Tuesday, May 31, 2016

My Northern Adventure, Part 2: Saturday to Wednesday

The view from our Sunday walk in the Peak District.

I left off at our perfect B&B in Ashford in the Water. Erin found out that the name of that charming little town comes from the fact that it often floods. Thus in the water, rather than on the water, as so many other towns are named. We loved that little bit of insight.

On Saturday morning, May 23, we headed just a few miles over to Chatsworth, one of the great, grand houses in The National Trust. This one is the residence of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and it is beyond opulent. I took a special tour that was from the perspective of the servants and staff, so I got to see the downstairs rooms, not as they looked in the past, but as they are used now for a working house that is constantly open to the public and hosting events. It was very interesting, because the rooms were old, but the current uses very modern (for example, the old kitchen in the basement is currently the woodshop for making signs, repairing doors, and creating or maintaining anything that in the house made of wood). We also got to see the areas of the house open to the public, and it is over the top. There was an original Rembrandt. There was a bed that Queen Victoria used. There were precious things from all over the world--the best in art, natural wonders, fabrics, and decorations. There was a lot that was really special, but for me, and I think for Erin, the real treasure of this place is the grounds.

We spent a couple of hours walking the paths in the gardens, and there were moments of wonder and appreciation at nearly every turn, whether it be a fountain, a field of bluebells blooming, or a perfectly placed bridge. It was all the things I think of when I consider English gardens: planned and groomed, but in a way that looks effortless and so natural. I loved the use of pathways to invite exploration and wandering. I sure hope that if I lived nearby, I would walk those grounds as often as possible. The weather was sunny in the morning, then in the afternoon it clouded over, then as we were just about done with the gardens and walking back to the car, we got a proper downpour. Erin's daughter calls it "chucking buckets." We were dressed for it and we STILL got wet to the skin. It did not dampen our appetite for ice cream though, so we stopped for some as the final flourish on our day out. Back at the room, we got warm and dry, then agreed that a couple of orders of naan from a local Indian take away place was the perfect dinner. The people at the restaurant were so confused. They kept asking, "Just naan?" "Yes," I answered.  And it was delicious.

Sunday we woke up and, after a lovely breakfast made by our hosts, we walked into Ashford and attended church at the chapel there. It was originally built in the 13th century, I think, then rebuilt again in the 19th century sometime. It was a charming place, full of flowers because we happened to be there during a celebration weekend. The Anglican service was beautiful from my perspective, because it was different from what I'm used to, but so spirit-filled and lovely. It was a small congregation, and I was the youngest there by possibly 20 years, no joke. I was touched by the Peace Offering, when nearly everyone there exchanged handshakes and "Peace be unto you," and then the response, "And also to you." It also mattered to me to see these old folks, some quite frail, shuffle up to receive communion. It was a show of faith and tradition, and I felt Heavenly Father's love in that little church.

We then headed out to the original church--the hills and valleys. This part of England has some wonderful ones, and our walk along Stanage Edge in the Peak District was exhilarating and filled me with reverence and gratitude for beauty, for being strong enough to walk, and for a friend like Erin to walk with me. It was glorious.

We made it home for bedtime, and I made my final plans to venture to Cambridge all by myself.

On Monday morning, Erin dropped me off at the Andover train station, gave me her Oyster card and I went on an British Train adventure. I successfully made it from Andover to Waterloo, then navigated the London Underground to Euston Station, went topside and walked to King's Cross, and made my train to Cambridge!

And ah, Cambridge. What a lovely place is the city center. Old buildings, beautiful gardens, an open market, a river with bridges, awesome shops, etc. I really liked it. The reason I went in the first place was to have a little reunion with a couple Julia and I met in New Zealand. Stuart and Becky were often sitting near us on the bus, and they are just really great people. They were nice enough to take a long lunch, meet me, then show me around the town a bit. It was so nice to see them both. I'll get Becky to send along the selfie we took because I want to remember.

I had given myself plenty of time there, so I had the chance to to the the chapel at King's College for the Evensong service. On Mondays, the mixed choir sings, rather than the all male choir, but no matter. It was spectacular. The harmonies, acoustics and setting combined to make it a truly memorable way to end the day.

Then, after a bus adventure and more trains, I made it back to Andover. It was a perfect intermission for Erin and I. She got to take a break from me and spend the day doing her thing, and I was able to navigate an unfamiliar transit system without ending up in Scotland, and that is something I like to do.

Tuesday, we went to Salisbury and the Cathedral there. We had a special ticket to tour the tower, and I wasn't really sure what to expect, but it was seriously cool! We climbed many, tiny stone and wooden steps and got to see the attic areas as well as inside the tower, all the way up to the top, where we stood on a tiny, tiny ledge and looked out over the countryside. When I go inside a cathedral, the effect is very magical in a way. My mind knows it's just a building, but my eyes soar up and take in the light and the lines, and it seems like so much more. On this tour, we got to see how the magic happened all those centuries ago, when it was real men building a real building with construction principles that are still used today, and had the skill and the drive to do the things that make the magic for people like me.

The tower was a later addition, and it's quite a feat of engineering. We got to hear the bells, see the ancient, hand-hewn beams, and find out a few fun secrets, like the Fox Face. Finally, we stepped out onto that aforementioned ledge and could see for literally miles. Old Sarum (famous and ancient hill fort site) was one direction. Downtown Salisbury was another. It was a gorgeous day, and a totally worthwhile tour.

Salisbury is a major cathedral, with lots of important political and historical connections. One notable reason to visit is that a copy of the Magna Carta is on display there. If you don't know what the Magna Carta is, I invite you to look it up, because it actually matters in your life today, 800 years after it was written. It resides in a wonderful space called the Chapter House, which is the sort of room I would love to sit in for hours and just look around.

Wednesday, we took the day off from tours. I got some work done, Erin got some work done, and all was well. Lila and I took a sweet walk to the next little town, which I loved. We took the path at the end of the street, walked through some trees, under a highway, and came out inside a snowglobe, or on a piece of painted china, I swear. This was a real little town, with people's regular old cars parked in front, but the houses-sigh! and the walls! and the thatched roofs! and the old church with lichen-covered tombstones moldering in the moss. Oh my word. Book illustrations come to life. One woman I talked to was astonished that I found England so beautiful. She described it as slow, crowded, and cranky. I totally get that I'm looking through the sparkly lenses of an outsider, but man, I sure hope I would find joy in living in such a lovely place as Clatford.

Here are the photos.

Yes, you've seen this in a movie. Chatsworth was one of
several locations to play Pemberley in the 2007 film version
of Pride and Prejudice. 

The hall of statuary from the film. They had to move the
veiled lady out because everyone touched that veil to
see if it was really stone. 
An example of the magic of Chatsworth's gardens. Hello BBC?
Your missing middle-aged garden show hostess has been

We both get mistaken for Kiera Knightley all the time. 

More doors in walls. Hobbits, elves, gnomes.
I'm telling you, they are here. 

And Ents. If this isn't an Ent, I'm JRR Tolkien. 
More garden show hostess action going on here. But that
blue bridge! So beautiful. 
More Kiera Knightley confusion. 
Couldn't resist. It's so near the spot 
where they shot this scene in the film. 

I love this one of Erin.
Panorama of Stanage Edge with the valley on the left, the edge in the middle and the moors on the right. . I could not have asked for a better day to take this hike. 

I must make mention of Burbage Bridge, because finding the ever-loving
Burbage Bridge Car Park, from whence our hike commenced,
was an adventure. But we found it, and running beneath it is
this strange and wonderful "Guinness water," as Erin calls it.
It's colored by flowing through miles of peaty moors to the rivers, and is the
exact color of dark beer. 

I found myself awake at moonrise and couldn't resist testing
out a new lens. 

King's Cross Station. I didn't visit Platform 9 3/4
because that is saved for another trip. Oh Jill!

Cambridge University Botanic Gardens. Gorgeous.
I took pics of so many things I want to plant. 

King's College building decorations. Just your typical side
of a building in Cambridge. 

I took a Punt down the River Cam, which is
just what you do in Cambridge. Here is our
polesman. He uses his pole by pushing against
the bottom of the river or the walls or another boat to steer
as well as move. 

One of the many lovely bridges over the Cam. Of course, for
some reason I didn't get a picture of the ACTUAL
CAM-bridge, for which the city is named. Oh well. You can
google it. I did go under it, twice. 

The Bridge of Sighs, not to be confused with the real Bridge of
Sighs. The story goes that once upon a time, Queen Victoria saw
this bridge and remarked that it looked just like the Bridge of Sighs in
Venice. It doesn't, but because she was the queen, everyone
shrugged, gave her a pass on visual memory, and the name stuck.
It's good to be Queen. 

Proof I actually was in a boat. That's the
Mathematical Bridge behind me. It's got curved-appearing
lines made only of straight beams. Cool. 

I changed trains here and managed to get a
pic of the iconic London Underground signage. 

Some of the beams inside the Salisbury Cathedral tower. 

Erin considers the view. 

The roof of the Chapter House. 

Windows in the Chapter House. 
Erin on top of Salisbury Cathedral Tower. She's amazing. 

The view from the courtyard. I know. Pretend. 

Clatford. Thatched Roof. Ancient beamed
construction. Amazing Garden. No big deal. 

Clatford. Another amazing garden. 

The gatehouse to the Clatford Church.
So beautiful. 

Whew. If you read all of that, you deserve a prize, but I'm SO happy to have it written down.

Onward to Thursday and our next Epic Weekend!


  1. The kiera pictures are amazing, ha! I love all the detail you take the time to include, it feels like I'm sort of there in another dimension, which is refreshing for this tired mama!

  2. thatched roofs, moors, ents, gardens and gardens, and Knightly confusion!?!--Hooray!! (my home is becoming "The House of Sighs" just looking!)


Thank you for sharing your insights!