When I asked Eve what she wanted for her birthday back in March she said a Butterscotch Pony. I said over my dead body, or words to that effect, but that she could have a riding lesson on a real horse instead. She asked if I would come with her, so only two months later, on a rainy Tuesday, we turned up at Wimbledon Village Stables for our joint lesson.
After almost 20 years on a horse, it felt very high up, but as soon as we reached the bridleway across the wet green field, it sort of came back to me. Eve was a natural and spent the entire time with a big grin on her face.
The rain turned out to be a blessing. It felt like we had the whole world to ourselves. Our soundtrack was the soft thud of the horses’ hooves on the earth path and the drip drip drips of water falling from the leaves. In a world of damp browns and greens, robins hopped from branch to branch and squirrels scurried across our path like a real life version of Bambi. Our lovely horses, Alice and Cookie, knew exactly what they’re doing and even my inexpert riding doesn’t matter.
After an hour of quiet contemplation and viewing the world from a new angle we returned to the stables. Eve’s first question was “When can we go again?”. Soon I hope.
Where do you think we are? Somewhere deep in the countryside? A million miles from the big smoke? We are a 20 minute drive from our house in Battersea, in Richmond Park. Last Saturday, a gorgeously hot and sunny day, we made some sandwiches and spent the day in this beautiful ancient woodland in the city.
Columbia Road Flower Market in East London is a Sunday morning institution. It’s a proper old fashioned market with Cockney geezers yelling “Six for a fiver!” and steamy cafes selling tea and egg sandwiches. Nowadays it also has fancy shops selling trendy gardening doodads and expensive cake. And of course you can buy flowers. Lots and lots of flowers.
There are few finer things in the world than a warm spring day when the cherry trees are in bloom. It’s little wonder that blossom is a Japanese obsession, with the progress of the emerging flowers reported on the national news and cherry blossom parties being held wherever the beautiful trees are to be found.
Sadly we won’t be in Japan at blossom time next year, we will be in steamily hot Thailand, no doubt complaining about the humidity and trying to shelter from the scorching sun. If I’m feeling homesick, I’ll look at this photo and imagine that I’m back at home, looking out of our bedroom window at my beautiful tree.
or a family day out at Hampton Court Palace
Lewis Carroll must have had Hampton Court Palace garden in mind when he wrote Alice in Wonderland. Tulips as upright as soldiers, spotty panthers and golden lions planted amongst the cowslips, ancient yew trees with topiaried canopies, the famous twisting maze and Henry VIII himself, striding purposefully along the avenues, guarded by manificiently pantalooned gentlemen. The green parrots resting in the cherry tree add a final surreal touch.
Of course there’s interesting stuff inside the Palace too. On this visit, Eve and I enjoyed helping Kateryn Parr get dressed for her wedding to Henry VIII. We learned about front parts, fore sleeves, fotheringales and French hoods as Kateryn and her Aunt gossiped about the Privy Council and Anne Boleyn. On other visits we’ve helped turn the enormous spit in the kitchen, been shown around the Georgian wing by a ghost and helped to make a marzipan crown for one of Henry VIII’s wedding feasts.
But on a beautiful English spring day, it is hard to stay inside for too long. The gardens are an absolute joy. There are cooling fountains, a long, grassy riverside walk, a flower filled meadow with shady trees and bold robins who almost feed out of your hand. The formal gardens are perfect for games of hide and seek and flamingo croquet. And the topiary hedges are so huge and so wonderful that a whole family of small children could set up home in one of them.
Sir Dickon had to be lured out with tic tacs.
This post was written for Photo Friday over at Delicious Baby. For more travel photos, head on over…