Which city has more than 20 million trees? Yes, you probably guessed – naturally, it’s Milton Keynes. In fact, if you’ve been to this British new town (as it was in 1967 anyway) you might not be that surprised. It’s leafy and green, very well kept, and from what it set out to achieve when it was proposed as an overspill for London, it is a resounding success. And the campsite there in MK is too. Not least because of the warmest of welcomes we received from Jason & Debbie, who runs the site so well. The rest of the team are great here as well, giving just the sort of welcome you want.
There’s a lake on site; as well, just across the road from its entrance is this canal with French-style poplar trees alongside, and over the canal bridge into an expansive park with a cricket pitch along the way, plus a great Spanish-style rust art sculpture. By the way, if you take a bike, there are some hills, so make sure you have a little brother on hand to give you a push up! We continued our British term of the Education By Astonishment journey by travelling to Horsley, Surrey. Here we stayed on a very lovely campsite, complete with its own picturesque lake.We laid out our ace Green Decore yellow & white outdoor rug, then our Outwell chairs – for sunshine was forecast for nearly a whole day in this British summer!Then we went to feed bread to the ducks – and the fish! The fishermen sat for hours without a sniff around the lake were clearly needing tips from us… So simple, we even gave some of the fish a little stroke between their eyes. Our little boys Daniel and Darley loved it! Such a lovely setting it was a shame to leave it, but we had an appointment at the Houses of Parliament. Not with any of those MP types (this is an Education By Astonishment rather than an Eradication By Admonishment!), but we were interested in its history and explaining to our boys how democracy works, at least in theory. From the campsite, it’s just a 15-minute walk to a station from which trains get into London Waterloo about half an hour later.We actually jumped off at Wimbledon (which we explained was home to the world famous… Wombles!) and grabbed the District Line to South Ken tube station, as first we were taking a look at the Science Museum. Undoubtedly it houses a great array of scientific learning and fun, but it was just too crowded, overcrowded, to enjoy or take it in. So after an hour of shuffling sideways, getting elbowed and getting to know some people more than we wanted, we left.We took the tube a few stops to Westminster, and got out at street level to be greeted by Big Ben. Then we took a walk past Downing Street and the Horse Guards a little further down the road.From here we walked back to the Palace of Westminster, where we were met by the very lovely Tracey, who was giving us a special tour.
It’s a series of buildings that are as stunning inside as you might think from its spectacular outside. Tracey knew the place inside out, having worked there through five Prime Ministers! The boys were enthralled by how she brought the history of it to life, including the detail that this statue, below, if you look closely, has a broken spur and a repaired crack in the sword. This, Tracey explained, was caused when a suffragette was pulled away after having fastened herself to it in protest at women not having the vote. It was an astonishing way to explain the democratic process to our little boys. (And so we attempted democracy later, but had to create a new law by saying that when it was two adults for and two children against bedtime those with the greater mean age had a vote that carried more power – so, you see, a perfect example of how government exists and persists…)After getting back and another peaceful sleep on a campsite, we roamed onwards to Chertsey campsite, right by the Thames. It’s another lovely site, with some great ancient trees around its grounds.And it was just 25 minutes from Windsor Castle. We drove there past where the Magna Carta was agreed at Runnymede by King John, so on its 800th anniversary this year we could explain some more to the boys about law and democracy. Daniel recalled seeing one of the four originals (and the best preserved one) when we’d visited Salisbury Cathedral last month, so it was all falling neatly into place for him.
Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, and the boys were suitably impressed. We even got to see the Changing of the Guard. Left right, left right… (That’s the sound of marching, not another lesson in British politics.) Back to Chertsey, another peaceful sleep among fresh air and nature, then in the morning it was time to roam onwards. We were heading west.
We took the A303 on our way to Devizes campsite, and saw these rather wonderful views from our lovely and now well travelled Swift Escape 696 of Stonehenge on one side, and just down the road there were pigs and Constable-esque clouds on the other.Devizes is yet another great campsite, and right by it is a canal that’s ideal for a stroll. So we strolled and said hi to a few of the boat dwellers.On from Devises we headed to Fleet Air Arm Museum. Here the boys, after flying into the entrance, thrilled at Concorde and the collection of other planes on display.
Before moving on to our next visits we were delighted to see a copy of this article I wrote for Brittany Ferries beautiful-looking travel magazine, the Summer edition of Voyage. It certainly reminded us of some great recent times, and whet our appetite even more for some really exciting ideas we have as soon as the British summer is over…