I drove past Stonehenge the other day. I didn’t even stop. In fact, I drove past Cerne Abbas too. You know, the chalk man on the hill?
In Peru two years ago, I toyed with the idea of taking a flight above the Nazca Lines. the Nazca lines! I thought. A once in a lifetime opportunity. But I didn’t think about Cerne Abbas. That giant so close to home.
I didn’t think about the chalk horses gracing Britain’s south coast either.
Have we forgotten our own country’s history?
When I think ‘travel’ I think ‘foreign’. I think white sand and palm trees, dusty roads and street sellers, rainforests and monuments of long-dead cultures.
Last week I drove past an iron age hill fort. I drove along a Roman road. I drove past Salisbury Cathedral. I walked past clusters of foreign tourists marvelling and I barely even looked up.
It’s so easy to not notice these things anymore. After all, I grew up with them on my doorstep. The Jurassic coast an hours drives away. The endless fossils of Lyme Regis a mere weekend jaunt on a bicycle.
I take it all for granted.
Seeing Britain with fresh eyes
But now I’m based in this country for the next year I’m vowing to change that. I’ve been gone for so long. Three long years abroad across four continents.
Now I’m going to open my eyes again and take a look at this truly mesmerising country that I’m lucky enough to live in. The national park I live in, the history I walk past everyday.
A few miles away King William II was killed in 1100AD. There’s a stone where he was shot with an arrow. And you know what? It’s not even that remarkable because the Rufus Stone is the least of the history down here.
Roman remains litter the place. There are so many Iron Age forts in the south coast you practically trip over them just going for an amble in the sunshine.
Southampton was a Stone Age settlement. Just metres from my new house, Bronze Age tools were discovered. The Romans descended and transformed the area before the Anglo-Saxons came along and set up home in St Mary’s. Y’know, where the Crossfit gym is.
Travelling in the UK
And that brings me back to my preoccupation with the Nazca Lines in Peru. Vast shapes of animals carved into the land on the Pacific coast. They are genuinely phenomenal and old, generally believed to have been created between 500BC and 500AD.
But let’s face it. They struggle to compare with a giant and his enormous penis that graces the Dorset coastline. Britain’s obsession with doodling genitals is clearly historic. The Cerne Abbas giant isn’t even that old though. Maybe only 17th Century.
But the White Horse at Uffington? Now that’s around the same age as the Nazca Lines.
There’s a reason why our historic cities are filled with gaggles of European teenagers on school trips and endless crowds of foreign tourists posing with their thumbs up in front of the most ordinary looking Tudor building.
All this stuff hasn’t lost its novelty to them. And the French have got their own incredible history.
Home isn’t just home, it’s a land of its own
From our rolling iron age hills and naked giants, to our plethora of castles and our highest mountains, I’m so happy to be back in this country. I’m so happy to look at it again and see it for what it is – a simply mind-blowing piece of land with more depth and stories to tell that one could possibly imagine in an island so small.
I’ve often though I’ve been lucky to travel so much. But the truth is, I’m lucky to be home.