Wednesday, July 31, 2019

All about July 2019

This month was all about:  a few different things actually: losing my Dad, stressing about Paula and Cal’s visa, a little holiday in Cornwall.

What I have been doing:  Grieving, thinking some deep thoughts about loss, reconciliation and gratitude… (some heavy emotional stuff’s been going on!)  Also…stress eating.... 
Places we went:  
“Pick-your-own” at Peterley farm - our first experience of picking our own fruit at a local farm.   

We visited the annual Prestwood Steam Festival - which turned out to be a much bigger event than we had imagined, we really enjoyed it.

Rox and I took the kids on a day-trip to London

The Missenden Abbey Summer Fair

Morris Dancers at Missenden Abbey

We spent 4 lovely days in Newquay, Cornwall

And finally, Grant and I spent a night on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent – the place my Whittle ancestor left when he came as an 1820 settler to South Africa.

What I read:  I’ve been reading lots of light, fun, happy reads.  I recently read a couple of books by local author, Pernille Hughes, that I really enjoyed.  I also enjoyed the “ComingBack to Cornwall” series by Katherine E Smith.

What we’ve been watching: Grant and I have been binge-watching “Call the Midwife” – we started watching it back in South Africa and then moved on to other things, so we are now catching up on the series we have missed.  It’s really interesting to watch, knowing that Grant’s 3x great grandfather was a missionary in Poplar back in the day.
We’ve been eating:  Loads of rubbish…which is why Grant and I have recently gone back to the tried-and-trusted eating plan we were on shortly before we left South Africa last year.  It’s an eating plan that works for us, that we find easy to follow and that we should stick to for life!                            
In July I loved… and loathed…..:   I loved all the roses and hydrangeas – Summer is really beautiful here!  

I fell in love with Cornwall  - we’ll definitely be returning there.  

I loathed going through another bereavement.  Losing my Dad was heart-wrenching.

Friday, July 05, 2019

Goodbye my sweet Dad

This morning I got a call from my brother, Rory, telling me that my father had passed away.  Such an utterly shattering thing....

I am left heartbroken...grieving... not only for the life lost, but for the time we never spent together.  The wasted years.

My Dad and I never saw each other for close on 40 years.  We made contact again about this time last year.  Since then we have been in contact pretty much daily.  In that short time he has come to mean so very much to me.  He has been so incredibly sweet, gentle and loving towards me and my family.  He has been my anchor in a really turbulent time.  I will be eternally grateful for this precious year I had with my Dad.  I will miss him so, so much.

Today it has been brought home to me again, in a very poignant way, that we really don't know how many days we have left on this Earth.  So make that call, send that message, hug your loved ones... don't wait, don't waste precious days.

Goodbye my sweet Daddy.  I love you and I'll forever be your Baby Blue.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Out and About: A visit to Knole

We spent last weekend in Kent.  (Rox and I attended a Hen's Party there on Saturday, which was a lot of fun!)   This was our first visit to Kent and we will definitely be returning soon, not least because we have a wedding to attend next month!  Both my paternal and maternal families originate in Kent, so I have lots of genealogical scratching to do there too.  

On Sunday, we decided to break our journey home with a visit to Knole.  It was a spur-of-the-moment visit, so I hadn't done any research and had no idea what to expect.  It turned out to be a lovely place and we will definitely take Paula and Cal there when they visit next month.

We began our visit with a walk through the medieval deer park.  It was such fun to see the deer up close.

The littlies enjoyed messing around in the forest den (a feature of most wooded areas we've walked through here in the UK)

We then wandered up to the cafe, where we had a lovely lunch.  Most of the National Trust places we have visited have had really good quality, reasonably priced meals available.

After lunch we took a wander around the 600 year old estate buildings, which were originally built as an archbishop's palace.  We didn't do an in-depth tour of all the rooms as we had the grandchildren with us, next time we'll definitely wander through more of the showrooms.  We absolutely loved what we did see.  So beautiful!

Knole is definitely one of the most child-friendly estates we have visited, with loads of hands-on features for the grandchildren to fiddle with.

The children were encouraged to touch the displays in the estate room above and there were even bits of paper and stamps provided for them to use.

We absolutely loved our visit to Knole and highly recommend it.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Out and about: Bluebells at Dockey Wood

I have a new love in my life.... the English Bluebell!  Living in South Africa, bluebells weren't something I had ever really thought much about and then we moved to UK and they became something of an obsession!  

I've discovered some interesting facts about these pretty little blue flowers since I sat up and took notice, for instance: I discovered that almost half the world's bluebells are found in the UK, they’re relatively rare in the rest of the world.  The entire bluebell plant is poisonous to humans and animals.  Although common in the UK, bluebells are threatened by habitat destruction and cross-breeding with non-native bluebells (eg the Spanish bluebell) They are pretty fragile, they can take years to recover from being stepped on and bluebell colonies take a long time to establish - roughly five to seven years from the seed being planted to flowering.  Bluebells are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981), making it against the law to intentionally pick, uproot or destroy bluebells

Since the beginning of April I have been on "bluebell watch", eagerly awaiting our first visit to see the bluebells.  Bluebells usually flower from mid-April to late May, depending on the weather.  Finally, a couple of weeks ago we saw the first bluebells appearing in the odd garden and then, the first week in May, I heard that the bluebells were looking beautiful in some of the local woods and so we made our first visit to Dockey Wood to see these beautiful flowers.  We were not disappointed!  What a sight to behold!

Dockey Wood is part of the Ashridge Estate - for more information and directions, click here.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Living in Prestwood - Part 2

(continuing from my previous post about living in Prestwood)

Prestwood is a small village in Buckinghamshire, located in the Chiltern Hills.  It's about 35 miles from central London.  The train from London to our nearest station, in Great Missenden, takes roughly 45 minutes. 

High Wycombe is the closest big town to us - about 5 miles away (it's sort of similar in size and infrastructure to Pietermaritzburg I'd say).  Personally, I think High Wycombe is a bit of an armpit of a place, but having said that, it has a lovely shopping centre, a really nice Waitrose (not that we go there often... being poor and all....) and some other good features too.  So, walking through High Wycombe can be a downright depressing experience, but the town serves it's purpose.

Great Missenden, which is just down the hill from us, is a lovely village, with a beautiful high street. It was once home to Roald Dahl and the Roald Dahl Museum is located in the high street, along with some interesting little shops, restaurants and pubs.

Great Missenden high street with the Roald Dahl museum to the right

Prestwood itself isn't exactly gorgeous (Great Missenden beats it hands-down in the beauty stakes!) but I think it's a nice little place.  The village boasts a couple of churches, two small grocery stores (Sainsbury's and Co-op) there are a couple of pubs, and take-aways, a charity shop, a post office, a florist, a butcher, a couple of hairdressers and we also have 2 doctor surgeries, a dentist, an optician and a lawyer in the village.  There is also a brewery in town, a garden centre (with a lovely coffee shop and gift shop) and an awesome farm shop.  Oh and we have a little duck pond, but awkwardly our ducks have absconded!  Here are some pics of our little village:

The pub on our high street

post office and charity shop

the little shopping area on the high street

dentist (I've been seeing too much of him lately!) and optician
Grant and I live in a small flat just off the high street.  No prizes for guessing which windows belong to the South Africans!  (We seem to be the only people in the block who perpetually leave our windows open...)

Prestwood is situated in the Chilterns, an "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty" and the countryside is absolutely gorgeous and SO accessible.  That is something I absolutely love about living here!  There are thousands of miles of footpaths threading their way through the countryside, just waiting to be explored.  We literally walk out of our door and down the road and within minutes we are walking in fields or the woods.  The footpaths run right through farms and woods, alongside canals and rivers, so the scenery changes as you walk, it's really lovely!

Our favourite walk is from our flat, through the woods, to Great Missenden, where - depending on the time of day - we either stop for a coffee at our favourite coffee shop, or a drink at the pub, before walking back home through the woods.  Here are some scenes taken on the walk between Prestwood and Great Missenden

Great Missenden at the bottom of the hill

There are some fantastic places to visit within roughly half an hour drive of us:  Hughenden Estate, Cliveden, Bourne End, Marlow, Ashridge Estate, the Tring Reservoirs, Pitstone windmill, Wendover canal, Hellfire caves....  There is so much to see and do!  We have a long list of places that we still want to visit, it's just a matter of finding the time.

While Prestwood is by no means perfect, I'm happy we chose to live here.