Thursday, 26 January 2017

January in England – It Snows

This was the house we lived in in England for two years – Quarter Moon Cottage. I know I've shared it before, but never like this, lightly covered in snow.  

Why was it called Quarter Moon Cottage we never figured out, but on occasion we would receive mail for the owners of the house and the address listed would simple say “Quarter Moon Cottage.”  Many of the houses in our little village of Worthington had names posted on a plaque out front, and more than once I had a delivery person knock on the door and ask, “Can you point me towards Oliver’s Cottage?” 

“Do you have the house number or name of the road?” I would ask.

“No,” was the reply.  “Just says Oliver’s Cottage.”

Such in life in England.

The photo of our house also shows you just how very close to the road our house sat.  Actually, the house couldn’t get any closer to the road.  The mirrors on trucks coming from behind our house quite literally passed a foot or two from the stucco side.  To get past our house you had no choice but to walk on the road.  But again, as with houses having names, houses sitting right on the road are quite common in England.  Was I nervous about someone running into the house?  Absolutely.  But it never happened during our time there, and hopefully never will. 

Believe it or not, despite our house and the back garden (as it is called in the UK) sitting right on the road, the backyard was quite private thanks to a fence and the tall hedge.  

On the other side of that hedge you see in the photo above is a four or five foot drop directly down to the road.  That was a busy road, but because of that thick green hedge, we could be in our backyard and hardly tell when a car or truck was going by.

I can count on one hand how many times we woke to snow in the morning during our two years in England, and I wouldn't have to use all of my fingers.  The snow never stayed for long, but for this one short day it transformed the view from the front windows of our house, turning the usually green yet dreary January English countryside to a beautiful soft white that was much appreciated during the long, dark months of winter. 

I miss that view.

So what does one do on a typical weekend during the winter while living in England?   

You head outside for a walk.  The British love to walk, in all types of weather.  You just need to dress appropriately.  Hat, mittens, winter jacket...

One particular Saturday or Sunday, I can’t remember which, we deciding a nice walk at one of our favorite parks was on the agenda, so we grabbed our winter gear and headed out the door to Beacon Hill.   

We did this same two-mile or so hike around the park several times will living in England and it never got old.   

We would pass through a forest with a play area with hand carved wooden playground equipment for the girls to play on...

these unique and artistic pieces all carved by a craftsman in the park.  

In fact as you continue on the hike, you pass by his woodcarving shack.  It was always fun to see the gigantic blocks of wood sitting outside the shack awaiting his skillful hands.  What would he make next?  Maybe some more sheep...

like this one that sits next to the trail as you head back up to the top of Beacon Hill.  

Beacon Hill was always a fun place to play...

and explore.   

And we always began and ended our hikes at the top...

on Beacon Hill itself... 

where you can see for miles upon miles in all directions.  

It was windy on this particular winter day...

but that didn’t stop the girls from having some fun scrambling around the rocks where you felt like you were at the top of the world.  

On another Sunday, we jumped in the car and headed for the quaint town of Ashbourne.  The twisting and turning narrow streets in the center of town are lined with adorable shops filled with all manner of treasures. 

Like this adorable shop with little baby bottoms strung across the window.  Are you kidding me?  So cute you want to walk in a buy a pair even if you don’t have a baby to give them to.  
It was another cold and blustery Sunday in January so we made our way to one of the many little coffee shops and cafes in Ashbourne for a warm drink. Ellie became a proper tea drinker while living in England, adding a bit of sugar and a splash of milk. 

And in England, tea always comes served in a proper tea pot.

Leah of course got the hot chocolate which should always be served in a cup smothered with whipping cream and pink and white marshmallows on the side.  That's how they do it here.  

After we had warmed up a bit, we wandered over to St. Oswald’s Church, it's 212-foot tall spire making quite a sight in this seemingly small town.  But when we moved to England, it didn’t take long for us to discover that magnificent churches can be found in any size town. 

Inside the church was equally as impressive...

the huge, beautiful stain glassed windows adding some color and light to the cold, stone interior.  A plaque inside the church says it was dedicated on April 24, 1241.  That’s over 700 years ago.  And as with every church we visited, this one also contained monuments inside to leading local families.  

Outside, the church is surrounded by a cemetery, the writing on some of the moss covered headstones now worn off by the elements as they slowly sink into the ground.   

Their presence always gives an eerie feel to the dark facades of these churches, but it’s fascinating to walk through the rows trying to make out the dates, some going back to the 1700s. 

And sometimes on a weekend day in January in England we just stayed at home in Quarter Moon Cottage.  The girls might squeeze through the wooden fence behind our house to play with the neighbor girl who lived next door.  Or we might watch a James Bond movie on TV as there always seemed to be a James Bond movie playing on TV.  Go figure!  

And often, I would spend the afternoon cooking a nice meal to go along with our English weekend at home, trying to make good use of the British grown ingredients we picked up at the local store.  One particular Saturday, or maybe it was a Sunday, I can't remember, it was Leek and Stilton tarts.   

So savory!  And so delicious!

And when you live in England for two years, that is how you while away the hours of the cold, dark and dreary weekends of January.

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