Yalding Walks – Giving Service

A 3 hour round walk, to and from Yalding High Street. March 2020

At this time, when we are not allowed to leave the house more than once a day unless there’s an emergency, and should only be doing it for the purposes of exercise, my awareness of the connections between nature and our situation is alive in my mind as I walk.

Thatched cottage on the left and tiled on the right of the lane behind the wooden bench. (Photo taken in the evening of another day)

There’s a little lane off Yalding High Street, between the white-boarded, thatched house and the pale daffodil-yellow brick one with matching tiles (on the same side as St Peter’s and St Paul’s church). It takes you past the churchyard and through a gate which is now propped open with a sign saying it’s because of the corona virus. (It took me a while to work out why, but I think it’s so that you don’t have to touch the wood and possibly leave or catch germs). The cemetery with H’s grave and the rifle range are almost facing each other and you can see the controversial new builds and the rubble which has been left over. The Kintons is a well-used sports and dog-walking patch of grass with a children’s play area.

The Kintons

In the far left hand corner, past the bluebell woods, is a track which darts straight ahead – a field was being mowed to the right, a rather portly little dog scampering behind; and scrubby woods, with the back entrance to a grand mansion, are opposite. A woman was coming towards me and she couldn’t avoid being closer than two metres due to the narrowness of the track, but she awkwardly tilted her upper body away from me. I had a lot of bible teaching when I was a child and these stories often pop into my mind even though I am no longer a practicing Christian. So, I had been thinking about the image from the Good Samaritan bible story of people crossing over to avoid having to help the injured and needy. Nowadays, we are taking care of each other by doing just that: by-passing on the street. Equally, many of us are going out of our way to look out for others – the phone and the doorbell ring approximately seven times a day at my mother’s house where I am currently staying, with folk from near and far checking if she is OK because she usually lives alone and is over 80 years old.

Crossing Vicarage Lane at a slight angle, I clambered over the stile, sleeve pulled down over my supporting hand to avoid skin contact, tromped through the grass, crossed an access road, and followed the footpath signs (you do not have the Right to Roam in England as we do in Scotland).

There are little streams and waterways everywhere, often almost hidden by overhanging undergrowth, Kent

Water weaves through this landscape at the best of times. It floods regularly, inundating the copses and arable lands; contrastingly, it is often so dry that great fissures appear and hose pipes are banned. Locals are constantly reminded of what is vital to life, forced to focus on conserving it and appreciating it when it is in balance. This virus we are now dealing with, is, maybe unwittingly, protecting our landscape (yesterday drones were spying on the Yorkshire moors to even stop hikers (for different reasons)). Although many fear that we have damaged it for good, we do also know how resilient nature can be.

Wide expanses of sandy coloured, cracked earth, Kent

The earth was bright in the sun, hardening and whitening every day now Spring is here. Often so solid and unyielding in the south east of England, there are still sodden patches and the odd sinkhole of wetness left from Winter and you might not be so safe if you stepped there. I reflected that it is change, especially unforseen changes, which challenge our sense of security. Although we want to trust that we will one day be able to plan and move around the world again, we do not know when that will be. In fact, we know deep down that nothing will be exactly the same; we understand that this is serious enough to bring about a new order. We don’t yet know what shape that will take. because, metaphorically speaking, the ground underneath us has shifted. This is why walking, even when we have to watch our footing, is such a reassuring activity – we still get from a to b and survive the experience. I could feel myself becoming grounded, and then I sighed and felt a movement in my heart area. (Chinese medicine practitioners: in the Five Phases, when the child’s happy (Earth), so is the mum (Fire)).

Contrasting colours – the yellow green of the tree with its new vestments and the blue of the lakelet and sky, Cheveney, Kent
Banks of Lady smock around the water, Cheveney, Kent

Walking towards Grove Lane, there is an almost imperceptible gap on the left which opens out to a small lake. It looked grand. Skirting it, I admired the wild flowers. What a beautiful setting on such a day, with the cool wind causing mini waves and turning the surface a myriad of shades of blue.

I am used to giving wildlife a wide berth, but this time I startled the flock of geese who were grazing on the grass a long way ahead. They made ‘We are very disturbed noises’
Seed heads from last winter

I crouched down to watch a bee collecting from between delicate mauve petals. He was only just about holding his own way in the breeze, but he kept on, goal clear. I admired the water birds and the Daisies with their sunshine faces. Bird’s Eye nestled at their feet, making another stunning combination of hues. There were sharply serrated Nettles and whorls of Thistles. Neon orange lifebelts hung at either end, and the whole was chicken-wire-edged so that I made an entire cycle before exiting precisely where I entered, stepping over the fallen fence.

These polythene tunnels are from another farm nearby, but you can see the silver-looking straps hanging down which attach to the plants. 10 days ago the old plants were on them, the next day they had been removed, now they are being replaced for the coming season

Doubling back on myself by the lane which curves around the lake, my attention was attracted by men’s voices, the first of several groups I passed during the morning, working away hard in close proximity. They were setting the strawberry plants onto the stands under the plastic hoods.

Trees in unseen communion
Coot on Cheveney Mill pond. They are also inhabitants of the upper lake I visited on this walk


I heard the coots before I saw them and I suspect that they were born here, that their life has been, and will continue to be, spent in this pond, (according to the RSPB they are resident here all year round), just as the trees in the wood next to it have stood in the same place for 100s of years. Other waterfowl return to their homes, well to their second homes every winter like Brits on the Costa Brava.

Witness the staying power of trees!

Witness the staying power of trees! There they are, in one spot, come month, come year. And what do they do while they’re standing there? It turns out they are very quietly, and probably slowly, fostering their community through their roots, just as so many of us are only now starting to do.

‘Foster’ comes is associated with the Old English fostrian meaning to supply food, nourish and support.

Kentish footpath

At the same time as processing the CO2 (carbon dioxide) for us, looking beautiful and smelling divine, trees offer a home to insects, birds and other creatures. And yet, so many humans are currently living and suffering alone during this crisis – perhaps an unnatural state, certainly a dangerous one for those who are extra vulnerable. Questions arise: What can we do about this? How can we ensure this doesn’t happen during the next virus?

What’s more, trees canot grow to a great height if they are standing too close to each other. What a lot we have to learn! What a lot we are learning right now, thanks to the Covid-19.

Sunken tyre
Discarded farm machinery

The path took me around a corner where some old equipment was half buried and put out to pasture. Wide open fields were flattish, a gentle rise in the distance and the wind from the north was chilly except when sheltered by the hedgerows.

Looking uphill in the direction of West Farleigh, Kent
Dad’s gravestone at St Mary’s Parish Church, Hunton, Kent

I took the Permissive Path (that is, not a public Right of Way, but one which is allowed by the landowner) over a tiny, planked bridge to West Street and stopped at Hunton St Mary’s church to visit my father’s grave. I took a quick photo of the Village Hall to send to my sister – she got married there – and then crossed back over, past the Engineering Works and took a right. I wandered beside more agricultural land until I reached the junction between Barn Hill and the wonderfully named Lughorse Lane (needing no eplanation).

Manure for sale
Mare’s Tail or Horse Tail (thanks to Mick Summersgill

Clumps of proud daffodils with orange trumpets kept their eyes on me as I passed. There were also some plants which resembled long and upright poos, or if I am to be less disgusting, vertical pine cones in the deep grass.

Stick to the footpaths!

Before long there was a footpath off to the right and I started to climb quite steeply. It was peaceful. This was my exercise (in case any(official)one is reading this). There was stubble from what appeared to be bamboo on my right, but I doubt it; more likely wheat. There were mostly Magpies, Pigeons and Crows around (I did see a Jay a few days ago which was exciting). I spied a raptor nearer the top, most likely a buzzard sailing on outstreched wings, but the photo was too indistinct to reproduce it here.

Buston Manor – disused oasthouses without their cowls
The Elizabethan chimneys of Buston Manor
Capacious barn and other red brick outbuildings at Buston Manor, Kent
Flowering Currant looking bonny against the clear sky
,A dinosaur of a trunk with, scales

Although a dogwalker took the private road uphill on the right, I turned left on the official way and walked through the Buston Manor yard. First a jogger and then a proper walker with a staff who wore headphones, came towards me. But I was drawn aside by the gardens, architecture and tree bark design, never mind the extensive walled garden. I was told, later, that it is often used for filming TV and features.

Right at the end of the walled garden, Buston Manor, Kent (they obviously dump their garden waste over the wall!)

Up again and a little sit-down for to eat my satsuma, wind in my ears and at the back of my neck. We have to be careful of that as an acupoint GB20, aptly named Wind Pool, is where Wind can enter causing headaches or worse (flu), certainly making us vulnerable. My (and my grandmother’s) advice – wear a scarf!

Once more at the top, she and her dog went one way, I another
Call that a footpath! Kent

Through a metal gate, I went left onto a farm track of very dark loam, ploughed by machinery wheels and criss-crossed with tree shadows and sunshine-saturated grass. Steeply down now until I, unfortunately, here spied a Public Footpath stone and so took a right up a slight bank and out into the open again where there was one of the ‘footpaths’ I have walked the length of before in this area. This narrow enclosure drew me along and then, suddenly ending in a field, it showed me up to the right (where admittedly the vibrant green of ground-spreading chamomile was growing alongside left-over broad bean seedlings) and, without realising where I was heading, I was through another metal gate and onto Yalding Hill.

Yalding Hill is to be avoided at all costs, if you are on foot, as it is a very busy, narrow road with no pavements. Being very familiar with such situations, I was brazen and made sure every vehicle speeding towards me knew I was there (waving my arms, making eye contact, thanking them afterwards), but many were going too fast and several times I had to flatten myself against a bank. Had I known this in advance, I would have turned back.

Tip: Do turn back if you find yourself on Yalding Hill. Find another, safer way down.

Towards the bottom, where the village starts, are some very attractive gardens, the Walnut Tree pub and Village tearooms (both now closed of course), and the war memorial. The Greensand Way is off to the left

I walked through the garden gate 3 hours to the minute from when I left – good timing!

Best selling book – The Hidden Life of Trees

Human beings can adapt to anything.

Winnifred via elizabeth_gilbert_write on Instagram

Have you been having any thoughts about nature and the virus? Please do share them with us in the comments below – I would love to hear from you.

A dander along the River Medway, Kent

16.3.20. This blog is unashamedly full of flowers, birds and other natural phenomena. I was very grateful to see that nature is carrying on (perhaps a little less interfered with than before) while all this is going on. It is intended as reassurance, and as a reminder that walking is allowed in the UK, even if you are at risk or at home because others in your family are unwell! I never thought I would have to use that phrase – how is it possible that walking needs to be sanctioned by a government? These are mighty strange times.

Teapot island which sells, well, teapots, and is also a cafe / take-away
Under the Hampstead Lane bridge, impassable

I walked across the Lees (more here) and tried to go under Twyford Bridge but it’s still flooded. I took the pedestrian way that bypasses Hampstead Weir (see above link for sunny photos from an earlier time) and comes out at Teapot Island. From there I took a left to walk along the towpath with the River Medway on my right. There were no fishermen today, but there was a man in wellies and shorts, his knees looking rather vulnerable, having a smoke, and another further on, busy weeding. They were outside the new fixed caravans which are lined up neatly there – rather liable to getting wet, I would hazard.

Tiny white violets crouching beside the path
Dock leaf, backlit with Spring sunshine. I took this walk, alone
Blackthorn blossom. It’s about when you look and know that if you stroked them they would be soft as down

The sun shows up all manner of miniscule details: a strand, a filament of spider’s web stuck to a bramble new-leaf which is coexisting with the old ones on the same stem. There are also aged twigs, dry leaves, spent old man’s beard alongside the new blackthorn flowers and buds. We are all together in this.

A sign of new life hiding somewhere in the undergrowth

I began in a thwarted frame of mind: It was about when you want to walk from a-to-b-to-c, but have to settle with there-and-back. Then, quickly, it was just as glorious as it could be. I had planned to walk The Pilgrim’s Way from Winchester to Canterbury across the North Downs. I even had the Pilgrim’s Passport sent to me by a very helpful woman at the Cathedral in C. Another time!

Winnie-the-Pooh, or Pooh for short, was walking through the forest one day, humming proudly to himself. He had made up a little hum that very morning, as he was doing his Stoutness Exercises …Well, he was humming this hum to himself, and walking along gaily, wondering what everybody else was doing, and what it felt like, being somebody else, when suddenly he came to a sandy bank, and in the bank was …..

e reading club AA Milne
What a day for a daydream – ‘one of those days for taking a walk outside… a walk in the sun’. Yellow against skyblue makes for a sunshine combination
Stretching your wings at a time like this opens the lungs, lets in the necessary oxygen for staying as healthy as possible
Lady’s Smock / Cuckoo flower (Cardamine pretensis) Thanks, as ever, to my mum and the people at Houzz.com for their help in identifying, being sure about names

There was the scent of wood smoke, and the sound of water under the bridge and through the lock, of twittering, and an occassional parping from a train that was still running even despite the reduction in passengers due to the crown shaped virus.

The river looked particularly glossy with gentle ripples making a regular, stripey effect
Foxglove preparing to bloom

There were regal foxgloves – no flowers yet, just a fascinator of leaves tilted at a jaunty angle on a mount. Many, many wood anemones were spread across the earth. Copious bird calls either drowned out this winter’s new tinnitus (mostly in my right ear) or it just stopped. There was, however, the thrum of engines from somewhere offstage (which was not the sound in my head!)

Grey Wagtail. That sunshine gets everywhere. (Thanks Lesley S for identifying)
Matching lichen – continuing the theme of yellow
Busy collecting pollen
White deadnettle – I know this one from my childhood
Reflections in the River Medway
See the stalks growing through the mossy mound!
Detour to the other side to satisfy my curiosity
Northern pike, also known as a snot rocket, apparently. (source: Wikipedia)
Banks of yellow eyed wood anemones

I spied one or two little settlements almost hidden by trees over the water, indications that people are living there quietly, in those beautiful spots. At a little bridge, I crossed to investigate the white flowers on the other side – were they wild garlic? No, instead a veritable sea of anemones. And, I spotted a large dead fish with a long nose – a pike – which I thought must have been flung there when the water broke the banks, because the greenery around it was all covered in a film of earth-dust. However, there was a hole in its side, so it must have been hoiked out by a human and not returned.

In the essence of full disclosure, I actually like the way northern pike taste. However, many would rather eat the aluminum foil the pike was cooked on than the fish itself. Well, with that in mind, one chef in Canada is about to change all that.

by Brad Smith
More excess water on the (slightly wonky) fields to my left
The Greylag geese were happy there
Where graffiti artists and pigeons congregate to make art and to coo
Which way? The clear sign posting at East Peckham

Coming up onto the road, I was in East Peckham with the food Co-op to my left. I spotted footpath signs up ahead pinting to the industrial area where they burn acrid things in backyards and the flooded woods are full of metal rubbish. Nevertheless, birds sang, woodpeckers clacked their beaks against bark, I spotted mallards and blackbirds, a thrush, a chaffinch – simply delightful.

Primroses
Across here to the weir

I was not clear which path to take at Sluice Weir Lock #6 located between the ‘River Walk Junction (Junction with the northern route to the railway bridge) (5 miles and 7¾ furlongs and 5 locks to the west) and Yalding Wharf (2 miles and 1 furlong to the northeast)’ also known as Branbridge’s Whark, Arnold’s Mill Lock, Pinkham. ‘Straight on to Hadlow and Golden Green, or over there to East Peckham which is very pretty’ said the male half of a couple I had been playing overtaking with for half an hour or so. They had a massive dog called Rudolf who, when he jumped up, was taller than me! I took the attractive route and they took the other. After all, we were supposed to be ‘social distancing’ which is possible but a bit weird – speaking to others with a 2 metre gap.

Note: a furlong is an eighth of a mile, 220 yards or 201 metres

Showing the footpath through the woods to Pinkham, East peckham – unclear. However, at the foot if the warm wood was a basking butterfly
A significantly older public foothpath stone with splashes of sunshine


I explored the lock a little and then perused the woods where a huge bumble buzzed around my feet and a robin warbled and squeaked alongside me. There was the first butterfly of the year – bright orange like the redbreasts chest – on my return I saw a uniformly delicate yellow one.

The little figure on the outside of Clare Cottage reminded me of a boy walking with a stick and victuals, but it maybe that he is a fisherman or something else

I meanered through the trees, across a pedestrian bridge and came out at a big house and paddock, then a row of cottages. The house plaque reminded me of Dick Whittington which I took as a good sign – a pilgrim if ever there was one, with his staff and pack over his shoulder.

Popular legend makes Dick Whittington a poor orphan employed as a scullion by a rich London merchant. He ventures his only possession, a cat, as an item to be sold on one of his master’s trading ships. Ill-treated by the cook, Dick then runs away, but just outside the city he hears the prophetic peal of bells that seems to say “Turn again, Whittington, lord mayor of great London” 

Britannica


I came out by bus stop on Old Road, East Peckham, opposite the street with the General Store and post office. The sun was warm and my 1.5 hours almost up before turning back. Retracing my footsteps and having a seat on the steps of the bridge, an satsuma revived me. I watched a cat emerge from the woods. She caught sight of me and took a sharp angle to avoid contact. There was a squirrel, but no chatter nor conversation.

Classical, traditional Kentish oasthouses – I liked the way the garden shrubbery was the same colour as the roof


I waved at a woman sitting under blossom reading. She had on a cardi which exactly matched the house and brown-red bush to her left. It tuned out to one of my mother’s friends – a village is a small place. She was bemused, not knowing me at all.

This walk took me just under 3 hours from yalding High Street to Pinkham and back along the river (allowing plenty of time for photo taking!)

It could almost be a gingerbread cottage, were it not for the sandbags at the door – protecting the cellars from the flood waters which have engulfed parts of this village three times this winter


Walking keeps my energy flowing so I find I can be kinder. It does no-one any harm, and it feels as if it boosts my immune system. Do you like to walk? What effect does it have on your spirits?

Kings Cross to Camden Town – a walk

February 2020

Kings Cross 2
King’s Cross Station, London

I turned left out of Kings Cross station and left again onto York Way. I was seeking Wharf Road Gardens (connected to Handyside Gardens).

‘The name [King’s Cross] derives from a statue-topped structure erected in 1830 on the junction, or crossroads, between the roads now known as Euston Road, Pentonville Road and Grays Inn Road. The statue, you guessed it, was of a king – King George IV to be precise – who had died that year.’  Culture Trip

Street scene
Chat on the street, Kings Cross, London

Past Pret with its cucumber hoarding, old buildings and new, a sign for The Guardian newspaper offices (Farringdon Road) advertising ‘Hope is Power’, and King’s Place with its vertical, undulating reflective surfaces.

King's Place at a tilt
I cannot resist a reflective surface and tilted, it caught the light better, Kings Cross, London

Soon I crossed the Regent’s Canal with its long boats, both residential and for business. Turning left again, I wound between patches of grass and raised beds. Apparently the London Underground trains run a mere 4.5 metres below the surface and so the soil depth is insufficient for planting.

Regent's Canal from York Way
Looking west along the Regent’s Canal from York Way, London

Daisies
Little daisies opening their hearts to the sun. There were strawberry plants with fruit (honestly) and all manner of sprightly Spring flowers

Wharf Gardens incorporates Coal Drop Yard, Granary Square, King’s Boulevard, St Pancras Station and West Handyside Canopy – all very ‘regenerated’ and rather chi-chi. However, I discovered many interesting places, not least the Word on Water bookshop.

Word as Water Book Boat
Word on the Water Bookboat, Regent’s Canal, King’s Cross, London

There was a little contretemps – a woman who was not in full control of her behaviour needing a smoke and most insistently tramping through the shop – which the gentleman in the bowler (see above) managed admirably.

Boat Bookshop interior
Part of the interior of the Word on the Water bookshop, Regent’s Canal, Wharf Road Gardens, London

The House of Illustration was there, with fascinating sounding exhibitions such as W.E.B DuBois Charting Black Lives. Not much further on was Central St Martins (CSM) art school collaborating with Shades of Noir in a window display, impressively focusing on ‘the historical white dominance of institutional ownership of archival material’ within the CSM Museum.

House of Illustration
House of Illustration, London

There were people playing table tennis in the massive, roofed community space (I wanted to join in) and Art Fund at the Coal Drops Yard.

Art Fund Coal Drops Yard

Down by the canal, I bought a book a lovely little book, London’s Hidden Rivers, a walker’s guide to the subterranean waterways of London – the sort of thing I would have liked to write! And admired the cranes against the picturesque sky.

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Cranes at Kings Cross

Smart shop units
Perhaps the remains of Chinese New Year celebrations – red streamers blowing in the wind

The Canal and River Trust have done a great job of opening up the canal for all of us to enjoy – those walking, jogging, pushing buggies and the school boys smoking joints. Under Somers Town Bridge I trundled with my suitcase, opposite Camley Street Natural Park which I discovered last year (see the link below to an earlier blog, with photos). Past a flight of smart stone steps upon which you could sit and watch the coots and moorhens rush by and up to the St Pancras Lock and Basin, and Gasholder Park, a tremendous new conversion of the disused gasworks.

IMG_20200212_154420
New blooms amidst the remains of last year’s dry stalks, Regent’s Canal, London

A man was putting his back into it, tightening a sheet on the roof of a barge. The vessels were all colours of the rainbow, some more modern than others, one with a bright blue old-fashioned wheel, but no-one was going through the lock as I approached.

Hot Tamale, canal boat and wheel

BT Tower
The BT Tower as seen from St Pancras Lock, Regent’s Canal, London

Gasholder park
Gasholder Park, Regent’s Canal, London

It all reminded me of a recent visit to a friend’s boat for breakfast on the Edinburgh and Glasgow Union Canal, the Leamington Lift Bridge and it’s waterside community, so I had some idea of what was below decks.

Canal boats, Edinburgh and Glasgow Union Canal
Canal boats, Edinburgh and Glasgow Union Canal

The Leamington Lock, Edinburgh
The Leamington Lock, Edinburgh

Lochrin Basin, Edinburgh
Lochrin Basin, Edinburgh

It is not far from King’s Cross to Camden Town, perhaps 30 minutes if you didn’t stop off and take photos and browse bookshops and generally see the sights, but well worth it on a cold, sunny day. There I picked up the overground to Gunnersbury, ideal for where I was staying that night.

Geese standing on the water, Regent's Canal, London
Geese standing on the water, Regent’s Canal, London

Moorhen, Regent's Canal, London
Moorhen, Regent’s Canal, London

You might also like Camley Street Natural Park; St Pancreas Parish church and gardens; and Goldington Crescent Gardens, Camden London

or Regent’s Canal Towpath from Camden onwards

Regent’s Canal Towpath

Yalding

December 2019

The Tat, Yalding

I started my walk (to deliver a Xmas present and do the shopping) at the forge on the High Street. On the left, as you look at it, the Tat is flooded, a car immersed up to the windows.

Severe flooding, Yalding , Kent

Typical Kenish dwellings

I pass the flautist from the previous evening’s carol service in the parish church.

Yalding Parish Church

Taking a right at the war monument, where the village tearooms are on the opposite corner, I see that Vicarage Road is closed to traffic due to water inundation further up. The drains are full – I can hear the torrents under the grate by the side of the road.

Passing the school on my right I spot an aspen, a tree known as trembling or populous tremuloides, poplar. Each three-pointed yellow leaf is on its own long stalk tipping from side to side and rustling, like half a castanet searching for its pair to clatter against.

Aspen or Poplar

I pass the entrance to the new estate and take a right into a leafy, rather soggy drive where it is quiet. Only the birds are piping and tweeting, trilling, as they do. There are great ridges of mud, puddles the width of the drive.

To my left are flutters of wood pigeon, heard but not seen. A sharp chirp comes from elsewhere. The dun brown earth in one garden is squared off with planks awaiting spring sewing, or maybe even harbouring overwintering goodies ready to spring in, well Spring.

The Lodge in full summer

The lodge where only 6 months ago stately artichoke flowers bloomed now has a Xmas wreath and lights which are only just visible in the bright morning.

The Xmas Lodge

Now that the trees are bare on the other side, I can see right through to the paddock to the grey tin trough. A wheelbarrow lies on its side and fresh straw has been strewn.

Coppice

Layer upon layer of burgundy leaves, beech and oak, have been smoothed by rain and packed down to protect the almost dormant plants. When I step on them, they are so deep and cushiony I sink damply down so they cover my feet.

On my return I see a shed, a shepherd’s one, on stilts, very sensible given the amount of standing water

Wet trunks like twisted elephant skin (or at least how I imagine their hides, never having seen one in real life)

The man I gave the present to asked, ‘What’s it like in the village? I replied that all the cars have moved from the flooded Lees area and are outside mum’s house. He told me that Little Venice had to be evacuated and that their houses had been built to float. I had no idea. Later I discovered that he was not referring to Little Venice on London’s Thames, but to the collection of caravans close to Yalding Station which flood regularly.

The bottom of the trees are all green with moss

As I returned, a red van stopped and the driver rolled down the window to ask, ‘you all right?’ I said I was enjoying the day and taking photos, and he replied that he wished the locals were too. Is it so obvious that I am not local then! Perhaps this is an unusual activity for a Sunday morning just before Xmas.

I wandered on under the nearly-Xmas sun, not a snowflake in sight. I could hear the South Eastern train tooting to warn its approach ahead of the level crossing.

The Kintons – children’s playground cricket and football pitches, dog walking area

On the way back I squelched my way down to the Kintons, past the new houses. Many are already inhabited, one with a shiny green ribbon crossed up/down, and side to side of the front door as if wrapped like a present with a bow in the middle, and another has the words ‘I’m sold’ emblazoned across it.

I walked along the top of the edging board to save my unsuitable boots from more mud and to see if I still could balance as I used to.

I felt surrounded by water, glimpsed through every break in vegetation.

All smelled of damp undergrowth and wood fires which I imagined burning in cosy sitting rooms where Xmas trees stood adorned with lights with a ring of presents at their feet.

I bid good morning to a gentleman who passed by wearing (suitable) wellies with a lively dog, but sadly I had no canine companion, no Trio.

I stopped by the tree though and remembered her rushing and scampering after squirrels in her heyday.

Here is the churchyard where happy photos were taken of mum and Hugh after the wedding, and the churchyard where he was buried only a few years later.

Back in the centre of the village, no one seems to be able to stop taking photos. Clusters of locals were swapping sodden stories.

It looks beautiful but it was hard on those who had to evacuate their homes

I watched a man wade to this hut on stilts with an armful of bedding. See the water gushing out of his basement

I bought some of my last minute presents at the post office as I could not get out of the village

Flood barriers in place

The emergency services were on hand

The village shop staff were doing a stirling job too, passing on up to date news

The church from the bridge

Oast houses where hops used to be used in the making of beer

The last flooded Xmas was 2013 which was much worse

Camden Market – Regents Canal Towpath – London Zoo

October 2018 – I had spent a month in Ireland and had just arrived in London to visit family and lead a Shiatsu workshop. Having stayed the night with my daughter, I woke to find that the sun was shining and I thought I would take my rucksack on a nice walk across London to Chiswick to meet my sister. Approx. 7 miles / 11.5 kms.

I started at Kentish Town West underground station, and turned tail  cutting through small streets as they took my fancy, avoiding the busy commuters rushing to work

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Public wash house, Grafton Road, London

MAP studio and café where I stopped for breakfast, good tea and music, Grafton Road, London

The roof space of MAP café, Grafton Road, London

Refreshed, I found the Owl Bookshop which was full of school children browsing. There was a lovely sense of excitement amongst them at the prospect of the reading.

The Owl Bookshop, Kentish Town Road, London

‘Natural’ is a mix of MAP and Owl, being a café with books stacked in the window!

Further along Kentish Town Road was Natural, London

Prince of Wales Road

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The Abbey Tavern, a typical London pub, Kentish Town Road, London

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Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Kentish Town Road, London (perhaps a hint of where I might end my Autumnal travels though I had no inkling I would be going to Northern Greece at that time )

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Creation Studios, Kentish Town Road, London

At the end of Kentish Town Road, I turned right into Hawley Road.

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Hawley Primary School, Hawley Road, London

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Slightly to the left, ahead, was Castlehaven Open Space, London

I took a left onto Castlehaven Road and left again onto Chalk Farm Road.

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And not very much further was one of my favourite teenage haunts  Camden Market, London

I wound my way between stalls and caravans selling food and other goodies.

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Here I found bookshop number 3, the Blackgull which is also a book binders, Camden Lock, London

On my left was the towpath…

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With weeping willows and colourful reflections in the still water, London

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Barges which you can take along to Little Venice for sightseeing, Regents Canal, London

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Here the canal is closely flanked by new residential units and I spied the tower of the Pirate Castle on the bridge.

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Under the Oval Road, looking ahead at the train running over the canal, London

Remember to check out Banksy’s famous artwork  in the vicinity (24 – 26 Oval Road).

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Paddle Boarding, London

You can stand up and paddle on a board under the full moon, at hallowe’en and combine it with prosecco!

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Going under Gloucester Avenue, London

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The conical spire of St Mark’s Church in the distance, Camden, London NW1 7TN

When I caught up with it (the church) I appreciated its six-petalled, flower windows.

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Sleeping rough away from the traffic

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A busy waterway, Regents Canal, London

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Highly decorated London Waterbus

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Monks enjoying the peace and quiet, London

There were bicycles and a wheel barrow on the roof of a house boat; paintings propped up against trees and hanging on sheets along the washing line; a bench with a proud goat who has curled horns (you will have to go and see!); there was graffiti galore.

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At the corner I turned right and admired the Feng Shang Princess restaurant boat, resplendant in its red livery

Not long afterwards I realised I was not far from Primrose Hill on the right and alongside the world famous London Zoo opposite where the previously mentioned Waterbus makes a drop-off, just before the pretty wrough-iron bridge.

At the Prince Albert Ramp I had the chance of a detour for Camden High Street, and ahead was St John’s Wood, the Snowdon Aviary and Lord’s Cricket Ground. I trundled along taking photos of the wild plants. Joggers jogged and I got to the Jubilee Greenway completed in 2012 to mark the Queen’s birthday and the London Games.

My path took me around Regents Park, named after the Prince Regent, where there’s an Open Air Theatre and a boating lake.

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Winfield House, the residence of the US Ambassador

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Under Park Road, London

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Creative garden spaces, Regents Canal, London

Here there were delphiniums (even though it was October) and foxgloves.

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Quintessentially English flowers in pots, Regents Canal, London

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A waterside village of longboats and cute dwellings, Regents Canal, London

At the Canal Gate (pictured at the top of this blog) I had to leave because the way was blocked off.

I carried on along pavements by busy roads, past underground stations and shops, discovering parts of London I had never visited before. I made my way to Chiswick via Holland Park Avenue, Shepherd’s Bush, the Goldhawk Road, Stamford Brook Road and Bath Road where I met my sister.

My phone ran out so I stopped taking photos and used my handy Belkin Pocket Power (a 5000 mAh portable charger which has been my saving grace many times) to recharge it.

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Hot with the action and the weight of the rucksack, I was glad to sit down and have a cup of tea. Had I ‘world enough and time’ I would have visited St Michael and All Angels Church in Turnham Green, an Arts and Crafts building which a gentleman told me about as I stood waiting to cross a road. We had a most pleasant chat while he also regaled me with his life in India. I meet the most interesting characters when I walk.

The Regents Park and Primrose Hill both have excellent views of the London skyline. Royal Parks website.

Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.
The opening lines of ‘To His Coy Mistress’ by Andrew Marvell

 

The garden of the Geffrye Museum of the Home – London, England

A photo essay – July blooms

I just can’t seem to stop taking pictures of flowers! I have added links to a blog I have just discovered (London wlogger – we seem to like the same things) and other London gardens which will be sure to delight.

The garden is round the back and I visited when the rest of the museum was being renovated.

It is now open. Website.

Don’t miss this blog which has great shots of the front of the building and much more. Londonwlogger.com

Other physic gardens include Chelsea which had contemporary art too.

And of course Kew.

You might not know about this community garden hidden behind St Pancreas. Camley Street.

The Kyoto Garden has reopened.

Echinacea

The Hill Garden and Pergola Hampstead

London Plantology. She’s also into aikido so must be good!

Is your favourite here? If not, please do comment with one I don’t know about or link to your own London garden.

Yalding – circular walk via Nettlestead

October 10 2018: Kent – parts of the Greensand Way and Medway Valley Walk.

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A host of walks around the Garden of England, Kent

Distance: 6 miles / 9. 66 kms

Duration: 2.5 – 3 hours

Weather: glorious throughout

Green fields and the Downs in the distance, Kent

Stiles crossed: numerous

Railways crossed: 2

Boats sailing past: 3 yachts, 2 dinghies with outboard motors chugging away and 3 canoes

Churches: St Mary the Virgin, Nettlestead

Grand country houses : 2 – Roydon Hall and Nettlestead Manor

The River Medway, busy with water traffic, Kent

I started walking across the Lees in Yalding around 9.30 am after a starry night and a misty morning.

Crossing The Lees, Yalding, Kent

Over a tributary of the River Medway, Yalding, Kent

The Lees, a low-lying meadow, flood regularly caused by two rivers joining the Medway here – the Teise and Beult. Indeed my father once crossed the submerged road thinking he would be fine and became stranded, having to leave his car and wade back.

Hampstead Weir Bridge, Yalding, Kent

On a day like today, the water looked beautiful, producing stunning reflections on its smooth surface.

Hampstead Weir Bridge, Yalding, Kent

Where Hampstead Lane crosses the River Medway, Yalding, Kent

After some confusion caused by my thinking that the locks beside Teapot Island were the ones mentioned in the leaflet (details below), I set off along the pavement towards Yalding Station from where I walked a few days before using my phone torch in the pitch dark. With the canal on my left and the incongruous new wooden houses appearing upside down under the bridge, it was only a short way to the Marina and Hampstead Lock.

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River Medway, the B2162, Kent

 

Skirting past the new building, I took the left fork and crossed the first railway line. Then a series of fields and woods, easily found for the most part.

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Camomile growing at ground level, and at the edge of a field were delicious windfall pears.

There was a path which is accessed beside a sweet cottage and that is hard to find but a kind woman noticed my confusion and pointed it out.

Walk to the left of this white cottage even though it looks as if you will go into its garden. If you are lucky, you too will enjoy the roses poking over the fence and the geese in the field beyond.

Crossing the railway near Yalding Station, Kent

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The walk takes us over the middle of a ploughed field, dry from the lack of rain and dangerously close to farmers spraying chemicals, Kent

Some sort of brassica had dew drops glistening on its leaves

The low point of the walk came when the leaflet directed me to cross straight through the middle of a huge field. It looked pretty but there was no obvious path as before and I spied a large red farm vehicle in the far corner, so I decided to skirt instead, through the long, wet grass. To my utter dismay the farmer was spraying green chemicals and went as close by me as he could without actually running me over. There was no way to avoid it and the smell hung in my nostrils for the next hour. (I arrived home with a most unusual headache and had to go to sleep. On waking I searched the Internet, discovering what they were and how harmful they can be up close. I showered and am hoping for the best).

Traditional farming country, kent

The noxious fumes abated temporarily as I made my way through the welcome cool woods, away from the acrid smell I thought, to the altogether sweeter scent of chestnuts. The fences made me wonder what they were protecting and brought to mind the small trucks I came across in the Austrian mountains where single men collected wood. There was no sun except in dapples and a grey squirrel leapt across the path. I could still hear the warning parp parp of the train as it came to level crossings in the distance and the drone of far-off traffic, but also the birds squawking and crawing and tweeting.

Public Footpath, Greensand Way, Kent

Soft and rolling (private) countryside, divided by landowner with barbed wire fences, Kent

Sadly, despite the wonderful view, once out of the trees the very strong fumes were evident for miles.

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Sweet chestnut in its prickly cases, Kent

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Beautiful native trees allow dappled sun to light up the first fall of autumn leaves, Kent

The fences became much stronger and the gates quite serious, when I came across the deer on my left standing still, observing me. I startled a reclining stag and away he bounded, taking off and landing from all four feet at the same time which always makes me laugh.

A herd of majestic deer with developing antlers, Kent

Then the flock of curious youngsters gathered and crept closer until one of the stags stretched forward his neck and bellowed, causing them to pause. He moved into the centre, whereupon the second, smaller male departed. The others continued to stare, their ears pricked. It reminded me of the grounds of Knole House in Sevenoaks where I grew up and where I first saw deer roaming like this. Further on, three more lazed in the shade of a great oak until I disturbed them. They had fawn spots on their backs and white bottoms with black stripes down the middle!

Three stags under an oak tree, Kent

The red brick Elizabethan Manor house, Roydon Hall was on my left now, with its stepped roof edges and old-fashioned chimneys. Apparently it has an escape route below the cellars, but it appeared to be boarded up although the the lawn was newly mown.

Roydon Hall, Kent

I expect they call this prison-like fencing, ‘managed land’.

Keeping us off his land, protecting us from the deer maybe, Kent

There was a square tower with a turret and lake to my left (though later I thought perhaps it was plastic-covered crops) and satellite dish to my right.

This was the only slight incline and at the top was what I assume was a folly. Its yellow stone and Grecian columns were set amidst lush foliage in the midday sun.

A bit of a folly amongst the foliage, Kent

As I strode down the lane, two women and four walking poles approached me to ask directions.

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There were beech nuts and conkers on the asphalt.

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Wild clematis

Glorious Autumn colours

Several miles along the road took me to the St Mary the Virgin church at Nettlestead with its simple 13th century tower and possible Saxon foundations.

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St Mary the Virgin, Nettlestead, Kent

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Stained glass at St Mary’s the Virgin, Nettlestead, Kent

Set in an equally charming churchyard, the building was started by the magnificently named de Pympe family. It has six notably large windows commissioned by Reginald de P.

At the top of each window stand angels with curiously feathered legs. (taken from the history leaflet)

In addition, I was shocked to read that

The original glass of this window with the rest of the 15th century glass in the church suffered damage by impious hands at a time unknown. (Taken from the plaque)

And furthermore, that the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury in July 24th 1895

… was well nigh “a visit of surprise” so short was our prior notice… And here let me say at once how troubled I am to think that in the hurry of the moment some members of the Parish Church Committee were overlooked. (From an account in the church).

Not far away was an entrance to the Medway river path where I stood back as a cyclist whizzed past.

It was a gentle stroll back to the Hampstead Marina alongside various water crafts including one propelled by a man with a long white ponytail and no shirt, sitting behind an infant in a baby seat and a woman who talked incessantly.

Tall trees shushed a plane and helicopter and the smells were all fruity or woody, wet or damp.

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Hampstead Mariner, Yalding, Kent

On arrival there were three men with two boats watching as a fourth opened the lock. I joined them as the water slowly filled the space between the gates, fascinated as they floated through and boarded for “a couple of miles down and back, and then a pint!”

Hampstead Mariner, Yalding, Kent

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New houses and the deep blue sky reflected in the water at Hampstead Mariner, Kent

I retraced my steps to The Boathouse for a half of Shepherd Neame’s Autumn Ale. I was admiring the hops when a couple stopped to tell me what they were and that they had been hop pickers years ago. Hundreds used to come from London to join the workforce at the picking season.

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Wild hops growing on the railings, source of the beer industry and more, Kent

The sign said,

Cheers! Yalding has always had a strong connection to alcohol! At one time it was producing more hops than any other parish in England. It is also famed for its cherry orchards and the (sic) remains of the Medieval Vineyards have been found in the area. The various crops have been used to produce wine, beer and cherry brandy..

It was a ‘driving with the top down’ sort of a day.

You can download the pdf of the walk leaflet here. It is pretty good and contains useful and accurate photos of fields with superimposed arrows showing where to go. The second paragraph of number 2 is a repeat so ignore this.

Roydon Hall info

London Photo Essay

I was born in England but have lived in Edinburgh, Scotland for many years. Take a tour with me around some of the best known London sights. Discover parts of the UK capital that you might not know; and enjoy the architecture, the views and the detail of this fabulous city. It is my personal selection.

Trafalgar Square, Nelson's Column
Trafalgar Square, Nelson’s Column

Trafalgar Square with the fountains
Trafalgar Square with the fountains, London, England.

The Ritz hotal and a red London bus in the same shot.
The Ritz hotel and a red London bus in the same shot.

The Ritz, featured in the wonderful 1999 film Notting Hill.

The Connaught Hotel - only for the rich
The Connaught Hotel – only for the rich.

BT (formerly Post Office) Tower
BT (formerly Post Office) Tower, London.

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Typical London Pubs – purveyors of fine ale – Chiswick.

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The North Star, Ealing.

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Kew Garden Station pub, Tap on the Line.

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Kew Gardens, London.

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The amazing Marianne North Gallery,  Kew Gardens, London.

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Detail, Kew Gardens, London.

Do you like green spaces? Would you like to see more of London’s lush hidden corners?

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St Pancreas Parish Church and graveyard, London.

My blog link: Camley Street Natural Park, St Pancreas Parish Church and graveyard, and Goldington Crescent, Camden.

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Hammersmith Bridge, London, England.

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The iconic Tower Bridge, London, England.

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The Shard, near London Bridge.

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The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben (clock tower) from the train rolling over Hungerford Bridge.

 

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The O2 arena, London, England.

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The Emirates Airline gondolas / cable cars across the Thames, London.

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Atmospheric views from the Tate Modern Art Gallery: River Thames and St Paul’s Cathedral.

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Again, from the Tate: The Shard and East London skyscrapers.

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Through the new Tate Modern windows.

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The new Tate Modern and views outside.

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Barbara Hepworth’s Winged Figure on the side of the John Leiws Building, Oxford Street, London.

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Take a peaceful walk along the River Thames – Hammersmith to Chiswick for example.

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Mosque, Gunnersbury, London.

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The Geffrye Museum of the House currently closed for rennovation but the front garden is still open for picnics and games, London. Near Hoxton Tube.

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and gardens

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and more gardens.

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The newly rennovated Pitzhanger Manor, Ealing. Opening July 2018.

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The elegant St Pancreas Station – outside.

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and inside. (St Pancreas Station, London).

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The Ladies Toilets at Fenchurch Street Station, London. Using the Monopoly game as inspiration.

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Walk between Chiswick and Ealing in south east London via Gunnersbury Parkl and you will come across church. Tell me if you know the name as I have researched it and cannot find it out!

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Its graveyard.

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and contemplative garden.

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Hyde Park in winter. London.

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The Serpentine, Hyde Park, London.

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Spring daffodils – a classic feature of London’s parks – with the warm, red sandstone houses beside Hyde Park. 

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Selfridges, Oxford Street, London.

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John Nash’s Regency sweep of Oxford Street, City of Westminster, London.

Britannia out front
Institute of Directors building, Pall Mall, London.

The Union Jack flying
The Union Jack flying near the Royal Opera Arcade, Pall Mall, London.

St James Palace
St James Palace, London.

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The British Museum, Euston Road, London.

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Tile detail – typical of south east London residential accommodation.

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The Passmore Edwards Cottage Hospital, Acton, London.

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Sunset on the River Thams from Hammersmith Bridge, London.

Check out this lovely blog which is also about hidden gardens and churches of London.

and this one too. Some of London’s best secret gardens.

Downton and the New Forest

December 2017

I have written a before about Downton on the River Avon in Wiltshire, and the New Forest which is nearby. Here is a link to a map showing it outlined in red, and you can see that it crosses the three English counties of Wiltshire and Hampshire, very close to the Isle of Wight.

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The 3000 New Forest ponies roam wild but are owned by the Commoners.

I stayed with kind and hospitable relatives in the village of Downton. It used to have a tan yard and still boasts the remains of a Saxon Moot (Mote, or meeting place) with a rarely surviving amphitheatre.  If you read the rather amazing novel ‘Perfume’ by Patrick Süskind you will get a graphic account of the scent that must have pervaded the town where they tanned the leather in those days. It also has an impressive range of trees; mainly beech, yew and elm.

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Empress Matilda’s imperial seal. The inscription reads ‘Matilda Queen of the Romans’

Four Matildas and three Henrys – a little history

Situated on the edge of the New Forest (or Nova Foresta) it was William I, the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy and husband of Queen Mathilda (1032-1083 of Flanders) who created this 30 square miles of private hunting ground for their use in 1079.

‘William I was described as a tough, brave, inspirational and religious man. This invasion by the Normans changed much of the Anglo-Saxon way of life that was being established here. French became the language of the upper classes, cow meat became known as beef and swine became known as gammon; murder became a crime and slavery was abolished.’ from William the Conqueror and the New Forest

‘Empress Matilda’ was named Adelaide at birth in 1102. Daughter of Henry I and Matilda of Scotland, she was only aged 11 years when she was married to Henry of Germany, 20 years her senior. That was when she became Matilda. Her husband Henry was crowned Holy Roman Emperor which is why she became Empress Matilda. Made the first Queen of England by her dad but never officially known as that, she was nevertheless in charge of Normandy in Northern France and had claims to land and fortifications, namely Downton Castle.

Mother to Henry II of England by her second marriage to Henry of Anjou (at 15 years old he was 10 years her junior), she maintained her links with the church and the matter of pilgrimage by bringing the Hand of St James (titular head of the famous Camino de Santiago in Spain) back to England (now in Reading museum) and turned out to be great at supporting monasteries (eg Bordesley Cisercian Abbey, Worcestershire)

In the mid 12th century she was engaged in the civil war with Stephen her cousin, in and out of Oxford, incidentally married to another Matilda (of Boulogne), who then won Downton from her.

One of Empress Matilda’s good friends was Lanfranc, prior of her favourite religious house, the Abbey Bec-Hellouin in Normandy. He was her children’s tutor, and when she died (aged 65 years) she was originally buried there (later her bones were transferred to Rouen Cathedral where they remain).

 

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Grazing on the bracken and brambles.

Walk 1 featuring Eyeworth Pond

We began our first day’s walk at Telegraph Hill, the highest point of the New Forest and once the site of a beacon which was used ‘as a form of communication, in chains up and down the country to act as alarm systems in case the country was invaded. They were placed on elevated positions to make them easily visible for miles around.’ It was said ‘that in 1588 it took 12 hours for the news that the Spanish Armada had been sighted to travel from the south coast of England all the way to York.’ National Trust page.

There was ice in the puddles and streams, and wet squidge underfoot in places. Thankfully we were wrapped up warmly against the cold wind.

Sixty million years ago, I was told, this forest was a tropical sea and it sits today on a bed of chalk with flint, reminiscent of my native Kentish Downs and therefore hosting similar flora and fauna.

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A beautiful, twisting beech tree. Alien-slime-coloured moss seems to be creeping upwards and enveloping the smooth grey bark!

It was fascinating hearing anecdotes from my hosts for whom the forest was the site of family parties when the children were growing up. Like all good adventure tales there was the game of Cargoes where teams have camps on either side of the burn and are charged with routing the other’s territory.

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Frozen water and delicate foliage.

We sloshed our way across the landscape, past the Eyeworth pond to The Royal Oak in Fritham for a half of bitter and delicious lunch.

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Around the table stories were recounted, notably of the traditional Mummers Play (a medieval theatrical) which comes to this hostelry, ‘in which a champion is killed in a fight and is then brought to life by a doctor’. A scene was painted for me, of the play being performed with a glass of ale in one hand, and I could imagine it clearly in this traditional setting.

 

 

As a young teenager, I participated in a Mummers Play – back section of the dragon wearing swimming flippers and processing through the town. It was to celebrate the 300 year anniversary of our primary school, and resulted in terribly sore bits at the fronts of my ankles where I still have scars!

Walk 2, in which we came across Shetland ponies

On day two we visited the wonderfully named Godshill Pit, this time in Hampshire. It was misty and raining with, once again, ice in puddles and between blades of grass. Copper water bubbled over orange flints beside bronze bracken as we leapt soggy brooks and landed on springy peat turf. Aside from this, it really was very deeply squishy under foot!

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Down country roads we walked, pitted with puddles; past ancient cottages with mud walls, pigs in oval-roofed huts, alpaca in fields, a delightful Shetland pony (why are they always so delightful?), and many elegant horses attended by adoring women in wellies.

We drove back through Braemore (say Bremmer) with its quaint bridge over several waterways, its dairy, railway station, working blacksmith and post-office. It is an extremely pretty village built of local stone and I was starting to get used to the crowds of donkeys perched by the roadside, tearing off brambles and bracken from the banks. The pub was closed today so hot soup was most welcome on our return.

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Eyeworth Pond where ponies can be seen sipping at the water’s edge.

Thanks go to Angela for preparing special vegetarian food for me; to Mike for cleaning my walking shoes – twice; to both for showing me this wonderful part of the world and telling me stories about it.

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My Great Aunt Fay on her way to the Falkland Islands in 1931. She died aged 106 in 2017.

Downton Moot link and about the town

Queen Mathilda link

Empress Matilda timeline

Marjorie Morgan McCallum Chibnall OBE FBA was an English historian, medievalist and Latin translator. She wrote the first fully comprehensive biography of Matilda to be published in English in 1961.

Very interesting paper about Empress Matilda (A Study of Succession, Gender and Power in the 12th Century)

The seal above and some information was taken from the Reading Museum site

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New Forest ponies link

The Royal Oak pub link

Oxford, England

A photo essay: November 2017

Oxford is very crowded with students and tourists – the pavements are narrow so allow time to walk around the centre, but at every corner there is an architectural marvel. From the Colleges and their gardens, to the River Cherwell and its fascinating bridges, there is just so much to see.

Check out the expansive Port Meadow with its wonderful views; the cafes of the Cowley area; the Museum of Natural History on Parks Road (not shown here) for the inside decoration alone, never mind the collection (there are plenty of events for children); and the magnificent Blenheim Palace (very close to the city and easy to get to by bus) is an absolute must-see.

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The Radcliffe Camera, part of the Bodleian Museum.

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The Bridge of Sighs.

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View from Magdalen Bridge.

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Detail of the underneath of Magdalen Bridge.

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Oxford punts in winter.

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Wadham College gardens.

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Christchurch College.

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Hertford College.

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Entrance to the Bodleian Library.

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The famous spires of the Oxford colleges.

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Bicycles everywhere!

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Gardens, Christchurch College.

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Ashmolean Museum, exterior.

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The Ashmolean, interior.

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The sun shows up the glorious yellow stone towers.

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Cupid’s bottom – detail on ceiling of the Bodleian.

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Standing guard at the Bodleian.

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A typical street showing residential architecture.

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Broad Street.

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Beneath this garden lies a medieval cemetery. Located outside the Botanical Gardens.

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The rain shows up the black and white architecture to perfection.

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Wadham College courtyard at night.

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Wadham College – an inner courtyard.

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Astonishing gables.

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Cute cafe on St Clement’s St.