Our Last Day … with Love, from me to you . . .

I’m supposed to be packing because tomorrow our ship sails home to America! But I could not even think about going without first mulling things over with you ~ the beauty and the wonderfulness of everything we have seen and learned . . . it is very hard to say goodbye as I know you know. I want to thank you all for coming along . . . it has been wonderful, but you made even more wonderful because we weren’t in it alone! I hope we can do it again someday . . .   🎶 MUSICA 🎵

Last night Joe and I climbed a hill near our house . . . and had a little moment of high five between us, thinking, wow, we did it. But oh, what we will miss . . . this place has has taken our hearts.

We’ve been teary-eyed for a couple of days . . . especially when we happen upon trees so old they’ve borne witness to it all ~ many of them were alive when our ancestors walked this land. Sort of makes us them, and them us.

They’ve seen it all ~ watching over village life and everything we hold dear . . .

. . . including this sweet mama sitting in the cool grass . . .

Hill and dale we have gone, on the narrowest of the narrow roads, through tunnels of old trees that open out into the widest of blue skies and views to forever . . .

We’ve traveled by ferry  . . .

. . . between hegerows . . .

across this green and pleasant land . . .

with little time-outs for keeping the windshield clean.

We’ve opened as many gates as we could find, and traveled in and around all the secret gardens . . .

Gates with a Public Footpath marker that says, “Come in, you are welcome here, don’t leave trash, and close the gate behind you” . . . and so we do!

Off we go to find out what is around the next corner . . .

Up the path and through the gate, to see what’s next . . .

And when the path narrows we are almost hushed from the thought of the secrets…

. . . because you just never know what you will find around the bend ~ a crumbling ruin, a river with a stone bridge, a field of sheep, an ancient church, or even a castle . . .

But no matter what you find, the views make you want to get up and do it again the next day …

Because, you never know when, in May, you might happen upon a bluebell wood . . . there are miles and miles of these ancient wildflower displays all over England in May.

There is never a question that at all times … from May until at least now, you will always find cow parsley (what we call Queen Anne’s Lace) blowing along the path, crowding the side of the road.

Poppies have just begun to bloom and there are fields that are completely red.

Everywhere there are dreamy romantic cottages that instantly make you look at them and wonder, who? What? Where? When? Why?  These are the questions. And mother may I?

People actually live in these works of art.

Words fail me.

We came to this cottage just as the fading light of day sent one last friendly ray through the poppies ~ “Pull over Honeyman!” I said. He was already there.

This cottage came with a car in the drive, so I knew real people, not fairies or something otherworld, actually lived here. Right up the street from us where we are now. So of course you get out the paper and say to yourself, where are the real estate pages? Excellent pastime for pub lunch.

Again, fresh out of words. My job is to grab the camera. Mas Musica? My new favorite song.

Hello. Hope you are happy over there. Behind your little gate with your perfect door and that thing, is it wisteria, growing all over your cotswold stone cottage? Because you are very beautiful, and I just say, yay and wonderful that you are there and loving it so much. Thank you.

Just like in the old books, it’s all still here. And I want to remind you, it’s here for you too. An amazing place, it’s not a museum, not a theme park, it’s real, and just sitting over here waiting for you …

This is where we a doing our packing-up right now, I’m inside that luv-lee cottage writing to you!

There are castle cake-toppers towering over every village … some with flags, some with roosters . . .

We wandered through many formal gardens too, lots of them owned, and cared for by the National Trust. Whose lovely motto is “For Ever, for Everyone.”  Doesn’t that just make you cry? There are some very good things in this crazy world of ours. Nothing done by humans is ever perfect, but there is such a thing as trying, and these people have that covered to the nth degree.  We belong to the Royal Oak Foundation which is an alliance of Americans who support the mission of the National Trust of England. 💞 Which means we get into all the gazillion wonderful National Trust places for free, just like the members of the National Trust. And we all support something amazing. 😊

And all of it to the tune of My-toe-huts-Bet-tee 🎵 . . . these luv-lee wood-pigeons provide the background music to the English Countryside . . . and although sometimes at 5 am you would like to kill any wood pigeon you can find because there is a chorus of toe-hurting Bet-tee-telling going on outside your window. But, our pigeons in America don’t sing this song, so we are going to miss it very much. If you watch The Crown, you can always hear it in the background.

In some gardens I had to be two-fisted in order to get everything that was happening … I was making a video when the doves flew over, landing so close, what’s a girl to do but keep filming and grab the other camera!

Birdsong, bees buzzing, flower fragrance, fresh air, wonderment . . . all at your beck and call …

Every house we visited had a story . . . and a garden.

We had three of the four seasons during this trip . . . it was snowing in Cornwall when we got there, there were cozy fires in the pubs in Wales . . . there was a brisk wind off the Atlantic in Ireland … The Lake District couldn’t make up its mind between dark clouds and cold, or sunshine and cool picnic weather, we got both . . . and so it went, and now, here in Wiltshire, the roses are in bloom.

There was a beautiful foxglove garden in the ancestral home of our very own George Washington.

Clematis in the Peak District was to die for . . . loved the misty countryside in the morning . . .


It’s a country that worries for its birds . . .

and bees, knowing what a benefit they are to the world. BBC Two has a program on every day called Spring Watch, where you can get up-close and personal with the woodland critters . . .

Beatrix Potter’s Bee Bole . . . with bee house. Beatrix Potter helped start the National Trust. Of course she did! Everything is connected . . . and we are too, you know, so far away.

We wandered the quiet streets of the most adorable villages, visiting churches and graveyards and taking pictures of everything that wasn’t nailed down. Or even if it was.

Including the famously historic village of Lacock . . . which was entirely owned by a woman by the name of Matilda Gilchrist-Clark (it was passed down thru the ages and landed unexpectedly on her in 1916) until 1944, when she gave  all of it, lock stock and barrel, including the gorgeous 13th century Lacock Abbey, to the National Trust. She continued to live in the Abbey until she died in 1958.  So everyone who lives in Lacock, or has a business here, now rents from the National Trust. And that’s who makes the decisions about what happens here. And they keep it like this, For Ever, for Everyone.

There are actually too many choices of where to go and what to do next. I can say right now, in a person’s lifetime they could NEVER see everything there is to see here. Can’t be done. We have tried so that’s how we know.

I’m not a person who’s wild about cars and crowds of people . . . but I was happy to see small villages thriving. (Note wires are buried, such a wonderful thing in beautiful old villages like this one.) I keep hearing that post offices are going away and pubs are closing . . . they are trying hard to keep their small communities alive, but it’s as difficult for them as it is for us in America. Large, famous stores that have been in these villages for a hundred years and more are beginning to close up shop because they can’t compete with the Internet or the big box stores. So we were HAP-HAP-HAPPY to do our part and get INTO those little stores and BUY stuff!

They do have so much to celebrate. Diversity for one thing . . . we heard every language spoken as we walked the streets. Course, they’re lucky to have Europe on their back door. Did you know that Walt Disney used Europe (and probably the world) as his model when he designed Disneyland? Yes, France, Italy, England, Germany, distinct lands with interesting everything became Fantasy Land, Tomorrow Land,  Adventure Land and rides like Small World and the Matterhorn. Inspiration is a wonderful thing!

So they celebrate . . . all the time. Last night at the top of the mountain we met three luv-lee English people with a tiny barbecue and a thermos . . . they’d walked up there for no reason, just for the beauty.

This is not rare. Picnicking is everywhere. And to go one step further, into full wishing-to-come-back-in-August mode . . . look what is happening at Highclere Castle August 4. Wonderful!

It just makes you happy to see it.

You can be walking out in the middle of absolute nowhere, and suddenly, there in front of your disbelieving eyes, is a pub, and oddly (you think, because where did everyone come from?), it’s full! And if the sun is shining, they are all outside in the pub garden (because most country pubs have gardens) soaking up the light.

This one is not in the middle of nowhere, it’s just across the street from where Jane Austen wrote most of her books. In fact, this pub was her view!

Pub food is generally outstanding. This is fish stew with English peas (which pop in your mouth) and cheese and whatever else is in there and it was delicious! We’re coming home with some amazing recipes! You are going to love them!

Pubs serve all kinds of bright and sparkly ciders . . . but they do not yet understand the concept of iced tea, so you can’t find it anywhere. I think bottled iced tea ruined it for them. But they should know, we don’t drink that bottled stuff either! We make “sun tea” by putting tea bags in cold water in a pitcher, covering it with cling film, and setting it in the sun until it’s the right colour. Then we pour it over ice, yes damn the torpedoes, ice! Then fill your glass 3/4 full of tea, and top off with cloudy lemonade. Not the sparkling kind, the flat “normal” kind. You can get it at Waitrose. Some people like sugar, but it’s not necessary  because of the splash of lemonade. I have to say, pub people, with all the true love there is on this planet, there is a missing link in your drink offerings, especially the very low-calorie refreshing non-alcoholic sort. You will sell gallons of this. You are welcome. 😘 (*good w/herb tea too)

So anyway, pubs, not only cute, but also historic . . . Since 965 AD everybody who’s anybody in history, and everyone else too, has frequented pubs. That’s when good King Edgar decreed that there should be “one ale house per village.” Find the town of your ancestor, go to the pub, and know that your ancestor was there too . . . pretty much for sure.

They often have stone floors and doorways too short to get through without bending, low hand-hewn beamed ceilings and fireplaces, filled with quirky atmosphere, no two alike. Their mottos, generally speaking are, “Dogs and muddy boots welcome.” Walkers, you know.

It’s a BYOD country. We should have this in America. It makes a restaurant WONDERFUL. All that love lolling about on the floor.

This is the little village we’re staying in now, and that’s “our pub” just down the street. Going there for dinner tonight for “last meal.” 😩

English, Irish, Welsh and Scots, I must say, are good at signs. I could easily do an entire post on just signs, that’s how good they are . . .

Like this one, just in case someone doesn’t get the message with the “Private” . . . there’s more! 😳 Works for me. I hate sheer drops! First thing you’d want to know if you decided to breech privacy despite warning is, glancing down at your feet, where does the sheer drop begin??????

Very picturesque and leaves no doubts as to what might happen if you aren’t careful. ⚡They have so many signs like this, stabs of lightening to the heart, etc.

Another thing to love about pubs is the tradition of Sunday Roast which is just like Christmas dinner, but it’s every Sunday in almost every pub! Roast beef, Roast Chicken, Lamb Roast, Pork Roast, with all the trimmings ~ Salmon, mashed potatoes, roasted veggies … Bring the Sunday Times and spend as long as you like . . .

I always bring my diary . . . my journal has been written in two main places: at all the kitchen tables wherever we’ve lived these last 13 weeks, and in tea rooms, tea gardens and pubs . . . It is now my most important possession and being guarded with my life (Beware, sheer drop!). It’s stuffed full of newspaper clippings, garden ideas, souvenirs, dried flowers, and most importantly, memories.

And when I was out and about and my diary wasn’t with me and I’d learned something new, it went in the tiny book Carrie gave me so I wouldn’t forget. That book is full now, it has only two blank pages left! And at night I transfer the days booty of info into my diary. It’s been very wonderful . . . perhaps we should have tea to celebrate?

Would you like a cake? Or perhaps you would rather have a coffee? They say a cake, and a coffee ~ all cute, all delicious, all the time.

The worst part is choosing. I need a sampler!

And the view from the pub can be as nice as the few of the pub!

Another thing I will miss is how much the British people love their Queen. And for good reason too! Queen Elizabeth is always on the front page, and lately she’s looking more festive than ever, lovely in lime at the wedding, and here, the very picture of flowery spring Queen-dom for Derby Day.

Yes, history is everywhere in this lovely country . . . not just our own, but history of, and for, the world.

This is a lock of Charlotte Bronte’s hair . . . she was only 39 when she died. The color is still there. Interestingly, it wasn’t at the wonderful Bronte museum in Haworth . . . it was at Chawton House, a museum dedicated to the earliest women writers (it’s just down the street from the Jane Austen House). Visiting these wonderful places makes everything we’ve read or heard about come alive.

And believe it or not, the lovely quiet churchyards come alive too, with their wildflowers and their stories . . .

When you want to find the oldest part of any village, all you have to do is find the church.

And older than the churchyards, before recorded time, almost 3,000 years before Christ, are the stone circles at Avebury. If you ever thought history was boring, you would leave that far far behind if you were here with the stone circles, man-made ditches, earthworks, hills, roman ruins, chalk horses, holy wells . . . on and on.

Avebury is even older than Stonehenge. Some of these stones were brought from Wales, which is over 150 miles away. How? This is the question. Yes, humans have always been amazing. What shall we do with our power? Let’s think about it for a while. I think we could feed the whole world in about a minute and a half if we put our minds to it!

Avebury is a wonderful place of whispering breezes. We found this young woman trying to get through the stones (look close to see her) to the other side. . . Not sure if she made it or not, but we never saw her again!

I look like I’m leaning in, and I am, but I’m not touching. Taking no chances, I wouldn’t mind a back-in-time visit ~ I’d love to pop in on an interesting dinner party in history or have tea with Beatrix Potter some winter afternoon, but I much prefer to continue hanging out with Joe💞 (and, let’s face it, I love washing machines).

Well, I just had a sudden epiphany. I thought I could do a decent recap of this trip, but it’s come to my attention that I can’t. This thing is already a mile long. I can’t choose the photos, I choose one, then go back for another, see three more wonderful pictures I HAVE to include, put them all in ~ look what’s here so far and in my heart I’m not even half done . . . but you know, Girlfriends,  I gotta GO ~ and you have things to do too! Life goes on doesn’t it? Apparently so! There’s so much more, which I will save for later, this is a good start, you can read it in pieces and make it last for a while! The book I am writing about this trip is going to be wonderful. There is SO MUCH to tell you. xoxo

Nothing has changed in England and the glory part is, nothing ever will. But despite the personal loss of this ancient beauty in our everyday lives, the hardest thing of all is saying goodbye to our darling British friends ~ pulling away from St. Mary’s Square, seeing Ray and Paul in our rear view mirror, and waving forever as we slowly rolled down Siobhan’s long driveway ~ was not easy!  The ocean is too big, too wide, and we are all too far from each other.

But then there is this to come home to . . .

and this . . .

We will arrive in the nick of time to put our flag up . . .

I’ll get to play in my garden! Because my house has magic too . . . because, just like yours, and those of our British kindred spirits, it is well and truly loved . . .

I can’t wait for a summer night and dinner under the stars  . . . that’s what dreams are for!

And what else ~ perhaps you would like a little something from real life? Well, my new calendars will be in soon . . . maybe by the time I get home! This is the cover of the wall calendar, but we’ll have all the usual characters . . . watch our web store for updates.

And your luv-lee cups shipped yesterday! Hooray! They should fly right over us on their way to Kellee and Sheri at the Studio and beat us home, (with a short stop at customs, the shorter the better, but we never know). All you prepaid girls will get yours first, in order of date of order . . . We still have a few left, if you’re interested, click HERE.

What else does home hold for us besides very deep kitty fur  and some of the greatest people I know . . . Six days on the ship and then a whole lotta hugging going on! Martha’s Vineyard, here we come!

The future is looking very fun . . .  I get to write a new book for one thing ~ the writing is almost done because of the diary, but I need to do the layout, the photo arrangements,  watercolors and borders; I want to put the diary in my “good” handwriting, and do more research to make it informative, so that will take a little while, because it needs be a good little travel guide of everything we’ve loved about England . I hope it will be printed, shipped and in your hands by this time next year! I still haven’t decided what to call it! I was thinking it would be nice to have the word Enchantment in the title since that’s what it’s been, but maybe not ~ any ideas?  Now that we’re almost home, we have the Fourth of July to look forward to ~ then there’s summer and our morning walks to the beach. 👏 And for the first time in months, we are going to know where everything is! It won’t be in the car, or hiding at the bottom of a bag, or in the back of a strange refrigerator, or in the next town as is the case with the hardware store. At the end of August, the September issue of Victoria Magazine, with our Castle Cottage picnic in it, comes out! I will be haunting the post office waiting for it! Then in September Joe and I will take a train ride to California (Yup! Twitter-from-the-Twain will once again commence) to see my family and most especially my MOM ~ plus, I’ll be giving a talk and signing books at the Apple Farm in San Luis Obispo. Then, suddenly, before we know it, it will be fall and time for Cranberry Apple Crisp and my Grandma’s Stuffing! 🤗 And in November I’ll be signing books and speaking at Falmouth Library, in case you’ll be around Cape Cod then. No exact dates for the book signings yet, I’ll let you know when they are set, probably after we get home. Maybe by then we’ll know more about what is happening with #SBBooktoScreen! I hear good things so far, and will let you know what I know when I know it (if they let me!). Right now I seriously know nothing! And the frosting on this cake-year is that in December we have a wonderful Christmas to look forward to because Rachel and Paul are coming to the Island and bringing Ray’s mom, Diana, for her first visit. And after that, when we will be missing them again, more than ever, and it will be winter and snowing and I will be hunkered down with our new book, guess what? Life will STILL be good, because the third season of The Crown will be back on TV! Yay! (If you haven’t seen The Crown, you are in for a huge treat, it’s on Netflix, and if you don’t have Netflix, The Crown is definitely worth getting it for! Season one and two are there now.)And that is all for today sweet friends . . . As we part,, I give you a rose, my heart, and this funny to-make-you-cry luv-lee thing with Paul McCartney . . . Our next full moon will be on the 28th and we’ll be on the ship. My fingers are crossed for a bright moon and clear skies (and flat seas while I’m at it). We’ll know soon! Take care my friends, you know I’ll be in touch as soon as I can . . . not ever sure what we get for internet from the ship! But I found a couple of fun giveaways in England, things I think you will like, so I will catch you on the other side.🚢💞


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658 Responses to Our Last Day … with Love, from me to you . . .

  1. Sandra in Santa Barbara says:

    Dearest Girlfriends, It’s a beautiful day in Santa Barbara and almost a touch of fall. Wow!

    Vet report on Grasshopper: Mass I’ve been feeling about 3″ long & 1/4″ wide that floats around under his skin on his tummy didn’t appear at the vet – of course not – you’re always fine when you get to the doctors.

    What did show up is swollen nipple circled with a blue tinge ring
    – breast cancer…yes, he’s a boy but they get it too.:-(

    Still working on GoFundMe (I could think of some other letters). Called and have an expert coming to help which should arrive tomorrow. As soon as $ arrives, we can do the surgery and find out the facts. He’s 14, if this is true, I’m not putting him thru misery just for me. If I’m diagnosed at 74, old age will probably get me first.

    BUT the dermatologist diagnosed a malignant lump about the size of the end of his thumb along side my nose on my cheek. I’m still numb. It’s a rare form (oh, goody) and has to come out. Thank God I’m not vain! Kinda like a Fencing Scar! Asked if he could take some of my double chin and fill in the hole – he just looked at me weird since he doesn’t have a double chin.
    Just overwhelmed!!!!! Yes, Sweetest Susan, this too will pass.

    Thanks to all of you Sisters who are there for each of us! I’m alone and it means so much you’re there.

    Much love,
    Sandra and Grasshopper

    • sbranch says:

      One dang day at a time Sandra. . . walkin’ the walk. You’ll get there. Not fun, that road. Big hugs, deep breaths, onward and upward. xoxoxoxo

  2. jan siegel says:

    Thanks for bringing back moments of beauty and calm to all of us…you’re a very special person:)

  3. Elizabeth Smith says:

    Welcome back to the USA! Glad to have “taken” the journey with you. Enjoyed
    every minute of it as a mini vacation from the busyness of life. Always good to come home after a journey packed with wonderful memories. Can’t wait for the new book.

  4. Welcome home, Susan! Thank you for taking us along through your travels this summer ~ oh how I enjoy the breath of fresh air that your writings and photographs bring our way! Delightful, lovely and charming are just a few words that come to my mind. Exquisite is another word! I love your tidbits of history, too. I know we are all in this “soup” together, but you make introductions to so many people and places that our lifetimes will never come across. Your gifts of drawings, words and photos is priceless!

    Thank you and God Bless you and yours always!

  5. Linda Doepker says:

    Enchantment for Your Heart? Blissful Enchantment? Enchantment English Style? Enchanted and Blessed?

    Whatever the title…I long to drink in this adventure..
    Thank you for always being happy to share…
    Linda Doepker

  6. Rhonda Jennings says:

    Susan thank you for all the wonderful pictures of your trip. Glad you are back and looking forward to your next book!

  7. JoAnn C. Summers says:

    Happily read all about your trip, I can’t believe there is a place that reflects your your tastes and talents anymore than the British Isles. Thank you so much for sharing this extraordinary adventure. So glad you included your cat, Jack. Now i know how cat’s say I love you, besides giving you a little nip. One more thing–love the poetry you include.

  8. Lisa Secord says:


  9. Diana Thielman says:

    Christmas shopping? Heck no, I want the cups for myself!

  10. Sandra Lucas says:

    Susan,you make my heart sing, even tho health worries linger in the wings.
    Thank you. I just ordered another of your books.

  11. Lola Waldrum says:

    Susan, your blog brings so many smiles to my heart. I’ve been a fan of yours for a long time…I treat myself to your calendar every year, and sometimes treat a friend with one too ~ a very special thing to receive, I’ve been told. Most recently I have been led to visit your website A LOT. I needed a pick-me-up and God spoke to me and said “I know just where you can get that pick-me-up joy you need” ~ and as always, He was right. So…thank you for sharing the gifts that God has graciously blessed you with. I believe you are using those gifts just as God intended, and He smiles down on you.
    Glad you and Joe are back home safe and sound…enjoy your summer. God bless with His brightest blessings, Lola

    • sbranch says:

      I also believe I’m doing what He wants me to do … spreading a little message of faith. xoxoxo

  12. Nancy Gravett says:

    Love your pictures of your trip,gorgeous someday I’ll get there. I feel like I was on the trip with you & Joe, had a great time, looking at each picture and comments for each photo. Your cups are so quaint how there painted, it brings to each season of the year. It makes you want to seat and get tea, and your favorite book, Your letters and pictures I look forward to reading them.
    Your a great artist,writer.
    Thanks for the beautiful pictures,

    • sbranch says:

      That was JUST how I hoped you would feel about those cups, little talisman’s of love. xoxox

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