A Very British Summer

Last year in England it was sunny and warm – even hot on some days – from mid-May to mid-September. Our rain jackets never left the boot of our car. I wore short sleeves all summer long. It rained for a few days in July, but we were traveling in France and missed it. For us it was the perfect British Summer.

But people said it was not a good summer. The school holiday schedule is different here than in the US. In the US students have a long summer break. School lets out in May or June and starts again in August or September (differs by region). In England schools have week-long mid-term breaks throughout the year at seemingly random times. One week I hear the laugher and footsteps of children walking down our hillside to the local school; the next week the mornings are silent. The summer break is August. Hence, August is the summer.

Spring at Ozleworth

If we get two weeks of not-perfect sunny days in August, it is declared a bad summer. After last summer I read in the newspaper “the promised barbeque summer never happened!” I don’t barbeque, but it sure seemed like a barbeque summer to me!

This year summer started in March with a couple of weeks of sun and warmth. We spent many days hiking. On the warm days we headed to the woods for shade, as we do in summer, but the leaves were not out on the trees yet!

The weather changed to typical cool and wet for the first week of April when we were conveniently visiting Boulder and Santa Fe in the US (where we had 70 degree temps one day and snow the next – Rocky Mountain weather).

We returned to three more wonderful weeks of summer. Bluebells and Ransoms (Garlic flowers) bloomed in April, a month ahead of time. Farmers complained that their crops were not getting enough rain. A drought was declared in southern England.

Woodchester Park
Bluebells in Woodchester Park

This perfect weather lined up with a longer than usual mid-term break. They combined the long Easter weekend which came late this year (holidays on Friday and Monday) with the Royal Wedding (everyone got a day off for the Royal Wedding – no separation of Royal Family and State here) and the first May Bank Holiday (May has two Bank Holidays – one at the start, one at the end). People could take an 11-day holiday by combining these holidays and taking three days off work.

The people who decided to holiday in Britain got summer-like weather and avoided the crowded airports. Those who flew south to Spain, France or Italy has worse weather than we had here. A small victory for English weather.

I said “If this is all the summer we get this year, that will be okay”. But I didn’t mean it.

May started out good. We spent a hot and sunny week on the east Devon coast. After that it turned cool and wet. Followed by June which was cool and wet. And now we are half way through a cool and wet July. Is this the very British summer?

Cotswold Canal
Blossoms Along the Cotswold Canal

We had visitors from Santa Fe in June who dressed in layers of sweaters and jackets and sometimes even wore ear muffs when we were out hiking. We had to cut back on the number of hikes because they didn’t want their travel clothes to be covered in mud.

In July we had a visitor from Portland, Oregon who is used to rain, so we hiked in the rain and through the mud. We did a four night mini-break with her to the Dorset coast and had good weather – we even went swimming in the sea! But after that the bad weather returned.

I am not complaining. It is just that when you have visitors, you notice the weather more because every day you want to be out and about.

Bad weather is not rain all day. Instead it is very changeable weather – sunny one minute, clouds rolling in and drizzle the next, sometimes a sudden strong downpour. Very nice, sunny days come along. There is an underlying warmth so even on the bad days all you need is a light jacket. When the day looks good, we go out hiking. When it looks dismal, we stay in and work.

I kind of like this weather. But I am looking forward to August and hoping for a barbeque summer.

Published by

Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.

10 thoughts on “A Very British Summer”

  1. I agree bad weather is not really cold or wet weather it it very changeable weather – sunny one minute, clouds rolling in and drizzle the next. You cannot plan activities. ,

      1. In Florence we have had weather in the 40ies in the last couple of weeks. It makes you cry, you feel prisoner. I’d love the sequence: sunny-clouds-downpour (in spite of my hanging clothes)

  2. The same goes for hanging out the washing of course!

    I’m an Aussie but have spent longer as an adult in the UK than in Oz. I still haven’t acclimatised, and there have been times when we’ve had to have the heating on in here recently.

    It wouldn’t matter so much if we didn’t have such long, bleak winters! We’re blessed by beautiful countryside and I should be out there celebrating the seasons: walking or cycling ….

  3. It’s been close to 40º for over a month here in Sevilla and I can’t remember the last time it rained (though we may get a bit this week). I remember my one “lost summer” in Bristol when I was still wearing my cardie in late June and kept wondering when the sun would come out… I’d much rather have the heat, especially as my new place has aircon.

    When are you coming to visit? Weather should be lovely in September.

    S x

    1. Southern Spain summer sounds like our Santa Fe summer. In July we had many days in the 90s and I would hide out in our house which stayed cool (somewhat) because of the thick adobe walls. No A/C. England summer is very different and temps over 75 feel way too hot for me. It must be the humidity because in Santa Fe 75 was beautiful.

      I can’t believe we have not made it to Spain yet – but hopefully we wil make it this year. I want to meet you and to see Seville (and do a Tapas Tour!!).

  4. Hi Pauline,

    I met you once, long ago, at a SlowTrav GTG, perhaps in NYC. In any case, I feel like I know you. We’ll be visiting London the last week of August…so please arrange some sunny, warmish weather for that week, or my Italian travel companions will catch a chill and get sick, I’m sure :-).

    I’m not finding much on London on your site…am I not looking in the right spot?


    1. Hi Diane! I remember you. The weather improved last week and it feels like summer now. Hopefully August will be good weather. But tell your Italian companions to bring light cotton scarves – that is what I see people wearing here on “bad” summer days.

      I don’t have much travel guide type information on Slow Europe but I have our list of recommended vacation rental resources for London:

      And if you are coming out to the countryside I have a website about the Cotswolds (where we are living now):

      Have a great time in London!

  5. Diane,

    Happy to assist with information about London. We should really write about our experiences of that great city for SlowEurope. We aren’t experts but go there quite a lot.

    We were there last weekend and I was overwhelmed with the British Library. It’s absolutely free to go in and you can see so many wonderful things in there, for example, Leonardo’s notebooks and Lewis Carroll’s draft of Alice in Wonderland.
    We are going again on Tuesday to see South Pacific at the Barbican.

  6. Ciao Pauline and Wendy,

    We’ve worked up a tentative itinerary (if it rains a lot we’ll have to juggle a few things) including the Medieval Fair in East Sussex, Shrek, the Musical (we have four tweens/teens with us, only one of whom speaks English well) and the usual London Eye, Madame Tousauds and London Tower. We’ll go to the British Museum and I also have reservations at the Dennis Severs House one evening (hope the 11-year-old appreciates it) and the Sherlock Holmes Museum and Dr. Who Experience too! Did I mention Greenwich? We’ll be busy but a week is just not enough time! Should be lots of fun. Would love to squeeze in the British Library for a quick peak…
    Ciao from Central Italy,

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