Tag Archives: English countryside

Travel theme: horizon.

Normally ‘horizon’ travel memories for me are all about blue on blue.  Sea meets sky.  Or if I’m somewhere with cooler weather and less than sparkling waters, grey meets grey!  But this week the wild English moorlands of Staffordshire are fresh in my mind.  I seem to be on a roll these past few days with pinky-purply posts, so this one for Ailsa’s ‘horizon’ travel theme continues in that vein.

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Driving along the winding road, traversing the moorlands en route for the beautiful spa town of Buxton, I couldn’t help noticing the purple blanket draped across the rolling hills.  Heather.  And lots of it!  It was the most amazing sight.  The sun was high in a cloudless cobalt blue sky; the colours of the heather and yellow gorse on the hills were intense and incredible.  I so desperately wanted to stop the car and get my camera out.

Unfortunately for me a hysterical, toddler tantrum going on in the back of the car for much of the journey meant that it was far more sensible (and less stressful!) to keep pushing on to our destination.  Photography moment shelved; but with a promise to ourselves to leave our little one with the grandparents the next day and make a return visit for unfettered photography indulgence. Sometimes ‘seize the moment’ just doesn’t work when there’s a toddler involved!

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Well, true to form, the British weather had flipped completely by the next morning.  Grey skies, mist rolling off the hillsides, and intermittent light drizzle were the order of the day.  Not the conditions I had hoped for.  But still quite captivating, in a brooding ‘Wuthering Heights’ kind of way.  It’s not always (or even often) true, but in this case, every horizon held a breath-taking view.

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I clambered my way along the footpath, surrounded by knee-high heather, gorse and wild blueberry bushes, pushing higher towards the amazing rock formations on the crest of the hill.  There was no sound other than birdsong and the buzzing of bees.  Although the car was just out of sight less than a kilometre down the hill, the feeling of remote isolation and serenity up there was so calming, and yet invigorating at the same time.

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Eventually the weather won.  I was wet-through all the way up to my thighs, from continually brushing past dew and rain-drenched heather and foliage, and the drizzle was becoming increasingly insistent.  Time to go.  Just the chance to take one last photo of a nosy local peeking over one last horizon before getting back in the car, soaked but smiling.

well, hello there!

well, hello there!

National Countryside week.

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.'”    ~ (Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar).

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Brimstone butterfly on a naturalised ever lasting sweetpea in the sunshine.

This week is National Countryside Week.  It is a UK-wide initiative by the Prince’s Countryside Fund to (in their words) ‘celebrate the British countryside and the people who live and work in our rural areas’.  And how lucky us British people are to call such a beautiful part of the world home.

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Ox-eye daisies and green wheat in farm country.

The campaign is encouraging people to take the chance at least once between Monday 14th and Sunday 20th July to get out in the fresh air and walk a country mile. That’s really not so far! Although if you’re anything like me, it can take some time, because you keep wanting to stop to take photographs!

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Ducks! An essential part of my mental picture of English countryside.

We touch down on home soil on Saturday morning; a long awaited trip back to see family and friends in England.  The plan is that we will be out for our country mile (and maybe a bit more) walk along the river banks and greenways of rural Warwickshire on Sunday morning.  Hopefully it will blow the cobwebs away and help ease the hideous jet-lag a little!

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Cowparsley mingling with the flowers and seedheads of Honesty. Countryside favourites.

I am so looking forward to my summer of English countryside overload.  We’ve packed raincoats and the pushchair rain cover, as well as clothing to suit every kind of unexpected-yet-expected twist that the glorious British weather can throw at us. We will be out there, come rain or shine.  Shine preferably though…I’d like to get some photographs after all! I can not wait.

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A bee…making honey while the sun shines!

Stop and smell the roses.

Less than ten weeks now until our trip back to the UK.  To say I am feeling almost childlike levels of excitement would be an understatement!  Aside from the obvious anticipation of quality time with good friends and family, there are also so many places to visit, so many new experiences to introduce our daughter to.  Even just the everyday, take-it-for-granted stuff that we really can’t do out here in Borneo because of the overwhelming heat, humidity, and the hordes of super-size creepy crawlies and air-borne insects!

Simple pleasures like strolling in to town or going for a long country walk along the river.  My husband and I have always loved walking.  Not as hardcore ramblers (if that isn’t too much of an oxymoron?!) with all the gear.  Just walkers in the ‘it’s a nice afternoon, shall we stick our shoes on, go for a little wander and then find somewhere for a sun-downer?’ sense.  We walked somewhere every day, even if it was just a ten minute amble to the shops.  The feel-good endorphins get going, and your mind de-clutters during the precious moments of relative quiet, away from the constant buzz of our social-media saturated world.  More than that, there is the chance to tune in to the natural world around you.  Zooming by in a car, train or bus, you just don’t get that connection.

Hearing the bird song as you walk by, seeing which new plant is in flower to tempt the bees and butterflies.  Watching the leaves on the trees changing from the soft new growth of early spring, into their darker, dusty summer coats, sticky with sap.  It is magical.  My love of nature and the beautiful British countryside is so much a part of me, and something I really want to pass on to my children.

So this summer we will be spending lots of time in the great outdoors.  I am already thinking about possibilities!  We’ll be splitting our time between Warwickshire and Staffordshire.  I really feel spoilt for choice.  Both counties offer so many ways to spend your days in the sunshine…or, knowing British summers, the pouring rain!  So far, the peacock garden and rose garden at Warwick Castle, the beautiful Charlecote Park estate and deer park, and the RSPB wetland reserve at Otmoor near Oxford are all on the list.  As are the wild moorlands of the Staffordshire Roaches, Chester Zoo, and Shugborough Estate farm and mill.  And of course nothing beats a day by the great British seaside, rock-pooling, paddling and building sandcastles.  The Welsh coast, and Abersoch in particular, is sounding good at the moment.  The beaches there are beautiful, and perhaps more importantly when travelling with a little one, it is one of the closest options to get to!

Deer at Charlecote Park

Some of the four-legged residents at Charlecote Park.

With all that choice and more, hopefully there will be some fantastic day trips happening very soon.  Will we make it to all or even any of them, in reality?  We’ll see!  Undoubtedly at least some of them will fall by the wayside.  Toddlers – as I am discovering – and the unpredictable English weather – as I well know! – have an uncanny ability to change plans unexpectedly.

But even without the daytrips, I know already that there will be some priceless, precious moments to look forward to.  All those classic childhood things that memories are made of.  Taking our little girl to feed the ducks by the river, or sitting in the garden and sharing a picnic without worrying about scorpions and fierce red ants.  Passing on the children’s favourite, ‘what’s the time Mr Wolf?’, as we blow the seeds from the abundant dandelion clocks.  And of course, the afternoons in the park, looking at the flowers and leaves we find, and toddling after the squirrels.

People keep telling me to enjoy every minute with our daughter because they grow up so quickly.  With her first birthday fast approaching I am getting a growing appreciation for just how rapidly our little baby is turning into a little lady.  So I am very much looking forward to our family taking the time this summer to enjoy the British great outdoors and, both literally and metaphorically, stop and smell the roses.

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Wild rambling dog roses…a beautiful sight on a sunny, summery day.