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Ross and Moss – Day 1

Ross and Moss – Day 1

Our travelling this year has been severely curtailed because of Covid-19 so no surprises there. When Covid-19 first appeared and the country went into lockdown we were able to only walk locally. Then restrictions on driving eased a little, although we weren’t able to travel far, but eventually those restrictions were also eased to the point that we considered going away for a few days. So when a few days of sunny weather were forecast we decided to bite the bullet and off we went.

We booked accommodation in the Forest of Dean and set off in the sunshine.

Our first port of call was Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire just a short way from our final destination. I had been to Ross-on-Wye about 65 years ago and could remember nothing at all about it so it was like a first visit.

This next picture shows a general view of the town taken from the banks of the River Wye with the famous church spire showing well above the rest of the buildings. There is, of course, a riverside walk here.

When we arrived we parked in a car park in Edde Cross Street then walked back to the junction with High Street . A short distance along High Street brought us to the Old Market Hall at the top of Broad Street. This was built around 1650, and replaced what was probably an earlier wooden building, and markets are still held in it today. It does look rather impressive.

Having had a good look around the Market Place we walked the short distance to the church and, at 205 feet, that is what I call a spire! Although the spire was rebuilt in 1721 the church itself was built in 1316 and is one of the largest churches in Herefordshire.

The attractive interior is certainly spacious and features a number of monuments.

Outside in the churchyard is the Plague Cross which was erected to mark the graves where the three hundred or more townsfolk were buried by night and without coffins during an outbreak of the plague in 1637.

To one side of the church is a small, but beautiful, public park called ‘The Prospect’ which includes some fine trees and also provides an impressive view looking down over the River Wye and the surrounding countryside.

After looking around the church we wanted some lunch so, going back to the Market Square to look round, we found a nice little cafe at the top of Broad Street quite close to the Old Market Hall.

There is a small outside sitting area, seen in the picture below, but we ate inside. We had a small but satisfying, and very tasty, lunch.

After lunch we spotted a few more items of interest on our way back to the car. A rather quaint alley, some old almshouses and a very ancient timber-framed building now used as an antiques shop.

After leaving Ross-on-Wye we drove the 8 miles to our hotel which was not in any town or village but in the middle of the Forest of Dean.

Having registered we moved in to our room, unpacked and went outside to explore the forest .

I took this photograph of the Speech House Hotel before we started walking.

There was a path nearby called Spruce Ride so we started with that and noticed on the map that it went past a lake and decided to walk as far as the lake and back. The forest off to the side of the track looked very pleasant.

We spotted a little stream where the water was very brown. This area, surprisingly, had a lot of mines in the past, some of which were for iron, so it’s not surprising to find water coloured by the iron ore in the ground.

It didn’t take very long to reach the lake which looked very picturesque in the sunshine and it was lovely and quiet.

We were on the lookout for things other than trees and lakes and eventually came across a number of interesting fungi.

On our way back we saw this tree which was covered in moss. Not something one sees every day. A ‘Moss Tree’ perhaps.

The marker on the map below shows our path to the lake and the light area by the junction is the Speech House Hotel. You can zoom in and out using the plus and minus icons.

After returning to the hotel it was time to freshen up and go down to dinner. We had a choice of restaurant and this evening we chose the more formal dining room which, I have to say, was rather nice.

We started off, before ordering our meal, with cocktails. Amanda had an Espresso Martini which was coffee flavoured, which she rather liked, and mine was a Passion Fruit Cocktail. If Amanda’s head looks a little odd it’s the ultra wide angle lens I used to take this photograph.

Our meal turned out to be very nice and afterwards we retired for the night.

Ross -on-Wye was a lovely little town and we do like the Forest of Dean. So there endeth our first day. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

A Knighton Walk – We’re on edge!

A Knighton Walk – We’re on edge!

Another sunny day – time for another walk. This time we are starting at Offa’s Dyke Centre and walking to just past Nether Skyborry and back on a circular route.

We started from the Offa’s Dyke Centre and this shows the park at the back of the Centre. We set off along the visible path which is actually part of the Offa’s Dyke Path.

Just as we entered the park we saw this rather fine Chestnut Tree in flower.

A little further along the path (still In the park) the grass on the left-hand side was covered in Buttercups and Daisies.

We soon reached the point at which the path divides, the left-hand path leads to a section of Offa’s Dyke, should you want to see that, but we wanted the right-hand fork which follows Offa’s Dyke Path down to the River Teme.

That right-hand path leads to the top of these steps so down we go.

The path levels off briefly, crossing a grassy area, and the bank on the left is the section of dyke mentioned earlier

The path then goes downhill again for a short while to where we turn left still following Offa’s Dyke Path.

We then leave the wooded section into the open where we walk alongside the River Teme for a short while. The hill in the distance is Panpunton Hill.

Leaving the riverside we cross the River Teme on this footbridge

and cross the railway line. There is very good visibility on this crossing as the line is straight for quite a good length and it is very easy to see a train if there is one.

On the other side of the railway line we go through a gate and continue on the path.

The signpost at this point is pointing along the Offa’s Dyle Path, back the way that we have come and off to the right to continue on Offa’s Dyke Path. We, however, are taking a different direction. You should be able to see a very small figure (another walker) in the centre of the picture which is where we are heading. On the left of that figure you may be able to see a patch bare of grass which is the path we are following.

The path continues slightly uphill past a trough and goes through the gate ahead. The gate is held closed by a chain which can be unclipped and, after passing through, do not forget to shut the gate and clip the chain back together.

This section of path passes through this meadow and heads for the far right corner of the field where there is another gate which is very similar to the one we have just passed through..

On the way we passed a number of Hawthorn Trees in blossom. There were also some Bluebells below right.

On the far side of the second field we pass close to the River Teme and start uphill again.

This uphill section is neither long nor steep.

We do, however, soon reach this point where the path appears to go through a tree. That is because the path does go through a tree. When we had a lot of rain earlier in the year it was enough to cause part of the bank on our left to collapse taking the tree with it so that the tree has ended up at an angle although it still appears to be growing. We had to detour around the tree on the right.

On the other side of the tree the path runs along the top of a cliff and you may be able to see that there is quite a drop down to the river. Bearing in mind that we have just seen evidence that this ground is unstable you can see why we were on edge in both senses of the word.

A short way on we saw a number of bright blue Speedwell flowers. Very pretty.

The path continues for some time at about this level. Do you get the impression that Amanda is trying to lose me?

Then we saw some rather attractive Red Campion flowers. There are a lot of wild flowers of various types along this route.

We reach a point where a small stream cuts across the path but what you can’t see is that the path this side is very steeply angled towards the stream but you’ll be sorry to hear that we both made it without getting our feet wet.

Shortly after we saw this splendid example of a coppiced tree and coppicing should not be confused with pollarding.

At this point amanda saw a strange old geezer suffering from OldBufferitis trying to get over a low, very simple stile and making a real meal of it. This is the start of a short section of path which we have named the Assalt Course as there are a number of obstacles to be negotiated.

Just the other side Amanda spotted this Jews Ear fungus (Auricularia auricula-judae) which I had missed comletely. The latin name translates to “Judas’s Ear” and is also known as Wood Ear or Jelly Ear.

The strange old geezer made a second appearance when we had to clamber over a fallen tree and made a miserable attempt at making it appear difficult.

There aren’t many choices with this one. Either you clamber over it or crawl under it. We chose the former.

Finally we reached this gate where we left the wooded part and emerged into the open. This gate has an interesting closing mechanism which I haven’t seen before. I won’t attempt to explain it but I managed to work it out so you should also be able to if you attempt the walk.

You may just be able to see a gate in the far hedge in the right half of the picture. It’s above and just left of the left-most sheep. That’s our current target.

On our way to the gate we passed quite close to one of the locals.

When we finally reached the gate we stopped to look back at the view. That hill on the left with the mast on the top is Garth Hill and we have walked on Garth Hill a number of times.

We left the field via a gate and emerged onto the road. The route we are going to take now is from that gate towards and behind the camera which is back towards Nether Skyborry and, thence, Knighton.

It was a bit of a puff going uphill to Nether Skyborry but we managed and the gate on the left had a nameplate on it which read ‘ Nether Skyborry’.

A little further along the road we had this rather nice view of Knighton.

Eventually we reached the point at which Offa’s Dyke Path crosses the road. This view is looking back the way we have come and the gate on the right gives access to Offa’s Dyke Path up Panpunton Hill. The gate on the left takes us back towards Knighton to the point at which, earlier on the route, we branched off the Offa’s Dyke Path.

There is a choice here of going through the gate back to Knighton which will mean the total length of the walk will be three miles or of continuing along the road to Knighton Station and then right along Station Road back into town which would mean a total length of four miles.

We went back home after a delightful walk with a lot of interesting features. We have done it before and we’ll probably do it again.

Galanthus Galore

Galanthus Galore

There were two firsts for us today; it was the first trip of the year and it was the first time that I had used my new camera. It wasn't warm but considering that it was February it wasn't anywhere near as cold as it could have been and the weather forecast was for sunny intervals which from my point of view was ideal. I didn't know whether what I wanted to photograph would look best in sunny or cloudy conditions so it looks as though I'd have the choice. Perfect!

We drove for an uneventful hour and ten minutes to the National Trust's Attingham Park just a few miles south-east of Shrewsbury. It was unfortunate that it was also half-term for the local schools so there were a LOT of parents with children. The National Trust staff told us that Attingham Park was the second in the list of most visited sites which we found surprising.

None of it, however, would affect why we were here.

The gardeners among you may recognise Galanthus as being the latin for Snowdrop, which they have here, and for those people who don't recognise the word 'Galore' it means 'in abundance'. They flower in February and this is what we came to photograph.

However not just those but THESE:

That's what I call a Snowdrop display.

After walking round the woods with the snowdrops we made our way over to the Walled Garden to see what that was like although we did not expect to see much at this time of year. Just before we entered the Walled Garden we saw this:

This is the Regency Bee House; a rather luxurious home for bee hives and one of only two such houses in the country. We went onward into the Walled Garden.

Very large but, as we suspected, there is virtually nothing in the way of plants yet; those pots on the left are covering Rhubarb plants in order to 'force' them i.e. make them grow taller than they otherwise would. There was also a separate walled area through an arch which was where the greenhouses were but again very little planting. We shall have to return in the summer.

We made our way out of the Walled Garden and decided it was time for lunch. The restaurant is in the Stables Courtyard area which still has some of the old stables which one can visit. You don't have to eat here unless, of course, you happen to be a horse.

There is also a shop and bookshop together with the inevitable toilets. We went into the Carriage House Cafe and liked the meals on offer and found ourselves a table. It has to be said that it was very busy with parents and children moving past nearly all of the time so if you want peace and quiet you'll be out of luck.

I chose a Fish Pie and Amanda had Sausage and Mash and they both turned out to be very tasty and of good quality. We would eat here again but perhaps we'd bring ear mufflers next time. laugh

After lunch we moved on to the house.

The Attingham Estate includes this mansion together with about 4000 acres of parkland including a Deer Park. We didn't visit the Deer Park this time but we did visit the house going in via the Entrance Hall.

The spaces between the pillars were originally open with the Grand Staircase beyond but John Nash, the architect, changed all that which explains why I thought it not as large or impressive as I'd imagined but I have to admit it's a bit better than ours. We don't for example have any trompe l'oeil panels in our hall but these are very good. The doorway off to the right takes us in to the Drawing Room.

The Drawing Room does have a rather impressive ceiling.

This next room is known as the Boudoir. It is circular with 7 doors (we counted them) and it also has an impressive ceiling. It was created for the 1st Lady Berwick as her own intimate space.

Then into the Inner Library with its Regency bookcases. The walls of the Inner Library are painted red; a popular Regency colour choice associated with strength and masculinity.

Around 1805-1807 John Nash, the English architect, included this rather grand staircase in his redevelopment scheme at Attingham as having removed the main staircase he needed a replacment.

One certainly couldn't miss it.

We now went down to the semi-basement which was the domain of the servants. The next picture showns the Servants Hall where they had their meals.

The rules that servants had to observe, which came from Lord Berwick, included:

"No servant is to absent themselves from the house at anytime or from meals on any pretence whotsoever without especial permission of the Steward, Housekeeper, Lady Berwick or myself."

So they are not allowed to skip a meal without permission which brings us to the Kitchen. Quite a large room with a lovely fire which was very welcome at this time of year.

Finally the Bell Room. I thought this to be quite extraordinary when there are so many bells, to demand attention from the servants, that they needed a room to themselves. These bells went around the four sides of the room and were divided into sections of which this was the Ground Floor.

That brought us to the end of our little trip, so early in the year, and back home we went to wait for the next one.

Sun, Signals and Sabrina

Sun, Signals and Sabrina

We have been to Shrewsbury twice before and I have blogged both trips as you may remember. On each of those occasions it was cloudy but today was forecast to be sunny intervals. We have experienced forecasts like that before where we have two minutes of sun followed by two hours of cloud so we weren't hopeful but decided to risk it. So we started off on our third trip to Shrewsbury on the train and it turned out to be third time lucky.

I have shown you pictures of our little one carriage train before, but from the outside, so here's a picture of the inside.

You may notice that it is very popular, especially at this time of year as between 1st October and 31st March old people like us who have bus passes may travel free. This covers the whole line from Swansea in the south to Shrewsbury in the north; a total trip of around four hours. Our part of the trip from Knighton to Shrewsbury is only 50 minutes.

This is a picture of the signal box outside Shrewsbury Station. I took it from the train as we flashed past inasmuch as our little train can flash past anything. "But wait", I hear you cry, "why are you showing us pictures of a signal box.? We don't want to see pictures of signal boxes." Well, you do, but you just don't realise it yet.

This signal box was built in 1903 and is the largest mechanical signal box in the world which is still working. There, you can't fail to be impressed by that can you? When I first saw it I thought it was big but I didn't think it was THAT big.

We emerged from the station into a sunny Shrewsbury and headed south east along Castle Gates. We hadn't gone far when we realised that we had just passed some some steps and we thought 'I wonder where they go?'. Well we had to find out didn't we? The steps led us up to a higher level walkway and I spotted this view.

What do you think that building is? A stately home, a museum perhaps or even a prison. Nope! None of those. It is, in fact, Shrewsbury Railway Station. Quite impressive for a railway station eh? Built in 1848 it is now designated a grade II listed building.

We went back down the steps and after a short walk entered Shrewsbury Castle grounds. Bearing right along a path which was sloping upward we eventually arrived here at the top of a knoll. This is Laura's Tower built by Thomas Telford, in 1790, for Laura, the daughter of Sir William Pulteney, as a summer house.

There are some impressive views to be had from the top of this knoll although some of them are obscured by trees. Luckily for us it was March and there were no leaves on the trees so we had some lovely clear views such as this one along the River Severn. Incidentally the steps and walkway we decided to follow earlier would have taken us across that footbridge but we didn't want to spend time going that far today.

After a surfeit of views over the town we went back down to ground level and continued our walk through the town along Castle Street then Pride Hill where we turned into Butcher Row and saw this fine timber-framed building.

The timber-framed building shown below is at the south-east end of Butcher Row and on the corner of Fish Street which runs across the top of Grope Lane which I have mentioned in previous posts. This particular building still has its original frontage with the deep window sills on which the merchants would have displayed their wares.

We went back along Butcher Row and turned left along Pride Hill heading south-west. We eventually reached St. Chad's Terrace where we found (you've guesssed it) St. Chad's Church. Built in the 1700s, so not that old, but quite an impressive and unusual church. It created a stir at the time because it had a circular nave. 

I was hoping to get a photograph of Ebeneezer Scrooge's gravestone in the churchyard but we couldn't find it. Yes we know that Scrooge was a fictional character but the churchyard was used in the making of the film and the gravestone was left when filming was finished. It is still there somewhere.

The circular nave is unique, with pews arranged like a maze and Charles Darwin was baptised in St Chad’s Church.

Just across the road is the Quarry park which incorporates the Dingle. Dingle, apparently, is another name for a Dell. Either way it's a very attractive garden and there were plenty of blooms in spite of it being the middle of March.

This view shows St. Chad's Church, with its very tall tower, in the background.

This statue of Sabrina was created in 1846 by Peter Hollins of Birmingham for the Earl of Bradford. A folk etymology developed, deriving the name from a mythical story of a nymph, Sabrina, who drowned in the River Severn nearby and Sabrina is also the goddess of the River Severn in Celtic mythology.

That, however, is not the only Sabrina, as there is a boat called Sabrina which takes visitors for a cruise around Shrewsbury on the river. It was very convenient that it happened to come along as I was photographing the river.

After our last two visits Amanda wasn't particularly enamoured of Shrewsbury but she says now that she is really beginning to like it. We are, of course, planning to come again in the warmer weather when the leaves are on the trees.

We caught the train back home where we arrived without incident.

I suppose that that was our first 'proper' trip of the year. More trips to come I hope.

Following the stones

Following the stones

We started today with a little trepidation because 4 weeks ago to the day we were also going on a day trip, although to a different destination, and immediately after finishing breakfast I had a heart attack and was carted off to hospital where I spent the next 4 days. It turned out to be a minor heart attack but it is, apparently, going to take 6 weeks to get back to normal (another 2 weeks to go from now).

We were not really expecting any problems today, and there weren't any, so we set off for the railway station.

We were headed for London, change at Stratford onto the DLR for Woolwich Arsenal then just two more stops on South-Eastern Trains to Abbey Wood Station. A short walk and here we are. But where exactly?

This is Lesnes Abbey Woods in the London Borough of Bexley just two miles south of the River Thames at Cross Ness or two and a half miles east of Woolwich Ferry. In the picture above the pointed skyscraper of Canary Wharf is visible near the centre line of the image with the top of the Shard showing more to the left.

The ruins at the bottom of the picture above is one of the features we've come to see. The abbey was built during the 12th century and  the first inmates probably came from the Holy Trinity Priory in Aldgate.

Although there is not a lot of structure left above ground the ruins are quite extensive. The area below was obviously the abbey church showing the bases of the columns in the church nave and the second picture shows its position relative to the other parts.

There are some parts with a significant amount showing above ground as shown here.

The inhabitants were known as Augustinians or Black Cannons and they used to meet every day in the Chapter House to discuss the business of the day and here Amanda is trying to pretend to be one of the  Cannons sitting on the bench. She doesn't seem to have much of an audience (perhaps they were warned that we were coming). smilies

It is interesting to speculate how they aquired, and organised the delivery of, all the stone needed for such a large building especially as there is no stone like it locally. The River Thames, as I said previously, is 2 miles away so the stone could have been delivered by sea – but from where? How would they have contacted the people who could supply the stone.

The abbey ruins are situated next to a wood which we wanted to explore next. Just bear in mind that it isn't flat around here and you will, like us, be going up and down some hills but the wood is really lovely and covers some 217 acres.

We were also looking for some geological deposits known as the Blackheath beds which are very fossiliferous and which I visited about 55 years ago. They were easy to find then, I have the fossils to prove it, but we couldn't find them this time. That was a little disappointing but I'd like to try again sometime.

The abbey was demolished around 1525, partly because of the dissolution of the monastaries by Henry VIII and partly because it was then already in a rather neglected state, and some of the stone was used to build Hall Place (Tudor) about 3 miles away measured in a straight line. We decided to follow the stones to Hall Place and so jumped on a number 229 bus which would take us very near Hall Place. The journey took around 50 minutes because the bus goes a rather long way round but it does make the journey simple.

The walk from the bus stop to Hall Place, which is still in the London Borough of Bexley, was quite short and we had our first glimpse of Hall Place from the road.

It certainly looked interesting so we hurried round to the entrance. Entry to the grounds is free and there is a lot to see but to go into the house requires an entrance fee of £8 per adult, £6 pounds for oldies (us) and a further discount of 50% for National Trust members (also us) so we paid £3 each for the house. If you have a National Art Pass from the ArtFund then entry to the house is free.

However it was now lunchtime so before we got to the house we found their cafe by the River Cray and had some lunch. I had seen some reviews of the cafe on the internet and they tended to be rather disappointing so we were not expecting much. However things must have improved as my soup and bread roll was really tasty and Amanda's bacon sandwich, she said, was exceptionally good. We also had no complaints about our coffee and tea. We sat outside on the river terrace and could watch the ducks and geese swiming about including Mrs Canada Goose and family.

After lunch we crossed the river over the bridge next to the cafe to see the Rock Gardens and it was certainly worth the short walk. You can see the house, with the cafe this side of it, in the second picture which will give an idea of distance.

There was a great variety of plants including some that were of particular interest to Amanda and lots of different colours which made a really attractive display.

Back across the river we turned away from the house towards the greenhouses where we found a large conservatory which was free entry so we went in. There was a rectangular path with the centre taken up with a pond surrounded by lush vegetaion and around the outside of the path were benches covered in various plants, flowers and cactuses.

We then made our way towards the western end of the grounds which had some beautiful areas of parkland together with lots of colour from numerous Azaleas which are in bloom at this time of year.

Walking towards the colour we were soon to realise just how many Azalea blossoms and colours there were and these pictures show just a few.

There was another bridge here over the river which was partly festooned with Wisteria.

The only downside to this part of the grounds is the traffic noise from a very busy road nearby. We turned round here and started to head back towards the house passing through the 'Really Useful Garden' on the way. Yes, that really is the name. It appears to be a herb garden with, yes, really useful herbs and I must say the Box hedges look really neat.

Next we went into this garden with flower beds divided into compartments by rather neatly trimmed wavy hedges. We expected to walk out the far end but discovered that the way in was the only way out.

As we neared the house we encountered the Queen's Beasts – a set of ten brilliantly executed topiary heraldic animals which were planted to celebrate our current queen's coronation. They've grown into big beasts.

At the far end of the Queen's Beasts is this turret on the house demonstrating some pretty impressive flushwork.

In architecture  flushwork is the decorative combination of flint and stone on the same flat plane. Flushwork begins in the early 14th century, but the peak period was during the wool boom between about 1450 and the English Reformation of the 1520s. Flushwork, and flint architecture in general, is usually found in areas with no good local building stone. Although the labour cost of creating flushwork was high, it was still cheaper than importing the large quantity of stone necessary to build or face the entire structure. The dark squares are flint and the light squares are stone.

The same technique has been used on the front of the house to good effect.

We finally went in to this Tudor house built in 1537 although the brick part was added in the 17th century and started our visit in the Great Hall with the Minstrel's Gallery.

Just off the Great Hall is the Kitchen.

One of the other rooms has this ornate ceiling.

Hall Place is one of London's hidden gems and, in our opinion, one that shouldn't be missed. I'm surprised that it isn't better known but I'm glad it isn't. smilies

I am supposed to be taking things easily but I don't think that I did that today. Consequently by this time I was feeling tired and so was Amanda so we decided to call it a day. We caught a bus, from the same stop from which we alighted when we arrived, to Bexley Station and then a train to London Cannon Street and thence to Liverpool Street Station and home.


Today I was at Liberty to do as I liked.

Today I was at Liberty to do as I liked.

Amanda had a lunch appointment today with her sister and, at the moment, it's not easy to find a day where the sun is out for a good part of the day but today was one of those days so I just had to go. Amanda really didn't mind.

I started, as usual, at Liverpool Street Station and caught the number 23 bus which starts here and goes past a number of interesting locations such as the Bank of England and Mansion House:

Then on to St. Paul's Cathedral and Ludgate Hill which seems to have cornered the market in buses. I counted at least twelve.

Going along the Strand I took this photograph which I thought would interest Marie and anyone else who has stayed there.

The funny colour in the top right hand corner is on the window of the bus. Next, Trafalgar Square. Well, Nelson's Column at least. The rest of the square is obscured by traffic.

On the other side of the square is Admiralty Arch which, as you know, leads into The Mall and thence to Buckingham Palace.

Then up Regent Street

to Oxford Street. No I didn't take a photograph of Oxford Street.

At Bond Street Station in Oxford Street I got off the bus  – into mayhem. smilies That's how Oxford Street always strikes me on a normal weekday. God knows what it's like on a Saturday. Perhaps 4:00 AM on a Sunday would be a good time.

Having crossed to the north side of the road, a short walk from the bus stop in the same direction as the bus was travelling, there is a very narrow entrance to Gee's Court which is easy to miss and, to prove it, I managed to miss it but went up James Street instead and the open area on the right into St. Christopher's Place is very easy to spot.

This is Gee's Court looking towards Oxford Street:

and it narrows significantly where it joins Oxford Street. Gee's Court runs into St. Christopher's Place which is tucked behind Oxford Street and would be very easy to miss.

The network of narrow paved streets or alleys harbours an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants with a very pleasant atmosphere.

After looking around St. Christopher's Place I turned south, crossed Oxford Street and turned down Duke Street passing through Grosvenor Square along Carlos Place (keep going straight where the road curves left) past the Connaught Hotel to here:

This gateway could easily be regarded as the entrance to a churchyard especially with the end of a church showing at the back but that assumption would be wrong. This is one ot the entrances to Mount Street Gardens a small public garden/park also known as St. George's Gardens. Because it is so sheltered there are plants growing here that you might not expect. For example there is a Canary Islands Date Palm.

You wouldn't find it worth while to make a special trip to see it however it is worth a vist  if you are in the area.

I now headed east along Grosvenor Street and Maddox Street and on my way passed this impressive church on the corner of Maddox Street and St. George's Street.

It is St. George's Church built in the early part of the 18th century and Mount Street Gardens used to be the burial ground for this church but that usage ceased in the middle of the 19th century.

Continuing across St. George's Street to the other part of Maddox Street I soon arrive in Regent Street with Great Marlborough Street opposite and that is where I go to find this:

Although it looks like an ancient timber-framed building it is actually Victorian. The perfectly straight timbers should give it away. Have you been there? Do you recognise it? There is a name above the door on the angled part but it isn't easy to read. Does this view give you a clue?

Yes, it's Liberty's of London. They give their address as Regent Street but the majority of the building is in Great Marlborough Street shown here. In 1924 this building was constructed, in the Tudor style, from the timbers of two ships: HMS Impregnable and HMS Hindustan and the frontage on Great Marlborough Street is the same length as the Hindustan. It is a Grade II listed building.

Liberty sells a wide range of luxury goods including women's, men's and children's fashion, cosmetics and fragrances, jewellery, accessories, homeware, furniture, stationery and gifts. Liberty is known for its floral and graphic prints. Let me give you some advice. If you go into Liberty's with your credit cards you could come out bankrupt so don't say you weren't warned.

The inside of the building is a delight and is worth visiting even if you don't intend to buy anything. There are light wells like these which run from the ground floor to the roof.

Even the stairs are nice (there are also lifts).

It is a veritable Aladdins Cave in here. You know you can't afford it.

Time to move on – but not very far. Travelling east along Great Marlborough Street, away from Regent Street, to the end of the Liberty building where I immediately turned right to enter Carnaby Street and I'm in Soho.

Carnaby Street does seem popular and it's certainly busy but I pass through and out the far end. There are plenty of interesting streets in Soho as evidenced by Great Windmill Street, Rupert Street and others.

I eventually turned south down Wardour Street and crossed Shaftesbury Avenue to Chinatown. This really consists of just a few streets – the southern end of Wardour Street together with Gerrard Street, Lisle Street etc.

Colourful init? Even the street names are in English and Chinese.

All I have to do now is find my way through the maze of back streets to the western end of Long Acre via Leicester Square.

Well it's simple enough as far as the junction of Cranbourn Street and Charing Cross Road but then, when I reach Charing Cross Road, I expect to see Long Acre on the other side. But no! On the other side is the continuation of Cranbourn Street. The bit on my map shows Cranbourn Street that I'm in, then a short length of un-named road before Long Acre. I take a chance and go along Cranbourn Street and it does lead into Long Acre.

Why Long Acre? I'm looking for Stanford's the map and guide book shop. Stanford's moved into the shop in 1873 so it must have been built before that.

They have just about every map and guide book that there is and I want to try and find the London AZ Super Scale Street Map (scale: 9 inches to 1 mile) which has every little alleyway marked on it but covers only the central portion of London.

One thing that you can't fail to notice is the floor.

A map of the world on the Ground Floor and a street map of London in the Basement. Fascinating!

I did find my map so that was a worthwhile visit but I'm getting tired so it's once again time to go home. I walk down to the Strand and get an 11 bus to Liverpool Street Station.

I expect we'll be back – both of us next time.


Time for a Change, some Oxo and a secret!

Time for a Change, some Oxo and a secret!

The change in question is New Change and if you want to be precise – 1 New Change. For those of you that don't know, New Change is a short street on the eastern edge of St. Paul's Churchyard in London and there is a large shopping centre there that takes up the whole street. As it is the only building in the street it's number must be 1 mustn't it?

A sunny day saw us arrive at Liverpool Street Station from where we walked the short distance to Wormwood Street to catch the number 100 bus. That was a surprise because it turned out to be a single deck bus which is unusual in London. We alighted near St. Paul's Underground Station and walked the short distance to 1 New Change.

We have been here once before (A Later Date), late in the day, when the weather wasn't so good and the sun was in the wrong place. This time the weather was good and the sun was in the right place.

A lot of people don't realise that 1 New Change has a roof terrace which is freely available to the public. There is a restaurant up there too but you aren't obliged to use it. There are lifts up to the terrace and they are outside the building and the walls are made of glass. Why would the lift walls be made of glass? Because you get a nice view of St. Paul's Cathedral on the way up and down together with some interesting reflections.

The roof terrace is quite large and you get a good view of the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral and the London Eye is just visible on the left-hand edge.

You can even see visitors on the Golden Gallery at the top of the dome.

Looking in the opposite direction the Shard is rather obvious.

It was now time to move on so we went down in the lift and back to the bus stop where we caught the 100 bus once again to continue our journey across Blackfriars Bridge to the south side of the River Thames. This is where we were going.

The Oxo Tower is another shopping centre on the edge of the Thames and it has a publicly accessible viewing gallery looking out over the river on the sixth floor. This is the view east towards St. Paul's.

This is the view west up river showing the restaurant terrace on the left over looking the river.

This interesting view shows the river apparently choc-a-bloc with boats and the bridge choc-a-bloc with buses. I've never seen so many London buses in one place before.

We left the viewing platform and went back down to earth. Just behind the Oxo Tower is a nice little park.

Back on the 100 bus and we're off to Barbican for lunch. Reasonably good food for a very reasonable price – a main course for £9.50. After lunch we walked to Finsbury Square to catch the number 271 bus north. At Archway we changed onto the 210 bus for the last leg of our journey to visit somewhere secret.

As it's secret I'm not going to tell you anything about it except to say that it's on Hampstead Heath near Inverforth Close and it's known as London's Hidden Garden. It is actually called Hill Garden or the Hampstead Pergola but it's called the Hidden Garden because so few people seem to know about it even though it's free. There were only relatively few visitors there when we were there.

There is a lovely ornamental pond.

Then there is the Pergola.

We thought 'goodness that's a long pergola' as we could just see the cupola at the very end. We wandered along slowly until we reached the little building.

Amanda reached it just before I did and that is her silouette in the doorway. I can remember, as I was climbing the steps, that I thought that the pergola was very long indeed until I reached that doorway. Then I realised that there was more – lots more.

The house beyond the pergola is Inverforth House once a single private residence it is now converted to apartments. The original house was built in 1807 but was rebuilt in 1905 which  greatly altered the original structure.

The pergola went on ahead to a junction where it branched both left and right. We looked back to the cupola.

The branch to our left was a cul-de-sac but the branch to our right went on, and on.

What an extraordinary place this is. We left, finally, back past the ornamental pond. This garden is one that you really should not miss especially as there is no entry charge.

Oh, I forgot. It's a secret and I haven't told you anything about it so you won't be able to go after all. What a pity! You don't know what you're missing.

We headed off across Hampstead Heath with a printed copy of a nice map available on the Hampstead Heath web site showing the various paths which criss-cross over the heath. Unfortunately the paths on the ground don't always match the paths on the map and you will get lost especially in the wooded parts which are extensive and plentiful. Now that's an order. We got lost so I don't see why you shouldn't.

We did, eventually, find our way to the Highgate Ponds of which this is Highgate Men's Pond.

Now that we actually knew where we were we were able to successfully navigate to the top of Parliament Hill for the view. We could see the top of the Gherkin, the dome of St. Paul's and the Shard.

It was getting late and we had yet to find our way back to Liverpool Street Station and thence to home so we called it a day. One thing we've learned is that there is a lot more to see here so we plan to return some day.