Just London-part 2

Going to London for me is not just hitting the tourist attractions.  I am fascinated by this city! I’ve been attracted to England for as long as I can remember, it probably started with the knowledge that most of my family, on both sides, immigrated from there.  To me it is the homeland, even though the last generation to live there was my father’s great grand parents.  They came over to America in 1852, still I feel a kinship to this beautiful, history filled place.  Having said that, my family wasn’t originally from London.  The branch that I most closely relate to, reason being that I have been able to find more on them in my genealogy research, hailed from Sussex.


If you know me at all, you know that I am not that fond of big cities.  Indeed,  I grew up in a small suburb of San Diego and rarely ventured downtown.  Although I lived there for the first thirty eight years of my life, I still get lost whenever I visit if I leave the neighborhood that I grew up in, or the one I raised my children in.  But London, it’s magic to me.   On my first visit there with my mother in-law, Jean, she said to me that she didn’t really need to go out and see the sites.  It was just being there, breathing in the air that she wanted.  I didn’t understand that on my first trip, but it’s so clear to me now.  glitter-heart-shaped-london-union-jack-fridge-magnet

One of the things we did on this visit and all previous visits, was walk around the village of Upper Norwood, into the cheese shop or the bakery.  Up to the pub for dinner.  It’s all part of the experience and something that I enjoy for the shear fact that the shops look so foreign to where I live, and I like that.  It’s learning another culture, seeing how these people live everyday compared to where we come from.  It’s talking to the shop owners and asking lots of questions, trying the local fare, the farmer’s markets, the fresh made goods.  I will take these experiences any day over stuff.


Upper Norwood

One of the things that you do there is walk, a lot.  It’s nice because I tend to want to try all of the delicacies, so I eat more than I would usually.  Yet I end up losing weight because of all of the walking we do.

There is a show that I found on streaming called “Britain’s Best Bakeries”, and on that show I was introduced to the wonder of Ms.Cupcake.  Located in Brixton, it’s a vegan bakery.  They have the most luscious cupcakes and cookies, and when I say that,  I’m not talking about what they look like.  They taste amazing and the four of us made a point to search out this small bakery on a little side street in Brixton.  We spent a whopping £40 on cupcakes, had a nice chat with the folks that work there and were given some delicious gluten free cookies. Well worth the money for the experience and the cupcakes were unique and dare I say, heavenly!


The lovely ladies of Ms. Cupcake

If you remember from previous blogs, I had always wanted to visit the Garden Museum and on our last visit, my husband and I got to go.  Shortly after our visit, it was closed to remodel and add to it.  So I was very excited to be able to go and see the new and improved exhibits.  Last time it was £3, the price is now up to £10,  and I have to admit that I was a little disappointed!  On our first visit, it was small but interesting.  The cafe was in an old part of the stone church, beautiful and quaint, leading out to a lovely garden with plants having identifying tags on them.  The historic churchyard had beautiful old markers and grave stones.  The only thing left was Captain Bligh’s tomb.  All gone in exchange for a big fancy and modern coffee shop, reminding you more of Starbucks than anything else.  Having said that, the food and service were fine.  But, when you visit a museum of gardening, you kind of expect some sort of garden.  They removed this for a lot of cement and glass doors.  The only thing recognizable was the famous tomb.  The display upstairs of garden tools and lovely art was much the same with a few additions.   I enjoyed the garden shed with videos of conversations with gardeners.  Looks like another addition in a corner downstairs, very artistically presented, though it may not have been finished.   Other than that, there was a huge open cavernous space of nothing.  One couldn’t help but wonder why the obvious addition of something like a Gertrude Jekyll or Vita Sackville-West display are not in the works.  Even large panels with photographs of these famous designs would be welcome.  All and all, I probably won’t return again unless it’s included on the London pass.  Having said all of that,  I found this lovely sign with one of my family names that I’ve been researching. That was a nice surprise!


On one of the days that I was laid up and everyone else went to the British Museum, I got to experience Cost Co, London style.  It was interesting in that it was all familiar, the layout, etc.  But the items were a bit different.  For instance, there was an entire aisle of prawns!  Raw, breaded, curried, etc.  I was very impressed with the variety of shrimp you could buy.

My friends went to a street near the British Museum where it is blocked off from cars.  It’s called Museum Street and they found a great store with vintage style clothes called “Thomas Farthing”.   You can see why from the photo below that I insisted we go back the next day when I felt better.  The displays were gorgeous and the the quality was apparent in every item that was out for sale.  Across the street was an authentic (the staff barely spoke English)  Italian restaurant where we had some of the best pizza I have ever tasted!



On the way back to catch our bus I snapped this photo of a vintage clock.  I’m only sorry that we weren’t there on the hour to see this glorious clock chime.  It’s attached to the side of building where there is an entrance to a courtyard of shops.  I plan to explore this area more on our next visit.


Of course it wouldn’t be a proper visit without a family dinner to catch up with all of the assorted Haigh’s.  Sue did herself proud with such a succulent meal, good wine and conversation with friends that long ago became my extended family.  I think about them often, appreciate their generosity over the years, care about them each and every one and look forward to every contact with them.



Leaving Sussex for London

Sept 13th, 2014

We headed to the village after breakfast for one more look around.  When we got back, Lin had a video of the history of Billingshurst.  Of course she has lived here all of her life, so she could pick out a few errors in the more modern history.  It was interesting hearing about the village, built on the Roman Road of Stane Street. The oldest building is St. Mary’s Church where my ancestors worshiped, early documentary evidence begins in the 1100s!


St Mary’s Church

There are many timber framed buildings throughout the village dating from the Middle Ages to the 1700s.  There is a wonderful old pub there called “The Six Bells”, which I think I’ve visited on each of my holidays here.

The Six Bells-Billingshurst

It really is a fun and interesting village to check out.  It’s close to Horsham which is also worth the visit.  After a very nice home cooked lunch and visit with Lin’s daughter and grandson, Claire and Warren, we had to walk down to the station and say our goodbyes.


Saying goodbye at the Billingshurst Station

The Billingshurst Train station is a great building in it’s own right.  Many of my predecessors worked for the railroad in Billingshurst so I’m very interested in the history.  The last time I visited,  2 years ago, the signal box was here.   The Grade II listed structure is thought to be one of the country’s oldest working signal boxes dating back to 1876.  The signal box was moved to Amberley Museum and can be seen as you come into the second station.

Billingshurst Signal Box


It’s time to get it all together and head north to London.  It’s been a great visit and I know when I’m home thinking about all of the things that we did and saw, the laughter, the hugs, I’ll again start longing to return.  This is always when my next plan starts to form.  Right now though, I’m anxious to get to London, as I love it as well.  London is the world in one place and I just like to be there.

It takes about an hour to get to the station where our friend Tim will pick us up.  This night we’ll be having dinner and catching up with our good friends and then planning our time here in London.




Sheffield Park

September 12


Sheffield Park House

Today Lin and Richard drove us to Sheffield Park near Hayward’s Heath.  I highly recommend a visit here if you are close to Sussex!  Plan to be there for some hours because it is huge and spectacular!

The landscape garden was laid out in the 18th century by ‘Capability’ Brown so right away you know it has good bones. It was designed around a series of four lakes. Beautiful scenic paths take you through glades, through woodlands,  all around the lakes and over bridges.  You can bring the family, the kids can run around and you can be re-charged in the beauty and bounty of this garden.  It’s not like a commercial garden where every bed is perfect and not a bloom out of place.  It’s in a very natural setting with every season having a turn to dazzle.


One of four lakes

Bring a picnic and relax on one of the expansive lawns, but don’t forget to bring some extra bread or grain for the ducks.  We had such a nice walk here and so many reasons to come back.  There is an ongoing list of events and things to bring the kids to see and do.  For instance, in January there is a “lost tools” hunt for kids called “Frosty Tools”.  The gardeners leave tools around an area of the park and the kids get to go hunt for them.  There are kite making workshops, Valentine’s Day tea, walks to see the changing colors in fall.  My favorite thing they have going for adults is the Christmas Stroll, “to walk off the excesses” of the holidays.  Choose from the Turkey Trot, Plum Pudding Promenade, Mince Pie Meander or Christmas Cake Constitutional.  So creative!


Me in front of a willow

Some of the history of the park: Sheffield Park  estate is mentioned in the Domesday Book.  In 1538, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, entertained Henry VIII here.  In 1876 a cricket pitch was laid out on the grounds.  During World War II the house and garden became the headquarters for a Canadian division.  The estate was split up and sold in lots in 1953. The National Trust purchased about 40 ha in 1954, it now owns up to 80 ha.  My cousin told me she had read that the house is now sold and turned into individual flats with a price tag of around 1 million pounds each! It’s got to be because of the spectacular views!


The Palm Walk

We didn’t plan ahead and bring a picnic, so headed out around lunch time for Chaily and a pub that caught Richard’s eye on the way in.  The King’s Head Inn on East Grinstead Rd. The food was good and it wasn’t too crowded, we didn’t feel rushed and just relaxed with lunch and a glass of wine, then headed back to walk off the lovely desserts we all had.

The King’s Head Inn

The price to get into Sheffield Park, I thought was reasonable at  £9.90.  If you’re visiting from overseas, you may want to look into getting a pass to National Trust properties.  I have done this on several occasions and it’s really a good value.  You can get a seven day pass for £25 and a fourteen day pass for only £30!  It gets you into hundreds of special places around England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  It’s also really easy to get online.  One year I ordered three online and when I got the envelope, it had been ripped open and one out of three passes was missing.  I called the office of the National Trust and they sent a new card to my friend’s house in London for me to pick up.  I truly expected them to say “sorry you’re out of luck, buy another one.”  I thought that was pretty awesome!


Lin and Richard

September in Sussex


This was the longest flight I’ve had so far going to England.  It may have just felt that way.  After the usual chaos and panic of getting ready and a two hour flight to L.A., we had a three and half hour layover.  We started our trip off with dinner at Sammy’s Wood Fired Pizza.  I should not eat gluten, but that didn’t stop me.  I’m on vacation dammit and I’m going to eat all of the lovely things I’ve been craving for the last couple of years.  I find out later why that was a really bad mistake, but I digress….

Neil and I were  very excited about going together on this trip, it’s been an emotional year, both good and bad and we really need this time away.  Going to a place that I’m very familiar with but he’s never been to is kind of weird for both of us.  He, because I usually wait for him to take the lead and me, because what if he doesn’t see it the way I do?

Of course travel is always an iffy venture.  I was certain I booked the tickets through British Air, which I have always had a good experience with.  Instead it was through American Airlines which I have not.  Honestly it was fine except that the seats were the smallest I’ve ever sat in for a ten hour  international flight.  The movies were great, the food was fine for airplane fare.

Billingshurst Station

We arrived at two the following afternoon, got through customs with me warning my husband not to joke around with the officer asking questions.  They are known not to have a sense of humor. However, the woman that checked us through was awesome and it all went off without a hitch.  We bought our ticket on the Gatwick Express and headed south to Sussex to meet our cousins.  They were waiting there and it’s so nice to have those hugs and catch up time with people that you know and love.  They took us straight back to their lovely, comfortable very British home and a great home cooked meal, then it was time for some much needed sleep.

Linda and Richard are my fifth cousins who I met doing genealogical research in 2001.  They are really, really amazing hosts, much better than I can ever hope to be.  They have taken such good care of me on five other occasions and this was no exception.   They cooked us nice food, drove us around, gave us gifts and even gave up their own bed for our comfort.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for that!  Here is a beautiful watercolor that Lin made for me as a gift.  I will cherish it always!

There are so many beautiful and interesting things to see in Sussex! I love just walking around the villages, stopping in at shops, maybe picking up a few things that are different than I can get in America.  It was nice to show Neil where my family originated, walk in the church yard, see the WW1 memorial that has one of my ancestors name engraved on it.  I love the hardware store there in Billingshurst and go in it on every visit just to  see what interesting things they have that Home Depot does not.

Lin was keen on showing us St Botoph’s Church in Hardham in the Horsham District of West Sussex.  Built about 1050, it has wall paintings from about 1100.  A really interesting and important church, amazing!

Inside of St Botolph’s Church

Lin and Richard then drove us around the gorgeous country here.  We stopped at the town of Petworth which is mentioned in the Doomsday Book.  We walked around the town and stopped in at a few antique shops and St Mary’s Catholic Church.  Petworth was bombed in World War ll in Septemberof 1942, when a lone German plane tried to bomb Petworth House.  It missed the house and landed on the Petworth Boys’ School in North Street. Twenty eight boys died along with the headmaster and assistant teacher. So sad.  I think most of us relate the Blitz only to London, but they also bombed much of the rest of England.

The parish church of St Mary, Petworth

We then drove past the Goodwood Estate which was having a car event of some kind and we got to see lots of vintage cars.  Just up the road is a Rolls Royce factory and there were dozens of new cars lined up outside.  Apparently they were heading for the car show at Goodwood as well.

Richard treated us all to delicious fish & chips, Neil’s first authentic English!  The place was called Andy’s Fish Bar, in Chichester.  The portions were so huge I don’t think anyone actually finished the whole meal.  I find it amusing because whenever I’ve had a conversation with anyone from the UK about food, they will mention the large portions in America.

Arundel Castle

We stopped at Arundel Castle on the way back and walked around the town a little bit.  I had always wanted to see this castle because while doing genealogy, I remember seeing the name “Arundel” in my mother’s family history.  I later found out that what I remembered was “Arundel, Maryland”.  Big let down, thought it meant that we came from royalty!   It was too late to go into the castle by this time so we went in to a little tea shop and had a dessert.

Back home for nice dinner and conversation, talking about all of the lovely things we got to see today and looking forward to more tomorrow.

Coming To You Through a Nice Haze of Jet Lag

It’s always nice to come home after a vacation with lovely memories to tide you over until the next trip.   We did and saw so many things and many of our plans did not happen.  We never made it to the Tate Modern or the Tower Bridge Experience.   The things we did do though were spontaneous and enriching.

Leaving for England (2)

The best part of this particular trip over to England was sharing it, finally, with my husband.  There were things that he didn’t appreciate, like the crowds of people in London.  However, there was much more that he really appreciated.  He actually told me that he now understands my passion better!  Happy day, he’s already talking about our next trip over!

Of course the time passed too quickly.  I will be writing about all of the wonderful things we got to see and do.  The most important of which were the people we know and love and the complete strangers that we got to interact with.  Neil started conversations with people on the train, on the street and wherever we went. Unusual for my normally private husband, but like I said before “traveling changes you”.

My next trip to Blighty

It’s happening, I’m finally planning another visit to England and I couldn’t be happier! This one was actually my husband, Neil’s idea.  He asked me if I would like to go with him, he figured that since I wasn’t going to grow out of this obsession with England phase, he should check it out as well.  I am ecstatic, especially since he’s never shown any interest in going before now.

We have been married for almost 39 years and the last time we took a real vacation, just the 2 of us, was our honeymoon. We went skiing at Mammoth Mountain in Southern California.  I had to take lessons because I had never been, he had raced the cornice there.  I was more interested in the food, Burger’s Burger’s (is that place still there?)  yum.  It just seemed that after that, we started a life together, had 3 daughters, and then it was kids and dogs, and going on trips with other families.  When our kids got big enough to leave, we either went away with other couples or separately.  You see, I like history and food and culture, he lives and breathes auto racing. You can see my surprise here.  But he really does seem interested in going this time and I aim to show him all of the things that make me long to be there.

Billingshurst print by Patricia Hall, it hangs in my living room to remind me of where my family hale from.

So, we will spend a few days visiting cousins and friends and London, then just take off, the two of us.  We are not making a firm plan, but waking up and just seeing which direction we feel like taking that day and then heading that way.  We’ll use the excellent Information Service that seemingly, every city, town and village has.

Of course, he’ll have to see London Tower, take the bus tour and, keeping my fingers crossed, The Garden Museum.  If these things don’t entertain him, there is always this:

We are going in September, but he will have a good time looking out for this sort of thing!  I’m hoping there is a tour of the Goodwood Estate and that we can prevail upon my cousins to take us:)  At any rate, I have a fantastic holiday to look forward to, people to see and places to go.  New ideas to write about and a completely different perspective.  Going with someone that has absolutely no idea what to expect will help me see my beloved island through new eyes,  from someone that I love and admire, it doesn’t get any better than that!

Ahh, to be in England

Where most of my roots started

Love the countryside

Quaint and lovely

St. Mary’s Church-Billingshurst

The boats of St. Ives

Yummy Cream Tea

Market Day in Ludlow

Thames & Big Ben


I will end this post with a quirky British phrase that I just found online,  it made me smile as I’ve been watching a marathon of “Land Girls”:

                        “Good grief, man. What are you waiting for? Stop acting like a big girls blouse and put some welly into it”!


Family Reunion in Sussex 2002

One year after our first visit to England there was another family reunion, this one in the town where our family came from, Billingshurst.  Marcie and I decided we couldn’t miss it so we planned a short trip of one week.  We would be staying with our cousin Linda and her husband Richard, but did fly into London for a night or two at Fox Hill B&B to renew our friendship with the Haigh’s.

It is really great to get to know our family of 5th generation cousins.  We’ve been talking via internet and letters for the past year and here we are visiting in person.   The only way to learn about another culture is to stay in homes and B&Bs rather than big chain hotels.  This was going to be great!

Linda and Richard are amazing hosts and couldn’t do enough to welcome us.  They gave us a lovely tea with lots of little cakes, in fact this is where the previous story of Marcie and I expectantly waiting while Linda made tea, so we could learn how to make an “authentic cuppa”.  So funny how you get these notions from TV and movies.

Linda’s daughter Claire planned the entire reunion.  Claire is the one that has really done the family research.  She is the one that posted on all of the genealogy sites, looking for ancestors.  She really did a terrific job and found from the parish records, the internet and good old fashioned sleuthing many of our families homes, farms, work places and graves.  And so “The First Gravett Tour”, as this reunion was called, was born.

But for the first day Linda had acquired a hall close to her home in Billingshurst for all of us to meet.  Claire had made up a family tree that wrapped around the room and it was fun and interesting to follow the lines and meet the others that connected a few hundred years ago.  Claire and Linda made masses of food and Claire even did a cooking demonstration of some of the old English food that our people would have eaten way back when.  She actually made mead, a beer made from honey, a bit sweet for me, but I’m sure it’s an acquired taste!

If I kept a journal of this trip I can not find it.  However, I do have the itinerary and it was a lofty plan.  So for the second day we loaded ourselves into cars and hit the road in search of family haunts.   In Billingshurst we visited no less than 9 places where Gravetts lived, a plaque in St Mary’s church with our name on it, and 13 graves in the church yard.  We then moved on to Adversane to see a few houses and a granary that were once owned by the family.  We visited Wisborough Green, Petworth, Chiddingfold, Dunsfold, Cranleigh, Ewhurst, and Rudwick each containing homes, businesses, graves, and places where our ancestors walked, lived, loved and died, fascinating! 

There were over 20 of us in all and we had a grand lunch at The Blacksmith’s Arms pub, talking and laughing and uniting in our quest for the past. There are so many mysteries in my tree that I have yet to find the answers to.  When I retire I plan to put in the time to find them out and leave that knowledge with my children.  I am so grateful for the things I have found out about the people that came before me and indeed gave me the life that I have now.  It’s the stories that have come down through generations.  I love it when I find a connection and I think “yes, this is why I feel about this the way I do, it makes sense now”.  So many parts of your life you think are just random and then you find out another clue and it becomes clearer.  Gotta love that!

I’m so grateful to Claire for doing the research and to have the opportunity to go back to the land where part of my family originated.  Just to be where they were and to be able to visualize how they lived.  You can never know really how their life was and I know that.  There is enough story teller in me though to be able to imagine their lives in a fanciful way, not reality I know, but endearing to me just the same.  In this way they are remembered and maybe they go on and are not forgotten.  I sincerely hope that my grandchildren and great grandchildren will keep me alive in the same way:)

Melrose, Scotland

I wanted to write a bit about Melrose, Scotland today.  It is the reason that my genealogy got a kick start back in the late 90s.   Aunt Betty, my father’s sister, did research for years and generously shared her findings with me.  Because I was raising my 3 daughters, I didn’t have the time or money to do much research on my own.  She sent me a family tree that went back a few generations, something to get started with she said.  I refer to it often.  It’s really special and in her beautiful penmanship, she was a teacher once upon a time.  Now that she’s gone, I really appreciate the value and how much it’s helped me over the years.

She told this to me years before I started my research.   According to her, our distant grandfather, James Melrose from Melrose Scotland, was the first of this side of the family to come to America.  The way it came about is that he was kidnapped at the age of 12 and pressed into service on an English ship and never saw his family again!  This is what good adventure stories are made of, think of Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson.   Now,  when I first heard this story, I was very young and I pictured my distant relative very like James MacArthur who played the lead in the Disney movie of the same name!

As I started my research, it was important to me to try to get the facts straight and not jump to romantic conclusions.  I actually wrote to a history professor (sorry, I can’t remember his name, it was saved 4 computers ago).  At any rate, he advised me that while that is an exciting story, they usually didn’t take young boys (he was 12 at the time).  A more likely scenario is that he signed up as a cabin boy to see the world.  It is apparently what young men did in those days for an adventure.

He must have traveled for a few years and I think he probably did go back to see his family.  He met and married Mary Thompson from Carlisle, North England at some point, and probably closer to 20 than 12.  He is also mentioned in a supplementary book of the DAR for collecting fire wood for the American solders during the Revolution. He died in 1783 in New Jersey, and his son moved to West Virginia. It was his grandson, Archibald Melrose that moved to Grayville, Illinois where my father was born and raised.

The first place I wanted to visit when I started my research was Melrose, to see for myself where it all started for my father’s family going to America.  As fate would have it I learned of my cousins in Sussex and wound up starting there.  I am so happy for that and for the relationships that were forged.  However, I do so want to go to Melrose for many reasons.  I also want to point out that I have been in touch over the years with many people that are doing family research.  I have run across a few that I am distantly related to through the Scottish Melroses.  I got an email from one of them who was also from America and actually went to Melrose to check it out.  He looked up some Melroses that are still living there and knocked on the door. Apparently they were not at all impressed that they have relations in the US and really were not interested in starting an acquaintance!  Like all Americans, we think that the world revolves around us and everyone should be thrilled to be in our sphere!  I say that with all humility and humor and have learned the error of my ways over the years:)

Here are a few things that interest me about Scotland and Melrose:

The history-Melrose Abbey, Robert the Bruce and his heart being buried there, you can’t get a better story than that.  War, loyalty, love, respect, it’s all there in a bit of history if you have the intellect to be interested in history.  Also my own history, where the family lived, the graves if I can find them, the country where generations built their lives.

The rugged beauty of Scotland, I can’t say enough of how it affects me and I haven’t even been yet.  I’ve only watched it on TV and movies and read about it in books.  I have a longing to see it that I can’t explain:)

The food-I have heard that Scotland has the best and most pure salmon in the entire world ( I read it somewhere) Neeps & Tatties, Scotch Eggs, Shortbread… I will most likely not taste true haggis, but I will go for the vegetarian option.  I mean no disrespect to anyone, but it really doesn’t even look appetizing:)

I will end with this lovely dessert that I experienced in London, still it is a Scotish recipe and very delicious! I give you

Raspberry Cranachan

Happy Travels!

A Few Favorite English Gardens

When I think of gardening, I think of England. A cottage garden to me is an English garden.  So, when I go over I tend to visit a few gardens just because they make me feel so good to be in them.  But also to get ideas, learn some history and try to soak up a little knowledge to take back home.  Plus some of my best vacation photos are from English gardens.  ( I will admit here that I have a difficult time getting my pictures to post on this site, I am working on it.  In the meantime I thank Google images. I do try to only post photos that are close to ones I actually have in my albums).

Kew Garden

The Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, between Richmond and Kew in southwest London, houses the world’s largest collection of plants.  If you’re interested in gardens and plants, it’s a must see.  Plan to spend the entire day here, it’s massive, with 300 acres of beautiful and diverse plants and buildings to see.  It’s astounding to think that it was created in 1759 and still going strong.

There is every kind of garden that you can possibly imagine here.  The Palm House, above, is truly amazing to be in.  Full size palm trees and other tropical plants inside a beautiful Victorian greenhouse.  I always try to imagine how they managed to build structures like this in the mid 1800s.  Huge iron beams and sheets of glass, it’s mind boggling.  There is Kew Palace with a medicinal garden that only has plants that were grown in the 17th century.  I loved this garden with it’s wattle fencing and bee skep, very interesting.  There is also a gallery, several other greenhouse structures, the Great Pagoda which was built in 1762 and at it’s highest point is 163 feet tall!  Also a museum, library, conservatory, orangery, and one of Europe’s largest compost heaps.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Waterlily house with giant waterlilies that will hold the weight of a man, truly amazing.  My friend Peggy has a relative that helped develop the lilies and then went on to be head gardener of the Missouri Botanical Garden!

There are guided tours, a tram that helps you get around, several cafes and a very nice gift shop where you can get lovely books and seeds.

Buckingham Palace Garden

I’ve actually seen more of this garden in magazines and on TV than in person, but I did get to do the palace tour on my first trip over and you get to walk through part of the garden at the end of the tour.  There are 2 1/2 miles of gravel paths in the 42 acre site with lush shrubs and borders.  It is beautifully kept (of course) and there is a 19th century lake with lovely weeping trees.  I guess I like it for what it is and what it represents to England and London especially.

The Queen has opened it up to guests on a few special occasions and it was one of 3 Royal sites that the Queen allowed archaeologists to excavate in 2006.  I saw it on television and they were able to verify some earlier designs and building placements.

Kensington Palace Sunken Garden

The beautiful Sunken garden was planted in 1908 and is relaxing to be in.  We just stood and looked for the longest time because it was so tranquil and attractive.  I’m not sure if there are other gardens at Kensington because the park surrounding it is so vast and beautiful, but the Sunken garden is definitely worth a look.

Hidcote Manor Garden

Hidcote is the quintessential English garden created by an American horticulturist, Major Lawrence Johnston! In the Cotswolds close to Stratford-on-Avon.  It is really lovely with multiple paved pathways, secret gardens,  long views and so much color everywhere. You ooh and ahh over a hanging vine and turn around to clusters of fragrant roses and then walk through hedges to discover something even more gorgeous, it doesn’t stop.  I wanted to put every plant on my wish list!  Really breathtaking!

From my journal when I went in 2001 “Room after room of natural beauty separated by interesting shaped hedges.  We had to move aside for blooms spilling over into the walkways”.

Stockton Bury Garden

This garden is tied with the garden at Parham House for my favorite gardens to visit (so far).  I loved everything about it, from it’s history  to the Tithe Barn Restaurant.  I’ve never seen anything so perfect and wonderful, parts of it have been there since 660!  It was originally a village that took care of the daily life of monks.  There is a granary that is covered with an espaliered wisteria, also a climbing hydrangea and a climbing fuchsia, beautiful.  Following a grass path is a long walk with peonies, shrubs, flowers of all kinds and at the end a huge round ivy covered building with a pointed roof that is a pigeon house.  The entire interior has little pigeon holes peppered about with a revolving ladder. Ingenious really, the monks could randomly pick eggs to eat!  Across a wide asphalt drive is a 1/2 round grass area with bird house up on the walls of surrounding shed like buildings, than a columned house with a lawn like Tara in Gone With the Wind.  Everywhere there are stone troughs, fountains, birdbaths, interesting benches, assorted pools, all around gorgeous plantings.  Through a gate and another grass walk to a perfect kitchen garden, a large and small greenhouse and this is only the beginning of this amazing garden. It isn’t large, at only 4 acres, but it is packed with everything you imagine a garden should have.  It really is a magical place.

Parham House

I absolutely loved this place, the house itself, the history and the lovely garden. My cousin Linda took Marcie and me here on our second visit to England.  It’s not far from where she lives in Sussex, and such lovely country.  The foundation stone to this beautiful house was laid in 1577, and if walls could talk I’m sure they would have some interesting stories.  The owners housed 30 evacuees children from London during the second world war.

 The garden is so well laid out and has such interesting plantings and sculptures.  There is a perfect miniature two story brick house called a “Wendy House”, which is not something that I was aware existed before I went here. The house sits on 875 acres, including an historic deer park.  It also boasts a Pleasure Garden, a Walled Garden, a maze, a dovecot, and a medieval church. It was opened to the public starting in July of 1948, you should really go, you won’t be disappointed.