Here’s tracing our steps through March as we explore England and visit Hungerford, Newbury, Bedford and St Ives. Four places in three different counties.
Part 1: Hungerford, Berkshire
Before we left SA, Leah asked if we’ll see snow, filled with excitement to think that she could see and play in it again. She was not disappointed.
We arrived in the UK just in time to get from Heathrow to Iverwood Farm Barn, kick off our boots, close the door and light the fire before the “beast from the east” hit the country and we’re snowed in for almost a week. The kids were delighted because the next morning everything was covered in bright white soft fluffy snow.
Our base is Hungerford for all of March, as we settle, get things done and organise ourselves while exploring. Take a peek at the things we got done and organised, the technical less fun stuff, in THIS post about the cost and logistics of getting from South Africa to the UK.
People come from far to buy antiques in Hungerford. It’s an antique-lovers paradise. Pre-children, I spent many hours slowly browsing through antique shops enjoying all its vintage treasures. Wouldn’t dream of it now with three children in tow.
They have a nice little farmers market in the main street every Wednesday and you can go on canal boat trips from here. We got shopping done at the local Tesco, which offer free parking too. Nice to get around town and nip into places like the post office and library around the corner quickly without having to fish for pounds for the pay and display parking on the main road.
Note to self: Put together a little container with essentials, including coins for parking and trolleys, to keep under the seat.
Snow and sub-zero temperatures kept us indoors most of March giving us time to catch up on homeschooling but we explored the area despite the weather. For a closer-to-nature outing, we went to nearby Badbury Hill and The Great Coxwell Tithe Barn in Oxfordshire. Read about our outing here.
Hungerford is close to Reading and Newbury, both great places for shopping and entertainment. I’ve taken the train between Newbury, Reading and Hungerford many times and learned most of the little Spanish I know today on these routes. Hungerford is a great base from which to explore both counties of Wiltshire and Berkshire. Iverwood Farm, where we stayed, is walking distance to the small villages of Shalbourne and Ham.
A Trip Down Memory Lane
Hungerford is a trip down memory lane. We lived here for two happy years from about 2007 to 2009 and Nick was born during that time. Yes, we took our first baby home to our little terraced house in Hungerford. Sweet memories.
Most of Nick’s “firsts” happened here. He took his first steps in the local play park, had his first birthday here and had his first swim at the leisure center. This is where he reached all the important milestones in his first two years of life. It was lovely to be back and to take the children to places that held special memories for us.
The Barn at Iverwood Farm
Our Airbnb was a cosy barn conversion on a farm just outside Hungerford perfect for a family traveling with the bare necessities and in need of a warm fire by a smart HD TV so Mommy can binge-watch The Crown. It had everything we needed including toys and games for the kids and our host, Erica, is such a nice lady. She brought books about birding and nature when she found out that Nick loves birds and she brought a sled for the kids to play in the snow. When we needed help with anything or we were expecting mail she was very helpful.
The barn is far away enough to be secluded and peacefully nestled in the tranquil countryside, but too far to walk to the shop with little kids in the cold or to catch a bus so having a car helps. Each place will have its pro’s and cons. A highlight of our time at Iverwood farm was watching a couple of barn owls hunting in the surrounding fields on early mornings. There are lots of bunnies in the field and we spotted a variety of birds.
Time To Catch Up
There are a few friends we still need to look up and visit. Sue Irving Jones and Anna Tobin, friends since 2007 from when I worked at Vodafone HQ and Frances and Leigh. Next time we’re in the area we hope to catch up.
Nick’s first ever fellow baby neighbour and friend, Scarlet, still lives in the same house in Hungerford and we went to visit them. She is just a month younger than him and although they don’t remember much of each other, Tina and I cherish the memories. We remember very well how much time they spent checking each other out as tiny newborns and how many times we popped over for a quick baby social. All the special birthday parties they shared and how many milestones they had here, together.
They played with each other long before their brothers and sisters showed up. Who knows, they might grow up to be good friends one day and then they’ll thank us for all our effort. Stanger things have happened.
Every child is special to a parent, but to experience it all for the first time makes it that little bit extra special. This is what we shared with our friends in and around Hungerford: being parents for the first time.