Yesterday, we cycled down bridle paths, skirting jewel green fields and dozing livestock, to Mapledurham House in the heart of West Berkshire. It’s the home of the oldest working watermill in the country, and you can buy flour ground on the premises. It makes excellent loaves, and they will also sell you miller’s bran which adds a beautifully nutty crunch to your morning cereal. We bought herbs and ate good pork sausages and venison for lunch, washed down with a pint of Hoppit from the Loddon brewery, about ten miles away. Then we sat and ate ice cream, sitting amongst daisies by the side of the mill pond in the sunshine.
Today, we took the train to Oxford. It’s May Day, and traditionally the students are up all night carousing before gathering on Magdalen Bridge to hear the college choir sing at sunrise. There are morris dancers, and an air of springtime festivity spices the air. We had a pint of Lunchtime Bitter from the West Berkshire Brewery at the Turf Tavern, a well-kept secret tucked in a maze of alleyways. Deer cantered in the grounds of Magdalen, and the freshly refurbished quad at New College sparkled in the clean air.
I have never felt so proud and happy to be English this weekend, and it had nothing to do with the dog-and-pony show laid on for the tourists over That London way. This country is filled with delights that everyone can enjoy, regardless of your family connections or who you get to marry. My England is a long way from airless pomp and pageantry. In the fields of Mapledurham, on the bridges of Oxford, my England blooms.
TLC gives us two visions of The Greenman on her blog, which just keeps getting better. And an excellent choice of soundtrack, too!