December 2011 – “Can We Go to a Castle?”

We are doing our best to take in as many of the local sights and absorb as much history and culture as we can while we are here in England.  During December I think we did pretty well.  It seems we are all fond of castles, stately homes, and rambles in the countryside.  Here are some photos of places we visited last month.

The grand old estate here is Milton Court, home of Unum UK where Paul works.  It’s hard to believe that an insurance company is located in such a beautiful spot!  We attended a Christmas party for employees and their families and a fun time was had by all – face painting, balloon sculptor, arts & crafts, snacks, a pantomime, and a visit with Father Christmas – of course we enjoyed ourselves!

We joined England’s National Trust so we could visit a wide variety of natural and historic locations throughout the country.  Our first visit was to Polesden Lacey, a nearby stately home.  It was beautifully decorated for Christmas, and I’m sure we would have thoroughly enjoyed the grounds if we all weren’t freezing cold!  We made plans go go back to picnic and explore when the weather gets warmer. 

These horses looked less than thrilled about being dressed up for Christmas.

All Throughout England there are beautiful nature reserves and a huge network of public walking paths.  One lovely park with trails in Dorking is The Nower. Paul walks through here on his way to work every day.  There is a lookout spot at the highest point in The Nower with excellent views of Dorking and the surrounding countryside.

The stately homes were lovely, but we all really wanted to see a proper castle! Our first stop was Bodiam Castle in East Sussex.  It was amazing to walk through the castle and feel all those years of history surrounding us.  The boys were suitably impressed as well.  

This is a hop field. The unusually roofed buildings are traditional oast houses for drying the hops.

On Christmas Eve, went for a hike to Leith Hill, another nearby National Trust nature preserve area with walking trails.  For a few moments when we stood at the top of the tower on Leith Hill we became the highest people in southeast England!  

This is Leith Hill Tower.

After Christmas, we were invited to stay with the parents of one of Amy’s cousin’s in-laws in the town of Stamford. We relaxed at their beautiful home, explored the town (and stopped at a pub), saw a bit of the local scenery, and most of all enjoyed being with family!

The children herded these poor sheep around the field!

We stopped at a pub for a little break. Photo credit goes to Ann Pye for this shot.

We visited Burghley House while in Stamford, but unfortunately the gardens and house were closed for the season (and it was very cold and windy).  The friendly deer on the grounds were quite keen on seeing if we had any treats to offer.  Sadly, we did not.  
We ended the year with a castle double shot.  On December 30, we went to Hampton Court Palace.  This place was particularly interesting because they have costumed actors portraying various characters in the royal court.  The gardens also have hedge maze that was a huge hit with Joey and Tommy.

We had the extreme honor of witnessing Henry VIII at his afternoon meal.

Finally, on New Year’s Eve, we visited Leeds Castle in Kent.  This is another place to which we will definitely return when the weather is warmer for picnicking and exploring the beautiful gardens.

Leeds Castle has a great play area for children.

It was a busy month! I’m not sure if we’ll be able to keep up this pace now that school and work have begun again, but we will try our best to get out and explore whenever we can.

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12 Responses to December 2011 – “Can We Go to a Castle?”

  1. tcjkag says:

    Oh my goodness, what an adventure!! It looks like you all are having an amazing time and what a great experience for the kids. The pictures are beautiful and it is great to “see” you guys.

  2. Maryann says:

    Hi Amy-
    Fantastic! Levi and I loved the pictures of the castles and towers and deer! It looks and sounds like you are having quite the adventure. Keep up the posts as you can, we love to read them.

  3. Netley says:

    Great pictures….what a wonderful experience for all of you. Hoping I can take you up on the general invitation to get there and take in some of it too!! Love and hugs to all!! 🙂

  4. Fantastic photos! Are Joey and Tommy attending a British school, or are you homeschooling them while you’re there? I love reading your posts!

    • Amy says:

      Thanks, Beth! Yes, the boys are attending school here in Dorking. It’s been quite an adjustment for them, but they are working hard. I’ll write about it here on the blog when things are feeling more settled for them.

  5. Sarah Leonard says:

    Wow! This is so very cool to see what you’ve been up to. Hope you are having fun on this adventure. We miss you but know you’re having fun (wish we could be in your back pockets!). Happy New Year.
    Sarah, Ed, Evan, Drew

    • Amy says:

      Hi Sarah. Happy New Year to you and your family! We think of our Longfellow friends in Portland often. Remember, we have a lovely guest bedroom…

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