Archive | May, 2014

Snapshots: Westonbirt Arboretum

16 May

Not really a “day out” post, because, to be honest, I don’t quite have the energy.  The sun was shining, I wasn’t carrying around my bigger camera (too heavy!), and I just wanted to enjoy the sunny sky and a stroll through the beautiful cultivated woodlands or Westonbirt Arboretum.  So, just a few snapshots to share with you, and to remind us all that there is sunshine in England once again.

I have no clue what is going on with this chap, but he is clearly a lucky wood-man.


We found a 2,000-year-old lime tree.  Sort of.  A 2,000-year-old stump of a lime tree.  It’s called coppicing.  Look it up.  It’s cool.20140515_110534ed

I’m a bit of a sucker for Japanese maple.  They’re so beautiful it’s like my eyes can’t focus on them properly.20140515_110609ed

There are groves and groves of Japanese maple here at Westonbirt, in nearly rainbow colors.20140515_112636ed

We also found bluebells … and honeysuckle azalea … and magnolia … and clematis … 20140515_124345ed

… and rhododendron … 20140515_124747ed

Right, I mentioned bluebells?20140515_124904ed

… and Oaks … 20140515_125527ed

And long vistas … 20140515_130814ed

… and intense dappled greenery.


It was also wonderful to see all the mothers and young children out walking and playing and picnicking here at the Arboretum along with the more elderly couples and interest groups.  The natural inclination to get outside on a sunny day and simply be in the sunshine and greenery strikes me as so very British.  Or am I forgetting America?  On a sunny day, did we all run to the park with a picnic and plan to spend hours doing nothing but walking and sitting in the fresh air?  Maybe we did.  It’s been a while.  I’m fairly sure we didn’t have cream tea and cakes. So to sum up the day:  England=winning.

The determinedly charming village of Tetbury is very near Westonbirt, and looks like it’s worth a visit.  I’ve only driven through on my way to visiting Highgrove, but I think a village tour needs to be on the agenda sometime soon …

Day Out: Puzzlewood

9 May

The Forest of Dean is one of the last surviving ancient woodlands in England. Puzzlewood is about in the middle of the Forest of Dean (or the FoD as I like to call it, pretending to be a local) and in the early nineteenth century a local landowner began twisting wooden handrails and stepping-stones through its scowles to create an entertainment for family and friends.  Some say Puzzlewood inspired the forests of Tolkein’s Middle Earth and Rowling’s Forbidden Forest. (I cried a little to put Tolkein and Rowling in the same sentence, but there it is.)  The scowles of Puzzlewood have been featured in BBC shows like Merlin, Doctor Who, and Atlantis.

And now I’ll be quiet, because these rocks and trees speak for themselves.


Near the entrance, a whimsical guide rail


Caverns and cliffs of moss and roots


The forest cat — named Banksy — who often walks with visitors


I stick to the looping, circling path, but Banksy finds his own way


Come along, then



Possibly one of my favorite photos, ever



Puzzlewood begs you to come in, wander, dream ..

Puzzlewood as an attraction includes a small play area, a hay barn (for jumping), an indoor maze, farm animals for petting (and smelling), and a small cafe with acceptable hot chocolate, coffee, tea, cakes and paninis. If you enjoy a leisurely wander through magical woods, then this is easily a half day outing. If you are in some kind of hurry, you can run through the woods like Ungoliant’s daughter Shelob is after you, grab a quick coffee to take-away, and head on down to the Heritage Centre for a busier day. (Hmm, I have no post about the Heritage Centre? I’ll put that one on the list … )  Or if they are in season, see some wild bluebells.

Make do and mend

4 May

Another detour.  Emergency surgery!  What a way to experience another culture.  I can’t recommend this method enough.  Really, I … can’t … recommend … it.


Royal Deeside

We had a beautiful trip to Scotland over Easter.  Like our trip two years ago, we found sunshine and magic everywhere we looked. (Want to see?  Start here and move forward.)  I can’t wait to share those moments with you.

But I was sidetracked on our return.  Waking up one morning in pain which quickly turned me useless and nearly senseless, we rushed to A&E (the UK version of the ER).  The difference in culture is obvious from the first: no one cared about my insurance.  Name, date of birth, address, and the consultant will see you now.  Health care is a HUMAN RIGHT in the UK and I LOVE THAT.

I had the misfortune to be ill on a three day weekend — a Bank Holiday Monday, the day after Easter.  This was very silly of me, as anyone on staff with any sense or seniority had the day off.  But the bare-bones holiday shift did their best for me.

And you should have seen their faces when I asked how soon after emergency hernia surgery I could get back to CrossFit.  I may have managed to recruit both surgical consultants to my warmly-loved box.

An overnight on the surgical ward in a large shared room was another example of the differences in UK and US health care culture.  I had the brief thought that being in a large shared space would feel industrial.  Like I was a chicken in a large coop.  (I was on significant pain medication, I was not thinking clearly.  I definitely pictured us all on roosts, clucking away.)  Instead I found the presence of others in recovery comforting.  The nurses were kind and seemed to care about the individual dignity of all us chickens.  The quiet susurration of daily life in my ears kept me from isolation and depression.  And honestly, there was always the reminder that while I might feel wretched or sad, I was surrounded by women who had already experienced worse and were still making do and mending themselves.


Ribbon tree, Avebury

And did I mention the tea?  Nothing cures like a warm cuppa.  Apparently.  I was offered tea at regular points throughout my stay, and the tea lady was so upset when I declined.  Who doesn’t need a nice cup of tea, I could see her thinking.  I couldn’t stop thinking of that M*A*S*H episode with the recuperating British soldiers who want their tea even when it’s making them more ill:

Hawkeye: Jolly good, Major, but not all your traditions work out quite so well.
Maj. Ross: For instance?
Hawkeye: For instance, giving your lads tea when they’ve been hit in the belly. That leads to another tradition. Peritonitis.
Maj. Ross: You’re sure about that?
Hawkeye: Quite.
Maj. Ross: Well, that does a make a bit of sense. I’ll take it up to higher authorities. But I don’t know…if it was anything but tea.

The tea lady and I finally settled on my having a nice warm cup of beef broth.  She clearly felt that the balance of the universe had been restored when she could bring me a warm cup of liquid.  I said a silent thanks to Hawkeye.

So home I came, about 36 hours after first tottering into A&E, wheeled out on a chair straight out of 1950, by a friendly nurse who had been inconsequentially and cheerfully gossiping away with me about kids and schools during my whole stay — the medicine of sociability must never be discounted.

It would be nice to think that I’ll catch up on all sorts of blog posts while I’m recovering.  I’ll keep thinking that, as I dose off in front of the fire while the rain pours down and I drink my not-tea.  Catch up with y’all later.


Nobody here but us chickens, Forest of Dean