and had a proper look around the town. The High Street is full of wonderful old Tudor buildings.

After leaving East Grinstead, we were into Ashdown Forest. In places there are great view points, and everywhere masses of purple heather. Ashdown is of course famous for the Winnie the Pooh stories, and we did a walk which took in some of the famous spots from the walk – 'The Enchanted Place' (enchanted because Christopher Robin said no one could be sure if there were 63 or 64 trees), the 'Heffalump Trap' (this large hole was supposedly dug by piglet) and Roo's favourite 'Sandy Place'. It was a wonderful nostalgic trip to remind us of hours spent reading those wonderful stories to our children.

Lunch at Duddleswell Tea Rooms followed, and this is a must for anyone in the area. The tearooms are very attractive, set back from the road with wide lawns and lovely flowers. The cream teas are delicious and a meal in themselves, but we had to go for their Pooh Bear Tea, which not only had one of their giant scones with honey and clotted cream, but also our choice of a piece of cake.
Making that choice wasn't easy, as they had an amazing range of great home-made cakes, and when our choice (pavlova full of cream and strawberries and raspberry roulade) was served, the sizes were enormous. Although, as Pooh once said, “My tummy is feeling a little eleven o'clockish.”, we could easily have shared a Pooh Tea. But we made it through eventually, and decided a salad would be all we should allow ourselves for dinner!

We continued a circular drive, through a variety of interesting towns, finishing once again in Ashdown Forest. Walking around a few a few towns as well as Bentley Wildfowl and Motor Museum, helped overcome the 'I've eaten far too much' feeling.

Bentley happened to be on the route, and as the entry price was modest and the day was so lovely, we decided to visit. We actually enjoyed it because it was so different to normal country houses, with a very varied range of attractions.
In addition to visiting the country house and garden, there was a huge area of ponds (admittedly rather green) and heaps of different wild water birds, including two from NZ that we don't remember every seeing before, a ride on railway just like our children loved 30 years ago, craft shops and a Motor Museum. Basically something for everyone, and their tearooms served the best ever Pimms!

So after walking the extensive grounds, and visiting a few village churches, we felt able to do justice to dinner, keeping to our plan of a salad, but the 'Red Barn' have very delicious imaginative salads, the perfect end to a great day out!

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