Early Autumn sunny weekends are to be enjoyed as the rare breath of freshness they are. So it was that Heather and I ended up feeling like we were on a mini-break at home, with a couple of little trips out.
Saturday and The Tarn
The weekend started with a trip to an old favourite, The Tarn next to Mottingham station. Sadly the lake which gives the little park its name has seen better times as it’s currently covered in a carpet of green algae. Notices are up saying this is being slowly dealt with, and indeed there’s a steady stream of clean water discharging into the lake, slowly clearing a little area, but it’s definitely had an affect on the wildlife. We’d taken bread to feed the ducks but frankly there weren’t any. There were a couple of coots and a handful of others, plus the ubiquitous pigeons and parakeets, but that was about it. The surrounds even seemed short on squirrels. We eventually found a few, though at least one seemed to struggle with the concept of being fed nuts.
Hopefully the lake does get slowly brought back to life; it’s a shame to see such a tranquil little oasis so devoid of lively activity, even if it still looked very pretty in the sun—and the weed gives the pond a surreal quality of its own.
Disappointed we headed up into Eltham for a quick bit of shopping before calling into the GPO for a relaxing couple of drinks. A bus then took us back to local Black Horse for dinner and an encouraging football display.
Sunday at Hall Place
Having been a bit let down by the Tarn the previous day (or at least, let down by its lack of ducks) we were determined to get out again on Sunday and enjoy some more of the sun (plus we still had bread). Having had a brief look I was eager to return to Hall Place for a more detailed viewing. As a work colleague of Heather’s had a photography exhibition there it seemed an ideal excuse.
The bright day was certainly inviting when we arrived, starting with a look at the little “example” gardens (constructed to show what you could do with your driveway apparently) and the hot house. We skipped butterflies and owls this time and headed round the kitchen garden (bringing back memories of my grandfather growing veg in the back garden of his house when I was a child) and the less interesting orchard area.
From there we strolled over to the old stable block adjacent to the modern visitor’s centre. WIthin was the exhibition of work by Paul Bather, Heather’s collegue. I found the more abstract work most interesting, simply coloured swirls forming on plain backgrounds. Passing round the exhibition brought us on through the visitor centre towards Hall Place itself.
We were only going to pop in the shop of the main house but decided we may as well tour around it once there. It’s a peculiar building, two halves built at distinct times. A sixteenth century house offers a checkerboard pattern exterior while a second half, built around a hundred years later, has a more soothing (and to my eyes, attractive) style.
The gift shop entrance leads onto a cool courtyard, part of the second half of the building. A wide, brick clock tower stands over it where the boundary to the older half is. Strangely modern feeling corridors lead down the side of the courtyard and back to the older part of the house. There large bay windows allowed the sun to pleasantly stream into the ornate rooms—the central hall overlooked by minstrel gallery and a long gallery off an ornate ceilinged room. Old fireplaces were in evidence, nowhere more so than in the kitchen with its large hearth still in place.
Upstairs, back towards the younger part of the house, we found an exhibition of toys made by local firm Mobo. A circle of rocking horses stood in a circle, their silent, infinite queue a slightly unnerving display. Nearby a tricycle brought back childhood memories of something very similar, while a rocking motorcycle (or maybe rocket) looked cool. There were a couple of other toys, notably Bugpuss and Hornby trains, though there was something of a sterility to the display—I’m sure there were historic rooms hiding behind everything but it was rather difficult to tell.
Back outside the house we wandered round the side and the topiary, the hedges shaped into an indistinct range of shapes known as the Queen’s beasts (or queen’s pokemon to Gemma). From there the grounds open out into wide grassy areas punctuated by a scattering of trees, looking resplendent in the yellowing sun. There is a grass “maze” which is basically a intertwined spiral, a single route with no side passage. More of a prayer labyrinth than maze.] but I still had to complete it once started.
The grass slopes gently away from the spiral to the bank of the Cray, where ducks and particularly geese awaited. Finally we got to feed our bread, causing a mini frenzy on the river. The geese were particularly keen, standing right up to Heather and I to stare with demanding eyes before taking bread directly from the hand. Finally out of bread we crossed the nearby bridge and made our way round the rest of the meadows, pausing by a large stone sculpture standing megalith like, with a hole through the middle.
There was just time to admire the newest art work next to the return bridge over the Cray, entitled Course apparently, a different art work to that we’d seen a few weeks previously—and for Heather to nearly get locked in the toilets.
We headed on the bus towards home but really didn’t feel like ending our little “staycation” of a weekend just yet, so stopped off for dinner at Toscana which rounded things off nicely.