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Monday, 9 July 2012

Getting some Sun in the Chess Valley

We've been feeling a bit fed up in Woolf Villa lately because T did something to his back. He's had various tests and it's baffling the doc. I don't think it's long term serious, but it hurts, so I'm staying home a bit more to keep an eye on him and sharpen up my medical skills. Like, I carefully check him every day for viruses or a sore throat... just say "Aah!" like this cat.

And I check in case he has lost his bones altogether like the cat below :D


(Ph: www.sweetperfectioncakes.deviantart.com
The rain is continuing to come down, too, but there are some good things.

Our friends and neighbours who spend most of the year in Mauritius are back for the rest of the summer now. It's always good to see them. They have all kinds of projects in Mauritius, including growing heliconias and bananas, and they brought us back some vanilla rum with a vanilla pod inside (Mauritius grows sugar cane and vanilla).

They also brought us a book by one of their friends, about the journals of Rose de Freycinet, who sailed round the world in the early 19th century on a military ship, disguised initially as a man, on a scientific mission. (And yes, she stopped by at Mauritius.)

It's on my list to visit Mauritius one day, and see all our friends' projects for ourselves. Meanwhile, who could feel bad when presented with top gifts like this? And also, we had a good day just before T did his back, AND the weather was also good, so I'll tell you about that. We decided to take the Tube out to the country.




So, walked to the local tube station and got a train within four minutes. (I sometimes think we are so busy moaning about the Tubes that we sometimes just don't appreciate how good they can be)
Rickmansworth was about half an hour away. Once a small country town, "Ricky," as the locals call it, now has some development but it is surrounded by nature reserves and green belt coutnryside. We took a footpath along the little River Chess. And first thing we saw were some weird trees in a woodland. This one is half alive and half dead, but it looked to me as if it had an animal face -

what do you think?


The Chess is a bright, shallow chalk-stream, running through woods and meadows, spread out beyond its banks right now because it's been so wet.
Ambling along we saw these really ugly whiskery horses in a big field. Knock knees and sway backs well in evidence. I looked around for tinkers whose horses they might be. but couldn't spot any. Maybe they were residents of a home for broken-down horses, I thought next. But

then I saw some of them were only foals, and rather sweet they were too....not broken down at all.

So I asked a friend who breeds horses about them when I got back. She said that horses like this used to be dumped by tinkers wanting free grazing. They're now known as "'traditional cobs' and well marked ones are in demand, crossed with carthorse breeds like CLydesdale and Shires and selected for substance, colour and hairiness (look at those fetlocks.)
"Ooh, that's a funny sheep" I thought, before realising that it was WAY too big for a sheep, not to mention the wrong shape. I believe it is an alpaca. If you are an animal expert, let me know, but I've never seen alpacas farmed in the Home Counties before.
And then a little further along we came to

a watercress farm. Watercress used to be a cottage industry in the area but this is the only traditional farm left. It's a pretty remote place, although you can get a car there, and there was nobody about at all. But a ramshackle fridge was standing outside a hut nearby, containing bags of cress for sale plus some cherries from someone's tree. The price was low and I would have taken a photo of it except that at this point I was stung by a wasp (which distracted me somewhat, haha).
It was very hot and I was tempted to just eat the cress from the bag, but didn't. Fresh watercress needs to be thoroughly washed. Look closely at the above pic and you might spot a duck waddling happily around one of the streams which feeds the beds, no doubt crapping in it too. We had the cress (well washed) for supper that evening, though, and it was really, really fabulous. The supermarket can't compare.
We then reached a little dam surrounded by reeds with a few yellow flag irises still peeping out even though their season is nearly over

Go closer and you'll see not only is there a very old statue decorating the weir, but local ducks were spending their time trying to struggle to the top of it. I don't know why, when it was perfectly easy for them to fly. Ducks aren't renowned for their intelligence, or maybe it was some kind of competitive duck thing.

All the rain has brought on the wild flowers very well, and I loved this beautiful spotted foxglove
which was near the Keep Out sign for an imposing mansion. This is Latimer Place, now a hotel, but once known as Latimer House and used for the interrogation of Nazi spies in the war. Slightly ironically, Joachim von Ribbentrop,
who would become Hitler's Foreign Minister, lived in Latimer very near the house. (Before the war obviously - little did he guess - he probably socialised with Lord Chesham who lived there at the time.

The Chess is good for fishing, - you can just see a fisherman below between the clumps of reeds on the opposite bank...
and (below) the same man, going home with his fish in his basket, tramping across the meadow.

We walked a measly eight and a half miles which didn't even achieve the full length of the Chess Valley Walk, I was surprisingly tired, so I had better do some more walking. But it showed what I often think, that the more closely you look at England, the more there is to see.
On the way back to the tube we checked out the Rickmansworth charity shops. I'm seeking oddments of 1960s Midwinter Spanish Garden china (below), to add to a huge box of it that I once bought from an old man at the side of the road. If I hadn't met the old man, I wouldn't have started collecting the china, but that's how it goes.

Rickmansworth charity shops didn't have any "Spanish Garden" but the train home came in TWO minutes. Yay!

40 comments :

  1. Gosh...where do I start today? I loved both kitties. They made me smile. Lovely gifts from your friends. I am so sorry about T's back! I love all of your photos. What a wonderful place Ricky looks to be. Your china is so beautiful!

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    1. Yeah, I love both kitties too! But the second one made me guffawed!

      p.s. I'm commenting on the reply section because I didn't know what & where to start my comments for all your adventures in that one post. ;)

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  2. A packed post Jenny, with so many delightful pictures. The foxgloves were beautiful.

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  3. Alpacas are appearing more over here. They look to friendly to be Llamas, some keep those alongside sheep as they chase of predators like foxes and people. Love the cats and the walk was a good little trip. Not sure about the statue of Poseidon(?) on the weir though.
    London folks need to get out to such places more I say. Shame about the back problem, almost impossible to determine what is wrong there. Lots of those around 'work' programmes.

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  4. I know I've said this before, but thank you for the visual vacation spot. I love traveling with your travel reports. The tree..not alive. Huh? the greenery around it makes it look alive. Right?

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    1. Me too! :)

      Thank you for the virtual travel that you gave us to experience, Jenny! ^^

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  5. I love this photo essay of your day in the country! Sometimes the most beautiful places are right in front of our noses.

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  6. Yep... Dat's an alpaca... there are a lot of them around our way near Lockwood...their wool is very warm...

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  7. It took a little to figure out what was the posture that boneless cat took. How flexible!
    The tree looks funny, like a lion or a tiger?

    As for foxgloves, they are really beautiful in crowds to look at but in another place they cause trouble. Here in some mountain site where there couldn't have been that foreign species grow naturally suddenly ran riot and began to threaten endangered indigenous species there. The volunteer group protecting those plants are trying hard to get rid of foxgloves. Why such a thing happened is unknown so far.

    "the more closely you look at England, the more there is to see" is quite true here as well.

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  8. I love long post, as much as you like to write I love to read. My eyesight has never been good and yet I have never stopped reading. I love the pics of the kitty's and the pics of your little adventure are priceless, I had never seen horses that looked like that and the sheep or lamb seemed to have a very long neck. I liked watching the stranger walking away with his prized catch maybe for his supper. The area was so pretty to me. Thanks for posting. Hugs

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  9. Thank you for taking us along on such a delightful outing! Love the idea of watercress farming, and the foxgloves truly are beautiful. The book about Rose de Freycinet sounds interesting, I've not heard of her before.
    As for the tube, every time I've been to London over the past 22 years or so, I very much appreciated how little time I had to spend waiting, and how there really is station nearby almost anywhere you want to go in the London area.

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  10. Yes, it's an alpaca.

    It's wonderful how much countryside can be found so close to London. (Wiltshire is only an hour away - I can show you a Down or two if ever you are this way. Plus a forest with trees over 1000 years old - think what stories they might tell!)

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  11. I was brought up in Harrow and Pinner, but I don't remember ever walking in the Chess Valley, unless my father took the family there for one of our regular picnics. It's easy to overlook these lovely places so close to home. I like the Spanish Garden china. Jenny's favourite china includes Emma Bridgwater, but she's trying not to add to the pieces we have already.

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  12. Two things amaze me. 1) that you have access to such a beautiful rural setting via the tube and 2) that an 8.5 mile walk doesn't seem like much to you. I'd be found in a heap beside the trail somewhere.

    As always, I enjoyed the pictures and the story to go with them.

    Darla

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  13. What a great place. I'm going to investigate going there myself. I agree we become so frustrated with the delays on the tubes we forget about the good side of how we can go so many places so easily.

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  14. My word, you've some treasures here. Every one a winner! My own favourites were the foxglove, the weird tree and the strange "sheep", but as I say, all top shots. Thanks very much for showing these.

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  15. Everything is so much more interesting in your part of the world. Mine is all burnt and dying. When it hits 116, that happens.
    When the English were here, all of Anna's friends wanted an English accent so that they could sound smart and special. Had to laugh!

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  16. How lovely to have such lovely countryside just a tube ride away.

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  17. Thanks for an intersting post.

    How right you are, that the more you look at England, the more there is to see. One place near Rickmansworth that we've visited was Chenies House. A private residence occasionally open to the public, it has been used as a film set many times. In fact, it appeared in an episode of "Lewis" a few months ago, as well as in Midsomer Murders, and Little Dorrit. An interetsing way to cope with the modern day costs of running an ancient money pit. A lovely old place with some nice gardens, a small family church nearby, and a nice tea shop -- crucial to our family travels!

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  18. Wonderful post today! I hope T's back is healing well by now. I haven't been on the Tube for 30 years, but my daughter used it last weekend to get around London. She said it was clean, on time, and she felt very safe riding where she did.

    I adore that tree!

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  19. Sorry about T's back. I hope he feels better soon.
    What nice gifts! And what a great trip! I love all the pictures and thank you for taking the time to take them and post them for those of us who so enjoy traveling with you. :):)

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  20. so green in the countryside! love the tour you gave!!
    our grass here is brown and crunchy.

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  21. A lovely read : as satisfying as an un-watched episode of Great British Railway Journeys".

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  22. Mauritius - I've never been there - it sounds like a dream to have a heliconium farm. I am sure it is a lot of work, but I'd love to give it a go :)I hope T feels better soon! And I had to look up the definition of 'tinker' - not a word we use in the US - thanks for adding a word to my vocab today ;)

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  23. The tree looks like a smiling cat, I think. Such lovely sights in this post. I really think I should visit someday.

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  24. Who would have thought that Rickmansworth could offer you such an interesting day out!

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  25. I used to know Rickmansworth quite well. Your photos have made me quite nostalgic but in a good way. Hope T feels better soon.

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  26. wow--from the beautiful china to the old mansion to the amazing statue---what an amazing post!!

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  27. Wow, I feel like I just embarked on an awesome journey. Lovely pics too! Thank you :-)

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  28. I came here earlier, but this time I want to tell you how much I love the cat in the bed on head..or rolled into it's back or what ever that is...it's funny. hahhaha hehhehe. Mary

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  29. It's so nice that a half-hour Tube ride can get you to a lovely countryside and so many different things to see. That alpaca is so cute and the foxglove is so pretty.

    I've never seen how watercress is grown so that's an eye-opener. Thanks. We normally don't eat watercress raw here. In Chinese cuisine, we either stir-fry it or have them in soup that we boil with meat (pork or chicken) and other ingredients such as dried oysters, dried red dates and goji berries (dried too).

    Thanks for sharing such a lovely visit to an English countryside. Over here, we'd have to battle mosquitoes even in our own backyard. LOL

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  30. Well I don't think I've ever been to Rickmansworth (though may have passed through). I've certainly never seen a cat contortion like that. The tree face looks like something out of Harry Potter/Alice in Wonderland to me. I have alpacas next door to The Cottage in NZ. Watercress used to grow in the stream at the bottom of my uncle's garden in Clophill in Bedfordshire. All in all that was really interesting and a good memory jogger too. I hope that T's back is better quickly. There's nothing worse. It makes me appreciate the NZ health system though. When I put my back out on the croquet lawn a few months ago I rang the physiotherapy practice and was having my back treated within an hour before it got stiff and hard to heal. Four consecutive days and I was happily pain-free again. Here I'd still be waiting.

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  31. thanks for sharing such an interesting tour of an english countryside. :)

    about the watercress, i agree with what the previous reader wrote about it. it's delicious when made into soup with meat, and it's supposed to have a "cooling" effect on the body.

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  32. Thank you for allowing me on your travels - images and your wonderful words took me there. (The tree - a feline face perhaps?)

    Anna :o]

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  33. I came back again, I have been thinking of your picture of the fisherman in Chess Valley, stream fishing, or pond. That is a most beautiful photo. Love it.

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  34. Chess Valley is so beautiful, Jenny! Glad you had a wonderful walk and thank you so much for sharing it with us. Your tour is so interesting. I've read your post to all my Family :o) we all love it
    Happy and sunny Sunday to you
    Love
    Natasha & Fam

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  35. If I lived in Mauritius I'm not sure this year's British summer would tempt me back! And I think that is an alpaca by the way...they tend to be smaller and neater than llamas. Both species are apparently gaining in popularity in place of guard-dogs, and they're being used to guard crops and land...odd idea, eh?!

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  36. It always amazes me at what you can see just a short train ride out of London, but then Hertfordshire is really gorgeous, isn't it? Poor T! I suffer from back and neck problems so I have such empathy.

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  37. You always come upon the most interesting places in the English countryside. So many fascinating things (and yes, that did look like an animal peering through his barked skin.) I should have done more exploration during my years there. I think the Lake District and Yorkshire were the closest I trekked around. Anyway, that little alpaca (or whatever it is) quite caught my fancy. I like his look of curiosity, perhaps checking if the grass IS greener on the other side! I spot a black sheep (or alpaca brother) right next to it too?

    I hope your husband's back gets much better. My husband chronically throws his back out and he looks really off-kilter when it happens. He needs a chiropractor to crack him back into alignment, something I can't stand to watch (and hear!). All the best to you and your husband for the summer!

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  38. Thanks for such a beaut trip Jenny - lots of interesting things to see too. That weird tree definitely has a face! Love the horses - the older ones have obviously had a hard working life. Beautiful photos :D)

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