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A Winter Escape To Robertsbridge

March 17, 2013
Rooftops in Robertsbridge

Rooftops in Robertsbridge

As much as I love living in Woolwich, I also enjoy getting away from it every now and then. Afterall, I didn’t come all the way from Melbourne to stew solely in the juices of SE18. So when I scored an invitation to the opening of Julian Anderson’s show at Blackshed Gallery, outside the picturesque village of Robertsbridge, I decided to make a weekend of it.

Despite being only slightly more than an hour by train from London Bridge, most of my friends and colleagues had not heard of Robertsbridge, which surprised me. It has a few claims to fame: it’s the home of Gray-Nicolls cricket bats, it features in the opening lines of Hilaire Belloc’s novel The Four Men, and one of its pubs, The Seven Stars Inn, is known to ghost-hunters as one of the U.K.’s most haunted pubs. It’s also part of the 1066 heritage trail. And when Horace Walpole visited Robertsbridge in the 18th century he noted how difficult it was to find a spare room: he snapped up the last bed in town, the rest being occupied by smugglers.

I had quite a bit more luck than Horace. Unlike him, I could use the internet to book ahead for two nights. I opted for the George Inn,  which is a 10 minute walk from the station. A great choice, as it turned out. There’s a lot to like about this cosy retreat. While we were in the village, we overheard its food described as posh. It isn’t, it’s just very good: the menu offers pub classics done well (the burger was one of the best my charming dining companion had tasted for a while) and some fancier dishes. Everything is made using fresh, local–within a 30-mile radius–ingredients. I red-carded my diet and indulged in a blue-cheese souffle with roasted pear, followed by slow-roasted pork with apple mash and one of the most luxurious gravies I’ve ever had the pleasure to mop up. Of course, the advantage of staying above a pub–especially in winter–is that you can drag your over-stuffed carcass up the stairs and fall into bed whenever you feel like it. There’s no rainy walk in the dangerous dark to negotiate. Breakfast at the George is fabulous too: the tasty sausages, bacon and eggs are from nearby farms, and the silky yogurt is from Northiam Dairy in Rye.

Slow-cooked local pork at The George Inn

Slow-cooked local pork at The George Inn

I managed to snap up some local produce to bring home to Woolwich for our supper. Between two slices of fresh white bread from Robertsbridge’s Judges Bakery I layered ham from Parsonage Farm, in Salehurst, and Sussex Charmer cheese from Pallinghurst Farm, in Horsham. A rather good sandwich it made, too. The Sussex Charmer is a tangy, crumbly, full-bodied farmhouse variety that would enhance any cheeseboard. If you can find it, do try it.

Robertsbridge also has a wonderful collection of 15th, 16th, and 17th century houses, mostly lining its High Street. As an Australian, I’m hard-wired to go all wide-eyed and incredulous at the sight of humble cottages that were already old by the time the First Fleet sailed into Botany Bay. I realise that England abounds with these tiny miracles of survival, but I don’t believe I’ll ever grow tired of marveling at them.

This quiet, unassuming village in East Sussex gets my vote. It doesn’t draw the big crowds and tourist buses that I can imagine the Cotwolds does, but there are riches here that deserve to be admired. And consumed. I’ll be back.

Websites:

www.thegeorgerobertsbridge.co.uk (for online bookings and a peek at a typical menu)

www.seven7stars.co.uk (good for local history and ghost stories)

www.theblackshedgallery.org.uk (the Julian Anderson www.juliananderson.co.uk exhibition is on until late April and there are many more fascinating shows planned for the year: it would be well worth signing up to the BlackShed’s mailing list)

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4 Comments
  1. Geraldine Moore permalink

    Keep up the beautiful stories I love to read your blog.

  2. Maria permalink

    Julie, I love your blog! Keep up the good work! Maria

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