England

Happy New Year. As we say good bye to one of the most unusual years of our lifetime, it seems a fitting time for me to post another entry.

We entered 2020 in the unfamiliar position of having no trips abroad already organised. Our primary intention was to ensure we took the girls back to India again at some point last year. We then quickly added in our usual mix of relaxing breaks and individual holidays into our diary. By the end of January, we booked ourselves an all inclusive break to Phuket for the family, a girly break in Dubai, a weekend in Majorca for me, and a week long Yoga holiday in Sardinia for my husband, as well as four days on the Isle of Wight with some friends. However, by the time I returned from Dubai, it was becoming clear that the whole world was about to change beyond recognition. By now, we all know only too well, the impact the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 has had. The devastating effects of COVID-19 have been a matter of daily news for most the year, but the enforced restrictions have also thrown up a number of opportunities for change. I have time this to take a step back and reflect.

Unable to travel overseas, we turned our attention towards England. Like many other people, I’m sure, we’ve spent so much of our free time visiting foreign countries, that we’ve seen very little of the country we actually live in. This year, using the U.K. Government guidelines to direct us, we explored places in England.

Around our house

Around our house in North London, there are a number of interconnected nature trails, green walks and bridle paths, which sprawl out over several miles. So, within a few minutes walk from where we live, we were able to immerse ourselves in a feeling of being away in the countryside. For a short while, we were liberated for a short while from our lockdown. We discovered, that around London there exists a vast network of Long Distance Walking Paths, including the well known London Loop and Capital Ring Walk, which are easily accessible all over the city.

As the limitations on making journeys eased, we ventured slightly further out of London in all directions, and finally visited a few of England’s famous sites that had long been on our list, and some others that we found incidentally. Wherever we went, there was always a fantastic gastropub near by where we could refuel.

Further afield…

Less than an hour North, we made a half day trip to Hitchin Lavender, where the buzzing of the bees and scent from the fields, made our picnic feel like a meditation.

Out to the West we visited the neighbouring English Heritage sights of Stonehenge and Old Sarum. We also spent a few days in the Cotswolds, where we hiked to the source of River Thames, and cycled round lakes. Closer to home, we made a day trip to The Long Walk & Deer Park in Windsor.

Instead of Majorca, I went down for a weekend to Weymouth, on the famous Jurassic Coast. We stayed at the award winning Gloucester House Bed and Breakfast, and incorporated a visit to Durdle Door beach.

In the South East, we found there was much to see in the garden county of Kent. The quaintness of the old city of Canterbury, the variation between the coastal towns of Whitstable, Tankerton, Herne Bay and St Margaret’s Bay, and history at Dover Castle, set against the natural spectacle of the White Cliffs, all served to keep the whole family intrigued. On our way back we visited Battle Abbey, the sight of the famous 1066 Battle of Hastings.

Reflection…

I know that 2020 was an extremely difficult year for so many. Perhaps now, more than ever, I remain ever grateful for all that I have. So, I want to take this moment to focus on some of the valuable lessons I have learnt:

Firstly, the positive impact on the environment of the global lockdown in the first half of the year, was a strong reminder of how much pressure modern living has had on the health of the planet. Some amazing photos that were circulated at the time, captured what regenerative power the Earth possesses. Seeing this has inspired me to be even more mindful of the effects of my own actions.

Being restricted in my freedom to travel, taught me to, ‘remain present’… That there is beauty and learning to be had everywhere. Where ever I am now, is where I need to be.

Most importantly, I am drawn back to Vedic ideal that has been that basis of much of my travels, and the inspiration for this blog:

Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्). This Sanskrit phrase is found in verses of a number of Vedic texts which document the philosophy of Ancient India. It is most commonly taken to mean, ‘The Whole World Is One Family’. Although it has been necessary to spend most of the past 12 months living apart, little has done more to help us recognise our common humanity, than the COVID-19 pandemic. The solutions too, will only be possible by maintaining a collective responsibility and working together, as we have been. I hope that the ecological succession that emerges from this ‘forest fire of our time’, will allow us to thrive again for many years to come.

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