Finally, sunshine. The budding leaves are beginning to unfurl, and branches reach for the warmth. I breath deeply. It’s the scent of Spring, of dewy grass and moisture evaporating from the soil. Opening the gate to the footpath, the smell of sheep manure is carried up the hill to greet us.
It’s one of the first warm days in Lewes, and every-so-often I stop mid-stride and close my eyes turning my face toward the sun. The gift of warm cheeks.
We have decided to walk toward the English village of Glynde, and follow the footpath cutting across the fields toward Lewes Downs (Mount Caburn) National Nature Reserve. It’s a trail with steep inclines and breathtaking views, and I hardly mind that I have to shed my jacket and carry it as I work up a sweat.
The path is subtle, a worn line etched a darker shade of green than the surrounding grass. It wouldn’t matter if we lost site of the trail though. It’s hard to lose your way with such epic vistas.
Our pace slows to an easy stroll and we enjoy the quiet countryside sheltered in the crevice of two hills. The cattle grazing nearby inspire stories of our hometown county fairs. My husband suddenly recalls jokes from his childhood.
Q: “What do you call a deer with no eyes?”
A: “No eye deer.”
(This only works in an English accent, which I found hilarious.)
Q: “What do you call a deer with no eyes and no legs?”
A: “Still no eye deer.”
That’s the beauty of long walks, there is spaciousness for organic conversation and stillness. Long pauses invite memories and stories to unfold without the rush of the next task or the distraction of a push notification.
Or as author Rebecca Solnit articulates so wonderfully;
Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being wholly lost in our thoughts.
The final hill is deceivingly long to summit. I increase my pace to encourage momentum. Two silhouettes of walkers across the ridge line act as encouragement that we’re getting close to the top.
And then, we step over the hilltop and I’m breathing hard and smiling, and for a fleeting moment catch that sensation of newness when I first arrived in England. The flutter of disbelief that I get to live this adventure.
It’s all down hill from here. We take in the outline of the village, and the chalk pit and the speeding train far below, and I giggle at how ridiculously pretty it all is, like a vintage postcard setting.
I slow my pace to stretch out the time on our walk, despite the need for a toilet. We gawk at the paragliders floating above Mount Caburn and make up voices and dialogues for the new lambs that venture toward us courageous in their youth.
The footpath abruptly ends steps away from The Little Cottage Tea Room, one of only a few shops in Glynde. It is said to have been a residence since the 1830s, but in 2005, Philip McBrown took over the tenancy and converted it to its current role as the village’s cafe. Ducking inside we are led out into the back garden and find an available wooden table.
It’s a serene setting, with tables and chairs dotted about the grassy area, and fellow patrons sit quietly enjoying cream teas and cakes. I’m thrilled to be given a fragile tea cup and with a sense of ceremony, add milk to my Earl Grey.
We’ve worked up an appetite and reward ourselves with quiche and coffees for dessert. Sitting in silence with my face toward the sun, I realize in this moment, I have everything I need.
There’s a train that departs hourly from Glynde with a stop in Lewes, so we have plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely break before setting off toward the station. The walk back is quiet and I imagine what it would be like growing up in this small English village and how it might compare to my childhood in small town in Iowa.
What I can be sure of is no matter the country or culture, there is a universal gratitude for that first warm Spring day. The gold-tinted light that beckons us outside to shake off the winter layers doesn’t need a language or a doctrine to appreciate. All it requires is turning your face toward the sunshine and if you’re able, a long walk outdoors.