Hackney loop, Lee River and canals

canal by Hackney Marsh

An 8 mile walk we did a couple of weeks ago, on a glorious Sunday morning. We headed across Hackney Downs and Clapton to Hackney Marsh, along Lee River towards the Olympics bit, then crossed to Hertford Union Canal, passing Victoria Park and back along Regent’s Canal. Canals full of boats – I don’t think I’ve seen this many boats around in the height of summer, people everywhere, glad to be out of winter coats. Lee River sparkling in the sun, magnolias out, a lovely spring morning.

canal by Hackney Wick

Hackney Lee loop magnolias 14

Victoria Park was positively heaving with people, we looked for quieter paths. Tourists claimed Regent’s Canal path, to the annoyance of cyclists and joggers and you could tell Broadway Market would have been packed. We stopped at Duke’s Brew and Que for sustenance and a pint instead before heading home.

Victoria park Hackney loop

Regent's canal by Queensbridge Road

 

So good to have this practically at our doorstep.

Just read, The Chateau by William Maxwell

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Oh dear, I haven’t been posting much lately, I haven’t been posting at all… What has happened is that I have thoroughly underestimated how much time I’d have to spend on study this time around. I’ve been studying part time for several years, inching my way to a history degree while working. I’ve been enjoying it immensely but the course I’m doing at the moment, on 20th century just has a huge amount of reading – some compulsory but mostly it’s all been so interesting that I can’t quite help myself so I read more and more: have already bought 14-15 books on top of what’s available through my course so this has basically taken over my life… Anyway, William Maxwell’s The Chateau arrived a few months ago as part of my Daunt fiction subscription and I picked it up – not deliberately other than on some subconscious level, perhaps, just as we were studying postwar reconstruction in Europe and Marshall Plan. As it happens, Harold and Barbara Rhodes, the couple at the centre of the story travel to France in 1948 to spend the summer and it was interesting to compare a fictional account with the political, social and economic I studied. It is a grand tour of sorts, albeit one that deals with search for friendships and intimacy rather than art and architecture of the old world. Barbara and Harold are a happy couple but many of the characters they meet are not. For the French, there are burdens of years spent under German occupation, of wartime destruction, rationing. The Americans, on the other hand, appear to have it all, confidence, youth, nylon stockings, sugar and hunger to see, experience, do. ┬áMuch of the story takes place at the chateau where Barbara and Harold spend a couple of weeks and later in Paris where they see some of the people they’d met at the chateau again. There are uncomfortable silences, stilted conversations and misunderstandings, not helped by the language barrier when all Barbara and Harold want is to be accepted, to be open with everyone they meet, to make friends. Barbara and especially Harold spend a lot of time worrying whether they have said or done the right thing, hurt when it seems that someone they’d reached a level of intimacy with one day, reverts back to coolness or aloofness next time they meet. I enjoyed this book a lot, it is a wonderful study of character, what we present to the world and what we keep inside. Beautifully written and engaging, it’s a rewarding read. I’ve already passed it on for others to enjoy. I think it will be doing the rounds for some time.

 

Thames path Kew to Victoria

First walk in ages and a fantastic day for it on Saturday. We met Beloved’s Pater familias at Kew, where we looked at fabulous orchids, then walked the Thames path to Barnes. Pater familias and M left us here while Beloved and I continued along the path to Victoria. 12 miles in total – a good length considering we haven’t walked for a very long time.

kew gardens

 

We were at Kew as the gardens opened to public in glorious sunshine on Saturday morning. Spring in the air (finally!) and snowdrops on the ground (yay!)

snowdrops

 

Also crocus carpets, I do love a carpet of flowers!

crocus carpet

 

Mindful of holding everyone up, I resisted the urge to throw myself on the ground and take lots and lots of crocus close up photos, besides the grass was wet. We were also about to go see the orchids – there’s currently an orchid festival at Kew until 9 March and I was about to take a lot more photos.

orchids

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orchid display

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Pater familias said that Kew relies on volunteers to help bring the annual festival about, sounds like a marvellous thing to be involved in. There is also a new hybrid orchid Kew created for this year, a speckly fuchsia and white, which you can buy. Unfortunately, I couldn’t carry one with me but wouldn’t mind going back to get it now that I’ve finally learned how to look after orchids. I’d recommend visiting Kew while the orchid displays are still on, although best to do this early in the morning, it was already getting busier as we left.

Leaving Kew Gardens, we walked along the Thames path to Barnes, this stretch of river is lovely and quiet.

tree by thames

 

Barnes itself was busier, we stopped for coffee and at the farmers market where I picked up a couple of apples for sustenance and then continued, on our own towards Hammersmith. We used to live in Hammersmith years ago and haven’t been back to the area much, the riverside in particular has been built up a lot since we moved.

birds on old barge

 

Still, nice to see that not everything has been gentrified. In particular, the stretch around Putney and going into Battersea, the Imperial Wharf on the other side with all the new and newish builds is still completely characterless. Property developers eager to attract custom cover the empty retail units with posters of cappuccino drinkers, romantic looking couples and people with laptops – see, all so multipurpose! They seem very keen on cappuccino drinkers and also on ‘zen’ gardens – every newish development had tiny green spaces that had obviously been landscaped but not in a good way. Nothing nice to look at and even the pint of ale we stopped for at a pub in Putney lacked character. This old power station on the other side was the only interesting building for miles.

old power station

 

We thought about finishing the walk at Battersea bridge and getting the bus back home but decided against this, the last few miles had been fairly depressing looks wise so we thought going past Battersea Park and towards Victoria would at least give us nicer things to look at.

v&a bridge ahead

 

Beloved later said we should have continued onto Vauxhall as Victoria was very busy, as usual with travellers of all sorts. All in all, Saturday was a walk of two halves, from the beauty of Kew Gardens, a quiet and peaceful Thames path to Hammersmith and then the visual assault and the soullessness of the built up stretch of the river. Still, the weather was pretty glorious throughout and we got some much needed exercise.

Coconut and cranberry granola

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I’ve become pretty good at making granola regularly – so much cheaper than buying it on way to work. Have recently started using coconut oil with great results so I thought I’d post a recipe:

In a bowl, mix 400g rolled oats with 4 tablespoons each of: wheatgerm, flaxseed, linseed, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and desiccated coconut. I also added around 50g ground almonds to the above granola because they were nearing expiry date but I’ve made the same recipe without and it’s fine. You can also add other seeds or nuts. Melt 4 tablespoons of coconut oil and add 4 tablespoons of honey to combine, then add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well. Bake in an oven preheated to 150C fan for about 30 minutes, turning the granola every 10 or so minutes until it’s browned. Add a packet of dried cranberries (100g) to the finished granola and leave to cool, then put in an airtight container. This quantity usually lasts me for 3 weeks and I have it with a combination of soy milk and Greek yoghurt.

A good loaf

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A marvellous, plump loaf of sourdough from last week. Since I’ve been keeping two sourdough starters, I’ve been experimenting with using both, adding progressively more starter to the dough over the past couple of months. My proving basket is now too small so I used a ceramic bowl for this loaf, lined with double layer of muslin – I’ve used┬áthe muslin before so it’s nicely floured. It expanded beautifully in the oven – as you can see from the slashes. Next time I make bread, I’ll try to remember to measure how much of each starter I’ve used so I can post up a recipe – I’m still keeping to 500g flour (mix of white and wholemeal) and 58-60% hydration because with this quantity of starters, 65% hydration makes the dough too wet to handle. The final loaf was quite big – I cut it into thirds and froze two pieces. Going to have the last of it today I think.