The carnival is over

After an end to August that was bathed in glorious sunshine, Autumn has arrived under a bit of a cloud – literally. For several days now I have been pricking my ears at the sound of rain spattering on the kitchen skylight and have been caught in a few unexpected downpours (only to find myself sweating it out in my mac when the clouds lift ten minutes later). Suddenly layers – and umbrellas – are the things I need to be thinking about.

I was walking back from East Finchley on Monday afternoon – the sky drab with cloud and the air heavy with humidity – and decided to pop into Long Lane Pasture.

It’s been two months since I first discovered it during a geocaching exploit with stepmum-B. On a warm summer day back in July, we had plodded curiously along the grassy pathways, stopping to admire a bright flower, taste some small golden plums or wonder at an unusual plant. Profusions of ripening blackberries, just a few short weeks from plump purple readiness, lined the paths and we had been delighted to find a patch of cool relief under a draping willow tree by the railway fence.

LLP July montage

Since then, the blackberries have all but gone and with things having been mowed and generally tidied, it was clear that the volunteers had been hard at work.

LLP Sept (3)

LLP Sept (4)

LLP Sept (2)

This grass circle (above left) contains 17 different species of native grass which, apart from being hand-weeded, are left to grow wild.

And speaking of native, the middle picture below is a Guelder Rose (viburnum opulus), native to the British Isles and named for Gelderland, a Dutch province. It grows in hedgerows and still grows wild in the London Borough of Barnet although this particular shrub was planted in the Pasture. Birds love the berries but they are acidic and slightly poisonous for people.

LLP Sept (1)

I also got a gander at some rose hips (above left) – which I’d only ever experienced during my childhood as ‘jelly-in-a-jar’ – and all to the accompaniment of bees buzzing away industriously. On the way out I put some coins in the donation box by the gate to support the efforts of the volunteers who tend this little patch for the community.

I continued on towards home and as I passed Victoria Park, I noticed something unusual on the grass.

Victoria Park

No, the aliens have not landed. Rather over the last ten days, the park has been playing host to a kiddies’ carnival – rides, bouncy castles, you know the sort of thing I mean. I’d grown used to it on my morning walks. But on Monday it had vanished leaving nothing but the marked grass as testament to their stay. With the rain, it will no doubt green up even more quickly than usual but I was astonished at how much of an impact the ten days had made.

And speaking of astonished, the garden at Gidday HQ continues to surprise and delight, particularly given the absence of green-coloured-thumbs. Small sprays of roses keep bursting forth, the insects continue to buzz busily and a flourish of striking red poppies has cropped up along the garden fence.

ChezGiddayFlowers Sept17

I did not plant any of these but most days I wander out to visit them, enjoying their delicate freshness and vigour and wondering what other surprises might be in store. I’m also flabbergasted at their undaunted survival and the unequivocal claim they have made at the home of one so horticulturally-challenged.

Nature is a marvellous thing isn’t it?


As I type this, my feet are tucked into my cosy sheepskin slippers. The lounge room is noticeably darker without the sun streaming in and while the desk lamp illuminates the keyboard under my fingers, the floor lamp in the corner behind me casts soft light across the room. The days are already feeling shorter.

Yes peeps, the carnival is definitely over. Long summer days are already yielding to brisk autumn nights. The kids are back at school and daily commutes are crowded with the busy and the anxious again. The steady march of annual comfort telly – the flurry of The Great British Bake Off and the flounce of Strictly Come Dancing – has begun.

Nevertheless I’m hoping that it’s not quite over yet. A bit like the roses at Gidday HQ, just when I think they have finished their annual flowering, their scented petals burst forth again, enchanting me one last time.

Peach roses.JPG

So if you are looking for me, I’ll be the one still smelling the roses…and keeping my eyes peeled for a late burst of summer.

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…

The joys of Spring

After last weekend’s blast of ‘summer’ and a weekend spent topping-up my vitamin D levels, I was all set to embrace a week of glorious weather. I had a rummage through my ‘clothes-not-in-season’ wardrobe in the back room and wore dresses twice…which also means I got my bare legs out. (Disclaimer: no passersby were blinded by said bare legs.)

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A pretty frock always makes me feel like Spring has arrived and the week continued to deliver splashes of sunshine-y colour.

On Thursday, I was walking back to the office after popping out to the bank. The sun was dipping in and out behind the clouds and I was enjoying the warmth on my shoulders every time it emerged. Suddenly, I saw this appear on the footpath in front of me…

I let out a ‘wow!’ – yes, I said it out loud – and started looking around to work out where it all had come from – much to the amusement of the less excitable people sitting nearby. I finally looked up to see the coloured panels on this building’s roof…

Coloured awning (360x640)

…and thought how clever and delightful this was. It really made my afternoon.

Then Friday saw three of us skipping our regular supplied-at-work lunch to purchase some vittels for an impromptu picnic in the park opposite the office.

Westminster picnic (640x360)

Sitting on the grass in Victoria Tower Gardens – a pretty nice view for my part.

There were clusters of people scattered everywhere and sitting on the grass, enjoying the sun and admiring the view was a great way to cap off a truly Spring-like week.

Inspired by all of this Spring-iness, when I got back to my desk I made an appointment to have some new nail polish applied on Saturday…but by the time Saturday rolled around, Spring appeared to have ‘unsprung’ with the expected top temperature dropping to just 11C. So while I got my paws prettified as intended…

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This is O.P.I.’s Flamenco Pink for anyone who feels inspired to follow suit

…afterwards it was off for a) a bowl of soup and b) a scrumptious cappuccino to ‘warm me cockles‘.

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A real treat: an hour in my local cafe to read – I’m really enjoying Ferney by James Long at the moment – and sip excellent coffee.

You’d think that after living here for 12 years I’d not be so surprised by this meteorological u-turn but there you go…in any case I spent a delightful hour ensconced by the window, reading and people-watching.

One of my regular weekend chores is meal planning – aka how many quick meals I can prepare for during the week to prevent snacking on cheese and biscuits the minute I am in the door – so as I left the cafe, I decided to pick up some fresh veg on the way home.

There are a few Eastern European-type grocers on my way but I always visit the same one. I like to buy local, these guys were there when I first moved to Finchley and I like to be a regular customer. And as the quality is always good, I’ve never seen any reason to defect to any of the others that have opened (and for some, closed) over the last five years.

Anyway, I was unpacking my purchases at home and picked out the receipt from the bottom of the bag. I normally just throw it away but something made me glance down the list and I laughed out loud.

tomatoes

Now that’s my kind of tomato!

And that brings us back to Sunday again. The sky is blue and although it’s not the dizzying heights of the 26C we had last weekend, the patio is flooded with sunshine so it’s out with both the washing and my good self to soak up whatever Spring has deigned to offer.

Until next time, here’s wishing you all the joys of Spring.

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?