Our first proper day in the camper-truck and we drove to Hampton Court. Our tickets to The Tower had included Kensington Palace and Hampton Court – completely worth the £100 for the family combination, given that the Tower itself was £83. We found a carpark, squeezed the truck in, and walked to the main gate.
The Palace caretakers should set up a camera at the entrance and record people’s reactions as they first see Hampton Court because the vista that opens up with the full view of the palace is mind blowing. The palace is much bigger than I expected from the photos, and the detailed architecture is awe inspiring. Quite the egotistical statement.
Built over a lengthy period in the 1500s, Hampton Court is located on the river, quite some distance from London for the era it was built. The chimneys are famous, and worth the visit to see. Each one is different, although I wanted to know if the bricks are shaped before they are made, or if they are carved into those shapes once the chimney is built. A highlight was the massive kitchens in the outbuildings – the huge spaces required to cook for 400 people daily, and all with wood burning technology. We were fortunate enough to see one of the ovens being used to cook spit roasted beef, and the kids had a turn at turning the spit.
There are self-guided walks through different sections of the palace, we did a few of them and could easily have spent more time there exploring the huge, rambling building.
Outdoors, the gardens are massive, like the palace they are on a grandiose scale. There is a maze in the gardens that is the oldest garden maze in the world. We let the kids loose inside and they ran about until they found the ‘middle’. A new children’s playground, The Magic Garden, gave the kids a final run before we did boring things, like supermarket shopping and driving to our campsite. We drove past Stonehenge – cool that you can just drive past it on the main highway, but underwhelming because you can see all the people lined up to stand near the stones, except they aren’t much closer than if driving past. Therefore, we saved ourselves the exorbitant money to see stones that are smaller than they look in the pictures. The traffic slowed considerably going past Stonehenge so we got a really good long view of the stones. From there, our plan was to go to Avebury Stone Circle, a more accessible set of stones, that is free to visit and has a pub in the middle of the circle – our kind of place. We got most of the way there, before the kids needed a run.
We stopped at Devizes near a little park with a quintessential English pond, and kicked a ball around for a while. Yes, the ball ended up in the pond, even after endless instructions to keep it away from the pond. No1 figured out that he could throw sticks into the pond and hit the water on the far side of the ball, which created a small wave that pushed the ball towards him. Eventually, he rescued the soccer ball, and the game could continue. Once everyone had enough fresh air, we continued on to Avebury at dinner time, only to find that the parking situation is impossible. The pub carpark is tiny, the National Trust carpark is good but closes at dusk, and won’t let you stay in it overnight, and the only other carpark is reserved for villagers. Thus, with no parking (and the pub stops serving food at 7.30pm, twenty minutes after we arrived), we decided to leave and return towards Devizes as we’d seen a campsite sign on the way. However, we missed the sign on our way back, ending up back in Devizes. We found a lovely restaurant, The Hourglass Inn, who also agreed to let us sleep in their carpark overnight. Win, win. The dinner there was delicious, the beers good, and the sleeping very quiet.
Except for that awkward moment when No1 thrashed about in his sleep and we both woke up in a panic thinking someone was breaking into the truck. Fortunately our worries were unfounded, and we drifted back to a peaceful sleep.