When the train pulled into Amberly, it was like greeting an old friend. The gentle green hills were back in my sight and I was blissed out and happy to be once again putting one foot in front of the other in the beautiful farmland and chalk hills of southern England.
We passed dozens of tumuli- the primitive burial mounds that dot the countryside. Now that I know to look for them, I see them everywhere.
We hiked up to Chanterbury Ring, a hilltop fort, with a stand of beautiful wind-blown beech trees at the top.
The breeze coming off the sea gave lots of good lift off the hillside for the birds, and I saw so many Kestrels here. They are lovely fun to watch as they have the ability to hover, and swooping down and stopping inches above the ground, talons extended. If I find a good spot to watch them hunt, there isn't much that would drag me away. And mmmm, mice and voles, so delicious!
Bertrand Russel simply put it, "Any view that includes Chanctonbury Ring is a good view".
I can't find argument in that.
Alas, the sun was getting low in the sky, so moving became a priority.
We probably could have skipped this part of trail and headed to town early. It seemed to go on forever, and I felt the need to wash myself of these piggy smells urgently.
We spent the night at a cozy little guest house in Steyning. I was pretty excited because I had found a place for dinner that ended up being the best meal I'd had in a long time. If you are ever in the area, check out The Sussex Produce Company. They sourced local ingredients and treated them with love and respect- real farm-to-table ethics. I had fantastic fresh mussels, lovely honey glazed roasted root vegetables, a beautiful piece of fish, and a decently delicious organic red wine from the south of France. It was perfect, and so decadent after a 15 mile walk. We raved and swooned our way through desert. I would hike this bit of trail just to eat here again. Even better, I noticed that the couple sitting nearby had that peculiar English quality of moderation when it came to alcohol and had paid their bill and left a half a bottle of good wine on the table. A quick glance around and I made that bottle fly on over to our glasses, and we left the place quite jolly and relaxed.
I think the confluence of a perfect meal after a perfect day of hiking was just too much. Was it going to rain puppies tomorrow? Would some unicorn show up and grant me three wishes? Probably not, but I had this optimism that something amazing was about to happen.
Perhaps running around the hill fort seven times wasn't such a bad idea after all.