The Cheeky Book of Walks was released last month and I only just got hold of my copy after sending it to the wrong address. On Sunday I set out with @vickymatthews and @booleandavid on the 'Suicide Stroll' a 5 mile circular route from Southease Station. The route passes Virginia Woolf's house and follows the walk she made on the way to take her own life.
It was a hot day and Sussex looked beautiful. I don't venture into the countryside as often as I should. And every time I take a rural walk I curse this fact and promise myself I'll do it more in the future. The Downs are so beautiful that I should make more of them.
My grandfather won prizes for his ploughing. I'm sure he would have done a better job than whoever ploughed this field:
In Rodmell village, opposite the Abergavenny Arms pub, is a small 'shrine' to Frank Dean. One of the posters lists his favourite sayings including "To justify spending money on oneself: there are no pockets in a shroud" and "Well blow me down, I'll go to Peacehaven in a rowing boat". It was a touching memorial.
I wondered why someone had nailed burlap sacks onto a wall. I found out from @MattPope on twitter: "repointed mortar on a wall repair. It must dry slowly or it'll turn to sand and blow away in the wind."
The route passed Monk's House, where Virginia Woolf once lived. According to our guidebook, the house was closed and the gardens only open on a Wednesday and Saturday afternoon. We were in luck, however, because this has changed since Cheeky Walks was printed – we could tour the gardens on a Sunday and also wander around the house.
A small display showed some of the visitors who had come to the house. Among the photos was one of EM Forster with TS Eliot. I would love to have had a chance to hear some of their conversations.
Resting under a tree in Virginia Woolf's garden, I felt incredibly relaxed. Vicky had bought some curried vegetable soup so we had a discreet picnic…
…then quickly washed up in the garden.
From Monk's House it is a short walk to the River Ouse, where Woolf took her life. The stretch of the Ouse near Southease is a scummy, brown, ugly river. I don't know what it was like in the 40s, but it seems a sad place for someone to die.
"If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer. I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been." (from Virginia Woolf's final letter to her husband Leonard)