Thursday, November 26, 2009

Blue skies and sunshine in late November

The clouds threatened rain but the sushine was out and the sky was blue so we kitted up against the wind and headed into the park. Yesterday there had been ambitious talk of walking into town along the Thames Path but that was before the epic chat-athon which finally ended at 3am accompanied by a trail of empty wine bottles. My father only arrived for a visit yesterday but we're both exhausted already!

We took the meandering path that heads from opposite Onega Gate up towards the main green. Most of the leaves have left the trees and been cleared away from the paths and margins. It all looked beautifully well cared for - apart from a burnt out motorbike that had been tossed next to one of the bridges, which I've reported. There wasn't much to see in the way of flowers or insects and even the berries are few and far between but there were some surprising and enjoyable exceptions. A berberis with dark green shiny leaves had produced some richly yellow flowers. The Cotoneaster wilsoni hedge at the end of the Stave Hill walk was a mass of red berries, there were lovely deep blue cornflowers on the chalk patch in the ecological park near the windmill and there were two violets, endearingly pale with delicate petals near the Stave Hill pond. There was nothing much happening at the Stave Hill pond, although the bulrushes look great and the vetch pods promise another great showing for next year.

We had the park almost to ourselves. Apart from a couple of dog walkers and a woman with a pushchair there was simply no-one else to be seen. We saw a single squirrel, a sparrow, a great tit, a couple of magpies, dozens of pigeons and some crows. Apart from that only the ducks and coots were out in force. It is good to see the ponds looking so healthy The Downtown pond had enough water for it to cascade gently into the channel, and the ducks were clearly enjoying it. Globe pond has stayed clear of duck week and there were dozens of mallards and mallard hybrids pootling around in the sun.

After the important job of feeding the ducks at the Downtown and Globe ponds we went to the top of Stave Hill and leaned into the wind, admiring the views in the bright light. Whenever I'm walking through the woodland I get a sense of open walks and spaces but from the top of Stave Hill you can see just why it is referred to as a woodland - the trees seem so dense and appear to extend for miles. Although the leaves have gone the bark still provides a patchwork of different colours.

After a good circuit of the park we headed past the travesty of the Downtown site and over the bridge to the Thames Path and walked the short distance along the river to the Surrey Docks Farm. The light on Canary Wharf and the neighbouring buildings was quite extraordinary and very beautiful.

The Farm itself was nearly empty of people, but the farm animals were terrific - all looking so healthy, happy and full of life. The goats have thick shining coats (I must ask what Kath feeds them - I could do with that sort of a shine myself and L'Oreal Elvive doesn't seem to be doing the trick, whether I'm worth it or not!). The donkeys were munching contentedly in the warmth of their blankets (in Barcelona FC colours, I was pleased to note) and the pigs were as delightful as usual. In all, the farm was as much of a pleasure as usual and we lingered with the pigs for a good long time. The vegetable garden is thriving and the peas are actually in flower. There was one of the biggest cabbages I have ever seen. The farm is advertising free range meat for sale (goat, pork and lamb) which as soon as I have some space in the freezer I shall go and try. I shall post some of the farm photos tomorrow.

It was again nice to see the sculptures which had to be brought just within the farm gates (a few metres from where they were originally located) following the theft of the owl. As one would expect, they continue to be well cared for and none have gone missing.

As we left the Thames Path, intending to do a circuit of South Dock to look at the boats before returning along Greenland Dock to Russell Place the skies opened so we simply hurtled down the side of Greenland Dock arriving home damp but not sodden. I noticed that the pontoon in the inlet to Norway Dock ("The Lakes") has begun to sink. I derived huge amusement earlier in the year from watching a pair of great crested grebes and a pair of coots sharing the pontoon as a nesting site, and I am very sad to see it sinking. I'll try to find out who to report that to and see if it cannot be saved for future nesting activity.

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