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Published: November 6th 2007
Sunday 4th November
Awakening early we had intentions of a quiet day and started with the morning papers and a few chores, however the Indian summer continues and we felt guilty wasting the sunshine. We thought a walk would be great so headed toward Hatfield Forest some 30 minutes away.
Arriving we discovered we weren't the only ones with a walk in mind. The place was packed with families enjoying the sunshine, children on scooters and bikes and couples walking their dogs. We were glad we'd thought to pack sandwiches as the queue for food was 20 metres long! We set off toward the lake where we found a wooden boardwalk. We were surprised that the forest didn't meet our definition of a forest as it had small groves of trees and large grassed areas. Looking it up on the Net later I discovered those groves were known as coppices and the definition of a forest is 'a partly wooded and managed area where past royalty could hunt for deer etc'. We'd hoped to see some wildlife, perhaps a deer but had to settle for a couple of squirrels and not too many of those. We felt a little
let down and after eating our sandwiches on a fallen log and walking a bit more we left.
We set off on a different route home and went through a village called Stansted Mountfitchet where we had a wander and saw an old mill and a Norman village. We'd both had enough so headed home where we were early enough to actually have a “nanny” nap, our first in many weeks, needed due to our early start and poor sleeping the previous evening.
Awakening with renewed energy a pot of pumpkin soup and a delicious pasta sauce were made for dinner. We opened the bottle of elderberry wine that Judy had bought for Rags in Burley and both enjoyed the slightly sweeter taste of this red.
Monday 5 November
All went smoothly this morning until Judy said, “Take the next exit”. She chose the next minute to look down at the next direction and when she looked up we were driving past the exit ramp to the M25 (known as the London Orbital). Oh no! We turned instead on to the inner ring road around London and this seemed to be travelling well so
we stayed on it past where we could have easily turned off only to have it slow down to almost nil speed. We then had to wait almost an hour before we could exit it and go back to the M25. By this time it was moving freely but it was still after noon before we reached Michelle's home in Crawley. (about 3 and a half hours since we'd left home!)
Judy and Michelle chatted animatedly about the family with Judy collecting the details as they spoke onto her family history program on the computer. Rags helped out by photographing certificates when needed but otherwise lost himself in his novel.
After about an hour we piled into the car and went to Michelle's grandparents for afternoon tea. (Jean wonderfully made us some sandwiches as we hadn't eaten lunch). Once again Judy tried to record the dates and the essence of the stories on the laptop. Before we knew it the afternoon had fled and it was time to pick up children from school so we also left for Brighton. With no intention of making the long drive back today we'd earlier packed an overnight bag and decided to
spend the night in Brighton as it seemed to have a few attractions.
Brighton is quite large and it took a while to find a B & B but we finally found somewhere to stay, "The Brighton Hotel" quite close to the Brighton Pier. We could see it from our window on the third floor! Dinner was had after a wander along the pier and through the pedestrianised streets at a popular old pub called “The Druid's Head”. Once back in our room we were entertained by the many fireworks that even now we can hear being let off outside on the beach as it's Guy Fawkes night tonight.
Tuesday 6th November
Had a reasonable sleep last night despite the room next door having their TV on loudly and despite the ‘whoosh & bang’ of fireworks being set off on the beach outside our room in the Brighton Hotel.
An excellent breakfast was served in the basement dining room, after which we donned warm clothing before setting off in the clear, cold morning with not a cloud in sight. We can’t get over how lucky we have been with the weather; we have had
a few cold mornings and a few grey skies, but no rain.
Photos were taken of the pier and the beach, Brighton in this respect being just what we had imagined from stories and pictures we have seen in the past.
Next we walked around the Royal Pavilion, which started as a small farmhouse for King George 4th and his wife Mrs Fitzherbert, who he is thought to have secretly married. This house was then expanded to what it now is in 1822.
From there we walked through the area known as The Lanes, a maze of antique and jewellery shops set in the streets of Brighthelmstone, the original village.
After leaving Brighton we came across the huge Brighton Marina that consists of a fishing harbour, leisure boat area, various boating type shops, holiday units, large ASDA supermarket, outlet stores, restaurants etc. It took us quite some time to explore it fully.
Driving east along the coast we passed through the quaint town of Newhaven before heading north. We intended stopping at Lewes but were a bit put off by the 2 pound parking they wanted for an hour!
Instead lunch was at Sheffield
Park gardens, a magnificently landscaped garden centred around 3 lakes and overlooked by what looks like a castle where the owner lives. A cynic may say that the owners gave the gardens to the National Trust because it was so expensive to maintain, thereby still getting the pleasure of it without the pain!
We decided to take the M25 home in an anticlockwise direction rather than traveling back the way we'd come as it seemed to be much shorter (even without the unwanted deviations we made) even though it is classed as a toll road. We were pleasantly surprised that the toll was only £1, and this was payable just before we entered the Dartford Tunnel under the Thames. It took us just over 2 hours of driving before we were unpacking our bags "at home".
We made the decision to have a day relaxing before we take off again. This time we will be driving to "The North" (as it is called on the road signs) We aren't sure how far we'll get but hope to get to Edinburgh and Perth. We'll leave on Thursday.
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