Without doubt the finest section of the London Loop is number five. I took BestMate for the full six-mile sub-Croydon hike, because the weather was ace and because he needed to be home by four. The heights of Riddlesdown were glorious, dotted with skylarks and cowslips, plus an unexpected flock of goats atop the chalk cliffs. "I'm afraid there's a payback for this descent," I said, which he soon discovered was a considerable number of steps. Hawkhurst Wood was thick with bluebells. I had been hoping to impress him with Kenley Airfield, but alas none of the gliders were out so we had to make do with an observatory detour instead. Up Rydons Lane we helped an elderly dogwalker from Bermondsey, keen to escape the area, by directing her to the nearest bus stop. Then we stopped for a pint and some lunch outside London's southernmost pub, The Fox, hunkering down in the company of several families who'd hiked no further than the car park. Happy Valley proved even more glorious then Riddlesdown, its dry chalk notch winding between banks of freshly burgeoning green. And finally we strode the ridgetop route across Farthing Downs, overlooking pristine suburbia on both sides, before descending past the City of London cattlegrid just in time for the train home. Without doubt, the finest section of the London Loop.
Easter Saturday, April 20, 2019
The weather is everything Great Yarmouth's traders could have hoped for, and the seafront is buzzing. Thousands have driven to the coast, lured by the promise of sunshine and fun, only to discover that sea breezes have dragged the temperature down by several degrees but what the hell we're here now. Those with windbreaks set up on the sand, while others enjoy an end-to-end stroll or hide away in the busy amusement arcades. Everywhere is serving chips, and most visitors are partaking. Mind the manure as you cross the segregated horse-and-carriageway. On Britannia Pier gypsy Romany Petulengro stands in her doorway awaiting truthseekers she must have known weren't coming. The Tourist Information Office is entirely empty because everyone already knows why they're here, and it isn't for the culture. Tattoos are on full display across backs, arms and ankles, and gently reddening. At the Pleasure Beach the longest queues are for the wooden rollercoaster, first rattled in 1932. Step back a few streets to find the squashed terraces where the locals live, sandwiching the medieval city walls, then keep going to reach the dockside and its highly impressive heritage waterfront. The Nelson Museum is closed on Saturdays. The Elizabethan House Museum is closed on Saturdays. The Row Houses are closed on Saturdays. I have picked a bad day to visit the historic side of town, so have to make do with people-watching down the coastal strip, and the obligatory bag of chips.
Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019
Once the Easter roast has been devoured, step out through the patio doors and let's sit in my brother's back garden. Every piece of wooden furniture has been removed from the summerhouse and brushed down, then carefully oriented to face the sun. Cushions have been added where appropriate. For reasons nobody is able to adequately explain, hoverfly density is at its greatest to the rear of the garden by the big hedge. A pigeon takes too loud an interest in the birdbox and is vigorously shooed away. A pack of cards sourced yesterday from Great Yarmouth's amusement arcades proves too flimsy for outdoor use, what with the light breeze, so a sturdier set is requisitioned instead. Later an impossibly hard jigsaw makes an appearance, its 500 tiny pieces supposedly forming the image of a pile of coloured marbles, although probably not for a few weeks yet. Would you like a mini pack of Mini Eggs? Anyone for drinks? Before the first grandparent departs, activities pause for the capture of a set of family photographs in various combinations. Parents and offspring, husband and wife, all the boys please, everyone. In 50 years time these will be the photos on the mantelpiece, assuming photos and mantelpieces survive, to remind the youngest here of faces long passed and to act as genealogical curiosities for their children. Smile please.
Easter Monday, April 22, 2019
One week on, Extinction Rebellion has not been extinguished. Waterloo Bridge may have been cleared and Oxford Circus may have lost its yacht but Marble Arch remains a traffic-halting bastion. Its central island is covered with pop-up tents, banners have been hung by the pedestrian crossings and a stage blocks the outer carriageway. Up on the platform one of the organising committee is explaining about the decentralised network of screen-printers they got to make all the flags, and at key points the more woke members of the audience wave their hands rather than applauding because it's more inclusive. The Radical Wellbeing tent offers yoga, acupressure and Earth wisdom. Meet at 2pm by the family tent for de-escalation training. A long line curves off from the trestle table serving a vegan meal to those whose provisions ran out days ago, while others hotfoot to Pret or M&S for drinks and sandwiches. Observers are free to wander through the site, but the majority of those here are the committed, marked by hourglass badges and with an air of earnest engagement. The full age range is represented, from young children to the concerned retired, but with a bulge in the crusty twenties. Many will be heading back to school or college tomorrow, be they students or teachers, but this final ER hub shows no signs of fading away while there's a planet still to be saved.