Another of dad’s plays was King John at Runnymede. It makes Runnymede a logical place for a stop. That is not the only reason to seek out Runnymede.
In 1963, three young children hid in the back seat of a tiny 1956 Ford Anglia. No not the one like in Harry Potter. This was more like a 100e series Ford Prefect.
That means tiny.
Their dad was taking them on a secret trip to see where he worked and they had to hide so security would not catch them. It was early evening in Northern England on that November day. And that is where I was when Kennedy was shot.
We were cross because his assassination delayed the second episode of Doctor Who on the BBC.
We were kids.
(Times may not actually align but that is the family history as we remember it.)
As a ten year old I had to discover who this man was and why he was special. I knew he was the guy promising to
“put a man on the moon before this decade is out.”
That was special.
Today I stood on US land.
At Runnymede there is an acre of land that the Queen gave to the United States in 1965. She gave it to the people of the US in memory of JFK. They built a memorial there. Kennedy was important to us as kids. So we had to visit his memorial today.
A few hundred meters past the Kennedy memorial is another. It was erected by the US Bar association in 1957. It represents the importance of the Magna Carta in the rule of law. Every decade or so the US bar association rededicates itself to the importance of the Main Carta.
Then of course is the meadow itself. No-one quite knows which meadow it is. The only still living thing from that time is a very old oak tree. It is still growing 800 years after the Magna Carta was sealed.
We paid and displayed for 2 hours and walked. As well as the memorials there are special Oak trees that the queen has planted every few years.
There is a new art installation to celebrate the judicial system 800 years ofter the sealing of the Magna Carta.
Then there is the river. The Thames. A walking track, of course, runs along side it. We walked the kilometres along the river in awe of the scene.
I have been in a number of places I recall as magical. Culloden was one. Massada in Israel is another. There are others but now I will add Runnymede to my list.
For 2 hours we walked, barely speaking. We just absorbed the whole scene. It is so well organised. And the organisation is invisible. We felt a sense of gravity that we missed at Sherwood Forest.
There was one other element playing all the time that just delighted me.
Runnymede is right under the flight path from LHR. London Heathrow. Every plane taking off from runway 27L turns over the meadow. They are low and loud. I did not feel any lessening of the serenity of the place. I suppose some would feel disappointed as Boeing and Airbus demonstrate their wares every 45 seconds.
The weather was perfect for that 2 hours. The sun shone brilliantly. I took another 200 photos of the scene. As our wander ended and we moved to sit with a coffee there was one last kick.
You knew there would be.
A kick to remind us of home, of where we belong today.
I heard a plane like the hundreds before and spun to catch a glimpse. I knew it was special. There over the meadow I caught my glimpse of the Qantas flight leaving Heathrow for Perth 17 hours away. I know it was that flight not because of Flight Radar 24 but because I recognised the paint job.
Runnymede was one of the first places added to our itinerary. Like so many of the places we have been it did not disappoint. Everything aligned to give us the best experience I could have asked for.
Runnymede is well worth a stop for any history buff getting to London.