I had a great time last year taking the high road, so I wanted to do another English Country Walk on this year's trip to London. The ruler of the walk David Wenk was kind enough to swap the scheduled walks for the weekend so that I would be able to do my preferred walk to Bodiam Castle onthe Saturday.
We met up at the London Bridge station to take the train out to Robertsbridge. It's also possible to take that train from Charing Cross or Waterloo East, but this gives a few extra minutes. David and I were joined by a Czech and a Slovak who David knew. When we detrained at Robertsbride I did an extra side walk to recycle some newspapers at this beautiful bin.
We then headed off into Robertsbridge proper where we stopped in at a small used bookstore on the high street, and then we headed off into the countryside. Passing along the site of an abandoned rail right of way which some
volunteers are hoping to return to service for a tourist steam train I snapped this nice picture of a pillbox which would have guarded the line during World War II. We then proceeded into Salehurst for our first visit of the day, stopping to admire the 13th Century Church of St. Mary the Virgin, seen here
in a back view (center), and then we left Salehurst for the moment to begin some serious walking over to Bodiam Castle. We had good appetites all of us by the time we arrived at the City Inn pub across from the Castle grounds for lunch, and this was quite nice. I had some potato and wild garlic soup with baked camembert, David got a nice warm burger, and everyone else fish and chips, and while we ate a steam train
started off on an excursion across the field.
Bodiam Castle itself is just a wonderful, wonderful place to visit, and probably a must for
anyone wanting to write a fantasy novel with a castle in it.
Wikipedia questions since the walls are not very thick if it was much in the way of a genuine war toy, but in outward appearance it is the classic medieval moated castle and looks really quite gorgeous and also quite foreboding across the moat. Built in the 14th century and allowed to fall into decay starting in the 17th it's been moderately restored, and it's possible to climb up some of of the towers. These are views
looking up from inside the castle, looking across from inside, of the vineyard stretching up the adjacent hillside from one of the towers, and then looking across from that tower to more of the adjoining countryside.
There are bigger castles and smaller, of course. This one is kind of small, while Windsor Castle which we got to see from the air both coming and going into Heathrow is quite big. But even at Windsor Castle, the tallest tower is only so tall. And certainly at Bodiam Castle climbing the towers is no easy task. The stone spiral stairs are narrow and bendy and an old or arthritic body is no match for their treachery, and even the fleetest of foot will be hard-pressed to go charging up and down these stairs. Maybe the bigger Windsor Castle with so much pageantry gives a little more space to the staircases, but your garden variety castle...??? I kind of think not, and the next time I read a novel that talks about the old wizard's room being at the top of some eight-story high castle tower well apart from everyone I'm going to suggest the author do a little more research. Does the elderly wizard teleport? Did he have a knee replacement? Are these castle owners very very rich to build a tower so so high?
The trip back to Salehurst from a different direction took us along some paths less traveled through the hills of Sussex. This is hops country, not as much now as it used to be, but here we traveled next to one hops field where the hops may just be starting to grow at ground level and then climb the stakes kind of tomato like over the course of the growing season and then in the
next picture the two gleaming white dots in the distance would be two of the three that dot the roof of the oast houses which are used to dry the hops before the brewing process.
We stopped back in Salehurst, visiting the pub round the corner for some early evening refreshment. David Wenk took a picture of Wonder Woman coming by for some private function at the pub, but he can post that on his blog if he wants. We were running a bit late and made our way back from Salehurst to Robertsbridge by road instead of by country path, and had around twenty minutes at a train-side pub before getting a 20:10 back to London.
Two final pictures.
One is of a stile, the joy of the English Country Walk, which must be surmounted crossing from field to field along the way, designed to keep the footpaths open ony to dedicated walkers and not to motorcycles or snowmobiles or lambs or cows or nags or anything or anyone that can't go up and down one of these. This walk included one recently rebuilt cadillac of stiles, and then some on a little used footpath that are in such major disarray as to make the walk virtually impassable. We also got to cross a roman road at one point, now rebuilt for cars that go zipping along the ancient byway at such a good rate of speed that the great frogger himself would heartily approve of our scurrying.
Last year's River Towns of Essex walk had a more diverse set of walking experiences which allowed me to see more different kinds of things, but the centerpiece of the Bodiam Castle walk was truly exceptional, and there's much better shopping at the Castle gift shop than at any stop along the River Towns walk. In fact, I got some of the gifts of chocolate for my table at the London Book Fair from the Bodiam Castle walk. The fudge hand-made in Kent was a little disappointing, but one of the visitors at the Fair who selected the Kendall Mint Cakes was kind enough to share one with Eddie and I, and that was a sublime mint cake experience that I would happily have again. There were other varieties of foodstuffs made locally in the UK at or near National Trust sights to go along with some of the usual gift shop items.
I'd recommend either walk, and I hope I'll be able to try another English Country Walk the next time I am in the UK. And I'll say as I did last year, that if you are going to be in London at any point in the near future you really should check out the calendar and experience one of these walks for yourself.