The British Bank Holiday. So much hope every year for three days of sunshine, non-stop bbqing and enjoying the best of the UK. On the whole us Brits are a bit more unlucky when the bank holiday strikes and more often than not most of the country head to B&Q (the other bank holiday tradition) and spend it inside doing DIY whilst it rains outside. But this August Bank Holiday something amazing happened. We had the best weather for an August bank holiday on record and as such it seemed the perfect time to get out in the countryside and explore.
Gemma headed off to West Sussex for the weekend to go camping and embrace the best the British countryside has to offer.
We stayed at Hook Farm, a lovely family run campsite with plenty of space. When we arrived we were told it was really busy and that they could take us to another field if we felt that there was too many people around. Even on the busiest weekend of the year there was plenty of space for us to set up a space on our own (and not disturb other campers with our gin fuelled campfire chats!). The facilities are back to basic toilets (including a compost loo in the woods) and running water so don’t expect luxury, but it was perfect for what we needed for a couple days. They are also really relaxed about having campfires (and can give you firelighters if you are struggling) which was a lovely touch.
It really is such a lovely location, out of the way from everything but within easy reach of great pubs, restaurants and the road back to London. We walked down to Ardingley from the campsite (about four miles) which was a beautiful walk through fields and woodland, and a lot of admiring the gorgeous country houses. We headed down to Ardingley reservoir for an hour of kayaking and couldn’t have picked a better day for it. Only 17 quid for the hour (and a double kayak thank god as I’m not the most adept kayaker) it was such a bargain and so peaceful out on the water.
On the second day we visited Ashdown Forest which was absolutely stunning and the inspiration for Winnie the Pooh. A great place to spend some time walking around the countryside.
The food – The Cat Inn and Java and Jazz
The Cat Inn was not far from the campsite, just a short walk through the fields, and was just the kind of place we needed to get our energy levels back post kayak. Genuinely one of the best meals I have had in a long time – we will be going back to the area purely for this pub!! Beautifully decorated throughout we placed ourselves in the pretty garden area to make the most of the hot weather.
We started with a truly delicious dish. Katfi King Prawns with a Tuna Tartar, with avocado and mango. Beautiful, tasty, fresh and perfectly seasoned. The variety of textures worked really well also with the crunchy prawns versus the soft tartar and soft avocado and mango. For the main I tucked into almond crusted plaice with potatoes, samphire and pesto. I have been craving this dish ever since we came back! It was absolutely stunning. Fresh with the pesto, perfectly cooked fish and all of my favourite flavours. Truly amazing. One of my fellow diners had a similarly perfectly cooked piece of fish: hake with lentils and dressed with mint and curry oil.
The Cat Inn we will be back!
The next morning (having run out of supplies for our campfire breakfasts) we headed to nearby Forest Row to try out Java and Jazz’s brunch. The smoked salmon and poached eggs was amazing and there was so much salmon!! Seriously generous (and a great chai latte too).
I will definitely be heading back to West Sussex when I need some countryside air and a digital detox. I just hope the weather can return too!