Jan. 15th, 2015

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Skomer Island

Tailing Someone, Lambeth Country Show 2014

Skomer Island is a truly wonderful place. After walking around it for a day I wanted to break out in spontaneous applause twice. Once for nature evolving such a beautiful island and then to humankind, for not fucking something so incredible up for once. If you happen to find yourself in Pembrokeshire then I strongly recommend you check the place out. The time when I visited, early July, seems to be in the sweet spot. The birds are finishing the raising of their young but the various different migratory groups haven't yet started to leave. One of the oddest things I've seen is a huge cliff face covered in thousands of birds all screeching as loud as they can. Tourist access to the island is controlled by boat. After driving down slowly narrowing country roads you reach a car park. After buying a timed ticket you are directed down to the beach. Boats take four or five groups of people out in the morning and then bring them back in the afternoon. After climbing up the path from where the boat mores on Skomer you are met by guides who explain the rules of the island which basically boil down to 'don't be dicks'. You then get 4 to 5 hours to do what you want and go where you want. We didn't dilly-dally much and still didn't get to see everything there is to see. But when the people selling the tickets in the shop at the start advise you take a hat and a bottle of water they are not just trying to sell you stuff for the sake of it, it's exposed head land and you could get sunburnt and you can get thirsty.

If you want to, you can see all my photos from my day out here.

Ah the Lambeth Country Show, showing other country shows how to show their country. I did feel a bit 'meh' about it this year, possibly because I went on my own and I think it's something best enjoyed through the medium of drinking Pimms with chums while looking at children melting down over their melted ice creams. Also, the rain, although I was heading home by this time anyway.
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Almost Fractal, Richmond Park
Spontaneous City in the Tree of Heaven, Duncan Terrace Gardens

Two walks I did in August. The first was down to Richmond Park. I passed through it briefly when doing the Capital Ring several years ago and although I meant to go back often since then I'd never quite got my act together to do it. I will need to visit it again, my thought was that I would do a complete, or near complete, walk around the perimeter starting from one of the north gates and either finish there or, at least a western gate so I could walk into Richmond. What happened in the end was that I made it about a third of the way around and then joined the Capital Ring route through the middle and down to Richmond station. In my defence I had walked down from North Sheen station and detoured into the cemetery first. Oh well, there's always next summer.

I don't know whether it's just me but whenever I've seen a suggestion about walking along the Regents Canal path it always seems to be talking about the Western side of the Regents Canal. The route from Warwick Avenue along the path to Camden Lock is not very long that seems to be one that is often recommended. I have never seen anything suggesting to people that once the canal re-emerges from under Islington but it's worth people's time to continue alongside it. But then, until last August I wasn't really consciously aware that the Regents Canal did come out from the underground again, so maybe my ignorance of the latter is the reason for my ignorance of the former also. Of the two sides I think the East actually beats the West. From Little Venice to Camden Town the canal is mostly in a gully, uninteresting stone and then overhanging trees at Regents Park. Sure, you might get a glance of a warthog or some rare bird as you go past the zoo but it's unlikely. The eastern side has a variety of different views, the canal is now closer to street level so you could stop off Haggerston and visit the Hackney City Farm or take a break in Victoria Park. At Mile End you bypass the aggressive swans and, if you walk away from the river for a short while you can cross over the Mile End Road via the green bridge. True, the canal does reach the Thames through uninspired Limehouse attempts to redevelop itself as a playground for the ultra rich and their yachts but it's still a worthy journey and you can continue west through Shadwell, which I've always found to be a curious collection of narrow streets. Even Wapping has its charm now that the News International stench has finally been lifted.

This photo was from just before I joined the eastern Regents Park path. Found in Duncan Terrace Gardens near the Angel tube station it brings the concept of close neighbourhood housing, such as the tower blocks that loom nearby, to nest boxes. I was here at the wrong time of year to see, I wonder if any of these boxes get used by birds in the spring?

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Mansion House Gent's Toilets
'Time Here Becomes Space, Space Here Becomes Time' by Cerith Wyn Evans, Leadenhall Market

My only real problem with Open House is that it has become a victim of its own success. There are so many great places to visit but for any number of them, if you want to visit them, then you've got to keep your day free because you will be spending it all queueing to get in. And because so many of the places have Open House events staffed by volunteers access can be quite limited beyond issues like queueing. The City of London section of the Open House guide is notorious for the number of places that are only open on the Saturday. My way, impossible though it would be, would be to have Open House Week, to give us proper access, even though a large number of these buildings aren't public. This time I was lucky to get tickets for the Mansion House. We were told we couldn't take photos, this lasted until the majority of us realised the few that were ignoring this ban weren't being punished in any way. After that, we were all at it. The previous week I had got a list of all the churches that were taking part in Open House. I spent the rest of the day walking round the City of London visiting various of these and comparing and contrasting their different approaches to worship, from the incense heavy Saint Magnus the Martyr to the more modern Dutch church, from the welcoming Saint Lawrence Jewry to the hard sell of Saint Helen Bishopsgate where a tomb inside the church had been repurposed as a book stall selling books about how evolution was wrong.

Walking around the city for Open House drew my attention to Sculpture in the City 2014, a thing of which I was not previously aware, to put artwork where busy financial people could lounge against it chain-smoking their way through their lunch breaks. They were close together so not difficult to find, although one piece had been removed and another piece was a large box which was supposed to have a band inside playing though sadly although the artworks were in place for several months the band only performed short gigs on a couple of dates which had already passed by the time I found out about them. I always find it odd walking round the financial districts during weekdays as though I'm trespassing somewhere I have no right to be. I certainly find it unpleasant to do since the smoking ban came into force, it seems as though there are more people outside smoking and I find myself hurrying past the doorways of buildings where sad men and women stand and shiver and smoke.


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