Archive for the ‘Countryside’ Category

Blackberries (and maybe maggots)   2 comments

I am in the countryside far away from London, just about as far as you can get before you drop off the edge and into the Atlantic Ocean. Where the underlying sound is silence. I find myself stopping at odd moments just to listen.

Yesterday I had fruit salad in the late evening while watching the sun set through biblical clouds and roll behind green hills.  I walked to the edge of the garden and picked wild ripe, black, shiny blackberries and added them to my fruit salad. They were delicious, tart and sweet at the same time. I did not wash them. I don’t think there were any maggots. If there were, I did not notice. But hey, they are just protein. Yum!


August   Leave a comment

Harvest is happening. The hills of the South Downs are chequerboards of yellow and orange stubble. The Van Gough wheat fields are gone. The smell of harvest is in the air. Men smell of sweat mixed with outdoors and cut wheat after a hard day in the fields.
On the coast it is holiday time for the rich and poor. Darren and Sharon, their barbecue, tent, fishing rods, metal detector and seven children sit on the pebble beach near Felicity and Reginald with their chairs, table, bottle of wine, fresh salad and crusty bread.
It is a quiet beach far away from the big towns. The sea is peaceful. The most striking thing is the background silence. It is only when you leave the city, that you realise that you’ve become inured to its constant buzz.

Surprise   Leave a comment

Weather today was my favourite. Huge deluge of straight-down rain, massive drops, black almost thunderous clouds, flash floods, people running for shelter, then five minutes later a tiny patch of blue in the sky begins to spread and its raining through sunshine. The clouds disappear and it is scorching with steam rising from the vegetation making London very jungle-like. Half an hour later angry clouds and huge drops start it all over again.

It is on such a day that I resumed the Capital Ring, (after a few forays to North and South Downs when  the thought of wandering the streets of East London did not appeal).  But once again, my preconceived notions were shattered. When am I going to learn eh?

Highgate to Finsbury Park (Parkland Walk)  along a disused railway track, a long strip of mini-parkland through urban London, the trees blocking out everything. Mad graffiti. I am an old person and, other than clever stuff like Banksy, I have never had much time for it. But this was beautiful. The colours were vivid and the artwork was really stunning. I found myself gawping and turning my head sideways under the bridges and along the arches to appreciate it. I even saw a young guy working on a new piece, totally absorbed with what he was doing.

Then through Finsbury Park and onto the New River, which is neither new nor a river. An old canal dating from the early 1600s created to bring water from Hertfordshire to London, amazingly designed and still working today. Surprised at the two massive reservoirs full of wildlife (especially my favourite, mad, bad-tempered, noisy coots and their very vocal young), just at the back of Seven Sisters Road, places I never knew existed.

An area of Woodberry Down Estate that appears to be undergoing renewal had a very big and  fancy fountain with a waterfall feature and a huge silver globe.  I am happy to say a large chunk of the children of Woodberry Downs were crawling all over and in the water feature, having a whale of a time. It was like a scene from Little Rascals.

In Clissold Park there was Kurdish music festival. People of all shapes and sizes were there. Young beautiful people with flags, baggy trousers and Yasser Arafat scarves. Middle aged couples, she in her good shoes and black skirt, he with his moustache and black leather jacket, gaggles of teenage girls, young couples. Beautiful, sad, haunting music in the air. Then a massive downpour. The music stopped. I took shelter on the veranda of Clissold House and drank coffee and watched people trying hide from the rain under trees.  The small patch of blue sky got bigger, people emerged from the trees and drifted back to the festival in the late evening sunshine. Children were dancing on the pathway as the music started again. They twirled their umbrellas as they danced.

Then Abney Park cemetery. Sunlight was streaming through the trees and steam was rising from the undergrowth in the rays of sunlight.  The mucky pathways were lined with monuments to the dead, some toppling precariously, others eaten away by pollution and age.

In the middle of the cemetery I could hear haunting choral music. I assumed the old chapel must have been repaired and was being used by a choir. I struggled and slid down through the muck and puddles towards the old chapel.  There, hidden behind a van, were a group of new-age hippies, holding a dance event. They had erected some plastic awnings to keep out the rain, and a girl was performing, twisting and turning on the ground, surrounded by people in dreads and piercings. It was so bizarre, unexpected, stunning, unusual in the middle of an old cemetery. But strangely lovely. I stood and gawped again. (Did a lot of gawping today). Then trotted on with a big smile on my face to the main exit and Stoke Newington.

London, in one day, crazy weather, coots, a graffiti artist at work, a Kurdish music festival and a new-age dance event in a cemetery.

Midsummer silence   Leave a comment

(I lie. It is 23rd June, St John’s Eve,  but this is the ‘real’ midsummer, the truly magical time.)

Just outside London, a steep hillside covered in big field daisies, meadows filled with full-headed field grasses.  In the corners of the field, elder trees just about ready to bring forth their fruit, and blackberry bushes in full bloom with pink-tinted flowers.  Both a hint of berries to come when we move into autumn.

Purple and white clover delicately fragranced. (When we were children we pulled out a single strand from the bloom and sucked the base because our  parents thought it was amusing to tell us this was how bees got honey.)

Wild woodbine (honeysuckle), old-fashioned roses with a fragrance that evokes memories of childhood. Oak leaves (because it is a magical time of the year.) And ferns, massive, jungle-like, primitive, in woodland with sunlight flashing through tall trees.

A tiny woodlouse strolls across the path. The only sound is the wind whispering through the grass. I have a micro-moment of realisation of existence.




Windy day   Leave a comment

At the weekend I walked across North London to Highgate passing through estates of affluence. For some reason I can cope well with places like Richmond to which I mentally attach redeeming features like scruffy dogs and mad old people. But when it comes to North London I can’t seem to find that internal charity.  I also got lost during my  walk, so a large part of my time ‘up north’ was spent wandering around the faux olde worlde houses, muttering names of streets, turning maps upside down and peering down unfamiliar lanes.  This may have added some grist to my mill.

However after various findings and losings of path, I found myself sitting under a tree near a cafe (with some of the most expensive coffee in London) watching a very windy day blowing up a storm in the park. Overhead the metal cafe sign creaked on its hinges. The trees were dancing. No, more than dancing, they were threashing in the wind. Only their deep roots kept them in one place. It was like watching dancers chained to the ground, desperate to move. Or how a wild symphony might look in your imagination. The grass rippled in a frenzy underneath the trees.

Humans were infected too.  Hair was blowing in all directions. There was a wildness in the air that caused children and dogs to skitter around the park with the wind up their backsides. Parents became infected with their children’s skittishness and the fear of their being hit by a falling branch or something from a building, and called them back to safety.

I bravely held onto my paper coffee cup and used it to stop my useless maps from blowing away. It was completely exhilarating. I wanted it all to end in a crash of thunder and a flash of lightning followed by a huge downpour. I felt that only this would do proper justice to such a big introduction.  But like many things in life, it didn’t.  A few drops of threatening rain, a bit more blowing and that was it. But the wind tearing through the trees is still creating beautiful re-runs in my mind.

Capital Ring   Leave a comment

Almost at the 3/4 mark of Capital Ring today. I never realised there were so many hills with wonderful views around this city.  My collection of places to run to for perspective has increased markedly.

I also now realise that I seem to have unconsciously chosen to live in the flattest bit of London.

Today, beautiful meadows full of buttercups at Fryent Country Park and views all the way to the Gherkin from the top of Barn Hill. Also Welsh Harp Reservoir – never even knew it existed!

This is what I like most about this lovely walk around secret London. It is the constant feeling of surprise. It is so typically London. All my pre-conceived notions are shattered.  I was blown away by South-East London and now want to move there.

Today my silly notions about North London are already coming under fire. To me it has always seemed a concrete place, without character. Today I crossed over the A41 leaving Asian London and hit Hendon and realised I was in Jewish London. Once again, never even realised this existed. My favourite picture from today was three young teenage boys kicking a stone down a quiet street. ‘Naw bruv’ said one, ‘you’re not doin’ it right bruv. You’ve got to do it like this bruv.’  They were two Jewish boys with skullcaps and one Muslim boy in a white gown, completely oblivious to the mshamba staring. So London.

Beach   Leave a comment

Sprawled on bronze pebble beach running away from me into the distance to green and white cliffs. The sky is a huge expanse overhead, the universe above me.  The sea breathes through the pebbles, the first sound ever on earth.