Sunday, 22 April 2012

The southeast - another country, another world

Last weekend I enjoyed a trip to the south east of England, where I used to live. It was great to see familiar places in a new context but despite the memories it felt foreign. Free carrier bags apart, the dryness of the ground was most striking, especially on my knees. Running along the Thames towpath in fell-running shoes was a bad idea; there was no give in my shoes on a surface as unforgiving as long set, lumpy concrete.

We walked a fifteen mile route between Marlow and Henley without crossing a drop of running water; a dried up stream in the Hambleden valley (Vicar of Dibley territory) and one or two spots of squidgy mud in the woods. The only body of water was a moat around a very expensive looking farmhouse done up by an Iranian family complete with its own mosque.

Red kites, re-introduced from Spain (why not Wales?), dominate the sky for miles around Marlow. A green woodpecker flew across a field – not seen one of those for a few years.

French troops at Greenwich
Our day trip to London was brilliant. A boys only outing to the Imperial War Museum, followed by the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, reinforced in my mind what a warring nation we are. At one stage I thought we were under attack as a platoon of French soldiers walked towards us but they were only extras in Les Misérables being filmed at Greenwich. In front of the museum, beneath the observatory on the hill, a massive scaffolding construction was being erected for spectators of the Olympic equestrian events. 

Another outing, to Oxford, was an eye opener as we strolled around university colleges with their immaculate gardens. A short walk from Keble and into the Natural History Museum complete with a display of the Red Lady of Paviland. From there into the adjoining Pitt Rivers Museum with a most bizarre collection of glass enclosed exhibits including the finer points of how to make shrunken heads.

The cultural day was rounded off with a Wycombe Wanderers home match against Oldham. I’d forgotten just how bigoted football fans can be and the joys of a live game with a mug of steaming Bovril. Even better with red kites swooping behind the stadium.

1 comment:

  1. Why were the Chiltern Red Kites brought in from Spain (and the Scotland ones from Sweden)- the ones Iolo calls 'plastic' kites? Because at that time the Welsh population was nothing like as high as it is now (>1,000 pairs), so the Welsh ones couldn't be spared for peripheral countries. Recent releases in Ireland have been of Welsh birds.