Tag Archives: London

Bushy Park

We’re regular visitors to Richmond Park, but until yesterday we’d never visited Bushy Park – the other walled royal park, this one a little further to the south and west and across the street from Hampton Court, which must have been very convenient for Henry VIII when he used it as a hunting ground.

It’s a more formal park than the managed ‘wilderness’ of Richmond Park, with planted avenues of chestnut and lime trees and centred around a great round pond with an ornate fountain.  There’s a woodland garden which snakes alongside a slow and shallow stream.  Near the Pheasantry Centre (no pheasants, but a cafe and visitor centre), it was planted with mature bald cypress, one of my favorite tress.  We didn’t explore that in full, but I’d love to go back and see that in spring when the rhododendrons and azaleas are in bloom.

Bushy park

Stream and bald cypress

For us, we had to first get our heads around the scale of the park.  We’re used to the sweeping distances of Richmond Park, and what looked on the map as a long way actually was a short walk.  So even taking the long way, getting to the playground took little time.


The young navigator

We walked through a paved avenue of limes. The name of this tree has always confused me. As these trees don’t produce the kind of limes you can put in your margaritas. As I mentioned this to Simon, he said “You mean they don’t make limes?” Umm, no. One wouldn’t really expect citrus to be produced on an island this far to the north. Instead they are this kind.

Lime tree avenue

This is not the road to Margaritaville

The playground is vast and well-equipped with swings, climbing frames, a sandpit and all risk appetites are catered for with an array of slides.

Bill immediately ran to the scariest slide of all – a behemoth on which kids could (and did) actually hurt themselves (though not badly – mostly bruised bottoms and bruised pride).  He managed it quite well, but an older kid took the slide poorly and landed with a bad thump and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Bill became a bit nervous of the slide after that and demanded that Daddy accompany him.

On the big slide

The big slide


Daddy applies the hand brake

Overall, with less space and what felt like a more people, the park seemed crowded – at least in comparison to Richmond Park.   Both parks have red and fallow deer, but in Bushy Park the deer seem more habituated to humans and we were able to hand feed some young fallow deer.  In late July and early August, the male fallow deer are approachable.   Because of the dry weather, I suspect there’s less grazing and the deer are hungry.  Park visitors were stripping leaves from trees where the deer could not reach, and several of the deer would nibble from your hands.  Some of the visitors were a little less respectful than they ought to have been – as deer can be dangerous.  Although they were grateful for the leaves, they didn’t like being approached or petted from behind and would startle and jump sometimes perilously close to the person who was feeding them from the front.

Hand feeding the deer

Feeding the deer

I think we will go back to Bushy Park, but we probably won’t make it a regular trip.

At the Diana fountain in Bushy Park

The Diana fountain

See Londoners can be nice

Picture the scene, it’s just before the evening rush hour really ramps in.  But the District Line to Wimbledon is already standing room only and it’s hot.   Just before the doors close a young woman jumps in.  She’s wearing a crisp white shirt, just a little bit too tight.  Graduate job seeker in marketing, maybe?

“Is this the Circle Line?” she asks.

“No, it’s the District line,” come the slightly sympathetic replies.

“But the poles are yellow,” she says.

And indeed they are.  Although the District line is green on the underground map, the structural accents are picked out in cheerful yellow.   And although the circle line is yellow on the map – not all trains decorated lemon are Circle line trains*.

Waiting to move off

Not the circle line

Although I can’t see her face, she’s clearly disappointed.  She’s got on the wrong train.

Several commuters pipe up:

“That’s a good idea, though.”

“A lovely idea, that would make sense.”

“Perhaps we should tell TFL.”


* I think the District Line and Circle Line share rolling stock, i.e. trains.

Attractions from the outside

Sunday was quite the sightseeing day for me.  I started off in York where I’d been attending a weekend conference, with little time to take in all the fabulous things to see except from the outside.  But I got a few shots of York Minster from the outside

And then I met my husband at a pub in borough to do the childcare handover thing.  Unfortunately, the pub we chose didn’t allow children, which they only told us after we ordered food.  They let us eat, though.  And Bill was fortunately remarkably well-behaved, only kicking up a slight fuss when I wouldn’t let him play the fruit machine.

I left Simon with his role-playing chums and Bill and I went off to tour the South Bank and take lots of different forms of transport.

We went up via London Bridge station and Bill was desperate to go on the HMS Belfast.  But it costs a lot of money.  And frankly I didn’t fancy chasing him around a cruiser single-handed.  It’s all a bit head-banging low doorways or gangways or portals or whatever they call doors on ships and treacherous stairs and railings inadequate to prevent a small boy from flinging himself into the Thames.

I told him we couldn’t go on the ship but he spotted the entrance.  Clever boy.

Fortunately he was distracted by the elephants currently populating London.  He wanted to ride the elephants, but I’m not sure that that’s allowed.  And anyway, their high, slippery fibreglass backs looked quite dangerous.

He dashed from pachyderm to pachyderm in front of the GLA building.

We crossed Tower Bridge on foot – something I’d never done before, and well worth doing.  It took some persuasion to get him to pose on one of the few safe areas of the balustrade.  He slumped in his stroller and said “I too tired.  I very, very tired Mommy.”  His latest phrase whenever we want him to something that he doesn’t quite fancy.

But I told him if he posed for a few pictures we could go and see the castle on the other side.   We didn’t go into the Tower of London either.  Another costly tourist attraction.  But we enjoyed an ice cream moatside:

And stopped to look at the Traitor’s Gate.  Bill asked me if that’s where princesses went, and it certainly was.  I tried to explain that it was mostly for ‘bad people’ but sometimes princesses used that gate, too.  I told him how Princess Elizabeth had gone through those doors and up those steps, but that she was one of the few to come out again free.  And that she wasn’t bad.   He nodded.

Because the Northern Line was closed for the weekend, we needed to either catch a train home from London Bridge or Waterloo or catch a dire ‘replacement bus’ from Kennington.  Since he’d said he wanted to ride a boat, we caught the Thames Clipper from the Tower up the Thames to Waterloo.  If you have an Oyster card loaded with cash or a travel card you get a nice discount and fabulous views of the Thames.

At Waterloo, the dock sits right underneath the London Eye and Bill wanted to ‘ride the eggs’.  But that also costs money (there’s a theme here).  And anyway, I’ve taken my last ride on a Ferris Wheel of any description since my mother’s neighbor fell from the top of one while riding with her grandson at the fair in Lawrenceburg a couple of years ago.  (She lived!).

At this point, Bill was genuinely tired of having his photo taken from the outside of visitor attractions.  “I don’t like pictures,” he told me.

But he likes rides.  By the end of the day he’d ridden the Underground, the Overground, a commuter boat and a bus.  Exciting day, even if we didn’t go in any pay attractions.

Dark ages and the Land Before Time

We’ve been very busy taking in the cultural attractions and dinosaurs lately.  First a trip to the Science Museum where the toddler had a fabulous time inspecting the old steam engines and playing in The Garden (a fabulous interactive play area in the basement).  But he crashed out completely during a a 3D IMAX  presentation of  Dinosaurs Alive.  Although, of course, they weren’t alive, and I found the 3D experience not terribly sharp and actually slightly nauseating.

The toddler kept muttering to himself "No climb trains"

My mother has been visiting and we also took a day to leave the toddler at home (under the capable supervision of his father) and visit the new Medieval and Renaissance Galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum.  Absolutely spectacular.  It exceeded my already high expectations. A fantastic collection of amazing items and large and small.  I couldn’t even take it all in.  I was starting to get dark age overload and we quit half-way through to take in some lunch in the outrageously crowded (but lovely William Morris tile decorated) cafe.

No, you take him!

We had to search hard for a seat and ended up sitting next to two young metrosexual types – one of whom was complaining bitterly about his sister’s treatment of his mother in such a way that I was quite.sure there was more than one side to the story.

Despite not really wanting to, we ended up in the new ceramic gallery – which was also eye catching – before another quick look at the Medieval galleries.  I’m looking forward to going back soon.

Land of the Lost

On New Year’s Day we drove out to the Crystal Palace Park…which is a strange place indeed.  The footings of the eponymous Crystal Palace (the glass house itself burned down in the first half of the 20th century – though not sure how that happens.)  We weren’t the only family with young children there and the cafe was extremely popular among the under-8s.    And then we saw the object of our trip across South London – the dinosaurs of Crystal Palace.

They’re an interesting bit of Victoriana – and were (according to Wikipedia) commissioned as the great Crystal Palace was moved from its original exhibition space to what I presume would have been in the far outskirts of London at the time.  Geology was a pretty new science and the idea of dinosaurs must have been exciting and amazing.  And apparently a fairly text book explanation of geology was thought to appeal as well – as judged by this display of strata and faults.  All part of the fun, I guess.  (I like it – but then I would – I have a degree in Geology).  But I think the Victorians were entertained by these sorts of things – informative and edgy at the same time.  The models were commissioned before Darwin’s Origin was published.

Fabulous faults

I’m not a paleo person by any means, but even to me these dinos look not quite right.  They are for the most part pretty darn inaccurate, but a reasonable guess for a time when few complete skeletons of specimens had been found.  Again according to Wikipedia – these models were ridiculed within a few decades of their making.

I think they’re still worth a look.  Although they seem to have deteriorated substantially since the last time we saw them – 3 and a half years ago – one of the Iguanodon’s was missing part of his jaw and they seemed a bit faded.

grrrr...awrrrr....I need a dentist

Never turn your back on a T-rex

My dad is visiting and since our last visit to the Natural History Museum was such a success, but hampered by the throng of crowds which prevented us from seeing the dinosaurs we headed on up to South Kensington for a round of educational museum going.

Bill loved the museum and he loves to go round mashing the buttons on the exhibits and he didn’t much care what happened as a result.

This one made squeaky noises as you try to guide the dolphin to the fish

I was determined to get to the dinosaurs this time, no matter what despite Bill running off down wrong corridors and shouting “This way!”  Of course, that did mean we got to see the ancient specimens of lions and tigers and bears (oh my!).  And Bill was happy to oblige when I asked him what noise a bear makes.


When finally got to the dinosaurs and he was quite excited.  I was a bit nervous about how he might react to the animatronic Tyrannosaurs Rex, but he seemed to take it in his stride.

“Hello Dinosaur,”  he said.

“Hello Dinosaur,” he said so cheerfully and chirpily that I was beginning to wonder if perhaps it was a little bravado.

“Hello Dinosaur,” he said.  And then it was time to get our picture in front of the dino.  He was riding on my shoulders, so a quick quarter turn should have seen our jolly little group of three captured for posterity.

But he did NOT want to turn his back on the dinosaur.  No way.  No how.

Not advisable, Mommy


And this isn’t the first time either.  He wouldn’t stand in front of the giant hippo for an update on this portrait

don't throw me in, Uncle Will!

and he wouldn’t stand in front of the plaster lion at the Horniman museum, either.    He’s quite happy to get up close and examine them, but he’s also certain never to turn his back on the T-rex.

There’ll be feathers on the streets of London

License-to-kill London birds, to license to the kill the birds

License-to-kill London birds, to license to the kill the birds

Yesterday out of the corner of my eye I saw this Evening Standard teaser board and my first thought, crazy thought, I know…was “license-to-kill” James Bond parakeets, ‘cos that would be cool.

But I knew without looking up the story that this was the declaration of open season on London’s growing population of feral green parakeets. There are various explanations as to how the parakeets came to London in the first place, escaped from the film set of the African Queen, released by Jimmi Hendrix as a symbol of psychadelic peace, escaped from a pet store…and so on. But however they came, they can be spotted in many of the parks of South West London.

I love them. I think they’re cheery, especially since their breeding season is in January so their bright green is often the only thing that colourful in gray and bleak midwinter. But apparently many people think they’re a nuisance – and apparently a group of them chattering in the early hours in your back garden can drive people to distraction.

So now they’ve removed some layers of bureacracy when it comes to a parakeet cull.

In hiding

In hiding

According to the Daily Mail:

Other species also added to the ‘general licence’ hit-list include the monk parakeet from South America, which can occasionally be found in the northern Home Counties, the Canada goose and the Egyptian goose.

Can’t say I’m particularly cut up about Canadian geese having their numbers reduced, but Egyptian Geese!  I’m shocked and deeply disappointed.  Egyptian Geese are my favorite birds, the only goose I’m not absolutely terrified of.

No open season on the Egyptian Goose please

No open season on the Egyptian Goose please

The commonality of all the birds on the hit list is that they’re foreigners.   Blatant discrimination.  The fact is these birds will work harder and for less bird seed than the native working birds, who frankly have become a little soft.

Memento Mori

While I was on maternity leave, I went into the nearby cemetery almost every day.  Pushing the stroller over the bumpy roads seemed to calm the boy and at least we got out.   I always took my camera and was ever on the lookout for interesting floral tributes.  Flower arrangements heavily reliant on Oasis foam and florists’ wire and turned into the shape of a cat or an angel or the inexplicably common (but not very photogenic) floral chair.  I had already been taking pictures of these things for some time, but during that period I managed to collect quite a few.

I haven’t been in the cemetery quite so much and when I have been there usually wasn’t a good selection of tributes. Either nothing at all, or nothing very original.  I wasn’t sure if it was just my bad luck or if there if these things had gone out of fashion, some kind of cultural victim of the credit crunch perhaps.

But yesterday I nipped into the cemetery and found I was in luck.   There was a fabulous floral tribute based on the London Ambulance Service Crest.  The occupational floral tributes is perhaps one of my favourite themes, and this one was a particularly fine example – well executed and with the inclusion of fake gems.

Sometimes I think that this a morbid fascination – and I suppose it is.  But on the other hand, these are works of a temporary nature and represent one of the really important moments in our lives (for the bereaved and of course for the deceased), and despite being made by professionals they have a kind of folk art feel.  And maybe they are folk art if you think about it as a collaborative commissioning process.  Anyway, I tell myself I’m capturing and celebrating an aspect of culture that’s little appreciated.

Or, maybe I’m just ghoulish.