I am spending Christmas and New Year in Miami, so as a change of venue, here are some pictures that I took on a walk around Little Haiti in Miami.
I finish with a frozen iguana that fell from a tree in our garden, it has been there the last three days. Apparently this is normal when the temperature goes below 8C, and it will defrost and walk away when the temperature goes back up!
Section 3 goes from Crystal Palace Station to Streatham Common, it is pretty short at 6.5km and has some spectacular long views at various point through the walk. Definitely one to choose on a clear day. On leaving the station and Crystal Palace Park, you cross over Anerley Hill Road and go up a steep hill to Palace Square, which has an interesting juxtaposition of posh 19th Century houses on one side and a 1960s council housing estate on the other. Continuing uphill, we soon reach Belvedere Road, which just has posh houses, one of which has a blue plaque marking the residence of Benjamin Waterhouse-Hawkins, the designer of the dinosaurs in Crystal Palace Park.
Nest we go downhill through Westow Park which is a small park with a children’s playground, apparently this was the grounds of a young gentlemen’s school in the 19th Century, which is probably why the road when you exit the park is named College Green. From here you can see Norwood Recreation Park which we cross. Uphill after leaving we arrive at Beulah Hill, a busy road, but with some spectacular long-range views into central London.
Next, we go down Biggin Hill, which has views southward, and a pathway between two houses leads us into Biggin Wood, another small remnant of the Great North Wood.
Norwood Grove is uphill once again. It is the grounds of Norwood Grove House a Grade II listed mansion with a beautiful Cedar tree and more southward views, this time towards Croydon, the number of cranes indicating that this skyline will get more crowded in the coming years.
Norwood Grove is joined to Streatham Common, the first part you reach is The Rookery, just to the left of the Capital Ring and this is a Grade II listed Historic Garden. It is certainly worth strolling through, it has ornamental ponds, beautiful old trees and attractive herbaceous borders. It was on this site that the “Streatham Springs” were discovered, and The Rookery was originally the grounds of a now demolished spa hotel. The grounds were bought by public subscription after the demolition of the house, in order to prevent them from being developed for new housing. The waters from Streatham Springs were said to be “beneficial in Bilious and Liver complaints, headaches, jaundice and digestion”. Just outside is “The Rookery Cafe” which serves teas, coffees, sandwiches and other dishes. It also has a vibrant community notice board.
From here Streatham Common slopes gently downhill towards the London Road, giving nice long views to the west. It also looks attractive from the road, its slope displaying the families out enjoying the sun during the summer. The Common has an annual kite day, regular fairs, a firework display in autumn and a large open-air nativity scene at Christmas. London is lucky to have so many, well maintained, green spaces for such a large city and Streatham Common is a fine example of this.
It seems that I was one of the few people who liked The Millenium Dome, as it was called when it was called when it was first built. I had a couple of very enjoyable days there at the start of the century. So, when I was given the tickets to walk over the roof of it, as a birthday gift, I was delighted. It’s called the O2 arena now and the walk over its roof is “Up at the O2” with a tagline of “Get over it” – which might be a reference to how unpopular the venue was when it was opened.
The tours run every 15 minutes from roughly 10am until 10pm, although the start and finish times do vary from day to day. You can book them a long way in advance, but I would recommend waiting until you have a good idea of what the weather will be like before booking. They run whatever the weather, rain or shine and only cancel if there are gale force winds or if there is lightning within 5 miles.
It was a lovely sunny October day, the 30th, on the day we did it and although I’d imagine it would be an interesting experience in a thunderstorm, I suspect it would not be as pleasant. The walk up and down is quite steep at times, 30% maximum gradient, but the path is wide, and you are hooked up to a safety harness, so the journey to the top and back did not feel dangerous at any point. There are grips to hold your shoes on the steepest parts, but I bet the surface becomes quite slippery in the rain.
The podium at the top is big and provides beautiful panoramic views of the city skyscrapers and of the Thames east of London. The only cameras you are allowed to bring are those that will fit inside your zipped pockets. They do have gilets with zipped pockets, that they will lend you, if your jacket does not have zipped pockets. The pillars do make it a bit difficult for someone of my limited photographic ability to get photos that do justice to the views. The maximum group size is twenty and our guide, was very helpful with lots of information and offers of picture taking.
Hidden City Adventures provide an option of three treasure hunts taking you around different parts of London, guided by clues sent to your mobile phone. The one we chose to do was Moriarty’s Game, a Sherlock Holmes type mystery that led us around Fitzrovia and Mayfair.
The walks are set in the real world and do involve you interacting with various people along the way -such as going up to a barista in a certain coffee shop and telling them that the white knight sent you (not an actual clue, by the way!). It will involve real detective work and the clues are quite challenging, but this all adds to the sense of achievement when you actually figure them out. You should think of the experience as a day out, rather than a brisk walk, because although we covered a distance of 3km, it took us around three hours with breaks for drinks or snacks as we sat and worked on the various clues.
The games have been set up with great care by people who are interested in London because they bring you through surprising areas and spaces that you would not otherwise see. I have lived in London almost my entire life and there were some places that I didn’t realise existed right in the heart of town. I would say, that it is a social activity – best undertaken with at least two or possibly a small group – as working out the fiendish clues together can be a fun, bonding experience. Also, you should be aware that you will need to add the cost of stopping for coffee or drinks, two or three times during the walk, to your budget for the day.
Having said that, this is a great day out, it involves a small amount of exercise, that you can take at your own pace. It has great puzzles that will stimulate your brain. It is a good social activity, that involves interacting with both unknown people and members of your group, you get a nice sense of achievement when you complete it…. and most of all it is fantastic fun!
The official walk is from Woolwich foot tunnel to Falconwood bridge and is 11.7km. The nearest train stations are Woolwich Arsenal station and Falconwood station. This adds a little under a km to the walk and is well worth the extra because Woolwich Arsenal and Woolwich Market are both interesting in their own right. Also, Woolwich Arsenal is a station on the newly opened Elizabeth line.
The Woolwich Market sign is the first thing you will see on leaving the station and although it is possibly not as vibrant as it has been at times in the past, there has been a market in that square for over 400 years! Walk through the market, through Woolwich Arsenal, a mixture of ancient cannons and modern apartments and just before you arrive at the Thames you will come to a lovely piece of open-air art – “Assembly” by Peter Burke. When it was first installed, many people (including me) thought it was by Anthony Gormley, but although there is a similarity in their work (both brilliant), this is definitely more in Burke’s style.
Soon we arrive at the entrance to Woolwich Foot Tunnel which goes under the Thames. This is the official starting point and when we emerge from this in a few weeks’ time, it will signify the completion of the Capital Ring. It was built in 1912 and you are allowed to cycle through as well as walk. If you have a car or lorry there is the Woolwich Free Ferry, I guess this would also be an option if you were claustrophobic and did not wish to walk under the river. There has been a ferry at this point for possibly a thousand years, there is reference to it in the Doomsday book in 1086.
This part of the Thames was a Royal Naval Dockyard in the times of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Many of the most famous ship were built here including the Ark Royal, HMS Vanguard and HMS Beagle, made famous by Darwin’s voyage. The Thames Barrier has been here since 1984, built after the 1953 floods in which hundreds of people drowned.
This is where we leave the river and head south through a series of parks. Maryon Park and Maryon Wilson Park were both originally sandpits and Maryon Park was the setting for the 1966 film “Blow Up”. Next up is Charlton Park which holds Charlton House, which was the home of the aforementioned Maryon Wilson Family. It looks very imposing, a fine example of a Jacobean house, it was built in 1612.
Then we go through Hornfair Park, where the infamous Charlton Horn Fair used to happen until it was banned in the 19th Century because of continuous “unseemly behavior”. Tut, tut, those naughty Victorians! On to Woolwich Common where the Royal Military Academy was situated until it moved to Sandhurst in 1948. This is where Generals like Gordon, Kitchener and Wingate were trained. Off the Common we cross Shooters Hill, which could be named for the soldiers that used to train here or for the Highwaymen for which it was notorious. Dick Turpin plied his trade here.
Next, we go through a series of woods. Castle Wood which holds the triangular, Severndroog Castle, which is named after a pirate fortress in 18th Century India. This is the highest point of the Capital ring, giving long views over south London. Jack Wood is an oak wood and has a beautiful carpet of leaves, if you manage to visit it in a season when it hasn’t been too wet.
Oxleas Meadows lead into Oxleas wood. Oxleas Meadows has a lovely cafe which does tea, coffee, sandwiches and hot food. This also has lovely long views over the South of London. Oxleas Wood has many ring-necked parakeets. Bright green and noisy, you are likely to see them in many places on the Capital Ring, but they are in abundance here.
Finally, a walk through Eltham Park North to Falconwood footbridge and then left to Falconwood station to catch the train back to London Bridge. A lovely 12.5k walk through leafy south London and I would guess that less than 1k of it was on city streets. If you have a morning or afternoon to spare in London this is a great way to spend it!
The Capital Ring is a 125km walk around London, mostly through parks and greenways, split into 15 parts – each starting and finishing near a bus, train or tube station. It is one of seven strategic London Walks that was part of a plan to make London the walking capital of Europe in the early 2000s. I don’t know what became of that plan, but the walks are still there. Leaflets were printed for each section of the Capital Ring and the London Loop at the time, which I still use, although London has much changed in the meantime, so I also use an updated downloadable map from Walk London as a backup these days.
I particularly like the Capital Ring series of walks as each section is manageable without taking up the whole day and it still brings you to interesting parts of London that you are unlikely to visit for another reason. It is quite well signposted, the signs have Big Ben in blue with a green ring, made up of arrows, around it.
I first walked the Capital Ring in 2010 and again in 2017. I also walked it in 2020 when it was very quiet due to Covid, so this will be my fourth time round. It is interesting to see the things that have changed …. and the things that have remained the same. It has some lovely views, some stunning buildings and it always surprises me how green London is, for such a large city. Many of London’s parks have cafes in them and I enjoy their variety too.
The Capital Ring is an iconic London walk, taking in many technological, architectural and historic locations during the course of its circumnavigation of the city. It starts and finishes at the Woolwich foot tunnel south side to the east of London and crosses Richmond Bridge to the west, it goes as far north as Finchley and visits Croydon and Crystal Palace to the south. It gives a lovely insight into the history and workings of London, and I am looking forward to walking the 15 sections. Hopefully I will get some unusual views of London and some photos of nature and architecture from London’s suburbia.
The Flight Simulator with Virtual Aerospace allows you to take off, fly and land a virtual airplane under very realistic conditions. It is the same machine that is used in pilot training. They have a huge choice of airports from which to take off and land. Because I am a complete novice, I chose to fly from Gatwick to Birmingham, a less challenging route. You can also choose the conditions under which you fly, I’m told that Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong, at night is a good one to pick, this is apparently very challenging and visually spectacular.
Michael was my trainer/co-pilot and I have to say that he really added to the enjoyment of the experience. He patiently described what all the dials did and explained their optimum positions for a smooth flight. He was calm and encouraging throughout the trip, gently reminding me what the array of lights meant and pointing out which ones needed attention at any time. He also made the flight realistic, calling cabin crew to prepare for landing and speaking to air traffic control as I descended.
You won’t need any knowledge to get enjoyment from this experience, I had never even seen the inside of a cockpit before. I imagine it could be even more of a thrill for those with a previous interest in aeronautics. If a friend comes with you, they can also sit in the cockpit, enjoy your flight and applaud on a successful landing.
Virtual Aerospace is in Shoreham-by-Sea which around an hour and a half from London. The airport is about a mile from the station and there is a taxi rank right outside. I chose to walk and it took about 15 minutes. Shoreham is a pretty seaside town and has plenty of bars and restaurants if you fancy turning the experience into a day out.
The makers of Whitley Neil Gins are The City of London Distillery, and on many evenings they host distillery tours and gin tasting evenings. These are held with groups of 10 people or less. When we arrived we were given a welcome drink, ours was dry gin and prosecco, while we awaited the arrival of the other attendees. Once they arrived we were taken to an alcove to the side of the main bar where tables were set up with four gin flights, botanicals and an information sheet.
To start we had a brief rundown of the history of gin and the difference between different types of gin. Then we tasted the first two and chatted about their taste. They will bring tonic or any other mixer you have with your gin. After a few minutes discussion we were brought to the still room where we got to meet the stills. Yes, they all have names and they are spoken about as though they are people. The tour was interesting and lively, because Stephen, who was our guide, was obviously interested in his subject with regard to both history and taste.
We heard how the gin is made and how it is flavoured, then we went back to taste the last two gins. Perhaps I was lucky with the crowd on this occasion, but by the time we were tasting the final gin, our conversation had moved on to more general discussions – about holidays, museums and London life. The atmosphere was relaxed and convivial. There was an amount of background noise, enough that you would notice it, but certainly not at a level that would disturb your evening. The tour and tasting event lasted a little over on hour, and a few of us stayed for an extra half an hour while we finished our tasting flights.
A real bonus was the discovery of the Whitley Neil/London Distillery Bar in Bride Street. There are not many bars that are not rammed on a summer evening in central London. The bar itself is lovely, and it is relatively quiet given its position just off Fleet Street, about a three minute walk from St Paul’s Cathedral. It is underground and down a small alleyway, so not many people will know it is there – however despite this, it is very easy to get to, less than a 5-minute walk from either London Blackfriars or City Thameslink stations. There are also many bus routes that go up Fleet Street. I will remember it for when I am next meeting a gin drinker in the City.
A company called “Life You Deserve” – A website which hosts curated activities for the over 55s in London, has asked me to create content for their website. They suggest an activity, they pay for my ticket and travel and in return I have to review the event and say how suitable I believe it would be for their client base. I send them some photos and video clips and they will edit it all into a short video that they put onto their website.
This all sounded interesting so I have agreed to do it. It fits in well with the idea behind the London Lark and with a little luck it will inspire me to reignite the blog which I had left lying dormant over the past couple of years.
This is the first one I did. It was The Van Gogh Immersive Experience.
It takes place in a huge old building in Commercial Street, just across from Spitalfields Market. They try to immerse you in his life from the moment you enter – offering you perfumed tea to drink while you read about his life and works. They have many recreations of his works throughout the exhibition, some converted into moving images. It is very interactive too you are encouraged to try his techniques and then post them on the walls just before you leave. There is an ingenious room where you get to sit under his starry night and amongst his flowers, I really enjoyed it and found it very relaxing.
The Virtual Reality section of the exhibition costs an extra £5, but do not miss it, for me it was the absolute highlight. You walk through his life and paintings at Arles. Virtual Reality has come on so far since I last tried it a few years ago – it really did feel like I was walking through his paintings.
Of course they do not have any of his actual paintings at this exhibition, they are all recreations, so it is perhaps not one for the purists among us, but it was hugely enjoyable. I loved it, I stayed about an hour and a half and when I left I felt that I had learnt so much about Van Gogh his life and his painting and whenever I go into a traditional gallery, I will certainly make sure that I see the Van Gogh if they have one in their collection.
My intention is to continue blogging about London things and occasionally add these Life You Deserve videos when they are kind enough to make a video for me. I am looking forward to being back in the world of blogging! Also, I’m surprised at how much practical stuff I’ve forgotten about tags, categories and how the blog looks – so if you spot something that need improving, I will be grateful for the feedback. Cheers!
Wandsworth is a suburb of South London that is well served with places to eat. Bellevue Road in particular is an attractive road with the broad expanse of Wandsworth Common along one side, and an array of restaurants, pubs, artisan tea rooms and independent shops along the other. Brinkley’s Kitchen is near the top of this road, we chose it for a late lunch on a Sunday afternoon.
The restaurant is decorated in a smart contemporary manner. The photos on its website show it as very bright and airy, but the blinds were all drawn on the afternoon we were there. There was no tablecloth on our table for three, but it does have linen napkins, nice cutlery and glasses. The brunch menu has good choice, we opted for roast beef and a steak. The wines by the glass had a more limited selection, for example they only had one rose. When I asked the waiter what it was like – as I didn’t know it – he told me it was very good. I said I was hoping for a more descriptive reply, he just said “you will love it”. So, I asked to taste before I chose and it was fine, although I suspect the whole bottle cost a fraction of what they charged for the glass.
The food was good but unremarkable. The beef was overcooked for my taste but the gravy was nice. When I pay top end prices for a Sunday roast, I would expect the Yorkshire pudding to be freshly prepared. These had clearly been made earlier and reheated. The ribeye was okay and the chips were hot and fresh. When my friend asked for tomato sauce for her chips, they brought a bottle of ketchup to the table, at least it was Heinz. It came without the lid, so much hitting the bottom of the bottle was required to get any out.
The service was entertaining, every different waiter who came to the table enquired “How is your day going?” which became a little Stepford Wives creepy after the sixth time of asking, especially after the busboy asked it twice in five minutes without waiting for a reply. I didn’t like the fact that they brought us the bill without us asking for it, I felt they were rushing us to finish our drinks.
Overall, Brinkley’s Kitchen served us reasonable quality pub food, but charged high end restaurant prices. In an area, indeed even a street, where there are so many fine places to eat, it will not be difficult to find somewhere that gives far better value for money.