Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Antiques in Kingston, London's oldest garden centre & a vintage splurge

This morning I made the most of the sun, sitting in the garden and catching up with my writing in order to ensure that I didn't end up writing and publishing three posts in the same evening! I know I said I wouldn't combine days to avoid rambles but having been rather lapse in keeping up with the weekend's events and yesterday, I thought merging two days on this occasion was better than posting twice?

Yesterday I began the day in Southfields. I thought I'd try ticking off some of the Southern locations on my To Do list but it turns out that in terms of public transport, Southfields is miles away from everything! Although it isn't on my To Do list, Kingston has been a recurring point of intrigue and was the least far away destination, so I took the train there in pursuit of leaning phone boxes (harder to find when you Google 'Kingston postboxes') and zebra meat. 

Needless to say, it was not at all what I was expecting. I'd put it somewhere between Kings Lynn and Newcastle; it's a funny old place. When I alighted the train I was at least pleased to find that everywhere was incredibly well sign-posted. So I wandered, following those that read 'marketplace' and 'riverside' as they sounded nice parts to see. My wandering took me past and through (whoops) a very impressive shopping centre called The Bentall Centre with independent Bentalls at the end which was nice to see. The infrastructure was amazing with an incredibly high glass roof covering the whole centre yet the place was even more dead than shopping centres in Norwich or old favourite Serpentine Green in Peterborough. 

Multivitamin tablets obtained (I think I have become a little over-dependent), I wandered on and out and before I knew it I'd reached the Marketplace. It was very European, surrounded by historic buildings (finally. I feel that Kingston may be an area that suffered a lot of bomb damage in the centre?) and with eccentric market stall holders selling fresh fruit and vegetables. Small though, and one where I felt I couldn't browse without feeling obliged to purchase a browning banana, I moved swiftly on down an alluring alleyway which I hoped might lead me on to the river.

I did find a sign for a river walk, but I later discovered that it wasn't the one I was looking for. Nevertheless, along this slightly dodgy trail, I did see a pair of Kingfishers for the first time which was pretty spectacular! This sighting was shortly followed by a Heron standing tall in the middle of the water further ahead. It still seems ridiculous to me that it's taken a move to London to witness these birds but it's good to know that they can still thrive here!

It was round about this point that I realised I was slightly lost so I sat on a bench in a park to get my bearings. Before determining my location, I decided it might be a good idea to see what one should be doing in Kingston, so I searched for 'Things to do in Kingston' and discovered that I was only a short walk from the road where it was said to all be going on; Old London Road. 

This was where I then spent the majority of my visit to Kingston. It was home to a sweet little vintage shop in which I browsed but was sad to find literally all L clothing. Further along, I found the antiques barn that had been recommended online. Here I got lost as I do, amazed at the cave that unfolded as I pottered around, finding endless nooks and crannies full of treasures. Part way around I remembered that I was looking for a water jug (which would of course mainly be used for cocktails) and a vase for large flowers (following my gift of sunflowers at the end of this teaching year which ended up displayed in a Wellington Boot as a pint glass just wouldn't withstand the weight), so this became my focus to avoid my buying unnecessary glassware or more cups and saucers. 

Kingston Antiques Centre really made my day. I love getting lost in antiques at the best of times but when there's also jazz music playing, people are really friendly and there's an adorable Polish Café tucked away in the corner, I could stay for a day. Of course I had to have a cup of tea but then upon looking over the menu, I realised that there were lots of intriguing foods on offer too so I had an early lunch of Polish ravioli which is basically dumplings stuffed with meat, fish, potato or cheese and served with sauerkraut on the side. It was yum! 

Tummy full, I decided to continue following signs for the actual river to walk it off. As I neared the end of the road I realised I was also in the right place for the leaning phone boxes, although I imagine a little like the Egyptian Pyramid's close proximity to McDonald's, I was a little disheartened that these phone boxes were right next door to Wilkos. Don't get me wrong, I have a special place in my heart for Wilkos, but it was a little bit unexpected; photos can be deceiving!

This is seeming awfully mopey of me, but I'm afraid the riverside was a little disappointing as well. I imagine it's a lovely place to eat and drink in the evenings, but I wouldn't make the effort to go there if I wasn't in the local area. There were a few boats on the water but by this point the sun was behind the clouds and the wind was picking up so I didn't walk for long. It was time to say goodbye so I made the long journey home. I was tempted to stop mid-way to break it up a bit but my body was telling me it was home time so I listened and had a relaxing evening in, catching up on two missed episodes of Humans.

Having been relishing in all the quiet spaces that London has to offer of late, I was really looking forward to getting back after the wedding. Although yesterday's adventure was a little disappointing, it still excites me to see new places and I did come home with a lovely, amber glass antique jug which will totally double up as a vase when the need arises!

Today I have been to the very well-hidden Clifton Nurseries at Warwick Avenue; London's oldest garden centre, apparently. A couple of minutes' walk from the station, it's the opposite way to Little Venice and nestled among houses along Clifton Villas so you'd be forgiven if you missed it! 

Despite my constant search for a cup of tea and the café right by the entrance, I made the decision first to take a stroll around the plants. An incredibly picturesque garden centre (I'm not entirely sure whether 'garden centre' is what they wish to be referred to, but there we go), bedding plants sat beneath a glass canopy covered with grapevine while the indoor plants were looked after by a cat. Unlike at Grace and Thorn the other day where I could realistically afford plants both in terms of price and size, this nursery played host to those indoor plants that make you wish you had a much larger home to house what could only be described as actual trees or enormous, extravagant tiered brass pot holders. Not that the first issue is the size of a flat, but more the logistics of looking and being absolutely ridiculous attempting to transport such large plants home on a tube train. Anyway, I came away with two teeny tiny plants - one alpine and one baby curry plant - both for less than £1 each; look at me go!

When I did eventually reach the café (The Quince Tree), I was bowled over by their tea selection. Not only did they offer fresh mint tea, but also fresh basil and lemon and a fresh mint, ginger and lemon which was what I went for! Hardly the first place I'd think of for an alcoholic beverage, the wine list was also pretty extensive; worth knowing for future reference! Little plants (and cute tin pots for them) purchased, I headed for home.

I was tempted, but too tired to go home via Soho for some vintage shopping yesterday but I mustered the strength today and have returned home with a mighty haul (at not such a mighty cost which I adore about vintage shopping) from Beyond Retro! Not quite as colourful as last time, I admit, but definitely just as patterned! 

Another glorious day! Let's hope the tube strikes this week don't hold me back.