“In England’s green and pleasant land,” the last line of William Blake’s “Jerusalem” (1804), was on constant replay during our trip to England. How could it not with this country’s vistas of rolling verdant hills.
Our journey was a year ago summer, but the memories linger as does “Jerusalem.” Written to music in 1916, “Jerusalem” has been a graduation standard at the Greenwich Academy since 1934, although it was tweaked a bit for Academy voices. “England’s” was changed to “this our.” I spent my early ed years at the Academy and that’s where I was first introduced to this hymn.
As music has a way of doing, “Jerusalem” anchors a time and place for me. The more rousing the rendition, the more misty-eyed I become. So, naturally the flood gates opened when the choir sang it at Prince William and Kate Middleton’s nuptial in 2011. ” ‘Jerusalem’ is the one hymn the British all know and break into song when mentioned,” my sister-in-law Jane told me. “It was a great choice at the royal wedding. I actually grin when I think of all the folks watching singing it together, in the parks, streets, homes.” Jane, who is English and her husband, Bill, Jack’s brother, were our Yorkshire traveling companions.
Bravo to the Royal Duo for including “Jerusalem,” especially since it’s been banned at some churches for being “too nationalistic.” The hymn has been interpreted in different ways over the decades. Some see it as Jesus arriving in England to create heaven amidst the “dark satanic mills.” That gloomy reference, the line at the end of the first verse, is often thought to refer to the Industrial Revolution. Scanning the breath-taking English countryside, the “heaven” thing works for me.
History lesson over. Let us venture forth with highlights from our trip. I LOVED every minute of this excursion, except motor-vehicling it on the left-hand side of the road. Oy. A heartfelt thank you to Jack who gave in to this culture fest in lieu of our usual kayak/hiking/biking fare. “It’s your turn,” he said. Copy that!
The blue markers on the map above designate our stops – not to scale!! Our Trip to Bountiful followed in the footsteps of writers, one very special gardener and a whimsical artist. It all began at Heathrow Airport where we dragged our jet-lagged bodies off our flight from Denver, found our way to Hertz and gingerly headed west. After a few missed exits off the motorway, we gratefully landed at Rockwood Farmhouse in Newbury, West Berkshire, just up the road from Highclere Castle. This is the area of blue symbols above Southampton on the map.
After our full, English breakfast at RF, we rolled into Highclere Castle which you’ll recognize as none other than Downton Abbey. It was minutes away. By the way, the garden you hardly ever see on TV is at the top of my home page. Look up! The Big Bummer: When visiting Highclere, you don’t get to see the Downton Abbey bedrooms as they’re furnished on the show. Ditto for the kitchen (and all that lurks below the main floor) which is filmed on a set off-site. But knowing you’re strolling the same ground as the Crawley Clan is worth the trip. The views are spectacular.
After Highclere, we headed north to meet up with Bill and Jane for Yorkshire rambling. On the way, we stopped over in Derbyshire where Jack could cast a line on the River Wye. And I could relish a tour of a drafty Haddon Hall, the location for three “Jane Eyre” films, plus a host of other costume dramas. See the lone blue marker just above Nottingham on the map.
On to Bronte Country and the Yorkshire moors (the most northern blue symbols on the map). Kudos to Bill for finding the delightful Rose Cottage in Ilkley. It was less than an hour’s drive to Haworth, home to the Bronte Museum and Parsonage. Now here’s my perfect combination: checking out a literary landmark and walking forever on these moors. Priceless. Oh, and let’s not forget about afternoon tea which has to be one of the most civilized, relaxing rituals ever!
You can’t take photos inside the museum, but I snagged this one off the internet, below, to give you a sampling of the treasures within…
“Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest so long as I live on! I killed you. Haunt me, then! Haunt your murderer! I know that ghosts have wandered on the Earth. Be with me always. Take any form, drive me mad, only do not leave me in this dark alone where I cannot find you. I cannot live without my life! I cannot die without my soul,” Heathcliff
We captured many moor rambling photos. Here, just some of my favorites, starting with our jolly quartet: me, Jack, Jane and Bill.
Leaving Yorkshire, we headed south for “The Garden of England,” as the counties of Kent and Sussex are known as. See the blue symbols to the upper right of Brighton on the map. We headquartered at Appletree Cottage, Robertsbridge, East Sussex. I’m not one for posting pro or con comments on travel websites, but did pen a blurb on Tripadvisor.uk about AC due to the kindness of its owners, the delightful Jane and Hugh Willing. In part, it reads…
When looking for a B&B near to Sissinghurst (the gardens are only a 20 minute drive away) and other literary and cultural spots we wanted to visit, we found Appletree Cottage and its most charming hosts, Jane and Hugh Willing who could not have been more helpful. There wasn’t a map they didn’t have to loan or question they couldn’t answer. There’s a garden to relax in and a breakfast that keeps you going well into the day and, season depending, includes finds from the garden…
We put in a full three days, heading out in all directions from AC. The legendary gardens at Sissinghurst were first on our southern itinerary. Early September is not peak blooming time, but there’s enough in flower as not to disappoint and you miss the May/June crowds! We arrived as the gates opened and were first up the tower to Vita-Sackville West’s still-intact study.
Vita’s gardening talents often overshadow her writing skills for me so it was a joy to re-acquaint myself with some of her works at the Sissinghurst gift shop. I was particularly taken by…
On another morning, via South Downs Way, we set out for Charleston, the country gathering spot for The Bloomsbury Group in the early 20th century. “You really must come and see this place soon,” Vanessa Bell wrote to her friend, artist and art critic Roger Fry in 1916. “It’s most lovely, very solid and simple…” It was made even lovelier by Bell’s whimsical decor.
On our last day, we took the train into London. Not enough time to do anything in great depth, but we managed a quick look-see at the Victoria and Albert Museum. For our entire trip, we had been dressed in layers, but this day the sun came out and the temperatures rose. We were down to our T-shirts for lunch in the courtyard at the V&A.