Mystery Tour of Southeast England

August Bank Holiday, I finally had Chris all to myself for an entire day. And he had planned a mystery tour of Southeast England for us.

With only a slight idea of where we were going, we headed out in search of breakfast. We had hoped to find somewhere along the way, but one hour later (with a very hungry Hazel) we took a diversion into Royal Tunbridge Wells. Suddenly remembering a place he’d been before – which had a café – Chris took us on a wild goose chase. No name and only a slight inkling that it actually had a café, I wasn’t very hopeful. But he came through.

Dunorlan Park Lake
Dunorlan Park Lake

Dunorlan Park was beautiful. The bacon and sausage sandwich very much appreciated. Finishing our breakfast in the gorgeous 27C heat, we naturally headed straight for the ice cream. Then it was time to explore.

Dunorlan Park
Dunorlan Park

Idyllic in the summer sun, we wandered through the gardens spotting the ornamental fountain and impressive trees. Once part of the 78-acre gardens of the grand mansion built by Yorkshire millionaire, Henry Reed, the park is Grade II listed. The gardens contained within were designed by renowned Victorian gardener, Richard Marnock in the 1860s.

Ornamental Fountain
Ornamental Fountain

Another stunning feature is the 6-acre boating lake. Lots of people were out kayaking and playing in the pedalos. Definitely a place to revisit when we have more time.

Dunorlan Park Lake
Dunorlan Park Lake

Having had a nice break from driving, we continued on our journey to the main surprise. I tried to figure out where Chris was taking me. I knew it was close to Hastings, so I had some ideas, but it wasn’t until I saw the brown sign “Bodiam Castle” pop up a few times that I guessed.

Bodiam Castle is your classic castle. It’s the kind of castle that every young child imagines. A picture perfect monument with its symmetrical towers and large circular moat.

Bodiam Castle
Bodiam Castle

Upon arriving, we found multiple groups of people dressed in period clothing. There was an archery section where we watched some young children do worryingly well! As well as a number of tents and workshops set out like a battle camp. We never found out quite why there were these displays of 14th century England, but it definitely made the day more fun.

Battle camp
Battle camp

Crossing the bridge into the castle, we watched the gorgeous Koi Carp – with one rather spectacular orange one catching our attention. We explored the castle top to bottom, from picturesque views of the surrounding countryside to the servant’s quarters.

Koi Carp
Koi Carp

Bodiam Castle was built in 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a former knight of Edward III, with the permission of Richard II. Its primary role was to defend the area against French invasion during the Hundred Years’ War.

Looking through a window at Bodiam Castle
Looking through a window at Bodiam Castle

However, the structure and details of the castle with its quadrangular shape and position in an artificial watery landscape suggest that it was designed to impress. Attractive as much as it is defensive.

 

 

Well worth a visit, the castle remains in good condition and certainly has lots of history attached.

There was one last stop on our mystery tour. The beach.

Hastings Beach
Hastings Beach

Our final destination was Hastings, a seaside town on the southeast coast of England – and landing place of William the Conqueror. It is most known for the 1066 Battle of Hastings, fought on a nearby field where Battle Abbey now stands.

Hastings Beach with Pier
Hastings Beach with Pier

Arriving around 5pm, we headed straight for the seafront. Met by a shingle beach, it’s not quite your ideal picnic spot, but it was lovely to be beside the sea again. We wandered through the amusements area, eyeing up the Crazy Golf and Go-Karts as we went.

Fishing net shops
Fishing net shops

Continuing along the shore, Chris showed me the old net huts. Originating from the 16th-17th century, these huts were traditionally used to store fishing gear made from natural materials which would rot if left in the open. They have vastly changed over the years, but were recently awarded Grade II* listing and are almost as they were in 1865.

Anchor
Anchor

We also found a huge anchor which had once held centre stage on the pier. It was here that we realised the East Hill Cliff Railway was still running.

East Hill Cliff Railway
East Hill Cliff Railway

Having been convinced it had fallen into disrepair, we had to go up. The funicular railway was opened in 1903 by Hastings Borough Council and originally operated on a water balance principle. The line was modernised between 1973 and 1976 with an electric system and new cars added.

View from the East Hill Cliff Railway
View from the East Hill Cliff Railway

Despite knowing it must be safe, at points you certainly felt like you could fall off! The view, however, was a fantastic distraction. There was a hazy mist hanging over the scene making Hastings appear dream-like as we looked down upon it. At the top, you can explore Hastings Country Park which is the perfect place to relax in the sunshine – there are also steps if you don’t fancy the (almost) vertical railway.

View from the Hastings Country Park

Unfortunately, it was nearly time for the last car down – and we didn’t fancy the steps – so we couldn’t spend too long at the top. Just enough time to take in the view.

Our stomachs rumbling, we headed for the nearest Fish and Chips shop – and it was divine. After incredibly efficient service and enough chips to feed an army, we were definitely satisfied. Thank you very much, Fish Hut. Much better than Wales…

It was getting late, but the lack of people on the Crazy Golf tempted us to stay longer. We couldn’t resist a game, our competitive edges coming out. Far too much fun was had, especially when I managed to hit a hole in one! With only one point in it, I think we were both winners.

The light fading on a perfect day, it was time to head home. But not before a stop at the arcades – and no, Chris did not get me the Iron Man toy…

Sunset on a perfect day
Sunset on a perfect day
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Slowly ticking off the bucket list – Natural History Museum

I finally ticked off one of my London bucket list items in visiting the Natural History Museum.

After first getting lost – yes, we got lost… My friend from uni and I were crowded into a packed first exhibit: Mammals.

 

 

In an attempt to escape the crowds, we went upstairs to the Whales and Dolphins section. It was incredible to see the life-sized skeletons and not-quite life-size blue whale model. However, upon returning to the ground floor and trying to find a café through the throngs of people, we decided to find somewhere quieter.

And we found it, in the Images of Nature exhibit. We whirred away the early afternoon hours taking in images of dodos and SEMs of insects. It allowed for the majority of the visitors to filter through whilst we caught up on life.

 

 

Making a break for it, we made our way to the Dinosaur exhibit. Still rather crowded, we were rushed through reading about the various fossils and skeletons on display. Nevertheless, it was still pretty awesome to see all of the display and an animated T-rex, which was a little less scary than we had hoped!

 

 

Finally, we made our way through to the main attraction – the 25.2 metre blue whale skeleton. Positioned majestically above the Hintze Hall, it certainly was a centrepiece.

Blue Wale Skeleton
Blue Wale Skeleton

The hall itself is also incredible with its elaborate design created especially to represent all the wonders of the natural world. The ceiling is covered in delicate paintings of flora with carvings throughout the walls and pillars.

Hintze Hall
Hintze Hall

After admiring the architecture as much as the blue whale, we climbed up the grand staircase to the first floor. Here we entered the minerals exhibition. I am fascinated by minerals and crystals so we may have spent far too much time picking out our favourites from the many, many cabinets. It was also fairly empty by now – thankfully!

Minerals display
Minerals display

Realising the day was slipping by, we made a last visit to the Vault, where the most precious minerals are kept.

Thoroughly exhausted, we decided to home. We hadn’t even scratched the surface.

Any recommendation of when is best – and less busy – to visit the museum would be much appreciated! I will be going back.

Inspired by Italy – Painshill Park

A couple of weeks after my return from France, we visited Painshill Park. A grade I listed 18th-century landscape garden envisioned by the Honourable Charles Hamilton, 9th and 14th child of the 6th Earl of Abercorn. The gardens boast 158 acres of woodland, shrubberies and a vast lake, as well as a large Vineyard.

Inspired by his exploration of Italy and his Grand Tours of Europe, the gardens were one of the first designed in the naturalistic style brought about by the Landscape Movement. There are hints of this influence everywhere, from the Renaissance-style Crystal Grotto to the Chinese Bridge.

It was lunchtime by the time we arrived, so our first stop was the café next to the entrance. We enjoyed fresh sandwiches and a delicious lemon drizzle cake before exploring the walled garden. Teaming with vegetables and a lovely potting shed, it was very quaint, fully allowing us to immerse ourselves in the past.

Walled Garden Potting Shed
Walled Garden Potting Shed

There are a number of routes around the park, but we chose the historical route. Naturally, this path led us to most of the main features of Painshill Park – other than a slight detour to the ruined abbey. Almost immediately, we found ourselves looking down upon the Vineyard. Hamilton planted the two and a half acres with Pinot Noir cultivar, as well as Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc hybrids, to produce Hamilton’s Painshill Sparkling Wine. Stretching down the steep hill to the River Mole, the vineyard looked magical in the summer sun. You could easily imagine yourself in the Italian countryside.

Vineyard
Vineyard

Our first time around, we completely missed the Amphitheatre as we wandered through woodland to the Gothic Temple. The temple stands atop the hill presenting us with beautiful views down towards the Serpent Lake and its bridges. Later in the day, we saw a couple having their wedding photos taken there and I can completely understand why!

Gothic Temple
Gothic Temple
Gothic Temple
View from Gothic Temple

Making our way slightly off the trail, we came across the Ruined Abbey. The abbey looked surprisingly new for a ruin and later research revealed that it is, in fact, a mock representation. Nevertheless, the accompaniment of a couple of swans made for some idyllic pictures through the abbey’s arched windows. Not wishing to disturb a group having a picnic too much, we continued along our route.

Ruined Abbey
Ruined Abbey
Ruined Abbey
View through Ruined Abbey doorway

Walking through the woodland and carefully planted gardens, we came out into the open to find the Chinese Bridge. A couple of people were feeding the birds from the bridge meaning the area was teeming with ducks, geese and swans. Making our way through and over to one of the islands, we were faced with the Crystal Grotto. Unfortunately, due to lack of staff, the Grotto was closed on this particular day. All the more reason to come back again!

Crystal Grotto
Crystal Grotto

Undeterred, we got as close as we could in order to see the unbelievable structure. Completely man-made, the crystals were intricately placed to form the cavern by celebrated grotto maker Joseph Lane in 1760. However, during a period when the park fell into disrepair, the grotto roof collapsed meaning a full restoration was required.

Crystal Grotto
Crystal Grotto

In 2013, Heritage Lottery funding enabled Cliveden Conservation to restore the folly, which historically has been recognised as the finest stalactite Grotto in Europe. Hundreds of thousands of crystals – calcite, gypsum, quartz and fluorite – including originals recovered from archaeological works, were skilfully embedded with lime mortar onto a framework of inverted wooden cones, to recreate the incredible stalactite effect of Joseph Lane’s original folly.

I have never seen anything so unusually beautiful. Stunning in its strangeness, the grotto almost looks like skulls eroded together with shimmering chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.

 

Serpentine Lake
Serpentine Lake

Wishing we could have gone inside, we continued along the historical route passing along the edge of the lake and back into woodland. It wasn’t long before we came across the Waterwheel. Still operative today, the Waterwheel was built by Bramah & Sons in the 1830s to replace the original and is one of the largest working wheels in the UK. It was restored in 1987 and continues to pump water from the river Mole into the Serpentine Lake.

Waterwheel
Waterwheel

Conscious of time, we decided not to visit the Hermitage but instead carry on towards the Gothic Tower through the Alpine Valley. Positioned upon a high-point in the park, the tower’s red brick stands out against the landscape. The tower is accessible to the public and there is a quaint café on the first floor where we stopped for a drink. We then trekked up the many steps, stopping on the various floors to find out more about the history of the park. Upon reaching the top, we were treated to picturesque views of the Surrey countryside – even despite the power lines!

 

 

Clambering back down the spiral staircase, we started the loop back towards the entrance passing through the Elysian Plain, which surrounds the Temple of Bacchus. Presumably inspired by Greek mythology, which can interpret the Elysian Plain as a place where heroes were sent when granted immortality, the area is full of colour. Hamilton’s Temple of Bacchus was originally home to a collection of antiques collected during his Grand Tours to Europe. It featured a seven-foot marble centrepiece statue of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, as well as 12 marble busts of Caesars. However, these pieces were sold in 1797 and the current foundations of the temple are currently undergoing restoration.

Unable to enter the temple, we continued on to the Turkish Tent: another feature of the park that has been recreated. There were no standing remains of the original 18th-century tent, so it was from drawings that the conservationists were able to reconstruct what might have been. With its beautiful blue edges and a fantastic view of the park, we spent a long time taking in the scene.

Turkish Tent
Turkish Tent
View from Turkish Tent
View from Turkish Tent

Making our way back to the café, we realised we had some time before the site closed. So we headed back to find the Amphitheatre where Hamilton would have entertained his guests. A cast of Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabines is the main feature which we admired whilst enjoying the late afternoon sun.

Giambologna's Rape of the Sabines
Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabines

Returning to the North – Arnside Knott

The last couple of months have been incredibly busy, lots of new things have been happening in my life and I’ve spent a lot of my time travelling – but only so I can write lots of wonderful posts for you! Paris, Anglesey… but first I’m going to take you back to North West England and Arnside.

I returned to Lancaster to see my friends from university and get a taste of that lifestyle once again… as well as go on a little hike up Arnside Knott. Despite living in Lancaster for three years, I had never been to Arnside, which is only a short train journey away. Close to the beautiful Silverdale, Arnside is a quaint little place with a lovely view out over Morecambe Bay.

Moody skies looking back to Morecambe bay and Arnside Railway

Upon arriving at the station (after a frantic dash in Lancaster – it wouldn’t be us if we weren’t late), we set off immediately up a footpath that climbed from the flat shoreline. We had to chase after my friend, Dave, who claimed he knew exactly where he was going. Before getting us completely lost.

Thanks to Google Maps, we managed to work out the route, backtracking on ourselves hugely before realising we could have simply crossed over the field. It was definitely one of those days.

But eventually, we were on the right path and climbing the steady slope of the hill. Despite not being the highest elevation at only 159m (522ft), you still get incredible views across to South Lakeland, the Kent Viaduct and Morecambe Bay.

View of the Kent Viaduct from Arnside Knott

View from Arnside Knott

View from Arnside Knott

It was a beautiful walk and one in which you could easily spend hours exploring all of the detours and meandering paths across the hilltop. There are various viewing points along the way highlighting what you can see in the distance, including the Old Man of Coniston, Crinkle Crags, the Helvellyn range and Skiddaw. The cloud was low, however, so we could not quite see the more distant fells- which still didn’t make the view any less beautiful.

View from Arnside Knott View from Arnside Knott View from Arnside Knott

Along the way, we found many piles of logs from which we fashioned a group of walking sticks and a den that I promptly got stuck inside… it’s the perfect place to bring children to run around and play in nature. The area at the top of Arnside Knott is pretty wide, with much to see and explore. We could have wandered for hours, if it wasn’t for our need of coffee and to return to Lancaster for the Warriors celebrations (a sporting event between Lancaster University’s colleges).

View from Arnside Knott

We descended via a different path which took us along the opposite side of the fell and trekked through bracken before reaching the road into Arnside. It was time for a quick stop for some well-deserved coffee and cake at the lovely Ramblers Café and Take-away.  The café itself is pretty small, so good luck getting a table! But it is well worth it if you’re able. They have a huge selection of coffees and delicious food, which I definitely need to try more of!

View across Morecambe Bay from Arnside

Despite the weather not being the best, we went to drink our coffees (and teas) on the end of the pier before heading to the train station and home.

Catch other adventures in my Lake District Chronicles here.

My favourite place to holiday: Robin Hood’s Bay

On a recent trip back up north, I visited one of my favourite places in the world: Robin Hoods Bay. It’s a place that always takes me back to childhood camping holidays at Middlewood Farm campsite, which has a well-trodden track down to the beach. The area around the beach is a complete honey pot with cute gift shops, holiday cottages and plenty of places to eat and drink.View from the beach at Robin Hood's BayThe drive through North Yorkshire to reach the bay, which is close to the seaside town of Whitby, is beautiful in itself, but nothing quite beats the view from the top of the cliffs. There is a carpark at the top of the hill (which is usually incredibly busy) where you can walk down the many steps to reach the beach.View from beach at Robin Hood's BayThe beach is a haven for children and I spent many holidays rock-pooling with my Dad and sister, finding crabs and anemones – even a lobster once! This time we stopped for ice cream from the van which is always there and it was wonderful. We sat with the sea creeping in and the last families packing up their beach towels in time for tea. View from the cliff top at Robin Hood's BayAfter eating our ice creams, we went to discover whether our favourite place to eat was serving. Unfortunately, a Tuesday evening after a bank holiday Monday, Ye Dolphin was only offering drinks. We still sat in the lovely old bar lined with beer bottles and quirky pictures, taking in the atmosphere. Beginning to feel hungry, we wandered through the cute back alleys between holiday cottages back up the hill to eat at the Victoria Hotel, which has a beautiful view along the coastline.View back towards Robin Hood's Bay

Fed and happy, we headed back home, stopping to take in the view as we went.

Top 5 walks around Richmond upon Thames

After having lived in the Borough of Richmond upon Thames for the last seven months, I thought I would share my top 5 walks around the area.

  1. River Crane Walk
River Crane Walk
River Crane Walk

This was the first walk I did when I moved to Twickenham in November last year. It was fairly late in the afternoon with the winter nights drawing in fast, but it was beautiful to see the orange sun shining through the trees and listen to the bird’s evening chorus.

The walk is pretty easy and can be accessed from the Staines Road in Twickenham via Meadway. We turned left onto the footpath which follows the river along to Hounslow. There are plenty of benches with intricate carvings along the way as the path meanders along the riverside and it is perfect for an evening stroll. Read more here.

Bench along the River Crane Walk
Bench along the River Crane Walk
  1. Teddington to Kingston

The walk between Teddington and Kingston (via Teddington Lock) is a must for the summer. With sweeping views of the River Thames and the shade of trees, there are plenty of places to sit and relax or enjoy a picnic by the river. The walk itself is flat and paved for the most part and, at only 1.5 miles, it is an easy walk for all the family. Follow the signs to Teddington Lock from Teddington high street and turn right after crossing the bridge to reach the path. I decided to turn back upon entering the outskirts of Kingston, but you can continue into the town centre for plenty of cafes and shops. Read more here.

The walk towards Kingston
  1. Bushy Park
Bushy Park
Bushy Park

Whilst living in Teddington, I was amazed to find that I could walk for 10 minutes down Park Road and suddenly be in open countryside. The road takes you to the gates on Chestnut Avenue from which you can explore the entire park along various paths. Following the road, you will eventually find yourself at Hampton Court Palace (somewhere I still need to explore). However, I tend to take the right fork through the trees that takes you either round to open parkland if you turn right onto Cobblers Walk, where I have watched beautiful sunsets, or towards The Pheasantry café and woodland gardens if you continue straight. Whichever way you choose to go, the park is teaming with wildlife, including the many deer that call it home.

  1. Twickenham to Richmond

Despite exploring this route in the depths of winter (gloves and scarves at the ready), it still amazed me how beautiful Richmond looks as you approach along the Thames walk. It was mid-afternoon as we neared the town, its red brick blazing in the late winter sun. The path itself is encased in trees and a little rough in areas but otherwise very walkable. We walked from Staines Road, Twickenham to the opposite bank towards Ham House, but turned back here as it was rather muddy and we were losing the light. The view along the Thames is incredible and well worth the 3 mile walk from Twickenham and is easily accessible from Twickenham riverside off Church Street. Both Twickenham and Richmond have pubs and restaurants in abundance, so there are also plenty of options to refuel along the way. Read more here.

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View from Richmond Bridge
  1. Teddington Lock to Ham House

Teddington Lock tops my list mainly because of my experience getting lost and wandering forever along the banks of the Thames in beautiful sunshine. The walk takes you through an overhanging of trees and is the least busy of all the walks listed, allowing for you to completely immerse yourself in your surroundings. Again following the signs to Teddington Lock from the high street, turn left upon crossing the bridge taking the path along the Thames to Ham House. The path is easily traversed with a couple of benches for pit stops and emerges from the trees to wonderful views across to Richmond – once again shining orange in the sun. You can continue along this path to Ham House and on to Richmond joining the Thames path to Twickenham, which can make a nice circular walk I intend on attempting soon. Read more here.

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Looking toward Richmond along the walk to Ham House

Do you know of any other walks in this area? Let me know in the comments!

Lake District Chronicles: 8

Fearing a torrential downpour, we decided not to do the full route pictured on the map and find our own way back to Keswick – which in hindsight was not very wise.

Skimming Stones in the rain: Keswick to Walla Crag

It was about this time last year, I had finished my final exam of third year at university – and it was all over! So, we decided to celebrate with a trip to the Lake District. I had picked up a map on directions from Keswick to Walla Crag the previous summer, and was yet to try it. Therefore, we set off on a fairly cold May day to Keswick.

Walla Crag Route Map
Walla Crag Route Map

After stopping to buy some lunch at the local Booths, we wandered through the centre of town to reach Keswick’s Town Hall and Tourist Information Centre – the start of our walk. Following the same route to the Castlerigg Stone Circle, we were soon in open countryside with Derwent Water far below us. Climbing through trees and fields, we spent a lot of time stopping to take photographs despite the overcast sky.

Woodland on our path to Walla CragHowever, we soon came to a dilemma. I had been so busy enjoying the walk, I had unwittingly led us the route of Castlerigg Stone Circle and we needed to fall back on ourselves to reach the correct path. Not exactly as planned, but the slight detour was worth it for the fantastic views across Derwent Water and towards Blencathra and Skiddaw.

Looking towards Blencathra
Looking towards Blencathra

Upon reaching the ascent of Walla Crag, we realised that we had misjudged the gradient and, for an easy walk, it was pretty steep! We followed the path around to Surprise View, which gives an amazing panoramic view across the whole of Keswick and Derwent Water. But now the rain was creeping in as the clouds darkened and spots of rain formed on my glasses.

View from Surprise View
Surprise View

Fearing a torrential downpour, we decided not to do the full route pictured on the map and find our own way back to Keswick – which in hindsight was not very wise.

We followed a less traversed path along the side of one of many stone walls that section the Lake District’s landscape, before reaching an even steeper descent. With the sound of a waterfall nearby, we attempted to navigate the ill-formed path, jarring knees on too high steps and slipping on loose gravel as the rain began to fall more heavily. Reaching the cover of some trees, we sought a quick break to recharge the batteries and nurse an injured ankle. Mosquitos had found us, however, and came in droves, driving us to keep moving as we continued our descent.

Descent from Walla Crag
Descent from Walla Crag

Making our way through the Great Wood, we found ourselves at the edge of Derwent Water. The rain was coming down thick and fast by this point – perfect weather for skimming stones of course! It became the mission to find the best stone to skim as we dodged along the banks using the trees as cover.

Looking out across Derwent Water
Looking out across Derwent Water

Eventually, we gave in to the inevitable and enjoyed the rain, seeing how far we could throw our rocks and collecting the best as we went. All too soon we were making our way back into Keswick, where we found a café for a hot drink to warm us up as the rain still fell.

Returning to Keswick
Returning to Keswick

It was the weekend of Keswick Midsummer Festival, so we sat for a while in the shelter listening to the acts and watching those stood in the rain getting drenched – but really, what did they expect in Cumbria? Some of the acts where pretty good and we would have liked to stay longer, but were restricted by the bus timetable.

We returned to Lancaster looking like drowned rats but perfectly happy with our little adventure.

A 10 mile “wander” around Teddington Lock

A gorgeous 16C caught me by surprise when I went for a walk yesterday. The sky was grey and I’d worn my thickest jacket thinking it would be cold – but it was glorious!

I’ve lived in Teddington for three months now so felt it was high time I explored the lock, which is only a mile from my house. Perfect for a short wander to clear my head. Or so I thought.

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Teddington Lock

I have a wonderful, if not slightly reckless, habit of finding myself in places where I can lose myself completely, which naturally leads to never quite wanting to leave again. This was one of those occasions.

Upon reaching the lock, which is a quick wander down from Teddington high street, I found that hundreds of other people had had much the same idea. The nearby pubs and tearooms were teaming in the bright sunshine that had luckily broken through the clouds. People were out in force on the water, on boat tours or yachts, a family came past in bright orange kayaks and there were a number of barges and rowing boats spotted along the way.

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Teddington Lock

There are two bridges across the lock and, to avoid a group of cyclists, I decided to explore the base of the first bridge. All I found was an overgrown footpath and a dead end, but the smell transported me back to Yorkshire and wandering through the countryside. I found myself encased in wildflowers, their scent filling my nostrils and taking me a million miles away. Yet, a gate prevented any further exploration and I had to return to the bridge.

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Half-way point

After crossing, I was faced with a decision: 3 miles to Richmond Park straight ahead, 3.5 miles to Ham House and Gardens to the left, or 1.75 miles to Kingston Bridge to the right. At this point, I was still convinced this was just a short wander along the river, so chose the Kingston path.

The path divides in two with one strand following closely to the banks of the Thames, the other is a sturdier path further up the bank. I chose the higher path, which took me through woodland before emerging into the open sunlight with views of the river.

Taking pictures as I went, I meandered along the path listening to the sound of the river mixed with children’s laughter and the chitter-chatter of their parents. Until I reached a line of houses where the path turned into a tarmac road. Not really wanting to wander through Kingston, I decided to head back but, this time, I took the lower path.

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Half mile tree, just before Kingston

Now my view was less obstructed, I could photograph the expanse of the River Thames with the sun now on my face. Having only traveled a mile or so, it wasn’t long before I was back at the signpost. To go home, or not to go home?

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View back towards the lock

Not to go home.

I decided to continue along the path towards Ham House and Gardens, not expecting to reach the stately home but knowing the walk would be pretty. After following the edge of the lock, I was soon immersed in woodland. I heard the sweet calls of blackbirds and robins flitting through the trees. I love being among the trees, it’s a place where I feel safe and at home. The fresh smell of new leaves and various wildflowers intermingled with the earth as I wandered.

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The path to Ham House and Gardens

The path is fairly similar the whole way along with the Thames to your left and woodland on the right, which made it easy to lose track of how far I had walked. It wasn’t until I saw the outcrop of Eel Pie Island that I realised I had almost walked as far as Ham House! So much for a short walk…

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Ham land

I sat on a bench for a little while, admiring the beauty of Eel Pie Island and growing envious of the houses there. As I looked, however, I suddenly noticed two little eyes watching me and a couple of pointy orange ears. A fox. Realising I was not a threat – I could not easily traverse the water between us – he settled down to sun himself. I admired him for a while before continuing my walk.

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Eel Pie Island

By now it was getting late and I had set myself a target of turning back once it had reached 5pm. It was 4.54pm. I carried on forward a short way until the woodland opened up to reveal a car park and what I can only assume is the ferry point between Twickenham and Ham House. I could see The White Swan on the opposite bank and Richmond looming in the distance. I sat for a while taking in the view.

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View towards Richmond

The journey back was harder. My feet suddenly felt the 19,884 steps (according to my Samsung Health app) I’d taken and my lack of preparation meant I was in dire need of a drink. Barely pausing, I power-marched back to the lock, reliving all the beauty of my walk there and being startled by squirrels who interrupted my path.

After walking roughly ten miles, I collapsed on my bed, tired but feeling wonderfully fulfilled.

 

Off the beaten track: North York Moors

To rise swiftly from the valley of cars,
Scything the heather in mud-spattered arcs,
With boots crushing broken straws of bracken,
In peat which darkly preserves our passing,
– Christopher Woodall

After my stay in Leeds, I travelled across to my hometown of Hull to see my family. Whilst I was there, we decided to head out to the North York Moors on an, unfortunately, less pleasant day than my trip to Ilkley.

Image of Daffodils on North York Moors with a river running through treesDespite the overcast skies and spots of rain, we had a wonderful exploration of the moors around Rosedale, seeing a part of the landscape we’d never been to before. Wild daffodils were in their droves around the base of trees and little Coal tits fluttered through their branches. It was a little haven away from the roadside, the only pull back to the real world being the slight whoosh of traffic in the distance.Image of river running through trees on the North York MoorsRosedale is known for its beautiful Abbey ruins and remnants of the industrial revolution as the area was used for its richness of iron with ironstone mines, kilns and the moorland railway scattered across the landscape.
Image of River on North York Moors near Rosedale

We wandered along the river bank before coming to a series of stepping stones across to the opposite bank. It was either cross or turn back, so we ventured forward – making sure my mum was in the middle, just in case!

We made it across the river to climb up a Image of View through the pines on North York Moorspath through the dense heather, our intention to make it to the highest point of the moor. The higher we climbed, however, the more apparent it became that there was no obvious peak and we could continue indefinitely.
Turning back, we realised how far we had gone as we were now well above the trees on the opposing valley.Image of View on North York Moors After returning to the car, we headed to Rosedale where we found a lovely café, the Abbey Tea Room and Store in Rosedale Village. There is a large picture window looking onto the quaint village green and I can highly recommend their gluten-free Chocolate Cake!

The day was drawing to a close, so we took the scenic drive back home passing over the top of the moors and down through the seaside town of Whitby.Image of View on North York Moors

Ramble over Ilkley Moor

Wheear ‘as ta bin sin ah saw thee,
On Ilkla Moor baht ‘at?!
Wheear ‘as ta bin sin ah saw thee?
Wheear ‘as ta bin sin ah saw thee?
On Ilkla Moor baht ‘at?!

At the end of March, I travelled to Leeds to visit a couple of my best friends from University. The sun was out so we decided to explore West Yorkshire with a trip to Ilkley Moor.

Image of White Well's Spa Cafe on Ilkley Moor
Looking up to White Well’s Spa Cafe

Despite the very ill-suited footwear (note to self: always bring trainers), we managed to scramble up a muddy slope to reach White Wells spa café. Upon reaching the top, we realised there were two pathways to the café we had completely missed! Google had not lied and the muddy shoes were completely avoidable!

Image of view across the valley from White Well's Spa Cafe on Ilkley Moor
View from White Well’s Spa Cafe

Nevertheless, the view was incredible and we spent a while with our mugs of coffee catching up in the gorgeous spring air. The daffodils were in full bloom and everything seemed bright and fresh in the early afternoon sun.

The path continued on from the café, which also houses an old bath house we decided not to take a plunge in! The view just got better as we climbed higher onto the moors and after walking for a while we saw the famous Cow and Calf in the distance.

Image of White Well's Spa Cafe on Ilkley Moor
White Well’s Spa Cafe on Ilkley Moor

The Cow and Calf are a large outcrop of rocks sitting high on Ilkley Moor, so named because one of the boulders is large, with the smaller boulder sitting close to it, like a cow and its calf. However, we agreed that it definitely takes a lot of imagination to see this!

According to local legend, the Calf was split from the Cow when the giant Rombald was fleeing his wife and stamped on the rocks as he leapt across the valley. The legend also states that his angry wife dropped the stones she held in her skirt to form another local rock formation, the Skirtful of Stones.

Image of view towards Ilkley
View towards Ilkley

We were still a good way away and it was already mid-afternoon, so we decided to head back the way we’d come, dodging the puddles and tackling some rather precarious steps along the way. Descending by the marked path, we reached the road into Ilkley. We wandered through the quaint high street before finding another café to sit and talk for hours until heading home for pizza and movies – because, of course, we had earnt it.

Image of View from Ilkley Moor down towards Ilkley
View from Ilkley Moor down towards Ilkley