The World is a Book

Writing about: Family Travel, kids, places, food…

Category: England (page 1 of 2)

New Forest Fun

I love serendipitous finds in our travels and the New Forest was one of these. We were looking for somewhere for a couple of weeks so I was browsing google maps and remembered a great book I had on my childhood shelves – Children of the New Forest. I also remembered it was very horsey and in fact there are XX New Forest ponies that wander freely around this large national park. The houses all need gates or cattle grids and fences to stop the ponies (and pigs, cows, deer) from wandering in and destroying gardens but it’s fun to lookout and see 4 or 5 ponies just walking up the lane next to the house or having to drive around them as they stand in the roads.

We found a lovely “cottage” (3 story) in the village of Burley. Within a 5 minute walk we had 3 pubs, a shop, small shops and some restaurants. The village shop was quite fancy with sushi/homemade pies and condiments, and a local butchery with sausages and pheasant/duck/chicken etc. all from the surroundings farms. Great to be able to eat local foods like that. We sampled the pub food and were not disappointed either.

The preserve has so many walking paths that it would take a couple of years to explore them all. Everywhere we went there were parking lots and hiking trails heading off.

Burley was about 20 minutes to the beach as well so we explored this coast. Some gorgeous small towns to wander the beach and eat fish and chips on. We had more glorious weather which was a pleasant surprise in October.

And close for a day’s visit to Stonehenge.

We had a great surprise from my brother and his wife who popped over from Dubai for the weekend too. It was fun wandering around a cider festival complete with old engines and traveler caravans – and sampling local ciders – with them.

Ponies and walking in the woods were our big favorites here. Charlotte is ready to move there!

House Swap in Knaresborough

We had another great house swap an hour and a half away from Scarborough in Knaresborough which was a new area for us and allowed easy access to York and Harrogate etc. It’s really a lovely area and the house was so comfortable for us all with great views onto the countryside and included rainbows!

We’ve always loved York and had a couple of fun days there. The Jorvik Viking Center is always a good visit as is the Minster and of course shopping and eating in the old city.


Darwin does just fine with buses, trains, boats and crowds. He’s a trooper.


More picnics this time in the Yorkshire Dales (near Scarborough it’s the moors).


And visits to market towns including Thirsk which was the home of James Herriot and still has his museum there. Charlotte and I are also fans of the show the Yorkshire Vet which is a reality show using the old Herriot vet practice (new vets) so we were groupies and visited the clinic.

Then there were Farm Shows and more picnics with friends and of course Darwin.




And off Back to Scarborough

One of our main goals of summer 2018 was to all spend time in Scarborough visiting the place I was born (my grandmother’s house and where I mostly grew up is the red door) and to show the 3 younger kids (my two and cousin Janet) the town and special places for our family.

This included trips to Durham to see my grandmother’s, great grandparents and great-great grandparents graves and old houses. It might sound rather heavy going but our family spends most of the time laughing and being silly so there was plenty of that going on. We got to meet up with a cousin who brainstormed the family tree and expanded the ancestry site a lot. Later we also met his lovely daughter which was very special too.

England was going through a drought and it hadn’t rained in ages which was good for us as we had unusually dry trips out.

Charlotte was happy to ride quite a few times at my old riding school in Snainton. It was quite special for both of us. She now of course wants to move there and buy her own horse.

We had some amazing picnics at Abbeys and cliff tops all around Yorkshire. I think the theme of the summer has been picnics and family.




Picnics and hikes

I think we had the most fun in England walking and picnicking and feeding ducks. Simple things but with lovely weather and the green landscape, England is perfect for walking and sitting enjoying the country (well in August it was).

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One forest area was set up to encourage children to PLAY and make forts. They left branches and logs in piles out in the woods and kids could build shelters to play in. It was so much fun that all three of us got involved.


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Cambridge and Ely


We spent time revisiting (for me) two places I used to go to with the older boys when we were living around RAF Lakenheath in the early 90s. It was fun to see some of the old places but the base has changed a lot and I didn’t recognize much.


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Stratford Upon Avon

We managed to get tickets to a production of Hamlet in Stratford at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and it was amazing. Incredible performance (modern/kind of set in Africa) and of course the theatre is wonderful. We were high up on tall seats like bar stools but this allowed for full views all around the stage. The kids stayed glued to the entire show.


We did manage to visit Shakespeare’s birth place too and some good food in town but certainly could have stayed longer.



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London Shows and Museums

We were thrilled to be able to meet up with Uncle Tim as we have missed him since moving from Dubai (where he lives). We took the train to London and met him at the station where he took us off to a couple of great restaurants (naturally as he’s an executive chef and also used to work in London) for lunch and dinner. We also went to see Phantom of the Opera as Max and Charlotte hadn’t seen it. This was a great show to start their London theatre viewing with as it never fails to impress (and they know the music already).




Later in our trip we went back to London as I just had to see my idol – Michael Crawford who was the first Phantom. We got to see him in a show called The Go-Between. He was on stage the entire couple of hours and sang quite a bit. We were front row and he was amazingly close which was quite exciting (I restrained myself). The show was good and he was incredible.



Trips to London have to include some of the amazing and FREE museums. We spent some time in the Science Museum and the National Gallery, which always amazes me. I love that museums in London are all free. Such a gift with so much to see and do.


Little wet but didn’t dampen the fun

House Swapping in England

Through our worldschooling group we found a lovely family who wanted to house swap their home in England with ours in Florida. We were thrilled to spend 5 weeks in a town called Saffron Walden, which is about 30 minutes from Cambridge and about an hour, by train from center of London. We swapped cars as well but after one day driving around minuscule roads on the opposite side with a stick shift, I opted for a rental that was automatic. Just too many things to focus on and it’s been years since I had a stick shift and I hated it then!


The house was a 15 minute walk into town which had all the main stores we needed plus plenty of eating spots. A favorite was Tea Amo for tea and sandwiches.


Town description here is from the site below:

Saffron Walden is a delightful medieval market town located in north-west Essex and just 15 miles to the south of Cambridge. It has a rich heritage of old buildings, including the magnificent Jacobian mansion Audley End House and Gardens and St Mary’s Church, the largest and one of the most beautiful parish churches in Essex. On the north side of town is Bridge End Garden, a restored Victorian garden of great charm, which contains a wonderful yew hedge maze and sunken Dutch Garden.
A market has been held here since 1141, and market days are now Tuesdays and Saturdays with shoppers enjoying browsing and buying goods from a variety of market stalls. Beyond the market place, there are many independent shops and eating places to choose from.




We drove and parked nearer to the main shopping area and then set off up the hill to visit the castle. I’ve spent various times there but when living in Scarborough you tend to pick warm and dry days unlike this trip. It did stop raining when we got into the main part of the castle thankfully and we had about an hour of dryness but it was quite windy and cool. Still the views from there are amazing and it is easy to see why this has been a castle/military post from early bronze age to Romans, Vikings, Saxons and even WWI. They found a bronze age sword there a few years ago but only the replica is in Scarborough with the main one in the British Museum so we decided to look it up when we were there a couple of days later. The Viking history was neat to read about and the children were able to make links to York from it.

From there we headed into town and hit the market and shops. The market used to be a big Victorian building that was dark and dingy, filled with stalls of low price items. It was busy and loud – a little daunting for children. Now there is a large lower level with little cafes and antique stores plus the main part is much lighter and airy and things seem very clean and organized. It’s certainly nice to shop there but has lost its edginess!

Ate at a traditional Yorkshire seaside restaurant (the kind of place my grandmother would have sooner starved than allow us go into) and had fish and chips and peas and huge pots of tea. I’m beginning to wonder if peas are the only vegetable we have available in England! Then did some more shopping, as I love Next clothing so wanted to stock up. All the Union Jack clothing and household goods are so neat to see (I was tempted by duvet covers) and it certainly makes you feel patriotic. Even food items are packaged in the flag and there is a huge quest to push everything British. The Jubilee and Olympics are fueling some of it but the trend started a couple of years ago with the recession and drive to go back to some of the “make do and mend” mentality.

We ended up spending another couple of hours down on the beachfront. The bumper cars and arcades were pulling the Littles in. It’s funny because there are no gambling hang ups in England so they merrily popped their 2 pence pieces into slot machines and other type games – seem to be same ones as I did growing up. Ice creams (99s – cone with a Cadbury flake stuck in) are just as good now too.


Tired out we hit Tesco and stocked up on food – ready meals are really good here. I found tea nirvana with the huge amounts of PG Tips and the new flavors (light/strong/hint of early grey…). Sadly Ryan Air dictates I not buy the 500 teabag boxes. We all slept like logs and my grandmother always said you do in Scarborough as it had good sea air.

London Day 2

Well guess what – it’s raining again. Actually it’s rained so much that they are doing emergency rescues of people in Wales and they say flooding is possible all over the south. What fun. We ended up taking a taxi to the Tower of London as it was somewhat within walking distance for us but the rain and tired out children was not fun. No lines to go in plus I’d bought tickets online earlier and only had to pick them up using my credit card that I’d paid with (I was worried as it stated you needed to print out the email but you didn’t — just the credit card). We saved a little money buying online but it was still pricey and yet worth it.

tower of london

We first did the free tour with a beefeater and she was so much fun – -great sense of humour and good scary stories. I chatted with her later and women have only been allowed to be beefeaters for about five years now and she was one of the first. She spent 22 years in the military and all of them had also been on active service before going through the extensive recruitment process. She said there are about 300 people living in the Tower and some have children and families. What an interesting place to grow up in I would think.

beefeater at tower

Saw crown jewels, beasts of the tower (I never knew there were lions and other exotic animals there for most of it’s thousand year history), and lots of armor and weapons. I remember dungeons and torture tools from the past but those are not there now – well two things but nothing scary at all. Charlotte has become very fascinated by graffiti in Europe as it’s on so many things but usually is quite artistic rather than simply swear words painted on. In fact the area we are staying in has huge displays and is supposedly a growing arts area with one focus of street art. Anyway she enjoyed the engravings in the rock walls inside the tower – the graffiti etched in by prisoners waiting to die!

We got back on the bus for more touring of London from a dry view! Our main thing was Buckingham Palace but sadly the entire front was blocked off because they were dismantling the stages and seats from the Jubilee concert. So we hit Oxford Street and found lunch and shops again. Very crowded there though and not as pleasant to be in. Ben was admonished loudly for wearing his hood going into a store because of security issues (hmm it was raining outside…) and I questioned why he was forced to remove his hood when half the people shopping were from the Gulf area and women were completely covered from head to foot. I missed good old Scarborough shops (and they were all the same ones really). But except for Oxford Street, all the sites are fun and enjoyable to see.

We had an early start the next day – 04:30 car to drive us back to Stanstead. Ryan Air does not have the choices in times or I would not have gone that early. But the price overruled tiredness and it was an easy trip home as we knew the process.

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