Spring Is Here!

22 Apr

Spring is certainly here.  The days are getting warmer, longer and drier.  We did get enough frost to have to scrape ice off the car windscreen before driving at 8am on Saturday and again on Sunday but the reward in both cases were cloudless blue skies and only very light breezes.  Lovely days to be out and about.  The most strenuous thing we did on Monday was to go for a walk in the afternoon at the Lee Valley Regional Park about 15 minutes away by car.  The park was also the venue for the whitewater sports of the 2012 Olympics.

The park is huge and largely wetlands like this with walking and cycling tracks all over it.  Here is the Wikipedia introduction - Lee Valley Regional Park is a 10,000-acre (40 km2) 26 miles (42 km) long linear park, much of it green spaces, running through the northeast of London, Essex and Hertfordshire from the River Thames to Ware, through areas such as Stratford, Clapton, Tottenham, Enfield, Walthamstow, Cheshunt, Broxbourne and Hoddesdon in an area generally known as the Lee Valley. London's largest park, Lee Valley Park is more than four times the size of Richmond Park, extending beyond London's borders into the neighbouring counties of Hertfordshire and Essex.

The park is huge and largely wetlands like this with walking and cycling tracks all over it. Here is the Wikipedia introduction – Lee Valley Regional Park is a 10,000-acre (40 km2) 26 miles (42 km) long linear park, much of it green spaces, running through the northeast of London, Essex and Hertfordshire from the River Thames to Ware, through areas such as Stratford, Clapton, Tottenham, Enfield, Walthamstow, Cheshunt, Broxbourne and Hoddesdon in an area generally known as the Lee Valley. London’s largest park, Lee Valley Park is more than four times the size of Richmond Park, extending beyond London’s borders into the neighbouring counties of Hertfordshire and Essex.

There were several narrow boats moored along the Lea River but this one caught my eye.  I wonder where that name came from?

There were several narrow boats moored along the Lea River but this one caught my eye. I wonder where that name came from?

This lock was just a little further along the river.  It was totally manual by the look of it.

This lock was just a little further along the river. It was totally manual by the look of it.

Early signs of Spring.

Early signs of Spring.

There is a lot of bird life in the park.  I captured this Blue Tit beside the canal walkway.

There is a lot of bird life in the park. I captured this Blue Tit beside the canal walkway.

After his Houdini act last Sunday, Murphy (one of the older cats, aged 12) was under house arrest until Richard and Sara got back and could assess the situation.  Sara got some branches removed near the ‘cat-proof’ boundary fence where we think he managed his escapes.  Then on Tuesday morning Pip, the small female 10-month old kitten, was missing on our shift – Richard and Sara were out for the day.  After an hour Pip came back but in the process we found the gap she had gone through and made sure she would not be going through there again.

He might be looking innocent but if there is anything naughty going on you can be sure Pretzel will be there!

He might be looking innocent but if there is anything naughty going on you can be sure Pretzel will be there!

After lunch we went to Waltham Abbey. There is an old church where King Harold is meant to have been buried after his death in the battle of Hastings on 14th October 1066. Looked in the church, nice ceiling and they even had a mirror table so you could look at it with ease (included some magnification). Went from the church to the pub – Welsh Harp.

Stopped for an ale after visiting the church.  There is litter everywhere because this is on the market square and they had just packed up.  In fact I waited about ten minutes for the last big white van to drive off from the front door of the pub.

Stopped for an ale after visiting the church. There is litter everywhere because this is on the market square and they had just packed up. In fact I waited about ten minutes for the last big white van to drive off from the front door of the pub.

It was rather grey on Wednesday morning so we didn’t hurry.   We went to Osterley Park and House near Heathrow. It was a bit of a trek it was fabulous. We had lunch there and got back home after 5pm.  The redevelopment of this property was undertaken between 1740 and 1760 for the new owner Sir Francis Child..The project was micro-managed by Robert Adam.  He controlled everything, designed the architectural changes, designed the furniture and had it made, etc.  Somehow, unlike many properties, all the original furniture and furnishings still remain in the house and in excellent condition.  There was also an inventory taken in about 1780 so it is well documented what was in the house and where.  The property is almost a snapshot taken in the late 18th century.  For more information click on this link.

Osterley Park House - a very impressive National Trust property.

Osterley Park House – a very impressive National Trust property.

There was an Indian Wedding in progress in one corner of the property and this guy was waiting for his cue to collect the couple.

There was an Indian Wedding in progress in one corner of the property and this guy was waiting for his cue to collect the couple.

The grand entrance up the steps, across the courtyard and in to the entrance hall.

The grand entrance up the steps, across the courtyard and in to the entrance hall.

The entrance hall.

The entrance hall.

The Eating Room.  All done standing up and no need to leave the room to relieve oneself - there were chamber pots concealed in the stand for a vase and courtesy screens at the other end of the room!

The Eating Room. All done standing up and no need to leave the room to relieve oneself – there were chamber pots concealed in the stand for a vase and courtesy screens at the other end of the room!

The Long Room.  Don't know how it got its name!

The Long Room. Don’t know how it got its name!

In the Long Room, this multilevel platter would have been placed on the table of the guest of honour.  It is hand carved ivory and it is more than 250 years old.  The perspex cover does play havoc with taking photos but it basically looks like fine needlework.

In the Long Room, this multilevel platter would have been placed on the table of the guest of honour. It is hand carved ivory and it is more than 250 years old. The perspex cover does play havoc with taking photos but it basically looks like fine needlework.

The carpet in The Drawing Room is original from 1755.

The carpet in The Drawing Room is original from 1755.

The Drawing Room ceiling.  Note that the pattern is the same as the carpet.

The Drawing Room ceiling. Note that the pattern is the same as the carpet.

The Tapestry Room.  The wall tapestries in this room were custom made and include images from the property.  The room is kept very dark for obvious reasons - fyi, the camera settings were ISO25600, 1/60sec f/4.0, 24mm, handheld.

The Tapestry Room. The wall tapestries in this room were custom made and include images from the property. The room is kept very dark for obvious reasons – fyi, the camera settings were ISO25600, 1/60sec f/4.0, 24mm, handheld.

One half of the Library.

One half of the Library.

Another very dark room with lots of delicate fabrics that are c.250 years old - The Guest Room.

Another very dark room with lots of delicate fabrics that are c.250 years old – The Guest Room.

The Lady's Dressing Room.  The intense colour and the decoration are exactly as it was.

The Lady’s Dressing Room. The intense colour and the decoration are exactly as it was.

As usual, what was once the stables is now the café and gift shop.

As usual, what was once the stables is now the café and gift shop.

I think we can safely declare that Spring is now here!

I think we can safely declare that Spring is now here!

More proof of Spring.

More proof of Spring.

It had been very windy, but not raining, all night and still when we got up on Thursday morning.  We were heading for Oxford and according to Leanne’s research visitors are discouraged from bringing their cars into the town – parking is scarce and expensive.  They promote the Park and Ride stations outside the town as the best alternative.  We got to the Park and Ride at about 11am and rode the shuttle into the city, arriving at noon.  Took lots of photos as usual on our wanderings. The sun was out on and off but the air was cool and the wind chill was a bit sharp.  Ended up at the White Horse pub for a nice filling lunch.  Walked some more after lunch and found Christ College.  Walked along the meadow to the Rivers Thames and Cherwell then on to Folly Bridge before looping back to the centre and to Oxford Castle.  It was a busy day but very enjoyable with lots of incredible history all around.

Queen's College, like many, was off limits to visitors due to examinations being in progress.

Queen’s College, like many, was off limits to visitors due to examinations being in progress.

St Edmunds College was open to visitors and free (some others charged up to £5 each).  This was the college attended by our friends Dave and Cathy.  We will have to defer to them for some legendary tales of student life.

St Edmunds College was open to visitors and free (some others charged up to £5 each). This was the college attended by our friends Dave and Cathy. We will have to defer to them for some legendary tales of student life.

Does this bridge look familiar?  Looks like the Rialto Bridge to me but it is called the Bridge of Sighs.

Does this bridge look familiar? Looks like the Rialto Bridge to me but it is called the Bridge of Sighs.

The Radcliffe Camera which has nothing to do with photography but is a library.  Go figure!

The Radcliffe Camera which has nothing to do with photography but is a library. Go figure!

I was trying to get a shot of the beer labels and the publican decided to join in.  The Oxford Gold was pretty good.

I was trying to get a shot of the beer labels and the publican decided to join in. The Oxford Gold was pretty good.

More beer.  How long has there been a beer called Thatcher's Gold?

More beer. How long has there been a beer called Thatcher’s Gold?

The chapel in Trinity College.

The chapel in Trinity College.

Streetscape in Oxford.

Streetscape in Oxford.

One of the outer buildings of Christ Church College.

One of the outer buildings of Christ Church College.

Old English Longhorn cattle, part of a herd of about 60 animals on the Christ Church Meadow.  The College is in the background.  This is only a few hundred metres from the town centre.

Old English Longhorn cattle, part of a herd of about 60 animals on the Christ Church Meadow. The College is in the background. This is only a few hundred metres from the town centre.

The rowing facilities on the River Thames.

The rowing facilities on the River Thames.

By Friday it was time for a rest day although I did manage to visit two local pubs and have a half pint at each.

Saturday had been marked as a day for another London expedition employing the same logistics plan as last week – buy a £8.90 each day pass that takes us into the city and back plus as many bus and tube rides as we like.  We packed a lot into the day too.  Our train took us to Liverpool Street Station.  From there we took the Circle Line to Tower Hill so we could walk to Tower Bridge, cross it then catch a bus back.  We rode the #15 bus towards Trafalgar Square but got off near Covent Gardens. Walked around the area, through the markets, past Freemasons Hall, down Drury Lane and back to The Strand where we finished the bus ride to Trafalgar Square. The square was all prepared for Sunday’s London Marathon and we also saw lots of barriers on other streets. Grabbed a sandwich and sat outside the National Gallery in the sun to eat.  Spent about half an hour in the gallery for a very quick look before getting a bus to Abbey Road – just because we could!  After there we used a combination of buses and Tube to get to Kensington South Station and visit the Victoria and Albert Museum.  Leanne just wanted to see some of the displays of fashion history.  Then it was time to find our way back to Liverpool Street Station and home.

At 8am on Saturday, before we could drive to the train station for our day outing in London, we had to scrape the ice off our windscreen.

At 8am on Saturday, before we could drive to the train station for our day outing in London, we had to scrape the ice off our windscreen.

Can't get too much more cliché than this - a red double decker bus on Tower Bridge!  The only thing that is a little incongruous is the cloudless blue sky.

Can’t get too much more cliché than this – a red double decker bus on Tower Bridge! The only thing that is a little incongruous is the cloudless blue sky.

Just to hammer home the cliché.

Just to hammer home the cliché.

Without doubt Springtime.

Without doubt Springtime.

Some of these guys looked amusing.

Some of these guys looked amusing.

Is there anybody out there who does not have a mobile phone?  From what I have observed, not only does everyone have a mobile phone but most of them seem to be iPhones!  How does that work?  The figures I found imply that iPhone share in Europe is about 20% (compared to 39% in US).

Is there anybody out there who does not have a mobile phone? From what I have observed, not only does everyone have a mobile phone but most of them seem to be iPhones! How does that work? The figures I found imply that iPhone share in Europe is about 20% (compared to 39% in US).

Trafalgar Square, Nelson's Column, a bronze equestrian statue of Charles I, a Red bus, bicycles, people and The National Gallery in the background.  I don't think I could fit another cliché in this photo.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trafalgar_Square

Trafalgar Square, Nelson’s Column, a bronze equestrian statue of Charles I, a Red bus, bicycles, people and The National Gallery in the background. I don’t think I could fit another cliché in this photo. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trafalgar_Square

The Mall closed to traffic in preparation for tomorrow's London Marathon.

The Mall closed to traffic in preparation for tomorrow’s London Marathon.

Admiralty Arch.

Admiralty Arch.

Arriving at Abbey Road on the bus.

Arriving at Abbey Road on the bus.

The famous footsteps crossing Abbey Road.

The famous footsteps crossing Abbey Road.

Crowds of people all getting their own photo opportunity and holding up the traffic in the process.

Crowds of people all getting their own photo opportunity and holding up the traffic in the process.

The Victoria and Albert Museum.

The Victoria and Albert Museum.

So that was another day spent in London.  What we do know for sure is that one day we need to spend a lot more time here visiting places like the British Museum, the National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum and many other incredibly rich collections.  All we have had time to do so far is to confirm that they are there and worth returning to!

Sunday was a more relaxing day.  The weather was great again and we had a pub lunch with Dave and Carolyn followed by a little wander around the village of Ayot St. Lawrence.

The Brocket Arms at Ayot St. Lawrence in the Hertfordshire countryside where we enjoyed a Sunday lunch with Carolyn and Dave.

The Brocket Arms at Ayot St. Lawrence in the Hertfordshire countryside where we enjoyed a Sunday lunch with Carolyn and Dave.

That covers another very enjoyable week here in the UK.  There may be some discontinuities ahead on the blog posting front.  We will be leaving Hertfordshire this coming week and things will be a bit uncertain for a week ar two.  I will keep taking notes as usual though and will catch up with the postings sooner or later.  Until next time, enjoy!

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