Pemsey Revisited

After staying in Windsor, we’d planned a couple more nights in London before crossing the Channel to Europe. However, our friend Allison broke her leg so we returned to Pemsey Farm to help out as she adjusted to crutches, etc.

In fact, after being on the move from castle to cathedral, from another long walk to to another historical site, the kids were starting to rebel. When we told them we were going back to Pemsey instead of London, they cheered. So here we are for a few more cozy nights and sunny days of farm life. Taking care of horses and riding them is fun of course, but there is even a glorious tranquility in plucking muck from paddocks swathed in green under fluffy clouds in a blue sky, with a cool breeze and an occasional apple from the nearby orchard.

Nonetheless, I hope to chat with Martin Bates (Heather’s cousin) as we didn’t get a chance to have dinner at a well-known Indian restaurant in London he’d recommended. So many things left undone, unseen, unknown… We’re off to the continent tomorrow…


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After leaving Lewes, we came to Windsor to visit the castle and Mary Lynn’s college. At this time it was possible to visit some of the staterooms in the castle and experience how the royal family operates. I found the display of weapons – hundreds of swords & guns – to be as symbolic of power as the plush furnishings and opulent decor.

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Brighton & back

After a day exploring Lewes (and switching from a B&B to the White Hart Hotel), we went to Brighton to take a look at the famous Pavillion and the Pier. We met Aunt Heather’s cousin Gavin for lunch at a rustic vegetarian restaurant on the charming Kensington Gardens Street and had a nice chat. He walked us back to the station and we returned to Lewes to have a proper high tea with Peter & Beatrice Bennett, friends of Martin Bates (Gavin’s brother). It was lovely and a nice chance for the kids to experience a quintessential aspect of British culture. (I had met them earlier at a meeting of the Headstrong Club, a discussion and debate group originally including Tom Paine.)

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Amazingly it was 42 years ago that I went to school in Lewes when my first family took a sabbatical. For the last three days we have explored what was and still is a charming English town. In addition to the school (which has changed its name and clientele), we visited the Norman castle, the Priory ruins, the Southover Grange, the home of Tom Paine, the High Street, Anne of Cleves house, and numerous other sites in Lewes. Interestingly, Dacres (the house we rented on Kingston Road) is being dramatically renovated – it was rather modern before, now it is almost futuristic, in distinct contrast to the many antiquarian cottages surrounding it. Ah, that we could be renovated, rather than having our old bones become like the old stones in the remnants of the past.

In this set of pix, a completely renovated Dacres, in and around Lewes including the Castle, Southover Grange, the Priory Ruins, and my old school…

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London, Pt. 2

For our second day in London, we started by getting tickets for “Matilda” at the Cambridge Theatre, and seeing the show was how we ended it – and it was sensational.

In between, we went to the Tower of London and the British Museum with much needed breaks for a couple lunches and dinner. Note the Rosetta Stone! (At the Tower, we got to meet the first and only female Beefeater!) Tube rides and much walking through Leicester & Russell Squares and along the banks of the Thames also punctuated another full day.


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London, Pt. 1

We’ve been able to participate in three birthday parties for Allison. The first was at Mark & Vickie’s (who board Gizzy at Pemsey), the second was at lunch the next day (see selfie below), and the third was last night here at Bromley. Her husband Michel not only grilled steaks, but made a delicious Belgian chocolate cake using his mother’s recipe.

The last was after our first day in London, a site-seeing extravaganza. After taking the train to Victoria station, we walked to Buckingham Palace (where the guards were unchanged), then through St. James Park to the Horse Guard Parade, down Whitehall to Downing Street (can’t get to #10 like the old days), then Big Ben & the Houses of Parliament. After a spot of lunch we went to Westminster Abbey and took the audio tour (interesting chat with a volunteer at Darwin’s tomb about belief – in God and/or evolution), followed by a double-decker bus ride to Covent Garden. There we encountered a protest at a theatre in which the Dalai Lama was giving a talk (I didn’t realize he had resistance other than the Chinese government). We spent a nice hour or two in Covent Garden listening to live opera and string quartets, eating meat pies and crepes, and browsing through the stalls of antique bric-a-brac. Then we tubed by Victoria, trained to Bromley, and, having detrained at the wrong station, took a taxi to the Nyssens.

Today, while it is pouring rain, we are nonetheless going back to London for a second day of site-seeing.


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Pemsey Farming

One of the sources of inspiration for our voyages has been John Marshall’s book “Wide Open World,” the story of his family’s “voluntourism,” volunteering in six different places around the world. While we hadn’t exactly planned to dive into the concept upon arriving in Europe, we are compelled by the kindness of the Nyssens in putting us up for a few days to help them with the numerous tasks necessary in managing Pemsey Farm.

Thus, for the last few days we have helped clean paddocks, muck out stalls, move hay bales, pick apples and tidy up the orchard, build new horse jumps, help around the house, and participate in several other small jobs that contribute to the myriad responsibilities of running a farm with an active “yard” (stables rented by others for boarding horses). Libby, a trained horseperson, is the yard manager, and each day we’ve tried to make her job easier so that she can continue to improve the operation, and to train a project horse, “Minstrel.”

In the meanwhile, our kids have learned about caring for horses and have been able do some riding. We also have enjoyed meeting folks involved with the farm, in particular John who gave Charlie and I a ride in his Bentley. Being able to stay in the house, which dates back over 500 years, before the discovery of the New World, in addition to rambling from green pasture to green pasture, along footpaths, across hedgerows, under drifting clouds and breezy trees, it was been a lovely introduction to England and gentle start to our travels in Europe.

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Pemsey Farm, Kent

Pemsey Farm house

Pemsey Farm house

Allison teaching Iggy to read.

Allison teaching Iggy to read.

Allison on Iggy with the family.

Allison on Iggy with the family.

Veronica on Iggy with the help of Sophie & Allison.

Veronica on Iggy with the help of Sophie & Allison.

Yesterday we left Winchester by train to London then to Ashford in Kent. Beautiful ride through the countryside along with a thrilling trip on the tube from one London train station to another. We were picked up at the station by Allison, Charlie Ray’s daughter and a friend of ML’s from way back. She and her husband Michel have recently purchased Pemsey Farm in the little village of Smeeth near Ashford, and we are honored to be able to stay here. The scenery is gorgeous, the horses as charming as the people, and the house is amazing. Built around 1490, with wood taken from a ship build before that, it is a British classic (more on that later). After a tour, Allison gave the kids their first lesson in English riding, and after dinner we enjoyed an evening walk through their wood and across several lovely fields overlooking the rolling countryside. This morning, we’ve picked some apples for human, horse, and compost consumption, and after a hearty lunch at the very local pub, we’re planning to help with the horses and set up for the evening’s festivities.

Southampton to Winchester


Inside Winchester cathedral.

We’ve arrived in England! From where the QM2 docked at the port of Southampton we took a taxi to Winchester and checked into the Marwell Hotel – out of town in the countryside (famous for weddings with an adjacent zoo!). Almost immediately we taxied into Winchester, walked down the High Street, then went to the cathedral and took the tour. ML, who is reading Pride & Prejudice, was interested in seeing Jane Austen’s tomb, but since it is the oldest medieval cathedral in Europe there was a lot more history. After and speaking of history, we went to the oldest pub in England (dating from before the Battle of Hastings) for an early dinner. The car we booked to hire (a rental) got canceled due to unavailability (much to the relief of everyone not wanting to drive on the left side of the road with me – in a manual transmission MPV – including myself), so we’re taking the train to Ashford Kent tomorrow morning to stay at friend Allison’s farm. We’ll help her prepare for a party she’s giving on Sunday…!?



Inside Winchester cathedral.


Bishop Fox, showing his morbidity.


St. Swithin, the patron saint of Winchester.


Outside Winchester’s great stained glass window which was destroyed by Cromwell’s forces in 1642.


Inside Winchester’s great stained glass window which was reassembled randomly, like a pique assiette mosaic.




The Royal Oak Pub, one of at least a dozen claiming to be the oldest in England (this one claims pre-1066).