Tag Archives: England

Spring

It’s officially spring, although the weather everywhere I look seems not to have gotten the memo.  The garden is popping up some spring-y looking surprises, but England generally doesn’t feel really like spring until at least late May, so it’s not quite time to put away the scarves and heavy coats yet. (Matt got overly optimistic yesterday though and, fooled by the sunshine, wore his spring coat to watch Gabe’s soccer match.  He regretted every single minute of that decision.)

We’re finishing up our second-to-last term of school here, with one more week to go until Easter break (which lasts 3.5 weeks!).  Then we’ve got one last crazy, full term of school to go until we move back to the U.S.

It’s going to fly by.

We’ve got four (!) more trips planned before we head back across the pond.  Plus this last term of school is always the busiest with sports, school plays, awards days, sports days, and other end-of-year activities.  Looking at the calendar with Matt the other night, we realized we only have a few weekends left with no plans.  It’s insane.

We’re going to Barcelona next week.  Venice for a long weekend in April.  Bruges and Amsterdam at the end of May.  And Athens for five days when school gets out in July. 

Then we’re flying home.

The Grand Adventure is coming to an end. A new one is beginning, I know, but man this chapter of our lives was exceptional. 

Until we get on that plane though, we’re ekeing out all the England we can.  Spring means cricket matches, school play practices, late sunsets and fire pits on the patio instead of in the living room, Easter break, flowers in the garden, and slightly warmer rain. It means bright yellow and green farm fields and baby lambs on every hillside.  The Queen’s birthday and a Royal Wedding this year! 

Long may it last.

Snow and Magic

Winters in England aren’t terribly cold temperature-wise, but the damp and wind seem to creep in and settle in your bones sometime in November and there they remain until June.  I never can seem to get warm, even though the temperatures rarely dip below freezing.

I don’t mind the cold really, never have.  Anyone can find happiness in a sunny warm afternoon, but it takes creativity and resourcefulness to be content when the cold takes your breath away.  Maybe growing up in New England thickened my blood, maybe I just have ice in my heart, but I’ll take freezing temps and mountains of snow over a hot, humid summer every day of the week. 

English winters, though.  They’re hard to bear. The wind never stops blowing.  The air is just never not wet, even when it’s not raining.  The nights are so long and the sun so scarce.  They wear on you, make you cranky. 

Until it snows. 

It doesn’t happen often here, but when it does, it makes up for a lot of dark days, grey skies, and damp winds.

You wake up to a world transformed, white fluffy snow dusting 800-year old churches and smoothing out the stark edges of bare wet trees, acres of rolling fields blanketed and quiet, still dotted with sheep that are harder to pick out against a backdrop no longer painted with mud and sodden hay.  The air is crisp instead of damp.  The light is brighter. 

Don’t tell me there’s no such thing as magic.

Walking

People in England walk way more than people in America walk.  Most of the people in my village “take walks” for no other reason but to walk.  And they don’t walk on sidewalks, cause there aren’t any, or on the roads even – they walk on public footpaths.  There are signs all over the place pointing out public footpaths, which wind their way across the country.  But we have been here over 18 months and I am still scared to try it.  

My American fear of walking on someone else’s land makes me nervous.  The footpath signs show you where the paths begin off the side of the road, but they’re not clearly marked once you’re on them.  There are also public bridleways, which are not just for pedestrians, but also cyclists and people on horseback.  They all wind across open fields, through back yards, across roads, and although there are signs at junctions, I am just never sure where, exactly, I’m supposed to walk.  So I stay on the road for fear of doing it wrong.

I’m determined to give it a try though.  There are over 140,000 miles of public footpaths and bridleways in England and Wales and we’re only here for so long!

I set out last week on a walk, hoping to get the nerve up to venture off the road and onto the path.  As a warm-up, I walked on the grass along the road to where the footpath signs mark the junction near my house, rather than on the pavement.  Walking on grass changes your speed.  It also changes your ability to pay attention to other things — you’ve gotta keep an eye on the ground or you might trip.  It slowed me down, but made me more aware.  I think maybe that’s the point of walking those footpaths — it is not to make sure you get x-number of miles in, but that you enjoy and pay attention to the miles you do walk.

When I got to the beginning of the footpath, though, I chickened out.  I looked along the edge of the field where the sign pointed and it just was not clear to me where I was supposed to go.  So I stayed on the road.  I walked, but I’m not getting the full English-walking-footpath experience that way.  I’m going to ask my neighbor to meet me a few times and show me “the way” I think, so I can get a few accompanied walks under my belt and get brave enough to try a solo.

While in Rome, they say, do as the Romans do.  And so, while in England, I shall walk.  Off the beaten track.  Because that’s how it’s done.  I just have to find someone to teach me how.

Scenes from the Village

The village where we live is tiny and adorable.  There are probably no more than 40 homes, and our house, at 200+ years old, isn’t even close to the oldest one.  Our neighbors’ house has original sections that date back 400 years. 

The church next door is 700+ years old. 

The pub (every good village in England has one!) is located right in the center of the village. There’s been a pub operating continuously in that location since 1352.  There are areas inside where Matt, at 6′ tall, has to duck under the beams that support the the low ceiling.  Even in the places where he can stand up straight, the ceiling is only a few inches above the top of his head.  A sign hanging by the taps states that no one under age 14 is allowed to sit at the bar.  There’s a pub cat named Amber who snuggles by the wood stove and winds her way around people’s feet when they come in the front door.  I love it.

Our little village is sitting right at the top of one of the highest points in the county, and all around us, farm fields stretch out for acres in every direction.  There are public footpaths all over England that wind their way through land both public and private, so you can basically walk across the country on publicly protected trails. 

There are also public bridleways everywhere, so we get nearly as much horse traffic as we do car traffic.  I will always and forever love that I hear the clip-clop of horses going by my house on a regular basis.  For the first few months we were here, the kids would basically all run to the window to look out every time we heard the hoof beats.  But now it’s become second-nature. 

The clock on the tower of the church next door chimes the hour, every hour, all day, every day. Most of the time I don’t even hear it anymore, because it’s become the background music to my days and nights.  When I do notice it, it always makes me smile.

It’s not our home forever, but I’m so glad it’s our home for now.

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