Astonished in amazing Britain!

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We’re back in (so far sunny ūüėé) Britain and well and truly into a¬†British “term” of Education By Astonishment.¬†We have so many astonishing places to go, amazing people to see, marvellous things to marvel at with our open eyes and eager¬†ears as we travel in our trusty Swift Escape on the open road of education and adventure!IMG_6402

Great Britain really is stunning at this time of year, with the sweet aroma of cut grass and hay, late light nights, roadside red strawberries, green rollercoaster hills, peculiar¬†pubs and gentle white candyfloss clouds above straw-topped honey cottages…IMG_7031So we stayed at the lovely Chichester campsite after popping by the National Camping & Caravanning Week’s Southampton pop-up campsite, where we wanted to help spread the word on the joys of family camping and travelling. One of the greatest of those joys is making new friends (unlike when we’ve stayed in hotels!), which we do on every single campsite ‚Äď and¬†some of our favourite new friends from a fant√°stico campsite (Cabopino near Malaga, Spain) gave us a surprise visit in Southampton. Thank you Donna & Trevor with¬†their handsome¬†Spanish Water Dog¬†Teddie, and it was fun sharing happy memories of Spanish camping days.
IMG_6367IMG_6496On the way back to our¬†campsite we received an email with a link to a¬†television¬†interview I’d been asked to do when we were in Birmingham,¬†such is the interest in what we’re doing in¬†taking our two little boys Daniel and Darley, aged 5 & 4, out of school to teach as we travel, after downsizing our home to help afford a¬†motorhome. (And from the still above, now¬†I can imagine having hair again, albeit green and bushy!)IMG_6452From Southampton¬†we headed to the picturesque family-run campsite at Radnage in the Chiltern Hills, with¬†the always warm welcome from¬†owner Simon (and his sheep and alpacas!). An hour’s trip from here took us to Bushy Park,¬†the second largest of London’s¬†eight Royal Parks, to see our great old mate Rupert for an outdoor Drama lesson. Rupert’s a fantastic actor who’s graced¬†your TV screens in such as Red Dwarf, The Young Ones, Bottom and Mr Bean. He had Daniel reciting a few¬†lines and taught him how to use body language and project his voice, before finishing off with a sparkling¬†Shakespeare soliloquy:¬†O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!¬†It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night‚Ķ”IMG_6435Then on the way back to Devon to see if our house (the bricks and mortar one that is!) was still standing, we were lucky enough to see¬†this awe-inspiring Stonehenge sunset. Amazing Britain, yes.IMG_6483House still standing, so it was off to our favourite day out/attraction in Britain: the excellent¬†Eden Project, where you learn from wonder & the wow factor and have fun at the same time, exactly¬†like Education By Astonishment. Eden is, indeed, an unspoilt paradise.IMG_6858First off, congratulations to the foresight of Eden to have special motorhome parking bays. Eden, now we love you even more!

Then this sign at the entrance, which we always find so inspiring. You have an amazing idea ‚Äď then dream, believe and achieve! Awesome that someone could see a disused clay pit and think, what if‚Ķ then make it happen and so give thousands¬†of people a great employment plus millions a pleasure from visiting.IMG_6863IMG_6974IMG_6956IMG_6963 IMG_6894 IMG_6915There are always so many wonders at Eden, including art, plants and this great active machine that showed the workings of¬†the human GIT (not an unpleasant or contemptible¬†person but the¬†gastrointestinal tract). Then there was CBeebies Mr Bloom for a gardening lesson, especially for the children and mums ‚Äď not necessarily in that order, is it mums‚Ķ!? ūüėČIMG_6870

IMG_8074 So Mr Bloom was definitely astonishing¬†educational entertainment, singing and dancing and teaching us all about cucumbers and carrots. We were even lucky enough to get¬†a special little gardening lesson for¬†Daniel from the talented Bloom one¬†himself. And Daniel was so delighted that Mr Bloom was lucky enough to get one of Daniel’s high-powered high-fives ‚Äď that’s not much backlift, then suddenly it was boom Mr Bloom! IMG_6951After Eden it was Dartmoor, southern England’s largest expanse of open land, a romantic rugged landscape of towering granite tors and freely wandering ponies, cows and sheep. Its 368 square miles of moorland is simply stunning, and probably the only place in Britain¬†that was more populated 1,000 years ago than it is today.IMG_6512IMG_6724We clambered and climbed and the boys had astonishing lessons in Geology, Geography, History and Biology. Plus those tors are some way up, so it was a very active Games/PE lesson!IMG_6629IMG_7984IMG_6687As you might see from the boys’ T-shirts, we’re continuing our donations to UNICEF for every person, place or thing we specifically see for an Education By Astonishment. Why not try it one morning, afternoon or day (or longer, and we can definitely recommend months!) by choosing a place/places you know your children will find astonishing and so will learn from, and then make a donation to UNICEF or your chosen charity as part of the trip and part of the learning ‚Äď that thinking of others is a vital thing to do for deep-down¬†happiness and the gift of giving is a great way of doing just that.IMG_6758 IMG_6727 IMG_6786IMG_6794We had dinner in the motorhome as we watched an awesome Dartmoor sunset. Then the next day we were in¬†nearby Okehampton to do so more clambering and climbing, this time at the fabulous English Heritage Okehampton Castle, the¬†remains of the largest castle built in Devon ‚Äď between 1068 and 1086 following a local revolt against Norman rule.IMG_8028 IMG_8052 IMG_8038IMG_6817IMG_6832IMG_6849IMG_8043We were intrigued by it all, especially these old name etchings, one of which looked¬†to say our surname.¬†IMG_6842From here, we ventured back to Dartmoor to see the prehistoric burial chamber called Spinsters Rock.

IMG_7014IMG_7016Then on¬†to a fantastic riding lesson for the boys from the two Debs on sweet Sweety Pie.IMG_7057A moment to catch our breaths, then we drove to the superb¬†Corfe Castle campsite in Bucknowle, Dorset. What a warm welcome from all there and what a great discovery as it instantly became one of our favourite campsites. Lovely little touches such as the book & DVD exchange red phone box, beautiful flowers and a great woodland-setting playground make it outstanding. As we wandered we got a guitar lesson from another friendly camper who was on his way from the Isle of Wight music festival to Glastonbury (we think as a paying punter not someone playing there, although he was very good on the guitar‚Ķ). Then back to our fabulous Swift Escape for an Art lesson as the boys decorated it with colourful vinyl stickers. These are great fun for children (and yes, they come off very easily and without a hint of a mark).IMG_7319IMG_7337IMG_7095IMG_7122IMG_7129As you leave the campsite, the view is this stunning one of Corfe Castle. We headed on towards Kimmeridge Bay, passing by some¬†thatchers at work and then a newsagent to grab a copy of that day’s Daily Express newspaper, in which there was a¬†full-page¬†article I’d been asked to write about¬†our Education By Astonishment camping travels and concept.
IMG_7134IMG_7130At Kimmeridge Bay we parked up ‚Äď definitely a roam with a view! (But be aware it costs a tenner to park¬†motorhomes.) We headed down to the bay for some fossil hunting on this stretch of the wondrous Jurassic Coast. And very successful and much fun it was too.IMG_7203“Here’s another one, and it’s only 155 million years old!” became the boys’ cry. Thankfully they didn’t add any jokes about their mum and dad’s (to them!) Jurassic ages‚ĶIMG_7146You only have to see the unconfined excitement in our boys to know this way of learning is way more beneficial than looking at textbook pictures. We spoke to a teacher last week, who’s now homeschooling her son, although we prefer the term “worldwide learning” as we are almost always in the Great Outdoors rather than stuck inside! She told us¬†she thought most teachers longed to go outside more than they do with their pupils, but that red tape/health & safety regulations combined with having to get their children to a burgeoning number of required levels and to pass tests meant that it was increasingly difficult to do so. A crying shame, as we think the best way to learn about the world out there is to get out in the world out there. And it helps with¬†getting and keeping healthy at the same time. We think when most people think of something really memorable from schooldays it usually¬†involves¬†something that was outdoors‚Ķ
IMG_7153 IMG_7162Here’s Debs teaching on a rock desk in the Great Outdoors classroom and playground. Naturally, what an inspiring place to teach and learn!IMG_7168 IMG_7171Back atop the bay, we took some time out¬†on our fabulously relaxing and thankfully easy to unfold/fold Outwell chairs and the boys played noughts &¬†crosses with the set that comes with their ace Batboy children’s table. This is great camping¬†gear.IMG_7211 2 From here it was a short ride for David, Debs, Daniel, Darley & dog to Dorset’s delightful Durdle Door! A beautiful¬†natural limestone arch, it was a great Geology lesson, and a steep¬†climb too for another Games/PE session, phew!IMG_8158 IMG_7229 IMG_7235 IMG_7236 IMG_7261IMG_7253IMG_8166Next it was to our favourite pub in the world, the wonderfully ¬†bohemian and batty¬†Square & Compass in Worth Matravers, which everyone really should go in at least one hundred times in their lifetime! We were here not just for some deserved refreshment from the pub’s serving hatch, but to see its small but beautiful Fossil (and more!) Museum.IMG_7277IMG_8174 IMG_7286Back in our motorhome we did some more motorhomeschooling‚Ķ Then took in the most amazing Worth Matravers sunset through the fantastic treetrunk¬†Stonehenge creation there.IMG_7687 IMG_7310Following day, it was off to the T20 cricket at the impressive Ageas Bowl in Southampton, home to Hampshire¬†Cricket. We had a superb evening watching the team take on the Sussex Sharks, which included for Daniel and Darley a quick bowling lesson from England U19 and Hants cricketer¬†Joe Weatherley, plus his very wise advice that anyone with a natural talent at anything needs to make sure they get to the right environment to nurture it. We look forward to seeing Joe bowl out the Aussies in a future Ashes very soon!IMG_7362 IMG_7375From the excitement of the game, we stayed that evening at the nearby tranquil Hollands Wood campsite, in amongst the trees of the New Forest, with a¬†wonderful view of ponies and cows. You’ll always get a warm welcome at this site, and whenever we’ve stayed on¬†a weekend there’s an abundance of friendly families; our boys love meeting the other children and playing on the fallen tree trunks. It’s a delight to see playful¬†activity replace staring at tablets and smartphones.IMG_7460IMG_7577IMG_7579Next day, not far away is the city of Portsmouth and its seaside suburb¬†of Southsea. We parked up here and wandered across to the¬†170-metre tall¬†Spinnaker Tower.IMG_7520IMG_6398 IMG_7528We’ve drifted past it a few times in the past year on the Brittany Ferries ship to or from Santander in Spain, so thought it was time to give it a visit and see the stunning views we imagined it offered. It did! IMG_7566The most exciting part for¬†our boys was spotting a Brittany Ferries ship. Plus, the Sky Walk, where you stand on a glass floor 100 metres up, looking down at everything appearing in miniature below.
IMG_7564 IMG_7540IMG_7569It was an exciting way to celebrate Darley’s fourth birthday! Yes, as the wise old ladies always tell us, they do grow up so quickly. And as the old ladies also advise: “Make the most of them.” We hope we are ‚Äď and travelling and camping together is the best¬†way to do this we think as it’s always so fantastic for family teamwork and bonding. And fun!IMG_7552This took us to Father’s Day, the first for me without my own dad. We thought it fitting to visit Hurst Castle, just to see if we could persuade anyone that we were the Hursts it was named after, and find a new rather roomier place than our Devon home‚Ķ It was some walk in the sunshine but bracing wind along the spit from Milford, with the Isle of Wight almost appearing¬†in touching distance ‚Äď and with another great Geology lesson looking over at The Needles, perfect examples of¬†stacks (of chalk).IMG_7622 IMG_7618IMG_7632 IMG_8291IMG_7637IMG_7653IMG_7656 The castle was a sturdy place, and alas¬†there was no chance of us breaching it, even with our surname‚Ķ But it was definitely worth a visit. From the castle we took the Hurst Ferry back to Keyhaven and towards the motorhome, and watched Grandpa’s castle dwindle from view¬†in the distance‚ĶIMG_7659 IMG_7660IMG_7664Then a drive to Salisbury campsite, nestled beneath the mighty huge Iron Age¬†hill fort of Old Sarum.¬†It was¬†where the first settlement and cathedral of what is now nearby Salisbury once stood, with Romans, Normans and Saxons all¬†leaving their mark. Before we made the climb up there, we headed into Salisbury to see the “new” cathedral (completed in 38 years, from 1220 to 1258).IMG_7711IMG_7796 IMG_7798 - Version 2 IMG_7742 IMG_7754

The cathedral¬†was astonishing (with the world’s oldest working clock), as was the Magna Carta that’s there housed in a little tent in the Chapter House, one of the most celebrated documents in English history. It was the solution to a political crisis in Mediaeval England, but its importance has lasted¬†way beyond as it’s now¬†recognised as a keystone¬†of liberty, influencing much of the world.¬†Only four original 1215 copies of the Magna Carta remain ‚Äď and Salisbury Cathedral has¬†the best preserved of these. It was amazingly clear,¬†the writing exquisite. Written on¬†sheepskin¬†parchment using a quill pen made of a swan or goose feather and¬†ink¬†made from¬†oak¬†galls and iron salts, it is effectively a tattoo in the sheepskin, which is why it’s survived¬†so well over so many centuries.

IMG_7785IMG_7781The morning after our cathedral trip we went for a stroll up to Old Sarum, which we’d been able to gaze at from our motorhome during our stay.IMG_7675And this is how it had been gazing back at us on the campsite, with Salisbury Cathedral¬†beyond.IMG_7832It was an astonishing¬†History lesson and we think the boys gained¬†a great understanding of how life was here in years gone by (of course, they were especially intrigued by the old toilet pit!). But¬†I wasn’t quite sure if Daniel was being earnest when he asked if I remembered it when the king lived there‚Ķ1024px-Old_Sarum_Model_from_WestIMG_7691IMG_7918 IMG_7920 IMG_7947IMG_7954 IMG_7956After¬†our Roman, Norman, Viking and Anglo-Saxon (English) History lesson here, we checked the timetable and it said we we scheduled to head off to somewhere else astonishing on the amazing British Isles. We boarded our motorhome ‚Äď and headed yonder towards another campsite to discover another¬†astonishing adventure.

We hope you do too ‚Äď life’s too short not to have¬†adventure!

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