Little Known Tourist Sights of the United Kingdom, Posted from the UK

Posts Tagged ‘Yaxley’

First Impressions of Yaxley, Peterborough, UK

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At age 28, I joined the military because I wanted to learn new skills, see the world, and experience new cultures.  As soon as I was able, I volunteered for overseas duties.  My first and only assignment was at RAF Alconbury, UK.  I was very pleased because I had always wanted to visit England ever since I first heard an English accent.  (Lesley Howard, The Scarlet Pimpernel.  I was six.)

I arrived at Heathrow on July 25th, 1989.  When I stepped off the plane I felt as if I’d come home.  Not quite a week after arriving at my base, I met my first real Brit.  He was blond, cute as a button and his quiet, laid-back demeanor was a pleasant change from the brash and boorish New Yorkers I was accustomed too.  I was instantly smitten and, long story short, we married nearly a year later.

As a married airman, I was entitled to base housing.  My new husband, Awesome Dude, and I were given a list of housing choices and we chose Yaxley, Peterborough partly because we already had friends who lived there and partly because there was something about the x and the y in one name that I found appealing.  We soon found ourselves settling into a lovely house in an area the local residents referred to as the ‘American estate’.

After Awesome Dude and I unpacked a few necessaries, we decided to take a stroll along Main Street and get acquainted with the village.  Farmers’ fields ran along one side of the street, while houses complete with lovingly cultivated and colourful gardens bordered the other side.  Many of the houses on Main Street had a sedate, settled quality that added character to the area.  I later found out that this part of old Yaxley had actually been settled for at least 1,000 years.

I admired the self-sufficiency of the village.  We walked past many shops and businesses that catered to life’s necessities.  There was a bakery, a florist’s shop, a Mom ‘n’ Pop store that rented videos, a small café and a family-run butcher shop.  I couldn’t remember the last time I had been inside a butcher’s shop.  I must have been 10 or 11. There was also a hairdresser with a beauty therapist, (facials and manicures…yes!), dress shops, a bank, a post office, a doctor’s surgery, a dental surgery and an optician’s.  There were also various takeaways, newsagents and a police and fire station.  Nearly all these establishments were owned by the people who ran them.    You could find just about anything you needed in the village and you pretty much went into Peterborough, the nearest city, if you wanted to shop till you dropped or for a night on the town.

But for me the best part was, and still is, the horses.  I’ve been horse-mad since I could remember and to see people actually riding their own horses in the street was a delight for me.  I know that to a lot of you this might not seem like a big deal but to someone who grew up in the ghettos and truly believed that places like this only existed in the movies, Yaxley was a revelation.  There were worlds other than the one I had been born into and it was possible to attain them.

It’s been 20 years since Awesome Dude and I moved here.  We have raised three really good, sensible kids in that time.  We enjoy village life and the kids have made some good friends here.  The people of Yaxley are friendly and we all have at least a nodding acquaintance with each other.  I don’t worry too much about my children being out and about on their own or with friends.  And as an added bonus for me, the place is steeped in history.  It boggles the mind when I think of the events this land has witnessed in its 1000+ year.  I knew Awesome Dude and I had made the right choice when we moved to Yaxley.

A Walk at St. Peter’s Church, Yaxley

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It’s funny how most inhabitants of any area, be it a large, cosmopolitan city or a small, rural community never seem to appreciate what’s under their very noses. I am guilty of that twice over. First, as a native New Yorker (never been to Statue of Liberty) and now again as a long-term resident of the United Kingdom (never seen Big Ben). I simply took it for granted that one day when I wasn’t so busy I would be able to go see and do the things I’d always wanted to do. I’ve finally realised that day was never going to happen on its own. I had to make it happen.

With three children to think of, it’s not easy to just jump on a plane, train or automobile on a whim. But that doesn’t mean I have to give up travel altogether. I just need to keep closer to home. Since the hub of any small community is its church, I decided to research it and see what I came up with. I googled St. Peter’s Church, Yaxley and came across a website with some really good photos of the church. I was intrigued with what I saw and grabbing my camera and daughter, Sleeper Girl, went to see the church with new eyes.

First mentioned in the Domesday book in 1086, St. Peter’s church has seen much history in its day. Musket shot marks on west wall of the church suggest a battle may have taken place on or near the church grounds. Some say these “offerings” were left by Oliver Cromwell’s troops after a visit around 1643.

Walking around the church grounds, I found myself admiring various styles of architecture used to build the church over the centuries. Up till now I thought gargoyles were only found at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. But upon closer inspection I could see small gargoyles at the four corners at the base of the spire and at the entrance of one of the lower extensions. Erosion isn’t as bad as you’d think considering they’ve withstood the elements and vandalism for centuries.

Many of the headstones in the cemetery are barely legible. Those that my daughter and I could read showed the short life spans that was the norm of a bygone era. A few had familiar-sounding family names and Sleeper Girl and I wondered if they still had descendants who lived in Yaxley. We wandered around the silent churchyard awhile longer. It was a hot, humid summer’s afternoon and you knew a summer storm was coming. The sky was becoming overcast and the church grounds became even more still and silent, if that was possible. Suddenly the church bell rang out causing me to utter a most irreverent explicative and attempt to leap into my daughter’s arms. Six o’clock already? Time to head home and get dinner on the table.

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