2 October 2009

Day Out - Audley End House and Gardens

Only a 45 minute drive from RAF Mildenhall is the picturesque Audley End House. It's a beautiful example of 17th century Jacobean architecture even though the house as it stands today constitutes only 1/3 of the size of the original house. It is located in Essex and is surrounded on all sides by beautiful green hills. I recommend a day out here when it's sunny so that you can explore the gardens and all of the land surrounding the house. You won't be disappointed.

  • The house is open from April 1 - October 31. From November 1 until March 31, the house is only open for Festive Fun Weekends.
  • From April 1 - Sep. 30, opening times are Wednesday - Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • From Oct. 1 - Oct. 31, opening times are Wednesday - Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • The last admission to the house is one hour before closing
  • The gardens are open year round except from Dec. 21 - Dec. 31.
  • Otherwise, they open everyday at 10 a.m. and close between 4 and 6 p.m. depending on the time of year.
  • Admission is £10.70 for adults and £5.40 for children
  • A family ticket (family of 4) is £26.80
  • English Heritage members are free.
  • The average length of the house tour is an hour and a half.
  • There is a small tea room and a gift shop.
  • Wheelchairs and strollers have access to the some of the grounds and the tea room, but only the lower level of the house. The house tour requires you to climb stairs.
  • Free car park and there is a small picnic area.
  • Only guide dogs are allowed in the house.
  • No photography or stiletto heels are allowed inside the house because of the delicate nature of many of the carpets, wall hangings, paintings, etc.
  • The post code is: CB11 4JF

24 September 2009

Day Out - The Orchard

This is a great time of the year to visit The Orchard. Located in Grantchester (just outside Cambridge), about 40 minutes from RAF Mildenhall, The Orchard is a historic tea garden and well-guarded local secret. Many famous writers - including Virginia Woolf, A.A. Milne, Germaine Greer, E.M. Forster and Sylvia Plath - frequented the century old Orchard.

They serve morning coffee, light lunches and afternoon teas. They make their own homemade scones that they serve with clotted cream and local jams. Grab them while you can - they go quickly! I also recommend their fruit tarts and chocolate cake. In the fall, you can pick apples right off the tree and eat them! Absolutely one of East Anglia's best-kept secrets!

  • There is a small (free) museum/gift shop on the premises.
  • Free parking
  • Children are welcome as long as noise is kept within reason.
  • Dogs are permitted if they are on a leash.
  • The Orchard is open 7 days a week all year round, with the exception of some days around Christmas.
  • Sunday is their busiest day. It's best to try to go early on a weekday.
  • Postcode: CB3 9ND

22 September 2009

Antique/Market Shopping

If you love antiques, then England is the right place for you! Everywhere you look, shops and markets are brimming with antiques and nic-nacs. And most of them are reasonably priced!

Waterside Antiques - located in Ely, about 25 minutes from RAF Mildenhall, this three-story antique shop is a lot of fun to look around. I go here quite often and have found some VERY good deals and some VERY overpriced items, too. But, I still keep going back! The staff are very friendly and it's located right along the River Ouse, next to Peacocks Tea Room (but that's another post).

Norwich Market - located in Norwich, about an hour from RAF Mildenhall, Norwich Market has just about everything you can imagine. And because of recent renovations, almost all of the stands are covered, making shopping in the English rain a little easier! It's actually the largest weekly open-air market in England. The market is open daily from Monday to Saturday. Love this one!

Cambridge General Market - located in Cambridge, about 25 minutes from RAF Mildenhall, the Cambridge Market is open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 4 pm. They have a little bit of everything. There are centrally located, in the very heart of Cambridge. There is a booth there that I always stop at - they squeeze organic fruit juice right in front of you and sell frozen organic treats in the summer - so yummy.

20 September 2009


In my opinion, Satellite Navigation (SatNav) is one of the best investments you can make when you live in England. Especially if you plan to travel a lot. British (and most European) roads are notoriously confusing. If you are JUST ARRIVING at RAF Mildenhall, you are eligible to rent a SatNav system from the Airman & Family Readiness Center FREE OF CHARGE while you learn your way around/look for a house/etc. I HIGHLY recommend using this service! I wish I had known about it when we moved here. If you're arriving soon and would like more information, please email me at rafmildenhallblog@hotmail.co.uk.

15 September 2009

Day Out - Stamford/Burghley House

The picturesque village of Stamford is located in the county of Lincolnshire, about an hour and a half drive from RAF Mildenhall. It is known as the "Finest Stone Town in England" because many of the buildings are constructed from old Lincolnshire limestone. The town has been used as the backdrop in several movies including The Da Vinci Code and Pride and Prejudice - and despite it's small population boasts many lovely restaurants, pubs and beautiful churches. It also has some great antique shopping. I highly recommend spending a day browsing their shops - we found some wonderful deals. The post code for Stamford is: PE9 1AE.

Just outside the town is Burghley House - a magnificent Elizabethan mansion surrounded by beautiful gardens. The Da Vinci Code, Pride and Prejudice and Elizabeth: The Golden Age were also filmed here.

Burghley House -
  • The house is open from the end of March until the end of October.
  • Admission (for house and gardens) is £11.30 for adults and £5.60 for kids.
  • A Family ticket (2 adults, 2 kids) is £29.
  • Gift shop and restaurant on site.
  • The Park is open all year and admission is free.
  • Dogs are allowed in The Park but must be on a leash.
  • Only registered Guide Dogs are allowed inside the house.
  • Strollers/prams are welcome in the gardens, but not in the house as there are stairs.
  • Post Code: PE9 3JY

10 September 2009

Day Out - Henry Watson Potteries

Located about 45 minutes from RAF Mildenhall is the famous Henry Watson Potteries Shop. They've been in business since the early 19th century making beautifully handcrafted kitchenware. The BX used to occasionally sell Henry Watson items, but I haven't seen them on base in over a year and a half. The shop is located on a tiny road and can be hard to find. I've been out to the pottery shop about six times, so, if you'd like to visit and want more detailed directions, please feel free to email me. It is definitely worth the trip!

  • Henry Watson Potteries is located in Wattisfield, near Diss, in Suffolk.
  • They're open seven days a week (including Bank Holidays except for Easter Sunday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day).
  • There is a small tea room/coffee shop.
  • Opening times are Monday-Saturday: 9:30 am - 5 pm and Sunday: 10 am - 4 pm.
  • I would not recommend taking children to this shop. Basically everything in the shop is breakable and there is nothing for children to do there.
  • Car park and admission to the shop are both free.
  • There is also a small picnic area.
  • Post Code: IP22 1NH

13 July 2009

Day Out - Robin Hood Festival

This festival takes place once a year in Sherwood Forest in Nottingham. This year it takes place from Monday, Aug.3 - Sunday, Aug. 9. This is really an amazing festival. The attention to detail is amazing! They really go all out to make sure the kid's are entertained. We had a blast and this is one festival that I HIGHLY recommend for families with kids! SO much fun for everyone. 

  • It's about a 2 1/2 hour drive from RAF Mildenhall. I know that may seem far, but in my opinion it was WELL worth it!
  • Free admission to the festival
  • Parking costs £3
  • Costumed characters, jugglers, jousters, treasure hunts, archery and more...
  • Don't miss the duel between Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham around the Major Oak!
  • Festival Map of Sherwood 
  • Food, concessions, restaurant, gift shop all on site
  • Postcode: NG21 9HN

10 July 2009

Day Out - Norfolk Lavender Farm

This is the time of the year to head to Norfolk Lavender FarmIt is located near Hunstanton, about an hour's drive from RAF Mildenhall. The lavender is in full bloom right now and the fragrant air around the farm is intoxicating.

  • Free admission
  • Free parking
  • Tours of their 50 acre lavender field from July 1 - July 30 only. Cost is £5.25 per person and you must book in advance.
  • Free children's play area
  • Picnics not permitted
  • Several smaller fragrant gardens
  • Small tea room offers a selection of teas, sandwiches, etc.
  • Several gift shops selling Norfolk lavender products
  • Small nursery selling local plants
  • Dogs are welcome as long as they are on a leash
  • Postcode: PE31 7JE

7 July 2009

Driving in Britain

This is a common question that I get asked - "How do you get used to driving in England?" And the answer is, "You just do." When you first arrive, you'll be required to take a British driving course on base. You'll take the course and a test, and that'll be about it. The rest is up to you. Most people begin testing their driving skills on base first. I think that's the best way to start. That's what I did. I slowly drove around base until I (sort of) got the hang of it. Yes, driving on the wrong side of the road (and depending on your car, the wrong side of the car) is scary at first, and every instinct you have tells you to look the opposite way of the way you should be looking, but I promise that the more you do it, the better you'll get. And after you've been here a while and then travel to France or Germany, driving on the "right" side of the road will seem very weird to you. It's all just a matter of giving it time. And, eventually, you'll get the hang of it and you won't think twice about it. In the meantime, I've found several websites that I think will be useful to those of you about to move here.

Oh, and roundabouts are not as scary as they look, I promise. :)

6 July 2009

Day Out - Lavenham

Located only 45 minutes from RAF Mildenhall is the wonderfully preserved medieval village of Lavenham. It is famous for being the home of many 15th century "crooked houses" and claims that it was the inspiration for the nursery rhyme "There Was A Crooked Man". There are rows and rows of quaint, lopsided houses to support this claim. 

Lavenham was also home to Jane Taylor, who, while living in Shilling Street, wrote the popular nursery rhyme, "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star".

The Swan Hotel at Lavenham dates back to the 15th century and has a lovely tea garden. It can get very busy on weekends and Bank Holidays. Even during the week, it is best to arrive early if you want a seat in the garden.

The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul is one of the best-known churches in Suffolk and well worth a visit. 

Postcode: CO10 9GZ

3 July 2009


There are SO many places to shop off base. Every village is brimming with little curiosity shops. There are also plenty of shopping centers not far from the base.

In Cambridge (about 20 minutes from Mildenhall):

The Grand Arcade - John Lewis, Levi's Store, Laura Ashley, Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Guess, MAC, Sunglass Hut, Swarovski, Apple Store, Disney Store. There's also a GAP right around the corner.

The Grafton Centre - Claire's, H&M, Clarks Shoes, Debenhams, Royal Doulton, Wedgwood

The Beehive Centre - Asda (UK supermarket chain owned by Wal-Mart), TK Maxx (just like TJ Maxx in the States), HomeSense (very cute home & kitchen decor), HomeStore & More (this is a Bed, Bath & Beyond in disguise!)

In Norwich - (about an hour from Mildenhall)

The Royal Arcade - A restored Victorian shopping arcade with lots of lovely little shops. A great way to spend an afternoon. I recommend the Colman's Mustard Shop.

In Peterborough
- (about an hour and a half from Mildenhall)

Springfields Shopping Outlet - Marks & Spencer Outlet, Hallmark, GAP Outlet, Reebok, Denby Outlet, Clarks Shoes Outlet

In West Thurrock, Essex - (about an hour and a half from Mildenhall)

Lakeside Shopping Centre and Retail Parks - ASDA Living, TK Maxx, B&Q, Ikea, Lacoste, Matalan, TGI Fridays, Disney Store, Krispy Kreme, La Tasca, Quiznos, YO!Sushi, Clarks Shoes, Apple Store, L'Occitane En Provence, Build-A-Bear, The Body Shop, Toni&Guy, Debenhams

In Milton Keynes - (about 2 hours from Mildenhall)

The Centre: MK - Apple Store, Hugo Boss, The Body Shop, Toni&Guy, WHSmith, Gymboree, Build-A-Bear, GAP, GAP Kids, Disney Store, Swarovski, John Lewis, Hallmark, Quiznos, Hotel Chocolat, Krispy Kreme, Waterstone's, Foot Locker, LEGO Store, Pumpkin Patch

30 June 2009

Day Out - Framlingham Castle

Only an hour and 10 minute drive from RAF Mildenhall is the picturesque village of Framlingham. Just outside the village, up on a hill is Framlingham Castle. Built in 1190, it was once home to Mary Tudor, future Queen of England.

  • The self-guided audio tour is excellent
  • Dogs on leashes are allowed on the ground floor only
  • Access to the curtain wall requires climbing a steep spiral staircase
  • Admission is £5.70 for adults and £2.90 for children
  • A Family Ticket (2 adults, 2 kids) is £14.30
  • Admission for English Heritage members is free
  • Postcode: IP13 9BP

29 June 2009


This is one country that really LOVES their taxes. As military, we are exempt from paying UK Federal taxes and Council Tax (what you would normally pay if you rent or own a house here). However, you still have to pay these taxes...

  • Road Tax - You pay this once a year to be able to drive your car. If you don't pay it, it's BAD NEWS. They can tow your car, and if it's delinquent enough, they can keep your car.
  • VAT (Value Added Tax) - like a sales tax, however, it's already been added in to the price. So, when you go in a store and an item costs £7.55, you go to the till (register) and pay exactly £7.55. For large purchases on the economy (like furniture), you can go to the VAT office on base and get a VAT-Free voucher. Meaning, the furniture store will take the 17.5% VAT off your purchase and you save money!
  • TV Tax - If you own a TV and that TV can be plugged in and turned on, then you MUST pay TV tax. Whether or not you watch that TV doesn't matter. You have to pay the tax.

The good news is that the Air Force will reimburse your Road Tax for one vehicle. And, if you pay your TV Tax yearly instead of quarterly, then the Air Force will reimburse you for that, too! So, not too terrible!

24 June 2009


One of the BEST things about being stationed here in England is TRAVEL. Everything is so close - just a simple car ride, train ride, ferry trip or airplane ride away. 

The nearest commercial airport to RAF Mildenhall is Stansted Airport. Hundreds of flights leave out of Stansted every day and fly all over Europe.

Here are some links to some great websites to check when you're planning a trip - 

22 June 2009


There are two banks located on RAF Mildenhall. 

The first is Community Bank which is operated by Bank of America. It is partnered with a British bank called Barclays. A lot of people choose this bank because they can use Barclays ATM's all over the UK and not be charged a fee. 

The second is Keesler Federal Credit Union. They operate from their main branch at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi.

Regardless of whether you switch your American banking, you will need to open a pound account when you arrive here. Most businesses here in the UK (cable, phone, internet, cell phone) work by Direct Debit only. And they will not take a direct debit from an American account.

The UK (England, Scotland and Northern Ireland) does NOT use the Euro. They use only the British pound sterling. On base, of course, you can use either pounds or dollars. Be sure to watch the exchange rate carefully though and adjust your spending accordingly. Sometimes, you can get a better deal if you use dollars, and sometimes if you use pounds.

Here is a link for a currency exchange calculator updated every 15 minutes:

21 June 2009

Snail Mail

Before you arrive at RAF Mildenhall, your sponsor should have provided you with what will be your "American address" while you live in England. If you don't have it before you arrive, don't worry. Basically, an APO address acts like a P.O. Box. You'll use regular US postage stamps for letters, and shipping a package home does not cost any extra than it would if you were in the States. Your "American address" will look something like this:

PSC 37 Box 0000
APO AE 09459

PSC 37 denotes RAF Mildenhall, and a box number will be assigned to you.

APO stands for Army Post Office and AE stands for Armed Forces Europe.

09459 acts as a regular US zip code.

All Armed Forces Europe (AE) mail is processed through New York, NY.

This is a great link full of APO mail information:

Also, it is free to ship from APO box to APO box.

Ex: If you have a friend stationed in Japan, you could ship a box (up to 70 lbs. I believe) to them - APO AE to APO AP for free! It may take a little longer than the USPS, depending upon the size of the box, but I've mailed pkgs. to friends stationed in Germany and never had a problem.

APO to APO also comes in handy when your spouse is deployed and in need of a care package.

20 June 2009


If you have school-aged children, when you get to England, you'll have to decide whether to put them in British or American schools. There are two DoD elementary schools here - one at RAF Lakenheath and one at RAF Feltwell (about 20 minutes from RAF Mildenhall). There is one middle school (Lakenheath Middle School) located on RAF Feltwell (I know, it's confusing) and one high school, located on RAF Lakenheath. There are no schools on RAF Mildenhall. But don't fret, buses run and will pick up your child if they attend one of these schools.

Here are some links:

Both of my kids (ages 5 and 9) attend British school. We have really had a wonderfully positive experience with the British school system. If you want your child to attend British school, you will have to contact your local school council and apply for a spot in the school for your child.

Here are the county council websites:

If your child will be attending a British school, you can check out the school's Ofsted rating at http://www.ofsted.co.uk. (Again, thanks, Sam!)

19 June 2009

Helpful Links

Here are some helpful links for those of you about to arrive at RAF Mildenhall:

18 June 2009


The BIG question that everyone asks when moving to England - "Where should we live?". Well, that's really up to you. Some people love living in base housing, while others love living away from base in a British home. During our time here, we have lived in both. And, personally, I prefer the British home we live in now. Not that there was anything wrong with our base house (there wasn't), again, it's just our personal preference. There are new base homes currently being built on RAF Lakenheath (which RAF Mildenhall people are eligible to live in). However, there is also an extensive waiting list for those homes. Once you're in England, one of your first stops will be the housing office. They will have a current list of available on base and off base housing. I advise going to look at several houses before making your decision. On the other hand, don't wait too long to choose because homes go quickly. Ultimately, you'll just have to make the decision whether on or off base housing is right for you. I'll do a quick rundown...

Base Housing:
  • You don't pay rent/utilities
  • Close to base/commissary/BX (if you choose ON base housing)
  • Neighbors are all military/familiar faces
  • You get a full-sized washer/dryer! (I do miss that!)
  • And a full-sized refrigerator
  • A few American 110v outlets (in most houses)

British Housing
  • You do pay rent/utilities (but the military gives you a housing allowance to do so. If you go over the amount they give you, it comes out of your pocket).
  • Great British neighbors - most are so curious about Americans . Basically, if you're nice, they're nice. They also have a lot of questions... which we're happy to answer!
  • Getting to know the village you're living in. I live about 25 minutes from the base and regularly use the local market and stores instead of driving all the way to base. Again, the locals can be so friendly when you get out there and meet them!
  • Getting to experience a completely different type of house than you'd ever find in the States. No American outlets here, but if you buy a few converters, you'll be fine!
  • Getting involved in the local community. There are always plenty of festivals, concerts, etc. going on and it's easier to hear about these things when you live in the villages.

Some helpful links if you're interested in renting a house off base:

Up My Street (Thanks, Sam!)

17 June 2009

Getting Around Base(s)

RAF Mildenhall is located near the village of Mildenhall in Suffolk County, East Anglia. It is about 70 miles northeast of London. RAF Mildenhall is the smaller of two bases located about five miles apart. RAF Lakenheath is the other base. And it doesn't matter which base you're stationed at, you're going to be using both bases. A lot. Here's a quick rundown...

RAF Mildenall has:

  • BXtra (lawn & garden, home items, toys, outdoor & sports equipment, pet supplies, tools, home improvement)
  • Burger King, Taco Bell, Anthony's Pizza, Baskin Robbins, Subway
  • Bookstore
  • A small commissary that is open Tuesday through Saturday. They carry the essentials.
  • A nice bowling alley/snack bar
  • The Bob Hope Center (coffee, internet cafe, large indoor jungle gym for kids, etc.)
  • Shoppette and one gas station
  • Class Six
  • Movie Theater
  • Sports & Music store

RAF Lakenheath has:

  • BX (clothes, electronics, kitchen items, cosmetics, shoes)
  • Burger King, Pizza Hut Express, Charley's Steakery, Taco Bell, Baskin Robbins, Subway
  • The big commissary - they carry all your American items and also some British, German and Italian items, too.
  • A big bowling alley, but not quite as "new" as Mildenhall's
  • Two shoppettes, but only one gas station
  • Class Six
  • The hospital and doctor's offices
  • Movie Theater
  • Roller skating rink
  • Large arts & crafts store

RAF Feltwell (about 15-20 minutes from Mildenhall) has:

  • A small shoppette, but NO gas station
  • The furniture store for all three bases (baby furniture, etc. found here)
  • Some base housing

16 June 2009

PCS Tips

For those of you that have orders to RAF Mildenhall, this section is for you. Moving overseas can be a very daunting task, and most people are full of questions. Here are the answers to some of the most common questions:

1. What items should I bring/not bring to the UK?

Items that you SHOULD NOT bring with you:
  • Washer/dryer (these are provided by FMO whether you live on or off base)
  • Microwave oven (also provided by FMO)
  • Televisions (unless your current TV is multi-system, it won't work over here. It's best to buy a TV at the BX when you arrive here. DVD players and VCR's will work as long as you buy a converter, also available at the BX here.)
  •  Telephones - American telephones and answering machines will not work over here. Again, it's best to buy that when you arrive here.
  • Excessively large furniture - I'm talking about HUGE armoires, entertainment centers, shelving units, etc. You're going to have a hard time fitting them into British housing. Example: We have an eight foot Christmas tree that we brought with us. It takes up so much room in the house when it's up and so much room to store it, I wish I had just left it in the States.
  • Guns or ammunition are not allowed at all in the UK. You will have to make arrangements to store those items before you move.
  • Large appliances - fridge, freezer, stoves. It would be a HUGE hassle to try to move those items here. Again, the base will provide you with all of those items when you get here.
  • If you drive a large SUV (Ford Excursion, etc.) or 4x4 truck, I would suggest leaving those vehicles in the States. Most English roads are narrow and parking is difficult enough with a small car. I should point out that large automobiles are not forbidden over here, they're just much harder to maneuver around.
Items you SHOULD bring:
  • Don't throw out those winter clothes! You'll need them over here! Coats, scarves, gloves, raincoats and umbrellas - you'll need these items to get through an English winter! 

2. What about bringing my pets? What is the process and what are the limitations?

Britain has some of the strictest quarantine regulations in the world. However, a new program in place called PETS relaxes the strict regulations a bit. Click the link for more information.

3. What childcare options are available at Mildenhall?

Of course, there is the CDC on base. I have never had to use this particular CDC, but I've been to it for several events and I found it to be clean, spacious and there was plenty for the kids to do!
Another option (that I chose) was to put my youngest son in British school. British pre-school starts children at age 3. You'll have to check around your village, some pre-schools are free, some charge. But, you can choose how often your child goes to school - once a week, half a day, every day, etc. British Primary school (elementary school) starts children at age 4. The kids go all day just as if they were in Kindergarten. There are several pre-schools around RAF Mildenhall. Busy Bees is a popular one for military kids, but they do charge registration and school fees.

15 June 2009

Welcome To The RAF Mildenhall Blog!

My name is Marnie and I have been an Air Force wife for 12 years. My husband is currently stationed in England at RAF Mildenhall. We've lived here for 3 1/2 years. When we got orders to move here in 2005, I searched the internet looking for general information about the area and the base, as I had many questions. Unfortunately, I think I was only able to find one website, and it didn't answer very many of my questions. As a result, we encountered innumerable problems once we arrived here. My goal is to hopefully help those that are on their way here, and to keep those that are already here informed about local events and general information. We have loved living here and just want to be able to share what we've learned and experienced with others. So, I hope you find this information helpful and please email any questions (or suggestions, concerns, etc.) to rafmildenhallblog@hotmail.co.uk. I look forward to hearing from you!

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