Weekend in Kew & Richmond

A fairly uneventful drive in late summer sunshine down to southwest London to stay with friends. Dinner on Friday evening was in a local French restaurant and after a cooked breakfast provided by our host we all had went to Kew Gardens. I don’t think I have been there at this time of year before and cannot remember such a warm September. There were many new things to see and taking a note of Nasreen Mohamedi’s close-up paintings of sections of buildings, I took some photographs of parts of plants. We climbed to the top of the Treetop Walkway and enjoyed being among the tops of the trees.
Autumn Crocus Kew Gardens Sept 2014-0031

Grass Kew Gardens Sept 2014-0037

Leaves Kew Gardens Sept 2014-0036

Cricket was being played on Kew Green when we left the gardens, a very English sight. After a drink in the local pub we took a bus to Richmond for a pre-theatre dinner and then saw The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd by DH Lawrence at the Orange Tree Theatre which is in the round. I have read Lawrence’s novels and poetry but was not familiar with this play. The gas lamp and furniture of the set and the East Midlands accents took me right back to my great aunt’s house and there was even a reference to Old Brinsley Pit, near where we lived and only a couple of miles from where Lawrence was born. The first half of the play kept us enthralled but the second act petered out at the end leaving us feeling something else should have happened. Anyway, we took a taxi back to a pub which had live music and ended the evening there. On Sunday, before leaving, we visited Richmond Park. We had coffee on the terrace at Pembroke Lodge, watching some jackdaws searching for food that had fallen on the ground and then walked around the area, admiring the views and the forest.
Jackdaws Richmond Park Sept 2014-0057

Gate Richmond Park Sept 2014-0059

All too soon we had to get back for lunch and then back up the motorway with the temperature still in the mid twenties centigrade.

Weekend travels

It was a strange feeling, driving up to Edinburgh on Friday evening, wondering what it would have been like to be living in two different countries. This was the first trip done in almost total darkness, no doubt to be followed by many more over the winter. On Saturday, after a long lie we went to a talk given by artist and bird watcher, Leo du Feu at the Arts Club. I really enjoyed his talk about his work (landscapes of Scotland and birds) and how he develops paintings. One of the things I find frustrating sitting on trains or as a passenger in the car is when a glimpse of landscape or some arrangement of objects is just asking to be turned into a picture but there is no time to take a photograph or it is not possible to stop. He has done a lot of work by train and uses sketches with colour notes to capture a picture. I must try that on the next long train journey. James was attending a course on Sunday so Flora and I had a walk down to the Meadows (she cannot manage Blackford Hill any more). I had a coffee at the dog-friendly Pavilion Cafe while Flora watched much younger dogs racing after balls and bring them back to their owners. This morning it was time to come hom. The mist was clearing and the day warming up as we drove back down the M74. The roadside and railway banks were covered with seedheads of Rose Bay Willow Herb, a plant my grandfather (a locomotive engineer) called ‘Railway Flowers’ because of their propensity to grow in disturbed ground. A reminder that this warm weather will come to an end was the sight of seven new snow ploughs heading north. Autumn 9

Short journeys

Swansea Beach 10 Sep 2014
Two smaller journeys today – the walk from my hotel to the University and back, along the beachfront. In the morning, everyone I passed who was walking, cycling or jogging said hello. South Wales is definitely more welcoming than the South of England in that respect. Much of the path is shared with cyclists and they all seem to have bells and acknowledged me when I stepped out of their way. The other side of the road has numerous hotels and guesthouses. The University is just less than two miles away and in a pleasant setting. I soon found out where I should be and had a very stimulating day. The glorious sunny weather continues and after finishing a workshop, I walked back. The tide was beginning to turn and there were several fishermen nearer to the hotel. I asked them what they were fishing for and they responded ‘anything’. I wished them luck and headed inside for a fairly lazy evening and early night.

Train to the sea

First sight of the sea Swansea Sept 2014
A less familiar train journey today as I set off to attend a conference in Swansea. I have previously travelled the route from Crewe to Cardiff when I was external examiner at the university there. However, that was around six years ago. As the two-carriage train left Crewe, the first notable sight was a dump of dozens of car tyres in a field. Sliding into Shrewsbury, a derelict building (The Maltings) was clearly in need of restoration. Just next to the station, the Butter Market has been better looked after. Continuing through the green and gold landscape of Shropshire, I noted that I do not feel a great attachment to lowland landscapes, having been hefted to the uplands. I was not sure whether a square tower with a flag sticking above the trees and hedges in one village was a small castle or a church. It has been a great year for fruits of many kinds – beside the track are masses of blackberries, rose hips and elderberries while we zoom past the occasional orchard. At one point I spotted a jay flying over the downy seed heads of thistles and rosebay willow herb. I had forgotten that Ludlow has a racecourse and nearer to Leominster, there is a communications centre with many aerials and large satellite dishes. The soil in Herefordshire is very red and I spotted many photo opportunities as we sped past – especially trees silhouetted against the ploughed slopes. As we approached Port Talbot and Cardiff, the landscape changed to industrial and urban. A mother and daughter sitting opposite me were discussing the transition to university. We were back in farmland until Swansea. I was off the train fairly quickly and a quick taxi took me to my hotel which is sandwiched between the marina and the beach. The Welsh Coastal Path passes along the promenade and will be my walk to the university tomorrow. Colleagues are arriving so time to have a quick bath before the welcome ceremony and squeeze in some time for evening photography.

Going home

After a service in the multinational English-speaking church in Bordeaux, we waved goodbye to our friends on the Rocade as they headed to the market in Pessac and we headed north. If we’d had more time it would have been more interesting to avoid the autoroutes completely but we did cut across to Angoulème to avoid the very heavy traffic going north. Seeing a car belching black smoke from the exhaust reminded me of a journey from Biarritz to Caen ten years ago when an injection hose split on our car and we had to limp along accompanied by black smoke as we had to get on the ferry that night. No such problems on this journey and we had time to have a quick meal at the port before checking in.
Ouestrehan Port 31 Aug 2014_edited-1
It was a lovely evening and the lighthouse, brightly coloured fishing boat and lifeboat were just asking to be photographed. The incoming boat was a bit late so we amused ourselves people watching. One older couple had come back from having a meal and thought their car had been moved. To everyone’s entertainment it was discovered where they had left it, in the pre-check in lanes. The armed customs officers were searching every car and Sasha the drug sniffer dog was also very busy. As there had been a big equestrian event in Normandy that weekend, there were several huge, expensive-looking horseboxes on the boat. All the HGVs were being checked for hidden people by a guy with a carbon dioxide monitor. It made me think how desperate people must be to go to such lengths to escape their situation. Fortunately all the lorries were OK and eventually we boarded. The next morning we arrived in a very dreich Portsmouth, the weather only improving as we left the motorway in South Cheshire. Back home now until the next trip.