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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.