Tag Archives: cycling

A Ride along the Regent’s Canal

water-canalside-w1

This  building was new to me: photo by Chris Dyczek at Agnellusmirror.

I’m not sure why this posting has taken three months to get published!

A fine day, a trusty Brompton, an appointment in Ealing, a detraining at St Pancras: why not ride a London bike along London’s canal? The towpath goes almost all the way and will surely be in better nick than when last I rode it in 1980.

Yes, and no. At the very start of the ride, behind King’s Cross station, it was good to see a terrace stepping down to the water from street level and people enjoying the sun between trains (judging by the luggage they had put down). I, however, was on a pontoon floating on the water, as the path itself was a building site.

A little further West  there were more residential moorings than I remember, two or three abreast where the canal was wide enough. If I hadn’t met Mrs T when I did, I might well have gone for that way of living in London. But she and Kent beckoned; I see more big ships in the Channel these days than narrow boats on the cut. The zoo – I’d forgotten that the bird house is cantilevered almost over the water – it has lasted well for such a delicate looking structure.

After Regents Park there was a stretch where I lost the canal, then miles of railway on one side and cemeteries or buildings across the water. Even the industrial buildings were not as I remembered them, but I got to my destination ready for an afternoon’s research,having lungs full of as fresh air as Central London has to offer. Maybe next time I could try another part of the Thames path I followed to Richmond at the beginning of September.

Good Morning Life!

 

pimperneletc

 

I probably should not take my mobile phone to church on a Sunday, though 90% of the time I remember to silence it – and then forget to turn the rings on again afterwards, so receive no messages.

However, the gadget serves to record, once in a while, the glories of what I might otherwise miss. This third-rate photo just gives the impression of scarlet pimpernel and purple grass heads taking over some bare soil at the top of the hill. Almost an abstract.

Lovely enough to say, ‘Good Morning Life, and all things glad and beautiful.’ (WH Davies).

Next day, somewhat dispiritedly riding home in the rain, I spotted maybe a hundred starlings, adults and juveniles, enjoying the downpour because it was bringing worms  and leatherjackets to the surface of the park. Would I have noticed them if they’d been quiet? Maybe not, but they are incapable of staying quiet! ‘Good Morning Life, and all things glad and beautiful.’

Spring, my mother said.

Let us celebrate the good done by surgeons, in particular eye surgeons. This note from my mother in Yorkshire is the result of her cataract operations giving her new sight.

Spring seems to have the upper hand at the moment.  When I was in the village this afternoon the big beech tree growing on the banks of the river and sending its great branches up, and above the bridge, was sending out its first delicate new leaves.  The sun shines through them and they are as soft as silk.  Standing on the bridge I could reach and touch them and the river below sparkled as it tumbled over stones that had been immersed in almost flood water for so long.    Even the small, brown trout were visible, and a Dipper was busy hunting for food beneath the water……………the village was busy, the traffic was noisy, but no one seemed interested or bothered with the magic on the bridge.

Spring is trying to assert itself in Kent as well. Here are a few observations from being out and about over the last week. I did not miss all the magic …

Friday, cycling along the road through the woods: an orange tip butterfly over a stand of garlic mustard, its food plant.

Saturday: Mrs Tittlemouse was on the yard, hoping to snatch a few crumbs. So were a sparrow and Mr Robin. He was so aggressive to the sparrow that Mrs Tittlemouse hid behind a flowerpot til he’d gone.

Sunday, living up to its name: Mrs Turnstone and daughter No 1 both saw the woodmouse; Mrs Turnstone feels that Spring is here.

Photo0924

Monday, a trip to a cold Hastings to meet daughter No 3 and young Mr Turnstone. Bikers and pagans out in force for May Day. The latter drinking deep; the greenness round the gills not entirely derived from greasepaint. As the Jerwood gallery were inviting visitors to draw a green man on acetate for their window, I obliged.

Tuesday, back on the Brompton through the woods, this time on the track: a whitethroat singing where the path crosses a farm with the remains of a hedge still on one side.

Wednesday: a lizard in the classroom when I was visiting daughter No 2. Most of her pupils had gone home, but the one remaining had his eyes peeled. We caught the reptile in this blanket, put her outdoors – and she straightway came back in again and hid out of reach!

lizard1

Thursday: swifts screaming overhead as I ate breakfast in the garden. And so many more flowers out than I noticed on Tuesday or Saturday. Going slowly uphill means that violets, bluebells, primroses, herb Robert, stitchwort are all on eye level to a slow cyclist (who still gets up the hill!) On my way out of town in the afternoon I spotted my first beetroot-coloured blonde sunbather. She must have fallen asleep in the park.

Friday: Freddie the Norfolk terrier was being led home in disgrace, having rolled in fox manure. He was not the most popular dog in the park, but will the hosing down he was walking home to teach him a lesson?

 

A Walk in Scotland – Part 2 – The Waste Land – a damp coming we had of it

So Goodbye to the shops, and there’s green grass around the corner, and a high hedge, partly concealing an ugly fence. That CCTV notice hardly says, ‘Welcome’. Across the road are car show rooms and light industry.3estate1 (640x344)  Still not sure why

3estate3 (640x326)we came this way? Nature? Well, here’s a sight of the Scottish flora – a thistle and a crisp bag.3estate5 (640x275)

Moving on, we followed one of those casual paths that people make to cut the corners planned by the planners. Before us, more soul-less buildings. Scrubby elder and willow dominate the track, which suddenly forks into a towpath: the Scottish Union Canal. 5 miles from Edinburgh, and still built-up.4canal (2) (426x640)3estate6 (640x386)

4canal (1) (640x413)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The water looks clean though, apart from floating plastic debris, the flora is more varied, and rain is imminent.4canal (8) (640x390)Everything is green, after all.
3estate10 (640x469)
Immediately in front of us was an aqueduct, taking the canal high above the busy main road. We passed and greeted that patient, polite cyclist, waiting for us to go by, then under the bridge; where we left post industrial Scotland to walk along a relic of the Industrial Revolution, made safe for 21st Century walkers and riders. A shame the Brompton stayed at home! Rain in the air.

4canal (10) (640x362)

 

4canal (9) (640x384)

 

On hearing the first

Just too late for St George’s day, the cuckoo was calling from the railway bank (See ‘Vandalism takes many forms’) yesterday as I sat out for lunch and later for afternoon tea. The clamour of our local blackbirds and robins did not quite drown him out. The two cocks take turns to sing from our apricot tree.

Saint George’s did have one returning migrant to show me – a kittiwake gull by as I cycled along the beach against a brisk East wind, only to find my appointment cancelled. The health police would tell me the ride did me good; I know the kittiwake and the cuckoo did!

Sitting in the Spinney

Riding due East into Aylesham my expectations were somewhat confounded. I had expected the gale to be on my back, but it was on my left shoulder, pushing me towards the middle of the road. There was noticeable relief when there was a hedge on the North side of the road, so it was encouraging to see new hawthorn slips bursting green from their rabbit-proof planting tubes. Relief for cyclists and protection for the land. The soil up here is quite thin over the chalk.

More relief when I branched off on the Southern road into the village. The Spinney shields most of this stretch, a woodland with beech, hazel and sweet chestnut. I stopped to sit on a branch and eat lunch. The bluebells are in fine leaf, as are wild arum and anemones, but what of wild garlic? I hadn’t long to search, I had an appointment in the village and I wasted time watching a brimstone butterfly, happy enough to be out of the wind, under the trees, enjoying the sunshine beaming through the bare branches. I found just one leaf, which I nobly left to grow. And I was happy too.

Let’s change that ‘I wasted time’ to ‘I spent time’, while I was watching the butterfly. Time well-spent!

Through Another’s Eyes

The “Independent” newspaper interviewed an old lady in Tobago who had visited England after winning a competition (I’m glad someone wins them).

One of her abiding memories was of seeing an apple tree. We have eyes but we do not see. There are still a good many orchards around here, even if many have been destroyed; taken for granted, by me at least, till they are lost.

This spring I intend to look at them anew.

Here’s a story from a few years ago. Riding away from Ezra’s grounds I had to pass the orchard of russets at the top of the hill. The week before the workers had been winter pruning, leaving long twigs on the ground to be picked up later. The snow had fallen before that could happen and the rabbits that swarm thereabouts had discovered the feast of sweet bark. As I rode by there was a golden glow above the white of the snow: with all the bark stripped the twigs were bright shining as the sun.

Another day to remember.