Gather Thy Fruit or Parkside ‘Pick Your Own’ Farm

July 15, 2013 § 1 Comment

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A mini-walk (that is not really) to Parkside PYO farm was a great success. I reckon it qualifies for a walk because we walked a total of around 3 miles in a 30C degree heat with a six-year-old in tow. Parkside farm is a short train ride away from home (3 stops on the northbound First Capital Connect service) and reachable via quiet and picturesque roads of Gordon Hill.

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Having lived in London for more than 9 years now, this is the first time I have heard of a PYO farm in the vicinity and so here I am spreading the joy and the news in case you are as ignorant as I was: yes, there is a farm you can easily visit to pick your own crop in North London.

The only negatives? Two:

1. No apple trees on the farm and the nearest one to us is way outside London as my 5 min Google search confirmed.

2. It’s pricey if you decide to stock up on berries for jam making purposes.

table-top strawberries

table-top strawberries

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goal: strawberries

goal: strawberries

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courgettes: no shorter than 15cm can be picked

Next on the radar: plums!

crop

Walk 3: Snodland – how not to walk or the shitty walk not to take

July 7, 2013 § 2 Comments

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Time came for Walk number 3: we chose Snodland to Sole Street as a potentially heart warming, eye pleasing walk in the country with the 30 degree sun above us. Fail and fail it was from the moment go. Having arrived at Charing Cross station, Friend and I each paid £19.40 for a return ticket to Snodland. We later laughed that the village is so shit that they know you would not return so they have to overcharge to make the money somewhere.

The Book warned us that the place was ugly and advised us to not be discouraged but continue walking right through it until we come out on the other side of the village and walked up the North Downs. You have to thank the writers for their honesty, the place was beyond odd, we felt like we were walking the streets of some slasher movie town where everyone get’s cut in half at the end of the film by a masked serial killer. I did not take one picture in Snodland because there was simply nothing to photograph!

Snodland Train Station

Snodland Train Station

Both of us being positive adventurous individuals, we were certain the walk will only get better after we came out of this incestuous town and set our feet on the first meadow. Fail again! The walk must not have been updated in the Book for a couple of years and so every little path we were told to take was so overgrown with grass and weeds, it was nearly impossible to fight out way through. Friend decided it was wise to wear shorts in this heat and of course her legs shown the wisdom in bright red patches of stinging nettle, bee and fly bites, scraps and scratches. I showered myself in baby factor 50 sun lotion to avoid another disaster – a shit walk is enough, I do not need blisters to remind me of it.

We powered through the grasslands for a good two hours, climbing hills which were so steep we had to stop and pause every 10 meters, encouraging each other to not give up and laugh it off.

Cemetery. Getting closer to the first overgrown grass trial.

Cemetery. Getting closer to the first overgrown grass trial.

Beyond the deadly grass

Beyond the deadly grass. This took almost an hour to walk and sadly does not show the height and narrowness of the overgrown path.

Everything seemed to have gone wrong when we came across a number of fields which according to the Book were not supposed to be gated. Well they were and we should have known then that whatever the Book was telling us we should be seeing, has been replaced by the capable hands of human race – new metal gates, motorcycle barriers, kissing gates installed with the guide not telling us anything about them.

We stood here for a good 10 mins debating if we should turn back or risk climbing over the locked gates, run past the cows expecting to come out at the right point in the trail

We stood here for a good 10 mins debating if we should turn back or risk climbing over the locked gates, run past the cows expecting to come out at the right point in the trail

We decided to risk it – climbed over the fence with the cows pooping and peeing 15 cm from our heads, ran quickly away from them into even bigger fields that were of course gated and locked. Did I mention we both are very positive and adventurous human beings? Well we thought that was a great experience and we should continue. We did, to only find ourselves completely lost, in the middle of nowhere with not a living soul for miles and miles to see. To add a dramatic element to this image, picture yourself in the deep dark wood with some odd water pipes and canisters pumping water out of nowhere, signs warning you of guard dogs nearby. We were half expecting to see a man come out of the bushes carrying a barrel gun pointed at us knowing he would lock us up in some dank cellar, torture, skin us alive and no one would know where we were!

We came out into a road eventually which lead us to another ugly destination: Badgells Wood the sign read. We marched in ecstatic knowing someone will tell us where we were and how to get to the nearest town with a pub and a train station. A pleasant man advised us to walk right through the campsite of Badgells Wood until we come out to the road, walk for a mile, then take a right, walk for another 3/4 of a miles until we came into Harvel, the town that saved us.

Walk through the campsite we did to only be disturbed more! Why or why do people do this? Why would you go into a horrendously ugly wood to pitch your tent and park your car next to another 100 cars? We decided we were walking through some psycho sect or society gathering place because what sane individual would drag their kids to a wood with no natural sunlight, no lake or river nearby?

Badgells Wood

Badgells Wood

Kitchen?

Kitchen?

Kids on the rope swings, parents in a circle discussing something

Kids on the rope swings, parents in a circle discussing something

Regardless of the disturbing nature of the camp site, our mood has improved threefold – we were only a couple of miles away from a town where we knew we will sit down, have our lunch and a cold drink and call a taxi to the train station. Harvel greeted us with manicured lawns and a summer fete:

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One of the first houses we saw in Harvel. Hallelujah, we are not back in Snodland!

Summer fete

Summer fete

We had our delicious divine mouth-watering lunch we brought from London, had an icy drink at the pub, spoke to the landlord of it to get directions to the nearest train station, called a taxi to take us to Meopham which had trains to London running twice an hour – Hallelujah again! Stepping off the train in London felt cathartic – how good it is to be back home!

 

 

Walk 2: Whitstable

May 27, 2013 § Leave a comment

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This is technically not a walk, but as I walked so much today, I think it qualifies just as well. The four blue hot air balloons in the map above were dropped by me to indicate my route. I am shit at manipulating the map on my mac but just imagine that I have started my journey at the most southern balloon, went straight north, then right, then all the way back and to the very left hand side balloon and then back to the station from there. All in all I have calculated I have walked over  20 km, if the mac was to cooperate I would have drawn some nice colourful lines to indicate my route.

First, let me just say I started this journey with no map and no information to hold yet it was extremely easy to find my way around the town. The night before I have googled Whitstable to see which road I need to take as I leave the train station and that was all the planning I have done – I got off the train, bore left, then crossed the road and continued walking until I came out into the harbour.

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But let us start at the very beginning, my train journey from Victoria was easy as I have bought my tickets well in advance so I only needed to collect those. I got on to the train to find out it was one of these mega annoying South Eastern services with the train dividing into two at Faversham station. May I just use this opportunity to say that I HATE DIVIDING TRAINS! I never know which coach I am in and I end up hyperventilating and panicking up until the point the bloody train splits in two. This time, a group of 4 Spaniards who sat down beside, me did not help. They kept yelling/talking to one another so loud that neither myself nor my fellow passengers heard what the driver was saying about the divine dividing of the train. I huffed and puffed and then I secretly hoped that since they are not listening, they might just as well go to Ramsgate or wherever the split end of the train ends up in.

Any-who, a notice came up in one of those electronic notice boards to say that I was in coach number 10 when the first 8 coaches were going to Whitstable, so I picked up my bag, my coffee and my kindle, gave one loud speaking idiot an evil look and stormed off to coach number 8. I found myself a quiet seat and when the train conductor came to check the tickets, learned that I was not the only one going to Whitstable and hurrah hurrah we were all in the right part of the train.

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Whitstable itself surprised me – I was expecting a small (I read 30 thousand people live there) town and knew to look out for Harbour Street, it was all oh so civilised. I am not sure why I expect rural England to be stuck in a time warp of sorts, when there is nothing suggesting it, I guess my subconscious expects small towns of England to match small towns of Lithuania which differ from major cities dramatically – in every respect you can think of – be it the shops, the dress sense, the quality of the roads, the food on offer, the local drinking hole, the past times of local residents, meanwhile in England off you go to a small town to find the same post office, the same co-op, the same beers and the same music even. Not that different from London then! Well….I am getting off track here.

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When I was choosing a town to visit, a few of my friends labeled Whitstable as ‘cute’. And cute it was. Soft to the eye but not the foot, bright in colour, windy, bubbly, yes, I believe I want to use that word and also peppered with dogs, yes, I do want to use that word. I must admit I did not touch the sea water, the notice said 12 degrees Celsius and I think I know very well what that feels like – imagine the wall in Game of Thrones, yes, that ice, yes, that is it. The rocks or the pebbles, if you wish for a gentler word, were little evil parcels of pain, walking on them for a few steps left me crying in pain, ah the brave people who sit on the rock and are zen enough to not mind it.

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Even with the winds and the piercing rocks, and the oysters I do not like, I loved it there, I did, I felt the space around me, the seagulls singing, the sea inviting. I said hi to strangers and I sat on my own, I had my fish, I had my ale, I looked and yes, this was it, it felt like I was at home. The familiar smell of the sea and the gush gush of wind, the clouds like pillows of smoke….but as with all escapes from the capital, the moment I got on the train, I really did feel like going home at last. IMG_9837

I do not think I will go back to Whitstable soon, but it certainly impressed me. As for the beaches, I hear Scottish beaches are more like the beaches I am used to – light soft grain sand you sink into as you walk to the sea. Yes, add that to the list.

 

 

 

 

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