Local Jewels on a Winter’s Day: Herne Hill Farmer’s Market.

P1000271Last Sunday was warm(ish) and sunny (for February!)


Boz and I took the opportunity to walk down to the Herne Hill Farmer’s Market.

It’s a half hour walk each way, if walking at approaching  jogging pace, which we love to do.

Everyone seemed to be out, enjoying the gift of such a beautiful sunny Sunday in February.

The vast green expanse of Brockwell park was filled with different people doing their thing – joggers looking red, hot and worried (why did they all look so worried?  Those watches they glance at with a rhymetic regularity that matches their pace, seem to contribute to the stress…)  Children with brightly coloured wellies and scooters (but no sense of direction), parents pushing swaddled babies in pushchairs, couples perfecting the ability to walk in unison, arms tightly entwined around each other.  A great view of London basking in Spring rays from the top of the hill.


Herne Hill Market was its usual frenzy of excitement and eccentrics, enthusiastically engaging their urban admirers about the origins and authenticity of their products as they so reliably do.

The apples and pears are always worth the walk in themselves – a burst of flavour and texture that is way beyond anything that the ‘super’markets can offer… Worth paying more than you could get away with, for a bag of non picture-perfect fruits – duller, rougher skinned and less uniformly shaped than usual.  But for all of that, far more perfect.  Crisp, juicy, ripe and so full of flavour that you can almost totally taste the goodness, the lack of air miles, refrigeration and  polish.

The last picture had to be sprouts – my fav!

Note the 6-Nations cup cakes too – these enterprising entrepreneurs don’t want to miss a trick (!)

And here’s the magician / comedian / musician giving a free performance on the ‘street piano’,  a very welcome growing trend in London –


What better way to combine the green ethics of ‘upcycling’ with an increasing awareness in the importance of celebrating social spaces and local communities than by individuals donating their unwanted pianos to their community.  (The bucket was a ‘drum’ that he was encouraging a spectator to use to add to the musical splendour – not for collecting coins, and the piano, as the photo shows, was well covered in art…)

Finally, to make the absolute most of the welcome rays on that first weekend of February,                       someone had laid out deck chairs and fake grass, to create a ‘beach’.


If nothing else, it proves what a great imagination we Londoner’s have 🙂


Chelsea Physic Garden.

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Last weekend was the annual ‘Open Garden Squares weekend’ run by London Parks & Gardens Trust (www.opensquares.org/).  I was asked to accompany my father to one of the gardens, and could choose which one – on looking through the booklet, there were so many that I would have loved to visit – what a shame that the weekend could not last for seven days!

The Chelsea Physic Garden it had to be.  Founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, the garden was originally established to train apprentices from the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London in the use of medicinal plants.  Today, it provides just under 4 acres of fascinating, tranquil flora.  I have heard excellent reports from everyone I know who has visited, so was keen to see for myself.  Easy to get there by tube from Victoria, or a direct bus to the Kings Road from Streatham.

The area is divided into clearly defined and well thought out spaces, to educate visitors about the broad range of uses that plants have been put to through the ages, and in the present day, for remedies and pharmaceutical medicine across the world, alcohol production, and musical instruments among others.  The garden also features the largest outdoor fruiting olive tree growing in Britain, a living plant amphitheatre, Victorian fern house, Mediterranean plant collections in traditional style glasshouses and the oldest rock garden in Europe.

We arrived in time for the Open Squares’ special, early Sunday morning opening.  The walk along Chelsea’s streets from our transport had been a treat itself, even on a dull morning the grand villas of Chelsea and open tree-lined streets lift one’s spirits.  The entrance to the garden is hidden along a beautiful high brick wall, reminiscent of the book ‘The secret garden‘.  Stepping through the heavy iron gates was no disappointment – an immediate feeling of calm tranquility – a secret garden indeed.

The proximity to the Thames and high walls create an artificially warm atmosphere, allowing an impressive and fascinating array of native and non-native species to grow happily, alongside ponds teaming with wildlife (though their tadpoles were quite a long way behind mine at home, so perhaps I’ve created an even more successful micro-climate here in South London!)

My lasting impression was one of inspiration – it feels like a plantsman’s garden – created and tended for the interest of the individual plants within it rather than their contribution to impressive or dramatic planting schemes, as at Wisley.  But it also feels like a real garden – clearly tended with care and foresight by impressively visionary and knowledgable gardeners, but real in the sense that the plants were healthy, but not all perfect – isn’t that the way that gardening should be going / growing… rather than relying on easy fixes in the form of toxic chemicals at the first sign of something being naturally imperfect?

I have read many rave reviews of the cafe and quality of food at the garden – a good place to stop for a cup of tea and slice of cake, if not lunch – it was too early for either yesterday, but the visit to these elegant gardens was itself rewarding sustenance for the mind and soul.

If the aim of the garden is to foster a greater understanding and closeness between people and the plants and vegetation that form such a large, if anonymous, part of our everyday lives, then it fulfilled its remit for me.

To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves”.  Mohandas K Gandhi.


Everyday beauty on a London street.


Walking to work yesterday, I felt the sun on my face for the first time in weeks –

doesn’t everything feel – and look – SO VERY much better in the sun.


Familar streets, but I noticed the wonderful new spring flowers –

peeping through fences, over walls,

around gates and struggling with overgrown shrubs trying to strangle them,

bulging over pavements…

Fresh colours, sparkling in the weak morning sunshine.


The streets I walk along every day are busy,

noisy and usually bustling at that slightly frenzied time of the morning.

But there is so much beauty too.Image

I had my phone with me, and thought –

let’s take a moment, & just a few photos of flowers in the next dozen of front gardens to celebrete the Spring.


What a wonderful variety of colours, textures and scents…

and this was just a few homes in a short stretch of a local street.

My phone’s camera doesn’t do them justice,

but they are all beautiful in themselves, and in the context of the London street – a tiny treat.


The warmth, pleasure & uplifting feeling of inner tranquility struck me:

nature has the power to revive the spirits despite rush, fatigue & the day ahead!


It reminded me of a talk I went to last year by Anthony Robbins – www.tonyrobbins.com/

some of  which was really moving and memorable –

one of his messages was – what you focus on gets bigger – 

I believe that is very true, and have tried to focus on positive things as a result…


How easy, yesterday morning, to focus on the beauty to be found on the streets in London,

and the everyday beauty around us all the time, if only we can see or hear it.

Sadly, the very special person, who I went to the Anthony Robbins talk with

did not perhaps hear that phrase in the same way – walking through London was a tortous business –

focusing painfully on the loud sounds, the bustle and the hastle… stress, upset, unbearable assault on the senses…

Yet on the same street, yesterday, I found beauty,

the buzzing of bees as they found the early honeysuckle,

the purring of a cat stretching in the sun, and birds singing to welcome in the day –

maybe police sirens, yelling mums trying to get children out of the door, and impatient dads revving the car too –

but in the background, not something to focus on today –

the everyday beauty of  nature  is such a precious treat,

and worth focusing on amid the rush.