Thames Path, Greenwich Peninsula to London Bridge

What I really wanted to do yesterday was a long coastal walk only the weather wasn’t that good for a coastal walk and it would have taken us ages to get there and back so in the end, we decided to walk much closer to home and do a part of the Thames Path we didn’t know. We started at Royal Victoria Dock DLR, took the cable car across Thames to Greenwich Peninsula and then walked just over 9 miles to London Bridge. The cable car was fascinating, on a cloudy morning it offered views of an underdeveloped and unloved (it seemed) parts of greater London and it also quietly paved the way for what will soon be happening with underground stations – naming them after corporate brands that sponsored them.

from cable car

The view from the cable car. Also fascinating, the people who were on it – Italian tourists shared our cabin, there was a family with a lot of suitcases (just landed at City Airport nearby?), families without suitcases, groups of girls, single men with cameras and I was wandering if people used it regularly or just came to experience it once, like us.

cable car supports

 

I think these were the supports. The video inside didn’t really give any information. Perhaps waiting for further sponsorship?

city beyond dome

 

View from the car’s descent across the river to Docklands. We rounded the O2 and the peninsula, which is still being developed (didn’t look that different from my last visit here, 6-7 years ago when it was first being developed). A bit of a no man’s land. Walk into Greenwich was a bit of a trudge – narrow footpaths and nothing much to see so we were happy to reach the Cutty Sark pub for a break. The weather started to look a little more promising too.

city across

 

An inkling of a blue sky above Canary Wharf. Greenwich itself was pretty busy so we didn’t stop and continued on through Deptford, the Thames Path leaves the river here for a while. Back on the path and we’re still seeing Canary Wharf. The bends in the river make you think you haven’t walked very far.

docklands still visible

 

I love the Docklands architecture and this need to make a tower block look ‘interesting’. The brown and glass building next to the red crane on the left of the picture looked like it had a Grecian temple on its top. As you would. On our side of the river, the Surrey Docks Farm was much more interesting but we still had quite a way to go and were keeping a good pace so we continued onto Rotherhithe. A quick break at The Mayflower pub, which we liked the look of, turned into a quick lunch. The pub, named after the pilgrim ship that sailed from the spot (I thought the pilgrims originally sailed from the United Provinces/ Dutch Republic and pretty much only waited for a passage in London but never mind), was packed but I’d say the beer selection was better than the food. Shortly after, we had our first view of Tower Bridge and central London beyond.

tower bridge ahead

 

From here on, the path got progressively busier. As we neared the Tower Bridge, it became decidedly chaotic with hordes of tourists, especially outside the Tower. We crossed the river here, meandering through groups of tourists, deciding to walk to London Bridge on the City side of the river as we have never done that before and then caught the bus home. I do wander what ten more years could bring to the eastern area we walked, I guess it will never become as chaotic and attract tourists but I do hope it becomes a bit more loved.

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Wales and Shropshire, Cowlton to Bridges walk

I do love it when a plan comes together! We were spending a few days in Wales, in the simply glorious countryside near Wales-Shropshire border and I was desperate for a good long walk. I had some ideas of where we could walk, Beloved was a bit unsure for a couple of reasons – firstly, we were staying with his family so had to consider all ages, fitness and interest; secondly, the weather forecast said rain, rain, then more rain and thirdly, while visiting last year, we discovered that some paths had all but disappeared and Beloved wasn’t all that keen on freestyling through bracken, mud or bog. Then on Tuesday morning, no rain. An idea for a walk came into my head that I knew would appeal to everyone – it hadn’t been attempted before, it ended at a great pub we all know and it had plenty of pick up points en route for anyone who got too tired. It started with a walk up Cowlton hill but here we compromised a little by driving to near the top so that the kids wouldn’t get too tired too soon. We then walked for just over 8 miles past Lan Fawr and Corndon Hill (which looked a pretty steep climb), crossed the A488, then up Oldgrit and past Grit Hill to The Bog where we had a break and a slice of cake in the tea room, then up Stiperstones and down to Bridges and a well-deserved pint of Three Tuns’ Cleric’s Cure.

Wales view from Cowlton

View from Cowlton into Vale of Montgomery. Beloved and I climbed up Cowlton through bracken last year so we didn’t mind being given a lift part of the way up this time.

Wales view from Cowlton past Lann Fawr

View just past Lan Fawr, Beloved and I freestyled our way back down through the bracken on the left side last year looking for the path. Our path this year was along the lane.

Wales looking back at Corndon

After a while, we crossed the A488 and climbed past old disused mine shafts across Oldgrit, this photo is looking back at Corndon Hill and the way we came from.

Wales Oldgrit looking back

And, looking back at Oldgrit, sheep grazing and one of the disused mine shafts.

Wales Shelve Pool

Shelve Pool. We’d seen it on the map but it is hidden in woodland and fenced off. We found a way in through the fence and were rewarded with a lovely, peaceful scene. Quite marshy though so we weren’t able to stop for a picnic and continued on towards Stiperstones.

Wales bridges walk first view of Stiperstones

First glimpse of Stiperstones, the nine year old was a little worried about the distance but determined to continue. The weather was cool and cloudy, good for walking and as we neared The Bog, it started warming up. Our path was on a mild incline and by the time we reached the tea rooms we were in need of a break. Refreshed by a slice of cake and now joined by Beloved’s brother and mother, everyone was offered a lift up towards Stiperstones and then onto Bridges and everyone refused. We didn’t climb all the way up to Stiperstones, which would have been lovely but we’d walked up before and the afternoon was getting on. Beloved’s mother joined us at Stiperstones car park for the last three miles and a walk down the road to Bridges – we stayed on the road as it offered the best views and the most direct route.

Wales view from Stiperstones

Glorious views near Stiperstones car park.

Wales Bridges walk sheep and view

Wales Bridges walk sheep and view 2

Sheep and views, hardly any traffic and no other walkers. We’d seen a few people and cars at The Bog and Stiperstones car parks but once we headed towards Bridges, the road was pretty deserted.

Wales Stiperstones to Bridges view

The road we walked on can be seen just at top left of the photo. It is a fabulous drive and an even better walk.

Wales Stiperstones to Bridges rolling hills

And last photo of rolling hills. Fantastic day and the kids were pretty pleased with themselves for completing the walk.

Wales, Montgomery castle ruins and unpredictable weather

We’ve just come back from Wales, having spent a few days near Montgomery, staying at Beloved’s brother’s place. Marvellous time was had by all. Our first outing was to Montgomery, a cute little town with twee tea rooms and antique shops. The weather was not very promising, in fact rain was forecast for the duration of our stay. For the moment, the rain held off and we walked about the ruins of Montgomery castle, a fortification dating back to Norman times. Glorious views in all directions:

Wales montgomery castle view

 

East across Vale of Montgomery and the Welsh hills in the distance

Wales montgomery castle view tow shropshire

 

And north east, with Montgomery at the bottom right of the photo.

The castle ruins weren’t terribly exciting but quite good for climbing, here you can really see the ominous clouds coming in.

Wales Montgomery castle ruins

 

From the castle ruins car park we took a woodland footpath up to Town Hill with a memorial to first world war victims which Beloved’s brother hadn’t been to yet and wanted to see. The views were fabulous but I’d forgotten to charge the camera battery so don’t have any photos. Idiot. Since Offa’s Dyke is nearby, we thought about walking a bit of its path but the rain had set in by then and not everyone in our group was equipped or interested in a longer walk and we returned to the base for lunch. All in all, we may have only walked a couple of miles, so more of a ‘morning constitutional’ as opposed to a proper walk.

Very cross with self for forgetting to charge the camera battery earlier, I did so immediately on return to base and was glad to have done it as the sun came back out late in the afternoon and offered me a perfect opportunity to wander about the garden taking lots of photos. I do this every year.

Wales Holmwood view

View from the garden, glorious, no?

Wales Holmwood garden poppies

 

Wales Holmwood garden

Wales Holmwood garden thistle

Wales Holmwood garden leek in flower

 

The last photo is of a leek flower, did not realise leeks have such fantastic flowers! This is a very restrained selection from the rather large bunch of photos I took. I’ve a lot of photos from Wales…

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.

North York Moors, Pickering

We’ve come to Yorkshire for a walk this weekend. Didn’t expect it to be quite so hot. Don’t think we’ve ever had hot weather before while away for a walking weekend so this is a whole new thing for us. We got to Pickering yesterday afternoon and only had a walk about the little town. It felt too hot to do a longer walk, especially after train, train and a very late bus it took to get here. Think we needed acclimatising. yorkshire pickering castle 1Pickering castle, which is clearly a ruin. We walked around but didn’t go in. It’s managed by English Heritage so they obviously charge an entry fee and I am not sure that there’s enough to see once inside to merit it. So we had a lovely little walk around it instead.yorkshire tree by pickering castleAnd spotted this tree with huge mushrooms growing from it. We also went to look at Pickering Station, which has a steam train service to Whitby. The station was very cute but I didn’t take any photographs. We later got lucky with a steam train which passed us at the crossing nearby.yorkshire steam trainI’ve planned a walk tomorrow for which we take the steam train up towards Whitby, then get off and walk back. Can’t wait. Today we’re off to see ruins of an abbey, which should be fun.

Strawberry cheesecake

strawberry cheesecakeThought I’d use the last of the strawberries picked on Friday in a cheesecake for Beloved’s family get together. It went down a storm, which was nice but it was on the verge of collapsing by serving time – it was so hot yesterday, I don’t blame it. Still looks quite presentable, I only managed this one photo as was acting as ‘official photographer’ and services were needed elsewhere. It was rather good, light and not too sweet, served with quite an intense strawberry puree on the side. I scaled up a basic recipe from Good Food website and just made it a little more interesting by adding a few ingredients and not scaling up the amount of sugar used. 

Recipe and method – for a 25cm spring form tin, serving 12. For the base – 280g digestive biscuits, 50g desiccated coconut, 1tsp cinnamon, 125g unsalted butter, melted. For the cheese layer – 680g cream cheese – I used 500g ricotta and 180g mascarpone, 100g icing sugar, 1 vanilla pod, 300ml double cream. For the top – 600g strawberries, 25g icing sugar, 1tbsp water, couple of sprigs of mint to garnish.

To make the base: crush digestive biscuits by pulsing in the food processor or put in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. Put into a bowl, add desiccated coconut, cinnamon and melted butter. Mix well to combine then press evenly into a 25cm spring form tin lined with parchment. Chill in the fridge for an hour to set.

For the cheese layer: sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Split the vanilla pod in half lengthwise, scrape the seeds into the bowl with the icing sugar. Add the cream cheese and mix with an electric hand held whisk until smooth. Takes seconds. Add the double cream and whisk until the mixture just starts to thicken – this will help it set and keep its shape but no need to overwhisk here. Pour on top of the base, smooth out the top, working from the edge towards the centre making sure there are no air bubbles. Chill in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours – overnight is better. 

For the top: take 300g strawberries and the icing sugar, add 1tbsp water and puree until smooth. Sieve and leave to one side. Take the cheesecake out of the fridge half an hour before serving and carefully remove the side of the tin. Arrange rest of the strawberries on top, roll up mint leaves tightly then slice thinly and sprinkle over the strawberries. Pour the puree on top or on the side as you serve. 

Perfect for a hot summer day.