Tag Archives: cycling

Unexpected birds in the midst of the city: II

It began with a low flypast by a Spitfire and a Hurricane, fighter planes from World War II; after that our eyes turned again and again to the deep blue sky. Then Vincent spotted a buzzard, not unknown in Canterbury – see 3 September 2015, Bravado of the Birds.

Not unknown, but worth downing tools for. Who was going to see him off, I wondered, recalling ravens, jackdaws and gulls escorting these predators away from their children – though sadly ravens are not seen over Canterbury today. But no jackdaw nor gull appeared, instead there was another buzzard soaring over us, and then two more. None of us earth-bound humans had seen four together over Canterbury before.

Too early in the year for this season’s chicks to be on the wing, surely? Were these four juveniles or two parents with last year’s offspring? Certainly two bore pale flashes on their underwings, and one of these was audibly and physically corrected when it flew too close to one of the others. We heard it over the roar of traffic from the inner bypass.

From up there the birds could see a long stretch of green: our little acre is on the river and just across the main road that runs behind us lie the Westgate Parks which lead to the meadows, and the cycle path to Ashford which we earthlings visited yesterday.

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Along the river path again

 

This bridge carries the railway over the River Stour and the cycle path from Canterbury to Ashford. It also serves as a picture frame.

When I turned around the other day, I could hardly help contrasting the view with what I had seen in December.

The difference is Spring! And the time of day is earlier, so that the tree, in stark winter shadow in the first picture, is now radiant in gold-green leaf. Spring!

Woodland in the Midst of the City

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Mrs T and I went to London to help George extract a tree stump and lay down a lawn.

Just across the road was a gateway into an urban woodland, a cemetery abandoned for half a century. No time to do more than take a quick peek but the trees were starting into leaf and blossom, the bluebells and other Spring flowers were inviting smiles from the walkers and cyclists enjoying the woods.

Read more about the park by following the link:   Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park  

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I hope you have an oasis near you, and are enjoying the Spring, if you are in the Northern hemisphere!

 

1.1.17: Ditches

 

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As I walked out on the last day of the year, I noticed the hazel bushes. Some were already shaking their tails, but others were still not quite ready to open up, biding their time.

This was plucked from a bush beside a ditch – a running ditch after all the recent rain. The vase came from a ditch as well, one running beside a windmill next to a canal in Belgium where we had a cycling holiday on February. It reminds me of Victorian school ink bottles, but since the top is broken, all we know is that the miller cast it in the ditch, to be treasured many years later by a family of foreigners. It suits a single stem very well.

Lift up your eyes to the hills …

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There are hills and hills of course. Saint Thomas’s Hill is on the rim of the dish that cradles the city. Most cyclists seem to dismount to climb up it, but coming down is another matter; I think that qualifies as a hill. For the last fifty years it has housed the University of Kent, not visible in this winter’s picture.

Indeed I’ve deliberately shown this ‘temporary’ car park in all its glory to stress the point brought home to me as I turned this corner the other day – without my phone of course, so I could not recapture that careless rapture. Here the panel of parking regulations, the hastily spread asphalt  and the scrubby edges of the car park impel the walker to pass by on the other side as quickly as possible.

 

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I walk this way nearly every day,  eyes averted.

Between where we stand and those whitewashed cottages a footpath takes a short tunnel under the railway; then to the left of the cottages and to the playing field behind the tall trees; a not unpleasant walk. From there the hilltop is covered in university buildings; from here neither they nor the post-war houses across the field make much impact.

There’s no way you could imagine yourself in the Kentish countryside, but look up! There is a hill, there are trees, there is hope. Even if the developers would happily sacrifice the trees on the altar of Mammon. This car park has never been built upon. It used to be an allotment garden, gone wild before we came, but good for raspberries, brambles, lizards and slow-worms. A sustained effort was made to rescue the reptiles, now safely rehoused on reclaimed land elsewhere. But this land will be built on. People need homes too.

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But what struck me the other day as I walked home?

A hint of sun on the hill, made the grass, and the young stems of the trees – there are plenty of willow in yellow and red – shine against the black of their trunks and branches. It was a Psalm 121 moment – I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

A spring in my step, though nothing material had changed. The car park, graffiti and the intrusive buildings were still there, but look beyond!

The window looks out onto real hills, the Black Mountains of South Wales.

 

A Ride along the Regent’s Canal

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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!

 

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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.’