When Once I Travelled


As people begin to take holidays again, I watched a thought-provoking programme on the culture of travel and tourism, hosted by Professor Mary Beard. As one who loved to travel since retirement allowed me time and multiple chances, last year destroyed plans to travel around Scotland and Ireland and then inter-rail around Europe. Instead, we had four days in Devon in October staying with a friend. Since moving to Norfolk, we have travelled no more than ten miles in any one direction for the last four months, and, where before I might be going stir crazy, this year has taught me the value of staying local.

For the time being, my area of discovery is around 4 square miles, my garden, field and the local lanes – an immense wealth of riches. From the sweet scent of horse parsley to the patch of borage, from the abundance of asparagus to the promise of currants, will they be red or black? Every week a new surprise as a bush begins to flower, yellow potentilla, red salvia, peonies – so many varieties about to unfurl their petals. Trees in our drive – a mountain ash, wild cherry, a rare and beautiful whitebeam, hawthorn and an acer – all fill me with delight. I took no notice when we viewed the house. It was November and all were bare branched, sleeping, other than the pines. Now, I sit in my lounge in the early evening and the leaves shimmer in the fading light.

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How long will it be before I want to travel again, I wonder? I have plans. We have so much land, too much allotment to manage. I want to turn a large potato patch into another garden area, replace the ancient greenhouse with a new one in a sunnier position. Then there are all the outbuildings and the old toilet block, euphemistically called the garage, although no car could ever be house there, unless it can climb steps.

Almost every week, a reminder comes up on Facebook for a May holiday once taken, in Italy, France and Norway. What do I miss about those holidays? The scenery, yes. The food – yes, the people you meet, yes, and the unexpected or serendipitous. Chancing upon a medieval village, or yet another gem of an Italian hill-top town, finding a restaurant where the locals go because the food is outstanding and also cheap, an outdoor concert or firework display. It’s not organised travel, it’s local immersion and that can happen in this country too if you look for it. My best memories of travel are those small chance encounters – an old Italian woman who offered us a whole branch of cherries she was harvesting, A Chinese, Australian marvelling at the colour of blue glacial water in South Island, New Zealand, a group of Methodists who welcomed us to a teetotal country dance one New Year’s Eve in Yorkshire, a young girl with corkscrew curls dancing to the music inside her head in an airport terminal.

Hopefully, one day, there will be more memories, but they may be local ones. Stay safe.

About Rosemary Noble

Writer, author, amateur historian and traveller
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