Sunday, December 17, 2006

Mews views - 16 December 2006

Mews near Brompton Rd There is always more to discover in London. We have done organized walks and self-guided walks from books and each book has its own slant on what to see and where to go. If you turn right instead of left you see a whole different world and so it is with these walks. Although one might be tempted to think that one had ‘done’ a particular area, each new walk brings new surprises.

False frontWe started at Paddington as we wanted to find an iconic piece of Victorian ingenuity. When the first underground lines were installed they were done using cut-and-cover, where possible along the lines of existing roads. But what happens if the road ends in a T intersection and there is a row of Georgian town-houses across the path? Simple, just remove one from the row and replace it with a matching false fa├žade and no one will know.

From the rearThis is exactly what happened in Lenister Gardens and the reason they did not ‘cover’ everything was that the original trains were pulled by coal powered, steam engines and the smoke had to go somewhere.

Albert MemorialLeaving there we walked across Kensington Gardens, past the Albert Memorial and Royal Albert Hall and on to the Museums where winter markets and an ice-skating rink had been set up. Science Museum Rink and MarketsIt was all terribly ‘European’ but, given the current mild temperatures, did not quite have the same atmosphere.

The V&A has a rather fascinating sound-and-light installation in the courtyard this year so we paid a visit before disappearing down some of the mews that are so plentiful in this area.

V&A light showOnce the stables and tradesmen’s areas, they are now highly sought after, as they are the only dwellings in London with garaging. (In typical UK fashion, usually not with a car parked in them.)

Smallest Mews house?A local who noticed the camera sent us off on a detour to see the shallowest mews house in London. It probably qualifies as the shallowest dwelling of any sort in the UK, it is not actual clear how one would fit a bed into this home and if the bed was there how one would fit beside it to get in or out, or make it.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Christmas at the Palace - 10 December 2006

Blenheim Palace
Each year we visit one of the stately homes dressed for Christmas.

This year we went to see how Blenheim Palace had been transformed. The grand gates
Unfortunately, the usual rules applied and photography inside was prohibited so we have nothing to show of the decorations.
The dining room, with the fires blazing and the table laid for Christmas was a real treat. A 'Christmas' tree in the grounds

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The name's "Park", "Black Park" - 9 December 2006

Black ParkFrom the car park at Black Park we walked through the pinewoods to the boundary fence of Pinewood Studios, home of the James Bond series. Outside was a huge blue screen, which in real life was quite significantly different in colour from the sky behind. Pinewoods blue backdropInterestingly, in the picture the screen is quite hard to differentiate from the sky behind.

Langley ParkLangley ParkFrom there we walked down the studio’s side boundary and across the road to Langley Park, past the lake, with views to the mansion on the far shore, and back to the lake at Black Park where we had started.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Victorian Pubs - 3 December 2006

The Argyll ArmsOur historical theme continued in to Sunday when we enjoyed an English Heritage ‘pub-crawl’ around eight ornately decorated Victorian listed Public Houses. Unfortunately, being Sunday the two closest to the City of London were closed.

The SalisburyWe started at The Argyll Arms, just off Oxford St where we had a luke-warm meal which would have been much better had it been delivered to our table hot. Sampling various wares we visited The Tottenham, The Salisbury, The Coal Hole and The Princess Louise. We passed by The Cittie of Yorke and The Punch Tavern then finished with dessert at The Black Friar.

The Argyll ArmsThe cut and acid-etched glass and mirrors in a number of these establishments are quite something to behold. It is amazing that so much of this Victorian opulence survived the Blitz.

A Dickens of a day out - 2 December 2006

Each year, in early December, the City of Rochester honours one of its heroes, Charles Dickens. He lived and wrote in the city and many places are the inspiration or setting for his novels.
Rochester Dickens' ParadeRochester Dickens' Parade
Rochester Dickens' ParadeRochester Dickens' Parade
Rochester CastleThere is a parade of townsfolk dressed as in Dickensian times as well as street entertainers and the obligatory stalls selling Christmas tat and, of course, food: Mulled wine, Christmas mince pies, spiced punch as well as the usual fattening burgers, bacon rolls, patsies and so forth.

Rochester CathedralAfter the parade the Cathedral was packed for a carol service and the Castle was host to a fair with a gorgeous old chair-o-plane and an ornate merry-go-round complete with a punched-card organ to serenade the riders.

The Merry-go-roundAll in all it’s a great day out from London and with the train dropping you right in the centre of Rochester it is not worth fighting with the M25 to get there.

Happy first birthday to Te Haerenga.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

London Lights - 26 November 2006

Casino Royale window at HarrodsChristmas in London is a special time to look at the lights and shop windows. The ‘big name’ retailers certainly put a lot of work and planning into their window displays. Harrods, Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges and so on provide a fantastic free show for the passers-by and since we ended up adding to the takings in two of those The TVR paraderetailers, I guess their efforts must be worthwhile as a return on investment.

One never seems to be able to find about some ‘happenings’ beforehand and often we just come across things as they happen. So it was today, a parade of TVR sports cars through Piccadilly Circus. Oxford StHundreds of owners converged on London and ultimately presented a petition to Downing St, protesting against the proposed closure of the TVR UK production facility.

The crowds wait for a glimpse of a star

The newly cleaned Nelson's Column

Other London freebies are premieres, if you can find out about them beforehand. Today Nicole Kidman, Robin Williams, Elijah Wood and others were in Leicester Square for the premiere of Happy Feet. Unfortunately the ‘great shot’ of Nicole was blurred – my paparazzo days are over!

And always available are the free shots of the great sites that make London such a special destination.

Trafalgar Square

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Our faithful Fujifilm F10 falters - 25 November 2006

Horsenden HillObservant readers of this blog will have noticed that since 28th August (45 days after the warranty expired) there has been a small dark blob top centre of the photos. It was especially noticeable against blue sky. Lately a much larger splodge appeared in the lower left quadrant, most noticeably between the spires of Southwell Minster. Again, it showed up worst against a blue sky.

Horsenden HillI sent off samples to Fuji and they informed me that the standard repair cost was £119 but they would generously trade-in the faulty one for £40 off a replacement. Originally the F10 cost us £221 and since we have shot about 11000 frames with it that works out at around 2p per shutter click.

Horsenden HillMuch web browsing later we decided to stick with Fuji because the xD cards fit very few other cameras and we especially liked the low light abilities of the F10. The natural successor seemed to be the F30 and as this was one of the models offered by Fuji on the trade-up deal we took the plunge. Bang goes another £160.

Horsenden HillThe whole process was handled in a most efficient manner: I sent my first email to Fuji on Sunday afternoon and the replacement camera was delivered to my office on Thursday.

Grand Union CanalAlthough Saturday’s weather was indifferent we felt we had better venture outside to try it out. Initial reaction: we are quite impressed.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Autumn walks - 17 & 18 November 2006

Tibury Fort WatergateThe weather synchronized perfectly with the weekend.

Saturday dawned frosty and sunny so we set off due east, for the coast. After a lengthy spell of chaos, enduring jammed roads on the Defenses overlooking the marshesNorth Circular; we eventually made our way past a closed-off flyover, and continued our journey to Tilbury. The Fort there was once an important guard post on the Thames River route into London with a grand gateway that was simply there to impress people passing by on the Thames. Nowdays, from the river, most of the gate would be obscured by the Thames flood defences.

Waterfront Amusement ParkFurther down the Thames estuary, is the town of Southend-on-sea. It is a typical British seaside town, (this means amusement arcades, amusement parks, masses of Pier Trainfish and chip shops, and general tat, not sand castles on the beach) but its claim to fame is the longest pier in the world. This needs to stretch past the shallow water at low tide into the Thames channel. The pier is 1.5 miles long, and a railway provides an easy way to reach the end. We choose to ride out, and walk back -very pleasant on such a beautiful afternoon.

Southend-on-sea pier
Hainault ForestSunday was also fine and frosty: a perfect day to do a walk though Hainault Forest and enjoy the autumn colours. We finished the Hainault Forestday with a drive through nearby Enfield forest. The trees there were absolutely stunning, a bright gold against the blue sky. Hainault Forest

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Robin Hood et al - 11 & 12 November 2006

Armistice weekend marked the end of the Grainger touring year for 2006.

The Little Castle at BolsoverWe set off for Nottingham hoping for some lovely autumn foliage, stopping first at Bolsover Castle. This was basically built as a party venue by Sir Charles Cavendish,in the 17th century. His 'Little Castle' has survived with it's original lavish wall and ceiling paintings. His son, the first Duke of Newcastle built the Terrace Range, now a ruin, and the Riding School, which is still in excellent condition.

Sherwood Forest's Major OakWe then did a five-mile walk through Sherwood Forest. Some of the trees had turned a lovely golden colour. The Major Oak, said to have been a hiding place for Robin Hood, was still a stubborn green. After our walk through Robin's wood, we felt obliged to watch the very poor BBC TV production of Robin Hood that evening.

Southwell MinsterOn Sunday we did a circular drive starting at the town of Southwell with it's inspiring Minister. Poignantly, we happened to be there for the two-minute’s silence of Remembrance Sunday, in a place that has provided solace and comfort for thousands of bereaved and suffering folk during it's 1000-year history.

The Duke's Drive

From there we drove through an area known as the Dukeries, as these were estates owned by four dukes in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Chapel at Clumber ParkWe visited Clumber Park, the estate of the 2nd to 7th Dukes of Newcastle. The Duke’s Drive is a 3-mile double avenue of lime trees, the longest lime tree avenue in Europe, - looking beautiful in their autumn colours. The house was demolished in 1937 and all that remains is the park, the Chapel, the kitchen garden and some estate buildings.

Our tour finished at the lovely town of Newark-on-Trent. Newark-on-Trent Castle ruinsThis town has it all: a picturesque Castle ruin on a river; interesting historical buildings many of Do you have to go outside to turn around?which face the large market square; a beautiful church; and possibly the narrowest building in Britain. Links to Robin Hood can even be found here, as the Castle is where King John died.