Pastures new: Blackberries and plums

Here we are in July. That means we are into the second half of the year. Can you believe it? Time is just flying by.

This month began in earnest with visit from Down Under in the form of my stepmum, B. Originally from Kent, B emigrated as a young adult and built a life in Australia before meeting and marrying Dad over thirty years ago. So at far-too-early o’clock on July 3rd, I collected her at Heathrow Arrivals and brought her back to Gidday HQ for a few days of rest and recuperation.

To pass the time we spent a few hours at the Museum of London and a day playing tourist on one of London’s Hop-On-Hop-Off buses – as well as eating some delicious ice-cream in Green Park – before deciding to do some exploring closer to home. Dad and B are committed geocachers and B was keen to add a London badge to their treasure-hunting travails. The geocaching app told us there were two caches near Gidday HQ so with the sun shining hotly overhead, we set off.

The first was a relatively easy find in Victoria Park just a five minute walk away. The GPS on B’s phone pinpointed the approximate location and the clues led us straight to the cache itself. Bingo!

Bev - Victoria Park Jul17

All smiles after finding B’s first London geocache nearby

Inspired by our success, we decided to head to another cache a little further away. We made our way down Long Lane to where the North Circular passed overhead and followed an unassuming footpath up to the right behind the row of houses.

This is how I found out about Long Lane Pasture.

Long Lane Pasture is a meadow in the middle of North London suburbia that is chock full of local flora and fauna. It covers 2.6 hectares running parallel to the busy North Circular on one side, the Underground’s Northern Line along its south-westerly border and a host of allotments to the north-west.

LLP Map

We entered via the gate located at the south-east corner and wandered along the grassy paths. We passed blackberry bushes and plum trees swathed heavily in almost-ripe fruit, trees cast their intermittent shade on our shoulders and butterflies flitted busily between the wildflowers ignoring, or simply oblivious to, our passage. The busy North Circular Road faded from our minds as we immersed ourselves in this wonderful patch of nature busily getting on with ‘its business’.

Long Lane Pasture

LLP Redcurrants and plums

With exception of a short period during World War II, Long Lane Pasture has remained uncultivated since 1912 when the Mayor of Barnet planted an oak tree here to commemorate it as a recreational community space. In the early 1980’s it was closed to the public because of proposed roadworks and the meadow lay unattended until 1999 when the Council decided to sell the land for housing development. This prompted a public campaign to keep the pasture as a green space and the Council’s decision was finally overturned in 2006.

The Long Lane Pasture Trust was formed to replace the pressure group originally set up to prevent houses being built on the land. The Trust was first granted a licence to access the land in 2005 and then in the following year, was granted a 25-year lease to protect, restore and manage the Pasture, safeguarding the land for the benefit of the community. In 2012/2013, Long Lane Pasture was awarded a Community Green Flag for high quality management of public green spaces, one of only 43 awarded across London at the time.

For two hours each Saturday morning volunteers gather at the pasture to help maintain the meadow – weeding, trimming, mowing and clearing rubbish (shame on those who leave it!) – and also support school visits and special event days.

We grew more and more delighted by the minute as we wandered around with one eye on the GPS (after all we had a geocache to find) whilst drinking in everything around us. We found some shade beneath the leafy drapery of a gorgeous willow tree at the far end of the Pasture and spent ten minutes or so wallowing in this welcome respite from the heat. Then it was on with finding the geocache before heading back out into the sun.

Under the willow tree (LLP)

Feeling absolutely thrilled to have discovered the Pasture, that evening I jumped on-line and registered as a supporter. I’ve also put the annual blackberry picking event – just three weeks away – in my calendar. Mmmmmm I do love blackberries.

So this unexpected adventure has reminded me that delightful things happen when you venture off your regularly beaten path – and it doesn’t need to be very far off either. It has me wondering what other delightful surprises are just waiting to be discovered…

ps…speaking of delightful surprises, the birthday countdown continues in earnest with just 17 sleeps to go. This in itself is not surprising if you know me at all but it would be uncharitable of me not to remind you of how much I love to be surprised and delighted – *hint* *nudge* *wink* and all that…

Beyond Lovers Walk

I have been stepping out at work as part of a campaign called Get the World Moving. This is a global initiative that targets employee well-being in businesses, getting companies to sign up and submit some employee teams in order to encourage more activity on a day-to-day basis. The short story is the ‘target’ is 10,000 steps each day for 100 days and I am just below that at an average (at day 52) of 9,585, a substantial  improvement on where I started.

Wearing a pedometer and recording the results each day is really fascinating with even the fit freaks amongst us (you know marathon runners, triathletes and the like) uniformly horrified at how sedentary our daily lives are. Whilst my activity is reasonable during the week, walking on my daily commute with one or two swims to top this up (each of my 1,600m dips adds 7,600 steps), it has particularly inspired me to do some sort of walking activity on the weekend whether this is just walking further to do errands, or even a walking tour or two. You see I do like to disappear into Chez Gidday on the weekend and though I might be busy, if I don’t leave the house I am flat out reaching 3,000 steps.

So armed with my Walkit app, I set out in yesterday’s mild sunshine and discovered some more of Finchley’s hidden gems.

I started by turning off the main road into the rather whimsically named Lovers Walk. As I ventured further away from Ballards Lane, the houses seemed to recede until it felt like a woodland path rather than a suburban shortcut.

Lovers Walk

I crossed the railway bridge, made a quick dog leg across Nether Street and continued beneath the leafy canopy to find a trickling stream – Dollis Brook to be exact…

Stream 1

…and a lovely patch of green sprawled under a cotton-cloud sky.

Open Space

Turning left I continued along the Dollis Valley Greenwalk, the path patchworked with summer sunshine and  dappled shade.

Path Montage 1

The brook continued its calm, rhythmic tinkling beneath the trees and I breathed in the lush green loveliness. At the same time I was in state of disbelief – had I really only just discovered this little slice of peace and quiet so close to home?

Path Montage 2

The path emerged on to Dollis Road, just near the viaduct.

Aqueduct 1

The viaduct was completed in 1867 as part of the old Edgware, Highgate and London Railway and today carries Northern Line underground trains between Finchley Central and Mill Hill East.

Aqueduct montage

Crossing beneath the arches, I followed the footpath around and turned left heading back up towards the main road again. After a little over 10 minutes, I found myself standing on Dollis Avenue.

Dollis Avenue houses

Dollis Avenue

The avenue curves around to the right and meets back up with Regents Park Road – I had previously ventured about 150 meters down the avenue from the main drag to the Royal Mail collection office and had never noticed much beyond the grey commercial buildings. So I was open-mouthed with surprise to find such salubrious accommodation no further than a 5 minute walk away.

Dollis Park

Soon I was back amidst the hustle and bustle of Finchley Central but not before I copped myself an eye and nose-full of this delicious lavender…

Lavender

All up I spent just over an hour wandering about 2 miles and it was great way to get out of the house and enjoy the discovery of something new. The funny part is that when Lil Chicky was visiting in January we geocached around the viaduct so it meant I could join up some geographic dots – and found a much prettier route to the viaduct as well.

The Greenwalk is actually 10 miles long and connects Barnet Gate Wood (the Battle of Barnet in 1471 was one of the final battles in the War of the Roses) with the northern extension of Hampstead Heath. I’m not so inspired that you’ll find me covering the entire 10 miles – that’s 16km – in one go but it seems I’ve found a good halfway point and the only decision required is really whether to turn left to the Heath or right towards history.

Who knew that Lovers Walk would yield all of that?

Kindred Spirits…

Each evening as the 82 bus trundles north up Finchley Road and navigates the lights at Henly’s Corner I find myself cheered by the thought of just a few more stops before I’m off for the short walk home. Henly’s Corner can be a nightmare for the traffic if things go wrong but most nights, it’s a fairly seamless crossing to deliver passengers to the bus stop on the other side so my optimism is usually well-placed.

As you reach the other side of the North Circular and start up Regents Park Road, there’s a big green ‘space’ to the left. It seems an odd place to position a patch of nature, right next to the heaving flow of traffic. Even odder is the statue – a naked woman raising her arms to the sky, her sword in one uplifted hand. As the bus merges back into the traffic from the stop, her brazen profile stands stark against the urban ‘wallpaper’ behind her. A silent silhouette, triumphant and still, while I sit, usually oblivious, immersed in my post-workday literary feast. 

Image source: Wikipedia

But a few weeks ago, too tired to read, I spent the entire journey from West Hampstead gazing out of the window and as I saw her, arms uplifted, I wondered how she came to be there. What’s the story here, I wondered?

So out came my trusty HTC One and before long I had the answer.

The Naked Lady (real name La Délivrance) was purchased by Lord Rothermere (the family of The Daily Mail fame) in 1920 and gifted to the district of Finchley. Initially local officials, in need of a war memorial, planned to place the statue – created to celebrate the first battle of Marne which prevented the Germans from capturing Paris in 1914 – at the entrance to Victoria Park. But our well-heeled aristocrat put his foot down – the current location or not at all – and so the statue was unveiled in its current location by Prime Minister David Lloyd-George in 1927.

The Naked Lady is the creation of French sculptor Émile Oscar Guillaume and stands, a bronzed 16 feet tall, at the southern edge of Finchley.

A bronzed goddess hey?

I always knew I’d find kindred spirits in Fab Finchley.


ps…speaking of kindred spirits, there are only 19 sleeps to go until my very own sibling kindred spirit arrives…la deliverance indeed!

Pastures New…

Yoohoo!

  Hellooooo!

    I’m over here!

   Coooooeeeee!!!

Now that I have your attention…

Gidday HQ has moved to pastures new.

Last weekend there were keys to exchange, cupboards to clean, movers to step around and goodbyes to say as I farewelled my little front window, climbed aboard the moving van and set off to begin a new chapter on the other side of the river.

As with all good moves, not everything went according to plan but I have arrived and can confirm I am safely ensconsed in the North London suburb of Finchley.

Day 1 – Morning: Many many many boxes to unpack
Day 1 – Evening: Kitchen done!

That’s not Finchley Road peeps (which does not go through Finchley as the name would suggest but rather skirts past West Hampstead in the south). Or East Finchley, lovely though it looks from the tube as it emerges into the night air on my commute home. Or even North Finchley, which is actually one stop too far.

No it’s Finchley peeps. Sometimes known as Church End but really, it’s just Finchley. Bit like ‘just Kym’ (no it’s not short for Kymberley). But I think I will call it Fabulous Finchley for I am determined that life’s next chapter will be filled with all things fabulous.

So yesterday it was time to explore my new neighbourhood (that is the one beyond my easy 5 minute commute to the station….ah bliss!)

Let’s start with a stroll along the street where I live…

The street where I live – look at that Autumn colour!

As I reached the main road (you can just see it in the above  picture if you squint hard enough), I decided to venture right towards North Finchley where, rumour had it, there would be a Carphone Warehouse outlet for me to kit myself out with a dongle. I was having withdrawal symptoms and missing you all dreadfully without internet at home!

Luxury Desserts – what’s not to like?

A little further along I came across a grassy stretch…

An unexpected patch of green right by the road.

…which actually heralded the entrance to local bowls club.

Doesn’t this make you want to kick up the leaves and hear them rustle underfoot?

A bit further on, the spires of the local church pierced the cloudy sky…

The local…church I mean

…and before long, I was in the midst of the hustle and bustle of North Finchley.

Desperately seeking dongle (and door stops actually) as I was, I gave a cursory glance to the myriad of fruit markets, continental food stores, factory outlets and tat shops that spilled out onto the footpath. Until a sweet, sweet sight brought a smile to my face…

Mr Simms is in North Finchley too!

Remember this discovery last Christmas?

Mr Simms in Kingston – a joyous discovery last year

Anyway, this is where the photos stop because by the time I bought my dongle, finally found door stops in Robert Dyas, stocked up on a few essentials at Boots and spent £9 on – yes, you guessed it – tat, I was on my way to that English bastion of all things delicious, Waitrose. Where I bought more stuff.

Which meant more bags (supplied by moi of course – we love to reuse) to carry home. 

Which meant the bus – 10 minutes to go 5 stops versus the 25 minute bag-free wander north earlier.

I think I’m gonna like it here.

Aah, Finchley.  Fabulous already!