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Trips to the Horniman museum

21 Aug

At last! Another post in my Making the most of London series. A mere year since the last one, ha ha…

Horniman museum | Wolves in London

The stunning conservatory at the Horniman museum. I want to live here

Overstuffed walruses, giant totem poles, kitchen gardens growing lentils; what’s not to love about the Horniman museum?

It’s one of those collections of eclectic eccentricity that the British seem to do so well.

Luckily for us, it’s a mere 15-minute walk from where we live (albeit up an extremely steep hill) so we visit almost every week. But weekly visits are almost a necessity to even start to explore just a little bit of the amazingly diverse activities and sights here: almost all of them ideal for children.

Bandstand Horniman museum | Wolves in London

A view out across the grounds by the bandstand. Look closely and you can see the London skyline in the distance…

The museum was founded by Frederick John Horniman, a Victorian tea trader, philanthropist and collector in 1890 to showcase the bits and pieces he’d picked up on his travels around the world. [Side note, if only current job descriptions were as exciting as “tea trader, philanthropist and collector” — I’d be updating the CV as we speak…]

Added to slowly in the centuries that have followed, the museum is a brilliant juxtaposition of the old anthropological exhibitions that you expect from a natural history museum and crazy architectural features like a totem pole, with modern additions such as the beautiful green-roofed library and aquarium in the basement.

Horniman museum totem pole | Wolves in London

Just your average view in South East London

Being something of a fishy family (in the nicest possible way), the aquarium tends to be our first spot to visit, where the sproglet races round pointing out all the fish excitedly to anyone listening and the baby and I tend to spend a little more time staring into the tranquility of the jellyfish tank. So peaceful and beautiful, I’d really love one in my own house.

I try not to bore on too much about the differences between a pipe fish and a seahorse to the sproglet, so once we’ve completed the loop a few times, we head upstairs to the natural history museums.

Here, two floors of glass cases are filled with stuffed animals, where the most famous exhibit is the fat walrus – bought by Horniman for the opening of his museum and originally from Canada. He’s a little chubbier than he should be as the taxidermist who stuffed him who had never before seen a photo of an actual walrus so had no idea they had folds in their skin.

If fish and stuffed animals aren’t your thing though, there’s plenty more to see.

The music room showcases practically every musical instrument you could ever imagine. Though safely behind glass, two tables in the room allow you to select photos of the instruments and listen to what they sound like. An adjacent room has a hands on area where you can play a selection of random instruments (most often populated by dads with their children, I’ve noticed, “just showing them” how to play the instrument correctly)… Outside, by the bandstand, every day objects have been turned into giant instruments – plastic pipes become a huge organ, and metal ones a giant xylophone. The sprog absolutely adores this area.

Outdoor music at the Horniman museum | Wolves in London

He’s a musical genius, I suspect…

The bandstand itself is the setting for weekly story readings as well as a series of concerts over the summer.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the animal walk – a (really pretty tiny) walkway where you can admire chickens, goats, sheep, rabbits and… …two alpacas. Alpacas being pretty much one of my favourite animals in the world right now, I often lose myself, leaning on a gate, dreaming of owning an alpaca farm in the country and making my fortune selling beautiful alpaca yarn. Right until the sprog starts tugging at my sleeve and demanding, “Wot Mummy doin’?”

Horniman museum gardens | Wolves in London

The dye garden: full of wonderfully bright coloured flowers

There’s also a kitchen garden, ten acres of grounds to explore, and the most stunning glass conservatory, in which occasional exhibitions are shown and which is available to rent for events like weddings (we did consider it for ours…)

Conservatory at Horniman museum | Wolves in London

Just one more of the amazing conservatory

The summer events programme is particularly impressive, I think. With an Edwardian theme (to match the newly renovated Edwardian bandstand), they’ve really gone to town on creating events to cater to all whims. Open air cinema, Edwardian “lates” with tea dances and live music (sooooo up my street!) and activities for kids on every day of the week, such as storytelling, art and minibeasts tours of the grounds. I genuinely think this must be one of the most “interactive” museums in the whole of London.

So, if you like a bit of weirdness in your kulcher, definitely somewhere to add to the “to visit” list. It’s in Forest Hill, so fairly easy to get to on the Overground or train line. Just be warned that the hill to get there is pretty steep…

Related articles:

  • Check out all the events, activities and exhibitions on the Horniman museum website. (NB, despite the gushing, I’m not in any way in cahoots with the Horniman on this post; just a genuine fan!)
  • For more Sabrina-reviewed places to visit in London, check out my series Making the most of London

 

5 ideas from Hampton Court flower show

12 Jul

Last Wednesday I spent a gorgeous sunny day wandering round Hampton Court flower show.

Forgotten Folly summer garden at Hampton Court show | Wolves in London

The Forgotten folly summer garden. One of my favourites from the show

It was an English summer personified: the drowsy song of bees in the air, the sun beating down with occasional white clouds drifting across the blue skies, endless (endless!) stalls selling Pimms and rather a lot of people dressed in striped blazers and Panama hats.

I managed to spot a glimpse of Carol Klein, Joe Swift and Mary Berry, which added to the excitement of course, but I also got lots of inspiration from the gardens and stalls around the show.

I am planning to redesign and replant my own little patch of green this autumn and I came away with lots of ideas I’d love to translate back to my own space.

Here are five pieces of inspiration I took away from the show, in the hope they might also inspire you!

1. Use native planting to attract insects

Macmillan legacy garden and Hampton Court show | Wolves in London

Wonderful naturalistic planting of native flowers

As far as I’m concerned, this is preaching to the converted. Who wouldn’t want lots of colourful butterflies and buzzing bees in their garden, helping pollinate all the fruit and veg?

Lots and lots of gardens featured naturalistic planting and wildflowers, but the Macmillan legacy garden, above and below, was definitely my favourite.

Macmillan legacy garden at Hampton Court show | Wolves in London

I’m pretty sure I need a rusty metal cow in my garden too…

The plants chosen were all native to Somerset (where Douglas Macmillan grew up) and included verbena, alchemilla, ammi majus, anemones, campanula, grasses, foxgloves, geraniums, hostas, sedum and thyme. In short, loads of my very favourite plants!

2. You can still pack a punch with small borders

It’s easy to walk around a show like Hampton Court and think, “sure, this all looks lovely, but I just don’t have space in my own garden to do anything like this…”

Al Fresco summer garden | Wolves in London

Small bed + loads of plants = lovely

The Al Fresco summer garden, though, provided great inspiration for planting in small beds. The majority of the garden was hard landscaping, with a central dining table, covered by a pergola, and built in barbecue.

The area was surrounded by a number of raised beds, of fairly small dimensions, but full of gorgeous flowers, more than making their mark despite the small space they were confined in. Definitely one to provide encouragement to all those who, like me, only have a small space for planting…

3. Use your garden for what you love

Before I started my horticulture and design course last year, I had rather set ideas about what a garden should be.

Surely every garden needed a lawn, a patio, some borders and so on?

Of course, this is complete nonsense. Your garden should contain only the elements you want and will use.

No interest in a lawn but lots of time entertaining outside? Don’t bother including one, just create an amazing dining space like the Al Fresco garden above.

Allitex greenhouse at Hampton Court show | Wolves in London

Sigh, dribble, drool. How I want one of these beauties in my garden

Obsessed with growing tender plants? Forget everything else and just have a greenhouse then! This one from Allitex is surely the greenhouse dream and I loved the way it had been surrounded by flower beds.

Not a show garden, of course, just a display by the company, but I lusted after it nonetheless.

(Perhaps one day I will be able to afford one to replace the beast…)

4. Simplicity is key

I am something of a magpie when it comes to my garden. I want to include every single lovely plant I have ever seen somewhere within its four fences…

Allium stall at Hampton Court show | Wolves in London

Stunning. Just stunning. Love me an allium

But this display on an allium nursery’s stand reminded me of the importance of paring it back with plant choices and with colours. Less range of plants, but growing in profusion, is definitely more in design terms…

Sure, I don’t want to restrict myself to just alliums in my garden, but this was a great reminder of just how striking simplicity can be.

5. Plant up in everything you can…

…but don’t forget a cohesive style

Zinc planters at Hampton Court | Wolves in London

These amazing buckets only cost £25. But I couldn’t carry one home, with the baby in a sling, and the guy said he only sold at shows. Sob, sob. Next year…

I adored this stall which sold lots of zinc planters and buckets and milk urns and a million other wonderful things.

My garden currently has everything planted in the beds, with a few scattered pots here and there.

But planting up all sorts of unusual objects can have a wonderful effect. These zinc buckets, for example, would look fabulous planted as a herb garden.

Remember to match the planters to the style of your garden, however, to ensure you achieve cohesion of ideas. These would look great in a cottage style garden, as would terracotta pots.

A contemporary urban garden might suit aluminium or concrete pots better. Don’t be tempted to mix too many different materials together or the overall look can become a little bitty…

So, plenty of inspiration for me as I start to plan the next phase of my ever-evolving garden. And I’m booking myself a ticket to next year’s show as soon as I can!

Related articles:

  • You can see more photos of all the gardens over on the RHS website: RHS Hampton Court flower show
  • Of course, but of course, I have Pinterest boards for these sorts of things too. If you love a beautiful garden as much as I do, follow my Dream garden plans board for lots of stunning designs. And my board Plants, plants, plants started as a place to save plants we were learning about in my horticulture course and has evolved into a place to save details of every plant I come across that I love. You can see a preview of both below, just click on the photos to go to the full board…

Wonderful Wisley

5 Jul

Last Sunday, we strapped the sprogs into their car seats, cracked the windows open to let in some warm summer breezes and set off along the A3 heading for RHS Wisley.

Sun behind trees | Wolves in London

Trees, sunshine, what more could you want?

I wasn’t sure how enjoyable the rest of the Wolves in London clan were going to find the excursion; all of them so far too young /not-into-gardening to think that a thrilling day involves me wandering round examining flower beds and sharing fascinating snippets of information about Latin horticultural names or the biology of a plant’s roots. (More fool them…)

Tree trunk | Wolves in London

“Now gather round, family, and let me share some fascinating facts about this stately tree…”

Actually, I was delighted at how family friendly Wisley was. There were only a few areas where I had to try and explain “Keep off the grass” signs to the sproglet.  There was a soft play area and a children’s playground. But, it says a lot about how much fun we had everywhere else, that we didn’t have time to visit either of them.

An arts and crafts fair was taking place that weekend (I know, double heaven for me: gardening and crafts!)

Lots of stalls were set up around the grounds with makers selling their wares and offering lessons in everything from pot-throwing to brooch making.

Had I been alone, I would have definitely tried my hand at these plant prints. I only had a very quick look, but I think they must be made with inkodye, something I have been dying (geddit?!) to try out for a while now. The effect is really striking:

Blue ink flowers | Wolves in London

My guess is that these have been made by placing a leaf over some fabric covered in light sensitive dye

The sproglet was particularly impressed with a collection of wire sculptures of animals, like this hare:

Wire hare | Wolves in London

Pretty realistic, no?

And, naturally, I couldn’t resist getting a photo of this wolf sculpture. (A friendly wolf! I’ve written before about how they’re pretty hard to find…)

Wolf sculpture | Wolves in London

Awww, a soft cuddly wolf

There were also various performances going on during the day. This lady, in the glasshouses, was billed as an “aerial artiste”…

Aerial artiste | Wolves in London

Not a job for those with vertigo

But, most fun was had just wandering through the impressive grounds themselves, which are full of quirky architecture and sculptures.

RHS Wisley | Wolves in London

I loved these huge bulrush sculptures by the lakes

The sproglet dashed off in glee the minute he saw the pagoda:

Pagoda at Wisley | Wolves in London

You can’t beat a good pagoda…

But his attention was held for even longer by a rather impressive insect hotel.

(Side note: I think these look stunning, but any I have come across seem rather devoid of insects. Anyone have something similar in their own garden?)

Bug hotel at Wisley | Wolves in London

I have a sneaky suspicion a few bits of wood might have been removed at this point…

Rather intriguingly, my friend Annie (of Nimble Fingers and Steady Eyebrows) tweeted me just as I was leaving and said that there was a statue of her somewhere in the grounds. Sadly, I didn’t see it, but I did enjoy this couple sitting and soaking up the view:

Statue at Wisley | Wolves in London

“Weather’s nice today, dear…” “Yes, isn’t it, dear.”

And the glasshouses, of course, were mind-blowingly awesome:

Glasshouses at Wisley | Wolves in London

Now I only I could replace my old greenhouse with one of these!

We spent a lot of time wandering round inside and, of course, I took a few hundreds of photos of plants. This is the (highly) edited selection…

Pink flower | Wolves in LondonOrchid | Wolves in LondonLeaves | Wolves in LondonWhite orchid | Wolves in LondonYellow flower | Wolves in London

Rather foolishly, I was so busy being snap happy that I forgot to write down the names of any of these plants and I’m not really familiar with exotic flowers like this so I no longer have a clue what’s in the photos.

But no matter, for I’m saving the best til last. My very favourite part of the gardens was the more naturalist drift planting, just outside the back of the glasshouses. This is the look I aspire to in my own (much, much, much) smaller flower beds.

Drift planting at Wisley | Wolves in London

The sun was in when I took this photo, which is a bit of shame…

Red flower | Wolves in London

So cheery!

White flowers | Wolves in London

I think this was a type of Lavatera

Red flowers at Wisley | Wolves in London

Anyone know what this is? There were so many lovely red flowers here it *almost* persuaded me to plant some in my own garden…

And I was very excited to see lots and lots of Mexican fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus) growing out of walls and steps all over the place. I just bought some for my own garden and have planted the little plugs over the stone wall that divides one of my flower beds from the lawn. The first little daisy-like flower appeared yesterday, to my immense delight:

Erigeron karvinskianus | Wolves in London

One day I hope mine will look as prolific as this

Aaaaand, that’s the end! Lots of photos, but still only showing a mere fraction of what’s there. I shall be returning soon, no doubt.

I also purchased some rather glorious second hand gardening books, but this post is already heejusly long so I’ll show you them another time…

The hubby is off work for five weeks now between jobs, so we’ve got plenty of time for exploring. Anywhere else we should go?

{Joining in with Manneskjur and How does your garden grow? If only this were my garden!)

I want this so badly

17 Jun

Before accepting that I must keep my old tumbledown greenhouse in the garden, for the time being at least, I spent a long time searching online for a greenhouse slash garden shed slash potting house.

It seemed such a straightforward idea to me. One little building that housed plants, tools, and all that junk that accumulates over the years and is banished from the house proper.

I searched and searched and searched and found nothing really suitable. Certainly nothing affordable.

But just now, a mere few days after telling you how I was reconciled to the beast at the end of the garden, and how I planned to make it look all lovely and appealing, on a little stroll down the Pinterest rabbit hole I stumbled across it. My dream garden outbuilding. Part potting shed, part greenhouse, part tool shed. And all, every single last bit of it, utterly beautiful.

Take a look.

Potting shed slash greenhouse

© Nitty Gritty Dirt Man

Screw the big, ugly greenhouse. I can’t begin to tell you how desperately badly I want this one, nay need this at the end of my garden.

It’s homemade, by someone who clearly has some superb DIY skills, and the plans and all sorts of useful information for how it was built are over at Nitty Gritty Dirt Man.

(There are also loads and loads of other wonderful gardening articles too, with hugely appealing names such as Ten reasons I love elephant’s ears. If you’ve any interest in gardening, you could while away a good amount of time here, as I just have…)

But back to the glorious shed. Any ideas on how I can persuade my husband to give up every bit of spare time he has to learn the requisite skills and then build this for me? As a birthday present perhaps? That would give him a whole three months to essentially retrain as a builder and get it in situ. Sounds fairly reasonable to me…

Pimp my greenhouse

12 Jun

As spring turns to summer, my thoughts turn to the unwieldy beast at the end of my garden.

I speak, of course, of my greenhouse.

When we first moved in, I planned, immediately, to replace it with something sophisticated like this:

Griffin Glasshouse

© Griffin Glasshouses Just the perfect sort of greenhouse for a horticulture student, non?

Then I saw the price tag.

And so, I must reconcile myself to living for the next few years at least with this:

Ramshackle greenhouse | Wolves in London

I’ll grant you, the huge amount of weeds and vast piles of junk on the floor don’t show it off to its full potential

It’s not pretty is it?

And, at 15ft by 12ft, it is taking up almost a third of my garden.

Eventually, I will put in something smaller and build some raised veg beds in the area freed up. But for now, until I have a spare couple of thousand pounds, I plan to do everything I can to prettify the beast…

Luckily, there is plenty of inspiration out there. Here are a few of my favourite dilapidated yet lovely garden buildings. Because, hey, everyone loves aspirational gardening, don’t they?

It perhaps won’t surprise you to hear that I do have a collection of old rusty watering cans. So this first picture is brilliantly achievable for me:

Attractive greenhouse | Wolves in London

Image from here

And never mind that this shed will soon collapse under the weight of the tree branch; it’s light, airy and full of stunning old gardening related props. And plants, of course. Plants are a must in the greenhouse.

Recycled shed | Wolves in London

I can’t find the proper copyright details for this pic. Eeek, I hate using them unattributed, but I just had to share

Yup, note to self, more plants needed. Currently, my greenhouse just houses seedlings, but something bigger would look rather nice:

Greenhouse full of plants

Shot by photographer Jeroen van der Speck for the Delicious Magazine

I also have a couple of old wooden crates (left by the previous owners) and am starting to realise that filling them with plants and displaying them outside the greenhouse is an absolute must. (In practical terms, this would actually be a great way of hardening off plants as well…)

Summer house

You can see more of this amazing summerhouse at Remodelista – the inside is, if anything, even nicer!

And I’ve saved one of my favourites til last. Fairy lights! You’d think electricity and somewhere that’s regularly watered wouldn’t mix, but hey, fairylight the crap out of the place and it will almost certainly look artful and atmospheric instead of old and tumbledown. (Note to readers, fairylight your greenhouses at your own risk!)

I’m planning on creating some similar artful little garden vignettes around the greenhouse over this summer, so I’ll share some photos of the results soon.

Watch this (heavily styled) space!

And if you’re as much a sucker as I am for the artfully distressed in the garden, I have hundreds more glorious photos over on my Pinterest board Dream garden plans. Click below to check it out…

A love of trees

27 May

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know have a bit of a penchant for photographing flowers. (For which read, my feed is stuffed full of floral photos, mostly taken on my daily wanderings round Peckham Rye Park.*)

Rose | Wolves in LondonFlower | Wolves in LondonMagnolia stellata | Wolves in Londonwisteria | Wolves in London

But there was another reason that my feed was 90% flowers: my crappy iPhone 3 which objected strongly to photographing anything indoors in focus and most other big things outside too. Flowers, for some reason, it was fairly happy with.

Since I’ve just upgraded to a phone with a much better camera, though, I thought it was time to branch out (geddit?) and move past the individual flower to whole trees as well.

Acer | Wolves in London

I’ve developed a bit of a love of trees since starting my horticulture course last year. I mean, it’s not that I ever didn’t like them, but now I’ve started to really notice their individual characteristics.

The way a birch tree’s branches sway and flitter in the wind; the amazing unique leaf shape of a Gingko biloba; the fabulous bark on a mature horse chestnut…

Gingko biloba | Wolves in LondonTree trunk | Wolves in London

But, I have to confess, I’m still able to identify only a very few trees, so my aim over this summer is to photograph lots and find out what they are.

If this sounds vaguely interesting to you too, follow me over on Instagram to see some more. (All photos in this post are from my feed.)

And if you’re a good tree recogniser, I will be calling on you for help over the coming months!

*A park I love and to which I highly recommend a visit if you’re local. You can see more about in my post from last year: A stroll round Peckham Rye Park.

A photo a day: August 17th

17 Aug

We went blackberry picking this morning in Camberwell Old Cemetery. The cemetery is a two minute walk from our house and worth a visit as about a third of it is fantastically overgrown, with winding little lanes overhung with trees and a huge amount of brambles.

camberwell old cemetery

Just the perfect spot for a walk with the pram. Ahem

There’s something really romantic about the old graves, just peeping out through the foliage. When I go, I’d like my grave to end up looking like this one:

grave and blackberries

I’d like the snail as well.

Before the blackberry picking in the overgrown lanes, we walked the upkept cement paths first, in an attempt to get the baby off to sleep. I read the inscriptions on the gravestones, noticing especially those who’d died young, or very old, or at the age I am now.

Gravestone

Then again, maybe I’d like a gravestone with a huge statue on…

It’s sobering and yet somehow wonderfully beautiful to see the remains of all those lives, boiled down to one little sentence on a gravestone. I always enjoy the ones that say “To my darling husband” or “To my much loved Mum”… There are huge achievements you could reach in life, of course, writing books, becoming famous, making crucial scientific discoveries. And yet I rather feel that to be remembered as someone’s “beloved mother” or “adored wife” is a pinnacle that can’t be topped.

After these introspective musings, baby well asleep, we set off into the undergrowth and were rewarded for our bravery. We foraged a good kilo of blackberries, returning home an hour later covered in scratches, a few bites and with our hands stained purple.

Weed seeds

I did my bit to help the spread of the local weed population

The plans for these little beauties are some blackberry and apple jam / jelly (it’s used like a jam, but sieved like a jelly) and either some blackberry and apple leather or something similar to that. I’ll show you some pictures tomorrow, if they end up looking appealing.

Trug of blackberries

It’s ridiculously hard to photograph the blackberries together with any definition. Why is that?

This post is a double whammy, joining in with the August break and also being part of my Making the most of London series.

Related articles:

Artist’s houses

28 May

This time last year, we were busy house hunting in a (then) completely unknown area of London.

I was about eight months pregnant, the weather was glorious for weeks on end, I’d huff and puff round houses, stopping outside every one to have a little sit down and a sip of water. We did stupid things like decide to look round 13 houses in one day. And then wonder why we couldn’t remember which was which.

At the time, it was pretty exhausting. Looking back, it was really quite exciting: discovering a new part of town, buying our first house together, knowing the baby was coming soon but not knowing anything more about him.

But for a good few weeks, one thing was confusing the hell out of me. Why were there so many houses for sale? It seemed as if every single street we walked down had at least ten houses with a for sale sign outside.

Eventually, we paid a little more attention to the signs and realised that, actually, this is what they were saying:

Artist's open house sign

Not for sale, at all, but an artist’s house…

The area we were busy hunting in was, in fact, stuffed full of artists, all opening their houses for the annual Dulwich Festival.

This year, now ensconced in our new pad, I thought it would be fun to go along and check out some of the open houses. I’d been planning it for weeks, marking all the places I wanted to go and see on my map. The festival took place on the middle two weekends of May and I had a tight schedule sorted out, with the optimum route plannedbetween houses. (Yup. I’m a fun person to live with…)

Only thing was, when we set off, the baby immediately fell asleep in his pram, so we didn’t want to risk waking him by pushing him inside the houses. My partner said he’d just wander round outside and I could go in, but every time we got to the door of an artist’s residence, I felt a little bit awkward about wandering round their house on my own, sans money and without any intention of actually buying any art.

So, in the end, I only went in to about two of the planned route. One was the garden studio of Moth London, a duo who were making some gorgeous knitted cushions and lavender bags. This hugely appealing sign led the way through the side gate down to their studio:

Follow pink yarn sign

You couldn’t resist these instructions, could you?

Unfortunately, I was so over-excited at the sight of their knitting machine that I completely forgot to take any photos once I got inside. But you can see the lovely semi-felted knitted goods on their website: www.mothlondon.co.uk.

Luckily, for my suddenly self-conscious sensibilities, there was also lots of street art as part of the festival.

This giant mural was part of the amusingly titled Baroque the Streets installations:

Baroque the streets mural

I’ll ave ya. No, I’ll ave ya…

And further down Lordship Lane, an entire house had been “loaned” with different artworks painted in each rooms. This rather lurid painting on the wall outside slightly reminded me of some more psychedelic clubs I visited in Bristol back in my student days…

Wall art

No, you’re not drunk, he does have a third eye…

A bit more to my taste, was this amusing montage, hidden away round the corner:

Road sign turned art

Road sign turned art

The little cherubs at the bottom were completely oblivious to the fact they were having paint poured all over them:

Cherubs road signSo, once again, I’ll say “maybe next year” for actually getting inside some more of the houses. Because toddlers love quietly and calmly walking round houses to look at art, don’t they?

Related articles:

A stroll around Peckham Rye Park

12 May

Part of my Making the Most of London series

It’s been dawning on me recently that I’m not so young any more.

It’s not the wrinkles and increasing number of grey hairs that are the biggest giveaway. Nope, it’s the way I choose to spend my spare time that is the real telltale sign.

Not so long ago (okay, quite long ago) (okay, probably a decade ago, in fact) a sunny bank holiday weekend would be the perfect time to sit outside a bar in Brick Lane, music blaring, cider in hand, the afternoon whiled away drinking with friends.

Blossom | Wolves in London

Blossom in the park

Nowadays, however, I can think of nothing more pleasant than taking a good walk through some beautifully maintained gardens, and boring my poor partner with the Latin names of all the nice plants and some “interesting facts” about their sexual reproductive systems (a sentence I say without even the tiniest smirk at the words “sexual” or “reproductive”…)

Luckily, quite one of the loveliest London park gardens is just at the end of my road and – provided your idea of a fun leisure activity is as middle-aged as mine – I heartily recommend a visit.

Peckham Rye is a large, flat, somewhat uninspiring expanse of green in Southeast London. But tucked away at the southern end is Peckham Rye Park; a series of beautifully planted and faultlessly maintained public gardens.

Peckham Rye

Peckham Rye; I say it’s flat and uninspiring, but actually it looks rather pretty when the blossom’s out

At its heart – and my favourite spot – is the Sexby Garden. The layout dating back to 1906, this is the secret garden of my dreams: pergolas dripping in wisteria lead to a central fountain, at each corner arbours provide shaded resting places, benches are tucked away in yew hedges, there’s a gentle buzzing as bees hum from plant to plant, the smell of the air takes me back to childhood in my Granny’s garden (it’s the fragrant Daphnes that are so heavenly) and the flower beds are planted in a formal(ish) way with clusters of vibrant tulips…

Sexby Garden, Peckham Rye Park

The entrance to the Sexby garden, in a month or so, these pergolas will be covered with wisteria, roses and clematis

Arbour, Peckham Rye Park

Well perhaps I might just sit down and rest my weary legs in this arbour…

Pergola, Peckham Rye Park

Wisteria buds just about to open on the pergolas

Tulip

I think I need to grow some of these tulips in my own garden. Beautiful, aren’t they?

Most days, I push the pram over the cobbles and daydream that I’m back in Victorian times, about to come across a boy in a wheelchair… (Okay, if you haven’t read The Secret Garden that sentence might sound a bit wrong.)

The rest of the park is perhaps slightly less impressive to me, but still highly pleasing. I’m planning on frequenting the dog-free picnic area in the arboretum many times over the course of the Summer.

Picnic area, Peckham Rye Park

Doesn’t this look like a heavenly place to have nice long lunch?

The “Japanese garden” looks like the sort of thing that would be described as an “English garden” anywhere else, but the stream through the middle always makes me stop and dawdle, looking for fish.

Japanese garden, Peckham Rye Park

Can you spot what’s so Japanese about this? Nope, me neither…

And the bowling green is as prim and proper as you could wish a bowling green to look.

Bowling green, Peckham Rye Park

I’d almost be scared to bowl on this immaculate green I think. Almost

It’s all looking particularly beautiful at the moment, with all the plants in blossom or close to it. The perfect place to wander and spend a few hours with my co-explorer…

Blossom, Peckham Rye Park

Is there a sight more cheering than a tree dripping with blossom?

Water droplets on leaf

These water droplets on a leaf took my breath away when I first spotted them

Baby feet

My intrepid co-explorer, soaking up a bit of early morning sun

If you’re in the neighbourhood (the SE15 / SE22 borders) then I do recommend popping in…

Related articles:

  • If you’d like to see another city in the sun, take a look at my photos of my recent visit to Brighton.
  • The UK a little too close by and boring? I’ve got a few from Hong Kong as well…

Making the most of London

12 May

I’m someone who likes to plan.

Not in a “did we buy enough bread to see us through to the weekend?” kind of way. More in a “ooooh, why don’t we move to Croatia in a year and buy a boat and sail to Greece and learn to make Greek food and then come back to the UK and open a Greek restaurant” kind of way.

(Actually, who am I kidding, I like to plan in the bread way too…)

The more plans I have on the go at any time, the happier I am. The very day I move into a new house, I’ll be checking out the “for sale” signs on houses round the corner, planning where we’ll go to next.

The minute I start to think about how much I like nicely-designed fabrics, I’ll decide it’s a brilliant idea to start a fabric business.

I’ve got three big plans in my life, right now. The fabric business plan. A plan to move to Italy in two years, open some holiday cottages and start to make cheese. And a plan to move out West once we return home from the Italian sojourn.

St Pauls, copyright Wolves in London

Yup, I live in a pretty beautiful city

Most of these plans involve leaving London in the not-too-distant-future and, as is my wont, I started thinking about all the things I’d miss once we do leave London – despite the fact we’ve nothing concrete set in place to do so…

But, then, in perhaps one of my more sentient planning moments, I thought that I should really make the most of London before we do go.

Along with, I suspect, most of the population of London dwellers (at least those out of their 20s with kids), I don’t actually spend that much time exploring all the wonders the capital has to offer.

I’ve been to the theatre once in the last year. Seen perhaps two art exhibitions. Eaten at lots of cafés and restaurants, but most of them right on my doorstep.

So, the latest plan is the simplest one I’ve ever come up with: make the most of London while I’m still living in it.

I’m going to arm myself with one of my favourite London-based books for some inspiration.  Used, so far, mostly just for armchair Londoning.

Tired of London, Tired of Life, gives you one thing a day to do in London. I bought it when I was pregnant, thinking it would give me loads of ideas of things to do with the baby once he arrived. Of course, what I usually do with the baby is wander round the closest shops.

Tired of London, Tired of Life

Presumably not by The Tom Jones

And since I plan to be out doing these things, I thought I might as well write about them here too, in a new series called… ….you guessed it… making the most of London.

My very first trip is a bit of a cheat, since it’s right on my doorstep, but it’s given as a destination for August 5th. So I started out with Peckham Rye Park. Head over to the article: A stroll around Peckham Rye Park.

Sexby Garden

Sexby Garden, Peckham Rye Park. Recommended for August 5th, but it’s looking pretty nice right now too

The next few things I’ve got planned are a trip to Nunhead cemetery (an easy walk from me, but still unvisited after living here for six months) and a repeat trip to the Horniman Museum.

If you’ve got any ideas for some weird, wonderful, cheap or just unmissable places and events, do let me know in the comments.

Places I’ve explored so far:

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