We have been in the UK for just over 4 weeks and although its the height of summer the skies have been full of grey, angry clouds and rain has fallen most days. The healthy glow we had gained from our months in sunny Europe is fading fast.
Between the showers of rain I've been blackberry picking. With all the wet, the dark tiny round orbs that join together to make a blackberry are about bursting with juice and sweetness. My fingers are stained from the dark fruit and I have a few scratches from the viciousness of the blackberry's thorns but the delicious smell coming from my oven as a blackberry crumble gently browns makes it worthwhile.
I took a stroll down 'The Long Walk' through Windsor Great Park to Windsor Castle. The horse chestnut trees that line the walk were proudly showing off their fruit. Bright green, spiky balls, about the size of an apricot, nestled amongst their large tear drop shaped leaves. These fleshy pods house the 'conker'. Through September and October the fruits ripen, fall to the ground, splitting open the fibrous shell to reveal shiny, nut brown conkers. These seeds are not edible to humans but deer, horses and cows love them.
It is every boys dream to find the perfect conker so he can beat his buddy at the old game of 'Conkers', a game that is believed to be played nowhere else in the world. To play, a hole is drilled right through the middle of the conker and a 40cm string is attached. A game for two players, one boy holds up his string, letting the conker hang and keeping as still as possible while his opponent attempts to strike the hanging conker using his own stringed, shiny brown nut, swinging it hard. The aim of the game is to smash your mates prized conker to pieces.
On our walks between the showers of rain we have noticed the fairies have been out in force, dancing on the grass verges, in the parks and in peoples gardens as Fairy Rings have appeared everywhere. These rings are circles of creamy coloured toadstools and these circles can be a few centimetres across to many metres in diameter. Folklore says that the fairies dance on moonlit nights and the following morning a ring of toadstools, the Fairy Ring, appears. You must not trample or destroy a fairy ring as it will bring you very bad luck so Paul had to watch were he was putting his size 10 feet!
We decided to have a few days ambling about the southern counties of Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset. The drive through the New Forest was disappointing as we couldn't see a thing through the rain battering the windshield. The rain eased as we pulled into the seaside town of Swanage so we made the most of it, wrapped up in our wet weather gear we ventured into the town. The shops were empty of people, nobody on the beach, no children building sand castles, nobody tucking into paper parcels of fish and chips, it was a sorry sight as we are in the middle of the UK's summer holidays and the town and beach should be teeming with holiday makers.
I had picked a campsite nearby to spend the night. It was on a farm and as we arrived Paul thought the ground looked too soft for us to drive on so off we went to find another site. Just north of Corfe Castle Paul saw a farm camping sign. 'This looks good', he says as he drives in, 'the ground should be OK'. Famous last words…..As Paul tried to reverse nearer to the electric point at the edge of the field we felt and heard the wheels spin. Yes we were bogged. We tried putting a number of items under the tryes to help them grip, all to no avail, those wheels just kept spinning round, throwing out great globs of wet sticky mud. We were well and truly stuck so that's were we spent the night and come morning the kindly farmer used his tractor to tow us off his field.
While in Dorset we had to sample a cream tea. We found a delightful little cafe in Blandford and sat out in the courtyard enjoying some unexpected sunshine and munched our way through four homemade scones, spread with delicious homemade strawberry jam and topped with oodles of fresh clotted cream. Heaven!!!
Back into Hampshire we stopped for a couple of nights with our good friends Alasdair and Caroline. As always it was so great to see them both and we thank them for letting us 'pikies' park on their drive.
That's about all our news for now.
We are looking at flights home for the middle of September.
Liz and Paul x