springtime postcard from the UK

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Continuing our explorations around the UK, we went back down south to the Jurassic Coast on Jack’s birthday for a long weekend in and around Swanage. On the docket was pretty much just: beautiful coastal walks, toasty pubs, and tasty drinks. That’s about it! We rented a little annex cottage in Swanage, so had the coastal walk in both directions. Above: the Old Harry Rocks at the tip of the chalk down.

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We visited in mid-March, so the weather was blustery and fairly cold, but the golden gorse was in full bloom. When the sun broke through the clouds, it was as stunning as any time of the year.

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Near the Old Harry Rocks, looking out across to the Isle of Wight.

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Taking a fireside break in this toasty pub.

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We made our way over to Studland Bay, marking the very end of the Jurassic Coast, just before you get to Bournemouth. I loved the little, shuttered beach huts.

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Looking back towards Old Harry Rocks (or near enough, anyway). There used to be three columns standing, remnants of the Ballard Down, a land bridge connecting this part of the coast to the Isle of Wight.

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Loving the spiky gorse bushes with their tiny, silken gold blooms.

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Making our way back to Swanage

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After a long day of blustery cliff walking, we were super ready for dinner.

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Our favourite pub in Swanage, without question. The Black Swan! You have to book in advance (same day is sometimes okay, but probably not in high season), but their food is unbelievable. They have a great French chef who seems to put a richer (better) twist on some English classics.

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The next day, we visited Worth Matravers, home to Rach and Tim during Rachel’s maternity leave, and also where the Square and Compass pub can be found! Here’s a cute little village green.

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Before pubbing, we took a walk down to Winspit for a little more cliff side wandering. Great for climbers, the sheer cliff face is staggered with some sections safely inland.

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And others a little more impassable.

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Exploring where we could

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The Square and Compass! What a pub. They make their own pies and pasties, press their own cider and have a few home-brews, too. You order through a little window (cash only), and then good luck finding space inside.

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The pub is well known for its love and support of folk musicians. This band played Delta-style blues using a steel guitar, a washboard, harmonica and various other instruments. I think they’re called Rag Mama Rag.

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On our last day, we started making our way back and decided to incorporate a visit to Stonehenge, which we both somehow have never visited! Even though it’s English Heritage property, National Trust members can visit free, so we just showed up and managed to get in easily.

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Birthday boy and the far older stones!

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While I’m here, I thought I’d share a few other moments from late winter and early spring. We’ve had a quieter few months as we pay forward the costs for our many exciting trips later this year (particularly the Highlands next month and the big US trip to Charleston, Asheville, Raleigh, Wilmington and Charlotte in July), so have mostly been around Oxford and nearby surroundings. Above: a sunny early spring day in Jericho.

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Balliol College during daff time

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Harlem looking for her pal (really! She has a friend, for probably the first time in her life, that she gets along with and gives face kisses to. This sweet little female cat.)

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Dan visited and we visited J. R. R. Tolkien with him at Wolvercote Cemetery (not actually in Wolvercote by the way).

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And, that’s it. No Elvish writing as promised!

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Harlem’s other pal, cat man Dan.

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Visiting Blenheim for walks and pheasant-watching.

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And in Woodstock, the Star Inn. With a Winston Churchill portrait (ole Winston was born in Woodstock).

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Jack has spent countless hours getting the garden ready for this year. So excited to see the progress after all his hard work! With the plants that already exist and the ones he’s seeding anew right now, we should have rhubarb, gooseberries, plums, kale, potatoes, and squash. To come beans, broccoli, and more TBD…! (No pressure, Jack).

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We weren’t sure whether we’d renew our National Trust memberships (purchased mostly because of all our UK-based trips last year), but have been making the most. Above: Waddesdon Manor.

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Spring flowers in bloom!

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Waddesdon Manor is built in the most stunning Neo-Renaissance style of a French château.

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Good lord, just look at that detail! The staircase is something else.

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Looking out over the Waddesdon acreage behind the house.

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Oh, the aviary! It’s this long, horseshoe-shaped set of continuous (but sectioned) cages full of tropical birds and plants.

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The full view.

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Not actually bluebells, but something similar in early spring Waddesdon.

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The next weekend, we brought Jack’s parents back to explore more (and inside!). Admiring the aviary.

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The back of the house.

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And inside! Can you imagine being invited to one of these dinner parties?

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Their taste was impeccable. These chandeliers were absolutely gorgeous, with hanging cut glass in big, flat sheets, carved and gilt carefully around the edge of each piece.

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Even the crockery was just too good.

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Stunning furniture pieces, like this little elaborately carved table.

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Even this potentially tacky sculpture is absolute class. Or maybe I shouldn’t look too hard.

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This spring, we’ve also had some London days, just wandering and discovering. One of my favourite days was a solo day of wandering all over from Marylebone to Kensington, Belgravia, Hyde Park, Chelsea, etc. Above: Daunt Books, a very impressive bookstore (and housing) on Marylebone High Street.

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The pollarded trees of winter

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Crocus blooms in Hyde Park

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Somewhere in Chelsea. I took way too many pictures of pretty buildings that, on second review, don’t really need to be shared. But here’s one.

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Okay, two. What beautiful buildings.

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Chihuly in the Victoria and Albert entrance.

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The V&A cafe is just so pretty.

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And people watching. Will share our Easter weekend in Yorkshire soon!

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