Waking up in Cambridge, we were ready to move on and move out. My in-laws had a plan to see as much of what they remember from England in two days. We started by picking up some provisions from a Spar down the street from the hotel, right next to a great fish and chips place.
I was seriously disappointed not to be able to try the food. I’m not sure I would even care if it tasted good, these people get an A+ in naming their restaurant.
Adding to our quirky morning was Big One’s treat selection.
They sounded disgusting to me, but tasted a little like circus peanuts. Big One loved them, but sadly we did not see another bag for the rest of our trip. We would have gone back to the same Spar, but that was the end of our time in Cambridge.
Honestly, there I wasn’t exactly certain where we were for most of the time we were in England. I saw it on the map at the time, but since then, I have lost track of where we were. There was a lot of driving, and several places that we drove by without stopping. We took a brief stop by the base where my Father in Law used to work, and where my husband was born, but I generally make it a habit to not take scenery pictures on military bases. We also stopped outside the now closed base where they used to live. There was no way to actually go on the base and see their old house, but the gate where we stopped was the same location where my Father-in-law was working the day the queen came on base.
For lunch we stopped was a pub in the middle of nowhere, the Sculthorpe Mill.
Thirty years ago, this pub was apparently a club of some sort. People would pay a small yearly fee to be a member, and then they would come down to socialize while consuming beer, playing lawn bowl, and just enjoying their time. As the story goes, my in-laws were the only American members for the time they lived here, but while they were here, it was somewhat of a second home for them. When they left, around 1982, above the old slot machine was a large deer head. My father-in-law left his cowboy hat on top of that deer, promising one day he would be coming back for his hat. No one was really sure if the hat would still be there, but he made a promise and had to come back to find out.
Sadly, the hat was not there. In 2002, there was a fire in the pub. While the outside was mostly fine, the inside was not. Eight years ago, a family bought the old place, fixed it up, and reopened as both a pub and a bed and breakfast. The daughter was working while we were there. There was no way she was old enough to remember the old days when my in-laws used to visit, but she did remember the hat. It had kept its place on top of the deer until the fire had ruined both the hat and the deer.
The outside of the pub looked great, with a beautiful garden. I didn’t remember to take any pictures inside, but I had fish and chips to focus on, so I had my priorities straight. Food before photos.
We took a few more stops that day, but honestly I can’t remember where everything was.
I don’t remember where this church was, but it’s pretty, isn’t it?
We had another long drive to a place in the middle of no where, looking for a World War 2 memorial. Like many people, my husband’s family served in WW2. While my grandfather was in Okinawa Japan, my husband’s grandfather served in England at a base that doesn’t seem to exist anymore. Sometime in the 90’s, he came back with many others from his unit to place a memorial. This was about ten years after my in-laws left, so they had never seen it.
This memorial was really in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by hedges. Seriously, if you didn’t know something was there, you would never think to stop and look. We got a little lost, and as a result, learned a little history.
Of course my in-laws knew the name of the base where the memorial was supposed to be, but when we put it into the GPS, we ended up at someone’s house. While asking for directions, we learned that the house was built where the old train station used to be. During WW2, English bases were named after the closest train station, the station where the military troops would come in, not the actual location of the base. This was meant to confuse the Nazi troops. This way if they heard about a base and attempted to attack, they were more likely to attack a train station. Still a horrible thing, but much less of a strategic loss.
Seeing this memorial meant a lot to my mother-in-law as her father had passed away. It isn’t a recent death, but of course, when it comes to losing family, one day or seventeen years, it still hurts. This memorial was more than just a reminder of fallen soldiers. It was a memorial to a time in her father’s life, first when he fought for something he believed in and later when he came back to remember those he had lost.
After a long day of driving and things that were, well, not kid friendly, we ended at Pensthorpe Waterfowl Park.
By the time we arrived it was 1630, only a half an hour from when the park closed. The clerks kindly didn’t charge us for the children, as we weren’t going to be able to see much, but the money goes to preservation so we wouldn’t have minded.
There were lots of birds, of course. It seemed to be mostly ducks, but there were lots of other birds, both those that I recognized and many I didn’t. There were also plenty of bees, which sounds bad, but is actually a good thing. Well, since none of us are allergic to bees it was a good thing. It’s nice to look after all of the creatures that are part of our ecosystem.
Pretty water flowers.
Beautiful scenery everywhere.
And my daughters conquering a wooden spider climber. Peaceful all around.
We ended the day back with my in-laws English friends having a Chinese and pleasant conversation. Their grandson was a lot of fun to talk to. He seemed fascinated with the Americans sitting in the living room, with our weird accents, and phrasing. Little One had bought some rocks at Pensthorpe, and he was happy to talk about them with her, letting her know the rocks that were common around that area of England.
Even in an uneventful evening, I was still able to find two exciting things. First, my father-in-law and I walked a short distance to see the church they used to attend. It was small, with uneven floors and benches that look extremely uncomfortable, but that was what make it charming. I forgot to bring my phone with me, so I ended up without any pictures but it was pretty. Even cooler, inside the church they were conducting bell ringing practice. The church I attended growing up didn’t have a bell. In fact, most churches I saw growing up didn’t have bells an those that did never seemed to have them ringing. Inside this small, old, church, six devoted adults worked hard to pull the strings, ringing the bells to created a beautiful rhythm. It was kind of beautiful. I may not have known their names or what they did for a living, but I learned they spent every Wednesday night in a church for bell ringing practice. It was a part of their story that made me what to know more.
The most exciting thing about the night was actually something small. Many people might not even think it is that big of a deal. Trust me, it was exciting. I was offered tea by an actual, real, English woman. She brewed a pot in her kettle and gave me a piping hot cuppa. It was both exciting (admittedly in a stupid way) and terrifying. I drink tea all the time at home, almost every night. I love tea, and I drink it in many different ways, depending on what kind of tea it is. However, being offered real English tea by a real English person, I was slightly terrified. Was I supposed to drink it black? Was it okay to say yes to sugar and milk? What about the little bit I didn’t quite have time to finish before we left? Would she be hurt that I didn’t finish it, or think I didn’t like the tea? Knowing tea is important in England, it seemed like a dangerous thing to be involved in. I think we all remember how upset England was when those revolutionaries in Boston didn’t like the tea. The last thing I wanted to do was start another international incident over tea.
Of course, I was overthinking everything, and she was a delight. In fact, I’m not sure she would have cared however I liked my tea, or even if I had refused to have any.
Well, we still have more England stories to tell, so I better get moving. Until next time.