Kentish Kindness by the Dingley Dell
Ever since Hayley’s first visit to the Emerald Isle, she had been most insistent that I make a return visit – and I didn’t need much persuading. So last Monday saw me arriving at Gatwick and as I headed towards the exit I could see, in the distance, a small blond person, bouncing up and down and waving manically. Soon we were locked in the customary hug and talking 19 to the dozen. It had been 5 months since our last meeting – it felt like 5 minutes.
Off we set to collect the car and from there off to Wisley, “it’s only up the road from here” she says. I had never visited Wisley before and what a treat it turned out to be, despite being early in the year, there were beautiful plants, flowers, trees and views everywhere we looked. The sun shone on us the whole afternoon as we wandered around, chatted and laughed – copious amounts of the latter two.
Leaving Wisley we headed for Hayley’s beautiful home and garden where we were warmly greeted by Philip and Tom, two delightful young men, though thankfully Tom has learned a little more decorum than Philip. A delicious lamb stew appeared from the aga, carefully organised the night before. Later on that evening H’s OH made it home, what a lovely man, as you could guess. Here in NI we have no idea of the difficulty of commuting in and out of London, poor J leaves for work in the early hours of the morning and doesn’t get home till late. I hope to see a little more of him the next time I visit.
The next morning “Walkies” with Philip, through fields dotted with jewelled wild flowers, before setting off to pick up Hayley’s sister, Bev and then visit Iris, H’s Mum. Well, what can I say. I have been trying to find the right word for the way Hayley and her lovely family can make you feel. There isn’t one, the nearest I can get to it is “being lovelied”, think of being called “My lovely” and then multiply the feeling that gives you by 100. When Hayley and her sister are together you get it in stereo, and they both get the ability from their Mum. What a wonderful wee lady she is, she may not have the memory she once had, but when she smiles the world is a much brighter place and if you are really lucky she will sing to you. It was a magical visit, with a very special lady.
After our visit with Iris we had lunch in a delightful pub and then said goodbye to Bev before squeezing in a quick visit to Sissinghurst gardens. Created in the 1930 by Vita Sackville-West, they are now owned and maintained by the National Trust. What a brilliant place, and even though the weather wasn’t the kindest I thoroughly enjoyed it. However, just before we left we went to the top of the tower to look out and the sun came out, bathing everything in a beautiful warm evening glow.
Home again and Tom set about making us dinner, not just a lovely young man but he cooks. And boy can he cook! Chicken fajitas with all the trimmings, yummy. H and I helped him by sampling the wine.
Wednesday morning and Hayley’s son is back in the kitchen, Irish breakfasts are famous, however the breakfasts that Tom set down in front of us that morning were superb. Did we clear those plates? Course we did. Thank you Tom, you are a star.
A bit of gardening followed, first in the “dell”, a magical area of Hayley’s garden, where a pond leads on to a long slope of trees and woodland plants dappled with light. Such a special place. Then we got her early spuds planted – YEA!
Off we went again in the afternoon passing wonderful open vistas of Kent countryside, with windmills and oast houses dotted about. Our destination was Rye, another first for me. Such a picturesque little town, full of cobbled streets, historic buildings and at least one very impressive wisteria. A good place to pick up some fresh fish for dinner was Hayley’s additional comment!
There is something very magical about spending days out with a good friend and coming home to good food, good company, a glass of wine (or three) and then solving the problems of the universe in animated discussion. That is what H, Tom and I did on Wednesday evening, a great night’s “craic”.
My last day dawned, and a visit to a wood was on the cards for “walkies” with Philip. Woodland areas are among my favourite places and this one was gorgeous. Hayley had not visited it for some time and it was heartbreaking to see some of the damage that the mini tornado had done earlier in the year. However, I am glad to say most of it was untouched, as you can see.
All too soon it was time for us to get back though that was nearly a problem, but I promised Hayley I wouldn’t mention her getting us lost in the woods – so I won’t.
Sadly my time in Kent was at an end, though at least it would only be a short time until Cardiff when I would see my wee clicker pal again – along with loads of other clickers. I came away with a heart full of happy memories, of Kent, of a very special lady and of her wonderful family. Thank you H.