- Created: 26 March 2017 26 March 2017
- Hits: 216 216
There’s a cheerful patch of daffodils to provide a little relief from the dirty spray thrown up by cars and lorries. A cold, wet Wednesday morning, the fag end of rush hour; the perfect time to walk the South Circular, or at least a chunk of it. My starting point is West Dulwich station. I head east. At a bus stop, three bags of dog poo and a tennis ball prepare for a square dance or maybe a four-way stand off. There’s traffic noise rather than Ennio Morricone. Yards later, the beautiful Dulwich College hoves into site, wooded hill behind.
There’s often an element of trying to find England in my walking. A goodly chunk of my reading has a similar goal. Orwell’s Coming Up for Air, J.B. Priestley’s wonderful English Journey, Dickens’ Night Walks, Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners, Graham Swift’s England & Other Stories. Of course England is both simple and impossible to find. This walk takes me from the private roads and private schools of Dulwich through lively Forest Hill and Catford town centres, past rows of poorly maintained terraces and semis and a harsh stretch of dual carriageway to Woolwich, where I had been unnerved by menacing stares while flat hunting back in 1987. None of that tells me anything that wasn’t already in me.
This is the sort of musing rain and traffic noise can bring on. The first part of the walk, I know well and it isn’t until I have passed the Horniman Museum and Forest Hill that I am on less familiar pavement. For a while, Stanstead Road hosts the South Circular and in quick succession are a Polski Sklep, the Jerk Centre, a Shepherd Neame pub called Railway Telegraph, a hefty Shurgard Self Storage building and the Balm of Gilead Healing Centre; all very London.
I don’t separate my Londoness from my Englishness, so I could say it’s all very English too. Storage sheds and healing centres do feel alien to me, though Balm of Gilead dates from William Tyndale’s translation of the Bible. Diarmaid MacCulloch calls Tyndale one of the “geniuses of the English Reformation”, in his mammoth A History of Christianity. That translation of the Bible was a forerunner of the King James version, “vital for Anglophone culture worldwide” (MacCulloch again). We can thank Tyndale for everyday phrases like filthy lucre, my brother’s keeper and the salt of the earth.
Stanstead Road straightens and broadens, drivers take the opportunity to accelerate and a cold wind picks up. My pace picks up too and I soon arrive at the imposing, red brick St Dunstan’s College. Catford might be the antithesis of (parts of) Dulwich but St Dunstan’s’ fees are only a grand a term less than those of Dulwich College.
The South Circular crosses Ravensbourne River (that demands to be explored) and passes the art deco Broadway Theatre and the rather cool Catford Cat. My photos of the cat are all a bit blurry. I had just read an article on the plusses and minuses of digital photography on a blog called Richly Evocative. The author’s thinking was similar to my own and here I was snapping away with my phone.
I’m on Brownhill Road now and it looks a little down at heel. On my left is the entrance to Mountsfield Park. I climb up for the view and on this dark, wet day it appears as if I’m on one of a series of islands in a sea of dreer. If it hadn’t been for a woman walking her dog near by, I could have fancied myself adrift in a William Hope Hodgson story.
Later, as Westhorne Avenue, the South Circular becomes dual carriageway, crossing a succession of roundabouts. The wet road displays colourful oil slicks and I trip flamboyantly over a branch because I’m scribbling in a notebook. My face instinctively assumes a big grin, which is more embarrassing than the trip.
Soon I can taste the car exhaust as well as smell it. I pass a house with a sign declaring “Friends welcome. Family by appointment”. Is the owner a targeted misanthrope or someone with troublesome rellies? After the junction with the A2 and Blackwall Tunnel approach, the traffic thins and inevitably, speeds up a bit more. I remember living in Bromley by Bow as a student, in a flat that overlooked the northern approach to the tunnel. The noise was so bad I seldom opened my bedroom window.
When I left Dulwich, I wasn’t sure whether I was aiming for Woolwich or Severndroog Castle. Along the way, I’d settled on the former but I’ve made good time, so by Shooters Hill, I climb through the woods and head for the Severndroog. It’s a tower rather than a castle. Lady James had it built as a memorial to her husband, Sir William, in the 1780s. Knowing it to be closed on a Wednesday, I’m surprised to find the ground floor tea room open. A cup of coffee and a slice of Victoria sponge cake top up my top up my energy. I’ve yet to go up top for the views. I should soon.
Back on the South Circular and it’s the home straight. Woolwich’s military history is on display. The Old Royal Military Academy is now a housing development. An advertising poster shows a couple who are either very snooty or auditioning for an update of Ultravox’s Vienna video. A little further and the Royal Artillery Barracks is on the left and the beautiful, ruined Royal Garrison Church of St George is on the right. Woolwich too would bear some exploring.
The road drops towards the river. I walk by a self-styled cathedral and spot the Woolwich ferry terminal. There’s a cue of cars and lorries all with their engines illegally and unpleasantly idling but I’m the only foot passenger, so have the middle deck to myself. I wonder through the corridors and rooms, slatted wooden benches. It feels rather like a film set, in which the abandoned ship is discovered adrift. Perhaps a mutiny or an outbreak of a virus? Maybe a bit more Hodgson? The ghost ferry gets me across the Thames at any rate.
I spend all of two minutes on the north side and walk back through the Woolwich foot tunnel. This midweek lunch time, it is populated solely by solitary, surly, burly men, one with his hood obscuring the top half of his face. From the north bank stairwell come bursts of laughter. Mark E. Smith sings “a figure walks behind you” in my head.
Back on the surface, I follow the south circular back until I can pick up a 122 bus. It winds its way through Lewisham, Ladywell and Brockley to Forest Hill, where I catch the sound of bird song for the first time that day.Add a comment
- Created: 24 March 2017 24 March 2017
- Hits: 252 252
Many Brits can last a winter up until about mid January before they start falling apart. The jet stream delivers warm currents to our south western shores that deceives us into believing that we are further south than we really are. Unfortunately, come February, the jet stream itself seems to have abandoned us, so like migratory birds many people flee the UK for sunnier climbs. Add a comment
- Created: 10 March 2017 10 March 2017
- Hits: 195 195
Over elegant glasses of Paolozzi lager, John Dunsmore admits to having come over from the dark side. Edinburgh Beer Factory (EBF) may be a friendly, family-owned craft brewer but John has previous as Chief Executive of Scottish & Newcastle (which made Foster's & Kronenbourg 1664) and C&C Group (Magners & Tennent’s). Add a comment
- Created: 03 March 2017 03 March 2017
- Hits: 137 137
Months after writing about the loss of my beloved Oishii, I had lunch in its successor, Saigon Bistro. I like to support independent businesses but was sadly disappointed. The stock of my pho bo tai lacked flavour as did my fellow InDulwicher, Nick’s com suon nuong. I didn’t appreciate having to go to the counter to order after having sat down with the menu, especially in a nearly empty place. I wish Saigon Bistro well but it won’t become one of my regulars. Add a comment
- Created: 26 February 2017 26 February 2017
- Hits: 289 289
Market Row in Brixton is a little hive of quality food outlets. If it is wine you are after then do make the effort to checkout Market Row Wines. It's a dinky little shop in the arcade that has a strong emphasis on organic wines. Keep in mind the distinction between organic and natural wines. In general I am not a fan of natural wines as there is no sulphur added to help preserve the wine in the bottle. However, organic wines, that often deliver great flavours without chemical additives in the vineyard have much to be admired. This can be a controversial subject as in times of wetness where damp can lead to rot, wine producers may start spraying their vines with copper. How healthy that must be in large quantities is debatable. However, on the whole, organic wines are a great way to ensure you getting the wine as nature intended, less the chemical pesticides and herbicides. It should also be mentioned that there are many wine producers who make their wines organically but do not bother to have them certified. Because the climate is so suitable for growing grapes, the vine growers can let nature do her work without any need to spray.
This Vina Fuentenarro, Ribera del Duero, 2014 from Spain was a big hit in our office tasting. A big distinguishing factor is the 4 months in American oak which adds a vanilla flavour to the wine. Unlike in some instances in Spanish wines, the oak in the Vina Fuentenarro is really well integrated. It is not overpowering the fruit which is another really attractive dimention of this wine. Think dark berries and redberry, a lovely silky smooth body and good lingering flavours in the mouth. Really good wine.
Another big plus here is the price. At £11.50 this is a bargain. I noticed as I looked across the range in Market Row Wines that they have a lot of options at tis price point. I was particularly tempted by a couple of wines from the Rhone... next time!
Do give this a go if you're passing. Enjoy!
Add a comment
- Created: 24 February 2017 24 February 2017
- Hits: 269 269
Guarapo de piña is one of those things where everyone who makes it has their own recipe. I made mine long ago, when I spent a couple of years in Colombia. I had a couple of goes. I made a smallish batch for a birthday party, which turned out very well. I tried to repeat the success on a bigger scale. I ended up with a dustbin full of weak – maybe 2% - with a topping of dead flies.Add a comment
- Created: 16 February 2017 16 February 2017
- Hits: 552 552
We stop outside a non-descript, light industrial building on reclaimed land in the Hafnarfjörður docks, a little outside Reykjavik. Snorri Jónsson invites us in and soon we are sniffing at a massive tea bag of caraway and angelica steeping in alcohol. Add a comment
- Created: 14 February 2017 14 February 2017
- Hits: 194 194
Eating out on St Valentine's Day is cheesy (we all know that), so many of us choose to discuss this sensibly with our partners and agree to go out on another night close to the 14th. The palpable shudder of relief in being spared the grimness of other couples celebrating this valiant and noble saint's day, is also sometimes accompanied by a pang of missing out. Even if the man doesn't feel it, he ought to admit that it is worth hedging against.Add a comment
- Created: 10 February 2017 10 February 2017
- Hits: 428 428
It’s the climb up White Hill that gets the sweat breaking out on my brow. It is a little steeper than Box Hill but perhaps it’s just that it’s an hour and a half into the walk. Either way, from White Hill, it’s a comfortable stretch to Mickleham and a pub lunch at the Running Horses.
- Created: 08 February 2017 08 February 2017
- Hits: 175 175
InDulwich couldn’t find an opener, so Nick used his trusty hammer to open the first bottle. The denizens of the old stable block-come-office space were gathered round expectantly. The 33cl bottle of Gosnells London Mead was split between the six of us, enough for a good sniff and glug. Lined up before us was the rest of a selection six pack. Here’s how the tasting went. Add a comment
- Created: 05 February 2017 05 February 2017
- Hits: 488 488
Natalia Baloghova tests Optiat’s "Pick me up coffee scrub - Lemongrass lifter” and concludes that this natural and ethical scrub goes beyond what it says on the tube!
Coming back from my gym and pilates class last weekend, I got that afternoon down feeling. It was a gloomy, late January afternoon with a dark soporific sky peering through the window. I found it hard to get going for the rest of the day. Well if anything, this was the day to give the new Optiat coffee scrub a go! Add a comment
- Created: 03 February 2017 03 February 2017
- Hits: 298 298
Sea water, burnt honey, hibiscus and tarragon are tools of the trade for the experimental labs of Gosnells mead brewery. Tom Gosnell confesses to lots of failures along the way but perseveres until they have the mix right. Add a comment
- Created: 20 January 2017 20 January 2017
- Hits: 238 238
I would never claim to be an urban explorer. The thrill seeker end of the spectrum looks terrifying but the questing historian version seems deeply admirable. My dabbling tended to towards the latter, though in a rather unfocussed way. Add a comment