Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Happy Holidays

We have reached the end of August, and I thought ending our staycation close to home seemed appropriate to the spirit of the month.

We walked across the street in front of our flat where the annoying temporary bus stop has been located for the duration of the replacement of Victorian water mains in Hampstead's High Street. I will say that after reading about the collapse of infrastucture in the States, I have greater appreciation of a country that recognises work needs to be done to maintain facilities. The Long Island Rail Road fire in Jamaica apparently destroyed equipment that served my father and mother in the 1930s and 1940s and 1950s from Bellerose.

Our very local bus took us to Golders Hill Park in two stops. The park is part of Hampstead Heath, London's largest park, which was saved from development by the lord of the manor in the mid 19th century. Over the years, adjoining land has been added to the Heath. Golders Hill was once part of the landscaped gardens of great houses built in the 18th and 19th centuries for wealthy industrialists. In this case soap saved the parkland. Golders Hill House was bought by the owner of Pears Soap and donated to the city for use as a park. The House was destroyed by a bomb in 1941. An even bigger soap magnate, William Lever, Lord Leverhulme, bought The Hill and had the grounds extensively landscaped for grand parties. After Lever's death, the gardens were added to Golders Hill Park, while the house, now called Inverforth House, remained in private hands.
The Hill's garden
The Hill's famous Pergola
Flowers invading the colonnade
A small field of heather
Strange plants in the Water Garden

After wandering through Golders Hill in the glorious sunshine today, we took a bus to Highgate for lunch at The Flask. Then we walked down the steep Highgate Hill to Waterlow Park, the grounds of Lauderdale House, which is now a local arts centre. Pepys in his diary notes hearing strange music when visiting Lord Lauderdale here. The park was donated to Highgate by its last owner Sir Sydney Waterlow in 1889.

We wandered back to the bus past Highgate Cemetery's surrounding wall. Then a few minutes on the bus, and we were back home after a very local staycation outing.

There hasn't been much time for doing anything other than our daily trips during the day and writing about them at night, but when we returned home, I finished Buddy's Quilt for Bobs's Buddy Doll. Along with the clothes for Bibs's Dolly, I feel that I have done a little bit of grandmotherly duty this month.

Tomorrow is September, always my favourite month because autumn is forever my favourite season. There is much to look forward to coming along. As a fitting part of our final staycation day, Bob received news that may mean a permanent involuntary staycation has been averted. And in less than two months another granddaughter to welcome to the world with blanket, quilt, sweater, hat, sampler. . .

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Day in the Garden

A Bank Holiday Weekend with good weather is almost unheard of — an oxymoron — but we have had one this weekend. Well I admit the weather was nice autumnal weather, cool with a crisp breeze, whilst it is still August, but for outdoor walks, it was perfect.  Even more fortunate, our Overground train line was running today. For the past two years or so, the line has not run on weekends very often because of repair work. The Overground and weather meant a perfect day for a trip to Kew Gardens which is only a 25 minute train journey from our local station.

We began with the Treetop Walkway.

118 steps up!

The Walkway in the treetops
Into the treetops 
A birds eye view
A view of the garden grounds
Some wildlife in the treetops

The day was so beautiful, we didn't visit the greeenhouses, but wandered among the tree plantations.

The oldest tree in Kew Gardens --  c.1700 Sweet Chestnut

The Pinetum
Looking up through a huge redwood

And there was wildlife too.

This bird just sat as everyone took photos
A Chinese pheasant who kept scurrying faster than I could click my camera

My favourites were the buildings we visited.

Kew was originally a royal residence. Kew Palace was the favourite home of George III and Queen Charlotte. Kew Palace has been restored recently and we have visited, but not today. We had never  visited Queen Charlotte's Cottage before. Built in 1771, the cottage was probably designed by William Chambers, the master royal architect, with a ground floor kitchen, the most elegant of spiral staircases on either side of the central bay, and a magnificent Picnic Room on the first floor painted with flowering vines by one of the many daughters of the family. No photos were permitted, and even Google images can't help me out on this one. The Royal Palace company keeps close tabs on their treasures.
Queen Charlotte's Cottage

Then we walked over to the Minka House to find out what it even was. A house for minks? No, a traditional Japanese wooden house that is threatened with extinction because people want to live in modern homes. A Japanese organisation that helps preserve this vernacular house type donated one to Kew Gardens to be placed in the Bamboo Garden. Minka houses are all wood and pegged together so they can be disassembled and reassembled when necessary. 
The Minka House
How amazing is this roof structure . . .
. . . pegged and tied together

An all together pleasant Bank Holiday weekend, and now only one day left in August. Only one day of our staycation to fill.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Good Friends, Good Eats

This is the Bank Holiday weekend, so we can take a staycation holiday. Today's activity was eating both lunch and dinner out with friends.

Lunch with friends with  a daughter who is Bibs's age. Oh how three year olds are so alike! And a newish baby daughter of 7 months, an age that is always perfectly delightful.

Then dinner at a Cypriot restaurant in Highgate that was new to us — with friends who are always reliable for telling us about great local places to eat.  Dishes are served as small mezze plates for sharing. Everything we ordered was excellent.

In between meals, Bob planted our dining room window boxes for a bit of autumn colour.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Walk in the Countryside

This is the start of our August Bank Holiday Weekend. I always thought the Bank Holidays related to old religious holidays, but according to my book on English traditional festivals, that is not true. I guess I didn't read very carefully the first time through. The last weekend in August is just a good time for a holiday, even back when holidays were not a privilege everyone enjoyed.

Last Sunday we took the Northern Line to the southern end of the line; today we went north, but the Northern Line has three termini in the north. I found a walk with a route between two of them. And what a walk! We spent the day in the country, but we never left London. Join us for our walk in the country!
We begin at High Barnet station. First stop is the Barnet Museum for some local history. An important battle of the War of the Roses was fought here. Edward 1V's victory here ensured his capture of the throne.  Next we fortified ourselves with a superb lunch at the Lord Nelson. The apple-blackberry crumble was historic. Then on to our walk.
Through the Recreation Ground in Chipping Barnet. 
Into the Barnet Conservation Area
Into the Dollis Valley
A multitude of trails
The Dollis Brook
The Dollis Valley Greenway
An overhanging hedge forms an arch
Ascending the valley looking to Totteridge
Kissing gate leaving the Dollis Valley 
The Totteridge Cross
Church at Totteridge Cross
Greenway to Mill Hill
View from the Greenway
A local herd
The biggest mushroom we saw
A muddy section of the path
The weather was perfect. Sunny and cool
Meadows as far as the eye could see
A field of ripe corn
More meadows
Folly Brook
Leaving the woods, there is a game at the Mill Hill Cricket Club
The view from the top of Mill Hill
One of the best walks we've ever taken. And another end of the line.