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English Gardens



It was very cold and wintery in Portland before we left on our English Garden Tour. We were very excited and ready to leave and head on over to England. We hadn’t seen Julia’s family for many years. However, we didn’t really escape the cold weather as the climate in England turned out to be very similar to Portland, perhaps a bit dryer.


We took a very unintended circuitous ride from Heathrow Airport to Canterbury. Our cab ride took so long we arrived quite late. But it felt good to have finally landed at our new home for the next two weeks.

We soon settled in and went about meeting the family. Our first stop was with John and Jean, Julia’s dad, and stepmom. We’d only seen them on videoconference over the last four years and so it was really a pleasure to see them both in person.

The weather was cold but the rain held off and so we took a wonderful walk in the Larkey Valley Woods with them.

During this time, we visited one of our friends, Sue, at her home at Eastling near Faverham. I know, it takes some time to get used to these very English placenames. Sue made us a delicious vegan lunch, which we really appreciated.

Westgate Tower and Littlebourne Village

Next, we visited with Mary and David, Julia’s mom, and stepdad. We hadn’t seen them for so long it was such a pleasure to spend these first few hours with them.

Then we visited Julia’s brother, Charles, at his cottage in Littlebourne. This village is steeped in Buss-family history. For example, the house that Charles now lives in is where his father John was born. The little church graveyard is filled with many graves of past Buss-family members. It is hard not to feel that Littlebourne is a focal point for the Buss family.

Wye National Nature Reserve

The whole family, minus John, and Jean, hiked the Wye National Nature Reserve. It was a beautiful blue-sky day, and the views of the English countryside were stupendous. Charles’s wife Edwina and his kids, Sasha, Sylvia, and Daphne joined us on this magnificent walk.

Seeing Sasha and Sylvia so grown up since we last saw them was discombobulating. But they are both incredible young adults now. We were so impressed by them. And meeting Daphne in person for the first time was a pleasure. She is a little powerhouse and extremely cute.

We ended our time together in a pub and enjoyed a pub lunch.

Canterbury Cathedral

Before our tour of the grand Canterbury Cathedral, we ate lunch with our friends Tracey and Ian, and their kids at a local vegan café. It was great to see them all again.

Tracey and Ian had never visited the cathedral, so they joined us on our tour of the stupendous wonder. Fortunately for all of us, when we got inside, we bumped into Julia’s stepdad David who works as a guide at the cathedral. David gave us a personal tour, which made our visit so much more rewarding.

Littlebourne Walk

We headed back to the village of Littlebourne to have lunch with Julia’s brother, his wife, and his kids. John and Jean joined us this time and we all took a walk around the vicinity of the village after eating.

As the village is surrounded by lovely English farmlands the walk was a real pleasure. It was also heartwarming to see Julia and Charles spending time together. When they are together it is as if they had never parted.


Our good friend Jon, back in Portland, told us his English relatives came from a small village near Canterbury called Chilham. So, we were compelled to visit this charming little village. I guess it was not that unexpected to see that so many of the faces in the village looked like Jon.


We arrived at the Canterbury West Gate where Julia’s mom lives. And we joined Julia’s mom and stepdad, Mary and David, on a walk from Canterbury to the seaside village of Whitstable along the Crab and Winkle Railway trail. What a great walk this was. The countryside was lush and green, and the little beach town of Whitstable was a fun place on this cold, but sunny day.

Dover Castle

On another day Mary and David took us to visit the impressive Dover Castle. We wandered about this place, taking in its long history, and took a tour of the underground WWII facilities, where the evacuation of Dunkirk was coordinated.

Sissinghurst Castle Garden

On yet another day Julia’s dad and stepmom, John and Jean, took us to visit the gorgeous Sissinghurst Castle Garden. We roamed about these world-famous gardens, taking in the natural beauty, and learning a thing or two about gardens and growing vegetables.


We bid Canterbury and the family goodbye and took a train to London. This marked the start of the second phase of our English Garden Tour. While in London we walked from Kensington, where we were staying, to Westminster with a quick stop at Harrods along the way.

Harrods is a very big shopping mall and is filled with everything you could possibly want. We were even able to get an old-fashioned on the rooftop garden bar. I don’t think I have ever seen so many expensive sports cars in my life. They were parked in every available spot around Harrods.

At Westminster we visited our good friends Wendy and Paul. They made dinner for us, a lot of wine was consumed, and much fun was had.

Stowe Gardens

We left London and drove in our rented Tesla EV to Buckingham. Here we visited the home of our friends Tracey and Ian with whom we'd toured Canterbury Cathedral. They took us to the amazing Stowe Gardens, which the famous landscape gardener Capability Brown had worked on.

Stowe Gardens are vast and dotted with odd buildings known as follies. The odd little buildings serve no purpose other than curiosities and entertainment for the walkers of these stupendous gardens.

Blenheim Palace

We bid our friends Tracey and Ian goodbye and drove on to Woodstock. This is a quaint little village that sits right next to the sprawling Blenheim Palace. Blenheim Palace is where Winston Churchill was born and his ancestral family home. We roamed the vast corridors of this highly ornate Palace and took in the Churchill exhibition. However, far more impressive to me were the Blenheim Gardens and its surprising Butterfly House.


We drove further north on a wave of electromagnetic flux to Bakewell, the tiny village in Derbyshire where Julia grew up. Bakewell is surrounded by the Peak District National Park. There is no more beautiful and scenic place you could visit.

After visiting the house where Julia grew up and roaming around the tiny village, we dropped in to (the old castle-like) Haddon Hall. Haddon Hall is an English country house on the River Wye near Bakewell. The origins of Haddon Hall date back to the 11th century, with additions made at various stages between the 13th and the 17th centuries. Just a magnificent place to see.

Next, we hiked to the late neolithic and early bronze age structures of: Arbor Low Stone Circle, Gib Hill Barrow, and the Nine Ladies Stone Circle. These structures were built over a period between 3,300 and 900 BCE, and yet they are still here for us to enjoy. The hike, to these ancient structures, exposed us to the unending beauty of the Peak District National Park.

Chatworth House

A day hike from Bakewell is the outstanding Chatworth House. This grand and ornate manor is the seat of the Duke of Devonshire and has belonged to the Cavendish family since 1549. Ornate is not a good enough word to describe the exterior and interior of this stately manor. I think a better word might be excessive. Still, it was a real experience to visit Chatworth House.

The main attraction for us were its sprawling gardens, fields, lakes, hot houses, and surrounding Derbyshire countryside. In fact, the hot houses here were where the first Cavendish banana was hybridized. This is the banana we all enjoy eating today. Before the Cavendish banana, bananas were much smaller and somewhat uninteresting.

Castles and Gardens

Continuing north from Bakewell we encountered many castles and gardens. We stopped at Bolsover Castle, Conisbrough Castle, and Brodsworth Hall and Gardens. All were amazing and stunning. Even though the rain began and fell steadily on this part of our journey we still enjoyed ourselves.

After visiting such beautiful places, we ended our day in Leeds. Leeds is just another not so big city, filled with people and hustle and bustle. It is the city close to where I was born in a suburb called Moortown, which is why we bothered to visit Leeds at all. I remember nothing of my birthplace. After all I was very young then (wink).

RHS Garden Harlow

Even further north from Leeds is the magnificent Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Garden in Harlow. Next to Sissinghurst Castle Garden the most stupendous garden, for us, were these grounds located close to the little town of Harlow in Yorkshire. Just a very beautiful landscape dotted with many types of gardens and a little creek rambling through it all.

Along with Sissinghurst Castle Garden the RHS Garden Harlow is a must-see destination.

Yorkshire Dales National Park

Bolton Abby

We continued our journey northwest to the 1154 Augustinian Bolton Abby, which is in the magnificent Yorkshire Dales National Park. It is one of so many Catholic Abbeys that were destroyed by Henry VIII king of England, when he railed against the Catholic Pope and coveted the wealth of its churches. You could see it was once a grand place. However, it is still located in wonderful countryside next to the river Wharfe.

We hiked beside the river and found ourselves surrounded by fields of wild garlic and the stunning beauty of the Yorkshire Dales.

We drove deeper into the Yorkshire Dales National Park to the little hamlet of Grassington, where we hiked once again along the picturesque river Wharfe. We passed the awesome Linton Falls and hiked on to the little village of Burnsall, then back to Grassington via green fields filled with sheep.

We ended our day at the lovely Kettlesing Cottage Airbnb near Skipton just outside of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and right next to RAF Menwith Hill Air Force listening station, where I’m sure much spying is done.

Brimham Rocks

In the Yorkshire Dales National Park is the mind-bending Brimham Rocks. We found ourselves much more impressed by this geological wonder than we ever expected. It is a place to see and experience as the emotions its natural structures of tortured rocks enlist in you are hard to explain in words.

Not far from the rocks is the Toft Gate Lime Kiln, which dates to 1860. In the area is a fully operational lime quarry and right next to this huge hole in the ground is the Coldstones Cut. The Coldstones Cut is a monumentally scaled public art piece created by the artist Andrew Sabin. And funded by the people who tore the massive hole in the ground the art sits next to.

Continuing west we stopped at the Stump Cross Caverns. I have explored many caves in my time, but none so claustrophobic and personal as these limestone caverns. They are a must see.

Brontë Parsonage Museum and the Royal Oak

We bid farewell to the stupendously beautiful Yorkshire Dales National Park and began our slow drive back south. Our first stop on the long drive was the Brontë Parsonage Museum located near Haworth and Keighley. It is the former Brontë family home and the parsonage. The Brontë sisters: Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, spent most of their lives in this house and wrote their famous novels there.

Continuing our southerly drive, we came upon Kingdom Boscobel House and The Royal Oak. This is the supposed place where the future King of England Charles II took refuge in 1651 after fleeing for his life following his defeat in the Civil War. He concealed himself in an oak tree and then in a Priest hole in the house to evade the Parliamentarian forces of Cromwell.

Oliver Cromwell (25 April 1599 – 3 September 1658) was an English statesman, politician, and soldier. He is widely regarded as one of the most important figures in the history of the British Isles. He came to prominence during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (1639-1653), initially as a senior commander in the Parliamentarian army and later as a politician. He was a leading advocate of the execution of Charles I in January 1649, which led to the establishment of The Protectorate and the ousting of the royal families from England. He ruled as Lord Protector from December 1653 until his death in September 1658.

Cromwell remains a controversial figure due to his use of the army to acquire political power, and the brutality of his campaign in Ireland in 1649.

Oxford and North Leigh Roman Villa

We also managed to visit the Oxford Botanic Garden. These gardens are an oasis in the center of the very busy and chaotic Oxford city.

Not far from Oxford is the quintessential and serene English countryside of the Cotswolds. Amid the Cotswolds near the river Evenlode is the ancient North Leigh Roman Villa. We hiked through more fields of wild garlic to reach this long-abandoned ruin. The villa was enlarged over time from the late 1st century AD to the early 5th century and eventually became a very large, luxurious villa rustica with 19 mosaic floors. It included a large agricultural estate with housing for farm workers and possibly slaves. Today most of it is in ruins, but bits of the mosaic floors are still visible.


Our last stop before returning to the good old US-of-A was Stratford-upon-Avon, home to the famous Bard William Shakespeare. We saw his last play Cymbeline there at the Royal Shakespeare Theater. We visited his birthplace, what is left of his home, and his grave. We also visited his wife’s (Anne Hathaway’s) family home and were pleasantly surprised how wonderful the gardens were there.

This was such a truly incredible trip, and it was so good to see all our family and some of our friends there. Hopefully, we’ll go back someday soon. Please enjoy my humble videos of our travels on this, our English Gardens Tour.


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