Saturday did not look very inviting, strong winds and some rain. We had
already decided it was a day for London, so we headed for Charing Cross
Rd, going into bookshops and a specialist travel and map bookshop.
We got a map of the Orpington area, as there are some decent walks there
which we can do in the winter. After a good cappuchino in Aroma cafe, we
moved on to the South Bank to get tickets for the night's performance in
the Purcell rooms. They are part of the Royal Festival Hall complex,
covering music and theatre productions. We got the tickets and then
decided to get a pre-theatre meal in the Archduke restaurant cum cafe.
It is ironically named, being situated beneath the arches of the
Waterloo to Charing Cross railway line. It is quite atmospheric hearing
the rumble of trains passing overhead.
We had a great evening on the front row of the auditorium. The night's
offering was performed by the London Harpsichord Ensemble, comprising of
two violins, viola, cello, double bass, oboe, flute and harpsichord.
The acoustics were brilliant and the playing, first class.
We heard Vivaldi - Concerto in F for flute, strings and continuo
Albinoni - Concerto in B for oboe strings and continuo
Bach - Concerto in D Minor for harpsichord and strings
Vivaldi - Concerto in D for strings
Telemann - Concerto in F Minor for oboe and strings
Bach - Suite No 2 in B Minor for flute and strings
After the interval, Louise asked me if the woman behind us was Iris
Murdoch, the novelist. I thought she meant someone sitting behind us
in the performance and said,I hadn't bothered to look around the place.
"You're not very observant tonight Glenn." Then it transpired that
she meant a lady reading a book about 2 tables from us during the interval.
I don't know what Iris Murdoch looks like, so the question was rather
academic, but I was able to tell her the title of the book the lady was
reading. Not so unobservant, eh?
Sunday was ill forcast, but ignored the weathermen and was crisp and
clear. Making the most of it, we drove to a nearby large village called
Westerham. It was the home of some famous sons, including William Pitt
the younger, the prime minister who abolished slavery in England,
General Wolfe, who led the battle which killed him and took Quebec from
the French, and Sir Winston Churchill whose country seat, Chartwell,
lies about 2 miles from the village. Both Churchill and Wolfe have their
statues on the village green, one waving his sword and the other slumped
on a seat. You can work out which is which.
Westerham is very attractive and has preserved much of it's architecture
from the past. There seems to be little newer than the early Georgian
period, and it is all beautifully built. In one of the most affluent
areas of Kent, it has many antique shops in it's antique high street.
Pitt's cottage is a lovely little place. I used to go there for cream
teas about 20 years ago, but it is no longer a restaurant/tea house.
It and other old properties in the village look as though they are
bulging out in all directions, like a large girl in a tight dress.
After admiring the place we slipped down an alleyway leading to a local
stream and open country. The walk was very energetic, with more ups and
downs than a whore's drawers. The going was very muddy, made worse by
the fact that many of the paths are also bridle paths. Horses make a
real mess of wet ground, so we had to take diversions to avoid going in
over our boots. Lots of woodland streams and ancient trees gnarled into
grotesque shapes, casting strange light patterns on the wood floor.
The over-imaginative could see witches, wolves or hob-goblins there, but
actually, it is truly beautiful.
Again many mushrooms, including the Fly Agaric, also known as the magic
mushroom (Amanita Muscaria) which is common here. It was prized by the
ancient druids who reputedly used it to induce a trance-like state
during their ceremonies. Modern New-age travellers also like it for it's
We got to French St, a tiny hamlet surrounded by lovely country, blinked
and it was gone. The sun was very bright, but as happens this time of
the year, it's effect was negligible.
We found the chestnut season had started and ate a few raw.
We passed by Chartwell, pausing to admire the views and ascended a steep
hill to another large wood. After a short while it was evident we were
lost. I asked Louise for the map. She passed it to me, it was the
Orpington one. Not much use in a wood near Westerham. Again, I forgot
the compass, so I used the sun and the sound of distant cars to get my
bearings. After walking along a narrow path between pines, silver
birches and rhododendrons we got to the start of a long trough shaped
valley. I recognised it and was able to get back to Westerham following
the valley, which is flanked by wooded slopes covered in a rich
diversity of hues. Soon after we skirted along the edge of a string of
long, narrow trout ponds and finally climbed the hill back to Westerham.