I still remember fondly past twenty-mile hikes, walking down and, more importantly, up the Grand Canyon, but age is catching up on me, I fear. We recently returned from a visit to my beautiful daughter in London, who has inherited my passion for walking. (Be very careful what you wish for) And the point of this rambling start is that we averaged a mere seven miles a day across the metropolis - and I was exhausted.
The excuses tripped readily to mind, and yes, I'm a master of the self-exculpatory excuse, or so I'm told: I was breathing stale air and exhaust fumes, the overwhelming and ceaseless noise, the sheer pressure of people. Whatever. At the end of the day I was tired. And I hated it.
On that first day we walked from South Kensington to Fulham, across Putney Bridge, and almost as far as Wimbledeon Common.
Below is the Gatehouse to Fulham Palace and Gardens. Past Bishops of London used to live in the far grander house beyond, but it hit me again how in such a vast city little gems like this cling on. The gardens once extended to 136 acres. Now a mere 13 acres survive.
The 'Bishop's Tree' Peering from the top is Bishop Beilby Porteus. He was a man of strong moral principle, concerned with what he saw as the moral decay of the nation during the 18th century. He campaigned against the wickedness, immorality and licentious behaviour at such venues as pleasure gardens and theatres.When the Thames froze over in 1789, the Bishop and his wife walked over the river to Putney. If we are to believe legends he also liked to climb trees, and is the supposed prototype of Mr Collins in Jane Eyre's Pride and Prejudice.
Looks more like Friar Tuck
Into the knot garden
Putney Bridge taking you from Fulham to Putney and Wimbledon Common. It's also the place where Lady Gwyneth Morgan in my novel 'The Gift' confronts her demons. My demons were minor - an overwhelming desire for a stiff drink and a couch
Another day we walked to Holland Park and then on to Kensington Palace, down Millionaire's Row, collapsing at last on Kensington Roof Garden over a very large Tankeray Gimlet. There I considered how green are large swathes of London...and how many more I had to walk through.
The view from Kensington Roof Gardens. In the distance you can see the Shard, Albert Hall and various other landmarks
It was a short respite before the final walk to Notting Hill. This involved walking through
the very weird 'Millionaire's Row'. As soon as you pass through the gates, and the warning that no photographs are allowed, you enter a different world. It's like Diagonal Alley for the very rich. You are aware of the silence, the large white mansions to either side. Many but not all are Embassies. I imagine in time these will be replaced by some of the richer Charities. There is no life or joy here, instead a sense of oppressive wealth and all the silence money can buy.
On the other side we walked as far as Notting Hill then retraced our steps to Moscow Street and the fabulous Santorini Restaurant, where we were served by a waiter who spoke seven languages but English less so.
Our final day saw us walking through Brompton Cemetery where we were caught up amongst thousands of celebratory Chelsea fans. We struggled through to Brompton Oratory, which was wonderful because I could sit down there, eyes closed, pretending to pray. A drink at the wonderful 'Wine Sampler' revived me. This is a very neat idea. You put x amount of money on a card, and then sample as much wine as the card allows. I sampled stuff I'd never be able to afford in normal circumstances - and realised what I was missing. Then it was the final tramp through Hyde Park, Paddington Station, and home.