With a need to shake the cobwebs we start the day with a long walk through the gardens. I can’t resist revisiting my birdie friends. They’ve drawn quite a crowd, but the birds are not having any of it – wrong treats are on offer, clearly, they are not fans of bread. There’s a lot more birds today. They peer down waiting for a better offer and I’m happy happy to oblige. Almonds flush them out and I’m lucky to have six or so swoop down the to claim their treat. Two of the little ones too. I think they’re even more thrilling than the parrots. Chris, this time ready, scores photographic proof.
I learn from Google that the green parrots have become an unaddressed pest. Thought to be from a private release/escape, their numbers across the UK are estimated to be in the thousands and heading north with birds expected to hit Scotland in the near future. They are hotly debated, as I guess all introduced creatures are. It’s thought they came from the Indian subcontinent. I can see how they’re very at home here. If they eat acorns or chestnuts it would be paradise in the parklands.
It seems our walk is destined to have a birdie theme. We walk around the Serpentine lake where the water birds are in charge. It’s so much earlier than when we usually are in London and this is best evidenced by the proliferation of ducklings and cygnets. Everyone has babies it seems and they’re warily watchful, but generally trusting as we admire their broods. Lots of different breeds on show, and interestingly, it seems that there is nursery corner of the lake where all the mothers congregate. Must be the duck version of mummy and me coffee club. Much fluffy cuteness. Little ducks are very sweet.
The park is lushly green. There’s definitely a bonus to all the rain England gets. It’s funny how the sudden change in seasons displaces your brain. I find that every time we travel, it takes write a while to process that my year now consists of spring, summer, autumn, summer then spring again. Especially on arrival at either end, it takes the brain a while to adjust.
After our walk we set off to explore the canals. We are near Little Venice, part of the canal system that, pre rail, dominated goods transport. These days whilst still used for occasional transport, apparently still a preferred way of delivering animals to London Zoo, the area near us appears to be enjoying a commercial resurgence. Restaurants have sprung up in a newly developed corner, their newness a sharp contrast to the ancient noddy boats that line the canal. We wander a fair way up before deciding to take a cruise. We get of course, a cheeky commentary. It must be on the job description of all english tour guides, being exceeding cheeky. For his cheek though, he’s incredibly knowledgeable and we find out, also a canal resident. The noddy boats we saw are all residential and highly prized placements. After all, where where else do you get to live on water in London?
We learn about how the canals were built with private investment, completely changing the way freight was handled, from horse to water then eventually, but too quickly for the investors, to rail. The canals were built by hand, by Irish immigrants. No excavators then, by hand! These days the boats are powered by motor but in the early days, they were pulled by horse. The horses walked alongside the canal and towed the boats by rope. You can still see where the ropes carved groves into the stone work of bridges and archways. When they came to a bridge where the towpath ended, the horses would be walked over whilst the boat was eased through the tunnel by leggers – this was someone’s job, to hang around the bridge entrance, jump on and “leg” the boats through, butt on boat, legs up against the walls of the tunnel. Seriously.
We also learn about the preference to bring zoo animals in this way (we pass the zoo) bar giraffes who of course don’t under the bridges. Apparently it creates less stress on them as it’s such a gentle method of travel. We pass the now electrical substation, once coal run by the canal boats and the Gilbeys gin distillery, now apartments and offices, which also heavily relied on the canal boats. These buildings were made so the boats could pull in under them, be loaded, then set off.
What eagle eyes Chrissy did not spot was that trip was one way. We find ourselves let off in Camden market. Luckily this is no hardship. We’re in the middle of the food stalls where all nationalities and cultures are represented. It’s fabulous, multicultural benefits at their best and we’re both cursing that we’d already had lunch, hours ago. A nice Ethiopian man makes me a coffee though, then after a short exploration, it’s off to find the Underground to head home. A soft rain settles to add to the joy of public transport. Ha.
Dinner awaits tonight, with Michael and his lovely girlfriend Amy. We have tapas at Iberica – excellent food and company. Its great to meet Amy and catch up with Michael and hear all about their travels and plans for the future. A fabulous end to the day, marred only by our train line being out – closed by flooding from last night’s rain.