The Gap Year: April

I seem not to have been paying attention – the Gap Year is over, and I didn’t spot it.  Inflation is apparently back with us – a year has inflated to 14 months.  We started in April last year by walking the Capital Ring.  We will finish this May by walking the West Highland Way.

April’s ‘adventure’ was more about catching up with old friends than anything else.  One of our Danish ‘family’ is living in Cambridge, with her family, for a few months, which seemed like the perfect opportunity for a visit.  And it’s not so far from there to Norwich to visit another close friend and her husband.  So I did.

In truth I didn’t want to be away from home for too long – April is one of the busiest and most demanding times of year for any gardener, and this year that has combined with an extraordinary dry spell.  And there was May’s adventure to prepare for (more of which to come).

So we travelled together by train to Cambridge, stayed in a surprisingly lovely chain hotel by the station, and spent a very happy two days exploring Cambridge and renewing old friendships over meals.

We were treated to an excellent ‘alternative’ tour of Cambridge, focussing on two fascinating areas of small terraced houses and an old cemetery-cum-wildlife area.  We stumbled upon beautiful, almost deserted, college gardens.  We spent a whole morning exploring the fascinating Botanic Gardens.  And we reminded ourselves just how stunning England can be, especially on a sunny springtime day.  We visited an award-winning housing development (Accordia), which we liked and which was certainly different for the UK, but which by German or Danish standards would be pretty mainstream and ordinary (and insufficiently ambitious).

Then Malcolm went home to finish a long distance walk he’d started earlier, and I went on to Norwich.

I was taken to visit a National Trust property with the most beautiful double walled garden I’ve ever seen (Felbrigg Hall), set in a lovely wooded and farmed estate..  There was even a medieval church in the grounds, and I was shown the remarkable brasses (hidden under carpets to protect them).  My friend is an expert on medieval churches and church art, and visiting galleries and churches with her is always a treat.

We also walked into Norwich and were able to visit several more medieval churches open specially that weekend for a celebration.  One of these is now the base for a Master Stonemason, and we were able to watch two of the apprentices demonstrate their work.  It was fascinating to talk with them – they are part way through their first year of a seven year apprenticeship that has changed little in centuries.

It was a delight to meet and spend time with our friends old and newer (Malcolm’s infant school friend and his wife; our Danish not-niece and her husband and children; my best friend from college days and her husband, daughter and grand-daughter).

It was lovely to travel by train, seeing towns and areas new to us.

It was good to spend some of the time together, and some apart.

It was a happy reminder (not that one was needed….) of just how much can be crammed into a few short days.

Already we have been reflecting on what we have learnt from the Gap Year experience (about travelling; about ourselves; about each other).  On what we will carry forward into the rest of our life together.

Botanic Gardens, detail by cafe

Botanic Garden – detail from area for schools


Accordia – shared courtyard garden with linear orchard

Accordia – flats with playspace

Sculpture, Mill Road Cemetery (with poetry)

Wood carving, Mill Road Cemetery

Sculpture, Mill Road Cemetery

Cambridge doors (and wisteria)

Wall in tree, Cambridge

Pot garden, Cambridge

Knapped flint detail, church, Norfolk

Knapped flint, building in Norwich

Church garden made from upcycled materials, Norwich

Bug hotel, church garden, Norwich

About deborah @ the magic jug

Now I've passed 60 I'm still doing all sorts of things I haven't done before, as well as carrying on with the things I already love. I live a happy life with my long term love Malcolm. In my blog I explore local and low tech ideas, food, growing, making, reading, thinking, walking, and lots of other words ending in 'ing'.
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4 Responses to The Gap Year: April

  1. Marian says:

    I love these posts, Deborah. I’m amazed to learn that there are still stonemasons and apprentices practising and learning the craft!
    I’m curious — is the arch in the churchyard garden made from slate (or another type of stone) tiles? And with plants beginning to grow in between? It’s lovely, and so unusual (as is the wall in the tree in Cambridge; I wonder how that came about?).


    • There are, and far more in Germany, where the craft and apprenticeship system flourishes and is valued. Sadly here in the UK adult learning has been steadily eroded and devalued over the years, leading to low skills levels, low in-work wages, and immigration. The politicians don’t seem to see the connections.
      Yes, you’re right, the arch is made of slate roofing tiles. It is lovely.
      The wall/tree in Cambridge was just a mystery – no explanation I could see. Very odd.
      Hope you’re well, and enjoying having the girl home with you again.


  2. Sam says:

    It sounds as though you are living life well, Deborah. Exploring, seeing loved-ones, soaking it all up. Fabulous.


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