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

orchids1

orchid display

orchid3

 

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.

North Yorkshire Moors, Sleights Moor + Newtondale to Levisham

heather on sleights moor

 

This is exactly what I wanted to see walking in Yorkshire, heather on the moors. This photo was taken yesterday late morning on Sleights Moor, which we reached via a short uphill walk from Grosmont, just over a mile of steep gradients. Perfect morning constitutional. We set off early yesterday and got the first North Yorkshire Moors Railway train from Pickering to Grosmont – unfortunately the first train wasn’t steam but diesel locomotive, Beloved thought this was because shovelling coal is too much hard work on Sunday morning. It rained but the rain had stopped by the time we reached Grosmont and by the time we were walking on the moor, the sun had come out. You could see over to Sleights village down below and Whitby, a little further on.

view to whitby sleights moor

We also saw lots and lots of grouse, Beloved, walking ahead of me had startled a few and they emit a sort of quacking sound like very annoyed ducks or geese. Very funny. This whole time, we were completely alone on the moor. On our way back, we saw a couple of people walking up following the road and then a couple more, walking on the road again. We had these glorious views all to ourselves.

view from sleights moor

 

Back in Grosmont, there was a steam train about to leave but they kindly let us on so we didn’t have time to wander about. We got off again at Newtondale Halt, which is a request stop – really a platform with a little cabin in the middle of the forest. One notice warning you about lack of signposting and another about adders. Ha. I picked up a stick, which actually came in pretty useful later when I managed to sprain my ankle yet again. Thankfully no adders.

The walk was meant to have taken us over the Hole of Horcum but the path was not very well signposted so we ended up walking along a ridge with the Hole a little way away to our left. It wasn’t very far and only a short climb but no clear paths to it, just a lot of bracken and heather. We already had great views from where we were so decided to stay on the same path and forget the Hole.

newtondale halt view towards levisham

Great views on all sides, the moors railway running along. While sitting on the train, you don’t really get much of an idea of the scale – you mainly see forest on either side. The path is just so much more interesting. Yet not many people seem to be enjoying this. We saw only one family coming from Levisham as we were climbing up shortly after leaving Newtondale Halt and then no one else until we were  almost at the end of the walk. We then saw a few little groups – people probably just driving up to Levisham and coming out for a little stroll after lunch.

newtondale halt towards levisham looking back

 

View back, we’d walked all along the edge on the right. We found a path down, crossed the railway tracks and then walked to Levisham station, reaching it with just a few minutes to spare before train back to Pickering. In all, we walked just over 9 miles. A decent walk overall with two little climbs and stunning views.

Interestingly, the trains we took were pretty busy. The stations full of people lined up to see trains arrive and depart. Photo below is taken at Goathland station, with people taking photos lining the platform and the little bridge. The paths, in contrast, were pretty deserted. I don’t know whether we’re here at a particularly weird time of the year but it was a very sunny weekend so you could imagine people wanting to go out and about – probably only to sit down again though.

Goathland platform with people

 

 

Helmsley and Rievaulx

rievaulx church view NWWhen I thought about coming to Yorkshire for a walking weekend, one of the main criteria for choosing a base to stay in was to have an abbey within easy reach. Hence Pickering, from here, Helmsley is half an hour bus ride and Rievaulx Abbey a 3 mile walk. It was a hot day so we walked fairly slowly from Helmsley to Rievaulx. The path follows the Cleveland Way with some fabulous views.cleveland way to rievaulxThe Abbey, dating from the 12th century was a home to Cistercian monks, it was dissolved, like all the others by Henry VIII and a little museum on the site tells you what the Tudors used the dismantled lead from the roof or stained glass window pieces for after the dissolution. What is amazing is how much of the abbey still remains today – Rievaulx is one of the most complete ruins in Yorkshire. There is certainly a lot more of the church remaining than at Whitby. We were blessed with good weather although the forecast did mention possible thunderstorms and I did wander how atmospheric the whole place would have been with thunderstorms.rievaulx church columnsI took loads of photographs, even took a tripod with me, just in case and also to weigh the rucksack down, as if it weighed nothing in the first place. Did I take the tripod out, no. Still, we spent a good couple of hours walking slowly around, taking photos and admiring the soaring arches. I do love a soaring arch.rievaulx more church columnsThere were a few people about but it wasn’t very busy, what I liked about it most is that people seem to choose Rievaulx Abbey as a good picnic spot, it is quiet, contemplative but also quite powerful in its own way.rievaulx flowers growing in the kitchen I also liked how nature is claiming this place back slowly but surely. Birds were nesting everywhere, flowers and grass growing in the most unlikely spots like the above, which I believe was the part of the old kitchen and infirmary.

Walk from Helmsley to Rievaulx is 3 miles and as we walked slowly to, we thought it would take ages to get back. It took no time at all. We pretty much marched it back to Helmsley, heat or no. The walk back actually felt like a good exercise. This is the last you see of the abbey (I took the photo on our way in though), it is a pretty stunning sight through gaps in the hedge.rievaulx first sightingOnce in Helmsley, we realised that we wouldn’t really have enough time to see the castle properly – another English Heritage property and another ruin. Beloved said we’d had enough ruins for one day and he was right, so we sat in a pub on the main square looking out at the world passing by. Could have done that for hours. Beloved also spotted a good deli so we stocked up on honey, chutney and local cheese. We only did 6 miles in the end so not a long walk at all by our standards but very enjoyable.

Strawberry picking and jam

I have my very own strawberry jam! Very excited! As it’s the first time I’ve ever made it, thought it would be nice to go to a pick your own farm for strawberries. Took a day off work and set off early to Parkside Farm near Enfield. Glorious weather and I’m glad I was there early before it got too hot. Glorious strawberries too.parkside farm strawberries close up

 

I only needed a kilo for the jam, recipe from River Cottage Preserves Handbook, but could not stop myself from picking way more than needed.

parkside farm strawberries

 

I also got very overexcited at broad beans, so yes, picked way more than needed…

parkside farm broad beans

 

I’d completely forgotten that the walk back to bus stop was up a hill. Total fruit & veg weight (including green onions and gooseberries) was 7+kg…

IMG_0636

 

Strawberry jam, made, bottled, cooling. I feel this will go very quickly but the girl at the farm shop said they’ll have strawberries right up until October so I can go back for more if needed.

Having picked a lot more strawberries than needed, am also making a cheesecake for Beloved’s family get together this weekend and strawberry ice cream. Should still have some left over too. Marvellous.

Rye and Winchelsea

Fabulous weather for a walk yesterday. The forecast was correct for once and I’d had a couple of walks worked out, one in Essex and one in Sussex, neither of which happened in the end because the trains weren’t running (Essex, boo) or were delayed from Victoria (Sussex, boo hoo). Beloved suggested a walk closer to home but I wasn’t ready to give up on the coast that easily so I searched the south coast for a beach walk and National Rail website for getting to beach without having to do plains/ trains/ automobiles and there it was – Rye. Pretty easily accessible on the high speed train to Ashford and then a local train. We did 11 miles walking from Rye towards Winchelsea, then Winchelsea Beach and back to Rye via nature reserve.

This had pretty much everything you’d want from a good walk: great scenery with lots of changes, good nature, not too many people, bits of history… Granted, it was flat but we’re totally out of shape so that wasn’t a bad thing. First, as we walked along the Saxon Shore path, lots and lots of sheep.

sheep walking rye

These two reminded me of the trio of ‘gossiping sheep’ we saw on a walk in Wales last year so I thought this photo would make a good companion piece. Quite a few sheep in this flock seemed happy to even pose for photos, later on in the day they’d all run away. Shortly after, we walked past the ruins of Camber Castle and decided to take a closer look.

camber castle

 

It was built by Henry VIII as defence against a French invasion but abandoned by 1627. There was lots of dried grass around, which made me think of scorched earth tactics and storming castles but managed to contain self and just walk around.

camber castle ruin

 

Love a good ruin, point me in a direction of old crumbling stones and leave me to it. Shame you couldn’t go inside and climb about this one.

My original plan was to bypass Winchelsea but our water supply was running low and Beloved was also quite keen on a pub stop so we did a detour. What a pretty little village. We stopped for a pint and we got some water, then went into the local church, St. Thomas’s (named after Thomas Beckett) and got a brief lecture on its history.

winchelsea church

 

It’s a medieval church, renovated since and now featuring some pretty good Art Deco-ish stained glass windows.

stained glass winchelsea church

 

Not that you can see all that much in my photo. As we’d already been to the pub and the majority of the walk was still ahead of us, we didn’t stay long in the church. I’d also decided to do a shortcut and walk the quickest route to Winchelsea Beach, forgetting the Royal Military Canal route and going across sheep pastures and dikes. The beach was windy and almost deserted.

the sea at winchelsea1

 

We sat in silence listening to the sound of wind and crashing waves. I took a lot of photos of crashing waves. We walked along the shingle beach back towards Rye, then into the nature reserve, where the scenery was completely different again, still and calm.

nature reserve rye

Lots of birds, lots of wild flowers and only a few dog walkers here and there. Good view towards Rye Harbour too (at least that’s what I think it was).

view towards rye harbour

 

We didn’t go into Rye Harbour but came back via the ruined castle although this time, we’d put the map away, decided to be clever and find our own shortcut then promptly got lost in the labyrinth of dikes, scaring a lot of sheep in the process. Eventually found a way out and back to Rye where we had just enough time to sample some very good ice cream before catching the train back. When we got to the station, the tiny platform was already pretty full with ten minutes to train and Beloved had visions of a hellish train journey back from Whitstable last year but all was well in the end and we were home in no time, exhausted, sunburnt (me, despite spraying self with lots of protection) and happy.

North Downs, Westhumble loop

Perfect day for a walk yesterday, warm and pleasant but very difficult to decide where to go. One option was to go to the coast, another was to go in search of bluebells and the last to go to Box Hill in Surrey. Bluebells are, by all accounts, not quite out (I wanted a proper bluebell carpet, not just a few here and there), the weather was a bit cloudy and coastal walk would have been better in the sun so we settled on Box Hill, in a roundabout sort of way. We did a loop, just under ten miles starting and finishing at Box Hill & Westhumble station, walking across Ranmore Common, then along North Downs Way up to Box Hill and back to the station. Scenery was fabulous, Ranmore Common in particular – proper ‘green and pleasant land’, gently rolling hills, woodland coming alive with spring flowers covering the floor and birds singing everywhere around us. The views from North Downs were excellent, even though it was cloudy, the sun would come through every now and then and light up a particular field or a tree. We took a little path just below the actual Downs Way and there are benches scattered along the way to sit and enjoy. Then, quite unexpectedly, as you loop around the Denbies Wine Estate and walk by Aschcombe Wood there they were – bluebells out in all their glory, a proper carpet! Cries of joy and happiness and a warning – bit of a photo overload…

bluebell carpet aschcombe wood bluebells aschcombe wood bluebells aschcombe wood carpet

After this, the rest of the walk was not as good – how can you top the bluebells! Even Beloved was impressed by the bluebells! Anyway, Box Hill was a bit of a let down. The climb was a good little workout albeit spoiled by people coming down, hogging the footpath. The top was heaving with people and cars, hordes of people just drive up then sit down – no wander this country is getting more obese by the minute. We walked about Box Hill too and the further we were from the car parks, the quieter it was. Thankfully, we managed to find a quieter route down through woodland. We stopped for a pint at the Stepping Stones pub in Westhumble, which is a pretty little village, then caught the train back to Waterloo.

trees on Ranmore Common Ranmore Common, we stopped here for a little picnic.

North Downs view from The Spains View from The Spains, North Downs Way.

north downs woodland in springNorth Downs Way, footpath by Denbies Wine Estate.

ransom flowers stepping stones car park Ransom flowers near stepping stones, Box Hill.

clover on mossy tree stump Clover growing on a mossy tree stump, Ranmore Common.

bluebell ashcombe wood And finally, a bluebell

 

Coconut buns and more spring blooms

IMG_0562

 

More of a muffin than a bun? Perhaps, they are light and lovely and coco-nutty, the name is of no concern. I was looking for something quick and easy to bake, remembered I had some desiccated coconut, looked up ‘coconut’ in recipe indexes at the back of Leith’s and Dan Lepard and the Coconut buns from Leith’s Baking Bible won = easy, quick, no mixer needed and only a few ingredients. Perfect. I did have to go out to get more milk and butter (also planning a tart for dinner) and could not resist taking photos of yet more spring blooms in the neighbourhood. They are only here for such a short time, one must make the most of them!

IMG_0561 IMG_0563

 

The sun in the first photo was deliberate, quite like the contrast. So, I’ve really spent most of the day in study, revising for end of course essay and baking something every few hours has provided sustenance and energy to keep me going. May just have another bun then get on with the tart for dinner.