Since completing our Camino back in mid-June, life has been very hectic, and opportunities for walking – anywhere other than quick, local circuits – have been pretty scant. Being busy is good, but “all work and no play” makes for a dull life – sometimes it’s not the simply the doing that is important, but what you are doing.
At the end of a particularly tough week – a week in which, amongst other things, we said an emotional farewell to a much-loved friend who passed away too young – the time had arrived for some proper R&R.
|Thames by Kingston Bridge #1
So it was that we found ourselves embarking on a day out to Kingston – not the sunny Jamaican capital, you understand, nor the one languishing on the north bank of the Humber, but the one “upon Thames” where monarchs were crowned and Henry VIII hung about when not dissolving monasteries and dispatching wives.
Fun, friendship, fresh air and a Full English are all good ways of banishing the blues, and all would have been heartily endorsed by our friend. A rendezvous at the King’s Tun provided the opportunity for the fry-up, where a crack squad of six budding adventurers assembled in readiness for a day of exploration and music.
|Thames by Kingston Bridge #2
First off, we pottered through Kingston town centre to have a quick look at the Thames on the stretch beside Kingston Bridge. Then it was a short bus-ride to Bushy Park – second largest of the eight so-called Royal Parks in the Greater London area, all originally set up as places of royal recreation.
|Nearest and deerest, Bushy Park
Now it turns out that in between bouts of Catholic suppression and marital disharmony, Henry VIII liked nothing more than a spot of hunting, with deer his most favoured quarry.
|You ain't see me, right?
Managed herds of both Fallow Deer and Red Deer were introduced into the park for sporting purposes, and the descendants of those that managed to avoid both bow and blunderbuss still roam the grounds today – some 300+ of them helping to maintain the park’s ecosystem.
|Two old codgers on day release
After wandering for a while through grassy parkland, we ventured into another part of the park, where verdant lawns and shady ponds dwelt beneath a cool canopy of mature trees. In hot sunshine, the dry grasslands had a prairie-like feel to them, whereas the more luxuriant growth and humid conditions in these parts were far more jungle-y.
|Moorhen and chicks on lily pond
|Watching both fish and fowl
|By the millpond, Waterhouse Woodland Garden
Bushy Park is a surprisingly large open space, given the proximity of the capital – some 1,100 acres in total – with plenty of chance for wandering about. In all, we had explored little more than the western third before we exited the north side near the National Physical Laboratory to catch the bus back to Kingston.
|Avenue of trees near Upper House
The remainder of the afternoon was spent in Ewell, listening to music and chatting about this and that. In fact it was music, in the form of Welsh rock band Man, that had been the catalyst for our happy little group to coalesce in the first place, so what better way to idle away a few hours and put our cares to one side for a while.
Both Kingston and Ewell had proved to be something of a revelation – far greener than we had expected “That London” to be, and with plenty of history to discover as well. Several times during the day we had passed signs for the London LOOP, an orbital path of some 150+ miles that describes a circuit of the outer fringes of the capital from Erith in Kent to Purfleet in Essex, linking a series of green spaces ideal for winter walking and easily accessible by public transport.
Now there’s a thought ……
PS. I forgot my camera and tried to make use of my phone with limited success, so thanks to Nick Nation for the use of his decent photographs!