On Sunday 26 May 2019, we drove from Lewes to London. Our little tour of Britain was nearly over; we’d be flying home in a week.
On the way we made a couple of small detours. The first was to the British Wildlife Centre near Lingfield in Surrey, a zoo specialising in animals native to Britain. Peter and Charlotte were keen to see in real or anyway fairly real life some of the animals that have an prominent place in our English cultural heritage but don’t actually occur in Australia. As children the fictional countryside that we’d absorbed from “The Wind in the Willows“, for example, is inhabited by moles and badgers and stoats and weasels: actually none of these are found in our part of the world. Charlotte particularly liked the otters and badgers. The animals were very well cared for, and none were required to amuse visitors.
While Peter and Charlotte were learning about English wildlife Greg and I visited Standen, an Arts and Craft period National Trust house, designed by Philip Webb, a friend of William Morris, and decorated with many William Morris wallpapers and fabrics.
From there, after collecting the children, we went on to another National Trust house, Polesden Lacey, ten miles or so east of Guildford. Greg and I had seen it thirty years ago and we liked it very much, with its superb Edwardian atmosphere and fine collection of art and other precious things. (For some reason Polesden Lacy brought to mind Toad Hall, the stately pile of Mr Toad which, if you remember, was over-run by stoats and weasels then recovered by Mr Badger and Ratty and Mole.)
Later in the afternoon we drove to Runnymede, on the Thames, where the Magna Carta was signed (as they say. It was probably sealed with King John’s Great Seal by one of his underlings). Being there gave us a chance to admire the river. Pretty, and boats, but no Ratty.
Our flat, quiet and comfortable, was in Kensington, just off the High Street. We brought our luggage in and returned the hire car to Heathrow. We wouldn’t be driving around London. It was going to be the Tube and lots of walking.