On the Road (Trains?) Again

As I type this, I’m sat in a cafe at Euston Station, comedically early for a train. But we’ll get back to that.

Where was I last? Oh yes, having a New Year’s in. ‘Twas lovely, except for having to give M grief for answering work emails at midnight. I suppose doctoring never truly stops does it? Anyway, we rang in the New Year the next morning with a delightful cooked breakfast and M put up a curtain in our kitchen that we’ve been meaning to get for ages. You can now sit at our kitchen table without the neighbours being able to see you in PJs from their bedroom window. Progress.

It was quiet for most of January, with a few forest wanders. Mostly it was just wrapping up my experiment paperwork from my last module. By the middle of the month though, we were back up to Norwich to celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary. (How has it already been three years??) M spoiled me and booked a room in the fancy hotel in the city centre, and even though we half froze through the evening, we had a great time!

Came back to a very needy cat who demanded ALL the fuss after an entire evening by herself, and then prepared for the next module of my master’s programme, due to start that Monday. This one was a really useful module, in which they showed us how to write project proposals and scientific posters for conferences. Short of grant writing magic, it couldn’t have been more handy for long term use. That paperwork is now turned in and ready for grading. Should hear back next month I think.

By the end of January we had a few freak snow flurries, but nothing like last year. It only stuck to the grass and was gone in a few days, as it should be.

February rolled in, and with it sunsets past 5 PM! Growing up in the southern US did not prepare me for a world where the sun sets before 4 for a good few months. Everyone was perked up by this slow change. Even Ophelia was more prone to hang out in the garden in the tiny sunbeam that hits the back gate.

Towards the end of the month we took a short holiday and met up with the family down in Padstow. We got extremely lucky and didn’t get any rain the few days we were there. This will never happen again. With the good weather though, we tried to soak up the beach and the water and the harbour side fun to the best of our abilities.

It went like a flash and so did the rest of February. We’ve now inched into March, and keep hoping the sun will stay out for the day. Sometimes however, you just have to go out in the rotten weather, and so M and I made a trip to the nearby Cressing Temple Barns. They’re one of the oldest wooden structures still standing in the world, being built around 1250. They are GIGANTIC. Honestly, I wasn’t prepared for something so large. But when it’s something built for the Knights Templar, I suppose it would be. Totally free to visit and park as it’s owned by Essex County Parks, and I would definitely recommend a visit. I’d like to go back in the summer when the gardens are in bloom.

And now here we are, sat in the train station for a train that’s now only an hour away from departure. Time for lunch and hopefully the more reasonable humans in my cohort to arrive soon. Speak more when I have wifi again!

— Kate

Hidden Places: Lacock

Everyone always goes to London when they come from America. I get it. It’s got all the big museums and attractions. I’m not saying you¬†shouldn’t go to London. I love London. But if you want something old and beautiful and uniquely English, you need to go to the West Country to visit the little village of Lacock.

Lacock is in Wiltshire, about 3 miles away from the much larger town of Chippenham. Nearly the entire village is owned by the National Trust, and it fiercely maintains its quaint, historic appearance because of this.

Pretty sure I’ve seen this in Harry Potter.

Lacock has been around since at least the time of the Domesday book, in which is was mentioned as having a population of about 175 people. There is an abbey in the village that was founded in 1232 and is frequently used for films as it is in fantastic shape. The village itself survived through the ages off the wool trade and being a crossing point for the nearby River Avon.

With the exception of the abbey, most of the houses in the village are from the 1700s. However, there is still a medieval church, a 15th century inn, and a 14th century tithe barn still standing. They’re all beautiful architecture, and it isn’t uncommon in the warmer months to find people using sites for wedding photos!

The Talbot family (of historical photography fame) have owned the village for centuries, up until 1944 when Matilda Talbot gave the estate to the National Trust. You can see the grave of Henry Fox Talbot in the Lacock village churchyard. Unlike other National Trust sites though, this is still a living estate! Lacock obviously thrives off tourism, but people live in the village and even have a small school.

Because the village is so fiercely maintained in its historic state, it makes for prime filming. Signs for businesses cannot be posted to the wall like any other town, which makes it easy to work into many different time periods and places. Among other things, you’ll have seen the village in Pride and Prejudice (1995), Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, and Downton Abbey.

All of this culminates in a gorgeous afternoon out, walking down the charming roads, having a pint in a medieval inn, and maybe even doing a bit of crafts shopping in the locally owned shops. Some of the houses will be opened during the day so you can get a feel for the interior of them, and some you can even rent for a holiday if you feel so inclined! I would definitely consider it as something slow paced to do, and a stunning base camp to go see the Neolithic attractions that Wiltshire is so well known for.

Just a bit of medieval doodles. No big deal.
So if you’re looking for something off the beaten tourist path as an international visitor, I cannot recommend this place highly enough!