The last leg of my trip was always difficult to plan, due to having lived in the South of England for 30 years. I’d pretty much been everywhere locally and often, so didn’t need to go exploring or wandering around the area.
I called upon a couple of friends who I used to spend a lot of time with years ago, to see if they wanted to meet up but it turns out not everyone is keen to see a long-lost friend from days of old and would rather keep me relegated to a virtual friendship so again, that left me scratching my head about the next destination. I put another shout out status on Facebook to see if anyone would like to help me out with somewhere to stay and have a fun catch up, before I threw a dart at a map to pick for me and I was pleasantly surprised to hear from an old colleague and a long lost* family member
*she wasn’t really lost, we had just lost touch.However we will find her again in my next blog.
So with these reunions guiding the final leg of my journey, I made my way to see Great Linford just outside Milton Keynes, to see Mark, who I used to work with at Virgin Atlantic in the Marketing Dept. We had also lived in Melbourne at the same time for around 2 years and met up sporadically, so I was looking to see how Mark and Emily (one of the best bakers you will ever meet) had resettled into the UK.
Mark, being ever so organised, emailed me quite an extensive list of things to do in the Milton Keynes area and I decided that indoor tobogganing was surprisingly yet definitely the activity for me. Luckily I checked the website before heading over because Xscape weren’t offering that activity on that day. Looking to switch to indoor skydiving, I saw that wasn’t being offered either. Deciding to change tack and do something less rigorous, I thought it would be nice to go and visit one of the many stately homes in the area. Checking which was the best distance between Letchworth and Great Linford, I found the most suitable one and again, checked to see if they were open. Being a week day at the tail end of February, I hoped I wouldn’t be out of luck but alas, unless I wanted to wait until they opened in April, it wouldn’t really be worth my while. As I was getting the impression that nowhere was open in the area at this time of year, I thought I’d play it safe and just go to the woods that Mark had suggested and have a nice walk in the countryside, which I was really enjoying throughout this UK tour. Following my sat nav to a very dense woodland area, I parked up, actually remembered to log where I parked the car, pulled on my walking boots and headed in. Then the trees started falling.
Unbeknownst to me (and I’m sure Mark was unaware, prior to recommending the area), the loggers were out in full force, cutting a huge chunk of the forest down. At this point I’d gone in deep, my GPS signal was lost and each track looked the same as the next – completely upturned and covered in mud with logs and discarded twigs from the logging machines littering the paths. I actually felt a little scared. If you can imagine the sounds of pneumatic saws, followed by the creaking of splintered trees and then the crash as they hit the ground all around you but not being able to see them, you can understand why. As I tried retracing my steps, a tree fell right in my path, which made a clearing and allowed one of the loggers to finally see me. He radioed through to the other loggers to stop for a minute and directed me back to the exit and relative safety. Covered in mud, leaves twigs and a mix of faded fear and mild relief, I reached the roadside and thought that despite Mark having the best intention with the suggestions on his emails, I wasn’t going to consider any of the other options. Instead, I headed in search of cock and bull in nearby Stony Stratford.
The Cock Hotel and The Bull Hotel are adjacent pubs in this small village, which seem to be just two out of a myriad of pubs which flank the High Street. Given the choice of so many, I opted for cock and popped in for lunch. After a feed of meat and two veg and a nice local ale, I felt satisfied and warmed, so thought I’d take a walk along the river where there were very few trees to fall upon me as I walked. It was a lovely meander, as the rain poured down and I thought fondly of the umbrella, keeping nice and dry next to my wet weather gear in the boot of the car. One choice decision did go in my favour though as for the first time on the trip that I had worn my wellies. When I neared the bridge to get back to the village, it became more and more obvious that I had to cross an unexpected stream to get there. What a day I was having! In front of the stream was a barbed wire fence which I managed to cross over with surprising ease. There was no way of jumping, stepping or cartwheeling across the stream though, without having to get in it, so I opted for stepping and was relieved to find the water didn’t come above the wellies. Things were on the up and so was I. I climbed the river bank, headed over the bridge and decided to head back to the car, only to take a wrong turn. Clearly my sense of direction is shot. I eventually managed to find my way back to my car, just as the rain ceased and a slither of sun shone through. Thinking the day needed to be over, I took a slow careful drive to Great Linford, crossing the many roundabout for which Milton Keynes is famed for and arrived just into to watch Emily start baking our delicious dessert – an almond and raspberry tart.
In contrast to a somewhat disastrous day, I had a brilliant evening with Mark and Emily. They have the most stunning home in such beautiful surroundings. We sat around the table enjoying fine wine, great conversation and a lot of laughs. Not forgetting the amazing food that I had the pleasure of watching Emily prepare from scratch. It was delicious. They’re great hosts and would be great dinner guests as well, should anyone be throwing a dinner party and have two spare seats!
In the morning, I got a chance to take a walk along the canal and also along the old railway track, which I love to do, to try to imagine what it was like for the rail passengers all those years ago. I always find there is such romanticism about train journeys back when the railways became the foremost was to travel the UK, taking over from the stage-coach.
I wandered back through the village to my car and made my way to my final destination on this epic road trip.
If you read to the end of this blog and saw that there were no photos whatsoever, then you’re very observant. I didn’t manage to take any, with all the commotion that was going on at the beginning of this leg of the journey, as photo taking wasn’t a priority. I just went online to find some stock photos of this beautiful village however the most prominent photos are of crime scenes, police tape and one pub. Whatever happened at that pub, I don’t want it to detract from the beautiful, little country village, so I think we’ll keep this blog photo free!