I was in England for just over a week and unbelievably the sun shone brightly every single day.
While I was enjoying the warm spring weather and spending time with my family, good old Captain Birdseye was back on our Lagoon 420 Catamaran, S/V Sunday, overseeing last minute projects before we were to leave Didim marina for the new sailing season.
Quite honestly, looking at some of the photos of the work-in-progress I was very grateful not to be aboard! What a big mess was caused – just for a little wiring for the new chart plotter!
Back in England we (my sister Julia, daughter Hannah and I) spent a lovely day at Dunorlan Park in Tunbridge Wells in the beautiful Kent countryside, catching up with one of my nephews, his wife and their toddler daughter, my nephew’s Mum, Stepfather and Nan. I last met my little great niece when she was just a couple of months old and for Hannah, this was the first time she had met her so it was a very special day.
The beautiful park was once the private grounds of a large and very grand mansion. The big house is long gone but the gardens, laid out in the 1850s and 1860s, by the renowned Victorian gardener Robert Marnock, thankfully still remain for the public to enjoy.
We found a beautiful spot to sit under a massive tree and had an excellent picnic while catching up on family news. Later, the younger members of the group went for a paddle boat ride on the ornamental lake.
As it was the day before Easter we were able to organise a small Easter egg hunt – our grand niece’s first one ever. She loved it!
A whole series of Easter egg hunts unfolded at my niece’s (Julia‘s daughter) house the following day. Her two children and their friends enjoyed the first hunt so much that after sharing their spoils out equally and recording the number and type of eggs each one was to end up with, persuaded us to hide them again (and again!).
How they managed to run around with such high energy after the long and amazing Easter feast that Julia had prepared for us I really don’t know!
One of the things I love to do when I return to Beckenham – the place where I spent most of my childhood and where Julia now lives – is to visit Kelsey Park, just a few hundred metres from her house.
This well loved and much frequented park was also once the grounds of a grand house. As with Dunorlan Park, the original stately home (built in the 15th Century) was demolished (in the 19th Century) and a later Manor House was also pulled down in 1921. The gardens were bought by the council and was officially opened as a park in 1913.
The park has many magnificent and very elderly trees, a beautiful lake with ducks, geese, moorhens, herons and other water birds nesting on its banks and on small islands, and always lots of bold, cheeky, grey squirrels and at night even cheekier foxes.
On Hannah’s last day in England we took the train to the wonderful city of Cambridge to visit my sister Sarah and husband Martin.
We had a great catch up and were thrilled that Sarah’s two granddaughters were also able to join us for a delicious dinner.
The following day we had a quick walk into the centre of Cambridge before having lunch at Sarah’s son and daughter-in-law’s in their amazing new house a short drive away. There we were introduced to my great niece’s guinea pigs, and rabbits and watched her perform on the trampoline.
After another delicious meal it was time to leave Cambridge – Hannah making for Gatwick Airport to catch her flight home and me back to Julia’s house in Beckenham.
It was almost the end of my stay too but there were still more family members to catch up with. Julia and I had a great dinner out at our favourite Tapas restaurant not too far from Julia’s house with my brother Pat, wife Marie and our niece.
In the early hours of that morning my eldest niece (Sarah’s daughter) and her husband crept in after flying in from an overseas holiday. They had arranged to stay at Julia’s so we could catch up and later continued the journey to their new home on the Kent coast the following day.
We had a lovely breakfast together and later went for a long walk in Place Park – yet another wonderful local park that had once upon a time been the grounds of a grand house.
Later that day it was time for me to return to the Netherlands. I decided to try to do the trip by taking the Eurostar rather than flying as the train stops in Rotterdam where I could easily transfer to the Metro. From there, it is just a few stops on to Pijnacker where Hannah and her husband live.
Although slightly more expensive than than the plane trip, it was a lot less hassle and quite enjoyable.
As I whizzed along – the English countryside a mere blur – I counted up the number of family members I’d caught up within the nine days I’d been in England – a total of 23! Not a bad tally, especially as some of them I had spent time with on several days.
Feeling very fortunate to have such a large and close family I sped my way to the Netherlands where I was to spend a few days before returning to Turkey for more sailing adventures.