In the shadow of Heathrow

2006-08-27-132411

Right on cue the air screams with the vibrations of a timely plane as it passes overhead, seemingly close enough to reach out and touch. This is Heathrow, one of the busiest airports in the world and arrivals and departures number in the seconds not in the minutes. Believe it or not you do tune it out to some degree but the sight of the giant metal Avians littering the sky is a familiar one and one you expect of a bustling city like London. Being somewhat of a country bumpkin myself i nevertheless feel very at home in my city second home and thrill in the vibrant diversity of it all. The hustle and bustle feels very compact and crammed in , with every available space untilised to the maximum and hardly a green space to be seen unless it be of the grass verge variety. Or so i thought.

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Following a maze of urban streets you step through the gates of a city park and are instantly transported to rural heaven. Along winding tree lined avenues, following the wild overgrowth of the River Crane, you would believe yourself to be in the heart of the British countryside and not infact in the depths of the largest city in England. Butterflies wheel and spin, vying for airspace as they dance their fluttering dance across the heat shimmering sky. The air of silence is oddly shattered by the alternating sounds of the overhead jet engines interspersed with the raucous cries of squabbling magpies. Crossing an elderly bridge to gaze down at rippling water and contemplate a game of ‘Pooh Sticks’ before turning a corner and stepping back in time.

St Dunstans church nestles serenely in a sunlit corner of the park showing visible signs of age yet none the less impressive for all that. Splitting wood and age worn gravestones announce proudly that this elderly house of god has been there for many more years than you and i could contemplate.

”Come inside” it smiles invitingly, like some beneign old grandfather welcoming you around for tea. Who are we to refuse and we walk carefully around the grounds interestedly peering at those gravestones visible enough to still be read. Yes old it is and the gravestones lay testament to its age. Who were you we wonder as we pause by first one and then many more of the higgley piggledy scattering of stones. Serene and welcoming and cause indeed to linger a while before continuing on our way.

Crane-Meadows
Much of a surprise then to round a corner and see undeveloped land as far as the eye can see. The alien bulk of a distant control tower the only blight on the otherwise rural looking landscape. Golden fields ripple in the gentle breeze leading to enticing looking tunnels of trees and yet more green and golden expanse. A flash to the right as a little grey body makes a dash for cover, white fluffy tail bouncing madly as it makes a bid for safety.

Bunnies!!

Yet another and then two more as they pause to consider our motives before either fleeing or dismissing us of no consequence and remaining as they were. We briefly halt our progress and tarry a moment to consider them as they in turn watch us a little warily but do not flee. Another is not so bold and dashes for the safety of a large patch of undergrowth yet perhaps it was not us who sent him there as a large magpie hops madly around upon the path infront of us. Just about to perform my usual superstitious salute i spot another and lower my arm in relief. The area is almost deserted compared to the overpopulated urban madness not a stones throw away, yet here it is peaceful and only the odd passing stranger indicates that we are not totally alone. Along the river we wander before out into the wide golden wilderness we step once more. Some thoughtful soul has cut a wonderful path of crossroads within the expanse and some time is spent wandering first one way and then another , randomly taking first one turning and then a  second. The bunnies give way to a lone kestrel soaring in the evening sky, clearly it is time for dinner and we are too far away to disturb his efforts and so he pays us no heed. Look another and yet another and still one more! Six we count in all and they swoop and soar in the warm evening air first gliding landwards before flapping madly to hold in some advantageous position. Glorious they are and so many is a sight to see but secretly i pray ‘dont catch a bunny, oh PLEASE don’t catch a bunny! ‘
kestrel
Again the raucous call of a bullying magpie as a tag team of the embullient avians lay chase to an unfortunate Kestrel. Clearly laying ownership to a small tree they are having none of the poor Kestrels attempts to gain perch there for some small moment of time. Two against one is no match and in defeat he wheels away to seemingly float upon the night sky with his bretheren. Pause for a ‘selfie’ for posterity and then it is time to let those jet engines intrude once more as the rural hideaway fades and urban life encroaches once more. How magical to find such a place so hidden from view in a most unexpected place and one i hope i shall visit again sometime in the future.

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Come fly with me

As morning creeps in on a chilly Sunday i poked my nose from beneath the duvet, pronounced it rather too cold to move  and dived back under the covers. Much in the manner of all bears i am rather loathe to move at this time on a supposed day of rest although gym kit hanging jauntily nearby suggests i should infact be stirring.

Instead i let my thoughts drift to where i shall be in one week from now and i cannot help but get rather excited for my vampiric partner in crime and i will be heading for my very first air-show at Duxford!! I guess dating an Aviation Writer i was undeniably going to come into contact with planes of every kind, what i didn’t expect was to find it all so interesting and exciting. Of course we differ slightly he and i. Whilst he is in raptures over some sleek modern design, be it commercial or military, i myself am much more drawn to the much older matriarchs of the aviation world.Those beautiful old girls long past their prime, yet so elegant and proud and i love them all.

Give me B-17 Flying fortress’s and Spitfires galore. Bring on the Lancaster’s and the B-25 Mitchell’s and the oh so beautiful Sopwith Camel. Yes i am such an old fashioned girl and these echoes of the past draw me in and have me daydreaming of all the things they have seen and all the lives they have lived. My whimsical nature creates a story for each and gives them a glorious life all of their own, though in truth i imagine their realities were far more awe inspiring than even my imaginings could make them. In my thoughts they soar and fly and i fly with them free as a bird.

As i sit and write a Lancaster banks its way to a glorious descent within my eye-line, or so i like to imagine it anyway. A private joke between my boyfriend and i, the small model sits proudly upon a chest of drawers flying elegantly to the echoes of my gleeful shrieks as  i saw a ‘Lancaster’ fly over in the not so distant past. Soon to join it in its merry flying display, my own personal favourite the Sopwith Camel, out of time but definitely not out of place and the two shall fly a magical tattoo in my imagination at least.

This ‘Camel’ will be special for i am to build it myself. Perhaps i exaggerate some when i say ‘myself’ for i have never built a model plane before and will no doubt require much assistance from a boyfriend far more talented at this than i. But build it i will and call me a geek if you choose but i shall not care for i find it all rather exciting and cannot wait to bring forth this creation of mine. Hopefully the first of many for they say practise makes perfect do they not?

Yes the bi-planes i love, my favourites above all and seeing them in person is a feeling i cannot describe. You cannot help but be impressed by such beauty and such daring from those who flew with them. In my minds eye they soar and fly, a hero at the controls and the heart of an eagle within as they dominate the sky with such elegance and grace. Yes whimsical i may be but most definitely impressed by all i see before me.

So to Duxford we shall go and i have no doubt i will be unable to contain my glee for my inner child is impatiently hopping up and down and camera is already mentally poised. Sporting the most beautiful of flying jackets courtesy of my partner i shall feel very much the part and imagination will run abound in every direction. Come fire up your imagination and fly with me for i shall blog the day in all its glory. But for now the old girl’s sit and wait and so do i. 

 

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When worlds collide

All of you who read my blog will no doubt have noticed my countdown clock with its gleeful announcement of an impending weekend with my little vampire. I have been excitedly counting down the days to a trip to London to see THE most special person in the world, my best friend Jay. Packing was done and undone,then done again. Clothes strewn across every single spare inch of space as i ummed and ahhed about what to take with me and changed my mind yet again.The result was probably far more than i needed but i am someone who likes to be prepared for every eventuality.

What can i say i’m a girl, this is the norm for someone like me!!

So Friday arrives and in true Amanda style i was at the station far too early, clutching my ritual coffee and determinedly forcing myself to sit in my seat in a composed and ladylike manner when all i really wanted to do was bounce up and down in my seat shrieking with glee. I behaved, i was most grown up and firmly squashed my inner child although the huge grin on my face would not be removed and a gentleman passenger rather startled beamed back at me, believing himself to be the recipient of it. 

Half an hour later i was cursing myself for not obeying my first instinct to get into the quiet zone as children ran screeching up and down the carriage, parents totally oblivious to the antics of their offspring. Increasing the volume on my ipod did little to drown out the noise and i willed the train to go faster and the parents to consider other passengers and curb the rowdiness. My eyes widened as i surreptitiously observed the family at the adjacent table, mother, father and three very young children, noting each time a child became overly noisy he would be handed food to quieten him which was very frequent. I was slightly alarmed at the copious amounts of food consumed by those small  boys and wondered perhaps if the parents could not have thought of a better way to occupy their children.

To say i was glad to leave the train was a little of an understatement and i thankfully hopped from it to the hustle and bustle of Clapham Junction. Here begins the culture shock for the town where i live is very sleepy and rural and the most uneventful of places, predominantly white and so totally removed from the multicultural rush, rush rush of the city. A dozen languages swirled around me as people rushed by totally aware of anyone else and all in such a hurry to be somewhere. A far cry from the slow pace in which i usually live i absorbed it all, watching in fascination as it all wove its way around me. 

I wonder if i was so very obvious, being such a fish out of water although i was far from lost. Trains are a part of my everyday life and to locate my connection was barely a second thought but i did wonder if my very ruralness stood me apart from those city dwellers around me. Were the second glances merely appreciative ones or did i really stand out as being an out of townie?? I shall never know although the woman in me would prefer the former. So as my connection rolled in and i scrambled with the rest to climb aboard i firmly crossed my legs and tried to ignore a pressing need for a bathroom. Of course i could have gone on the train but i was loathe to leave my luggage unattended and more importantly i was rather afraid of missing my stop.

Houses sailed by as fast as the miles and yes by now i was probably earning the label of tourist as my head turned in all directions taking it all in. So many high rise buildings!! Not a common sight where i live at all. Double decker buses and black cabs so alien a sight yet i felt such delight at seeing them and firmly decided that i was liking this lively place, a most welcome change from the slow moving day to day life i usually lead.

 As the train rolled into the station and i waited to alight i couldn’t help but think that we take our surroundings for granted and only really notice it when it is seen through the eyes of someone else. Do city folk see it as i did and feel such a child like excitement at such a carousel of activity.

I loved the whole time in the city, it really captured me, the whole vibrant rush of it and at the end, as i neared my home, i did wonder how city people would see the little town where i return to. Sleepy? Beautiful? I wonder what would you see??

On an English country hike

I live in a small town in the South West of England, pretty much like any other town i would say except we are famous for two reasons. The first a beautiful chalk horse carved into the hillside and the second we lay claim to the oldest swimming baths in Britain, opened in 1887 and still having much of its original Victorian architecture. Interestingly these swimming baths are reputed to be haunted by a ghost named George. Some say he was a swimmer who jumped to his death from the pool balcony while the more likely claim is that he is the ghost of an old stoker. Since most sightings of him have been seen by the poolside wearing overalls most people tend to believe the latter. 

                     Image

Living where i do i tend to walk a lot and my favourite walk is up into the hills to sit on the white horse so i am going to take you on a trip with me on an English country hike. Usually i start from my house and walk up into the market place, typically English although the days of there actually being a market there have long since gone. Still it remains with much of its original buildings being an original part of the town.Once upon a time the building on the left was the town hall, now it is merely used to house a solicitors.    

 

 

From here we turn left and head up the hill, i love this street for it has one of the loveliest houses along the way and if i were to dream of owning any house then this one would certainly be up there with the front runners. Not my usual type of house since i mostly prefer Victorian houses but this one is definitely of the rose covered variety.

 

 

Right next to this are houses i really do love, originally cloth mills until 1969 these are listed buildings and have been converted into houses. I’ve never had the chance to see inside but externally they have a most appealing character which i am drawn to. 

 

 

Getting to the top of the hill you see straight infront of you the White Horse Pottery, producing the most beautiful hand made pottery in a traditional old style. You can go along and watch the pottery being made and browse the collection of unique pieces for sale. The building itself was once an old school which i believe was the Church Of England Day School dating to around 1847 and is today still called The old School.

 

 

 

 

Now this is where the real hiking begins, as you leave the houses behind the path widens with a riding school on one side and beautiful views across the fields on the left, horse sitting proudly on the hill dominating the landscape. It looks closer than it is from here, like you could almost reach out and touch it and you would be forgiven for thinking you need only run through the field and you will be there.

 

 

 

Rounding a corner and turning left to head up across the hills you very often encounter horses in the fields, some of these guys are oh so beautiful and very friendly. I did feel rather guilty today as i did not have a single treat in my pocket yet despite the drizzle they were more than happy to come over and say hello.

Image

 

Onwards and upwards! There is of course a road that goes all the way to the top of the horse as many people choose to drive there but this is often covered by a canopy of trees which hides the view as you walk so i tend to hike halfway up and then cut along the fields. This takes you right along the front of the hill ridge and only a barbed wire fence between you and a very long steep slide down to terra firma. On the right days you can see Paragliders galore taking flight like a swam of exotic butterflies and swirling around the skyline infront of the hill face.

                                                  

 

The hike is definitely worth it as you cut across the hills the horse peers gleaming white from between the hills as you walk, far bigger than it appears in photographs and closer than you would imagine. High above the horse itself is an Iron Age Hill Fort named Bratton Camp, now here i had to borrow a photograph since this amazing site really doesnt show well from ground level and there is seriously no chance of me getting myself up into one of those paragliders, no matter how pretty they may appear from down here..

 

 

Then as you walk along the chalk path you are face to face with that gleaming horse you saw in the distance. You can actually sit on this if you are brave enough although i content myself with sitting on his ear and looking out across the landscape at my little town below.                                                                                                               

 



 

Above is the view sitting on the horses ear looking down into the valley. Was i tempted to slide down it?? oh no!! Actually it was very drizzly and windy and i had rather a time staying seated where i was without the wind whipping the camera from my hand. You can see why they love to glide from here cant you??

 

 

Welcome to my hike, feel free to come along and sit with me for i come here a lot. And as i sit here with the wind and rain howling around me i really do not mind at all. We are happy up here this horse and i watching the world go by and running madly through the hills just like all wild things should. 

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