Friday, 25 May 2012

The Gardens of Delargo Towers - May 2012

After a horrid start to the month we ended it with fabulous warm weather and at last some real sunshine.

The star of the month has to be the Delphinium!

We grew them from seed last year. They survived a summer of being swamped by a jungle of Cosmos and, for the most part, being attacked by killer slugs this spring.

This is the first one to flower. The variety is "Blue Fountain". The others are a little further behind but we are looking forward to seeing which shade of blue they will be.

Along with the Delphiniums last year we sowed Canterbury Bells; being biennial they did nothing last year but have now sent up some impressive flower spikes which should open soon.

The last surviving Hollyhock did not fare so well and has finally disappeared.

The border is starting to fill up.

The Verbena has come through the winter, and Geraniums, Oriental Poppy and Centaurea are all doing well

Waiting in the wings, Canterbury Bells:

and this years crop of Cosmos (no garden is complete with out it):

The window boxes are planted and starting to fill:

as are the tubs

The Lilium Regale should be amazing this year!

Last year we adopted a lonely tomato plant that nobody wanted and surprisingly rather enjoyed growing it. This year we are taking it further with one new tomato plant ("Gardeners Delight") and a collection of herbs.

...and one strawberry ("Cambridge Favourite"). The pear tree is doing incredibly well too.

Roll on June (Flaming June, we hope ) There should be bags more colour by then!


Thursday, 17 May 2012

Tony's singular adventures - wandering in Rotherhithe, getting lost in Bermondsey

Well me dears it's been a while since I have done one of my singular adventures. In fact I didn't intend to start this one but after a futile trip into town to buy new spectacles, I decided to turn the disappointment into an adventure...
...and ended up in Rotherhithe

You might ask why - and indeed I still am asking myself  that question, but having followed where my feet led me I had a lovely afternoon.

The purpose of my series of posts - ' singular adventures ' - is to celebrate the fact that wherever you are in London there is always interest and history laid out before you no matter how unlikely the situation.

On leaving the station I had no idea which way to head; and it looked like it would not much difference any way so I followed the signs to the Albion Street shops which I thought might give me a little local colour.

Rather dull I thought until a church of all things caught my eye:

Interesting amongst the council type sprawl. and it had not only an unusual flag but a plaque too - 'The Norwegian Church in London'

There has been a Norwegian Church in London since the late 17th century. The current church building, St Olav's was consecrated in 1927. The foundation stone was laid the previous year by Prince Olav (later King Olav V of Norway).

King Haakon VII and the Norwegian government in exile regularly worshipped at the church during World War II, when the church was given the status of a pro-cathedral.

Olav V was born in Norfolk in 1903 to Prince Carl of Denmark and Princess Maud, the daughter of King Edward VII. Above is my snap of St Olav's Square which must have looked a bit nicer in the 1920s. Below is Olav himself.

As I said wherever you look in London you will find a jewel, and in this case my research led me to a tiara given to Princess Maud on her wedding by her parents H.R.H  Edward and Alexandra. This tiara originated with Empress Joséphine. It was made for her by the French jeweller Bapst, and is part of a set that includes a necklace, earrings, and two brooches:

Oh, that got me juices flowing! I will have to start blogging my fave sparkles at some point.

Back to the story.

You might have noticed in the photo of St Olav's Square a strange arch - this is the entrance to the Rotherhithe Tunnel, which was opened in 1908 by King Olav's uncle George V when he was Prince of Wales.

Nearby is the much more historic Thames Tunnel, designed and built under the supervision of Marc Isambard Brunel and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel, currently used by London Overground for the East London Line; which was indeed the way I arrived in Rotherhithe.

The entrance arches of the tunnel are in fact the cutting edges of the original tunnelling shield, which measured 30 feet 8 inches (9.35 m) in diameter:

So there you are: royalty (with emeralds), two titans of Victorian engineering and Norwegian democracy in exile all within what seems a run down council wasteland.

Onwards across the mythical St Olav's Square and into ....

Southwark Park first opened its gates to the public in 1869 and was one of the earliest parks to be opened by the Metropolitan Board of Works. The design of the park is attributed to Alexander McKenzie and covers an area of 25 hectares.

The park also boasts London's first public memorial to honour a working class man; a drinking fountain to commemorate Mr Jabez West, a member of a local Temperance Society.

The bandstand dates from 1884 and was originally sited in the Royal Horticultural Society grounds at South Kensington. It has a sister in Peckham Rye Park.

All very green and lovely but rather damp, so onwards by bus to Bermondsey and a cash point machine (they don't seem to have any in Rotherhithe).

This is where it all starts to go awry.

The idea was to walk down past the site of King Edward III Manor House to the Angel and have a nice pint by the river. That was the idea.

Things started to look very much like Shad Thames...

...for good reason. I had missed the river completely and was heading towards Tooley Street...

...and Tower Bridge Road. Hey ho !

Now feeling cold and damp I made the effort to walk across the road to see who the statue at the junction was. As you can see its the first Mayor of Bermondsey. Inspired by that I decided to give up and head into Shad Thames for a pint then head home.

Shad Thames deserves a post of its own, but my only purpose for this visit was a pint and a warm up.

Other than to say that it has changed a lot since the 80s, I will leave it for another day.

Right next to Tower Bridge stands the old Anchor Brewery and close to that one of my fave pubs the Anchor Tap.

I listed the Anchor Tap last year in my blog on 'London Pubs of note'
click to have a look

This was a regular haunt of mine when I worked in the area a few years ago.

The real coal fire and cosy atmosphere and a pint of John Smiths were welcome indeed.

Now this would normally be the traditional ending for one of my adventures but not this time. It goes on!

I jumped onto a bus thinking it would take me back to Bermondsey tube but it didn't. Instead it swung off towards Nunhead (no idea). I got off the bus here (above - no idea ).

The Thomas A' Beckett on the Old Kent Road
Interesting, I thought... and indeed it is, as is the Old Kent Road itself  (again, an idea for a future adventure).

The pub stands on the site where pilgrims stopped here to water their horses at a stream on Old Kent Road on their way to the shrine of Beckett at Canterbury. It was known as 'St Thomas a Watering' in 1415. The clergy of London met Henry V at St Thomas a Watering after his victory at Agincourt, and in 1539 the Vicar of Wandsworth and others were hung drawn and quartered at St Thomas a Watering for denying Henry VIII.

Now there's a fair bit of history for a pub, but it goes on!

In modern times it became the mecca of British boxing, playing host to a catalogue of greats from the professional world. Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Sugar Ray Leonard all sparred above the jars, in the upstairs gymnasium and ring. It was also home to the first lady of boxing, Beryl Cameron-Gibbons was Europe’s only female boxing promoter. In 1983 the ‘Grand Old Lady of boxing’ refused to throw the towel in to Courage Breweries, the pub’s owner, and threatened to barricade herself in the pub if the bailiffs came to turf her out. None other than Sir Henry Cooper, British, European and Commonwealth heavyweight champion, took over the reigns of the pub when it reopened to the public in June 1984 after a £150,000 six-month refurbishment, and in 2008 was honoured with a blue plaque.

The Thomas A' Beckett  is also associated with Jack the Ripper. A suspect in the murders was arrested in 1888 after ‘leaving a shiny black bag at the Thomas a’ Becket public house’ containing ‘a very sharp dagger, a clasp knife, two pairs of very curious looking scissors, and two pessaries.' To top it all, ghosts of three nuns have been seen on occasions walking through corridors on the second floor.

Wow! The Thomas A' Beckett  could almost be a post in itself. It is now Nolias Bar and Restaurant
and has a 1000 ft exhibition space - dull dull dull!!!

Close by was this brute of a building:

The Old Fire Station
Built in 1905 to house the newly formed London County Council city fire services the fire station was in use for nearly sixty-five years before it was abandoned in 1969.

Having left the building to rot, it remained empty for over a decade until a group of anarchist-punks began squatting there in the early eighties. The expansive ground floor space was quickly cleared and turned into an important music venue, which for reasons unknown was donned "The Ambulance Station", and hosted live appearances from the likes of Pulp, Jesus And Mary Chain and Primal Scream. It's now a fireplace showroom.

A bus from here took me down to the Elephant and Castle. The whole adventure was an off-the-cuff, last-minute thing. Failing to catch the correct bus added a few extras but I was happy when I eventualy got on the tube and thence home.

Well there we are me dears, as I said history and culture around every corner.