Sunday, 22 May 2016

Isabella Plantation

Just when we thought we'd covered most of Richmond Park, today we ventured further to find Isabella Plantation and discovered a whole lot more park as well. Isabella Plantation was another garden hideaway mentioned in my Quiet London book so I've been wanting to go for a while. 

Striking colours as far as the eye could see confirmed that today was a great day to visit. 40 acres of woodland garden full of azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias and the occasional pond, it is so pretty and just wow. 

With the flowers all in full bloom, hollow tree stumps aplenty and stepping stones across tiny streams, it truly felt like the sort of fairy kingdom described in great detail in children's books.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Another Norfolk wedding & a visit to The Broads

As it seems my every waking moment is consumed again by assignment reading and writing, I know that by the time this is published it will be hugely outdated but a) at least I won't be doing anything exciting in the meantime to over-shadow and b) it was a weekend just too good not to write about!

Far too many of my friends are being totally grown up and marrying people which is terrifying but of course also incredibly exciting and I do love a good wedding. This one took us to Norfolk again (there's clearly something in the air there) and to the undiscovered (by me at least) village of Little Ellingham which if I do say so sounds like something out of a quintessentially English film or TV show but it's actually very real.

Slightly disorganised as always, we sadly booked too late to check-in to the apartments we liked in the city so we ended up in a B&B outside of Norwich on the River Yare in an area called Postwick (or 'Possick' because of course it is Norfolk after all and nothing is pronounced as it looks). Advertised as being set on 400 acres of land we thought it would be a nice base for the weekend and a definite break from London city life.

Friday night came and we were on our way. Out of London in record time thanks to Mr Knowledge, we were soon flying along the motorway (pretty much literally) with a beautiful sunset alongside us after a wonderfully sunny day and tunes blaring.

Google Maps triumphed again as we jiggled our way along a long, dark and dusty track littered with pot holes and shrouded in hanging mist, feeling grateful that we were sitting in a 4x4. The single lamppost at the end of said track set the scene for somewhere with potential to be a bit creepy but actually it was super cosy and with the friendliest welcome (even though we were apparently a day early. Whoops).

After a very comfortable night's sleep I was of course straight to the curtains to discover what actually lay outside having not seen much of anything in pitch black the night before. Endless green bathed in sunshine drew me straight up and out. Following a hearty breakfast accompanied by the sound of excitable cows we decided to go for a walk around the farm in pursuit of fresh air and nature before coming back to get ready for the afternoon's frivolities. Blowing out the cobwebs and all of that.

The wedding itself was a very pretty affair with some truly villagey touches. White, blue and yellow was the colour palette and there were flower petals to be thrown as confetti. Throughout the service, smiles and laughs were seriously abundant and we then trundled along in a vintage bus (definitely my highlight) to the reception in a neighbouring village pub. A truly lovely day and, in true English style I must also comment on how lovely the weather was for the occasion!

Can you tell I liked the bus?

The next day, getting up was no struggle when a) we knew what awaited us outside and b) the smells and sounds of breakfast began to waft our way. Each time we visit Norwich we like to make the most of being in that part of the world so we often take a detour. Being on the river had inspired us, we were off to The Broads.

I don't think I'd been to The Broads in at least 10 years but I'm pleased to report that (of course, it's Norfolk) nothing has changed. After a quick bit of research in the morning about where was best to go if only for a day, we first headed to Woodbastwick.

A twenty minute drive from where we were staying, we wended our way through woodland until thatched rooves began to peep through the trees then we knew we were in the right place. A flint church and a selection of quaint cottages made for pretty viewing before we moved on to our next port of call, Ranworth.

Woodbastwick had been a little too far in-land for us to find any water but Ranworth was right on the egde of one of the basins so we were immediately greeted by a whole host of boats. We took a walk through the nature reserve to Ranworth Broad where we stopped for a while to marvel at the plethora of bird life and surreality of the setting.

Ranworth also had a church and this one with a tower you could climb so obviously we did! It was rather precarious but we made it up and down unscathed and the view was pretty spectacular so definitely worth it. There was even a pleasant breeze which was very welcome on what was turning out to be a bit of a scorcher.

Our final stop was Wroxham and Roy was prevalent the moment we turned onto the main road that would lead us to the village centre; Roy's Jet, Roy's McDonald's and then of course Roy's of Wroxham itself and my personal favourite, Roy's Toys.

Here we sat along the riverside to enjoy cool drinks in the sunshine whilst watching boats gently gliding by. It was a truly beautiful end to a truly beautiful weekend. I think maybe there might be a boating holiday on the horizon one day, we'll see.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Crystal Palace

Today's dog walk took us to pastures new.

For a while now I've been wanting to explore Crystal Palace park (mostly to see the dinosaurs) but it always seems a bit too far. Thankfully, when already in the South and with a car to hand, it's not too far at all.

First impressions, it was pretty deserted which surprised us on a Saturday in Spring when the sun was trying to shine. The car-park we found was tiny and had plenty of empty spaces and there were very few people around. It did feel a bit sad.

From the car we initially climbed the steps that would have once led to the Crystal Palace itself. I had a moment akin to the one when I first travelled by Eurostar and was expecting to see underwater (please don't judge me, I was young) because for some reason the lack of palace was a surprise to me. I really don't know why I thought it was still standing.

At least literally a bit of it is, anyway (at least, presumably this is a bit of it?)

That disappointment out of the way, we followed the map's direction in pursuit of dinosaurs. Even on our short walk through the sports centre to the park, the area generally continued to feel sad and there were some seriously odd characters around (I hope that doesn't sound too rude). It all felt a bit run down and abandoned and just definitely not as busy as anywhere else probably was today!

However when we reached the park, things looked up. Plant life was pretty, there were winding paths and a pond (although the map claimed it was a lake - awh) and dinosaurs! Here there were a few others strolling and despite the fact that it was trying to rain by this point, we still had an incredibly pleasurable amble about.

My first experience of gorgeous Canada Geese goslings. So fluffy!

Having admired the dinosaurs, we walked around the boating lake and on to other points of interest on the map; a maze, more water and the 'English Landscape Garden'.

So the maze was either a terrible idea or one of our best. The entire experience was spent in a confused state of frustration, terror and thorough hilarity. Apparently dogs find mazes even more befuddling than humans do. Voices travelling through endless rows of hedge, paths going this way and that but never leading anywhere, even as an adult it turns out there's a great deal of challenge in navigation.

'Seriously guys? It really took us this long to find the escape?'

Somehow, and we really don't know how, we finally found the centre where we sat with a great sigh of relief. On our way back to the car we then passed what once was a concert venue with a small area of water in front, lots of blossom and greenery. We found ourselves again at the top of the steps we had climbed to begin with, although this time we encountered two Sphinx we had not seen before. Several attempted photo opportunities later, we headed back to shelter as it began to rain.

Crystal Palace verdict? I'm glad to have been and I bet the park is even prettier on a sunny day. I am, however, grateful that I've never made the epic journey from North to South London for a day of it as I'm not entirely sure it's an experience that would have satisfied me for one of my days of solo exploration. I really think, from somewhere, the whole place could really do with some serious TLC.

I feel like this crow sitting atop a crumbling statue pretty much sums it up.

Pretty views on the drive home...