Not Our Usual Blog!
As a USA City Guide blog, it may seem a touch unusual to be writing about our trip into the Home Counties of England. But really we meet SO many people when on our USA Trips who are always enthralled when we talk about the very British things we see and do in our home country. So as we were planning a very British mini break taking in some super iconic and very old sights and locations we thought our American readers may well be very interested in reading about this. So here is our mini live blog of our three-day break in the home counties of England.
England is Currently basking in an unprecedented heatwave, as travellers, we hunt the sun all over the world as for the most part the UK is cold, wet and windy. But the last few weeks we have basked in 80+ degree temps and blissful sunshine, not a drop of rain for well over a month. Oddly enough our National Pastime Football (that Soccer to our American readers) has actually been going really well. A semi-final defeat has left the country in a fabulous mood as the long hot summer drags onward.
With this backdrop, we head off into the heart of the English countryside for some much-needed rest and relaxation. We leave our rugged homeland of the HighPeak just outside of Manchester in the north of England and head down the motorway system during the busy Friday traffic. Heading for one of the most Ancient and Iconic British Landmarks. Stonehenge
After over a month of dry boiling hot weather the first day of our trip the weather broke, and it broke big time. The journey down was punctuated with biblical downpours where visibility on the motorways was down to nearly zero. this meant the journey was long and stressful slog meaning we missed our pre-booked slot at Stonehenge by over an hour. As we neared the prehistoric monument the approach road was backed up with stationary traffic for over a mile. With the stone circle off to out right as we queued to get in a rather large and ominous storm was boiling away to the north and heading our way.
Stonehenge is a world heritage site and the location of a prehistoric monument consisting of a set of Stone Circles believed to be around 5000 years old. The exact purpose of the circle is unknown but it served as either a burial ground or a ritual/worship centre for the communities living around the area. It is clear from the many monuments and burial site nearby that it was a very important site to the Neolithic people who lived around the area. Shown not least by the incredible efforts that would have been needed to construct the stones. It’s clear when you get up close these are BIG lumps of rock.
After finally getting to the parking lot. We headed into the visitor centre to try and plead for our overdue tickets to be accepted. Which they were no problem. Being a rainy Friday afternoon outside school holidays we figured the stone would be pretty quiet …we were wrong!
The Visitor centre and carpark is a good mile away from the actual stones and visitors are provided regular shuttle buses to bring you up to the stones. After a short queue, we hopped on and headed off on the short and narrated drive. The storm was brewing up nicely but we were still in the dry.
Once at the stones, we walked the short path that loops around the stones. Really the stones impressed us far more than we expected. They are really quite large. we have often imagined they would be a lot smaller and unimpressive in real life but this is not the case!
After grabbing a few shots with the epic storm brewing up we started to see and hear the thunder and lightning. Annoyingly I had left the Tripod in the car so any attempts at catching a lightning strike above the stones were thwarted. As the first spots of rain begin to fall we ran for the buses.
Back at the visitor centre, we were still pretty much dry and after checking out the well stocked and imaginative gift shop and the few exhibits on show we headed back to the car. A few feet from the car and the heavens exploded. Torrential rain poured down as we bolted for the safety of the car. A very close call as I had no protection for the camera.
A quick scan of google maps and we headed off on an alternate route that avoided the gridlocked A303.
John Lewis is a Stalwart of the British Retail sector. The Department store chain has been operating since 1864 over 150 years ago! It has been an icon of Britishness ever since and has flagship stores in iconic locations up and down the country such as Oxford Street London. It also has a very unique way of operating and utilizes what is known as a partnership. Essentially Members of Staff are considered Co-Owners and own a share in the business. There are no shareholders and fat cats to milk off the profits it all goes back to the business or to the Staff (called Partners) as a yearly bonus.
On top of this, there are many perks to being a Co-owner. One of which is the Business owns several properties up and down the country that operated as hotels solely for the use of Partners. It’s a bit like having your own little corporate retreat like a fancy CEO would have, in fact, it’s a lot like that!
Leckford Abbas is one such property and this was to be our accommodation for the trip. Oh BTW Katie Works for John Lewis so we are lucky enough to have this opportunity, it’s not actually available to most people!
The Leckford estate has been owned by the John Lewis partnership since 1929 and is a working 4000 ache farm supplying good to the Waitrose Supermarkets which are another part of the John Lewis Partnership. Partners from either John Lewis or Waitrose can enjoy the benefits of Staying in the Hotels.
Leckford is a tiny little village in the heart of the English countryside set on the banks of the river Test. At first glance there is really nothing here just a couple of houses and a pub. Set back just off the road is the Abbas an old stately home that has been converted to a hotel for the use of the partners.
Our two night stay was to include a 3 Course dinner and breakfast for both nights. Without Divulging the rate we can just say it is very low, the equivalent of very budget accommodation but far nicer and a very exclusive feel and meals included too. The house is set in fantastic grounds with lush gardens and mature trees. There is a fabulous terrace to sit on and enjoy the drinks from the incredible Honesty Bar.
After a hellish drive, we were very happy to have arrived and begin to unwind helped along with a few G&T’s and a nice bottle of Pinot Grigio with our dinner. Thankfully the rain storms had missed Leckford and we spent the evening just relaxing on the outdoor terrace planning out day tomorrow.