I’d just finished my second book of the day (what else are lazy weekends for?) when a thought flashed across my mind. It’s time to put up more England photos. Some things are inevitable, but seem to never happen unless inspiration or motivation drops from the sky – and it has definitely been that way with these photos. After finally editing them this past week, I’ve been eyeing them on my hard drive, waiting to pull them out at the right moment. It seems somewhat redundant to show these photos now (I’ve been back for just as long as I’d been away), but some shoots/photographic sets seem to require maturity and age. As I look at these photographs, I remember the lonely roads that brought me to Sussex, and the land itself. The only signs of human habitation were the occasional trains speeding across the rails – most wouldn’t even stop at the Southease station. A truck rattled through the dusty road that ran across the tracks. Stepping off of the train was like being transported to an entirely different universe; one that was inhabited by the tall grasses that waved against the blue-grey sky and the blue waters of the river that wound around a corner and disappeared into the distance. I could list on one hand the number of people that I briefly passed along the way. I wish I was a brave enough traveler to engage the ‘locals’ in conversation – I might have avoided several things that happened to me on this particular trip to Sussex and I might also have more interesting stories to bring back to you. However, you will pardon me if I didn’t speak to those I met along the way. I wasn’t about to test my luck with the fishing guys who yelled after me (you know – young girl. alone. maybe a little lost.), so you’ll have to content yourselves with the stories that I do have for you. What might I have avoided by speaking to the ‘locals’? I probably wouldn’t have gotten as lost. I stepped off of the train at 2:30pm. I had plenty of time. Unfortunately, I’d already missed a train in Victoria, so I was already running a bit behind. However, Monk’s House was scheduled to be open until five, and the walk to Rodmell was only a mile and a half. What is Monk’s House? It is the home that Virginia Woolf lived much of her married life (away from London) in. I’d just finished a tutorial at Oxford on Virginia Woolf, and as a sort of final pilgrimage, I decided to go to Monk’s House. The closest train station was Southease, so I decided to hike in from there. First of all, never just decide to take a public footpath along the river without knowing exactly where it is leading you. I’m fairly certain that I made it most of the way to Charleston before I realized that I was actually going the entirely wrong direction. Secondly, never cut across sheep/cow pastures. The animals won’t hurt you, but the “fences” will. The British seem to be fond of using small marshes to separate their pastures, and these marshes are surprisingly deep and fairly disgusting. Crossing them is not a great idea. A good hour later, I had retraced my steps and reached the main road again. Fine. It must be the other footpath. The website said that you could get there by following the public footpath. Don’t ever listen to official websites that mention an ambiguous footpath, unless you have a solid amount of time and energy at your disposal. Definitely don’t do that. A good half hour or so later, I was traipsing through a set of fields that I’d managed to get myself trapped in (thank you, farmers with effective marsh fences). It was probably around 4:20 or 4:30 by the time I got out of that maze. I was a mess. I may or may not have almost cried a couple of times. I wanted to reach a main road, and I wasn’t about to double back to do it, because that would mean passing the fishing guys to do it (paranoia was kicking in, obviously). Finally, I found the right footpath. It wasn’t a public footpath, it was a permissive footpath. (I gave myself permission to use it, and kept walking.) By that time, I was tired, damp/wet/drying and discouraged. My only encouraging thought was that I would have so many stories to tell when I got back (if I got back – ha!). Virginia would find this route more amusing anyways, right? I think she would. 4:45. I was on the footpath, almost at Rodmell. I had resigned myself to the fact that I would not get to see Monk’s House, and walked through the neighborhoods, looking at the quaint cottages and awe-inspiring gardens. Of all the small country towns I saw or drove through, Rodmell was possibly the most classic and quaint town that I visited. Every house had a garden. I saw two bed and breakfasts, but no hotels or huge stores. The pub sat at the head of the street – a gathering place for villagers. (If I were to go back to England, I think I would start in Rodmell and hike/train through the English countryside. I loved the small town and the silence and beauty of the countryside, as opposed to the comparatively huge cities I’d been staying in.) I reached Monk’s House just in time for them to close the house. The visitor’s center was still open, catering to a few visitors who had arrived much earlier and were finishing their tour. I remarked on my tardiness, and looked around for a few moments. As I started to walk up the lane (to leave), I saw the sign in front of the house. Open until 5:30. The closed sign was already on the garden gate, but I sprinted hopefully back to the visitor’s center. The gentleman at the desk informed me that the house closed at 5:00. However, I need to go change the sign on the gate anyways. I’ll let you into the garden for a little while. (The sign on the gate was already changed. I am so incredibly grateful to this guy.) I walked around Virginia Woolf’s garden. If I had said that I was happy to be there, that would have been both an understatement and absolutely untrue. I will admit to all of you, my readers, that I wept of both joy and exhaustion/relief in the gardens of Monk’s House. After the gardens, I walked to the pub up the street and read To the Lighthouse over a hot meal before leaving on my 8:00 train. Life is funny, and unpredictable, my friends. I went on a number of trips that went according to plan, yet this is the one that I remember most vividly. I would do it again in a heartbeat. I think Virginia Woolf might approve. What do you think?
Published by Amanda @ Farmgirlwrites
I started my blog as a 13-year-old farmgirl... and now I'm twenty-something seminarian. My blog is a chronicle of these crazy adventures. View all posts by Amanda @ Farmgirlwrites