In early 2018, our family was living in London for my husband's academic work. We were invited to spend a weekend with friends in a charming town in the Cotswolds called Chipping Campden. After several months of urban dwelling, we were happy to set out for the countryside.
Britain has an amazing history of welcoming, even encouraging, people to explore. Laws in England and Wales protect the public right of way to walk, and sometimes cycle or ride horseback on public footpaths, bridleways, and byways. In Scotland, everyone has the right to be on most land so long as they act responsibly. All across Great Britain, weathered wooden signposts mark public footpaths, and clever steps and gates enable walkers to pass from field to field over charming fences and ancient stone walls.
With this in mind, and properly equipped with our new Wellies (aka rubber boots) from John Lewis, we marched out of Chipping Campden with very careful instructions -cross the creek, pass the ruins, go out through the sheep gate, through the field to the top of the hill, turn right at the Quaker church, and ask for the pub. Somewhere near the ruins (of a medieval castle?) my children formed a gang of Superheroes- the Supa Chupas! We first discovered Chupa Chups (the best lollipops ever) in Italy and had been delighted to find them in London. My husband and I held hands as we celebrated this moment when our children became friends and set off on their own adventures. It involved a secret handshake, sweatshirts turned into capes and lots of running, punctuated by the occasional Supa Chupa Meeting and many frightened sheep!
We eventually arrived at the Bakers Arms, enjoyed a delightful pint along with a classic British pub lunch, and mucked our way back through more sheep fields (there's a theme). It was after this charmed walk that I changed shoes and headed up to the High Street in town to browse the shops. I visited the cheese store where I picked up "Stinking Bishop" at the request of our host, and wandered into Sam Wilson, a charming homeware & gift shop. They basically had me at hello- or at least the window display.
Sam herself was in the shop, helping to style a table. I loved the printed fabrics that featured the same fields and pheasants I'd just encountered. I heard her story, that she began her career as an illustrator, lived locally, and designed the prints by hand using Linoprint. Everything was beautiful, cozy, and made by real people, just down the street! Wishing I could bring home everything, I limited myself to a few small prints that live in my kitchen today.
Fast forward six months... We're back home in North Carolina, and I'm working in an office, driving my mini-van around town, and fetching necessities from big-box stores. As grateful as I am for our health, comfort, friends and family here, I have grieved the loss of a sense of place. My mind often lands on that walk along the "Heart of England Way" outside Chipping Campden, and I long for the fields in those prints in my kitchen. I miss the cold, damp streets of London, where even a walk to pick up groceries was a sensory experience and an encounter with piece of history.
I am learning to seek more adventure in our lives here. We’ve started walking more, visiting new local places, and using our good silver for everyday meals. I’ve noticed a moment of joy when I use the coffee mugs I bought in London, and every time it rains the kids pull out the Wellies with delight, inviting another adventure of the Supa Chupas. I wondered, How can I bottle this up and share it? I toyed with writing a book but discovered that what I really get a kick out of is helping other people have their own moments of delight.
The stars aligned, and with my children's joyous sense of adventure, I started Briton Home in November 2018. We traveled back to the UK for a week, and I met with Sam Wilson and London-based Thornback & Peel to discuss bringing their products to the States. I picked up a few other things to try, and hosted my first “suitcase show” just before Christmas. My hope is to offer an evolving collection of things I love, all made in Great Britain. I want to tell the stories of the makers and the places that are meaningful to me, and I hope they resonate with you. I’d like to think I’m offering more than a tea towel; it’s actually a piece of Britain and a touchstone for you to experience your own sense of delight, abundance and joy!
As I share about our travels and the quirks of British culture, I’m aware that it is a blessing to have been able to live there and to enjoy these luxuries. Spending time in new cultures has been life-changing for my family, but the vast majority of people do not have this opportunity. My goal is to donate 5% (at least!) of profits from Briton Home to open doors to young people to travel or study abroad, so that they may have their own adventures and aha moments. So buy lots of tea towels!!!