Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Reading - Springtime in Britain by Edwin Way Teale

Our 45th anniversary was just the other day and one of the books that my husband gave to me was entitled "Springtime in Britain" by Edwin Way Teale. I haven't read anything by him previously since I never was prone to reading travel books but we are planning a driving tour of parts of the British Isles and this book has quite captured my thoughts in that regard. Basically he and his wife went by boat landing at Southampton, rented a car and headed for southwest England - Land's End to be exact and they intended to then zigzag across country traveling the width and breadth of Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) to John o' Groats in the north of Scotland. Part way through the book you do discover what prompted them to do so aside from their incredible interest in traveling, ornithology, flora, fauna and geology as their son David was stationed in England during the Second World War and he died in France. His letters home told of the rich fauna and flora of the country in which he was residing although he could not reveal details of where he actually was stationed. Using various guide books and writings by noted naturalists, they traveled daily about England in a more or less organized zigzag pattern that took them 11,000 miles from Land's End to John o' Groats.

The book was written in 1970 and so England is much changed in the fourty one years that have passed since the writing but surprisingly as he talked about the mists of Dorset and the windswept shores of North Devon I could see once again our own trips to these areas. He captures Grasmere in the Lakes District beautifully and many many other parts of England.

We have decided to do our own car trip in England although the exact dates are unknown at this time. I think it will be at least one year in the planning. We planned our four days in London last year over a two week interval. The better the planning; the more you can revise it to suit you but still not miss what you really wanted to see/do whilst traveling is the thought.

Probably the most practical way to begin would be to fly once again to London Heathrow but this time rent a car and head for Canterbury. My cousins live in Sutton (18.2 miles from Heathrow) so we could book a hotel there and visit with them for a short time. The next day we would be at Canterbury which is another 70 miles further along. Then we would begin our swing around the south eastern coast past Dover, Battle and Hastings and on to Brighton. My fingers itch to spend a couple of days in Winchester Record Office and we will see if we can manage that as well. I think two or three days of driving and then a break at Record Offices will probably work very well.

I was having trouble seeing the trip in my mind as a doable item but this book demonstrates the possibility of doing such a trip. For the most part they followed their plan but did deviate as the need arose. They began at the end of March which I rather think could be quite formidable even in southern England. There is still the possibility of snow (and they did experience a heavy snowfall near Salisbury) and the rain can be quite heavy in April. I think we might try to begin in mid May and return home end of June. No more than 40 days but we have some sections that we would not repeat - we would not go to Wales although we really enjoyed Wales our trip with Trafalgar gave us such a good study of Wales. We do not, either of us, have any ancestors who were Welsh (at least not after the mid 1500s). We also spent quite a bit of time in the Lake District and would not repeat our trip to Grasmere or Lake Windermere. Again we traveled through Northumberland and Durham and do not feel a strong call to repeat those areas. Leaving out those rather large sections does make one feel that we can see everything that we want to see and do everything that we want to do in 40 days.

It would also be tempting to go in July and August but they are vacation time in England and we might find it more difficult with the increased traffic on the roads to manage. We will have a reunion of our Routledge Clan in 2014 and then we can see more of Scotland at that time.

Planning fourty days should be rather fun. We have somewhat of an idea of distances and how long secondary roads can take to travel upon in England. For instance we traveled from Bridport to Northam a distance of 80 miles and it took the better part of two hours with no stops. I think if we think of 40 miles being a maximum distance to travel in one hour we are probably going to be fairly close. We have a tendency to stop so will have to build that in. For some parts of England we would just like to drive along and experience the countryside without stopping a lot. In the southeast we, neither of us, have a lot of ancestral interest although my husband's Mead family is from Kent but they came to Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1630s. There are others doing an in-house search for Mead ancestry and we will content ourselves with just enjoying Kent - the garden of England as my grandmother used to refer to it as.

But Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorset, Devon, Cornwall and Somerset all have areas that interest both of us and we will look at them differently although I think I might find it somewhat sad to travel to the parts of Dorset that we visited with my cousins. Ivan passed away this past year and I still feel the loss. We corresponded for over 25 years and met only the one time but it was a marvelous meeting and I learned a great deal about him in that short time. So we will do the bottom of England at our pace and then skirt back to Oxford and see Windsor before heading into the Midlands.

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