Exploring Little England – Mini Adventures in June

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A cottage in Houghton, Cambridgeshire

In the spirit of making the most of our time on earth, Jade and I like to spend our weekends going on adventures together. Sometimes those adventures don’t warrant their own article, so we wait until the month is through and then bundle our mini adventures into a monthly highlights package. You are about to embark on reading the first of what we hope will be many regular Mini Adventures posts.

A Special Indian Meal

In Britain, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to cuisine from the Indian sub-continent. So much so, you would probably be hard pressed finding a home in the UK that isn’t within walking distance of somewhere selling Chicken Vindaloo served with pilau rice. Our town has its fair share of “curry” places, but none really stand out from the bunch. That’s why we were pleased to find one that is at least trying to do something different.

Instead of the usual “curry” dishes, we found quite a unique and authentic offering on Thali & Tandoor’s menu. From Tandoor Clay Oven Grills and Koliwada Fish Pakoras to Beef Boti Delhi-Walla Kebabs and Sheekh Kebab Frankie’s (open-ended mini roti parcels), exploring the menu and discovering what everything was was a treat in itself. We decided to share a ‘Grand Thali‘, ‘a complete healthy balanced meal centred around one curry and a variety of smaller dishes.’ When it arrived, we instantly realised we’d made a good decision.

Grand Thali at Thali & Tandoor
Grand Thali at Thali & Tandoor

On our silver metal tray, we found:

  • Pani Puri – crisp puffs stuffed with chickpeas and potato
  • Vegetable Samosa
  • Kachumber Salad
  • Paneer Shashlik – Marinated & charred Indian cheese served with roasted sweet potato and pepper
  • Afghan Lamb – cooked for five hours a served with potato, chickpeas and lentils.
  • Pickles, Raitha, Rice, Dhal and Roti

It was an enjoyable and flavoursome feast and one we hope we’ll enjoy again sometime soon.

Marching to Parliament

Despite most evidence suggesting austerity doesn’t work (Paul Krugman’s article from the Guardian is very compelling), the British government is using it as a cover to make massive cuts to welfare and public services. Fearing that the already dire situation in many parts of the UK will become worse still as a result of the government’s cruel policies, we decided to join a quarter of a million others on a march through the streets of London to make our voices heard. Here are some photos from the day.

The unions gather
The unions gather
Marching down Strand, London
Marching down Strand, London
A multitude of issues represented
A multitude of issues represented
Even the cats are angry
Even the cats are angry

We’ve included this in our monthly highlights because:

  • It happened
  • We’re proud to have taken part
  • We think the issues at stake are too important not to publicise

That said, we are very keen not to get too political on the blog, so we’ll leave it there.

Visiting a 17th Century Watermill

Various mills have occupied the spot where the current watermill in Houghton, Cambridgeshire resides since the year 969. Isn’t that ridiculous? 969! The present building was probably built in the 17th century, though they can’t be too sure. English history goes back so far, no one really remembers any specific dates for anything. Everything just happened ‘ages ago’.

Our visit to Houghton Mill was pleasant enough. We wandered around, pushing buttons and leaning on wheels in the hope something might start. We Brits can be a bit blasé about this kind of thing, such is the number of attractions like these all over the country. We found ourselves mostly interested in a small working model of the mill that actually did work when we asked it to and in spotting wildlife from a window overlooking the river.

After a brief tour, we set out (initially in the wrong direction) on a walk of the neighbouring countryside and village before the rain set in. Ahh, British Summertime.

Houghton Mill
Houghton Mill
Houghton Village, Cambridgeshire
Houghton Village, Cambridgeshire
A cottage in Houghton, Cambridgeshire
A cottage in Houghton, Cambridgeshire

English Country Garden Loveliness

Finding the answer to the question, ‘how many kinds of sweet flowers grow in an English country garden?’ is actually rather easy. We love our gardens here in Britain and there are hundreds open to the public all over the land. We chanced upon a beautiful example when we went to visit the former home of playwright George Bernard Shaw in Hertfordshire, England. Much to our disappointment, the house itself was closed whilst emergency maintenance on the electricity supply was carried out. We tried to peer through the windows but all of the curtains were drawn. Instead, we walked through the rain-soaked grounds, admiring the flora and fauna, all of which had a distinctly wild theme, as these photos demonstrate.

Shaw's Corner, Hertfordshire
Shaw’s Corner, Hertfordshire
Matt and Jade at Shaw's Corner
Matt and Jade at Shaw’s Corner
Jade examines the wild flowers
Jade examines the wild flowers
Shaw's door at Shaw's Corner
Shaw’s door at Shaw’s Corner
Wild Flowers at Shaw's Corner
Wild Flowers at Shaw’s Corner
Flower at Shaw's Corner
Flower at Shaw’s Corner
Wild Flowers at Shaw's Corner
Wild Flowers at Shaw’s Corner

Discovering a Ruined Church

Having discovered Shaw’s Corner was closed, we had some extra time on our hands. So, we diverted from the route our GPS instructed us to travel along to stop off in the nearby village of Ayot St Lawrence. Here, we found the ruins of a church. The story of how the church came to be in the state it is is typically ludicrous.

“The old [church], in the centre of the village, was partially demolished in 1775, reputedly because it was obstructing the view from Sir Lionel Lyde’s new home at Ayot House, which still stands across the park in front of the Palladian church (and behind the ruined church). The local villagers complained to the Bishop (then of Lincoln) and any such forced demolition was halted.”
Source: http://www.achurchnearyou.com/parish/320242/

Thanks to lottery money and local initiative, the church has now been restored as best it can be and is open to the public, who are free to wander about the grounds and the crumbling brickwork.

Ayot St Lawrence Ruined Church
Ayot St Lawrence Ruined Church
Ayot St Lawrence Ruined Church
Ayot St Lawrence Ruined Church
Ayot St Lawrence Ruined Church
Ayot St Lawrence Ruined Church

And that was June

We hope you enjoyed this first Mini Adventures post summarising what we got up to in June 2015. We expect the format of these posts will change naturally over time as we respond to feedback and stats. If you have something you’d like to say as a result of reading this post, please drop us a comment or a message.

We hope you enjoyed our mini adventures. See you next month.

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