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  • Writer's pictureGary Mack

Our Saturday in Sissinghurst

The sun streaked through the massive window in the sitting room. You can see the window from the bed as it cuts through the middle of the cottage. We set the alarm for 8 but got up about 9. That's what I call a holiday. Breakfast was outdoor reared smokey bacon, organic eggs and sourdough bread. What a delicious and decadent way to start the day. Little did we know that we would need it!

Sissinghurst is only 15 mins walk from the cottage and Jonathan had found a 10-mile circular walk. We decided to start at Sissinghurst and do the walk counter clockwise.

I know they say that Kent is the Garden of England but I never really appreciated it till now. October is quite a magical time. The harvest moon set on Thursday night and you could feel the abundance in the air. This time of year is the turning point. The trees are beginning to move from green to golden, they are surrendering their fruits, dropping their nuts.

Mushrooms are popping up (Sadly I have no confidence with fungi). It doesn't last long though, give it a few weeks, and all the acorns and sweet chestnuts will be spirited away by squirrels. Apple trees will be harvested or have rotten into the ground. The rich nutrients seeping back into the goodness of the soil.

The trail around Sissinghurst to Cranbrook is gently undulating with views to make the heart sore and heal. The trail map was basic and we were doing the trail the wrong way round. Sometimes we had to guess where to go because there was no little yellow counter to guide our way! Our first wrong turning took us through a beautiful orchard. Rows and rows of gnarly, nobbly and still heavily laden apple trees. The second cluck up was oddly scary! 

We found ourselves lost in a free range chicken farm! Thousands and thousands of chickens.

I love chickens, I have always wanted to keep chickens two or three possibly, but being in a field full of them was a different story. Amazingly the public way went straight through the middle of the farm. We entered through what felt like the gates to the hunger games. Who was hungrier though, us or the chickens!

Happy chickens they were. Dotted here, there and everywhere.  We had no idea where the way out was! We must have only been in the feild 5 mins or so before they became inquisitive.  It felt like the episode in Doc Who with the weeping angels. They come up on you from behind when your back is turned. We stood still for a moment and before you could say boo to a goose the chickens were upon us. Thousands and thousands of them. I had to tie my lace, which was a little unsettling. Oddly they all began making the same noise. Almost like a siren!  We headed back the way we came. We did not want to upset the birds.

We actually found the right gate and managed to carry on with our walk.

I began to get very tired around mile 8 but thankfully we were going to have a pub stop in Cranbrook. Little did we know but they were having a harvest festival.

Stall after stall of apple crushing and squeezing and the most delicious cider I have tasted in a while. It could have something to do with seeing all the juicy apples hanging in the orchards. Two pints of 6% cider and the last thing I wanted to do was walk. All be it only another mile or so but a squiffy walk all the same.

We made it home. The last leg of the journey was through Sissinghurst forest. Quite a direct route as we got a little lost and decided to cut through the forest following the road. Safer in the forest than on the busy road verge.

So home for the evening, shoes off, wine open, fire on, music on and book open. What to have for dinner?

We were too tired to do anything fancy so we decided on chips and chicken!

I know chips are super naughty but a little of what you like won't hurt. I cook chips the way Nigella told me to (not sure if it was on one of her TV shows or in a book). It's super easy. Peel the potato and cut into chips! Place in a saucepan and fill with oil. Remember never to fill the pan more than half full with oil. Also, remember deep fat frying can be very very dangerous so always best to know what you're doing or not do it until you have been taught! Also, it's never a good idea to deep fat fry in a hired cottage as it's not your home. We were making only a small batch so I knew the smell would not linger and I watched the pan like a hawk.

Chips and oil in the pan now it's time to turn it on. Full blast. You may need to lift the potato from the bottom of the pan if it sticks. Be super careful doing this. You don't get any second chances. A splash of hot oil and your evening will be painful. The chips change colour and the bubbling sound chances as the water content and starch levels change. They are ready when they are golden brown and crispy.

I fried up the leftover smokey bacon and the second half of the chicken. Once piping hot I stirred through the chicken juices that we used as gravy the night before. Hot smokey chicken with avocado and chips! 

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