Wandering the Wandle

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Yeah, sorry about that title. Anyway, after my enjoyable if exhausting walk following the route of the Fleet, I decided to walk the course of another London river and fellow Thames tributary – the Wandle. This river flows from Croydon to Wandsworth, and I began my walk, as this Londonist article suggests, in Morden.

The Wandle in Morden Hall Park

The Wandle in Morden Hall Park

The Wandle has in its time powered many working mills, despite its current appealing rural-lite setting. It has avoided the fate of becoming a covered sewer and instead is a haven for wildlife (although, with an exception of a few ducks and one perplexed-looking moorhen, I didn’t actually see any on my walk).

The Wetlands Boardwalk

The Wetlands Boardwalk

I got off at Morden Tube station and headed towards Morden Hall Park, across the Wetlands Boardwalk which is now, apparently, home to newts, frogs and herons. Beyond the park, across the tram line, I walked past Deen City Farm, a working urban farm which introduces young city kids to farm animals – an excited pair I passed on my walk were being taken there by their dad.

The Wandle just beyond Deen City Farm

The Wandle just beyond Deen City Farm

After a short walk taking in a housing estate I reconnected with the river as it flowed past Merton Abbey Mills.

Merton Abbey Mills

Merton Abbey Mills

Past Merton High Street, I ventured into Wandle Park, through which the river was diverted many years ago. Crossing the river I reached Wandle Meadow Nature Park, a former brickworks and sewage farm. This section of the walk was rather quiet and eerie, but I soon made it to the small River Graveney, passing numerous families out for a walk before reaching the Wandle once again.

The Wandle in Merton

The Wandle in Merton

I crossed Plough Lane, a busy road near the former Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium, and embarked upon a fairly long section of path on the left hand side of the river. I was surprised to see anglers fishing on its bank, while the electricity sub-station loomed in the background. After a while I reached Earlsfield, passing the familiar Tara Theatre before venturing towards King George’s Park.

The Wandle in Earlsfield

The Wandle in Earlsfield

Once I’d reached the other side of the park, I found myself in Wandsworth.

The Wandle in Wandsworth

The Wandle in Wandsworth

I walked through the busy town centre and past the old Ram Brewery buildings before reaching a sluice gate containing a bell, on which is inscribed ‘I AM RUNG BY THE TIDES’. Just a little further and I had reached the island in the middle of the river as it flows into the Thames.

Tidal bell

Tidal bell

I enjoyed my walk and it was a lovely day for it – clear and cool and crisp. I found the signposts and directions to be somewhat lacking, and had to open my trusty Google Maps at several points, but this may just be because I have a terrible sense of direction. In any case, I was pleased to feel as though I’d accomplished something.

The mouth of the Wandle and the Fulham shore beyond

The mouth of the Wandle and the Fulham shore beyond

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Pottery and Wheelthrowing Workshop

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I have no artistic ability whatsoever, but for some reason when my friend asked me if I fancied coming to a pottery class, I said yes. Despite being convinced that I couldn’t possibly create anything good, I turned up on Saturday morning ready to give it a go.

Potters' wheels in a row

Potters’ wheels in a row

The class took place in Banbury, where my friend lives, at the Banbury campus of Banbury and Bicester College. It was pouring with rain when we arrived, so we were glad to get inside and check out the equipment.

Potters' wheel

All fresh and clean… not for long

We were shown how to create a basic bowl on the wheel, which was operated by a foot pedal. Our instructor made it look so easy – but of course it wasn’t. The first time I threw a lump of clay down onto the wheel, it didn’t stick hard enough, so when the wheel began to go around the clay flew off at speed.

Plant pot

My first bowl plant pot, painted red

Over the course of the next few hours – with a break for tea and cake kindly brought in by another course attendee – I produced a number of ‘interesting’ pieces. What I realised is that you might have a particular bowl shape in mind, but the resulting piece won’t necessarily resemble the picture in your mind. My first ‘successful’ piece looked more like a plant pot. I was able to paint this piece too, and chose a nice bright red for it (no patterns – I’m far too inartistic for that!). Sadly we only had time to paint one piece, but the natural clay is still a nice earthy colour.

bowl

Successful bowl

I tried to make so many standard bowls, but they all collapsed, until finally – success! Towards the end of the session I decided to have a go at making some egg cups. Despite being a proper adult I still eat my boiled eggs out of shot glasses, so the thought of owning an actual egg cup was a pleasing one. I’m not convinced the first egg cup will be able to stand up on its own, but the second seems sturdier.

Egg cups

Egg cups

My creations will need to be fired in the kiln twice and then they will be ready for pickup. I had lots of fun in my pottery class and I would definitely recommend seeing if an FE college near you runs similar classes – it’s something different to do and you feel a real sense of achievement when you have created something.

Myddelton House Gardens

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Myddelton House

I went out to explore north London on Sunday and discovered a wonderful little gem in Enfield. Myddelton House Gardens cover eight acres and have been restored to reflect their fascinating origins as the work of Edward Augustus Bowles, a self-taught gardener, artist and botanist.

The Gardens

Myddelton House was built in around 1812 and named after Sir Hugh Myddelton, an engineering ‘genius’ who created the New River, which flowed through the grounds between 1613 and 1968. The Bowles family lived in the house for many years. Edward Augustus Bowles was born in 1865 and, apart from a few years away, lived in Myddelton House until his death in 1954. His work on the Gardens brought him fame, and his philanthropic actions made him a beloved local figure.

The Gardens

I reached the Gardens via Turkey Street Overground station followed by a short walk. There were a few other visitors around, but the place was pleasantly quiet. The house is beautiful, but not open to the public; a small museum recounts Bowles’ life and work, displaying some interesting artefacts. There is also a small cafe, which I spent some time in after exploring the Gardens.

The Gardens

There is lots to see: ornate lawns give way to wildflower meadows, yew and pine trees can be seen, despite the lateness of the year crocuses flower sporadically. There is a ‘Tulip Lawn’, which I imagine is impressive in the summer, and the wisteria apparently flowers beautifully in May. One corner of the Gardens is dubbed the ‘Lunatic Asylum’ as it is dedicated to unusual plants.

A glasshouse

Bowles liked to collect random artefacts to decorate his gardens, including stones from London Bridge, pieces from the original St Paul’s Cathedral, and the Enfield Market Cross. There are some beautiful Victorian glasshouses which are still used to grow fruit and vegetables.

Enfield Market Cross

Enfield Market Cross

I was very impressed by the Gardens and I imagine they are even more beautiful in the spring and summer. I would like to go back, and I’d recommend them to anyone in the local area.

FACTS

Address: Bulls Cross, Enfield, EN2 9HG

Website: visitleevalley.org.uk/en/content/cms/nature/gardens-heritage/myddelton-house-gardens

Opening Hours: 10am-5pm (or dusk if earlier)

Prices: Free

Jewellery brand of the month: You Make Me Design

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I can’t believe I haven’t chosen this brand as my brand of the month yet, as they’ve been around for a while and I own several of their pieces. The brand is:

YOU MAKE ME DESIGN

You Make Me Design is run by Emily, who is inspired by all things cute, vintage and kitsch. She makes all her pieces in her North East coastal studio (another reason to love this brand, as I am also from the North East!).

My absolute favourite item from this brand is my Scared Pumpkin Brooch, now available once again for a limited time for Halloween.

Scared Pumpkin Brooch

These Medusa Statement Earrings are new this year, and they’re on my wishlist.

Medusa Earrings

I love this super fun Monster Crunch Crisp Necklace, too.

Monster Crunch Necklace

This Party Tiger Statement Brooch comes with a detachable magnetic mask. (His friend the Party Cheetah comes with a detachable party hat!)

Party Tiger

The Pasta Statement Necklace is colourful and cheerful.

Pasta Statement Necklace

You Make Me Design can be found at:

Website: youmakemedesign.co.uk

Etsy: etsy.com/shop/YouMakeMeDesign

Not on the High Street: notonthehighstreet.com/youmakemedesign

Instagram: instagram.com/youmakeme_design

Restored Almshouse Tour – Geffrye Museum

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Statue of Sir Robert Geffrye

Statue of Sir Robert Geffrye

The Geffrye Museum in Hoxton may be closed for refurbishment, but the tours of the restored almshouse are still going ahead. Previously, you had to turn up on the day and hope for the best, but now it’s possible to book in advance for some Tuesday and Wednesday tours. I took the day off work and signed up.

Restored almshouse

Restored almshouse

The almshouses were founded by Sir Robert Geffrye, chair of the Ironmongers’ Company. Most of the almshouses have now been converted into the museum, but one still remains, and has been restored to how it might have looked in the past.

Eighteenth-century room

Eighteenth-century room

Eighteenth-century room

Eighteenth-century room

Eighteenth-century room

Eighteenth-century room

On the ground floor, one room looks as it might have done in the eighteenth century, home to a poor pensioner who may have fallen on hard times. The fireplace is large and functional, as the inhabitant would have had to cook their own meals here. They also had to furnish their own room. The chairs here are very low because when their feet rotted – as they would often do in poorer houses – they were cut off and the rest of the chair preserved. Candles were usually made of tallow – the cheapest substance available – and were kept locked in an iron container so they were not eaten by mice. Pensioners got a pension that was roughly equivalent to £8,000 per annum, but they were subject to various rules and regulations, such as a 7pm curfew (9pm in summer), compulsory attendance at church or chapel, and a ban on swearing, fornication, adultery and other undesirable behaviours.

Nineteenth-century room

Nineteenth-century room

Nineteenth-century room

Nineteenth-century room

Nineteenth-century room

Nineteenth-century room

Upstairs, another room is set out as it might have looked during the late nineteenth century. By this time, some of the rules and regulations had been relaxed, and pensioners enjoyed a larger allowance – equivalent to approx £16,000 per annum. However, the owners of the almshouses looked for a “better class” of inhabitants, who had to prove they could supplement their pensions with a small income. Many inhabitants at this time were retired governesses, respectable spinsters with not much money who had no home of their own, having spent their lives in other peoples’.

These inhabitants did not have to cook their own food – and many did not know how to, anyway. Therefore, the fireplace here is much more decorative. Light was provided by oil lamps, though the flickering nature of the ‘fish-tail’ lamps meant that many people still preferred to read by candlelight. There are many more objects in this room than the other, a testament to the industrial revolution which ensured mass-produced furniture and decorative items were available at lower cost. The room is also filled with photographs, popular with Victorians, and with souvenirs of holidays, such as a booklet about Scarborough.

Adjacent to the two almshouse rooms are two small exhibition spaces, looking at the history of the almshouses. In the basement there is an indoor toilet, installed during the nineteenth century, and a laundry room, though many of the Victorian inhabitants would have sent their laundry out.

The almshouse tour is only £5 (plus booking fee if pre-booked via Eventbrite) and is run by knowledgeable volunteers. While the main Geffrye Museum is closed, it’s well worth checking out.

FACTS

Address: 136 Kingsland Road, London, E2 8EA

Website: geffrye-museum.org.uk/whatson/events/almshouse-tours

Opening Hours: Selected Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays – check website for details

Prices: £5