Ashdown Forest

It’s our final evening here in Sussex. Leaving my home territory tomorrow will be very hard indeed. I’ve literally breathed in as much Sussex air as I can. The smell of the forest, wood smoke in the air, tree lined country lanes, gorse, bracken, half tiled or half weatherboarded cottages.

We rented this barn for the week as a tenth wedding anniversary present to ourselves. Ten years ago when I first introduced M to just the idea of visiting Sussex he was not at all keen. He said he would feel like a fish out of water. That’s exactly how I feel with where I live right now. M did squirm a bit and try to lose his few northern pronunciations (his accent isn’t that strong compared to some regions close by). Over the years though he has come to love some of the places I’ve taken him to; Rye, Battle, Bexhill, Hastings, Brighton, Tunbridge Wells, Lewes and Ashdown Forest.

This week we’ve tried to slow down and not rush about visiting places. We brought the children here some years ago and did all the Pooh Bear sites such as the original Pooh sticks bridge, hundred acre wood (which is the five hundred acre wood here) and Hartfield which is where AA Milne lived at Cotchford Farm. M was quite sad that they are all grown up now. He wandered round the Pooh Corner shop looking quite forlorn. Eventually we decided that it wouldn’t hurt to have an old looking Pooh Bear at home for when we eventually have grandchildren. I think he’s just a big kid really but he didn’t get too much argument from me. I’ve never been a teddy person, or a doll person God forbid, but I like the vintage style of this bear.

We popped over to Tunbridge Wells one morning for no particular reason. We headed away from the modern shops and sought coffee in The Pantiles. Somehow M has a knack of being in the right place for picking up old ladies who have fallen over. I’m always with him but of course he hears the shopping hit the floor and rushes over. On this awful occasion the poor woman was head down a flight of stone steps. He kept her talking while he gently repositioned her legs and then gradually got her to a sitting position. A passer by thought he was an absolute expert and asked me if he was a doctor, I said no, he’s just very experienced at picking up old ladies! Thankfully the woman in question seemed fine after a sit down and a nearby shopkeeper invited her into the warm for a cup of tea.

After that drama we found a wonderful artisan coffee place and later we managed to find a whittling knife for M. I’ve got hand carved crochet hooks in mind, he likes a challenge! I gathered some wind fallen pieces of beech today for practice pieces but we’ve got quite a few choices in our back garden too. I did reflect on all the wealthy housewives laden with designer shopping bags and witnessing one who spent £280 on two cushions (freshening up the look for Christmas guests no doubt!) and thought how terrible I am at shopping in general and how happy I was that we found this little knife.

M earned husband brownie points by not moaning and protesting loudly over my suggestion to go for a short circular walk in Ashdown Forest today. I think I’ve harped on enough about how my childhood was filled with adventurous walks along clifftops, through woodlands, beside rivers etc. and he finally gets that I love walking! He hates it and doesn’t see the point at all which is not helped by the fact the fact that he has a back injury. I was prepared to go at snails pace and I was happy to stop when he needed to. Eventually we made it round this boggy woodland route, taking in what was left of the autumn colours, the views over the South Downs, little babbling brooks, rabbits darting for cover, the odd deer in the distance. Halfway round he said, yes I think I get this now, it’s actually quite beautiful. I could have cried. The reality though was that he was suffering quite badly. I always know when he’s really in pain because he actually complains less. It’s probably a man thing. He also goes quite pale which is a dead give away.

At Pooh Corner with warming ‘cappoohccino’s’ (their pun not mine) I told M that I really appreciated him attempting that walk, that it meant a lot. Sadly though I don’t think it’s ever going to be a pastime we do much of together. It’ll be back to the compromising that we worked out in Derbyshire this year, involving the car, a cafe and a crossword (while I hike a little).

Before we set off on our walk we exchanged numbers with a chap who had lost a golden retriever. He was waiting with the car and the second dog in case she found her own way back and his wife was out looking. Of course we know how this feels so we said we would join the search party but happily the dog turned up looking casual and wondering what all the fuss was about, as they do. Later in the day, on the way back to the barn we narrowly missed a small scruffy Terrier Jack Russell type thing trotting across a sixty mile an hour country lane looking a bit lost. I shouted stop and we hopped out and M managed to grab him first. He was quite friendly and immediately started licking M’s ear. He belonged to a man in a little cottage set back from the road who was very grateful for his safe return and didn’t realise that the gate had been left open. What with picking up old ladies and rescuing small dogs M has been quite the hero this week!

The best part of the week though, was being near enough to my Grandad for him to come over for a visit. My Uncle and Aunt decided to come and see the barn too and we all had a lovely catch up and lunch at the local pub. In fact that rather odd looking wallpaper with the ghostly Pooh Bear walking off into the woods with piglet is on one of the walls in the pub. I quite like the wallpaper design because the Pooh stories are, at the end of the day, just imagination. It’s rather how I felt about my childhood adventures in forests like this one and how I imagined our long gone little black cocker spaniel trotting off into the woods today.

We will both take a few ideas back to Lincolnshire with us. Ideas that can be stored away for the future. We’ve been amazed at how easily we could see ourselves living in just a small barn like this one, with perhaps a brick outbuilding or two. It’s really quite small with just one bedroom, a bathroom and open plan living room/kitchen but we wouldn’t need much more. M was also taken with the Sussex trug company here and could happily have moved in to their workshop as an apprentice trug maker. As a compromise (because his day job pays a bit more) I’m going to book him on to one of the two day introductory courses for next year. You can see how my cunning plan to make him fall in love with Sussex has worked out nicely this week!

Finally, because there’s always crochet talk here, I have made progress with just the one project this week. Totally focussed, no getting sidetracked with other things (even though I did bring three projects with me.) I’ll save the scarf pics for another post. It’s long, it’s thick, it’s super chunky and I’m a bit worried it’ll be too heavy to wear but even with the yarn substitution it still weighs the same as the recommended yarn so it must have been tried and tested. It will definitely wrap twice round the neck and still have plenty to spare. (Link to the pattern is in my previous post). I think I’ve managed to stay focussed on this one project because it’s been perfect for slight daydreaming whilst crocheting. I blame the hypnotic effect of the flames in the wood-burner window, so much more absorbing than the film we watched one night. I’ve frogged so many rows due to losing a stitch here or there but in super chunky that hasn’t been too bad.

Sussex Trugs: https://www.sussextrugs.com

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