Friday, 28 September 2012

Waterways in the Test Valley, and Little Venice

Unfortunately this week has been a bit of a work related blur, with very little time to myself. I did manage to get out and about last weekend, on the day where it wasn't wet and windy, and completed a 41 mile bike ride loop down to Barton Stacey and back, exploring some villages, quite country roads and tracks that I'd not encountered before. When I left the house it was sunny but just a little chilly, but as the morning crept on, the weather became near perfect for cycling. I stuck mainly to quiet roads, with a few excursions off road, stopping every now and then to take in the scenery and soak up the ambience. The ride took me across several rivers where anglers were fishing for trout.

Somewhere in the Test Valley

Sunday was a complete wash out, and apart from wathcing the eldest son play football, and lose miserably, I cannot remember what else I did. As I mentioned earlier this week at work has been manic, and although I had hoped to go out in search of space last night in London, the rain and an invitation to some leaving drinks changed my plans. My only escape was at lunchtime today when I managed a half-hour walk around Little Venice before it started raining again. This first picture below is a curious little street called Bristol Gardens. It's on a slight hill, as can be seen by the slow but sure, continued elevation of the shop fronts. All the shops are in a similar style and immaculatly presented.

 Bristol Gardens, London W2

The second picture is of a couple of barges in the Paddington Basin, just off the main stretch of the Grand Union canal. I walk this way fairly often, but today was struck by these particulary barges. Just a shame that the Westway flyover spoils the view and the ambience.

Grand Union Canal, Paddington Basin, London W2


Not sure what this weekend has in store for me, other than a trip to Winchcombe tomorrow and another hour or so on the football touchline on Sunday afternoon. If I'm lucky and the weather holds, I'll try and get out on the bike on Sunday morning.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

More vintage petrol pumps

Since my last post I have been out and about within the UK, although that all changes tomorrow when I go to the Netherlands for the rest of the week. My main trip last week took me down into Kent, a county I visited frequently as a child as my grandmother lived in Deal, but it's not somewhere I've been to much since. As a bonus for me, I was travelling by train rather than driving, and I was also taking the slow train. I did consider going via London and using the high speed link down to Ashford, and whilst that probably would have been a bit quicker, I was keen to travel cross-country, at least on the journey there, partly inspired by the book On the Slow Train. My journey was in four legs and took me from Newbury to Reading, Reading to Redhill, Redhill to Tonbridge, and finally Tonbridge to Ashford. I have travelled to Reading countless times, and Redhill a couple of times before, but the journey from Redhill was all new. A lot of the track seemed to be in cuttings, or so tree-lined that the view was obscured, but when the track did open out, the unrestricted views of the Sussex and Kent countryside were stunning, especially the oast houses, which are a distinctive memory from my childhood. On my return journey, time was a little tighter so I took the train to Victoria, crossed London by tube to Paddington, and then headed home from there, quite tired and looking forward to the weekend.

Determined to get some more exercise this weekend, I set off on another 30 mile bike ride, in search of new sights, roads and trails. My ride took me out through Ashmansworth, Faccombe, Linkenholt, Upton, Wildhern, and then back up through St. Marybourne, Stoke and Crux Easton. During the ride I was looking for something out of the ordinary to photograph. Don't get me wrong, the scenery was spectacular throughout most of the ride, but this disused petrol pump, on the Finkley Road to the north of Andover, fitted the unusal requirement quite nicely.

Vintage petrol pump, near Finkley, Andover

Vintage petrol pump, near Finkley, Andover


Monday, 10 September 2012

An unexpected weekend treat on the River Kennet

What a great weekend we've just had here in the southern UK. More spectacular weather, and fortunately I found the time to enjoy it. My original plan on leaving work in London on Friday afternoon was to pay a visit to Harrow-on-the-Hill, but on leaving the office and heading towards the tube, I could not bear the thought of squeezing myself in, even for the relatively short distance, and then having to get a later, busier train home to West Berkshire. So, my plans changed and I left my search for space to Saturday and Sunday.

On the Saturday I managed a 35 mile mountain bike ride down to Whitchurch, where I was forced to stop and seek comfort in coffee and cake after having managed to fall of my bike earlier in the ride.

After having eaten myself better, although sore and bruised, I continued my ride down towards the staggering beautiful Long Parish (which has a couple of excellent looking pubs that I need to make a note to visit some time), and then headed back up through The Wykes, St. Marybourne and Crux Easton.

So Saturday was my planned space but I had some bonus space on the Sunday when I managed to fit in a walk along the River Kennet, looping back along the Kennet and Avon canal before watching one of the boys playing football. This particular walk west from Newbury is one of my all time favourites. I love the way the transition from road, to rough road, to gravel track, to muddy lane, to footpath happens. It always reminds me of the line in the Neil Young song, Thrasher, "Headed out to where the pavement turns to sand". The only thing that spoilt the image was the sound of the traffic thundering along the A34 bypass. If only the railway line that used to run over this bridge was still running (admittedly it only went as far as Lambourn, but the sentiment is the same).

Disused railway bridge on the Newbury to Lambourn line

River Kennet, just west of Newbury

 River Kennet, just west of Newbury

River Kennet, just west of Newbury 

River Kennet, just west of Newbury

So that's it for this week I suspect. I am going to be finding some space in Kent later in the week so check back on or after the weekend to see what I found there.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

A lunchtime stroll through W2 (aka more London mews)

Well we seem to be having a bit of a late summer here in the south of the UK. The last few days have been wonderful and the forecast for the weekend looks good (I'm hoping to fit in a visit to the coast, but will have to wait and see what else is happening). On Tuesday evening this week, I managed to fit in a walk after work around the area between Paddington and Hyde Park. I came across some incredible mews that I'm pretty sure I'd not seen before, or if I had I had not paid them much attention. Walking through them as the night drew in was quite something, and in fact quite spooky in one place where I actually came across some horse stables in Bathurst Mews. I made a mental note to revisit again but during the day, and was fortunately able to do this the following lunch time, between meetings. I took about 20 pictures but these 6 below are my favourites.

The first picture is of an unnamed alleyway which runs between Hyde Park Garden Mews and Hyde Park Gardens. This is the view looking north through the alley.

Unnamed alleyway between Hyde Park Garden Mews and Hyde Park Gardens, London W2

The next 2 photos are of Bathurst Mews. From the east, Bathurst Mews is entered through a small tunnel covered with foliage, and opens out into a wondefully cobbled road, lined with private benches and potted plants and trees. At the western end, as the mews turns south to rejoin the road, are the various stables which spooked me the night before. The odd car, delivery and maintenance vehicles drove along the mews but I managed to get these photos between the traffic.

Looking west along Bathurst Mews, London W2

The eastern entrance to Bathurst Mews, London W2

 The next photo is of a place as opposed to a mews but has the same feeling so I included it here. The bright white of the house at the end against the perfect blue sky came out quite well I think, and I love the lamp in the foreground.

Clarendon Place, London W2

The final 2 pictures are of Hyde Park Gardens Mews. Another wonderful London mews within a stone's throw of busy, main roads and offices, but walking along it I felt I could have been anywhere.

Looking east along Hyde Park Gardens Mews, London W2

The eastern entrance to Hyde Park Gardens Mews, London W2


Couldn't help noticing that the amazon adverts above came up with Francis Bacon's studio in Reece Mews, which is in a mews in an area familiar to me but one which I don't think I've ever visited. Maybe I can visit and report back on that one over the next couple of weeks, although next week I will be finding space in Kent, and the following week in mainland Europe ... so stay tuned folks.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

A big cat in Regent's Park ?

After a manic day in the London office last Wednesday, despite the grim weather I was determined to escape after work and find some space. Wednesday's trip started from Spring Path in Hampstead, which gets a mentioned in the London's Lost Rivers book which I'm half way through, in relation to the River Tyburn. My wanderings took me through a couple of small alleyways and eventually down through Belsize Park, Primrose Hill and on into Regent's Park. The first photo was taken from the top of Primrose Hill overlooking the city. The weather had improved slight;y by this time, but the photo is not one of the clearest, which I'll put down to the moody weather.

 With all the recent news about a lion being spotted in Essex, I couldn't resist taking this photo of a wild cat wooden sculpture in Regent's Park.

And further along the route I came across a wooden sculpture of a fox.

Something I always forget about Regent's Park is its size. A couple of times I thought I was about to reach the edge, but was surprised to find yet more park to walk through. Without a train to catch this additional escape time would have been a bonus, but I was worried about missing my train home, so the last few minutes throug hthe park were somewhat hurried, then straight on to a bus back to Paddington in time to get my train.


On escapes nearer to home, I have managed quite a few bike rides since returning from holiday. Yesterday I cycled up towards Combe Gibet, near Kintbury. My post holiday fitness still leaves a lot to be desired but I did achieve a personal best on one of the hill climbs, although I should point out that I am still a long way off the rest of the pack ... something to aim for though I guess. At the moment I'm not sure what escapes I can manage next week, particularly as the evenings start drawing in and the opportunity to walk in the light after work becomes restricted.

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