I never visited the 100 Aker Wood when I was growing up. I’m not sure why not. It didn’t seem to get onto my parents’ place-to-go radar. There were other attractions nearby; Bodiam Castle, Camber, Hastings and Rye. Hartfield was probably in the wrong direction oor perhaps my parents weren’t Winnie-the-Pooh people.
Instead I remember eating peas and something at the Wish Tower in Eastbourne with my grandparents. The peas were clearly the highlight. The peas and the old people. Everyone in the Wish Tower was old and ate peas.
I don’t actually remember being taken anywhere very much when I was small. It didn’t really matter. We had the garden and the woods nearby. We built camps and played games with toy guns. It didn’t remotely feel like we were missing out. What you don’t know you don’t miss.
And yet Ashdown Forest was only ten or twelve miles away. It was just sitting there waiting to be discovered. And earlier this year discover it we did, Luca and me. It’s not far and on an otherwise unaccounted for Sunday it makes for a good explore.
This time however I took my camera. We somehow managed to enjoy it more than last. It has become familiar.
We set out for the Enchanted Place. It would have been more enchanted had a bull terrier of some description not bounded over, stuck it’s wet smelly schnoz into our lunchbox and tipped our little picnic off the bench and onto the ground.
It’s owners seemed very sorry. I grumbled and harumphed a bit. Perfectly decent peanut butter sandwich consigned to picnic oblivion for no good reason. So we marched off in the general direction of the heffalump trap which is, on the whole, a pretty good place to march off to if your picnic has been hijacked by something with a wet nose.
However one of the best things about the Gill’s Lap is its views . That from below the Lone Pine out West over the Sussex countryside is matched only by that from Galleon’s Leap itself
to the North out over Surrey and Kent.
But just as the High Weald offers great sweeping views it also offers intimacy. We walked down past Roo’s Sandy Pit through the Quarry car park, over the road and down the hill in the general direction of the North Pole.
Luca particularly enjoyed jumping over the stream that runs below Eeyore’s Gloomy Place last time we were here so we pushed our way into the woods and set about heading down precarious precipices, leaping vast chasms and almost getting our socks wet.
Luckily we didn’t. Wet socks would have been whatever the opposite of icing on the cake is to gloominess and thistles.
We came away having learned some important lessons about keeping thistles handy for things that want to eat your picnic and about the joys of a good stomp about the magical Sussex countryside.