A walk in Richmond Park

dscf0909I didn’t get the job – neither of them.  I am disappointed only as either job could have been interesting and they would have provided me with an income.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had the ‘wow’ factor.  Frankly, I haven’t had the ‘wow’ factor for very many years.  Maybe the Universe is trying to tell me something.  If it is, then I am not really getting it and am hoping to gain some clarity in this area.  I am having faith that there is something really great out there for me without panicking about my financial situation.

In between sending out my CV, I have been reading books and writing for my blogs. Some of the books I have been reading recently had me thinking about my spirituality.  I do not usually discuss this aspect of my life as I feel it is a personal journey unique to every individual.  I have realised that I need to get back to doing some of the things I used to do, to connect with my higher self.  I need to find out what it is I should be doing for a living.  Traditional forms of meditation don’t really do it for me.  I am Action Woman and find that I need to move to free my mind.  Gardening is usually good for that, but I don’t do gardening in the winter.  Being in nature is always great too.

I am very lucky to live near Richmond Park. The park has been my refuge for the last 20 years.  I don’t believe that there is any area in the park that I haven’t been to.  It has been an extension (figuratively speaking) of my back yard.  I would take the children there for walks and picnics.  I was there twice a day when I had the dog.  I would go alone or walk with friends.  It is amazing how many nice people you meet when walking a dog.

I have seen changes and improvements over the years – some good and some not so great.  The best thing is the cycle/foot path that goes all around the park.  When I am in good form, I can cycle around the park in about an hour.  There is one steep hill that is a bitch to cycle up and I have never yet managed to do it without walking part of the way.  If I am on a focused walk with no deviations, it can take about 2-3 hours to walk around.  I find it difficult not to go off the path if something interests me.

There is also a horse track around the park.  You get a different perspective while on horseback.  There are several riding stables outside the various gates to the park.  It is like being in the country.  I love it.

After a rubbish wet Wednesday (the day of the second job interview), Thursday turned out to be GLORIOUS!  It was beautifully sunny and slightly crisp.  I just live for days like this, especially in the winter.  So, I decided to go for a walk, take some photos, and become one with nature.  As is now becoming my habit, I brought along the camera and also the tripod.

I will take you on a little journey on a small section of the park.  Here is a link to a map to help you along.  I know it is the middle of winter, but to me, the park is beautiful all year round.  At this time of year, the ground is fairly wet and muddy.  There are underground springs throughout the park and there are certain places that never completely dry out.  The bracken is dried out and a rusty brown colour, the grass is green, the bits of long grass is brown/tan, the trees are barren and the sky on Thursday was bright blue.

I put on my hiking boots, grabbed my gear, popped on my sunglasses, and off I went.  I walked in through Sheen Gate and made a right towards Richmond.  I decided to go off track towards Two Storm Wood.  There were a few trees out in the open, one with a kite that got caught up in the branches that I had to take some photos of.  I just loved the shape of the barren trees and being able to see the blue sky through the branches.

dscf0908Until today, I never knew that Two Storm Wood was called that.  I just knew that it was an enclosed area that I used to take the kids and the puppies and it was a shortcut to Holly Lodge (which used to be called Bog Lodge).  I hadn’t been in the enclosure for quite awhile and was surprised to note how big the saplings had grown in the last 20 years.  It was turning into quite the forest.

I carried along past the horse paddock (no horses out today) towards Holly (it will always be Bog to me) Lodge where I noticed some deer resting.  Richmond Park, being one of the Royal Parks, is known for having two types of deer.  There are Red deer and Fallow deer.  The deer near the lodge were Fallow Deer.  You can tell the difference between the two types as Fallow deer are smaller, have spots on their rumps, and their antlers tend to have broad parts between the points.  The Red deer, and what most people are familiar with, are quite large, are a reddish brown colour, and have quite majestic looking antlers.  See photos below.

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Every year, after the rutting season, the gamekeepers cull the deer.  There are no real predators in the park unless you count the foxes, but I think that there are more foxes living in the residential areas than in the park from the sound of them in my garden each night.  What a racket they make.  Sometimes I can hear the deer making their rutting calls in the night.  Fortunately I haven’t heard any shots being fired.  It turns out that that they are culling several times a year now.  I frankly don’t understand that as there is usually a reason why hunting season is allowed only once a year at a certain time.  In any event, I was quite close to the deer when taking these photos.  The deer are quite used to people, although they don’t like dogs and have been known to be assertive on occasion, especially during the rut and when they have their young around.  I’m usually very careful around the deer and can tell when to keep clear.  Today they were just lounging around and enjoying the sunshine.

I carried on up the path along the road toward Richmond gate and saw that there were a few cattle grazing in another enclosed area.  Apparently the ground is being grazed to conserve the grassland.  I then went to see what the chestnut situation was.  There are edible chestnut trees in the park, and this year the chestnuts looked a bit too small for eating.  People are encouraged to leave them as food for the deer and other animals, but I have been known on occasion to bring some home for roasting.  You can also find edible mushrooms if you know what to look for.  There are parasols and magic ones.  I personally don’t know what the magic ones look like, but I have seen others collecting them.  I hope they enjoyed themselves.

I turned left at Richmond Gate towards Pembroke Lodge.  The lodge and grounds has gone through many changes over the years.  You are not allowed to take dogs into this area.  It is probably the only dog mess free zone in the whole park.  Tip:  before attempting to sit under any tree in the park, please remember to check for dog mess.

dscf0944-1There are some lovely views towards Petersham from this part of the park and you could see a mist in the trees that gave the view an ethereal look.  Rather romantic I thought.  I stopped into Pembroke Lodge for a pot of tea and a sandwich.  On the weekends they have hot lunches as well as cold food and it gets very busy.  It wasn’t too busy today and most everyone was sitting outside enjoying the view and the sunshine.  I was remembering when I used to come with the children when they were small and the terraces were planted out with flowers.  Now they are just grassed over as with many sections in this enclosure.  Obviously it is easier to maintain and they must have had budget cuts.  It is still attractive, but I couldn’t help feeling nostalgic for how it used to be with colour all year round.

dscf0955After lunch I thought I would head back home.  I came upon a large patch of snowdrops under some trees.  They were so pretty and made me think that it wouldn’t be long before spring was upon us.  Just a couple of months to go now.  I heard some shrieking around the corner and saw a few parrots around a birdfeeder.  There is a huge flock of wild parrots in the park which are the offspring of an escaped pair.  They like to hang out in the trees around the lodge and sometimes I can see them from my house or garden as they also like to hang out and make noise in one of my neighbour’s trees.  They are a vivid green with red beaks and have the cheekiest look about them.

dscf0967I crossed the road from Pembroke Lodge and carried on left around the outside of Sidmouth Wood and back towards Sheen.  I came across some red deer near the horse track at the top end of Sawpit Plantation.  There was quite a large stag with his harem of does.  He was looking very magnificent with his large antlers and was probably 8-10 years old.  I was careful not to get to close as these deer can be particularly dangerous.

I crossed the road and carried on back towards Sheen Gate.  I had been in the park for around 3.5 hours walking, taking photos, having lunch and contemplating nature and life.  When I reached the gate I quickly phoned a friend and found she was walking her dogs in Sheen Common, so I made a left out the gate and headed over that way to meet up with her.  I had been thinking how much I used to enjoy taking the dog for a walk in the park and started to seriously contemplate the idea of getting another dog.  I gave the thought all of five minutes when I remembered that I have plans for the future and that I just got rid of my kids and should focus on myself for awhile and not think about looking after another being.  There will be time for that later if I still want it.  See, I really need a job to give me something to do so I don’t think about puppies.  My friend complaining about time constraints with the dogs put me off the idea too.  I can always do some dog walking if I feel the need for canine companionship.  While walking the dogs, we met up with another friend of mine walking her dog.  It was quite the social afternoon.  I always meet up with someone I know when I go out for a walk.  That’s what happens when you have lived in one area for so long.

You can see my photos from my walk here.  It is amazing what beauty can be found in nature if you bother to look for it.  I did get some answers to some of my questions and I felt grateful to live in an area with such a beautiful park on my doorstep.  Welcome to my world.  I look forward to sharing it with you.

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Around Hampton Court Palace

dscf0858Monday being a very sunny, mild and beautiful day for the middle of winter, I decided to take myself and my camera to Hampton Court Palace and the surrounding area.

I hadn’t been to Hampton Court Palace for very many years.  I used to take the children on occasion as the formal gardens used to be free to the public all year round and is next to Bushy Park where I used to meet with friends and their children.  The last time I had been to the Palace was with my parents and children about 10 years ago!

This year is the 500th Anniversary of the reign of King Henry VIII.  They are making preparations at the Palace for celebrations and events that will be taking place after March.  As it was such a glorious day, I decided to forego visiting the inside of the palace and focus on taking a few photos of the outside, to wander around the village, have lunch and take a walk along the river.

Here is a map of the area. East Molesey is mainly residential, with a train station, some nice cafés, pubs, a hotel, a few restaurants, the Palace and the river Thames.

dscf0860So I took a few photos of the outside of the Palace and went in search of lunch.

I made my way over to Bridge Road for some lunch in one of the cafés before wandering around the streets.  The section of Bridge Road near the riverside is packed with cafés, a couple of antique shops, hairdressers, therapy rooms and a few others.

After lunch I made my way over to Palace Road to look at the church at the other end.  Palace Road is a very smart residential road with houses well out of my price range.  There was some building work going on at a few properties.  It’s nice for some not to be worrying about the credit crunch.

dscf0876I came upon St. Paul’s Church at the end of the road.  It is a sweet little church.  I went inside to have a look around.  It is surprisingly austere inside with some lovely wooden vaulted ceilings and a few stained glass windows.

dscf0884I carried on along Church Road towards the river and along Graburn Way and came out opposite Tagg’s Island and an area that is known as the Thames Riviera.  You can read about it here and here.  There are a few little islands in the river surrounded by house boats and barges.  I just loved the way they were all reflected in the water that day.

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I carried along the river back towards the Palace admiring the houseboats and the various birds swimming along.  No sooner than I came to the edge of the riverbank than I found myself surrounded by birds looking for a handout.

It was so peaceful and beautiful walking along the river that I took some time to sit down and just watch the river flow by – a bit of meditation in nature.  Here is a little of what mesmerised me.

You can see the rest of my photos here.

For more on Hampton Court Palace, which is an incredible building full of history, please click the following links here and here.

Jiving the Blues

I received an e-mail from Ceroc London advertising their first evening of a ‘Blues Weekender’ at Chiswick Town Hall.  They were going to do a class called ‘Jiving the Blues’.

As some of you may already know, my passion is dancing Argentine Tango, but every once in a while I need to get out and shake my booty, as you don’t really shake anything in Tango.  I was torn.  A new Milonga was opening in Vauxhall last night and I kind of wanted to go to that to see what it was like.  The thing is, I also had a class scheduled this morning at the local adult college and didn’t want a really late night out.  What to do?

I mentally flipped a coin and decided on the closest option.  Tango will still be there on Fridays, but Ceroc at Chiswick Town Hall isn’t a weekly event and is only a ten minute drive away.  Also, the percentage ratio of me actually having fun is higher dancing Ceroc than with dancing Tango these days.  Sad, but true.

I managed to arrive at 8.05pm and was interested to note that the class hadn’t started, even though the e-mail stated that it would start at 8pm sharp.  (In fact, it didn’t start until around 8:30.)  I was pleasantly surprised to see one of my male Tango friends there.  I don’t usually dance Tango with A, but I have enjoyed a few Salsas with him and some nice conversation.  It turns out that he wanted to get back into Swing and thought he would give it a go.

There were a fair amount of people sitting around waiting for the class to start and a few of us even got up to dance while we were waiting.  I had an interesting conversation with a lady who was a bit concerned about the dancing close aspect to blues music.  She liked normal Ceroc as it meant you didn’t have to dance very closely and she was wondering if she did the right thing by booking the workshops for this weekend.  I suggested that before accepting any dances that she watches the dance floor to see how the men are dancing and to only accept or ask for dances with men whose style she likes.  She reminded me about the ‘say yes to every dance’ policy that Ceroc has.  I gave her a few good excuses to get around that, reminded her that she was a grown woman and could do whatever she wanted, and told her she could always use the ‘I can’t dance too close because of my culture’ card.   She loved that one!  The rest of our conversation continued in the vein of hygiene issues, another reason that she doesn’t like to dance too close – this seems to be a universal problem regardless of the dance form.

Eventually they announced the start of the class and you could hear the sigh of relief, or panic, depending on the amount of beginners. I came away from the lesson not much better off than when I started as most of the men just didn’t get it – not much difference with Tango in that department.  Afterwards, I went into the other room to listen to the music in there.  The beat was considerably slower and since I wasn’t in the mood for smoochy romantic music, I stayed in the main hall where they played mainly blues, jive and rock and roll.  It was more upbeat and I wanted to move my body.  My friend A spent most of his time in the ‘other’ room and I saw that he was enjoying himself when I popped in a few times to check and see if the pace of the music had changed.

I had a shaky start as the first three men I danced with danced to completely different music from what was actually being played.  I nearly became despondent as the songs were really good and I couldn’t for the life of me manage to get into the groove due to the ineptitude of my leaders. There goes so much for saying yes to anyone who asks and I was wondering if I hadn’t made the wrong choice for the evening.  I nearly cried with relief with dancer number four, who in his simplicity and musicality redeemed the antics of his predecessors.  It was all systems go after that.  I refused a few dances, or just sat them out and avoided eye contact or I just wandered around.  As it was, I danced with who I wanted and wasn’t disappointed.  It may not be Ceroc etiquette, but at least I enjoyed myself.

I found my friend A had come back into the main hall and I grabbed him for a dance when a jive came on.  It was a great dance and he had such fun that he grabbed a few other ladies for some lively dances as the music had picked up a bit.  I also had some surprisingly good dances from two of the most unusual looking men I have ever encountered.  I noticed a few women looking at me in complete wonderment as I was so obviously having a really good time with these guys.   Scrutinising the men had really paid off and I found a couple of hidden gems.

Before I knew it, it was time for me to go home.  I was tempted to stay longer but knew that I would be useless the next day for my class if I did.  I went to find A to say goodbye and found him in an embrace to a slow number and with a happy look on his face.  I knew just how he felt.