Sunday Strolls

The weatherman said that Sunday would be cold; 9 degrees, cloudy, with snow on high ground. As such, I was prepared for a day indoors in front of the fire; however, I woke in my room at my mum’s house to bright sunshine at 8am on Sunday morning. The birds were singing, the sky was blue and I couldn’t wait to get outside. My mum was of the same persuasion, so while everyone else was still pottering around in their pyjamas, we headed off to walk into town. Taking the direct route is normally a good 40 minutes’ brisk walk, and isn’t particularly exciting; there’s a shortcut through the woods, but then it’s pretty much walking alongside a busy road the whole way. So today, after coming out of the woods, we decided to take a road we had never been down before, thinking that eventually we’d come out somewhere vaguely near the High Street. After just five minutes of walking, what had been a posh 1930′s suburban street suddenly opened out into countryside. The houses became bigger, older, and further apart, and to our total surprise, we not only found an 18th century manor house, but a stunningly beautiful farm called ‘Little Brittain’. It just goes to show – you really never do know what you might find on your own doorstep!

After lots more walking than we had anticipated, we found ourselves at the bottom of Sevenoaks High Street, near Knole House. I took a photo of Jane Austen’s Uncle’s house (according to this very interesting website, which details the Austen family’s connections with Kent, Jane and Cassandra Austen visited the house in 1788), which, depressingly, is now a solicitor’s. Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth House in Richmond has sadly suffered the same fate. Such a shame. We then popped across the road to look at the lovely public garden that has a beautiful magnolia tree, and then to the ancient church to have a look at some of the fantastic gravestones. After all that walking, we were quite exhausted, so we went off for a spot of cake and tea before getting our shopping and walking back home. Talk about making the most of the morning!

But that was not all! After lunch we set off for Blackheath, in South East London, which is a very desirable patch of the capital due to its huge open Common, lovely traditional village centre (with a brilliant book shop), and drop dead gorgeous period homes. My brother and his girlfriend have just bought their first home together in a road off the Common (I am not jealous at all), so the whole family headed over to have a nosy. It’s a lovely place, on the first floor of what would once have been an incredibly grand Victorian house, but with three small bored children in tow, we couldn’t stay long. George and Freddie raced off to the common, with all of us in hot pursuit, and we were all soon lazing around by the pond in the sunshine. The boys ‘fished’ with sticks along the edge of the water, my sister and her husband reminisced about their childfree days when they too had lived in Blackheath, and I marvelled at how amazing it was to be lying on a huge patch of peaceful greenery and yet still be able to see Canary Wharf looming up right in front of me. London is a pretty amazing city in how diverse it is. Blackheath is a little like the Hampstead of South London; you never really feel like you’re in London when you’re there, but you’re constantly reminded by the skyline that you’re really just a stone’s throw away from all the action. It’s the perfect place to be in my book, and I look forward to spending more time there now I’ll have a room to stay in just around the corner!

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24 comments

  1. If we didn’t have so many visitors staying with us over the next month I would be counting the days until John and I strolling through the English countryside. I think I may be looking most forward to a return visit to Sissinghurst. This time we are actually staying that farmhouse B&B right next to the gardens. I wonder who I need to bribe to get an up close look at the bookshelves that are behind the velvet rope.

  2. I love your Sunday stroll. It is so much fun to follow “the road not taken” and see new views and discover a hidden beauty. Now I want to take a walk, but it is dark here now and I hear a coyote so I will save that for later.

  3. Oh Rachel – did you find anything at he good second hand bookshop? I’m currently reading My Brilliant Career that I found there. Feeling most neglectful and new to the area – where is the pond? Happy Easter.

    1. I didn’t have a chance to go in, unfortunately! Too busy supervising small children! Next time I’m there I shall have a rummage. Oooh I love that book – hope you will enjoy it as much as me!

      The pond is towards the Lewisham end of the Heath, outside the pub on the corner – not the main middle section opposite the village. Does that make sense?!

      Happy Easter to you too! :)

  4. I love when a walk provides an unexpected surprise!

    It makes me sad to hear that all these buildings of literary significance are being turned into solicitors’ offices. If I were independently wealthy, I’d turned them all into museums. All of them. That would be a good use of fortune, wouldn’t it? :)

    1. Me too!

      I know – me too. I’d love for the house in Sevenoaks to be a ‘Jane Austen in Kent’ museum – there would be a lot to display and would be a nice visitor attraction for the town, especially as there is a lot of footfall already with literary types going to Knole.

      I hope you win your millions and can do just that – I’d come and work for you! :)

  5. At least those buildings are being preserved and not torn down or altered in any significant way. It breaks my heart and offends my sense of history when I see lovely, irreplaceable structures demolished for ‘progress’, usually replaced with something hideous.

    Did you notice that the contrails in your photo cross each other, so ‘X’ marks the spot!

    1. Oh goodness me, yes – there is nothing sadder than yet another gaping hole where something lovely once stood.

      I hadn’t noticed! I could have dug for treasure under Canary Wharf!

  6. What a gorgeous day, Rachel, and congratulations to your brother and his girlfriend! They must be so excited about their first place and what a lovely area! I’m with you, as tempting as it is to lounge around in your pj’s on the weekend it’s even better to get out when it’s so peaceful everywhere. And would the family at Little Brittains think me rude if I knocked on the door and asked for a nosy around their cosy farmhouse? I’d bring cake, of course!

    1. Thanks Darlene! They are indeed very excited and can’t wait to put their stamp on the place! I’m really looking forward to seeing what they come up with – they’re both very arty so it’s going to look fantastic!

      I don’t think so – I was tempted to go in myself! What a gorgeous house!!

  7. What lovely photos, you old almost forget you were so close to the hustle and bustle of a capital city!

    It is great to walk down roads never walked before, sometimes it is good just to see where it might take us and what we will discover. Bit like life I suppose.

  8. Park on the heath. Walk down to General Wolfe. Run down the hill. Check out the Naval Museum or Observatory. Run through the Thames tunnel to the other side. Cajole parents into ice creams, pop and museum goodies – naval posters, old map posters and such.

    I have, myself, nice Sunday memories of those parts, R.

    - Bop

    1. Glad to hear it, Bop…sounds idyllic! One of my best memories of childhood is rolling down the hill in Greenwich Park dressed in Victorian clothes after a trip to the Ragged School Museum…happy carefree times! I also remember going to the Cutty Sark frequently…I look forward to seeing it restored once more!

      1. Indeed. I think I tried a hill roll once but found it made me ill; only ventured onto the Cutty Sark once as I recall but it always a nice feature just seeing it there.

        - Bop.

  9. I wish I could stumble upon an 18th century manor house and a farm in my backyard ;-) Congratulations to your brother and his girlfriend on their new home :-) It looks like a gorgeous location!

    1. Well one day you just might do, Lucy! :) Thank you, how sweet! It is a great location and they can’t wait to set up home there! Lucky things!

  10. Oh, I *love* Blackheath! If you haven’t discovered it already, the public footpath through the grounds of Morden College is well worth exploring on a sunny day, not least because you’ll get a very good view of the magnificent Georgian architecture. Alternatively, if you fancy a little bit of property eye candy, walk past The Paragon, down Morden Road and in a huge loop back to the far end of the village – we always play ‘which house would you buy if you won the lottery?’ when we stroll down there… Then, a bit further afield, there’s the most incredible little country lane just to the west of Greenwich Park. It’s so hidden that most of the locals don’t know that it’s there; I’ve never seen anything quite like it in London. Rather annoyingly I can’t remember the name offhand but I’ll post again if I remember.

    As for books, the local Oxfam shop has a small bookshop upstairs. It’s a bit hit-and-miss but you might strike lucky en route to the secondhand bookshop!

    1. Hi English Rose!

      I grew up near Blackheath so I did spend a fair amount of time there as a child/teenager, and I know about the bit by the Paragon but I haven’t been down that country lane so that is exciting to hear about…I’ll have to try and find it next time I go! Thanks for the recommendation!

      Oh yes I know – that Oxfam has been a good little place to find quality stuff for years, though like you say there are sometimes better weeks than others! I’m sure I found my first Virago in there actually!

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