After Florence it was a bit quiet on the work front - spasmodic probably a better word. A couple of short stints in the country with some rather fun rare sheep breeds up in the Cotswolds. The two small mobs of Portlands and Castlemilk Moorit were more like our South Island wild Thar or at least a cross between a sheep and a wild goat. And behaved just like them, pretty unpredictable and wild but a great looking sheep that is well worth keeping around.
So from there we hunkered down in a fabulous type of BnB in London. Lovely big warm room, delightful hosts and everything so jolly convenient Parked the car up, put our winter wollies on and saw some glorious pre christmas sights.
Much as I love Christmas in NZ there surely is something rather special about Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere. October seems to be kick off point and somehow they mange to stretch it out with more and more happening right up till the 25th!! Everything seems to be so much more visual, the street decorations in particulary. But thats probably because we all get to admire them so much more as its dark by 4.30 in the afternoon. Mind you with a Christmas tree in London selling for $50 you want to get your moneys worth!!! But also Markets and the food that everyone goes to such lengths to serve are pretty jolly amazing!!!!
Down in Wiltshire we took a day out and visited the magnifcent Stourhead. Both the world reknown English landscape gardens which I gather are the second most visited attraction in the UK but also the Palladian mansion was open.
It's one of those stunning gardens that every corner you turn gives another glorious vista across the valley to a variety of follies, temples, bridges, even a grotto and Gothic ruins. All these are framed by some glorious mature trees around the lake and hillside. The garden was opened in the 1750's and once described as 'living work of art', as it had been carefuly constructed with a variety of views that resembled scenes from landscape paintings. And even despite it being December, the dead of winter with next to no leaves on any trees, it still held a wonderful fascination and probably an even better opportunity to admire the layout and the views. Although if I'd had the choice Spring or Autumn would be the ideal time to admire the place.
We wanderd through with Annie, Christopher, Nichola and dogs then dinned at a busy warm pub on the edge of the estate. Lovely big fire roaring and lots of good homemade comfort food to warm you from the inside out. A pity we didn't have a good six mile walk afterwards as we felt prepared for it. The old house was just up the hill, fifteen minutes walk from the pub, and looked out out over the 1,000 hectare estate. Nowdays totally owned by the National Trust, it is a little more commerical than most we've visited but the volunteers we amazing with their eagerness to fill you in on the interesting stories of the place and the regency library and art collection were simply stunning.
So having had a rather special time at Lowlands Farm, which felt like we'd shared in a little bit of family Christmas, we headed east to the Old Vicarage in Hawkhurst Kent. A memorable spot as it was about five minutes from here, at Udium Farm, that I enjoyed my first nannying job (and last), and UK Christmas, thirty-three years ago, with a delightful family who have become life long friends.
We even managed to find Christchurch. I don't think I'd bother to take that detour again but couldn't not stop, check it out and have a coffee.
This would have to be one of our least demanding contracts - two old chooks that pretty much took care of themselves and even laid the odd egg for us. So a quiet Christmas with lots of Skype chats to all the family, some wonderful walks across the nearby countryside to the magnifecnet Bodim Castle. Visits to some charming towns close by like Hastings, Rye, Tenderden, Cranbrook and Tunbridge Wells. A wonderful spot to finish off the year, see in 2015 and make plans for some exciting months ahead.