Vicki’s Blog – England
Vicki’s Blog…EnglandComing home from 12 days in England. Wow did we have fun. We came into London after a 10 hour overnight flight and were met at the airport by our good friend Chris Potter and went to a hotel in Tunbridge Wells, Kent then to his shop. The next day we rode the train to London to a hotel in downtown London. We thought we would see the sites and the first way to do that is to get on The Big Red Bus and sit on top in the open air bus and see the city. We got a good visual of the city for 3 hours. The weather was great, coming from 98 degrees to 60 degrees.We usually don’t eat at hotels and sleep at restaurants but we were glad to eat a great dinner at a 4 star restaurant in the hotel.The second day brought a new friend to pick us up at the hotel and go and see the sites from the ground. Thank goodness we brought our walking shoes. On to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards. Amazing the amount of precision and pageantry and a band and horses. Wow!Off to Purdy & Sons shop to visit and learn the history of Purdy and the Long Room. The shop has been there since the 1800’s and survived the shelling of London in World War II, and still has the dents on the outside of the building to prove it. The Long Room was the place where the customers would come and see their new gun for the first time and where Mr. Purdy would watch the workers from a hole in the bottom of the floor that was covered by a long table with carpet under it covering the window. No one knew, surprise. His workers always did their work.After a great lunch we then were off to the Tower of London. Of course we saw The Crown Jewels and the torture chambers of The Tower of London. Not a good place to end up.Our next day was a ride with the “Blue Badge” guide. These are retired folks that like to talk and show their town to tourist. It was a great day and we saw completely different things, one of which was Kensington Palace where Queen Victoria lived almost her whole life. She was the youngest Queen and she ruled the longest in their history-of 63 years. We also learned about her husband King Albert and all the wonderful things he did for England and we saw the beautiful monument she built for him after he passed away. She went into mourning and wore this small crown each day with her black mourning clothes. She and Albert had 9 children but not even them would relieve her of her sorrow. She died at the age of 82.We also went through all the gardens in the city. 1/3 of the city of London is gardens. We learned that the city used to be hunting estates for the kings and wealthy and as the heirs lived and died the lands changed hands and became gardens for the castles of the new owners. We also found the spot where hangings and other ways to kill people where done. ICKA nice lunch then on to see the other parts of the city…Chelsea, Noting Hill, Sunbury, Chesthunt to name a few. Back to the hotel and a nice dinner at Hard Rock London. Train back to Tunbridge Wells on Monday morning. Shopping at Chris Potters Country Store to get the proper clothes for the Driven Grouse Hunt in northern England. No polo shirts and sweat pants here, breeks and knickers and sweaters and hats and plain starched shirts. All subtle colors of course.The next morning we began our journey to northern England to the moors and the grouse butts. It took us 5 hours in the car to go from southern England to northern England to a quaint little village and The Black Swan Hotel. There we met the rest of the hunters and had a great dinner then early to bed to rise early and go to the moors. First came the safety meeting at the lodge where they explained how the day would go. We drew our butt number from a leather case of silver nails and found out that would be the first drive butt then we would switch as hunts progressed. As we were going out to hunt we saw many grouse taunting us on the side of the road. The beaters went to their position about 300 yards away with the dogs and we went to our butt to wait for the birds to be driven to us. Our spot was ok but we didn’t get a lot of action that hunt. That is the reason that after each drive you change butt positions so everyone gets a chance to have a good hunt. We watched as the beaters and the dogs came over the ridges and listened as they took their flags and whipped them around to make a sound to get the birds moving. And they did move, fast little buggers! You need at least 2 people in the butt so that one can help spot the birds while one shoots because the birds come in low and fast and very hard to see. You shoot to the front and birds on the side are to be taken by the closest butt…Very gentlemanly. As the beaters get closer they all stop and blow a horn to tell you they are close and to stop shooting to the front. Everyone holds up their gun to let the beaters know they heard the horn and then they turn around to hit the birds that come over their heads from behind. Then another horn sounds and the hunt is over and as the beaters and dogs get close, we told them where our birds were and how many so the dogs could pick them up. What a great experience to watch all this happening. Here again the tradition is so exciting. The moors are the only place this particular grouse is so it’s not like you can see this done anywhere else. This takes a great amount of coordination and people to put on, what with all the dogs, beaters, staff, it was a big production.We stopped after each drive to have a bit of tea and sausage and sloe gin, all part of The Hunt. We made sure all the birds got picked up and dogs watered then off to a new butt for the second hunt. After the second hunt we had a nice lunch at the lodge then off to hunt again. Back to the hotel and a great dinner then to bed and had to do it again the next day.At around 4pm we began our journey back down to Leicester England where we were going to teach for 3 days. We had a day of teaching then a seminar day then a day of teaching–great folks and great targets at Grange Farms. It was fun to watch our new friends learn the OSP way. They are mostly swing thru shooters so this was so much easier for them to do. After these 3 days off to London tomorrow and home the next day.For my first trip to England it was a ball. We enjoyed the food, the great people and most of all, the history that is there that we as Americans only being around for a little over 200 years don’t have. I, who is deathly afraid of heights, was able to go on THE EYE in London where you go up in a Ferris wheel type thing and you are enclosed in a glass cubicle but as you go around you can see everything from a long way up. I only had to back away from the window once. Pretty good for me, as I don’t do ski lifts, or mountains.Home for a few days then off again. More adventures ahead.