So, my Dad turned 90 at the beginning of June and wanted to go back “one more time” to his homeland. While we were there, he told everyone that he would be back for his 100th. Guess I got played on this “one last time” concept. If he can make the trip on his 100th birthday, I guess I have to make it happen.
Anyway, we had a fabulous time filled with celebrations, meeting relatives and tracing our roots.
We flew to London Heathrow from Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Delta Airlines. Due to Dad’s advanced age, we splurged and flew in Delta One. What a treat! The crew was exceptional, and we got to have a good rest with the lay flat beds and yummy comforter and pillows.
Upon arriving in London, our driver met us just out of the security area and drove us 2 hours south to Broadstone, where my cousin and her husband live. It is quite a scenic drive, and Dad was reminiscing with our driver and pointing out all of the places that he played soccer and cricket. He traveled around with his teams.
My cousins are such great hosts! They made us a Ploughman’s lunch when we arrived. This is typically a platter or board with cheese, meats, chutney, and bread butter or crackers. The Oxford English Dictionary notes the first recorded use of the phrase “Ploughman’s lunch” dates back to 1837. Bread and cheese were what the laborers would eat while working in the fields and has been a popular lunch since that time.
Ploughman’s lunch is served in many of the pubs in the area, but it seems that the pubs have become much more diverse in their offerings these days.
After lunch, Dad went down for a nap, and we caught up on what is happening in all of our lives.
The next day, we headed to Dad’s favorite place on earth – Lulworth Cove on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. The area is like no other. It is about a 45-minute drive through beautiful and winding landscapes from where we were staying. We keep hearing of the horrible weather in the UK, but whenever we go there is it perfect! And, this day was no exception.
After walking down to the seaside and taking a few pictures, we stopped at a lovely small café called Rudds and had a lite meal in their courtyard. Again, the day could not have been more delightful – cool, breezy, and in the 70s.
Then, in the afternoon, we headed to Wimborne Square for a coffee and snack. Wimborne has always been one of our favorite towns filled with shops, pubs, and coffee houses.
We stayed in for dinner that night, as we had a big day the next day getting organized for Dad’s birthday celebration. We packed up and headed to Okeford Fitzpaine, where we would spend 4 nights in Netherway Farmhouse. We stayed there 2 years ago and were totally smitten with this beautiful place. There have been several upgrades since we were there last time, which made it even more special.
The third floor has been transformed into a private en suite with a separate sitting area. The kitchen was updated, and the old barn behind the property was completely rebuilt. The garden in the back was not very refined when we were there in 2017, but OH MY it is gorgeous now! The owners have called this the “Secret Garden”, and the minute you open the gates, you see the loveliest English garden. There is a vegetable garden at the back and a large dining table, a swing, flower borders on both sides and a winding pathway leading you through the area.
For Dad’s celebration, we invited family from both his Mother’s and Father’s side of the family. We also had the owners of Netherway join us. They are such a lovely couple and make us feel so at home while staying there.
It was challenging catering for the party from another country, but we were lucky to know about Marks & Spencer’s Food Hall in a neighboring town. We ordered mostly finger foods since this was an afternoon party. Picking up the trays on the way to the farmhouse was hilarious! The car already had luggage in the back, and now we had all of the food and beverage to get to Netherway. Anyway, we made it and got everything unloaded and ready for the next day.
The Bryant’s (our cousins) stayed with us at Netherway that night and their cousins joined us the next day. Thank God they were there, as it would have been difficult monitoring the food and beverage AND hosting everyone. They did so much to help make things go smoothly.
That night we had dinner at The Royal Oak pub that is just 3 doors down from where we were staying. To give you an idea of what to expect in Okeford Fitzpaine, it is a tiny farming community. We were in the back of the pub having drinks when a local guy pulled up in a huge tractor. He proceeded to get himself a pint and seemed to know everyone. I understand that this mode of transportation is common to the area.
We met one of Dad’s relatives that night and found out more about the family on that side (his Dad’s side). He arranged to have his father (Dad’s cousin) stop by at the pub later, and he had him and his sister come over for the party the next day.
It was so incredibly hot that day that we had to move the party inside the farmhouse. It stays very cool, as the walls are about 2 feet thick. There was plenty of room, but it would have been nice to be out in the garden. Toward the end of the day, once it cooled down a bit, everyone went outside for another glass of wine or some had tea and sweets.
Sunday is the day that everyone enjoys a traditional roast midday meal. At home, we have been enjoying this tradition for many years. We were thrilled to be invited to join Dad’s cousin’s family at a local pub. They picked us up and took us to The King’s Arm Inn in East Stour. To our surprise, the whole family was there. They were all so friendly and just as curious about us as we were about them. I discovered that I most certainly look like that side of the family. We all looked related and had similar features — kind of an exciting thing to discover.
After our meal, we went back to Dad’s cousin’s home with the whole family to look at photos and the family tree. Two years ago, I filled in our names on the tree, as they had us just listed as the American family. They were all curious about Netherway Farmhouse, so we invited everyone back to have tea with us. We had some cake from the party, and a fruitcake and everyone had coffee or tea and some great conversation.
We discovered that there were some “skeletons in the closet” about some of our relatives. Nothing too drastic and mostly from long ago, but quite scandalous.
The next day we attempted to take a bus from Okeford Fitzpaine to Sturminster Newton. This town is famous for being the home of the author Thomas Hardy. It is not very far away, but we did not have a car and had to rely on the bus. Well, the bus is not very reliable, and we ended up getting a ride from one of the locals that we met at the pub two years ago and the night before.
We were dropped off in the center of town. We visited the small museum there and then had lunch at The Swan Inn. It was great! I had a grilled chicken salad, and Dad had traditional sausage and mash.
After lunch, we walked around a bit and decided to visit Oxford’s Bakery. They are known for having the best homemade bread. We got a loaf of sourdough for my cousin’s and also got a piece of carrot cake. We took it two doors down to Joshua’s coffee house and enjoyed a cappuccino.
Then, we headed back to The Swan assuming that we could get a taxi there. It was a bit challenging, but we did find a local taxi company to take us back to the farmhouse.
Can you believe that a 90 year old can keep up this pace? He did have a short nap prior to heading to The Royal Oak for dinner and a cider, but just kept on going.
The next day we checked out of Netherway Farmhouse. Our cousins picked us up and took us to Winchester, which is just 50 minutes away. We were meeting our niece and her adorable baby Tommy at a pub right in the center of town. She took the train from London to meet us, and this was a good halfway point. The pub was called The Bishop On The Bridge. It was a lovely pub with a great outdoor patio overlooking the river. Again, perfect weather!
Once our niece headed back to catch the train, we went to the park and had ice cream and then walked down to the famous cathedral. There is also a university in the town with lots of gorgeous historical buildings. This is where Dad could not walk so far, and opted to sit on a bench while we visited the cathedral. What a great place! Loved the shopping and pedestrian-only area in the center of town.
The next day we met Dad’s cousin from his Mother’s side of the family in Bournemouth. He lives not far from where Dad grew up and has a lovely old brick home with a turret. He and his wife are so sweet and suggested that we meet at Chez Fred for what they considered the best fish and chips in the area.They were right. It was the best that I have ever had. Then, back to their house for more tea (lots of tea and coffee drinking in this country). They gave us a tour of the whole house, and we visited for a couple of hours.
We planned to take the bus back to Broadstone, but they insisted on driving us past Dad’s old house and the local pub. The Brunswick Pub is right in the middle of the residential area and is where my Grandfather had his elbow shot by a shell coming through the pub window. I remember he had a bad elbow and wore a brace when I was very young, and we visited them.
Then, it was barbeque night at the Bryant’s. Their cousins also came over, and we had a great time. We probably had a little too much wine considering we had another big day the next day heading to Bournemouth.
This time we decided that we should get a wheelchair for Dad if he wanted to see EVERYTHING. He wanted to head down to the beach, visit the beautiful gardens and see the pier. There are a lot of uneven surfaces and hills, so he would not have been able to see everything without assistance from a wheelchair. Bournemouth is where he spent his childhood, and it is a very special place. We had a picnic overlooking the sea, and you could see The Isle of White, Studland, and Swanage perfectly. Next trip I would love to walk through the Studland and Swanage area.
It’s our last day and time to head back to the US. It was a short but event packed trip that we will remember for a lifetime. Cheerio!