Sometimes, you just need a holiday. It’s not necessary that it be a great distance, an exotic location, or even an extended period. A few nights away, visiting friends is enough to help relax and restore. And that is just what we did.
With our chickens secured for the weekend, Roger and I packed our overnight bags, Sam and Millie’s belongings, and a few gifts of flowers, wine and snacks into the car and headed out for a two-night stay with friends. Road Trip!
Ian and Carol have a wonderful set up, living and working on twelve acres in a lovely house. We arrived in time for drinks, dinner and an evening of catching up and sharing laughs. The following morning was cool and sunny so we set out with the dogs and walked along the old Roman wall of Silchester, which is near their home. Often on walks in England, I will think of who travelled along that route before. Was it Jane Austen in Bath imagining bumping into Mr. Darcy? Or perhaps, was it an Edwardian farmer gathering gorse on the moors to feed to her horses? In this instance, I found myself considering the Roman Centurion who protected the homes along these walls.
According to English Heritage, Silchester is considered one of the best preserved Roman towns in Britain. Growing up in Ohio, we didn’t have such things, suffice it to say, I’m excited. These ancient ruins were the centre of an Iron Age kingdom from the late 1st century BC where once there would have been a significant town with houses, public buildings and public baths. There is an old Roman amphitheatre, too. The wall we are walking along would have been part of the ancient town’s defences. But now, along parts of the path are hedges bursting with blackberries, sloes, and rosehips.
Last year on our visit, we gathered bags of wind fallen apples and plums, returning home to make jam. This year, we filled our bags with perfectly ripe blackberries and barely ripe sloes. There is something appealing about foraging. The idea of gathering food from the hedges, while the dogs run up and down the path, helps to accelerate the relaxing effects of a get-away weekend. It slows us down, it connects us with the abundance of food on offer for free. And, being out and about, soaking up vitamin D and eating several juicy blackberries lifts our spirits. Glancing up at Roger, who is tall and can pick the higher berries, I laugh to myself with the image of him in a Roman outfit and helmet. “Now, conjugate the verb ‘to go’.”
As the day unfolds, Roger and Ian head over to a local farm to see the recently hatched turkey chicks, soon to grow to size for Christmas tables across the region. Meanwhile, Carol and I take to pruning some of the garden. It is a massive garden, and our few hours of cutting back the shrubs and deadheading the roses worked wonders, but maintaining this garden will require several days a week. Sensibly, we call it quits and head to the pub.
English pubs remain one of my favourite places. They are filled with people sharing a drink, perhaps a bite of food, and conversation. No loud music or multiple TV screens showing sports. Dogs are welcome. And if the weather suits, sitting outside in a garden nursing a drink. Honestly, it doesn’t get better than this.
Before leaving, Carol and I pick beans (we cannot successfully grow them where we are as it is too windy) and then head to the chicken coop to select a cockerel. Roger and I have never had a cockerel as they can sometimes be mean. Besides, hens can organize themselves just fine. But Carol and Ian have three cockerels, and that is too many. We select a Bantam who appears confident and friendly. He’s beautifully coloured with head feathers about the ears making him look like he’s wearing headphones. I’ve named him Tommy.
It’s a three-hour drive home, if we don’t hit traffic. Our bags and bounty are packed in the car: beans, berries, sloes and Tommy are all in the car with Sam, Millie and the two of us. We make our way back to Crockern and strategize just exactly how we are going to introduce this small cockerel to our rather large hens. He was fine at Carol and Ian’s, where they have a crazy collection of large hens, Bantams, geese and something that looked to me like a cross between a chicken and a pheasant. We are hoping Tommy respectfully asserts himself in his new setting in Dartmoor. Meanwhile, we can get on with making a crumble, some sloe gin, and putting some beans on the table to go with the rest of our dinner.
Now well rested, tomorrow we’ll get back to work.