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Beyond London: The beauty of the English Countryside

Beyond London: The beauty of the English Countryside

The reason for going to the English Countryside is to get the authentic experience, to learn about the country’s true essence, and, inevitably, to fall in love with it.

It’s Sunday, 3 pm. I am standing in the National Gallery, looking at John Constable's paintings. He was famous for depicting the English Countryside, mostly Suffolk. There is a certain peacefulness about his work, a certain quietness, a specific charm. The landscapes are not particularly beautiful, at least not in the most straightforward way. But there is that magnetism about them, the kind that only the nature of the typical English countryside brings about.

It’s 4:30, and I am getting a cab to the Tate. I arrive and see all the hustle and bustle that only multiple groups of tourists bring about. And so, moving through the crowds of people all around, very confidently and without hesitation, I head to see JMW Turner’s experiments on paper.

I look closely at his country house interiors, so very British, so grand yet cosy, and suddenly, it gets oh-so quiet around. I don’t hear the tourists or see the crowds; it’s like I’m there, walking in those countryside houses, and that fantasy brings so much peace.

It’s 5:30, I get on the tube. I immediately regret my decision to stay central until the rush hour. The moment I walk in, there is that smell and dirt, and I get squished between two people I don't know. The moment I try to turn around, somebody’s rucksack smashes against me. It’s loud, smelly, stressful, and so my mind wanders off to those paintings, the ones that bring that English countryside peace.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love London with all my heart. It’s great. Scratch that. It’s glorious. But ever so often, each Londoner gets that urge to leave, and there is no better place to go than the soothing English countryside. And if you are not a Londoner and reading this, you wonder “What does that have to do with me?” Well, everything! 

Say, you are a tourist, you come to explore one of the best cities in the world. You are here to get some culture, see the architecture, and try the best restaurants there are, but wouldn’t it be great to complete that trip with a truly authentic English experience? Try as it may sometimes, with its private clubs, historic hotels, architecture, museums, pubs, and so on, London is an island of its own kind. It’s great, but certainly not English enough. And you know what is? The English countryside.

So let’s get away.

Destination: English countryside.

Why and where to go?

1.  Endless Fields and Natural Parks

When travelling, you might think of natural parks that are all about lakes, mountains, cliffs, and exotic animals. And there are indeed wonderful places like these in the UK —Woburn Safari, Eden Project, Seven Sisters, Durdle Door, or the Peak District. However, that’s not what I am talking about here.

The true English countryside is seen (and felt) in the endless fields. There is a certain quiet beauty and peacefulness about them. Close your eyes and think of Jane Austen’s or the Brontë sisters’ novels; imagine the protagonists from "Little Women" walking around doing their chores. Now, open your eyes. What kind of landscape was there? That’s what I’m talking about: North Wessex Downs, Surrey Hills, Kent Downs, or the New Forest. Get on your walking shoes, or better yet—wellies—and go explore!

2.  Farm Shops and Visitor-Friendly Farms

Pumpkins, tulips, lavender, strawberry, or apple picking? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. The slow living trend did not bypass the UK; it just avoided the big cities. The whole phenomenon of modern, beautifully designed, luxurious farm shops that sometimes double as cafes, restaurants, or even spas is an unmissable shopping experience everyone must try! And the seasonal entertainment linked to the harvesting of certain fruits and veggies, or the blooming season of flowers connects you deeper to the cycle of nature and the community of people linked to it. What’s even more amazing about those shops and farms is the wonderful combination of nature and civilisation. 

The amount of entertainment, decor, and comfort that goes with it is unbelievable. Where else would you get to experience the harvesting season, buy the seeds in one corner, and order the non-fat decaf mushroom-infused chai latte in a pretty cup in another? In the English countryside, that’s where. And I’m all up for it!

Visit Tully’s Tulips in April, Somerset and Mayfield Lavender in August, and go Apple Picking at Kingston Lacy in September. Attend the Pumpkin Festival at Crockford Bridge or Farndon Fields Farms in October.

The best Farm Shops around London: are Farndon Fields Farm Shop, Daylesford Organic, Newlyns Farm Shop, Longstock Farm Shop, and The Rural Shopping Yard at Castle Ashby.

3.  Manor Houses

In the country where the monarchy is not just present but very much alive and kicking, it is not a surprise that you would find a modern-day aristocracy and proud signs of generational wealth all around. There is no better place to come in touch with that world than through visiting the historic manor houses. 

Some fully belong to the country, others are still used by the families; there is a variation there, and you can visit most. Come for art collections, vintage furniture, breathtaking architecture, but most of all—for the magnificent gardens. If there is one thing English people love and have truly mastered, it is the art of gardening.

My absolute favourite manor houses, palaces, and estates to visit are Kingston Lacy, Blenheim Palace, Burghley House, Polesden Lacey, and, slightly further away, Chatsworth House.

4.  Quaint villages

Think of Cotswolds Villages such as Castle Combe, Stanton, Snowshill, Kingham, Burford, and Bibury, or villages like Rye and Beaulieu. Picturesque, quiet, historic. They are straight out of the Harry Potter movies or "The Holiday". As you walk through them, you cannot help but wonder—are you in a movie set or is this real life?

Chocolate box cottages, picture-perfect streets and plazas, local churches, and heartfelt communities. This, and much more, is what those little villages are all about. Sounds tempting? That’s because it is! And, without getting lost on those streets and spending quite a few hours peeking in all the small stores, you will never truly get the full English experience!

5.  Pubs

The little villages smoothly bring us to the next point: the pubs. To be quite frank, I was never a big fan of pubs until I visited them outside of London. An integral part of being English, this is where communities meet, families have their Sunday roasts, it’s a local newsroom, and generally, the heart of any neighbourhood. They are loud, tasty, and quite a lot of fun! From greasy to fancy, from historic to modernised, the options are endless, so go find the one made just for you!

My favourites: The Bull-Charlbury, The Swan in Ascott-under-Wychwood, The New Inn in Cirencester, and The Double Red Duke, Cotswolds.

Just five simple experiences have the power to encapsulate so much of the soul of the country. Witnessing these idyllic landscapes, immersing yourself in the timeless charm of quaint villages, getting to know the local communities in pubs and farms, and glimpsing into the life of generational wealth with its impeccable taste in manor houses.

Beyond the bustling streets of London lies a world of serene beauty immortalised by the likes of Constable and Turner. Each and every experience enjoyed over one weekend can truly have a powerful impact on a person. As they experience the essence of the English countryside, they inevitably, utterly, and completely fall in love.

Looking ahead, secure your place on our upcoming June English countryside trip for an unforgettable journey through quintessential landscapes and charming villages. Reserve your spot today.

And for the taste of the Latvian countryside, join our Dreamers Travel Club May Pilates retreat. For wellness enthusiasts seeking rejuvenation, this retreat promises a blissful escape. Book your spot now for an unforgettable experience.  


Author: Jane Tochilina – Rubert / Dreamers Travel Club

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