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An ode to British summers

View down the River Avon, Bath

Summers in Britain can be hit-and-miss, governed by the famously unpredictable weather patterns that are such a talking point among the local populace. Last Friday we witnessed a spectacular opening ceremony for the Olympics, celebrating British culture and featuring several key episodes of the nation’s history. Watching these clips brought pangs of nostalgia for the rainy islands that I called home for four influential years of my life.

Many of these photos were taken on a family road trip in July 2009, during lucky periods when long spells of sunshine broke through the persistent clouds. For 10 days we drove across the English countryside, visiting Salisbury Cathedral, the ancient standing stones at Avebury, Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon and nearby Warwick Castle. Then there was the cathedral city of Wells, just a stone’s throw away from Bath but still relatively undiscovered. This city of just over 10,000 people is home to one of my favourite church buildings in Britain, containing four distinctive scissor arches and a beautiful chapter house, whose steps are so worn they suggest a waterfall frozen in stone.

When I think of British summers it always involves some aspect of its much-derided and often underrated cuisine, brought to life by the freshness of its ingredients and the unmistakable quality of its dairy products. At its best, British food is both unpretentious and indulgent, like a decent helping of sticky toffee pudding.

It was those four years in Britain when I developed a love for cooking, squaring off with eager housemates to whip up elaborate three-course meals, moussakas, and butter tarts crafted with homemade shortbread. I learned that a fan oven was an indispensable part of the kitchen, something that I sorely missed when I packed up and moved to Spain.

Wells Cathedral – a Gothic masterpiece

Bishop’s Palace, Wells

Warwick Castle

Over the battlements

Stone circles at Avebury

Salisbury’s soaring cathedral

16th-century Burghley House, Cambridgeshire

Sticky toffee pudding!

27 Comments Post a comment
  1. Can never have enough history, culture, bad weather and sticky toffee pudding.

    July 31, 2012
  2. James, nice photos. I’m really impressed that you got such a non-commercial shot of Warwick Castle considering the way it has been developed. Good job!

    July 31, 2012
    • Thanks Terri! I was there on the weekend of July 4th and it was a hubbub of activity – it took some time to get that shot as I had to wait for a steady stream of people to pass me by!

      July 31, 2012
  3. Awww England! So many fond memories. I really need to go during the summer instead of in March…

    July 31, 2012
    • Absolutely, Erica! It’s even better with those long summer evenings…

      July 31, 2012
      • aghhhhhhh you are not helping!!!!

        🙂

        August 1, 2012
  4. I’ve been lucky on most of my trips to England, the weather has been good. I love Bath! Your photos make me want to go back.

    July 31, 2012
    • Bath was a gorgeous place to live all year round – shame I had a habit of leaving during the warmest season!

      July 31, 2012
  5. Lovely photos and memories! I do love Britain! i went to Scarborough this June – had a beautiful trip. Good weather and all.Though Scotland/England I remember, back in 1980, brought me three whole weeks of raining agony. Tent all wet and when I came home again I had caught a blazing cold. Only two days we had without rain..on one of them we climbed Ben Nevis and the other one was spent on the Isle of Skye watching sheepdogs at work.

    Yes, I think I will retrace my steps on that journey some day.

    August 1, 2012
    • You should – what a memorable trip it must have been! I loved Scotland when I visited in the summer of 2010, next time I will have to make it to Skye and see a bit more of the Highlands!

      August 2, 2012
  6. Lovely post and photographs. I’ve lived in England all my life and there is so much of it I’ve not seen plus I’ve never been to Scotland, I’ve seen little of Wales, but worst of all it’s a long, long time since I’ve had sticky toffee pudding! Delicious!

    August 3, 2012
    • Thank you for commenting, Kathryn! I regret not making more of an effort to travel while I was living there – that and I do miss the sticky toffee pudding!

      August 5, 2012
  7. Wonderful shots and story James. The sticky toffee looks sensational 🙂
    I have barely scratched the surface of the United kingdom on a trip more than 25 years ago!!

    August 6, 2012
    • Thanks Madhu – with your penchant for desserts, I’m sure you would love it! They say the cuisine has come a long way in recent years. 😉

      August 6, 2012
  8. I’m going to the UK for the first time ever…in December. Kind of dumb, I know, but that’s how it worked out. Cold rain and dark days for me!

    August 7, 2012
    • There are perks to going in the off-season… the weather might not be one of the highlights but at least you’ll experience the lead-up to Christmas!

      August 7, 2012
  9. I miss it there too. It’s been ten years since I studied there & it will always be in my heart.

    August 8, 2012
    • Truth be told, I was roaring to go when I left the country two years back, but now I remember it all with a great deal of fondness.

      August 8, 2012
  10. Thanks James for another nice post.

    August 24, 2012
    • You’re more than welcome.

      August 24, 2012
  11. Reblogged this on reseinspiration and commented:
    Precis vad jag skulle vilja göra. Rundresa i England. Besöka små byar, bo på mysiga b&b, inspireras av trädgårdar, se katedraler, äta afternoon tea mm.

    August 28, 2012
  12. Hey James! You really make me feel like I should visit more of the UK and I can’t wait to do it!! So when did you live here? Did you study here? Where did you live? Haha sorry for all the questions, I’m pretty curious and interested in knowing how you have so much travel experience 😀

    August 31, 2012
    • Hi Sophie! Actually I regret not seeing more of the UK when I lived there. I was in Bath for about four and a half years, doing a Bachelors in architecture. Eventually I left in the summer of 2010 and moved to Spain for nine months. 🙂

      August 31, 2012
      • Architecture, amazing!!! So that’s how you capture and describe everything so well in your posts! I wish I had more architectural knowledge to truly appreciate different styles of buildings and structures… 🙂

        September 1, 2012
  13. I love all your photos. Such beautiful sites.

    April 30, 2014
    • Thank you, Arlene. England is just so full of history and great scenery.

      April 30, 2014

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