Tuesday, 16 August 2016

in praise of small green urban spaces

Recently we’ve been to a range of parks and here’s our take on what we found . . .

We’ve been hearing about Secret Park for a while now, and so we drove to Friern Bridge Retail Park on Sunday afternoon, where we met our friend Lynnsey. It’s very civilized with McDonalds and Costa and this park has its own Facebook page


Secret Park, in Scott’s photo above, has many advantages. It is green, it is local for people in Barnet, it is an oasis for people who don’t have much time to spare to get to a larger park, and it is landscaped and it is looked after by the local Council.
The photo shows it in its best light, green and park-like with an avenue to a hidden space beyond in your prospect.

This photo shows Woodberry Wetlands. This is near Manor House in London, a new RSPB bird sanctuary with a café opened this Spring. No dogs are allowed as the park is so small and it is intended to be a resting place for wild migratory birds but entry is free and it is well-served by bus and Underground. 

A fantasic amount of hard work went into creating just the right environment to attract wild birds and it has paid dividends, as there were many nesting birds this spring and summer. It is s stunning place to visit and it has a range of plants and views to soothe the urban stress away.

Regent’s Park is an old park, created by designer John Nash in 1811 as part of the beautification of central London. The park has undergone many changes since it was created, but the almost quiet inner ring roads and the water features of both the spectacular boating lake as well as the Grand Union Canal passing through have made this into a special place for birds and water-fowl, as well as for people who live or work or visit near Regent Street and Oxford Street, just a short bus ride away. 

There’s a fantastic variety of mature trees along the paths and in copses, great formal gardens having a whole range of fragrant plantings, an agricultural college Capel Manor, an International college campus and of course London Zoo with the Childrens’ Zoo and the Aviary. 

When you are in this park you feel quite remote from the hurly-burly of London, which is only a quarter-mile distant. You can also choose to walk the towpath on the Grand Union Canal back to Camden, the local zeitgeist, sharing with narrow-boats (no horses today on the path, but cycles galore).

This photo show an ultimate park destination within England, North York Moors National Park. This is not near anywhere large and apart from the recent tree plantations, the farms and the heather from the grouse farming, this is the lay of the land from The Stone Age and the Iron Age. Glaciers passed through here 15,000 years ago, but they were the last major agent to change the landscape and it is still very fresh and windswept today. At night you really can see a million stars in the Milky Way.

Paths here include prehistoric ways across the moors going past tumuli enclosing the remains of ancient inhabitants, Roman roads and modern footpaths from mediaeval times, including well-maintained but nearly-deserted unclassified roads which are very picturesque with their meandering gait across and around the moorland fells and glens. Just the place to take our 1988 camper van . . .


I forgot to mention the steam railway that passes through it, from Pickering to Whitby . . .

This afternoon we’re going to London Olympic Park in Stratford, home to the 2012 Games. We’ve been there before and it’s great for cycling as there’s not too many cars (not much for cars to drive to in this park, even though it’s huge, as the shops are in the mall over to one side) and the River Lea runs down to the Thames through the park. The landscaping is fabulous and there are some innovative venues, like the VeloDrome, the Copper Box, the Aquatic Centre, and on and on.

London Cycling Campaign have a website on cycling and getting around the park, at

come along one day and surprise yourself, go up the lovely Arcellor Mittal Tower and down their super-slide, have a swim at the Aquatic centre or chill at the local eco-park


(there until December, when it moves on again.)

POSTSCRIPT - Yes, we did make it to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park this afternoon. It was VERY busy, lots of families with lots of children from babies through teenagers, all striding purposely around from one attraction to the next one in the brilliant hot summer sunshine.

This is the new SuperSlide down the Arcellor tower, what looks like a snake on the right. It's a lovely stainless steel vehicle about one metre across, but no windows, just a jet-propelled ride straight down the tube from the very top . . .

A number of people were abseiling down Arcellor tower this afternoon. This chap was slowly descending and he was about half of the way down, ratcheting his brake to propel himself. It looked quite safe but a wee bit vertigo-inducing. it costs an eye-watering £ 80 to book a place.

Much cheaper to go up in the lift, as Annette and I did, and then you can walk down the stairs, which is the light-coloured rectangular tube in front of our abseillor . . .

Our Olympic VeloDrome looks remarkably like the one in Rio. We went and had a boo inside. You can come here and use it yourself inside on a Wednesday. We saw a group learning to use the fixed-wheel track bikes here this afternoon.

I acquired a new tyre for my old red touring bike - did you know it is nearly impossible to buy a 27-inch tyre anymore, now that all the specifications have changed ?

They also have an outside track at the VeloDrome, and you can use your own bike on that for a small fee.

We carried on cycling through Hackney and ended up at our front door about 45 minutes later.

On the way we stopped so that I could have an ice-cream at our local and much-loved park, Clissold Park. Ten minutes on a bench soaking up the ambience of our new-ish Victorian parish church adjacent the St Mary's parish church listed in the Domesday Book, but which is just across the street


and we were ready to move on. This last photo is a short panorama shot using the swanky new iPhone SE.

Back home now and I'm changing the tyre on the old faithful touring bike. Should be good as new again soon . . .

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