Friday, June 23, 2017

UK Day 2– in which there are Charming Villages, an 800yr old book, and Travis Arrives.


Our neighbours across the street. road. lane. path.

Today was our first proper day out, or Great Day Out, I should say. Here in the UK, you are only allowed to have Great Days Out; Awful Days Out, which do exist, are not to be mentioned or spoken of, and must remain a secret. Ghastly Days Out were removed from the lexicon several decades ago and I shall probably receive some sort of warning for even bringing them up, even if it is still possible to experience one, especially if one spends any length of time in or near a traffic queue, or finds oneself stuck on a train with a bunch of chavs, or if, God forbid, one must visit the town of Watford Junction which, I am sure, has a redeeming quality, even if that quality is buried under 12 feet of concrete.

Luckily for us, today was a Great Day Out spent in the charming town of Devizes (where we were left to our own) and the village of Lacock, known as a filming location for Pride and Prejudice, Wolf Hall, and Harry Potter, among many others.

But first, a word about the milkman. The lane on which our cottage can be found is ridiculously narrow and so I was surprised this morning to see a large milk van coming up behind us. I was even more surprised to see an ancient, Einstein-like figure, in a rumpled old suit, and a shock of white hair, delivering bottles of milk to our neighbours. I tried to take a picture of him but it was too blurry, and then again as he drove by us but I was too busy worrying that he was going to take out the car. As it was I only got the back of his van. It is a mission of mine, should I choose to accept it, to get a picture of him before I leave.

I digress.

We started our day with lunch in Devizes. My last proper meal (lemon drizzle cake doesn’t count) being the Pasta Dots in a Blood Sauce with Ironed Lettuce, I was ravenous. We found a little cafe where I was pleased to see that convenient personal sized portions of Marmite were available. Yes that’s right, I like Marmite. Let’s all move on from that shocking fact, shall we?


Unfortunately, two families were vying for the “Who Can Ignore their Screaming Children the Most” award in the back room at the same time so there was that. We were too hungry to care though.

We wandered the town for a bit before heading to Lacock. This entire village is owned by the National Trust and is so picturesque as to be bordering on ridiculous. Roses tumbled down over honey-coloured stone houses, birds nested in eaves and tiny fish swam amongst lilies in clear streams. If Squirrel Nutkin and Mrs. Tiggywinkle themselves had appeared walking down the street with baskets over their arms I would hardly have noticed.



Our goal was Lacock Abbey where scenes from Harry Potter where filmed in the cloisters. The Abbey is ancient: founded in 1232 and in existence as monastery until the Dissolution of 1536 by your favourite monarch and mine, Henry VIII, at which time all monasteries, convents etc were disbanded and sold off to families. Fortunately the family that bought Lacock Abbey preserved the old monastery and much of it is intact today. Harry Potter looked into the Mirror of Erised here, and these corridors stood in for Hogwarts on more than one occasion.



The original kitchen is still in place, as is an ancient brewery:


The best bit was an 800 yr old manuscript of a Dictionary of Latin Phrases, hand-written by the monks, and kept safe all these hundreds of years. The last remaining member of the family that lived here sold it to the National Trust several years ago for 500K Pounds and it is available for viewing at the abbey.

It is remarkable to think that this was done without the aid of good lighting, or without glasses or magnifying lens. These manuscripts survive partly because they are printed on vellum, which is actually animal skin, which doesn't break down as quickly as paper.


You’re all probably bored to tears now so I’ll leave it at that. We made our way home via a stop at Sainsbury’s for some groceries where Zoe insisted on using the self-checkout option. Never do this is my advice to you. No less than 15 times did we have to ask for assistance. By the end of it, the woman was just standing there staring at us like we were complete idiots, which we were.

We made it home and actually made dinner and went for a walk through the fields before driving to Westbury to meet Travis. On the way, we saw the Westbury White Horse which is one of eight such horses just in this county of Wiltshire. I thought they were all really old and was going on about them being prehistoric etc when I learned that actually most of them are not more than a couple of hundred years old.

westbury-white-horse-wiltshire21 (1)

The big question here is, of course, why. Without answering this, we carried on to the station where we encountered a few louts up on the platform swilling beers and generally being asshats.

There was also this inexplicable sign. How much is a chilled chocolate bar going to hurt your teeth? And would anyone like a frozen snack biscuit? No? I didn’t think so.


It was great to see Travis arrive off the train and, with only a couple of hair-raising moments in the dark on the Indy track home, one involving a lorry (truck) on one side and a couple of deer and a steep embankment on the other side, all was well.

Now that our group is complete, we can get down to the business of exploring this region. Check in tomorrow as I regale you with tales of our adventures in Bath, including our visit to the Roman Baths, an 800 yr old tea shoppe, and a few other things.

Thanks for reading,




  1. We will be in bath in 4 days, so tell me the best places to visit. We will follow in your footsteps. Thanks for the travel insight.
    - Ken

  2. Will Do, Ken. You're going to love it!