18 April, 2006

Brighton Beautiful!

To Brighton for the Bank Holiday Monday after Easter on a whim. A glorious day for a walk with Mike, Ken, Alistair and Catherine-Mary. Had a walk along the sea front including a stroll along the pier with a slight detour to see the new Brighton Library had a lovely rest in Mike and Ken's garden. They have laid decking in the graden which is looking good. Will be great when it is finished. I then went on to visit Mike and Tony and had a good chat with them. A good day.
The picture shows the new Brighton Library

13 April, 2006

Richmond to Greenford stages 7 and 8 of the capital ring

Maundy Thursday afternoon is always given to British Civil Servants as a half day off, and I never know what to do with it! This year I did two of my capital ring walks.

Starting in Richmond, Surrey I crossed the river at Richmond lock and for the first time in this walk went north of the Thames into Middlesex! Richmond lock cost £60000 to build in 1894 and each of the sluices weighs 32 tons. Thus we leave Richmond behind and cross to Isleworth. Isleworth had a deserted convent and residential home called Nazareth House, which William IV visited (it sez ‘ere). I don’t know why he would visit it. After this the passage of the walk is blocked presumably because people in the posh riverside flats don’t want walkers coming near them. The walk has been diverted since 2004 so it’s time something was done. I’ll let you know how I get on with Hounslow Council’s rights of way officer.

After that disappointment I walked past Isleworth Ait nature reserve and listened for a bit to the birdsong. Passing the London Apprentice inn, which dates from Tudor times,
The London Apprentice at Isleworth Posted by Picasa and a Gothick house on the banks of the river
Gothick house at Isleworth Posted by Picasa I came to the Church of All Saints Isleworth. The only part of the structure that is old is the tower but this curious sundial on the wall of the church counts our sunny hours.
The curious sundial on Isleworth Church Posted by Picasa

The next place of interest is Syon House with the Percy lion on top. This weighs three tons (according to Arthur Mee) but eluded the picture I took of the house. This is the home of the Duke of Northumberland along with Alnwick Castle (used for the filming of Harry PotterTM) and Northumberland House in London. They have a pink summer house in the garden, and two cottages that look like towers. I wonder if any of these are available?

After Syon the path led me to the Grand Union Canal basin with its colourful narrowboats. There was a covered dock with a gloomy air of dereliction right next to some nice flats. This dock was in use until the 1980s. Walking by the peaceful canal turned my mind to thoughts of narrow boats and whether I should get one or not. Maybe I will…

The rest of this stage was up the Grand Union Canal past Boston Manor with its wonderful plaster ceilings and ended at Osterley Lock which marks the half way point of the Capital Ring. It has taken me less time than I thought to go round.

I decided to go on to the next section, which goes from Osterley Lock to Greenford. The Canal follows the course of the River Brent but sometimes there are cuttings to make it straighter. Obviously being a canal there are industrial developments along the banks but these were not obtrusive. I left the canal at Hanwell lock and followed the course of the River Brent along Fitzherbert Walk where I saw robins and magpies, and Ealing Hospital being demolished. I reached Hanwell Bridge where there is a tunnel underneath the bridge although the direction posts advise one to cross the road as the tunnel may be flooded. Going under the Bridge enables one to see the differing structures of the bridge, from the 1762 original and three widenings although the rough stone original looked a lot earlier than 1762 to my eyes. Hanwell Town Centre has a cabinet maker and a glass printer. There is a very impressive viaduct with the coat of arms of Lord Wharncliffe on it as he promoted it. Wortley Hall near Sheffield was the family seat however this is now the Labour Educational and Recreational Holiday Homes, a coöperative holiday centre.

The park below it contains beautiful pansies in bloom, a tree in blossom
The blossom tree Posted by Picasa and a maze commemorating the millennium. Adjoining the church, this park is very beautiful. There were robins here too! I followed the course of the Brent over a bridge and through the Ealing Council golf course onto a reclaimed landfill site, and into the suburb of Greenford. I saw a jay in Perivale Park. Also in Greenford it seems that people do not move when their house is too small: they build on to them. This picture was one of the worst examples but by no means untypical.
Beauty in Suburbia? (Greenford) Posted by Picasa
Why do people ruin a perfectly well proportioned house? Later in this street the houses were better and some pictures could really be beauty in suburbia. However the Central Line Viaduct dominates the backs of these houses. It is a c.1930s structure built of concrete to mimic a Victorian viaduct with arches and bricky lines on it. It looks absurd and false. I ended my walk at Greenford station with a look at what is next to come.

09 April, 2006

Sevenoaks and Knole

Sevenoaks is a wealthy town in Kent that can be reached in about half an hour from London, that is, about 24 miles. It is quite poshly suburban - in fact I had to pay £5 for a film that would normally cost me £2.25.

The church was locked up when I called but I could see through the plate glass doors that it has been considerably reordered with a carpet for the congregation to warm their feet on and modern seating. These comforts must be welcome to worshippers.

The major attraction of Sevenoaks is Knole.

Knole courtyard Posted by Picasa

Once home to the Archbishops of Canterbury it is now home to the Sackvilles, Earls of Dorset who gave it to the National Trust when they decided they didn’t want to maintain it any more, but wanted to continue living there. Must be very nice for them.
Knole is approached by car or on foot over the park which is filled with miniature deer, hardly monarchs of the glen. I took the way past Sevenoaks Ecology Park (this usually seems to mean that the ground is not maintained and this park was no exception). The Ecology seemed to consist of a dried up pond and a load of brambles spreading over the ground. This led me through the park on foot tracks as people must have approached in 1454. The west front is the first thing the visitor from this direction sees.

See Picture

knole west front Posted by Picasa

It looks like a row of terraced houses in the Dutch style but is actually rather like an Oxbridge college inside. The first room you enter is the great hall with official portrait of George IV (why?) hanging above the dais. After this room is the staircase of virtues with a sculpture of a naked woman who was one of the Sackville’s mistresses. I detect a pleasing sense of irony here. The galleries were interesting as were the bedrooms and state rooms. The house has grown organically and from the north looks like a medieval town with gables and chimneys. It is not a formal house of the 18th Century type.
One of the Sackvilles didn’t just fill sacks, he filled carts and wagons with furniture from Whitehall Palace where he was Kings Chamberlain. Hence Knole has one of the greatest collections of Stuart furniture in the country. It looks like it would upholster well too. This was in the galleries and bedrooms. There was also some silver furniture in the Kings Bedroom.
On Friday I went to see the Gothic Nightmares exhibition at Tate Britain, which contained a cartoon of Count Ugolino realising that he has to eat his children to survive. The oil painting of this picture is in Knole – synchronicity!
Unusually for the National Trust (which likes to remind the peasants of their lot) there was no kitchen in Knole and he tour only included the state rooms. 13 out of 365 for £7.50. However the park was free and I walked around the perimeter wall, and photographed this miniature deer for you to look at.

Deer in Knole Park Posted by Picasa

03 April, 2006

Wimbledon Park to Richmond now with a picture

This is the longest walk in the whole circuit and it did feel like it. I suppose I should be aware of April showers but that still does not make sheltering under trees in driving rain any more pleasant. But there were some points of interest on the walk and overall it was enjoyable.

I started out at Wimbledon Park station and walked to the park form there. The park is bordered by the railway (not so many trains this time) and is extensive with a golf course and athletic stadium as well as a large lake. The wind was whipping this lake into waves which lapped across the path. It looked pretty full as hosepipe bans are introduced across the South East. This part of Wimbledon is rather posh with some big houses that all look rather pleasant. After walking up to Wimbledon Common through these streets I came to the Wimbledon Windmill which is a museum of windmills in general. The voluntary staff were very pleasant and helpful and interested in my walk round London. We had quite a conversation and I would recommend a visit to this mill.

After spending a good half hour in there unfortunately the rain started. I had to press on and walked across the common dodging the golf balls. There is a peace memorial to the people living near the common who have died. Unfortunately all the letters of the names have been stolen. In my opinion the conservators of the common should have these replaced.

The next part of the walk led almost directly into Richmond Royal Park at the Robin Hood Gate. Here again the rain came down but there was a tree to shelter under. On by Spanker's Hill Woods (what goes on in there I wonder?) and by pen ponds, then through another woodland trying out my rolleisoft filtre.

The heavens opened again through petersham meadows and I could not appreciate the views of Richmond.

Richmond in Surrey is named after Richmond in North Yorkshire. It is not the other way round.

The Surrey Richmond (like the Yorkshire Richmond) is very attractive and well worth a visit.

Unfortunately the tube was not running due to engineering work and bus connections are not very good to East London.

the picture shows a signpost in Richmond park

01 April, 2006

From Streatham to Wimbledon Park: suburbia with a harder edge.

Streatham is an interesting suburb, one with lots of charity shops and leisure facilities such as a monster Odeon (Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation), Ceasar’s night club, Streatham Leisure Centre and Streatham Ice Rink. Lots of charity shops too and I picked up a copy of the Golden Bough and a book describing the work of the London County Council in 1951. In fact today I seem to be laden with books- not the best way to walk. Other aspects of Streatham’s interest are there are lots of flats- some very posh others not so posh and some dowdy. It must be a very mixed area.

Starting out from Streatham I walked by the railway passed the Southwark and Vauxhall water works pumping station. This was designed to look like a mosque and very successfully too. It took a neat photograph and was well framed by the lens. Conyers Road is a road in need of gentrification which hasn’t quite happened yet. One house has a stained glass window of a woman watching a departing ship. Other houses are being done up but some have yet to catch up with the backlog of maintenance which houses all require.

Crossing to Tooting Bec common with its 100 year old lido (the biggest pool in Europe says the guide but I’m always sceptical of superlatives) had some photo opportunities especially at the lake where I tried out my new cross filter (gives a star effect on points of light), but was really quite plain. The refreshment hut had reinvented itself as a fairly upmarket café, with a lot of staff. I still had a bottle of lemonade and some biscuits though. I wasn’t tempted by the meals on offer.

After this through more suburban streets to Balham via Ritherdon Road where I worked long ago as a volunteer for the Woodcraft Folk – the Coöperative young people’s charity. I crossed Balham High Road past Du Cane Court – once the home of film stars possibly as it was quite near Merton Park studios of the 1930s. More suburban streets, although more gentrified than Streatham leading to another walk by a railway. I felt an Anna Karenina moment coming on as I watched all the trains today. As I got to where the walk leads through the ticket office at Wandsworth Common Railway station the rain started. Luckily there was not too much of it or I might have gone home there and then, but the sun came out again and lasted most of the day. After the station was a major capital ring sign which gave the distance from Woolwich Foot Tunnel as 25 miles. I seem to have come a long way since I began!

After a pleasant walk on Wandsworth Common passing by the old farmhouse I came to the grim Wandsworth Prison. Oscar Wilde was an inmate here. I then came to Wandsworth Cemetery which also has trains running by. In the cemetery there was a grave which gave the occupations of three members of a family as curator, radio engineer and Biologist. It just seemed rather an odd thing to do. After calling at Earlsfield bookshop where I bought two books I crossed the River Wandle into Merton Borough (see picture).
River Wandle Posted by Picasa
The Wandle once powered many mills upstream of this section and flows very quickly. There still is a lot of industry on the banks of the Wandle at this point although none of it is water powered.

I then walked through a recreation ground, past Wimbledon mosque (which looks dirty and has seen better days – some of the moons had dropped off the top) to the end of the walk at Wimbledon Park Station. I paused for refreshment at the Wimbledon Park Welcome store (see picture)

Welcome store at Wimbledon Park Posted by Picasa

All in all a good if a little tiring walk.