Archive for ‘north London’

June 13, 2015

roses in Regent’s Park

roses in Regent's Park

On a sunny afternoon in June, what better way to spend your time than strolling around a rose garden, then settling down on a bench with a book?

roses in Queen Mary's Gardens, Regent's Park

roses in Queen Mary's Gardens, Regent's Park

roses in Queen Mary's Gardens, Regent's Park

roses in Queen Mary's Gardens, Regent's Park

roses in Queen Mary's Gardens, Regent's Park

roses in Queen Mary's Gardens, Regent's Park

roses in Queen Mary's Gardens, Regent's Park

My reading was slightly disrupted by some over-amorous pigeons in the euphorbia, but they were quite entertaining.

pigeons in Queen Mary's Gardens, Regent's Park

pigeons in Queen Mary's Gardens, Regent's Park

Although Queen Mary’s Gardens is famous for its huge rose beds, there are plenty of other pretty plants to enjoy as well.

flowers in Queen Mary's Gardens, Regent's Park

plants in Queen Mary's Gardens, Regent's Park

plants in Queen Mary's Gardens, Regent's Park

flowers in Queen Mary's Gardens, Regent's Park

flowers in Queen Mary's Gardens, Regent's Park

The gardens can sometimes get a bit too crowded with people, but they’re not too bad on a weekday afternoon during term-time, and I was delighted to discover the flowerbeds were crowded with lots of bees, instead.

bees in Queen Mary's Gardens, Regent's Park

bees in Queen Mary's Gardens, Regent's Park

bees in Queen Mary's Gardens, Regent's Park

You can’t beat a sunny June day in a pretty flower-filled park, can you?

[photos taken with the Hipstamatic app, using the Buckhorst H1 lens, Blanko film and Jolly Rainbo flash]

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June 12, 2015

return to the Hill Garden

return to the Hill Garden

I took these photos a month ago, on a sunny but breezy afternoon when I walked up to the top of Hampstead to see the wisteria at the Hill Garden.

wisteria at the Hill Garden

It was fairly empty when I arrived, but I soon noticed there was a crowd of what seemed to be art students wandering around with rolls of chicken wire and tape, and opted to steer myself away from them so that I could enjoy the romance of the place the way I like it best: in solitude.

the pergola at the Hill Garden

the pergola at the Hill Garden

at the Hill Garden

the pergola at the Hill Garden

at the Hill Garden

the pergola at the Hill Garden

at the Hill Garden

wisteria at the Hill Garden

at the Hill Garden

at the Hill Garden

at the Hill Garden

under the pergola at the Hill Garden

[photos taken with the Hipstamatic app, using the Susie Lens, Ina’s 1935 film and Jolly Rainbo flash]

There are earlier posts about the Hill Garden here and here.

May 22, 2015

the day the swifts came back

May’s been a funny old month. Colder than March, some days. Full of brisk winds and heavy storms that stripped the blossom off the trees in my street before I’d barely had time to stop and appreciate it. Nights of violent dreams and creeping nightmares, days of bad news and exhaustion. Too many moments of frustration and loneliness.

Yesterday afternoon there was a break in the clouds, so I went for a walk up Primrose Hill. I lay down in the grass and looked up at the sky, and I took these photos.

new shoes on Primrose Hill

cloudwatching

on Primrose Hill

on Primrose Hill

bug's eye view of Primrose Hill

And as I lay on the grass near the top of the hill, watching the clouds, I spotted the first swifts of the summer. They always arrive around the third or fourth week in May, so I’ve been looking out for them, but it was a lovely surprise to spot them anyway. They were way up high amongst the cirrus, tiny black specks flitting around, so high that you could blink and miss them.

I made my way up to the peak of the hill and craned my face upwards to get a better glimpse, only to realise that nobody else had noticed them, the heralds of summer. This was a moment for me, alone.

And I walked off down the hill with a smile on my face, towards a tree with new buds of pink blossom starting to bloom, a sign that the storms of May didn’t blow everything off the trees.

down Primrose Hill

blossom

May’s been a funny old month. Stormy weather and bad dreams took their toll on me. But it’s also been a month of mellow afternoons with good sounds spilling out of windows opened wide to warm sunshine. Days of creative encouragement and good food. Days to linger under lush green trees, listen to the bees and watch the birds in the sky.

Yesterday the swifts came back, and I almost didn’t see them.

sunshine

[photos taken with the Hipstamatic app, using the Adler 9009 lens and Blanko Freedom13 Film]

May 9, 2015

walk on, past

On Thursday, after I’d voted (and I’m not going to talk about the election result because it is just too depressing), I ended up taking a long walk through the woods on Hampstead Heath, which I hadn’t done for a while.

One of the drawbacks about going to classes two days a week is that I seem to have less energy for walking as much as I did last year — chronic fatigue means I have to balance what I want to do against what I have to do, and walking for pleasure often gets left out of the equation. Because of this, I haven’t been walking as much as I’d hoped and planned to this year. I usually walk to my printmaking class, but although I had great intentions when I started the drawing class that, since it’s in the afternoon, I’d have enough time to walk there too (it’s in a different place to my printmaking class), I never seem to have enough energy to do that, and I’m pretty sure if I did walk down there it would make me too tired to focus on the class (as I’ve mentioned before, it’s a pretty intense class).

All of which means that I’ve hardly been in the woods on the Heath this year (although I have been up on Parliament Hill a few times), and Thursday’s walk reminded me how much I’ve missed it. I did take photos when I was out on Thursday, but I recently came across these photos I took last year (which I had uploaded at the time but not got around to blogging, because that was when I ended up taking that impromptu blog break for a few months), so I thought I’d post them now. I always find something very soothing about being on my own out in the woods, and I think these pictures capture that soothing atmosphere so you can share it, too.

Vale of Health, Hampstead Heath, spring 2014

Hampstead Heath, spring 2014
I can never tell if this is wild chervil (aka cow parsley), wild carrot (aka Queen Anne’s lace) or hogweed
(which is poisonous)

Hampstead Heath, spring 2014

Hampstead Heath, spring 2014

Hampstead Heath, spring 2014
it’s a bit confusing that baby coots have red beaks like adult moorhens

Hampstead Heath, spring 2014
don’t know what this plant is, but it’s got pretty leaves

Hampstead Heath, spring 2014
cleavers, aka goosegrass, one of those multipurpose plants: eat it, make dye, stuff beds, use as a sieve…

Hampstead Heath, spring 2014
garlic mustard, aka Jack-by-the-Hedge, is tasty in soups, salads and stir-fries

bluebells, Hampstead Heath, spring 2014

bluebells, Hampstead Heath, spring 2014

bluebells, Hampstead Heath, spring 2014

October 3, 2014

hollow and dancing

Last Sunday, after visiting the Isokon Gallery with a friend, we went for a walk on Hampstead Heath. Although I do know my way around it pretty well, there are still all sorts of little paths I’ve never been down before, and sometimes they take me off track from where I’m aiming at, which is what happened on Sunday. I was taking him to see the hollow tree, but I went down a new path and we managed to circumnavigate the entire glade the tree is in. Serves me right for getting cocky about knowing my way around.

Anyway, I’d been for a walk on the Heath a few days before, and taken photos then, including the hollow tree, so I thought I’d post some of those.

beech tree, Hampstead Heath
I love beech trees. At the end of August they started dropping their nuts, and for weeks I spent several peaceful moments sitting alone under the beech tree canopies, just listening to the pop-plop of the nut-cases falling to the ground and splitting open. I thought about foraging for them, but beech nuts only have a good season every 3-5 years, and a bit of internet research led me to find that the last good season was 2011 (which by all reports was spectacular), and this year the nuts have no meat on them. They still make a pleasing crunch when you walk over them, though.

tiny shoot, Hampstead Heath
Even as the season dies, there’s always a spurt of new life somewhere.

hollow tree, Hampstead Heath
Hello hollow.

dancing trees, Hampstead Heath
These trees, opposite the hollow tree, always look to me like they are dancing.

michaelmas daisies, Hampstead Heath
I always know it’s September when I see the michaelmas daisies. I love them.

Himalayan balsam, Hampstead Heath
This is Himalayan balsam, aka Policeman’s Helmet, Gnome’s Hatstand and (my favourite), Love-on-a-mountain. It is very pretty but very invasive because it can shoot its seeds up to seven metres, and bees adore it, which means that native plants don’t get pollinated. They actually have it under control on the Heath, and there aren’t that many plants, so when you see them it’s a nice surprise, because it is so pretty. The flowers and seedpods are edible, which is one way to deal with it (although I’ve not tried it myself), but as with any invasive plant you have to be careful not to tread the seedpods anywhere else. Probably best just to admire it from afar.

rosebay willowherb, Hampstead Heath
And this is rosebay willowherb, aka fireweed (because it grows well on burnt, damaged soil), which is also an invasive and also edible. I actually ate it earlier this year when the young leaves were out, very young leaves have a bit of a zingy citrus taste and were an interesting addition to salads. In my experience it has to be eaten as fresh as possible as the leaves got a bit tough after a day or two in the fridge, but they tasted OK chucked into a soup, so they weren’t wasted (it’s very high in nutrients, too!). I wanted to make some fireweed jelly this summer but again, despite its invasive nature, they keep it under control on the Heath, and I didn’t want to take all the blossoms from only a few plants because then no one else could enjoy them (not that this stopped somebody else from stripping them instead). There’s always next year.

October 1, 2014

the Isokon Gallery

NB: this is a very link-heavy post, but all the links are about interesting people and places, so they’re worth a bit of your time.

Over the past few months I’ve spent quite a lot of time just walking around the area I live in (I’m still trying to work out where the neighbourhood ends), and I keep coming across reminders and new discoveries about the interesting and often influential people who have also lived around here. It’s mind-boggling when you stop to think of how much interesting history has happened (and probably is happening) behind the walls of some buildings, if only they could tell their story.

the Isokon, London NW3

One building near me with a particularly fascinating history is the iconic modernist building the Isokon. Built 80 years ago by the architect Wells Coates in 1934, it was the first residential building in this country to be made out of reinforced concrete, and went on to house many influential and interesting residents (a number of whom I’ve listed at the bottom). It was originally called the Lawn Road Flats, so some people still use that name, but since that implies it’s the only block of flats in Lawn Road, and there are actually several others, I find it pretentious. It’s like calling a pub by its original name, even though you only started drinking there after it got a trendy new refit and a new name to match: you just wouldn’t. In any case, it’s been called the Isokon since 1972, so it’s actually been the Isokon for four years longer than it was ever Lawn Road Flats.

Originally privately owned by its creators, it was sold to New Statesman magazine, who later sold it to Camden council, who left it to rot. The building was eventually passed on to a housing association who renovated it about 10 years ago, and is now mostly filled with key workers.

Ever since being reminded that it had a history of interesting residents, I’ve been intending to write about some of them (as well as some of the other interesting people and events from around the area), a plan which has been made so much easier by the fact that there’s a gallery about the Isokon open at weekends, which is full of information and names to follow up on (at some point).

the Isokon, London NW3

The Isokon Gallery was put together with help from Magnus Englund (managing director of lovely homewares store Skandium), run with assistance from the National Trust. (He currently resides in the penthouse, which you can snoop around here.)

Although it’s only a small gallery, it’s surprisingly crammed full of information considering its small size. The list of former residents alone is really interesting, including as it does influential architects, artists, novelists, archaeologists, physicists, poets, photographers and spies. That’s not even counting all the other interesting people who would visit the in-house bar, the Isobar, some of whom lived close by (and who I also want to blog about at some point). You can only imagine some of the conversations that must have taken place there!

the Isokon, London NW3

It’s amazing how many fascinating and influential people made their home in this one single building (although obviously not all at the same time), including:

the building’s originators, Jack and Molly Pritchard

refugees from the Bauhaus, and associates:
Walter Gropius, former head of the Bauhaus
Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, artist and designer
Marcel Breuer, architect and industrial designer
Arthur Korn, architect
Naum Slutsky, goldsmith and industrial designer
Egon Riss, architect and industrial designer

other artists, architects and art critics:
Marshall Sisson, modernist architect
James Stirling, architect
Alan Colquhoun, architect and professor at Princeton
Kenneth Rowntree, painter
Diana Rowntree, architect and critic (the Guardian’s first architecture critic)
Rolf A Brandt, artist (brother of photographer Bill Brandt)
Jacqueline Groag, textile designer, and her husband Jaques, an architect
Adrian Stokes, art critic

spies and suspected spies:
Arnold Deutsch (the man who recruited Kim Philby and Guy Burgess)
Edith Tudor-Hart, photographer
Jurgen and Brigitte Kuczynski (their sister Ursula, aka Ruth was a highly decorated Soviet spy)
Charles Fenn (who recruited Ho Chi Minh into US intelligence)

writers, poets, historians and others:
Charles Madge, poet and co-founder of Mass-Observation
Agatha Christie, novelist
Max Mallowan, archaeologist (and Agatha Christie’s husband)
Stephen Glanville, archaeologist (who provided Christie with information about Egypt for her books)
Vere Gordon Childe, archaeologist
Nicholas Monsarrat, writer and sailor
Philip Harben, the world’s first TV celebrity chef
Montgomery Belgion, writer
Philip Sargant Florence, economist (whose other residence, Highfield in Birmingham seems to have been a cultural equivelent to the Isokon building)

All of those, just in the one building, and that’s not even all of them, but I hope to blog about some of them, and more about the building, in the future. (Also, in finding all these links to attach to the names, I just discovered that Wells Coates’ grandson is Matt Black from Coldcut. I did not know that.)

The Isokon Gallery is open every Saturday and Sunday until the end of October (although they hope to keep it open for longer), and it’s well worth a visit. You can tie it in with a visit to Erno Goldfinger‘s house at 2 Willow Road and make it a proper afternoon of modernist appreciation (I haven’t actually been to Willow Road for years, but I do recommend it).

More on the Isokon, and other buildings in the area, hopefully to come at some point. For more on similar buildings of the era, check out my post on Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion and Marine Court in Hastings, which I wrote about here.