A sunny Sunday in Forest Row

This was an historic event, since it’s taken us many months to make our invitation to Forest Row happen.  The sun was shining after a miserable week of damp weather and I felt a flush of excitement and relief to leave the incessant routine of city life.  We don’t have satnav but I love maps  –  they do put places into some sort of context so you are not likely to drive off a cliff or end up being chased by an angry bull across a ploughed field, wondering all the while what could possibly have gone wrong with your expensive gadget.

Rudolf Steiner Central - Michael Hall

Rudolf Steiner Central – Michael Hall

Jonathan had taken us on a hike before lunch through fields and down to the edge of Ashdown Forest past a mysterious, silent lake, almost suffocated by water lilies.  Suddenly we were out in the open and walking across the manicured lawns of a big house.

At the bollard, go left ...

At the bollard, go left …

This ornamental lost bollard reminded me of the turbanned gravestones in Istanbul.   Then it was a hop over the fence and into unchartered territory, full of luscious blackberries, wild apples and damsons.   And a wealth of mushrooms.  Uprooted trees lay spookily like rotting hulks of old, storm tossed ships thrown up on deserted beaches.  The grass was a vivid green and a mole had been very busy underground.  The soil pushed up into molehills was soft and crumbled into a silky loam which fell between my fingers like sand.  All was silent as if waiting for a sign…

Rudolf Steiner bluescape

Rudolf Steiner bluescape

A spooky, rotten hulk bars our way ...

A spooky, rotten hulk bars our way …

Scrolling through into the Steiner garden ...

Scrolling through into the Steiner garden …

Echinacea  -  a pretty remedy for colds ... perhaps

Echinacea – a pretty remedy for colds … perhaps

Flowers and vegetables grow together here.  It’s like the companion planting that John and I learned long ago with Lawrence D. Hills of the Henry Doubleday Research Association.  For example, planting African marigolds amongst potato plants inhibits the eelworm pest.  Many flowers also have medicinal properties too  –  like feverfew for headaches.  The salicylic acid found in aspirin comes initially from the willow tree.

We came upon a weird structure set up against the garden wall.  It was a beehive – extraordinary –  but it seemed to be working as the bees were flying in and out.  They had a wonderful array of flowers to choose from.

An uncommon beehive

An uncommon beehive

Bee paradise!

Bee paradise!

There was a small, rustic biodynamic shop at one end of the gardens.  Jonathan bought us Swiss chard – one of my favourite vegetables.  We usually have it simply steamed, but in Nice it is a major ingredient of ‘tarte aux blettes’, made together with ricotta cheese and raisins.  A treat  –  for some!  We also found basil and oregano, before making our way back to a delicious, biodynamic lunch. Andrea is a cook to be reckoned with  –  lucky Jonathan!

At the biodynamic shop

At the biodynamic shop

Then back to the house, where Andrea and her mother, Peggy were waiting for us with Ariane and Kira.  Kira had actually accompanied us on the walk.  We were all famished and could hardly wait to sit down at the table, which was groaning under a fabulous array of dishes  –  oh happy days!

Jonathan and John putting the world to rights ...

Jonathan and John putting the world to rights …

Jonathan and Andrea have made a wonderfully exotic garden in the middle of the English countryside, which reminds them of the sunny climes of South Africa.  We even found an enormous tropical looking caterpillar which would eventually change into a giant hawkmoth.  After lunch we sat and chatted in the garden, enjoying the waning warmth of the sun and drinking wild mint tea while John and Jonathan put the world to rights.  I think we all wish this was an easier task but nevertheless they persevere!

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