July was our last full month in England. We spent the month continuing to explore as much as possible and also marking some momentous milestones, all while battling the unpredictable UK weather.
The big event of July was celebrating Tommy’s 6th birthday!
Thank you Netley and Uncle Mark! This was by far Tommy’s favorite present: a skid steer loader.
Instead of a birthday party, we planned a day of adventure in London where we visited sights that Tommy wanted to see. Our first stop was to see the Monument that was erected to commemorate the 1666 fire of London. Tommy had read about this in one of his books and was keen to climb to the top.
Looking down the winding staircase in The Monument – Joey is at the bottom looking up.
We were excited to see the Olympic rings hanging from Tower Bridge.
The headliner stop on this London trip was touring the HMS Belfast which is anchored in the Thames near Tower Bridge. Tommy had spotted this on our first London adventure and had been wanting to go on it ever since.
Here’s the birthday boy with the HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge in the background. This is a better view of the Olympic rings on the bridge.
After spending a long time on the Belfast, we were all pretty wiped out. We walked across London Bridge to Borough Market for a snack and then headed back to Dorking. Tommy reported that his birthday trip was, “Fun, fun, fun!”
At the beginning of the month, we took a day trip to nearby Guildford where we visited Dapdune Warf. We learned about the history of the canal and river navigations in the area and took a scenic boat ride.
The boys had a day off from school on a Friday for teacher training, so we took advantage of the opportunity to do a long weekend trip. We decided to leave the country and journey to…Wales!
Sam planned for a week that he was going to wear his whales shirt for our trip to Wales.
We stopped first at the Big Pit Mining Museum. It was moving to learn of the difficult lives of the coal miners and their families (especially the child laborers) who worked so hard to fuel the UK’s industrial revolution.
In the background is part of the winding machinery for the mine shaft elevator.
From the Big Pit we headed to the Brecon Mountain Railway where we took a ride on a narrow gauge steam train. The scenery was beautiful and we were lucky to have a whole train coach to ourselves. While talking with one of the men working in the railway’s repair shop, we learned that their caboose is a replica of the one found on Maine’s Sandy River Railroad!
We spent our next day in Wales at St. Fagan’s National History Museum. This is a huge open air museum of restored buildings that showcases the history of Welsh culture and architecture.
This is an old tannery.
We ended our Welsh trip with the perennial family favorite: a castle. On our final day, we visited the spectacular Caerphilly Castle.
The guys were all interested in the medieval war machines.
This is what happens when I give the camera to Paul.
The other big milestone that we achieved this month was the completion of the boys’ school year. Joe and Tom received stellar report cards showing that they are both excellent scholars as well as positive citizens at school. We are so proud of how well they adjusted to the big change and embraced the adventure of going to school in another country.
Last day of school in England!
Final walk to school.
I know I’ve complained before about the weather here, but it’s been a rough spring and summer even by England standards. Wet and cold and unpredictable. Sun one minute, hail the next. I will NOT miss the English weather when we get back to Maine!
This was a huge storm. The temperature dropped by 20 degrees and we had torrential rain with hail.
Our garden was flooded! Of course, that didn’t stop the boys from going out and playing in it.
By the end of July, the weather seemed to have turned the corner (although I wasn’t holding my breath). One gorgeous Sunday afternoon we went to the Gomshall Mill where we sat outside in their garden, ate lunch (and some of us also had a beer), and the children enjoyed the play area. On the way home, we stopped at the village of Abinger Hammer and watched a bit of a cricket game. The cricket pitch is right next to the River Tillingbourne and families bring their children there to play in the water and catch fish and crabs with nets. The boys loved this.
The boys quickly made friends with some children who had nets and buckets.
The “only” other big thing to happen in July was the start of the 2012 Olympics! I’ll will write all about our Olympic adventures in another post, so stay tuned.