Sunday, 2 October 2011

Indian Summer.

The last few days in South West London have been glorious. I always think St Mary's is at its best this time of year with the pale Autumn light, lengthening shadows and dry crisp piles of leaves building up in the piazza. Walpole's house, now fully restored to its bright white colouring, absorbs the pink sunsets beautifully. Cycling up to the campus - all feels well in the world. This is a marvellous place to study.

Beyond our little paradise Richmond and Kingston were both full to the brim this weekend with Londoners out on a final summer jaunt before the colder winds of Winter sweep in. The towpath was crowded with children, dogs and couples hand in hand, the parks covered in picnickers.

Late on Sunday, with all the work for the week ahead planned, Eleanor and I went on a long bike ride around Bushey Park, which lies just south of Teddington, about a mile from campus. We took a circular route coming in at the north entrance and heading down Christopher Wren's grand Chestnut Avenue before turning eastwards on the more rural Cobbler's Walk toward Hampton Wick Gate.

Cobbler's Walk is named after a local shoemaker Timothy Bennet, who in the mid 1700s managed, through the courts, to establish a public right of way through the Royal Park, much to the consternation of the local ranger Lord Halifax. When asked why he'd gone to the trouble and risk Bennet replied that he was 'unwilling to leave the world worse than he found it.' A memorial dedicated to him and all those who follow his creed lies by the gate.

We swept south past the Diana fountain and back up through the woodland gardens to our starting place. It's rutting season in the park and the stags, like prehistoric monsters, could be heard calling, braying and roaring from every corner of the park.

There have been stories of a particularly aggressive sixteen pronged 'beast' this year whose been terrorising the many photographers who come to take photographs - although the truth is probably that with the hot weather more people than usual have come to watch the rituals and a few have got too close. Keeping our distance, fully aware how much, to a shortsighted stag, a pair of handlebars might look like the antlers of a rival, we carefully made our way out of the park and headed for home.

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