25 June 2013

A very English day out at the cricket at London's Oval.

I was luckily enough to go to the Oval last week, one of the two cricket grounds in London which hosts international matches, Lords being the other. England were playing South Africa in a tournament of one day matches and we were taking a visiting American friend who had no idea about this strange game but he was really relieved it wasn't the five day version of the game!

It has to be said that the spring and summer of 2013 have been rather chilly and wet so we were very nervous about our chances for the cricket match but lady luck and the sun shone on us all day making it the hottest day of the year.

They've been playing cricket at the Oval since 1844 and of course there is a plaque to celebrate this, although a few more playing years have passed since their 150th year.

 We had seats in the Members' Pavilion which has 2 impressive entrances and it feels like you are entering a gentleman's club - just guessing there, as they'd never let me in! 

Front entrance to the members' Pavilion

Side entrance

Once inside it's all wood panels, long lists of previous chairmen and captains and paintings of ancient cricket games. The members bars and Long Room look like they are from another era but there were enough modern touches like TV screens to let you know they had moved on a little towards more modern times. 

Inside the members' Pavilion

Cricket memories in the members' Pavilion

Long lists of holders of various offices
Quick shot of the Long Room - don't think they'd approve!
Long Room with new TV

We rushed up to our pavilion seats as South Africa were losing wickets rapidly and we didn't want to  miss their innings completely!  Looking out across the wonderful green grass to the dramatic far stand to the teams battling for a place in the final was a real thrill.  

Looks almost unreal but this was my view
Wickets continued to fall fast and furious so the sight of the sadly and lonely walk back to the stand became very familiar:
Must be a hard walk to make

The match raced on and then England came on to bat and the boys in red gave us some good cricket to watch. We moved seats to pitch side, giving us a different perspective and some close ups of the players. 

Batting with feet off the ground

Fielders moving in on a batsman (when England were fielding)
It's not all go....
 Unlike more serious games, we had drummers between overs and flames bursting out each time a 6 was scored - I wonder what the traditionalists think....  If you are not familiar with cricket and are at a loss as to what an 'over' is, I suggest you try this link.

A 6!!
Drumming after each over.
 As we approached 4.30 England eased into in unassailable position and this scoreboard said it all:

It's a great day out, even for those who don't completely follow the cricket and we enjoyed the hog roast, some Indian snacks, a few Pimm's and a bottle of Rose and had plenty of time to chat between overs, so it's not just about the sport!

England went on to lose the final to India by 5 runs a few days later, which was a real shame, but we loved our time at the Oval and I'd recommend a day at the cricket.  Now, it's on to Wimbledon, one of my favourite events in London and let's hope Andy Murray becomes the first British winner since 1936! 

Bye for now,

17 June 2013

A classic Summer Fayre in London

It was a rainy day on Sunday and the tennis at Queen's tennis club was suffering with the covers over the grass of its centre court for several hours. We were waiting for Andy Murray to take centre stage and hopefully beat Marian Cilic as well as the weather. The good people of Marylebone Summer Fayre were waiting for a break in the rain to attract the crowds to enjoy their great annual event. 

The Summer Fayre is in its 9th year and is bigger and better each time. All the streets around Marylebone High Street were closed to traffic and they were lined with great stalls of all types from herbs and spices to aromatherapy treatments, from jewellery to Peruvian knitwear. They somehow managed to pull of the great trick of hosting a traditional English fete in the centre of London and you can tell there are lots of locals as well as visitors. They had chose Kids' Company as their charity partner so it doubled as a big fund raiser as well.

typical street scene at the Summer Fayre
They had it all for a classic summer fayre: a wandering strawberries and cream seller; salsa dancing in the streets; several kids play areas; a market with great clothes (yes I succumbed!);and, loads of food stalls and restaurants with tables outside. There was music thanks to several sound systems and the concert area with crowd pleasing performers and when I was there it turns out it wasTony Moore ex member of Cutting Crew singing 'I died in your arms tonight'! 

salsa dancing in the streets

a bouncey thing for the kids
more fun for the kids
never complete without strawberries and cream
restaurants set up tables outside

the sound stage

colourful stalls in the market
One of my favourite stall ideas was Paul, the French boulangerie, who were offered free bread making classes for small children - very cute!

Britain's baking craze continues..

There was plenty to drink thanks to local pubs and bars, a Pimm's stall decked with union flags, a fabulous lemonade bicycle stall and the best bar sign ever - that all proceeds would go to charity - so you just had to have a drink as it would be mean not to......!!

Pimm's - of course
rather lovely lemonade stall

what better excuse for a drink!
Let's hope the rain holds off from now on as Wimbledon approaches - thank goodness they built the roof on centre court just in case!

Bye for now,

13 June 2013

London's gardens and hidden treats!

London is so full of hidden treats that even those of us who live here don't know about them all.  One special annual event called Open Garden Squares Weekend is a brilliant way to get out and about and see some special places, many of which are closed to visitors the rest of the year. One ticket gives you access to over 200 venues all across London so the race is on to see as many as possible! 

It was a very busy weekend so I'll just bring you the highlights here:

In Kennington you can rest and grab a coffee in the courtyard garden of the Jamyang Buddhist Centre. Peaceful in the sunshine you can muse on the previous use of this space as the exercise yard for the Old Kennington Courthouse where inmates included the Kray twins and Charlie Chaplin's father (arrested for not providing for his sons!)

Walworth Garden Farm was very keen on promoting wildlife and there were bees buzzing around but I loved this wooden butterfly bench best. 

Iliffe Yard featured in the film the Kings Speech and houses interesting looking studios but we had to focus on the wonderful climbing garden or we'd never get round our list of gardens! 

Our next stop was an extraordinary place and a real treat - Garden Barge Square, a floating village and the oldest moorings in London, in use for over 150 years. Sizeable barges are moored here - mostly Dutch - and all the gangways are made from other barges planted up as gardens so there is greenery everywhere. You'd expect just small plants, flowers and herbs, but they have some substantial trees as well and the little lights strung along the way made us want to return after nightfall to see what must be a magical sight.  You are in the middle of some great views, west to Tower Bridge and east to Canary Wharf and boats are passing all the time so it's a bit wobbly as their wash goes past.  I must have passed these boats many times on the boat to Greenwich and never realised that this treat, this 'garden square', was hiding on the river bank. The gardens started when a self seeding wildflower was spotted in the 1980s and this happy accident inspired what we see now, a haven, a hidden treasure, a wildlife home, something unique.  It's a private residence and only open for this special weekend event so we were delighted to have found it.

Greenery everywhere
One of the gangways
Old boats - some in use, some become gardens
East to Canary Wharf
On the way out we spotted this balcony coming out of an old converted warehouse - good to keep the river theme going!
How's this for a balcony?
This area of London, south bank of the Thames, east of Tower Bridge is full of old warehousing which was definitely worth a photo...

The Brunel Museum has a small garden and they had laid on a bar, music and an open fire for toasting marshmallows!  But the unexpected treat was a chance to visit the tunnel built by I.K. Brunel's dad under the Thames. Although it's not a garden it's well worth a mention as it was open as part of this special weekend.
Brunel Museum Garden
The tunnel shaft is one end of the first ever tunnel built under a river, the Thames Tunnel, dating from 1843 with a fascinating history.  Visitors are rarely let in so we eagerly crawled through the rather tiny entrance into the dark, down the scaffolding stairway. We gasped when we saw the huge open space and our wonderful guide, the museum director, told us tales of how the fashionable crowd used to walk through the tunnels browsing in the arcade shops - it was quite the thing to do before the railways came. Once there was even a huge underground banquet with the Duke of Wellington dining in style.

Now, the tunnel is part of the Overground network and you can look back into the tunnels from Wapping but this huge shaft, sitting above the tracks and separated by a new floor, is a wonder to visit. The Brunel Museum are planning concerts in the tunnel shaft this summer so look out for these!

The stairway into the hall
The huge space- the chairs on the floor give you  some scale

Natural light comes into the shaft

Looking back into the tunnel from Wapping
The Sunday dawned without the glorious sunshine of the previous day but we had a couple more gardens to squeeze in so undeterred we went to Chiswick House. There we saw their formal Italian gardens before heading off to the private residence of Dolphin Square to have a nose around the gardens normally closed to visitors.

Chiswick House gardens

The Dolphin Square fountain
The final stop was the newly planted area just in front of Battersea Power station. Huge plans are in place for the redevelopment of this iconic building after decades of failed ideas and there is a real sense of anticipation that this time it will re-emerge and be fabulous again. They have a great display of what the power station has been used for since its closure (including as a set for Batman!) and what it will become. I can't wait to see this area reopen in about 3 to 4 years as a real destination.
It's a huge site

Iconic towers

Batman with the power station windows behind him

New planting
We took a well earned rest after a great weekend.  London has hidden treasures you can visit any time and It's Your London knows a few good ones so do get in touch!

Bye for now,