When I returned to the UK after my trip to the Holy Land, my Spring Break fun was not yet over. My mum had flown into Heathrow from California about an hour before I arrived, so after a bit of a challenge finding her in the airport, we took the train together to my home in Tonbridge. When I asked her what she wanted to see here in England, she said, "Churches, Graveyards and Castles". No problem, England has those! We hit two at once with a stop at the church I have been attending in Hildenborough, St. John's.
|Mum at St. John's Church|
I'd been waiting for a good opportunity to go to Chartwell, the home of Winston Churchill, and mum was interested in seeing it, so despite the rainy weather, off we went. We wandered through the house and looked at all the memorabilia of the Churchill years. The thing that interested me the most were the many paintings that the Prime Minister had painted. He really was quite a talented artist. Who knew?
|Mum at Chartwell|
|Fishpond where Sir Winston used to Feed his Fish|
The goal for the weekend was to not only fulfill mum's desire to visit a castle, but to actually spend the night in one. My friend and fellow Fulbrighter, Rachel Williams, made the trip to the Wales border with mum and me. On the way, Rachel noticed a sign to Tintern Abbey, which meant nothing to me, but she knew if from a Wordsworth poem. So we stopped at this lovely abbey ruins. I'm so glad Rachel knows her poetry!
|Me and Rachel at Tintern|
|Cream Tea Next Door to Tintern Abbey|
Built in 1089, St Briavels Castle has been a Norman fortress, a royal castle and hunting lodge of King John of England and also visited by Henry II, who made the castle the judicial center for the Forest of Dean. Other uses of the castle have included being a prison, a school and a private house, but today it's a fun location for a hostel.
|St. Briavels Castle|
|Me, Mum and Rachel at St. Briavels|
That evening at St. Briavels there was a Medieval banquet complete with a jester! We ate dinner with our hands and engaged in the merriment. The meal ended with the participants playing a live Cluedo game (Clue, in America) where we ran around the castle looking for suspects and weapons in the rooms where a dastardly deed may have occurred. We were beaten by a team of little kids in costume, but we had fun playing.
|At the Medieval Banquet|
|Waking up in the Castle, just like a Real Princess|
In the morning we took a tour of St. Briavels to learn more about it's history, then we set off to another country, Wales, which was just a few miles away. It was quite rainy, but that didn't dampen our spirits.
|Pierhead Building on Cardiff Bay|
|My mum loves a carousel!|
The following day mum came with me to Stocks Green School where she had a fun day with my pupils. That night I drove her to Goring-by-Sea where her friend, Penny lives. Mum had a great week with her good friend, then I picked her up on Friday night for some more weekend amusement. It's kind of hard to top sleeping in a castle, but we were off again to experience more of England. What could be more British than an encounter with St. George and the Dragon? St. George is the Patron Saint of England, and I had to do a cultural presentation for the Key Stage 1 classes the following Monday morning, so I was very happy to come across a St. George Festival going on in Trafalgar Square.
|This has got to be my all-time favorite photo of my mum!|
While at Trafalgar Square we visited the National Gallery. Now my mum is in no way a museum person, but she did want to see a few of the more famous paintings in the gallery, so she thought she'd just run in and run out. As it turns out, she LOVED the National Gallery and has a whole new appreciation for museums. This is very good news for me and many of her friends who have tried over the years to drag her through art galleries, as now she's willing to visit other museums. You're never too old to learn something new! Next mum wanted to visit Westminster Cathedral and of course, Buckingham Palace.
|Mum at Westminster Cathedral|
|At the Buckingham Palace Gates|
We had tickets to the fabulous musical, Billy Elliot (which I'd had a chance to see when Carl visited, but my mum had never seen before) and we both enjoyed it very much. That is one thing I think I did learn from my mum, a love of live theatre, as she took my sister and me to all the local playhouse productions when we were growing up.
|Mum made friends in the Theatre District|
|Mum and Big Ben|
The following day was the day we had a big adventure planned! We went to Hartfield and the Ashdown Forest in search of one of mum's favorite characters, Winnie-the-Pooh. For my mum's 70th birthday my sister and I took her to Saltspring Island in Canada to sleep in Winnie-the-Pooh's treehouse (quite an adventure in itself) and the following Thanksgiving, when in Disneyland, mum found Winnie and had quite a conversation about how much she loved it. Well, she talked, Winnie just nodded and listened. That's the nice thing about bears, they let mum talk on and on and don't feel a need to say a word. Mum loves the Disney version of Pooh, while I love A.A. Milne's original books with the lovely E.H. Shepard illustrations, but we both agreed that cream tea at Pooh Corner was a must.
Tea at Pooh Corner
After fortifying ourselves with Strengthening Medicine and a few Smackerals, we headed off on the first of our 2 hikes for the day, a stroll to the Poohstick Bridge. We brushed up on the official rules of Poohsticks as we walked along the scenic trail through the woods.
Rules for Playing PoohSticks
- First, you each select a stick and show it to your fellow competitors. You must agree which stick is which - or whose, as it were.
- Check which way the stream is flowing. Competitors need to face the stream on the side where it runs in, under the bridge (upstream). Note: If the stream runs out, from under the bridge you are standing on the wrong side! (downstream).
- Choose someone to be a Starter. This can be either the oldest or the youngest competitor.
- All the competitors stand side by side facing upstream.
- Each competitor holds their stick at arms length over the stream. The tall competitors should lower their arms to bring all the sticks to the same height over the stream as the shortest competitor's stick.
- The starter calls, 'Ready - Steady - Go!" and all the competitors drop their sticks. Note: the stick must not be thrown into the water.
- At this point in the game all the players must cross to the downstream side of the bridge. Please take care - young players like to race across. Remember, other people use bridges and some of them have vehicles or horses.
- Look over the edge of the bridge for the sticks to emerge. The owner of the first Stick to float from under the bridge, is the winner.
Remember: Falling into the water is SAD (Silly And Daft)!
|As you can see, it was a close race!|
|I wonder what lives here? A Woozle, perhaps?|
After several rounds of stick racing, we walked back to the car and drove to Gill's Lap to begin our second hike of the day, through the 100 Acre Wood. In the Pooh Stories, Gill's Lap is known as Galleon's Lap and is one of the Enchanted Places, as no one has ever been able to count if there are sixty three or sixty four pine trees there.
" Being Enchanted, its floor was not like the floor of the Forest, gorse and bracken and heather but close-set grass, quiet and smooth and green. It was the only place in the Forest where you could sit down carelessly without getting up again almost at once and looking for somewhere else. Sitting there they could see the whole world spread out until it reached the sky, and whatever there was all the world over was with them in Galleons Lap"
|At Galleon''s Lap Viewpoint|
|View From Galleon's Lap|
These must be the gorse bushes that Pooh and Friends chased
3 Woozles and a Wizzle around!
|Trail to the Heffalump Trap|
|Pooh Watching over the Heffalump Trap|
|In Pooh's Cunning Trap to Catch a Heffalump|
|Roo's Sandy Pit|
After visiting the memorial, we were ready for an "Expotition to the North Pole".
Much like Christopher Robin, we weren't quite sure what the North Pole was, but we knew it was a thing you discover.
|Mum and Pooh are Ready for the "Expotition"|
|Where Roo Learned to Swim|
|The Gloomy Place where Eeyore Lost a Tail and Pooh Found One|
|I found it!! The North Pole!! Maybe not.|
NorTH PoL E
PooH FouND IT
North Pole or not, it was a nice day for a hike with my mum and a fun way to end her adventure in England.