Sunday, 18 February 2018

Walking in half term

... and seemingly through the seasons, too. I'm not entirely sure what moved me to walk every day this week, but once I started, I didn't want to stop. I've walked both old and new paths, and it's been a lovely way to relax, and to catch up with friends and family this half term.

Sunday's walk took myself and my oldest friend to the hilly climbs of Hampstead Heath. Sun shining in the morning, we were feeling optimistic. We met at the Tube station and wandered along through the houses, Olive's historical commentary detailing points of interest. From the residential streets we headed onto the heath itself, took a wrong turn or two, but somehow found our way to Kenwood House where we stopped for a well-deserved cup of tea, and a slice of cake in the setting sun. Shoes caked in mud, and a rosy colour to our cheeks (perhaps heightened by the sudden onset of hail out of nowhere while we trekked across an unknown section of heath without shelter), as we sat down on the train to take us home we decided it was an adventure worth having.

Monday's walk saw my return to Walthamstow Wetlands. Having taken the long way round on New Year's Day, I was pleased to show Georgie the actual way in. Coffee in hand, we took the scenic (but still short) route through Markfield Park, and along the canal to the Wetlands' entrance. Despite sunshine in the morning, by the time we were walking we were met with dramatic skies and gusts of wind strong enough to feel a little unsafe along the water's edge. The sun did make the occasional appearance, warming our backs as we walked and talked, but by the time we had walked around two of the reservoirs, we decided it was time to thaw out in the Ferry Boat.

Tuesday's walk took Steven, Pepper and myself much further afield. Swayed by Time Out's recommendations of beaches 'near' London, we set off in search of Dungeness... words can't quite describe the experience. The weather was not as pleasant as the last two days had been. The cold was deep set, and the wind was beyond strong. Grey skies, and the need for fast-paced window wipers did not fill us with a great deal of hope. Nevertheless, in true British stubborn style, we journeyed on to the coast. Even having read descriptions of Dungeness, I don't think we were quite prepared for just how surreal it actually was. It felt like Snettisham Beach (a familiar stretch of coast home in Norfolk) on steroids. Vast, over-looked by a huge power station, and dotted with fishermen's huts, difficult to tell whether inhabited or not. We drove for a while along the road leading past all of this, stopping eventually at a small parking area with a board detailing what wildlife could be found there. The wind at this point was so strong that it was whistling through the car, and literally shaking us all around. The look between us said it all, but Pepper needed to stretch her legs after the long drive, so Steven braved it. Opening the door, the wind whipped all around the car, tearing receipts and sugar sachets out into the open. No use chasing after them. I stayed firmly put while the madder of us tried their best to run along against the wind. The sight was sure an amusing one, and as they returned to the car, unable to face it any more, the tears streamed; mine from laughter, and Steven's from the sheer force of the wind. We decided to at least stay a while to eat a sandwich and have a drink. And once we'd actually taken our surroundings in a bit more, decided to go for one more attempt at a walk before moving on to somewhere that we hoped would be more sheltered. We managed a walk to the sea and back, which was long enough against the wind, the rain also battering us at this point. Safely back in the car, we ventured on to the more familiar territory of Camber Sands.
Still grey. Still windy. Still absolutely freezing. We parked up in the carpark by the beach, where there were two other vehicles this time, so we at least felt that we weren't completely alone, and headed out once more into the elements. The rain had subsided for a while, so we walked a bit further this time; out to the sea, and along to the sand dunes, before turning back to chase the sun. Watching Pepper skit back and forth across the sand, occasionally risking a paddle in pools around the groynes was definitely worth bracing the cold for. As much as I'd prefer a sunny day on the beach, there's something to be said for sea air at any time of the year.

Wednesday's walk was simply to the gym and back. And later along Oxford Street trying to beat the crowds to the good stuff in the M&S Valentine's selection. It was another cold day, so my walks were brisk, and with purpose.

Thursday's walk embraced the slight shift in weather. An actual day of sun took me on a new walk, around Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, with a promise of snowdrops. Suddenly it really was much more mild, and as Hanzel and I walked in the late afternoon, the sun cut low through the trees.

Friday's walk was a detour. The sun truly shining, and even the air feeling much warmer, I treated myself to a deviation around a new reservoir in the Walthamstow Wetlands. Through Markfield Park and along the canal again, this time I entered on the other side of the road, passing around the Engine House and on to unexplored lands. As a Chinook flew overhead upon my arrival, I knew I was onto a good thing. Basking in the sun, I ambled along past bird-watchers and families out to enjoy nature in an otherwise industrial, suburban area. Reaching the end of the reservoir, I came upon another tower, this one with the possibility of climbing, which always excites me. Looking out I could see as far as Canary Wharf in one direction, Alexandra Palace in another. Actually pausing my music for a moment, I appreciated instead the persistent call of birds; swans, Canada Geese, moorhens, coots, ducks, seagulls, and no doubt others that I can't name.

Saturday's walk was with cousins. One of my favourite things about having friends and family to visit is being able to introduce them to some of my own favourite places. At the same time, there's an element of pressure as you worry that your tastes are a little acquired, but needless to say, it's usually a success. We began with brunch, before an immediate return to the Wetlands (for a new discovery, it's definitely been a firm favourite spot already this year) where we took almost the exact same route as I had done alone the day before. Our next port of call was God's Own Junkyard, which was busier than ever before thanks to some event or another that was going on in the breweries nearby. Fortunately, we still found a seat in the Rolling Scones café and enjoyed refreshment in amongst the neon. We then found ourselves wandering along Brick Lane, browsing, buying, and admiring street art, all the way to Dishoom, where our journey ended with a feast and full stomachs.

Today's walk was another practical one. To the gym (where I hiked around Kauai, Hawaii), and home via the supermarket, where I picked up bits for my packed lunch and the return to work. Generally another grey day, it didn't feel too much of a waste to spend more of it inside. If the weather is picking up, though, I'll be doing a lot more walking not just on my days off, but on my working days too. Thank goodness for sunshine and a milder climate.