Thursday, 31 March 2016

A Trip to Epping Forest

I like to browse the Londonist blog, and have found some useful excursions and potential excursions on it.  This entry came very tidy, as we tried to decide where to take the boys on the Thursday after Easter.  The Daughter confirmed that the Boys had never been to the Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge, and it was an easy bus ride from hers to Chingford Station, and the Hunting Lodge only a short walk from there.

 When we arrived, we were asked whether we'd booked, which we hadn't, and I wasn't sure that we were going to be welcomed.  But the receptionist handed out Tudor hats all round, although Boy Two didn't really fancy his and gave it back.  The rest of us wore them, though.

The ground floor had an exhibition of posh Tudor food - not actual food, but models thereof - and also the plainer food that most people would have enjoyed.  I wish the table had been six inches lower so the boys could have seen more, but, in the way of boys, they were not really interested until we were about to leave!  The middle floor has a selection of clothes that you could try on, but nothing to explain who had worn them, or why, or in what circumstances.  The top floor, although the barest, was arguably the most interesting as it showed you how the various beams were fitted together, and the various joints.  And there was a wooden model of a fallow deer, with some facts about it.  And a wonderful view!

When we went back downstairs (and the Boy asked questions about how to cook a fish eating its own tail), we were directed to the exhibition about Epping Forest across the yard, almost part of the Premier Inn/Brewers Fayre which now occupies the Royal Forest pub next door (a mock Tudor building that looks far more Tudor than its real neighbour).  This was more interesting, as you could press buttons to listen to the forest noises, but a lot of the exhibits were behind reflective glass and not easy to see, plus there was really too much writing.  The real hit was the map of Epping Forest on the floor of the visitor centre, which the Boy was fascinated by, and we showed him where he lived, and all sorts.  He is just of an age to learn about maps, now, and his reading level is such that he can work out place names and so on.

Then it was lunch time, so we decided to try the Butler's Retreat cafĂ© the other side of the Hunting Lodge, which was very pleasant and friendly, but it would have helped if the only copy of the children's menu hadn't been pinned up at the very narrow entrance.  The boys both chose sausages - it might have been better to have ordered only one plate and shared it, as it was too much for Boy Two, but the Boy ate both his sausages and all his potato wedges.  Neither child touched a green pea!  I thought the Swan Whisperer's bacon roll looked dull compared to mine, which was halloumi, pickled red cabbage and lime/chilli mayonnaise, and absolutely lovely!  I also enjoyed my apple tart for pudding, but didn't much care for my bit of the Boy's red velvet cake (he ate some of it, but it was rather a huge helping!).

After our meal we walked down to the nearby pond to see what we could see - mallard, Canada geese and a coot or two - and then decided to cut across the open land back to the station, which was a slight failure as the Boy's shoes leaked and his feet got wet.  But we saw magpies and a crow - he is beginning to take an interest in birds, hence the lists!  And so on a bus back to the daughter's.

I think the first time I came across Epping Forest was when I read D L Sayers' "Have His Carcase" where a minor character is found murdered there!  And I knew the family enjoy occasional walks there, but I'd never been there, and had no idea what it was like.  The whole Lea and Rother Valley complex brings a huge chunk of the country right down into London; if you go by train from Liverpool Street to Walthamstow Central or Tottenham Hale you pass cattle grazing on the marshes....

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

An afternoon on the South Bank

We had intended to start off today's outing by going up to Tower Bridge to listen to a 61-gun salute that was due to start at 1:00 pm.  Unfortunately, we were a bit late and only heard the last two blasts, "But if you've heard one, you've heard them all!" said the Swan Whisperer. 

You know, I'm sure HMS Belfast is further away from the bank than it used to be - it seems to be moored right out in the middle of the river, and does block your view of things!  But we did manage to see across the river to the Tower, where everything was obviously over, so we turned round to walk along the South Bank. 

I had suggested we had lunch in the Prets in Clink Street, but the Swan Whisperer wanted to try the restaurant at Southwark Cathedral.  Which was okay, but I'd rather have had a sandwich, and the loos were out of service and, although there was a disabled loo, you had to ask for the key.  Which, to be fair, they did provide.  And their brownies were lovely and fudgey. 

After this we continued along the South Bank, past the Clink Prison, under Southwark Bridge, past Shakespeare's Globe, past the Tate Modern, past the Bankside Gallery and the Founders Arms pub (one of the first places the Swan Whisperer bought me a meal back in the early days of our marriage), under Blackfriars railway and road bridges and so to Oxo Tower Wharf. 

We were there to see this exhibition, a photo essay on a year in the life of a London priest.  It was fabulous - many of the photos were very moving.  The priest in question, Kit Gunasekera, is the vicar of St James, Clapham Park, just round the corner from us, and a friend of ours is an unpaid minister there, too.  We were delighted to see him and his wife featuring in several of the photos, including one where they were centre stage as they had been celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary.   The photographer, who was there, insisted on taking our photo in front of this picture:
I look a bit laden (and fat!).  Anyway, we chatted to him, and to the curator, and enjoyed looking at the pictures and reading up about what had motivated him and so on.  The best bit was that due to working on this project, he and his wife are now staunch members of St James, having not been churchgoers before!  God is amazing sometimes!

When we had finally had enough, we came away and walked on, past Jubilee Gardens and Gabriel's Wharf, and past the National Theatre until we came to Waterloo Bridge, where we climbed the steps up on to the bridge and caught a 59 bus home!

The exhibition is on until 20 March, and if you are in London it is well worth going to see.  Admission is free.