Weekends in the Country: Bateman’s

I’ve never appreciated living in Sussex quite as much as I am right now. Of course, during the week, it means I spend what feels like half my day on the train, but at the weekends…well, I’m more than grateful. We’re surrounded by endless fields that come alive in May with lush verdancy, complete with grazing cows and the odd chicken (sometimes the VERY odd chicken…) And of course, we’re in a National Trust hotspot, bordering with Kent. And so, Mama Simmons and I took off in the car for a country road trip.

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Sloping along the winding path through banks of wild flowers at Bateman’s, I stopped for a minute to feel the sun beating on my shoulders, and to breathe in the scent of a nearby azealia. I suddenly felt a million miles away from the dawdling, sweaty, claggy train journeys that bookmark my weekdays now. For those of you who haven’t been card carrying members of the National Trust since you were born (like me…), Bateman’s is Rudyard Kipling’s house, and boasts rolling lawns, overgrown meadows, a working mill, and the occasional friendly chicken.

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At this time of the year, the wisteria was in fine fettle, there was green as far as the eye could see, and lazy bees drifted through rustling trees.

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Ain’t nobody here but us chickens.  (and duck).

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Of course, a true middle-aged Saturday wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a garden centre. I got a bit overexcited. I’m going to be spending my Sunday morning planting up round carrots (wut!), purple cauliflower, strawberries and pineapple mint. PINEAPPLE MINT!

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Bottom line: the National Trust is ace. Find your nearest properties here , but I’d strongly recommend getting a membership card – a young persons card is £26 a year, and you really only need to visit three properties and it pays for itself!

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Ski Monday

I’ve never been skiing. Ever. I successfully avoided years of ski trips at school because, while I quite liked the sound of the apres ski part, I was mildly terrified about the actual…well, skiing. It’s just not in my realm of experience. I love being active, but my experience has been in things like dance and running, where you’re completely in control of your own body and not strapped to two big planks of wood (although there was that one avant garde physical theatre piece….) Growing up, we always had beach holidays as my dad is a body boarder and surfer, so I’m far more at home in the sea than on snow.

There’s another aspect to it too – up until a few years ago, I hated going outside my comfort zone. It came of not being too confident in myself, which meant I only liked to do things I had control over, and putting myself in a situation where I’d probably fall over a lot and look an idiot didn’t come under that remit. A few years ago something clicked and now pretty much everything I do is outside my comfort zone in one way or another. I love pushing myself, I love trying new things, and I really don’t mind if I look an idiot while doing them.

When my friend Mikey told me that Bowles, the local outdoor activity centre, was looking for six completely inexperienced people to come in for a free skiing session, I knew I had to give it a go. Bowles is amazing; you can climb rocks, learn to canoe, and obviously ski or snowboard. The staff were extremely cheerful and welcoming, and I didn’t for one minute feel worried. Well, apart from having to write down the name of my next of kin…

We were there to form part of an interview for a potential new instructor, the lovely Jonathan, who was wonderful. We got used to our boots, then our skis, and eventually we got to go down a very teeny slope and practice running and stopping. It was all perfect for a total beginner like me, and it was just enough to give me the skiing bug. I’m so surprised at how much I enjoyed it! It’s such an alien activity for me but I wanted to keep going and going. Huge thanks to Bowles, and I’m DEFINITELY going back for more! If you’re around Sussex/Tunbridge Wells and keen to give it a try, I can’t recommend them enough.

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