Sunday, May 30

Geffrye Museum and the East London Line/Overground

A day out in East London today - north East London that is, rather than south East. We took our first trip on the newly-extended East London Line (or London Overground as it is now known) and went from New Cross to Hoxton to visit the Geffrye Museum.

The museum focusses on parlours through the ages - or from 1600 to the modern day, to be precise. A dozen or so rooms are set up to show how middle-class fashions and domestic life-styles have changed through the last four decades, and you can also visit the gardens and see how garden fashions changed too.

I really enjoyed the museum - from the details that brought to life how households used to operate to the reading rooms, where you could easily pass a few hours just browsing the bookshelves and gazing out into the gardens.

In the gardens we admired the pelargonium pyramid, and enjoyed the sensual pleasures of the herb garden.

This striking flower caught my eye, but I couldn't find a label. Can anyone help?

We also discovered that although no pub was to found nearby, Kingsland High Street is a veritable mecca of Vietnamese restaurants - one of which provided a delicious bowl of noodle soup and a crispy pancake with prawns and chicken to stave off our hunger.

Anyway folks I won't be blogging for a couple of weeks as I'm off to the USA for a business trip. Back in time for the World Cup :-(

Sunday, May 23

Kemsing circular walk

Today we struck out for a 6 mile walk from the village of Kemsing not far from Sevenoaks. The directions came from this page of free downloads of walks around the North Downs Way and although not particularly comprehensive, combined with the map they were sufficient to guide us around the route. I've found that there are lots of free walking leaflets to be had online - great if you want to explore a new area without committing to buying a map and/or walking books.

As well as walks built around many of the national trails, most local and county council have a walks section on their website where you can find local routes to follow, usually with maps attached (of varying quality and usefulness) and even in some cases, photo guides to show you the way. Take a look at Kent County Council's walking page on its website and you will find lots of ideas for free.

Today's walk was very pleasant and quite easy, although there is a steep ascent to the North Downs Way and a descent at the other end back into Kemsing.

The countryside is pleasant, with gentle rolling English hills and the views from the top of the ridge were spectacular today. It felt as if we should almost be able to see the sea!

Friday, May 21

Friday afternoon bike ride

With the sun beating down on south east London there was no option but to get the bike out and set out on a largely traffic-free tour of east London. From Deptford I set off down the Thames path for Woolwich, leaving out the tip of the peninsula thanks to the closure of the path on the west side which will be shut for some months.
Close to the Thames Barrier I came across this gloriously melancholic bit of graffiti in a stretch of wall that seemed to have been made for it. The combination of urban industrial landscape and natural beauty on that bit of the river was wonderfully reflected in the art.

After crossing the river on the Woolwich Ferry I headed north to pick up the end of the Greenway at Gallions Reach - between the massive Tescos and the Britvic factory. Just before this there was a scary wrong turn where myself and my Raleigh Twenty found ourselves on the north circular, but it was only for a short stretch before picking up the bike path again.

The Greenway is a lovely route for cycling - long, flat, traffic-free - but I can imagine it might be boring to walk along as the only views at the eastern end in particular are the backs of rather dull houses. As you near the Olympic site the effects of 2012 money start to become obvious - nicely resurfaced, new signposting (the old signs are looking very dated by now) and bits of art scattered here and there.

I decided to give the View Tube a miss, it would have meant a longer detour or turning back on myself afterwards. Instead I cut down to Three Mills Island and then followed the Lea to Bow Locks (try saying that quickly!) and took the Limehouse Cut back to the Isle of Dogs. At Bow Locks this rather large brood was keeping Mr & Mrs Mallard very busy!

I was also very surprised to see a Tern performing some dramatic dives into the water of the Limehouse Cut, obviously picking out small fish. I've never seen that in a place I'd expect to see it, never mind in the east end of London!

I took the riverside path on the Isle of Dogs back down to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel where, despite the refurbishment works going on, I struck gold with both lifts operating! (it's close on 100 steps to carry your bike up or down if they are closed).

Wednesday, May 19

Weekend in the Peak District

Just back from a long weekend in the Peak District visiting family. The weather was a little cold but clear and dry for walking so my legs got fully stretched during the three-day stay.

Linacre Reservoirs are a fabulous and dramatic oasis of calm very close to Chesterfield, and at this time of year the beech leaves are a stunning green and the woodland floor is awash with bluebells and wild garlic. The first reservoir was built in 1854 and the third in 1911 and they were used for drinking water extraction until 1995 - now they are reserved for leisure activities.

Bracken 'fiddleheads' just emerging.

We also took a short but steep stroll around the small village of Ashover, up to the Fabric viewpoint which has spectacular views as far as the power stations on the River Trent valley, and finishing off with a drink at the Old Poet's Corner. If you can face the dreadfully overdesigned flyers and posters that adorn the tables and walls of the pub, it actually serves very good beers and reasonable food. Take a look at the website for an example of the kind of graphic design that makes your eyes bleed.

Monday we had a longer walk from Stoney Middleton to Eyam and back, up some rather steep tracks and paths, and spent a bit of time mooching round the village accompanied by hordes of school kids. Glad to see that the story of the Black Death is still on the curriculum - a salutary tale that includes gruesome suffering, self-sacrifice and a lesson on how every cloud has a silver lining. There is no question that Eyam survives as a healthy village today because of the trauma it suffered in the 1600s.

Train travel and evenings at home also contributed to me finally finishing the Pomatomus socks by Cookie A after a long hiatus. I enjoyed knitting the leg but got frustrated and bored on the foot as I didn't really know why I needed a different chart and just ended up bodging it. Love the finished item, but didn't enjoy getting there!

Monday, May 3

Beech trees and bluebells

The perfect bank holiday combination. Here seen at Mariners Wood near Chartwell in Kent.