Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Bucklebury (the unofficial tour)

This way to Bucklebury:  the little Berkshire village where Kate Middleton's family lives.
The avenue of oak trees were planted for Queen Elizabeth I's visit,
quite a few centuries ago.

I don't think I've ever mentioned it, but we happen to live a couple of miles away from Bucklebury -- the village that a certain princess-to-be has put on the front page.  Although I've yet to see any tour buses, our local newspaper assures us that Kate Middleton tours have commenced.  For the many of you who might find it inconvenient to travel, (not to mention those who lack quite such fervent interest), I humbly offer up a modest tour of my own. 

Of course she has been the royal girlfriend for years, but last week the usually low-key locals were abuzz about wedding invitations.  I gave a birthday lunch last week, and most of my friends knew at least one person who will be watching the ceremony in person -- instead of on the television, like the other several billion of us.

Ryan, who is possibly the world's chattiest postman, received one of the coveted invitations -- and the news spread like wildfire, several days before the national news picked it up.  I was collecting my youngest daughter from a sleepover in Bucklebury, and I heard it from a friend, who had just heard it from the favoured man himself.

There is never more than one degree of separation in any small village, and even though Ryan is not my postman, I've met him several times.  One of my dearest friends used to live at the bottom of a track that runs off Bucklebury Common, and Ryan made it a habit to stop for a cup of tea and natter most days.  He is the most singularly cheerful person you can imagine -- whatever the weather -- and he has probably set records for the length of time it takes him to make his rounds, as he seems to be friends with everyone on his delivery route.

Another invitee was Martin, the local butcher.  I met him once at a friend's barbecue; unsurprisingly, he provided the meat.  Bucklebury is the kind of village where many people still go to a butcher for their Sunday roast.  I noticed that his signboard advertises "venison" and I couldn't help but wonder if the meat comes directly from the local deer, which are plentiful -- not to mention hazardous to drivers and pesky to gardeners.  Deer stalking may be common, but camera stalking certainly isn't.  I felt terribly conspicuous taking pictures by the side of the road.  So far, this rural village seems as quiet as ever.

Kate Middleton's family lives just off "the Common" -- 344 hectares of land which has been owned by the same family since 1540.  Until the 20th century, the villagers had open grazing rights.  These days, it is more woodland than field, but 139 "commoners" have rights of "firebote" (to collect fallen dead wood for the fire) and "hedgebote" (the right to cut wood for fencing or hedging).  Everyone has the right to use the many footpaths, and at any time of day you will see a variety of dog-walkers.  It is not a law that you have to own either a black labrador or a Jack Russell terrier, at least as far as I know, but it does seem to be the accepted practice.

Peach's is the local newsagent . . . what Americans would call a "convenience store," but without the coffee pots, fountain drinks and bait.  Unlike an American convenience store, it also doubles a post office. You can buy your milk and bread and newpapers there, not to mention a hundred other odd and unexpected things.  In a much larger version of this picture, I can just see that the little boy is holding a comic (maybe the Beano?) and a KitKat.  Truly, it is a prosaic place.  All of the local children, including my own -- when they are playing with their Bucklebury friends -- have walked up to Peach's to get some sweets.

The proprietors of Peach's were also invited to the wedding, and collectors of wedding-related trivia may be interested in Prince William's snacking habits.  According to Mrs. Shingadia, the Prince particularly likes Haribo (do you think he likes Starmix?) and mint Vienettas.  I assume he doesn't bother with  Lotto tickets, though.

The road from Bucklebury to Stanford Dingley is narrow and windy and definitely not bus width.
Nevertheless, I've read that The Old Boot Inn (more commonly referred to as "the Boot") is on the tourist circuit.

A couple of years ago, we were eating dinner at The Boot and Kate and her father were there as well.  No one seemed to give them a second glance, but I was terribly aware of them.  Not so my oblivious husband . . . who spoke to her at the bar, and never even realised who she was!  When we heard that she and Prince William were engaged, my daughter said, "Just think, Daddy.  One day you can say that you've spoken to the Queen."

As I was taking this picture, John, the pub's owner, came out of the front door.  He said hello to me, quite graciously, but I was totally mortified.  I must have looked like a Daily Mail photographer in my long wool coat and sunglasses.  I felt like quite the stalker, with my Nikon camera trained on his humble establishment.
(I definitely don't have the temperament to be paparrazi.)
I guess that he will get used to the extra publicity, though, as he has also been invited to the royal wedding.

I wonder if he will rush back for this Royal Wedding Party?
I doubt we will be attending, but it would be fun to see who wins the Best Royal Wedding Hat contest.


Poshyarns said...

Bee, that was a wonderful post, I thoroughly enjoyed every word and firmly have the measure of Bucklebury now. I do love that the Butcher, Landlord and Postman are all invited.

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for this fabulous post, so much fun to read. And your husband talked to the queen to be, WOW!!!


Sarah Laurence said...

I like the future princess better knowing that she invited her postman and other locals – how sweet! I love how English land is open to dog walkers etc. It was fun to get a tour of Kate’s village. My husband would have been equally clueless, I’m sure. This all reminds me of Princess Di. I watched that wedding on TV as a child.

My sponge cake is just beeping in the oven - this one I won't ruin!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Oh, this post was worth any embarrassment you might have suffered taking the photographs! What a treat to read about your Bucklebury. (Reminds me of Bucklebury Ferry out of Tolkien.)

Reading of all these wonderful, everyday people being invited to this wedding reminds me that, in spite of all the worldwide hoopla that surrounds it, this is still, at its heart, a ceremony of love between two people who aren't so very different that the rest of us.

Just a marvelous post, Bee!

Catalyst said...

I loved it Bree but I'm wondering if Martin the butcher really does sell Scotch along with all those meats.

Magpie said...

What a hoot.

Dartford Warbler said...

Thank you for taking us on a tour of this delightful English village. It would be an interesting and historical place even without the new "Royal connections". It reminds me of many of our New Forest villages, where the village shop, the pub and the post office are the hub of community life.

CashmereLibrarian said...

I am FASCINATED! Thank you for sharing. I am unashamedly smitten by the whole idea of Kate the commoner becoming Catherine the Queen!

Frances said...

Thank you for giving us some insights into life in Bucklebury, home to many lovely folks. I think that your tour was done in a very charming and friendly way, and hope that Brocklebury will soon be able to resume its quiet, friendly way in the world.

Teresa O said...

I adore the name Bucklebury, it has the charm of what I've always imagined the English countryside to be and how I'd enjoy a butcher shop nearby. I don't follow the proceedings of royalty, but I did happen to hear on the morning news show an interview with the proprietor of The Old Boot Inn. He menioned the 'after' party at his pub. I think I'd much rather attend his fetee than the grand celebration in London.

Thank you for taking us on this enchanting tour of Bucklebury.

Tracy Golightly-Garcia said...

Hello Bee

Thank You for this lovely tour. Will not be in London on the big day, but will be off work and watching the wedding on the telly.

Tracy :)

Jeanne said...

I enjoyed this post Bee. Your postman story reminded me of the character 'Thomas' from Candlewood to Larksrise. I just watched the whole series over the past weeks so it is still fresh in my mind :)

I can just imagine the talk around town. What fun for you all.... at least for now. I also enjoyed seeing a village out of my immediate area in Surrey. I am jealous as I imagine you have an easy drive to get to the supermarket! My run seems to be a constant traffic jam. So glad I bought a bike when I arrived :)

Jeanne xx

rachel said...

Such an interesting post - but how envious I am of anyone having a friendly and chatty postman.... Mine is such a grump that I agree with the dog and could almost rush after him and bite him on the ankle myself! (Not that the dog has done this, of course; she just lets him know through the window that she could...)

steven said...

superb post bee! i haven't followed the wedding even one little bit but this is the sort of story that i wish there were more of. steven

Tracy said...

Bucklebury... Who couldn't love a town called Bucklebury?! (I thought of Tolkien too.) Loved this behind-the-scenes tour, Bee! It looks a lovely place. And I am so excited about the Royal Wedding. I'm taking the day off to watch i all on TV! I was 9 when I saw Princess Di's wedding on TV and recall it so well. It's wonderful all the sweetness around Will & Kate's upcoming day. Happy Day, Bee ((HUGS))

Mr Bee said...

Kate Middleton will be longing for the days when she could go to the Boot Inn and have some middle aged bloke talk to her quite oblivious of who she is !

I am a well known curmudgeon who likes to think his opening remarks were, "Oi! Move your arse love. Some of want to get to the bar." or some such.

Mr Bee

julochka said...

i can't wait to tell the danish media that prince william likes haribo! it's DANISH, after all! ha! :-) now our news will have some connection to the festivities!

julochka said...

p.s. mr. bee cracks me up.

Tess Kincaid said...

Oh, this is all so exciting. I can feel the sparkles in your air. The avenue of oak trees for Elizabeth I is amazing.

zephyr said...

i believe i found your blog via Lucy's...

What a charming post! i confess i'm fascinated by The Wedding and this is just too delightful. Love that postman.

Marcheline said...

As an American with vague ideas of stuffy royalty, it is very refreshing to see that the young couple are including local folks in their celebrations. Somehow I thought it would be all family and dignitaries, celebrities, etc.

Personally, I can't imagine inviting the mailman to my wedding - but then again, they aren't exactly worried about the cost of this shindig, are they?


Amanda said...

i loved this tour of your hamlet - i can only imagine it will get a lot busier in coming weeks! and the fact that the local postman got a royal invite is a hoot!

Merisi said...

You brought a smile this morning, reading about a village and its now famous village dweller Kate, proof that there are no ordinary villages when people carry their hearts in the right place. And a postman stopping by for tea, now that sounds like the place I would like to dwell, never mind if that Royal Crest invitation arrives a few hours late! ;-)

The SPAR shop sign is interesting: Spar is an Austrian, family-owned company. I was quite surprised to see that they crossed the Channel! I love my nearby SPAR groceries, part of what makes my Viennese neighbourhood so endearing.

Cottage Garden said...

I enjoyed this gossipy post from Bucklebury, and its heartening to know that invitations to the big day have been popping through the letterboxes of the locals!

This little Berkshire village has an illustrious history indeed - the avenue of oak trees planted for Elizabeth I is wonderful!


Maggie May said...

Bee how much fun!!! Thank you for this, it was charming!

Janet/Plantaliscious said...

That was fun! We used to have a postman like Ryan. His replacement is very friendly but not as chatty - the time pressure prevents him from gossiping as much as he would clearly like to, though no hope of a royal wedding invite in this locale! Good to see somewhere with a local butcher - and am torn between feeling it is all rather feudal and all rather charming that the butcher, the postman and the publican all have invites. Lovely insight, thank you for sharing!

Christina said...

i absolutely love this! i love reading about them. and i love that these lovely people were invited.

Mariana Mijares said...

How do i get to Bucklebury? by train? and bus?

Thanks for your helo