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Londonmanstan heads South

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Londoners are very aware of the geography of the city. The river divides North Londoners from South Londoners as if there were two London races and two separate cities. North West Londoners believe Essex is Mordor and crossing the River Lee is definately more challenging than crossing the Rubicon. And above all London is defined by Becks famous tube map . Many a time I’ve told people in conversation that I live in Southgate and a look of puzzlement stares back at me. Mention that its near Cockfosters and a smile of recognition locates my suburb by reference to Beck’s map in their cerebral Tom Tom.

So to cross the river three times for this north Londoner in the first ten days of 2012 was quite something!
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2012 has arrived!!

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It’s curious how you spend hundreds of days getting to December then, like a flash January  is upon us and there are suddenly 300+ days till next December. For the Minchenden Estate Walking Society(MEWS), this will be our 8th year of walks, and for the Lynton House Walkers, sponsored by Solicitors Lyndales, our third season.  So what is in store? Well for MEWS  a mix as before… a couple of London walks at either end of the season interspersed with half a dozen or so country walks which if last year was anything to go by might have to be rescheduled or cancelled whether through weather, weddings or other engagements.

2012 is promising to be an exciting year for the  UK and in particular  for  the  capital and the temptation to plan the programme around the Olympics/ the European Cup/ the Diamond Jubilee whilst appealing is likely to be resisted….although one of the great anniversaries that of that great Londoner Mr. Charles Dickens is bound to make at least a cameo appearance if not a full walk on part. (Please don’t remind me that Dickens was born in Portsmouth!!) And thats not all. There is the Boris v. Ken election in May and a whole raft of cultural programmes to tie in with this Olympic year.
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Boxing Day Walk on Hampstead Heath

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The need to get some fresh air and stretch ones legs is overwhelming after the pleasures of over eating and  drinking on Christmas Day and there is no more glorious place to ”take the air” than on Hampstead Heath. Boxing day 2011, like Christmas Day has been unseasonably mild-temperatures nudging fifteen degrees c.-about  nine above the average and fifteen degrees more than last years dramatically cold and white Christmas.

We parked at the bottom of Merton Lane with some difficulty, just above Highgate ponds where a cormorant was spreading its jet black wings perched on one of the orange buoys which marks the boundary for the swimmers. One man was braving the December temperatures, as a balding pate of a sixty something man bobbed up and down rhythmatically to an unflustered breast stroke. Not so cold today my daughter commented.
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Midtown magic in the heat

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For me, nothing beats wandering around London with the excuse of an organised walk on the horizon. The complexity and the surprises of London ensure that there is always something new to see or something previously ignored and noticed for the first time , or perhaps seen in a different way if viewed from a new angle. We walkers know that if you ever do a linear walk the walk back is a new and different experience. That might be obvious when looking at trees and fields but it is equally so with buildings and how they sit and jostle for prominence in city scapes.

So today I’m in familar territory starting and ending at my office in Tavistock Square , one of London’s prettiest squares, in my biased opinion. Bloomsbury’s first square as you head south from the Euston Road is squeezed between the universities to the west, the great communications hub of London to the north with the Euston Road and the three great rail terminals and to the south, the business end of this part of London, centered on Holborn, with its lawyers and accountants, and creative and service industries. Squeezed between the City to the East and the West End to the west this wedge of central London has it all and yet remains the least known part of Central London for many Londoners as well as for tourists.
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Acorns and conkers from an ancient wood

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I don’t know about you but there are few things in life that feel me with awe more than an ancient tree. We ourselves are generally living longer but even now notching up a century for us humans usually deserves a round of applause and a letter from the Queen. So to see a mighty Oak that was already a mature tree when the first Queen Elizabeth was on the throne demands at the very least a great deal of respect. And in Hatfield Forest we should, if you’ll excuse the pun (well almost), have a field day as there are hundreds of these majestic giants with their bizarre twisted boughs, huge crowns of branches and knarled and potted barks.

Hopefully one of our walkers will be an expert but regardless of whether we can identify the trees in this unique habitat or not,I am sure the walk will be particularly rewarding as the trees turn from green to their autumn colours. And such weird shapes to enjoy and photograph as well as the prolific bird life and if we’re lucky the sight of the forest herds of deer.
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