6th August 2013 by
Our penultimate official Tour Cycling Day took us from Namayasai Japanese salad farm over rolling Sussex hills to Kent, and CommonWork educational organic farm. Embarking on our longest – and most undulating – cycling day yet, we left behind the early morning salad pickers. and sailing through Cooksbridge, we saluted Hamsey School who had received our workshops the previous day. Tristan, Thomas and I were gifted with orange squash in a church in the very posh Nutley, before crawling up some fearsome hills, on through beautiful Fletching – apparently the best kept village in Sussex! – and upto Ashdown Forest. Some roadies from Sussex Nomads wished us well and congratulated our sweating efforts as we laboured over our panniers – and Tristan’s trailer – and they whizzed up another treacherous hill en route to Ashdown Forest. This area is moorland and woods, with ubiquitous sheep nestling in their shadows from the sun we couldn’t escape from, our iron steeds strong before our glistening brows.
After the longest downhill I have ever had the freewheelin’ (I have been an avid fixed-wheel cyclist for 6 months) joy to descend, Hartfield village received us with a short stop off at Pooh Corner, and the cheeriest, most delightfully friendly waitress ever took our picture outside this slice of British literary history – the birthplace of A.A. Milne’s Winnie The Pooh. Apparently we’d whizzed past 100 Acre Wood and the location of the original Pooh sticks! Winding undulating folds of countryside and villages took us through rabbit-warrens of roads under shafts of light filtering through lime green leaves, swollen from the last night’s rain shower. Our tranquility was unfortunately all too often momentarily ruined by a cement mixer or too-large land cruiser. We dinged our bells in celebration when we were alone on the road!
Making good time (certainly up on our 6 miles per 2 hours on the Chichester cycling day), we decided to detour to Hever Castle, but were denied free or even discounted entry so instead settled for a pleasant luncheon under another generous oak tree. Another churchyard bequeathed unto us water-based sustenance, and a quick wee stop in the bushes led to me find some piglets sleeping in their woodland pen.
Arriving before the other cycling groups, we pounced with gay abandon on CommonWork’s phenomenally clean – and warm! – showers. After hosing down in a corner of Tupenny Barn’s vegetable bed and no showers for several days it felt like having new skin! No longer olfactorially offensive, we were given a mini guided tour by the lovely Jacquelyn, director of CommonWork, who explained the founders’ vision of interconnectedness and harmonised working, theorised before the term sustainability came into frequent use. CommonWork unites the head, heart and hands in experiential learning in the fields with horticulture, in the kitchen and seeing the organic dairy farm at work. Otesha Totally Tasty tour 2k13 loves this holistic view of education and learning!
After lentils (Turkish) stew and pasta (italian) dinner, Imogen, Amy, Jessie and I had a singsong to lull the over tour members to sleep, we really need to make a Tour songbook!
A restful sleep is cut short by a 6am alarm heralding time to milk the organic herd with the lovely Martin, who instructs us how to iodine dip the cows udders, operate the suction equipment and avoid being drenched in poo and milk! He explains the dry period cycles of the cows and how the suction apparatus emulates a calf’s sucking on the teat. Many litres of milk later, we wash our poo-y clothes and gobble organic eggs, before weeding fat hen from in between the raspberries in the kitchen garden. Cooking the communal dinner for the tour + 8 guests requires all hands on deck! Jessie, Amy, Thomas and I go on the Bore Place woodland walk to take in some of this beautiful 500 acre estate, Jessie barefoot for authenticity, telling stories of Grandpa tree, posing as trees on tree stumps, playing blind trust games, seeing a baby fawn, discussing our personal triumphs and visions and actual tree hugging!

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