Chilling out in Sussex & London

Trip Start Jan 01, 2011
1
Trip End Ongoing


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Where I stayed
Old Whyly

Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Sunday, February 20, 2011

Having searched long and hard for an easy Half-Term escape to somewhere warm, but interesting, we finally plumped for Sussex! A range of more exotic destinations had been researched (Croatia, Nice, Rome, etc), but either the flight times weren't right, or the hassle factor was too high. So we eventually settled for the familiarity of Sussex. Having searched through some old copies of The Guardian, I came across a promising-looking B&B near Lewes called "Old Whyly" - a smallish country house with promising write-ups, with the benefit of proximity to Brighton. 

I booked up for Sunday & Monday night, which fitted in rather well with an overnight stay chez Rita & John on the Saturday night, and a celebration of Vicky's XXth birthday. The long weekend started poorly, however. We set off from Rode just after 3pm on Saturday, with the promise of Live Commentary on the Stoke v Brighton FACup game to listen to on Radio 5. However, before we had got very far Brighton were 3-0 down, and I had lost interest! Then, we broke down! Fortunately the problem was relatively simple to fix, although we needed the AA to assist. By the time we were back on the road again we were about an hour and a half behind schedule, which was relevant as we had dinner in the boot (Liz and I were responsible for the catering - I hasten to add that my input was minimal). 

After a lovely meal, and restful stay, we set off at midday on Sunday for our next destination - the Bluebell Railway. We had been there many years before as a family, which Katie remembered in detail (down to the clothes she was wearing), whilst the rest of us only had the vaguest of recollections. The car park was full when we got there, but there was plenty of space on the 2pm train from Sheffield Park to Kingscote, via Horsted Keynes. I'm not sure how much it meant to the girls and Chris, but speaking for myself it was wonderful to be aboard a steam train, with the smells and sounds of the 60s. Even the loo smelled just like they used to! The round trip takes about an hour and a half, with about a 25 minute stop at Kingscote. Here there was an information board showing the plans to extend the line to East Grinstead, and meet up with the main line from London....the only impediment is the fact that a large cutting just outside East Grinstead has been turned into a landfill, and it will take 2m to remove it all and lay the remaining 4 miles or so of track. Amazingly the staff there seem to think this can be accomplished by next year. 

After a fascinating afternoon with the trains we jumped back in the car and headed for Old Whyly, just north of Lewes. The house was approached down a long drive, with a gravel turning circle at the front. I knocked on the door, to no response so we parked up and waited (playing a game of catch to pass the time). After about 15 mins some other guests arrived, and I decided to try the front door again - and this time it was answered! The owner, the lovely Sarah, had been ironing and hadn't heard us. No worries - we were all shown to our rooms, and then made our way to the drawing room for tea and cake. We chatted with the couple who had arrived shortly after us, and then it was time for a pre-dinner drink. Sarah was keen to have us seated for an early meal, as she was keen to watch South Riding at 9pm! Unfortunately for her another couple who were dining with us were lingering in their room, which delayed proceedings slightly. 

Dinner was very sociable - we all sat round a large circular table in the dining room, whilst Sarah served the meal. She was very much into cooking, and had recently attended a Waitrose cookery course in London, and was off to a Raymond Blanc course next week. The food, therefore, was very good. 

The next morning was chilly, but not wet. After a hearty breakfast we made use of the tennis court, and had our first game of the year. Everyone was rather rusty, but at least we had some exercise! Just after half past eleven we jumped in the car and headed into Brighton (taking a very minor detour to have a close up view of the new stadium at Falmer - where they are now laying the soil in readiness for the pitch! In Brighton we succumbed to a considerable amount of shopping, interspersed with a late lunch, before we headed to the Duke Of York's cinema to watch the remake of True Grit. We smuggled Olivia in (it's a 15 certificate!), and it was rather interesting that the hero of the film is a 14 year old girl with pig-tails (Olivia had woven herself two pig-tails that morning). 

The next morning (after another lovely breakfast) we packed up and headed for Haywards Heath station to catch the train to London Bridge. Our first port of call in the capital was the Fashion & Textile Museum, on Bermondsey Street, where we saw a very interesting exhibition of the works of Sue Timney. We then lunched at the rather decent Woolpack pub just across the road, before setting off for Bloomsbury to visit the Wellcome Collection for their current exhibition - "High Society", which charts the uses of mind-altering drugs through the ages! The upstairs gallery also had an interesting set of exhibits on the body and medicine, with many artefacts from Henry Wellcome's personal collection.  After that we split - Liz, the girls and Chris took a cab to Paddington, and thence home, whilst I travelled to Victoria by tube, and back to Haywards Heath (to retrieve the car), before taking in the Brighton v Plymouth match (a 4-0 victory!).

All in all, a very enjoyable long weekend!

 
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