As we reach the last stretch of this “term” of our Education By Astonishment (EBA) travels in amazing Britain, a recurring thing that keeps coming up in chats with people is how taking a risk is not encouraged enough – and yet it is when we get out of our comfort zones that the greatest achievements are reached, the best places visited. That is how it is with our journey, which has brought us rewards beyond our wildest dreams – and we hope inspires others to follow their heart and intuition.We pulled up the handbrake on our Swift Escape 696 motorhome for a week at one of our favourite campsites, Bella Vista in the rolling green Chiltern Hills. It’s a rural campsite with lovely views in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but best of all is the welcome from Simon & Lisa here. We’ve stayed a few times and each time we return it gets more like visiting some great old friends. Then there are the alpacas…
We used it as a base for London, which is just a 30-minute train ride from nearby High Wycombe, and also to try out our ace Robens tent. It was fun, and our boys Daniel, five, and Darley, four, absolutely loved their new play space!And every time we stay here we see stunning sunrises and sunsets.People seem to like people who do something differently. Maybe we think it’s a lot to do with that a lot of people feel there’s something definitely amiss with a life that is full of stress and that leaves such little time for enjoying it with those you love. So we saw in the response to when adventurer and Virgin boss Richard Branson shared David’s article on our travels and Education By Astonishment concept. It’s fantastic too to know such a well-loved achiever as Richard is on the same wavelength. (Yes, now we’re working on buying a Caribbean island too; we’d love to be Richard’s neighbour you see…!)
From Radnage we took a few drives around the Chilterns, very lush and pretty flint cottages and quite a few canals too. We also took a trip to Tring’s National History Museum, an intriguing place set up by home-educated Lionel Walter Rothschild. As you can see from the pic below, he was a person who definitely did think differently. Thank God for the thinkdifferers! The museum includes its most famous exhibit: fleas dressed as Mexicans that you view through a microscope – they’re local legend!Of course, it’s essential as a parent to play a major part in your children’s education…Another day, we grabbed the train to London where we went to visit bespoke tailor and wonderful man Edward Sexton, tailor to such stars as Mick Jagger, Elton John, Pete Doherty and the man who made the suit worn by Paul McCartney on the iconic Abbey Road album cover (Edward doesn’t make shoes…). Years later, he also trained Paul’s daughter Stella in fashion design.
Here in Knightsbridge, Daniel offered a couple of pretty funky designs to Edward, and we all saw the art and precision that goes into creating some of Edward’s fantastic classic designs. These included the red coat below that you’ll soon see supermodel Naomi Campbell wearing!From there it was a Tube ride away to the ground of The Arsenal, unquestionably (definitely in our family!) London’s classiest team. We were given a tour of this impressive “home of football” and met former player – a legend in north London – Charlie George. Charlie tried catching young Darley, but the future long blond-haired Arsenal striker was just too fast… (and goes on to become the second Hurst to score a hat-trick in a World Cup Final. 🙂 ) Then Daniel, David and Charlie recreated holding the FA Cup aloft after winning another Double for the club (Charlie scored the winner in the 1971 FA Cup Final to get The Gunners’ first Double. That’s him there in the black-and-white photograph with the cup’s lid on his head!). We saw the physio room and walked down to the pitch too (Daniel Hurst rushes with excitement as he hears the massive roar of the fans in the game that can finally clinch the title for the team he’s supported since he was a small boy…) A good old afternoon out at an impressive stadium. Meanwhile, something had been keeping us very amused throughout the day. We’d decided London was bit much for Mr Colin Dog, and were wondering who we could leave him with for the day – when we met John & Monika on the campsite in Radnage. One of the undoubted joys of camping is meeting other friendly campers and so when we discovered John was a big fan of the collie breed… And so while we squeezed our way around London, we were sent photos on our phones of Colin playing, Colin eating, Colin sleeping up on John’s bed and Colin reading the newspaper!
Then, that evening Colin went out for a run with the Aylesbury team of runners, and it seems he stole the show… Not only that, when we collected Colin we visited John’s workplace JY Classics and to our Daniel’s delight saw lots of classic cars and their engines. John is one of the best in the business of servicing and restoring Spitfire, TR, GT6, Herald & Vitesse vehicles – and was able to give us an excellent EBA lesson right there. It’s heartwarming to meet new friends such as this. Back at the campsite, we were to bed early – for the next morning we had to be up and trying our best to look gorgeous for a photo-shoot as The Times newspaper was going to publish an article David had written about our ventures (link requires subscription to read it all). It was all good fun and showed the boys how a professional photographer works as well as another aspect of how a newspaper is put together. And so we posed for photographer Debs and her assistant Alison – until the boys decided that was enough supermodel time for them and had a bundle…!
Our farewells said to Simon & Lisa and their lovely children at Radnage, it was off to another Camping & Caravanning Club campsite, this time at Horsley, the one with the lake in it…
…with the ducks…… and the fish!It’s a lovely campsite, although the British summer was wet – but on the Saturday there was a one-day blast of sunshine, so we got our fab portable Outwell barbecue up for a cook, yum-yum! (And nope, those are not fish from the lake!)
Then the next day, back came the rain, and back it came! So we took the chance to do some scrapbooking, and watch the mini-waterfall flowing down the window for some inspiration.Next morning we dashed to the newsagents, excited to see how The Times article looked. We really hope it inspires and motivates people to spend more time with friends & family, ideally in the Great Outdoors and we’d definitely recommend camping together for some great bonding and positive times together.
The next day, another article was published, this one in Bella magazine. Ditto the above regarding inspiration and motivation.Then the following day, we received proofs of a book called Essential Articles, which is about to be published that features a piece on our travel adventures. This book is mostly aimed at schools, giving pupils topics to discuss – so we’re really happy that looking at other ways to educate is on the agenda.
After Surrey, we motored down to Hastings way on the south coast to Normans Bay campsite. It’s a lovely campsite, right by the beach and added bonus for us, our friends Donna & Trev who we’d met in Spain on the fabulous Cabopino campsite were working here. But the weather was far from what we’d been used to in Spain when we’d been with them – most of the time it was wall-to-wall horizontal rain, the wind so fierce that sitting in our motorhome we knew what it must feel like for a bird in a coastal tree-top nest!But there was some respite from it, so we had a stroll along the beach and had a look for the hagstones that can be found around here. These are pebbles with holes right through them and folklore says they ward off illness and witches.
We found a fair few and put them outside our motorhome. They work as so far we’ve neither been poorly or had any witches visiting… and not only that, they might have created this really beautiful rainbow!We said another farewell and that we’d meet up with Donna and Trev in sunny Spain in the coming months on the next part of our adventure. Then it was time to head to Slindon for a night. Here – and the great freedom of having a motorhome allowed us to do this – we were setting up as an old schoolmate was over from Seattle in America and staying near there. David had not seen Rich for about 30 years! As with all true friends, it was as if not a day had passed since we’d last seen each other. He met our boys and we met his son and daughter, and it was just heartwarming and an overall special moment. The weather here in this tranquil former orchard site was still wet, but not letting the great British weather get us down – and not knowing if the perfect sunny day would ever arrive – we set up for another barbecue. Sheltering under some trees from the perpetual heavy rain, we kept the barbecue glow going, the occasional raindrop sizzle reminding us that it was only a matter of time until the trees sheltered us no more. Perhaps the food tasted even better because of the slightly crazy limits we’d gone to in order to make it… Then we did one of our nose2nose pics as part of the original idea that kickstarted all these travels – the Face2Facebook project – before it was time to get on our way to the wonderful West Country. We stopped off en route home at Old Sarum and the campsite there in Salisbury. It’s a great site just underneath the old Iron-Age hill fort – and up there was a Mediaeval festival set up by the team at English Heritage.
Of course, it’s essential as a parent to play a major part in your children’s education…Then it was back to our bricks-and-mortar home to prepare for our next term of Education By Astonishment, into western Europe and then roaming back to España fantastico to look for an astonishing setting for an astonishing campsite. Life’s too short to sit around not enjoying it with those you love and going for making dreams come true. Take the risk, have the adventure, and you may just see horizons you never knew before and the wonders over them as well as gazing at stunning rainbows beyond your wildest dreams.
Or don’t wait around for a perfectly sunny day to light the fire – go for it now!