Southern England
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Welcome to Sussex!


This is our trip to Southern England/Sussex

For the Millennium New Year celebration (28 December 1999 through 2 January 2000), we traveled to southern England/Sussex, near the town of Battle. As it was in the middle of the holidays, several areas were closed, but we managed to see enough to keep us very busy and tired! We discovered on this trip to Great Britain that every where we turned was another piece of history to explore, another story to learn. It was amazing to realize that, although this is a "small island," it would take us a lifetime to explore it all.

We started out on our first day visiting Bodiam Castle on our way from London to our final destination. The audio tour was great! This castle is a late 14th century castle and considered one of England's most was truly beautiful. It was originally built as a defense against an anticipated French invasion, which never manifested. We walked all over the area and took several pictures! It was quite an experience walking on the spongy, soggy ground all the while trying to avoid the piles left by the grazing sheep. The views of, and from, the castle were spectacular! After our visit, we headed to our hotel. We stayed in the Brickwall Hotel in Sedlescombe, not far from Battle on the Roman road, next to an old Roman bridge. The hotel was built in the early 1597 for a local ironmaster. Due to some severe weather they had recently, the driving was a little worse than usual. We would find ourselves driving down a typical one lane country road just to find that a truck had gotten stuck on the ice and mud, and we would have to back up to a place where we could turn around without getting stuck, and then find another way around. Needless to say, the severe weather caused a lot of problems with ice and washed out roads.

The next day we took a drive to Rye and wandered all over the town. It is an ancient fortified town where each street name has a story behind it (e.g., The Mint street got its name form the 17th-century minting of tokens), and the buildings are named instead of numbered (e.g., The House Next To The Mermaid Inn). For 300 years, it had ports (beginning in the 11th century). Unfortunately, the harbor began to silt up in the 16th century, which resulted in the town now being located 2 miles inland. We fell in love with Rye! Any town that has more old book stores and tea rooms with roaring fires than anything else, is a dream town for the Hackstaffs. Every time we traveled to Great Britain, we took an empty bag just to carry books back to Germany with us. Needless to say, we filled it up with the many books we bought while we were there. After our tour to the top of the tower in St. Mary's Cathedral for a good view of the area, we headed for Pevensey Castle. (Safety Note: DO NOT time trips to the tops of church towers and place oneself in the bell tower ON the hour. It can be quite startling when the bells toll!)

  We thoroughly enjoyed Pevensey Castle. They had another great audio tour and we talked with the caretaker until the sun went down. This castle was originally a Roman fortress. After the Battle of Hastings (1066), the castle was besieged many times. In 1940, Pevensey was made ready to resist the enemy once can still see the W.W.II gun emplacements and pill boxes among the remains. We left Pevensey after sunset, which makes driving very interesting! While in England, it always seemed to rain at night, and we NEVER got used to driving 45-50 mph on those dark, narrow, wet roads, on the wrong side. . .it was always a thrill! One feature of the country roads we thoroughly enjoyed and depended on was something called cat eyes. More in this a little later.

The next day, we took the tour of the Battle of Hastings battle field. The battle took place in 1066. We had read so much about it while we were in Northern France and when we saw the Bayeux Tapestry with Eddie's parents, that the battle field had a lot of meaning to us. We spent four hours there. The caretakers were surprised we spent so long, because it was raining heavily. Even though this was our only rainy day, and the rain was freezing on the ground, we had to see every corner and listen to every recording on the audio tour. It was great and really sparked our imaginations. We had a fantastic time, albeit a very wet and cold one.

After touring the battle field, we headed to the city of Brighton on the southern coast because the Brighton Pavilion was still open. What an incredible site! To date, that was the most decadent palace we have ever toured. It was transformed from its original design to the current design by George IV in 1820. During the 1800's, Oriental design was all the rage and a new status/social symbol in the homes of the wealthy. This palace was transformed into an elaborate Oriental palace when the new design was completed in 1822. We didn’t stay in Brighton too long, because it was starting to fill up with people coming in for the New Year celebration, and was getting very crowded. So we ran back to our quiet little hotel for a relaxing evening.

For New Year's eve, the next day, we traveled the Winnie the Pooh region and took several walks. Our best walk was a wonderful stroll in the 100-acre wood to Poohsticks Bridge. Yep, there is actually a Poohsticks Bridge! Even though it was a typical winter day (damp and cloudy) we met several people taking there children for a walk to the Poohsticks Bridge to play "Sticks," also known as throwing sticks off the bridge to see which stick "beats" which in the race down the stream.  It was amazing to not only see the children but also their parents traipsing around in the rubber boots that Christopher Robbin always wore because of the marshes one had to walk through.100acreold.gif (160335 bytes)For a full size view of the 100-acre wood, click on the map to the right.  After our walk, we stopped in the town of Hartfield for a quiet tea with scones and honey at the Honey Pots Olde English Tea Rooms (at Stairs Farmhouse). Hartfield in East Sussex is where Pooh Corner is located and, while there, we bought lots of Pooh stuff at the Pooh Corner Shop. 

That night we had a great New Year's celebration at the hotel, which included a wonderful meal and dancing as late as we wanted to live music. While dancing, we soon discovered that the British like to dance in a circle, much like what is done during country and western dancing, and that they believe that everyone MUST become one with the circle. This was very difficult for us because we just wanted to dance and be left alone to do our thing. We actually ended up having had a nasty run in with one woman who kept stomping Eddie's foot purposefully everytime she and her partner danced close to us...she was not a small woman either. Sorry to say, the woman lost the foot-stomping contest when Eddie finally got tired of it and really stomped hard on her foot. She and her partner ended up dancing on the other side of the floor well away from us. At midnight, the hotel hosted the town's fireworks show. When all was finished, we retired to our room for a semi-quiet night.

On New Year's day, we got up a little late and went for a hike along the Seven Sister's cliffs near the town of Eastbourne. On the way to the cliffs, we took the back roads again and found some incredible old walled towns along the way and saw lots of damage from the recent flooding. We really can't tell you what the walled towns were called because we lost track of them...there are so many "old" towns in England! The cliffs are located in the Seven Sister's Country Park, which is part of the southern Downs. The Downs are parallel chalk ridges that run from east to west across Kent, Sussex, and Surrey. The Seven Sister's cliffs end abruptly as they meet the sea and are very white (chalk). They were spectacular! The bay at the foot of the Seven Sister's cliffs was where the movie, "Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves" was filmed. We saw the place where Kevin Costner jumped off of the boat and kissed the English soil. We really weren't all that thrilled, but thought we would mention it for those of you who are Costner fans! We hiked five of the Sister's (three through seven) and ended up chatting with a group of locals at the top of the seventh sister. While chatting with the group, we took the opportunity to ask them what are cat eyes. Everytime we saw the sign "Caution Cat Eyes Removed," we would immediately think of cats walking around with white canes! They explained that cat eyes are reflective, glass balls designed to be embedded in asphalt so that you can see the center line while driving at night, something we don't have in Colorado. Of course, after our question came theirs..."How are the Colonies these days?" We all had a great laugh and chat, and soon we were headed back down the trail. After our hike, we had a wonderful tea and scones at a café near the trail and then headed back to the hotel.

Our first trip to southern England was amazing and we hope to return one day soon to explore the sites we missed with this trip. As the British (comedians) say...."Just rub me up and down with a golfing umbrella" was that amazing!!!


Eddie and Sheena