stationcombientumaimesShe was once the love of my life, and since she studied French in Montpellier, she asked me to visit some of her old friends, in October 2005.

montpellierarcdetriomphe1The Arc de Triomphe in Montpellier. I love university towns, because you’ll find all kinds of people there.

montpellierfacultedesdroitsThe Faculté des Droits, in the Old Town.

montpelliervieilleporteLa Veille Porte.

montpellieruniversity1Montpellier University.

montpellierplacestannePlace St. Anne.

montpellierplacedelacomedieoperaThe Opera, on Place de la Comédie.

montpellierplacedelacomediemarcheMarket on Place de la Comédie.

montpellierplacealbertI2Place Alberti.

montpellierpizzeriadonpepino1Pizzeria Don Pepino, in the Old Town. The owners had the friendliest Labrador.

montpellierhallescastellan3Les Halles Castellan, the indoor market.

irishpubdublinermontpellierThe Dubliner. There are several Irish pubs in Montpellier, and the nice thing about them is that you will find people from all over the world there, many of them being students who want to practice their English. Who need an English Faculty if you’ve got Irish pubs?

irishpubfitzpatrickmontpellier1It says “Maison Justin Boch”, but actually this is my favorite Irish pub in Montpellier, the FitzPatrick.


irishpubocarolansmontpellierIrish Pub O’Carolans


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The Cricketer’s Arms, Berwick Village, East Sussex

Conveniently located off the A27, in the shadow of the South Downs, in walking distance from Berwick Church famous for it’s Bloomsbury painting’s, historic Alfriston and the South Downs Way, we’ll find the Cricketer’s Arms, and we’ll find it every time again.

A traditional flint stone cottage pub nestling below the South Downs, in the Bloomsbury countryside and with many popular walks. Beautiful cottage gardens, homemade food using local produce and award winning Harveys’ ales served direct from the cask.

We love this place, and so does everyone we take to the Cricketer’s Arms. The phone booth is there so you can let your loved-ones know how much you’re enjoying yourselves.

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Middle Farm, Firle

John Pile first took over Middle Farm in October 1960, and he and his family have run the business here ever since. The land at Middle Farm was notoriously difficult to farm, due to its very heavy clay soil. So Mr Pile and his wife Vivienne knew that immense hard work, determination and imagination would be needed to make the business viable. 

However the business still struggled, until John and Vivienne had a revolutionary idea. They had eggs, milk, apples from the orchard, and Vivienne baked wonderful bread, cakes and jam – so why not set up a shop right here on the farm, selling produce made at Middle Farm and by other local producers? 

And so Middle Farm Shop opened, one of the first farm shops in the country. At first the shop operated from the farm kitchen, but it soon became so popular and well-known that more space was needed. So some of the beautiful Victorian farm buildings were converted, and the shop moved to its present premises.  

In more recent years, Mr Pile set up the cider business, collecting cider from small farms all over the west country to sell at Middle Farm. In the 1990s, part of the farm was opened up to the public and schools – another innovation which has since been followed by many other farms.

A restaurant was also opened, to showcase dishes cooked from local ingredients, and a Gift Shop was set up in the former cart lodge. A plant shop was added, and more recently Mr Pile has developed a new business selling animal feed and housing. John Pile is still at Middle Farm almost every day. Since 2002 he has held the tenancy jointly with his daughter Helen. Helen and her husband Rod have continued the family tradition of celebrating British food and farming with passion and innovation.

Old Apple Tree we wassail thee...

Helen and Rod have expanded the cider shop into the world-famous showcase for traditional cider and perry that is today, and they have also set up the fabulous Middle Farm Apple Festival, the annual Wassail, and many other events. The Wassail evening takes place every January. A Wassail is a winter celebration, traditionally held on Old Twelfth Night, to ensure that the orchard is fruitful in the coming months. At Middle Farm the Wassail is accompanied by music and dancing, mummers and Morris men, hot food, mulled cider and local ale.

The last 50 years have seen many highs and lows, but we have survived and even thrived, in spite of all the difficulties that farming has faced during that time. However, none of this would have been possible without their wonderful, dedicated and passionate staff and customers, who have made Middle Farm such a success over the last 50 years. Let us hope that it will continue for many long years to come.

Nestling at the foot of Firle Beacon on the South Downs in Sussex, Middle Farm is a 625 acre working family farm. There is something for every member of the family to enjoy. 

Six generations of farming have given the Piles a unique insight into British food production. The highest standards of animal welfare and environmental care show in their milk and meat products. They demand those same high standards from everyone whose produce they stock. They aim to promote the excellence of British farming by presenting to their customers the finest food and drink from the British countryside, maintaining the best of all that is traditional, whilst welcoming innovation wherever they find it.

Daily events

• 10.45am
Guinea Pig Feeding
• 11.30pm
Pig Feeding
• 2pm
Pat-a-Pet (weekends/school holidays only)
• 3.30pm
Milking time – Watch the cows being milked

There is no charge for entry to Middle Farm, apart from the Open Farm where tickets are £4.00 per head. There is no charge for children under 3. Season tickets also available at a cost £35 per person or child.

There is ample free parking, and the car park and farm shop buildings are all within easy walking distance of each other, with good access facilities for the elderly and disabled.

Coach parties, groups, birthday parties and school parties are welcome, but please book in advance to ensure that there is room for you.

Middle Farm cares passionately about the quality of produce in their farm shop and for the last forty years have selected only the finest meat, cheese, dressings, pickles & preserves, ice-cream, seasonal fruit and vegetables from like-minded small-scale producers. They source locally where possible, and offer a comprehensive range of organic produce.

Their traditional butcher specialises in additive-free meat and poultry, including their own home-produced beef, pork and lamb. They also make 20 different varieties of sausages. A wide range of cured bacon and hams and a selection of cooked meats is available. Try some venison, pheasant, or wild boar, and other game, available fresh in season. A butcher is always available to make sure that you get exactly the cut you require. Please place your order with the butcher, by phone or when you visit.

In their bakery they make a fantastic range of cakes, scones, fruit and savoury pies and complete meals for you to cook at home. They have fresh bread daily. They also produce a small range of frozen gluten–free cakes & meals.

Middle Farm stock 50 different British cheeses, including traditional varieties such as Quickes Farmhouse Cheddar, Cropwell Bishop Stilton and the more unusual Sussex Slipcote, Flower Marie.

With a log fire in winter, and sun-filled courtyard in summer, their Plough Monday restaurant serves delicious home-made, country recipes freshly cooked every day in the farm kitchens. Enjoy a reviving morning coffee, a lovely light lunch (there is always a vegetarian option) or a sumptuous Sussex cream tea with their famous scones. They provide smaller portions and healthy lunch boxes for smaller people.

Come and meet the friendly chickens, ducks, spotted pigs and donkeys. Don’t miss the playful rabbits and guinea pigs. There are timed events throughout the day, including the prize-winning pedigree Jersey cows being milked each afternoon.

Angora / Toggenburg goats

Middle Farm has an outdoor playground and a hay play barn, a nature trail around the farm and a picnic area. They can also cater for educational visits.

The National Collection of Cider & Perry is a unique celebration of our national fruit. Visitors can taste, compare and buy from a range of over 100 different draught ciders and perries (including our own Pookhill Cider). As well as a huge range of meads, country wines and fruit liqueurs, the Collection holds a carefully selected range of draught and bottled ales. They also stock English cider brandies, apple gin, apple vodka and apple eaux-de-vie. Fresh apple juice is pressed daily, and an apple-pressing service is offered throughout the late summer and autumn.

Middle Farm is situated on the main A27 Lewes to Eastbourne road, between the villages of Firle and Selmeston. The nearest stations are Glynde (2 miles) or Lewes (5 miles).

You can visit the Open Farm from 10am until 5pm with last admission at 4.30pm.

Middle Farm is open from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm every day except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

Middle Farm regrets that they cannot welcome dogs (except assistance dogs) onto the Open Farm area.

Click here to visit Middle Farm’s beautiful website


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Highwoods, Bexhill-on-Sea

Highwoods, Bexhill

We’re still trying to discover the perfect woods to walk our Labrador Boris, so we visited Highwoods in Bexhill, on the map above just about the spot marked as “Gotham”.

Welcome to The Highwoods

Britain’s remaining natural woodlands are disappearing at an alarming rate. They are an asset which, if lost, cannot be replaced.Bexhill has one of the few surviving examples of traditional coppiced woodlands left in East Sussex in the 87 acres (35 Hectares) of the Highwoods. The Highwoods Preservation Society arranges periodic coppicing work.

The Ashdown Brickwork, next to the woods (the white spot on the map) are under threat to be turned into a landfill site. BALI (Bexhill Against Landfill / Incineration) are objecting to the plans.

Since the early 1980’s Highwoods Preservation Society volunteers and others have, under a management agreement with the Rother District Council, safeguarded this local beauty spot and wildlife habitat for the benefit of the public–and the birds, animals  and plants.

Under the agreed management programme footpaths have been widened, drained and waymarked. A horse ride has been cleared and signposted so this long-established public use of the woods can continue without risk to walkers or damage to the area as wildlife habitat. More recently a disabled path has been added.

Overgrown ponds have been cleared and returned to use as a valuable part of the ecology of the woodlands. A dry heath has been cleared of bracken andencroaching silver birch. Regular surveys are taken of wildlife seen in the woods. As a result of careful and planned woodland management their number and variety is rising.

For the benefit of Highwoods Preservation Society members and many other interested organisations, regular conducted walks around the woods are now organised. Local schools also use the Woods as part of their environmental education.

A saw pit in the Highwoods. The woods are designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the ‘Sessile Oak Coppice’ is said to be the finest in southern Britain.

Regular public walks are given by the warden, and on these walks he is able to point out the wildlife of the woods at that time of the year.

Our boy Boris enjoying a swim in a pool that once was used as a swimming pool by school boys from Bexhill.

If you ask Boris, he certainly wants to come back to these woods.

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Hope Cottage Farm Shop, Ninfield

Hope Cottage Farm Shop and Tearoom

Yesterday we visited Hope Cottage Farm Shop, on Hooe Road (B2095) to Ninfield, East Sussex.

Slow Dog Crossing

The sign outside the Farm Shop says, “Slow Dog Crossing”. We saw the slow dog, but it wasn’t about to cross anything, anytime…

Slow Dog, actually crossing

After 10 minutes the Slow Dog decided he had to do his thing, and he started to cross the parking lot. Very slowly…

Hope Cottage Tea Room

In the comfort of the cosy tearoom we sampled the scrumptious homemade cakes and pastries. The also serve a mouth-watering High Tea at 8.50 per person.

It’s peculiar, and not very clever, businesswise, but in many English Tearooms, like the one on Eastbourne Pier, they don’t serve espresso coffee. However, to my surprise they serve an excellent espresso in Hope Cottage Farm Shop.

Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

Hope Cottage Farm Shop has a wide choice of fresh fruit and vegetables. They also stock horse and pet feeds, locally made cards, crafts and jewelry.

Hope Cottage Farm Shop will be hosting an annual Michaelmas Fayre on Sunday 11th September 2011 and are now looking for exhibitors.


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Battle Great Wood

A couple of miles north of St. Leonards-on-Sea I’ve found Battle Great Wood, I nice place to walk our dog Boris.

Boris loves woods. He enjoys the smells of other dogs, and the smells of other dogs, and the smells of other dogs, and most of all the smells of other dogs.

You will find Battle Great Wood’s parking place and entrance on Marley Lane, east of Battle, East Sussex TN21 – England, UK.

In the 10th and 11th centuries great swathes of land across East Sussex were covered in a great mass of woodland. Most of this woodland has now gone, but the Battle Great Wood can still be enjoyed.

The wood is managed by the Forestry Commission and covers nearly two hundred acres of mostly coniferous woods. Battle Great Wood is a fantastic place to walk, ride and spot the wide range of plant life and wild life.

And Boris likes sticks. Boris has found an ancient stick in a pond, and there’s something strange about the stick — it won’t float!

Where is the flipping stick?

Battle Great Wood consists mainly of oak, birch, beech and coniferous woodland, with areas of heathland, ponds, streams and sweet chestnut coppice. There is a wealth of wildlife, with Badgers and Deer, birds such as Nightjar, Tree Pipit and Crossbills, and many common woodland butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies.

The well kept pathways offer easy walking without stiles, although there are some hilly sections. And after heavy rainfall the trail might be quite muddy.

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Bodiam Castle

Bodiam Castle, north view, with the gatehouse and the Barbicon

Imagine that a modern-day warrior like General Petraeus would fight his battles in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, and Iraq, and come home as a billionaire, to build a castle from scratch in New Hampshire with the money he looted. We would be a bit surprised. Mind you, you’re allowed to loot, you’re even supposed to loot when you’re representing your country in a war situation, but the government wants all of it.

Bodiam Castle, view of the south-west tower and postern tower

Things were different in the times of Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a former knight of Edward III. Edward Dalyngrigge was a younger son, so deprived of his father’s estates, but he manaaged to make his own fortunes. He was a highly successful soldier and when he returned from the wars in France, laden with plunder, he found the need to advertise his local status with a castle. Dalyngrigge was one of many Englishmen who travelled to France to seek their fortune as members of Free Companies – groups of mercenaries who fought for the highest bidder.

Bodiam Castle, from the south-west

In 1377, after a short break, the fighting between England and France resumed. During the war, England and France struggled for control of the English Channel, with raids on both coasts. In the face of renewed hostilities, Parliament voted that money should be spent on defending and fortifying England’s south coast, and defences were erected in East Sussex and Kent in anticipation of a French invasion. In 1385, a fleet of 1,200 ships – variously cogs, barges, and galleys – gathered at Sluys, the Netherlands; the population of southern England was in a state of panic. In autumn that year, in the scheme of the fortifications, Edward Dalygrigge was granted a licence to fortify his manor house. Richard II recognized the threat (and probably Sir Edward’s desire for personal aggrandisement) and granted Dalyngrigge a license to crenellate the walls and make Bodiam look like a “proper” castle even though, in real terms, it was little more than a fortified manor house.

Bodiam Castle, north wall from the inside

Dalyngrigge’s licence from Richard II permitted him to refortify his existing manor house, but instead he chose a fresh site to build a castle on. Dalyngrigge acquired the estate and manor of Bodiam through his marriage to the heiress Elizabeth Wardeux. This manor house was not where the present Castle stands, but to the North of Bodiam Church in the adjacent valley of the Kent Ditch.

Bodiam Castle, south-west tower

Construction was completed in one phase, and most of the castle is in the same architectural style. So Bodiam Castle was built quickly, inside four years, probably because of the threat from the French. Stone castles were usually time-consuming and expensive to build, often costing thousands of pounds. Dalyngrigge was Captain of the port of Brest in France from 1386 to 1387, and as a result was probably absent for the first years of the castle’s construction. It replaced the old manor house as Dalyngrigge’s main residence and the administrative centre of the manor.

Bodiam Castle - Floor plan

It is not recorded when Bodiam Castle was completed, but Thackray suggests that it was before 1392; Dalyngrigge did not have long to spend in the completed castle, as he was dead by 1395.

Bodiam Castle, from the kitchen looking to the Great Hall

In fact, Bodiam Castle was never attacked by the French. In November 1483 it was besieged by Yorkist troops during the War of the Roses, but the owner, the Lancastrian Sir Thomas Lewknor, surrendered without any significant resistance.

Bodiam Castle -- The Kitchen

The castle kitchens were adjoining the Great Hall and two massive fireplaces, complete with brick ovens, spits, griddles and a horde of servants would have supplied the mountains of food required by the castle’s inhabitants. A spring-fed well in the base of an adjoining tower provided cool, clean, fresh water and the castle dovecote would have provided an excellent source of cheap fresh meat.

One of the two massive fireplaces in the main kitchen

As many as one hundred people would have lived and worked inside Bodiam. There are the remains of twenty eight fireplaces in the walls and thirty three garderobes (medieval toilets) drained unpleasantly into the moat.

Bodiam Castle - Collection of Rain Water

The buttery had a cellar and was used to store ale and wine, while the pantry held the supplies for the kitchen. To prevent heat from the cooking fires becoming unbearable, the kitchen was as tall as the curtain walls to provide a large space to absorb the heat. In the south-west tower was a well, from which water would have been drawn for the household.

Bodiam Castle - From the south-west tower looking at the nort and north-east towers

Leading off from the Great Hall would have been the lord’s private chamber and sleeping quarters. The Chapel would have been in the same area, as well as his lady’s suite of rooms. The castle walls were effectively a three storey building that surrounded the central courtyard providing Dalyngrigge and his entourage with unprecedented space and comfort.

East of the main gatehouse was a two-storey building with a basement. The basement was probably used for storage while the above two floors provided accommodation. The purpose of the buildings along the west end of the north range is uncertain. The sparse arrangement, with little provision for lighting, has led to suggestions that it was used as stables, however there are no drains which are usually associated with stables. The tower in the north-west corner of the castle had a garderobe and fireplace on each of the three above-ground floors, and there was a basement underneath.

North gate of Bodiam Castle, with the remains of the Barbican

From the west side of the moat, a wooden bridge (defended by a drawbridge) spanned the moat to a central octagonal shaped stone island. This bridge then turned ninety degrees to the north face of the castle, through a defended Barbican, (sadly little of this remains) then up to the front door and its own defended Gatehouse. Attackers then faced machicolations, three pairs of heavy doors, three portcullises and further ‘murder holes’ in the vaulted passageway.

Carp in the moat os Bodiam Castle

Lord George Nathaniel Curzon purchased the Castle in 1916 and undertook the research and restoration of Bodiam Castle that visitors enjoy today. Lord Curzon had decided that “so rare a treasure should neither be lost to our country nor desecrated by irreverent hands”. Curzon began a programme of investigation at Bodiam in 1919, and with architect William Weir restored parts of the castle. The moat, on average about 5 ft (1.5 m) deep but 7 ft (2.1 m) deep in the south-east corner, was drained and 3 ft (0.9 m) of mud and silt removed; during excavations the original footings of the bridges to the castle were discovered. Nearby hedges and fences were removed to provide an unobscured view of the castle. There were excavations in the interior, and a well was discovered in the basement of the south-west tower. Vegetation was cleared, stonework repaired, and the original floor level re-established throughout the castle. A cottage was built to provide a museum to display the finds from the excavations and a home for a caretaker. The Castle was bequeathed to the National Trust by Lord Curzon who died in 1925. 

The National Trust continued the restoration work, and added new roofs to the towers and gatehouse. Excavations were resumed in 1970, and the moat was once again drained. Bodiam Castle was used in Monty Python and the Holy Grail in an establishing shot identifying it as “Swamp Castle” in the “Tale of Sir Lancelot” sequence.


– Wikipedia

– History UK



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