Thailand – East Sussex: not much difference there. Oh apart from the rain and the mud and and the gales and the woolly sweaters…Although, as it turned out, this was a lovely second option. After my Thailand trip was cancelled, I cast around urgently for a place to go in England instead. Because of the storms sweeping Britain I didn’t want to travel too far, so this time my beloved Cornwall was out, and anywhere north of the Watford Gap was in danger of flooding.
I love East Sussex – I grew up just over the border in Kent and, not only is it beautiful here, but there are beaches, and woods, the Cinque ports to explore, great local produce to cook with and it’s only a two hour drive or so from London. Eventually I found a cancellation: a gorgeous converted cart lodge sleeping 4-5 people in the grounds of a farm in Ewhurst Green, a mile from Bodiam Castle. I booked it for ten days, and invited Hannah, Mark and Chloe to join me for the New Year weekend (sadly my sister was invited elsewhere and Rach was unable to make it), before I spent the rest of the week writing and cooking.
We all drove down last a week ago last Thursday, just in time for us to cook the NYE dinner. I had packed the car with flowers, cooking equipment, candlesticks, vintage cutlery and linen, and the table was laid, as a roast organic chicken with butter, lemon thyme and a lemon shoved up its bum was popped in the oven for Chloe and Mark, and Castelluccio lentils prepared by Hannah who had brought them back from Italy. (They are a traditional Italian NYE thing – they represent tiny coins to bring prosperity for the new year.)
As per, I was in charge of roast potatoes. I do wish that it wasn’t the law that however many you peel – and I peeled A LOT, there are never ever enough for leftovers. (We ate them all.)
Pudding was a giant brown sugar Pavlova (recipe in Friends, Food, Family) but this time topped with caramelized sliced plums and whipped cream.
We were quite restrained, so next morning was not toooo painful, and croissants and black coffee certainly helped. I brought my Nespresso machine with me – no way was I doing ten days with only a cafetiere for company.
We spent the day exploring – piling into the car to check out Dungeness point. It was ridiculously windy, and I couldn’t work out if Lettice was more likely to be blown away or grabbed by a monster seagull.
It wasn’t especially cold, but the wind cut right through one. I ended up wearing every single piece of clothing I had brought with me just in case. And I was still cold. Seriously regretting not packing any HeatTech.
Style notes: Eileen Fisher Funnel Neck Cable Knit Poncho in Beige, Barbour jacket, Topshop Dark Blue Jamie Jeans, Hunter Original Tall Wellington Boots in Navy, GAP Charcoal Scarf, Uniqlo Mens’ V Neck Cashmere Sweater, Lands’ End Squall Dog Jacket.
We gazed at Prospect Cottage, the late Derek Jarman’s house, out of the window, before heading to Rye for a very late lunch.
I had been doing frantic Googling for a place to eat, that was a) open – everywhere shuts by 3pm at the very very latest in the countryside, and b) dog friendly, and shortlisted three places in Rye. Thankfully the first place on our list was a stunner: The Globe Inn Marsh on Military Road, opposite these ravishing William & Mary (1834) cottages above.
As much as possible is sourced locally, and the food was delicious. Although they were seriously over-stretched in the kitchen, and we waited an hour to order, and got our food two hours after arriving. (We were warned of this when we sat down.)
An excellent Halloumi and mushroom burger in brioche
On Saturday morning I was a martinet: the weather forecast later on in the day was frightful, and I was determined that Lettice and Zelda should get their walks. We were up and out by 9am, headed to Brede High Woods, part of the Woodland Trust, and a quick five minutes away by car.
It was very, very muddy.
The rest of the day was spent napping, yoga-ing, cooking, and talking. On Sunday the others were leaving, so again an early start – off to Camber Sands for a dog walk. Sadly I couldn’t go on the beach, as my contacts were in danger of being sand blasted, so I stayed in the car and read Georgette Heyer on my phone’s Kindle app.
Starving, we drove in the driving rain to my second choice from New Year’s Day – The Ship Inn in Rye, for brunch.
It was excellent and extremely dog-friendly. (And hurrah for breakfast – there are not very many places that do breakfast around here.)
And they gave us pirate sweeties.
After breakfast I dragged everyone off to the Rye Heritage Centre to watch the son et lumiere show of the history of Rye, which I must have seen a zillion times as a child on school trips and family outings. It’s now called the Rye Sound & Light Show and costs a princely £3.50. It’s not *quite* as wonderful as I remembered, and it’s a lot shorter (15 minutes), so less history – apparently their main market is foreign tourists so it was a bit lost on them, but it’s still absolutely worth visiting. The model itself – of 19th Rye – is fascinating and it’s worth visiting just to get a sense of the layout of the town.
Then it was home to watch the others pack, as Lettice snuggled down on my knee.
The Globe Inn Marsh Rye: 10 Military Rd, Rye, East Sussex TN31 7NX. Telephone: 01797 225220
The Ship Inn Rye: The Strand, Rye, East Sussex TN31 7DB. Telephone: 01797 222233
The Cart Lodge, booked via the very nice people at Bramley & Teal Cottages. I paid £1000 for ten nights.