After a long time of dreaming and planning a trip with my sister, we have arrived in the English countryside. Finding ourselves nestled in the East Sussex village of Kingston-near-Lewes in the guest house of Ian and Pippa Campbell (parents of a good friend of our family in Niagara) we are soaking up the local history, hiking the South Downs and enjoying this rare opportunity of being together, just the two of us.
The South Downs are not so much down as up…a stretch of chalk hills along the south of England. There is an ancient road from Roman times that climbs the Downs from the village to the South Downs Way, a 100 mile hiking trail and a view of the English Channel. From our guest house window the Downs crisscross in shades of green, fields separated by hedgerows and dotted with sheep and cattle. I am reminded of the daily presence of cattle in our lives growing up, the hours Heather and I spent in the spring time naming all the calves born on our ranch.
A short walk down a footpath takes us to a busy highway where we caught a bus to Lewes yesterday and Brighton today. Lewes boasts the ruins of an Norman castle (1068), the house of Anne of Cleves, the fourth wife of Henry the VIII and the ruins of a once large and famous Cluniac Priory. Walking the streets of the town is a tour through history with curious twists and turns at every corner and totally delightful.
Brighton is a completely different experience, being a vibrant and colourful city by the sea. Our time was spent touring the Pavilion, a decadent and rather outrageous seaside palace built by George the IV. If you know your royal history you will remember him as Prince Regent, the son of George III who filled in for him as King while he suffered from mental illness. There is little to admire of his memory as he racked up debts in his pursuit of pleasure, but his Pavilion, which is a bit ridiculous with its imitation of Indian and Chinese architecture and design though he had not visited either, is impressive and beautiful anyway. Unusually, it is owned by the city of Brighton and has been restored to its original state by many volunteers, including our host Ian Campbell.
We had to have fish and chips at the seaside in the shadow of the pier, full of its Niagara Falls-like flashing lights and fairgrounds, on the very stony shore. It was a beautiful day with full sun, though windy and Heather had hopes of taking a swim…she got her feet wet, I’ll give her that much. We then wound our way through the Laines poking in and out of shops. While we waited for the return bus we rested our weary feet in the gardens of the Pavilion. All in all….so much fun!
All photo credits go to Heather Hodgson.