In the year of Staycations, this one was our highlight. We had an amazing week away in August, with six other families from one of our closest friend circles. Amazingly we were able to find somewhere that could accommodate all 26 of us. We booked out the entire New House Farm Country Retreat, which meant we didn’t disturb anyone else, and felt completely secure as our children roamed freely from dwelling to dwelling.
It’s taken me a while to write about this because it was a really special trip, and I’ve been struggling to find the words to do it justice. In terms of our day to day activities, there are a lot of highlights to speak of. I will talk about them first, as fundamentally, this blog was created to share my holiday experiences with fellow travelers. However, there has always been a deeper philosophy underpinning it all, and this staycation, more than any other trip in the past two years, has given me pause to reflect on it once again.
The holiday itself had a little bit of everything. It was bookended by visits to Bodiam and Hever Castles, which are so different from each other, but equally worthy of going to see. In between, we filled our time on the farm with some wholesome, family centred activities: eating, drinking, playing games, swimming, and relaxing in the hot tub together. We took advantage of our countryside surroundings and went hiking in the woods, built a den in the forest with the kids, admired the vast array of animals around us, stoked up the fire pit, and gazed at the star-lit night sky, in which I saw my first ever shooting star.
All the unfettered free time around the Farm Stay was balanced by some structured excursions. Keeping to a rural theme, we visited Bedgebury National Park, where there was so much to do, we made two trips. On our first visit, we first explored the grounds on foot along the 3.25mile Hidden Secrets Of The Pinetum Trail, and then took the children to Go Ape after a picnic lunch. The second time out, we hired some good quality light weight mountain bikes. Taking one of the family friendly 5.6mile ‘blue’ biking trails, we got immersed ourselves even deeper into the forest for a few hours.
However, as a large group coming from London, we were never going to stay away from urban living completely. Therefore it was no surprise, that we found time to go shopping at the McArthurGlen Outlets in Ashford, and gave our patronage to a couple of nearby country pubs: The Milk House, and The Queens Inn. So as to not to leave the children out, we took them on the Rye Murder Mystery Walking Tour, which was a great way to keep them entertained, while we got see this really pretty historical town.
But as I was trying to say earlier, what made this a special trip, wasn’t the collection of sights we saw, nor the particular experiences I’ve listed above. When I reflect on this staycation, it’s clear that the source of our joy was the quality of our interactions with our friends, and the amount of time we afforded ourselves to spend in their company. What we actually did each day, didn’t really matter in the end. This seems very obvious; hardly a profound revelation. Yet, perhaps too often in the past, we have been guilty rushing around to do so many things, and when we could have spent more time sitting in the company of the many fascinating people we have met on our journey so far.
My husband and I have chosen to spend most of our lives traveling the world at every opportunity, and our experience has been a rich one. We’ve stopped briefly, because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, but I’m sure that next year, we will be going abroad again, as there is still so much more we want to see. Our time in East Sussex was with some of our closest friends, who are as family to us. However, the philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, (वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् ), – the whole world is one family, remains at the heart of this blog, and we will remember this as we hopefully return to international travel very soon.