November 2017

It is now less than a month to Christmas. 2017 has been another really busy year and I am not really sure where it all disappeared to. But disappear it did. This year has been the first time in the six years since I left New Zealand (on my two year holiday) that I have not been back for a visit.  Mum did come to see us, which was fabulous, but that meant I missed out on seeing my two grand children.  I need to make sure that I return in 2018.

I have not taken a walking trip this year either, not even a couple of sneaky days away, again highly unusual, and another symptom of my busyness. I am going to try and squeeze a weekend away on my own in before the end of the year. Take some photos and do a little bit of walking.  My long term goal to walk the south west coast path have been thwarted, but there is no one to blame but myself, though at least I did visit the path a few times in 2017.

Though we have been busy, a lot of that busyness has been doing fun things, and we have been out and about for numerous walks and other activities. I have no cause for complaint, I just want to do too much I guess. Most of those activities over the year have been written about.

I generally take a camera most places I go, the ‘little’ Canon G16 is in my backpack most days, and if it isn’t, I at least have my phone with me the rest of the time. So, this post may be the start of a regular end of month wrap-up post of the random images I take that do not fit in to another narrative.

The only thread that remotely links even a small number of these images together is ‘Autumn’. I love autumn in the UK far more than in Auckland. Here, even in London, we get much more colour in the trees, and the dead fall on the ground. So I will start with some of those.

Most weekday mornings I walk from Green Park Station, down through Green Park, across the Mall and through St James Park to the office. I have really enjoyed watching the trees turn, it has been a beautiful experience and the walk is a good start to most days.

A couple of weeks ago, Eleanor and I walked to, and then through the recently opened ‘Walthamstow Wetlands’, Europe’s largest urban wetland area.  It is not the best time of year for urban wildlife; and the place was pretty crowded with other visitors, so we kinda just walked through from the Ferry Rd entry to the Copper Mill Lane entry, where I took this picture.

There were piles of leaves all along the end of the Copper Mill Lane, so I stopped to take a few photos of the brightly coloured leaves, drying and dying on the ground. The rich array of coloured leaves, all from the same type of tree is a constant reminder of how  amazing the natural world is.  I also tried a little bit of ‘Intentional Camera Movement’ photography to get this blurry, splash of colour, painterly affect.

On Saturday we went to Tate Modern to see the Modigliani exhibition, as members we got to  enter the exhibition an hour before the ‘public’. It was really good, I am not overly familiar with his work, but I particularly liked his early portraits. There was no photography allowed in the exhibition. However, I did quickly snap this picture outside, a scene I really liked, and one I am going to go back to to try and get a better image.

Along with this one of the wonderful silver birches outside.

El and I went separate ways after walking to Liverpool St Station. I was on a mission to a record fair at Spitalfields (unfulfilled), though I did find this wonderful light sculpture around Broadgate.

And this old shop front, which I surprised myself by never having seen before!

There are a couple of posts coming from two short photo missions I have made in Epping Forest over the past couple of weeks, and that will be a wrap of November 2017!

A little slice of Devon Heaven

Sunday 29 October 2107 – Budleigh Salterton and Dawlish, Devon, England.

Up early again. On a Saturday. Again. This is becoming an unhealthy habit! El and I are off to Exeter to visit Charlie’s flat and drop a load of stuff off that he could not take down on the train. We were in the car and off by 7:30, stopping for breakfast and a coffee on the way. It was a good run down to Exeter and we were there by 12:00.

Charlie lives in a big old house; there are seven students in it, in a street full of big old houses full of students. We were lucky to be able to park the car pretty close to his front door and after unloading we were off to the student bar in the university campus to watch football and eat lunch. Not bad, nice food and cheap beer, but I was driving.

Once the game was over (a Tottenham loss to Man Utd.) El and I headed out of town to the very nice B and B I had booked for the night. We dropped the bags and carried on down to the coast. We passed through Budleigh Salterton on our July south coast road trip and liked the place enough to want to come back for a longer visit. I tried to find somewhere to stay the night there, but there wasn’t anything available, so we are staying in Clyst St Mary on the edge of Exeter. I parked on the sea front and we wrapped up and went for a walk; it is cold.

The light was marvellous as we walked along the side of the pebbly beach and up to the cliff top viewing area to admire the views.

The sea front at Budleigh Salterton is nice, we both liked it. However; when we walked into the small village to find somewhere to have a meal, it seemed to be all shut. Hmm, there were a couple of places open; but as a place to move to, well we need more choices for food. We jumped back in the car and headed to a pub near the B and B and had what turned out to be a pretty good carvery for tea. I haven’t done a carvery pub meal for ages. I enjoyed it.

We were back at the B and B really early, not long after 7:30. It was dark and cold and we were tired, so heading in to town was not really an option. As we arrived a great fireworks display started at, I am guessing, the local school. Even better was we could watch it from our room, which was very sound proofed !

It was another glorious day on Sunday, we had a bit of a lie in with breakfast booked for 8:30. Full English, yum. We were not picking Charlie up until 1:30 so decided to take advantage of the sun and go to the other side of the River Exe and visit Dawlish. I have passed through Dawlish numerous times on the train but have never stopped there. This section of the railway was design by Brunel and runs right along the coast, across causeways and through tunnels, a wonderful piece of engineering. I have always wanted to visit, though parking the car was more expensive than London and made me a little grumpy 🙂 We parked at the station.

We walked along the sea front to the very nice Cove Cafe at the end. We briefly enjoyed sitting in the sun drinking the best coffee in days along with a piece of un-needed, but very much desired and enjoyed sweet cannoli each. It was a shame that the family with the loudest voices in the south of England were sitting right next to us.

I was hoping to be able to walk further along the train line, though had to settle for just looking and marvelling at the engineering feat that Brunel managed on this rugged coast line.

There was even a bit of street art nearby. I am liking Dawlish!

It is a lovely town, it has everything in my book, apart from being too far from anywhere, and rather ‘elderly’. It is clean and tidy, not too ‘seaside shabby’, has some marvellous views, and a seawall that would make for some excellent photographic opportunities in stormy weather.

The weekend was slightly ruined for me by the seven hour drive back to London. It was the last day of the mid-term school break and the traffic was mad, so many accidents, so much traffic. We went back to London via Oxford to avoid the snarl ups on the M4. It was tiring and horrible.

But the weekend made it pretty worth while.

A walk around Norwich.

Saturday 14 October 2017 – Norwich, Norfolk, England.

Continuing our search to find somewhere outside of London to buy a house El and I decided to take a day out and visit Norwich. It is not a coastal town, so for me it has one immediate downside. However, it is not a major effort to get to the nearby coast, and it has a lot of positives. One of those positives it is only two hours by train from Liverpool St Station. This makes it far smoother to get to and from Walthamstow than with trains that terminate in Paddington.

By my Saturday morning standards I was up very early so we could catch the train, and we arrived in Norwich late morning. In a burst of unusual enthusiasm we had done some research into Norwich and had a loose plan for the day. Starting with following the River Wensum from the station around to the Last Wine Bar, where El had booked us in for lunch. Visiting the castle and the cathedral were also on the list; any town with a river, a castle and cathedral has an advantage in my book.

The walk around the river is really nice, with paths on both sides and plenty of interesting things to look at on the way. Norwich is an old city, with settlements back to pre-Roman times, though its mad boom period was in the 10th century when it was the second largest town in Britain; behind London. The Castle and the Cathedral were both built soon after the Norman conquest. The inside of the river was the site of city walls and there were a number of gated bridges controlling access, like the 15th century Pulls Gate.

Cow Tower was built in 1398 as an artillery post to defend the city against marauding local rebels and the perceived threat from France. Now it is a nice river side spot to have a wee late morning doze.

The river takes an almost 90 degree turn at Cow Tower and the path meanders past the edge of the cathedral fields. With lunch in mind we did not venture in to the cathedral grounds just yet.

The River Wensum, joins the River Yare just outside the city and the Yare flows to the North Sea at the busy port of Great Yarmouth. Norwich was a busy inland port and quite a wealthy city, this section of the river walk reminded us a lot of Brugge, very European in style. Norwich is a university town, so has a lot of students; which means a lot of cafes and bars, along with a youthful and outward look on life. It was not a Brexit supporting town in the referendum in June last year. This seemed to be reflected in how the city ‘felt’. Maybe having a row of houses that look European makes a place feel European?

We were early for lunch at the Last Wine Bar so took a walk round the immediate area, there were some nice little streets, and nice windows with reflections to keep me entertained as well.

Lunch at the wine bar was excellent, really nice atmosphere, food, wine and service, not cheap though. London prices as they say. However, we would go back.

After lunch we took a walk around town, heading into the old town, past numerous shops, bars and some nice looking cafes. It was pleasing to see that there were a number of non-high street brand stores, independent retail had a home in Norwich. I am liking it more and more.

We headed up to the castle, though did not go in; cost and time, prohibited it. Next time.

Looping around the castle we headed back down the hill, past the lovely old Anglia TV studio building, down towards the cathedral quarter.

Started in 1095 the construction of the cathedral was completed in 1145, the spire was completed in 1148 and is the second tallest in England. It is a marvellous spire and I marvel at its age and the skill and vision of its builders.

The streets around the cathedral are equally lovely, especially on this glorious, early autumn day. Cobbled lanes, big old trees, a mix of Tudor and newer buildings, bright colours. What’s not to love?

Maybe the Bear Shop was a step too twee.

It was a slow stroll, back around the river path to the station.


Another great day and a town now high on the ‘should we buy here’ list. Nice one Norwich.

Thetford Forest YHA Weekender

Sunday 1 October 2017 – Thetford, Norfolk, England.

Our local group of friends, AKA ‘The Walthamstow Lot’ have been holding an annual weekend away since the children were very young. The YHA Weekend. El used to go along, though she stopped going before we met. Last October we went along for my first YHA Weekend experience, this weekend we returned for our second. Last year we stayed in Brancaster Staithe on the north Norfolk coast, this year we stayed in a hostel in Thetford Forest, also in Norfolk. There were 26 of us, split fairly evenly between parents and youth. Ranging from 17-24 years old, it seems unfair to call them the kids.

We drove up after work on Friday, it was not a bad journey, mostly driving in the dark, not something I have done a lot of lately and it was quite strange. A small amount of drizzle did not help much either, but the traffic was light! The hostel is really nice, big and airy, clean and new looking. Friday night was quiet, sitting around talking rubbish over a few drinks. I was really tired so went to bed well before everyone else. Not that it meant I was first up on Saturday.

Saturday is activity day on the YHA Weekender, the group were off to ride bikes in a different part of the forest to where we are staying; about 15 minutes away by car. One of our friends invited me to take the wheel of his Maserati sports car, I think it is the Levanti. I wasn’t going to say no…

I have never driven such a powerful and solid car, there was so much power under my foot, it was almost scary. Though a bit nervous about getting nicked for speeding, or even worse, damaging the car in some way, I did enjoy driving it, and it does sound very cool!

There were four of us not riding, with such a nice day we were not going to turn down the opportunity to go for a walk in the trees, and I wanted to take a few photos while we were there, and I had lugged the big camera along for the ride. After farewelling the cyclists we sat down for coffee 🙂

I took a lot of photos of trees. It is a working pine forest, but I love the clean straight lines and order to a pine forest, a counter to the rambling, meandering wildness of Epping Forest.

It was a great walk and the cyclists were finished before us, much to our surprise. 

Back at the hostel I went for an early evening explore of the immediate area. I am very much enjoying the photography of Al Brydon, and wanted to experiment with his underexposed, deeper, darker images. I set the camera phone to manual mode and had a bit of a play.

I snapped the front of the lodge on the way back for dinner.

After dinner there was a bonfire and a bit of a sing-song. Normally I do not go in for the sing-song thing; though sitting around a fire in a forest, drinking wine with friends it just seemed to be the right thing to do. I actually enjoyed it as well!

Another good weekend away, they just keep on coming!


Sunday 24 September 2017 – Edinburgh, Scotland.

In a rare show of organisation El and I planned to take my mum to Edinburgh for the weekend ages ago. Mum was going to spend a few days in Northumberland with her brother, so we thought we would tack Edinburgh on the start of that visit and drop mum in Alnwick on the way back to London. However, in my usual style I did not do anything about it until quite late, so we ended up paying too much for a pretty terrible hotel, though the train tickets did not seem to be any more outrageous than they normally are.

I started this post about three weeks ago, and the detailed memories of the trip are fading as fast as my brain is filling up with work projects, other activities and thinking about the pending festive season, and maybe a trip back to New Zealand next year. I feel a head cold coming on and I am really tired after a few sleep nights of disturbed sleep. This may well be a short post, and I am determined to finish today. I am glad I completed photo editing soon after the trip; at least there is a prompt for my ramblings.

As mum was not travelling back with us I had to buy her train ticket separately to us, though we did manage to sit together for a while. I took a few photos out of the window as usual, starting from Newcastle station, where the train journey gets more interesting.

We arrived in Edinburgh early on Friday afternoon, it was not a bad day, a bit windy and a bit cool. we were staying in the ‘new town’ and decided to check out that side of town first, saving the old town for a full day on Saturday. The ‘new town’ is hardly modern, mostly built in Georgian times. There are some lovely buildings.

We walked up Calton Hill, with its great views of Edinburgh and out over the Firth of Forth. The Nelson column, pierces the sky from the top of the hill and can be seen from all over Edinburgh.

The nearby National monument was started in 1825, and was to be a replica of the Parthenon in Athens, funds ran out in 1829 and building was stopped. Never to be restarted. It is a monument to Scottish soldiers killed in the Napoleonic Wars. It is quite popular.

Walking back down towards Princes St, we walked into the Calton Old Burial Ground, a place I thought about visiting last time we were here. The entrance is through a gate in a high wall, hiding a bigger space than I expected, full of old gravestones and monuments. It is a lovely place, and I quite enjoyed walking around. I will definitely go back next time we visit. Maybe even take the big camera and spend some proper time there.

We all went our separate ways after the graveyard, I went back to the hotel for a rest and mum and El went and did some shopping. Meeting up again late afternoon to walk, almost as far as the castle, to the famous Witchery Hotel for dinner. Walking anywhere in central Edinburgh is wonderful; as was the meal we had.

After dinner it was a slow stroll back down to the hotel, for a not particularly good night. I had to complain to reception at 4:00 am about the noisy neighbours.

Saturday morning we started our exploration of the old town. First walking down the Royal Mile; past a couple of interesting shops.

We did not pay for the tour of Holyrood, I took a photo through the gate and we stopped for coffee and cake.

There is a long day of walking ahead, something I kept forgetting, and that mum is a wee bit older than me. She is very fit, but she is not longer 75….

We then headed back up the long and reasonably gentle hill that is the Royal Mile.

At the top of the hill is Edinburgh Castle, we were thinking about visiting, but it was so crowded up there we did not go in, but we did admire some of the views from that side of town.

With lunch time approaching we walked down the side of the castle to Grassmarket and stopped for more coffee and a snack in a small cafe. Mainly because it had somewhere to sit down!

A rest and some food gave us a new burst of energy to head up the hill to the National Museum, there was a crowd gathered inside the entrance to Blackfriars cemetery so we decided to go in and have a look. A wise choice. Inside was a small display of owls who were either found injured on born in captivity. I love owls, though have never seen one in the wild in the UK. I must add that to my to do list! It was great to be able to get up close to these lovely birds.

It was also time to check the final result of the West Ham v Tottenham football match, the smile suggests who won. Tottenham, El is wearing her Poch coat, which almost guarantees a Tottenham win.

The statue of Blackfriars Bobby was on the way from the graveyard to the museum. I love how his nose is so shiny from the decades of hands touching and rubbing it.

We were knackered by the time we reached the museum, so only had a very cursory look around the ground floor, we will definitely come back here next time we are in the city, the building itself is worth a visit, and the museum does look interesting.

It was another early night, we were lucky to get an early table in a pizza restaurant quite close to the hotel. More sleep was had, though the same noisy neighbours came home late again, though this time there was no singing or loud voices till 4 am. Thankfully.

We checked out of the hotel after breakfast on Sunday morning, and took a slow stroll to the National Gallery, which I thoroughly enjoyed, along with a far better coffee than we had with breakfast. Thank goodness for gallery cafes I say.

After the gallery we took an even slower stroll to the station through the gardens.

We were quite early for our trains, though better to be late than never, and Edinburgh station is always busy.

Mum’s train left a few minutes before ours, so once we had mum safely on her train to Alnwick we were settled into our first class seats for the journey back to London.

It was not a bad trip either. I do love Edinburgh and if it was not so expensive, would consider it as a city to move to. London of the north when it comes to house prices.