Not Austria Day Thirteen – Lakes and Mountains

View of London from Kenwood on Hampstead Heath

Dear Readers, there has been something noticeable missing from my attempt to replicate my annual holiday in Austria here in London under lockdown.

‘Why, Bugwoman’, I hear you ask, ‘Has there not been more walking uphill?’

And in order to correct this, today I headed off to Hampstead Heath to see if I could conjure up some vistas. The one above shows the City of London in all its splendour. You can see the Gherkin, the Walkie-Talkie, and a small forest of cranes. Admittedly it’s not quite the same as the snow-capped peaks of the Dolomites as seen from the top of the Hochgurgl lift, but Dear Readers, it’s home. This is probably the longest period of time in my adult life that I have not ventured into central London, and I miss it sorely, but am still reluctant to risk public transport while the number of new infections is still so high. Hey ho. Hopefully things will improve at some point.

Hampstead is a hot spot for dog watching – there was a Bernese Mountain Dog and a bear-sized chocolate Newfoundland – but what I loved was the smell of linden blossom from a nearby lime tree. It always takes me back to the magnificent tree in Mum and Dad’s village, and the brief moments I would spend underneath it, inhaling the scent, as I took a few moments between errands. I think it might turn out to be my ‘signature scent’.

Linden blossom

And then, to balance out the mountain, we headed off to the ‘Lake’ – the model boating lake to be exact. I wasn’t expecting to see this, though!

This fine model ferry was chugging along, and we got talking to its creator, John. The ship is a scale model of the Vecta, which was a Red Funnel ferry sailing from Southampton to Cowes in the Isle of Wight during the 1950’s. John grew up in Southampton, and used to take the ferry as a child, so he got the plans from Thorneycroft (the boat builders) and created this wonderful ship, complete with passengers.

What a lovely man! He only lives around the corner from the Heath, and so I imagine he pops the Vesta under his arm and brings her down to the lake for an airing every so often. I do so love an enthusiast.

As we watched, swifts were circling around and diving down to the surface of the water to snatch a drink. There was a great crested grebe or two on the other side of the lake too.

Great crested grebe

There has been a lot of work on the lakes at Hampstead recently to reduce the risk of flooding, but one fortunate side-effect has been extensive planting at the edges of this formally rather bare place. I am in love with wild carrot, and there was plenty of it coming into flower. I love the way that the early blooms look like little nests.

Carrot flower just opening

And then, when they unfurl, they often have a single red flower in the centre – it’s believed that this mimics the appearance of a pollinator, encouraging other hoverflies and bees to pop down for something to eat.

We wandered around the back of some of the smaller ponds – there’s a lot in flower at the moment, and the lesser knapweed is looking particularly splendid.

Lesser knapweed

Plus I love the drifts of purple loosestrife and lesser knapweed and various hawkbits. As you know from previous posts, I do love a good drift.

And it is going to be a sensational year for acorns. If I was a jay I would be getting very excited.

More than anything, today felt like the smallest of steps back towards some kind of normality – the cafe was open, the toilets were open, and people seemed a tiny bit more relaxed in themselves, though the vast majority of folk were still being scrupulous about social distancing. Of course, it’s a weekday, and I have no doubt that on a sunny Sunday the place will be heaving. But today, it was nice to just sit on a bench and watch an emperor dragonfly hawking for insects. We were briefly accosted by a small, fluffy magpie, who gave us a hopeful look though sadly we were all out of sandwich.

And then, as the clouds were gathering, we headed home, trying to keep a few steps ahead of the rain, just as we do in Obergurgl. We don’t always manage it, but usually we stay dry. And if you think there’s a metaphor in there, you’re probably right.

9 thoughts on “Not Austria Day Thirteen – Lakes and Mountains

  1. Alittlebitoutoffocus

    I’d noticed that lone red flower in the centre of the wild carrot before (never knew it was wild carrot btw) and wondered why. I cannot promise you lakes but I can bring you some river photos shortly… (and maybe a mountain or two – not sure which way we are driving home today yet).

  2. leo smith

    Think the ferry was the Vecta – sure I’ve been on it back in the day ! Lovely to read a blog that doesn’t leave me in tears ! Hugs…

    1. Bug Woman

      You’re right, it was the Vecta – I’ve corrected the post. I must have been thinking of that curry you could get in a box back in the sixties… 🙂

  3. Liz Norbury

    Some of my earliest memories are of Sunday afternoon visits to Hampstead Heath – for my sister and me, it was a wonderful, wild playground. More recently, I had an invigorating early morning swim in the Ladies Pond on my birthday last September, which gave me an appetite for a magnificent breakfast at Kenwood House. (I also took a stroll down the Bishop’s Avenue, where I was born – it’s hard to believe there was once a maternity hospital in this grand road now known as Billionaire’s Row. It’s such a soulless place these days – I’ve just googled “the Bishop’s Avenue”, and the first thing that came up was “a monument to tax avoidance”!)
    What a lovely story about the man with the scale model of the 1950s Southampton-Cowes ferry. This is a route I know well, as my sister lives on the Isle of Wight. Red Funnel ferries look a bit different now.
    I love wild carrot, too. I didn’t know they sometimes have a central red flower – I shall now see if I can spot one!

    1. Bug Woman

      Wow, I didn’t know you were born on Bishop’s Avenue! And yes, those huge houses are either being torn down to make way for new enormous houses, or are completely dilapidated. I can never get over the amount of rubbish on the pavement. Some of the houses on the side roads and towards East Finchley are lovely though, a bit smaller and very elegant.

  4. cilshafe

    I believe that the red spot in the centre of (most) Daucus carota flowers is the reason for the alternative name, Queen Anne’s lace, the legend being that she pricked her finger and a drop of blood stained the ‘lace’. It’s a favourite of mine too and I love the way the spent flowerheads ‘clench’ after fertilisation so that, when detached, the wind will blow them around and the seeds will be spread.

    1. Bug Woman

      I’m sure you’re right, cilshafe – and yes, check out the flowerheads, they don’t all have the red spot but a good few of them do. Nice spot about the fertilised flowerheads too, I shall keep an eye open for the phenomenon…


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