The rôles were reversed. The pigs were squeakily clean and we were covered in mud. They didn’t seem to mind, and not one of them pointed a trotter at us. They belonged to a biodynamic farm near Forest Row in West Sussex. There was a café attached that I’d like to try another day.
Showing some prescience, the walk leader had warned the East Grinstead Circular ‘could be muddy’ when she submitted it for the South Bank Ramblers‘ current programme before the rains came and came again leaving swathes of the country under water.
I checked the internet for local flooding before putting my gaiters into my bag. But the forecast was for a bright sunny day, and the opportunity to be out and about with my boots on was too good to miss. Some twenty others evidently thought the same, though as we squelched through yet another muddy and sodden field, there were moments where the ironing almost became enticing. Dirty Lane might have been named for us.
By lunchtime the muddy part of the walk was over. We had forty-five minutes in Forest Row. Some headed to the church to eat sandwiches on the thoughtfully provided benches in the churchyard; the quick witted grabbed the sunny spaces outside the village hall and lunched in the warming sun. Some went to The Chequers Inn with its flagstoned floors and smell of woodmoke, and others bought lunch in the café.
I wandered about after I’d finished my sandwiches and took some pictures. The village hall dates from the late C19, but someone had pretensions with its exterior decoration and I liked its flamboyance.
The plaque commemorating a visit to Forest Row in 1963 by JFK was a surprise. I guessed he was staying with then Prime Minister Harold Macmillan at his Sussex home. This suggests I was right.
The sunshine held through the afternoon. In the morning we had seen horses grazing quietly. One or two had come to the fences for a nose rub. A donkey, its ears well forward, had watched our progress. Now it was the turn of dogs and children. We turned from lanes to a disused railway line. Cyclists scooted up beside us. A young German Shepherd became shy at our numbers and hid behind its owner. I loved the Collie watching us silently and longingly from behind a gate. One man ran with his dog, his two young children pedalling industriously after him. Woodpeckers tapped, the sky stayed blue and the grass was unfeasibly green for January.
We made it to the train in daylight and gradually dispersed at stations along the route. I changed trains at Blackfriars where the view over the City and the Thames was startlingly beautiful. No time for a photo as I needed to hurry to another platform for the last leg of my journey.
A perfect day out.