As we prepared for our trip to England I kept thinking of all the things I would see that I had heard and read so much about. I thought of all the places I would see for which my mind already held images from pictures I had seen. And as I stated in my last post, my favorite places from our trip were those of which I had no previous knowledge, no pictures already fixed in my mind.
I loved the narrow roads out in the countryside with the hedges trimmed in a perfect vertical line right up to the edge of that very narrow road. I did not get a picture…we are Americans who struggle enough to drive on what we think to be the wrong side of the road…so we just kept rolling, hoping everyone else would stay on their side of that universally accepted yellow center line!
I loved Kensington Palace, Hatchard’s Bookstore, Glastonbury Cathedral, the ceiling of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the look of ancient buildings set against the skyscrapers of our modern day, sitting on the patio of our rented flat while drawing our backyard, any liquid refreshment made with elderflowers, and all the many parks we found everywhere. I loved the hustle and the bustle of London, the multicultural atmosphere of the city, and discovering that good tea, made right, tastes really good. And for all the days of my life, I will hear the words, “Mind the gap”, echoing in my head.
As mentioned in my previous post, our son asked if there was anything I really had to see while in England. I quickly told him about my desire to see Stonehenge. I also told him that I wanted to visit some sort of wildlife refuge, if that were possible. We settled on Rainham Marshes RSPB Nature Reserve in Purfleet, about forty miles outside London, on the River Thames. We took the train to Purfleet, then walked out to Rainham, one of England’s ancient marshes. What a great day that was!
Rainham Marshes RSPB Bature Reserve
As much as I love a big city, I also love anything nature, anything that requires walking or hiking, anything that dampens the sound of our busy lives for a while, allowing the sound of birds, grasses, wind, or water to break through the din. I loved Rainham.
We walked the trail, from riverside, to creekside, to open fields, and past the ponds.
Walking alongside the Thames…
a quiet, shady walk through a small woodland area…
then out into open fields…
a piece of bog wood. This piece of wood is from the Neolithic period. It had been buried under silt for possibly 6,000 years, before being dug up a few years ago…
We passed many ponds full of birds and ducks…
and slowly wended our way back to the beginning, and the hustle and bustle of the Thames River.
Here in America, most of us are just beginners at the art of birdwatching. In England, they are pros. I was absolutely amazed at the number of people out to see the birds on a weekday, and equally amazed at the equipment they had. We looked like amateurs with our little binoculars…and truth be told, we are happy amateurs. I am posting a few of the pictures…I have been able to identify some of them, but am still working on others.
This is a Magpie, and was surely my favorite…
a cute little bird I am still trying to identify…
juvenile swans and one of their parents…
my most exciting find were these Lapwings…
not quite sure about this guy who had just lifted his head out of the water…
I caught this Great Blue Heron as he was lifting off…
and we saw this little guy through glass in a blind.
We also saw a couple of frogs while in the blind..
And wildflowers and wild berries…
Chickory, also abundant in America…
Poke, at least that is what we call it here in the States…
We found several snails on our walk, but I loved this guy resting on a leaf…
But the part of our trip to Rainham that touched me most, the part I am drawn to remember time and time again, is that section that holds memories and some relics of World Wars I and II.
the Pill Box at Rainham Marsh
The marsh served as a rifle training range over several decades. Still present on the site is one of eight original Anti-aircraft Ammunition Magazines. Also, still standing, is the Pill Box. It was used in World War I as a submarine lookout. In World War II, anti-aircraft gunners would be stationed on the Pill Box, attempting to keep German bombers from reaching London.
Rainham Marsh was a very special place, on a very special trip. It was one of the highlights of our trip to England.
I know, what in the world could that word possibly be? It is pronounced kickshaws…and I really cannot say I know why they just didn’t spell it that way. But however it is spelled, or pronounced, this is a really tasty one dish meal, and is very much like a frittata. I found it in “The Tudor Kitchen”, a cookbook I purchased in Stratford on Avon. It is published by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
Adapted from “The Tudor Kitchen” The original recipe calls for a parsnip, but we prefer a carrot for this dish. We leave out the bacon on evenings we want to have a meatless dish (which is most of the time).
We love having this dish with a simple green salad, and a glass of pinot grigio wine. Enjoy!
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 leek, trimmed and finely slice
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 carrot, chopped into 1/2″ cubes
- 1/4 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1/2″ cubes
- 2 strips bacon, chopped (optional)
- 1/4 cup fresh or frozen peas
- 6 eggs
- 2/3 cup half and half
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Grated cheese (optional)
- Melt the butter in a 9-10 inch iron skillet, or other heavy skillet.
- Add the onion, leek, garlic, carrot, squash and bacon (if using), and fry on low heat for 15 minutes.
- Add the peas the last 3-4 minutes.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, half and half, and the seasonings.
- Add the egg mixture to the pan and cook gently until the eggs are almost set.
- Finish cooking under a preheated grill until the top has browned.
- Top with grated cheese, if you are not using the bacon.