A watery theme

We decided to renew our acquaintance with Solo Bar and went there for breakfast. We found the interior redecorated and modernized. Nice, yes, but I preferred the old decor with its air of a faded quirky gentility.

Solo Bar
Solo Bar

I was glad to find that the breakfast was as good as ever and the service as friendly as we remembered it. We shall return!

We then took the bus to Kentish Town but we didn’t stay there very long, soon taking the bus onwards to Hampstead.

The old fire station
The old fire station

The classic way to arrive at Hampstead is up the steep hill of the Hampstead High Street which, especially at the top end, is dominated by this plain but well-proportioned clock tower belonging to what was once the fire station.

Sailors' Orphan Girls' School and Home
Sailors’ Orphan Girls’ School and Home

We took a stroll along Heath Street  where is to be found this Victorian institution, the Sailors’ Orphan Girls’ School and Home, where, as the name suggests, a number of orphaned daughters of sailors were homed, schooled and trained as domestic servants.

Flask Walk
Flask Walk

We turned back from Heath Street and went along Flask Walk. I imagine that most people think, as I did, that Flask Walk starts at the High Street and ends at the Flask pub. In fact, it continues on, becoming a typical Hampstead residential street.

Cottages in Flask Walk
Cottages in Flask Walk

The street is not level but slopes and is uneven. The houses of are of many different designs. It has something of the feel of a village street though an affluent village.

Lutton Terrace
Lutton Terrace
Well Passage
Well Passage

Hampstead abounds in lanes, terraces and passages, often stepped, with houses tucked away picturesquely in nooks and corners.

What about the “watery theme” of the title? To start with, here is the Wells and Campden Baths and Wash House, now seemingly a dwelling, proudly bearing its foundation date, 1888. When, I wonder, were the last baths taken here and the last garments washed.

Wells and Campden Baths and Wash House
Wells and Campden Baths and Wash House

More interestingly, in Well Walk, which continues on from Flask Walk, is the Chalybeate Well. Chalybeate is water with high iron content and Hampstead’s well was found to contain water of this kind.

Hampstead's Chalybeate Well
Hampstead’s Chalybeate Well

At the end of the 1600s and beginning of the 1700s, these Hampstead “spa” waters were publicized and facilities provided for people to be accommodated and entertained while they took the waters.

This commerce disappeared long ago, of course, but many traces remain, particularly in names of streets and buildings that include the word “well”, such as Well Walk, Well Passage, Well Road and the Wells Tavern.

Doorway, the Pryors, East Heath Road
Doorway, the Pryors, East Heath Road

Well Walk leads out to the long downward winding road called East Heath Road. This leads from the high point of Hampstead, Whitestone Pond, anciently known as the Horse Pond, down to Hampstead Heath station and the Pond Street bus station. The Royal Free Hospital is here too.

East Heath Road
East Heath Road

This road divides the built-up area from Hampstead Heath (on the left, looking at the photo) and therefore feels almost like a country road or village by-pass.

Cattle Trough, East Heath Road
Cattle Trough, East Heath Road

Hampstead Heath is famous for its row of ponds, some of which are still used for open-air bathing. The lowest pond (poetically called Hampstead Pond No. 1) is a good place to see water fowl, being close to the road. There are even cormorants here, though they were too far out, standing in their characteristic wing-drying posture, out for me to photograph them.

Hampstead Lower Pond
Hampstead Lower Pond

But I was able to get close to some of the other birds and photograph them. The shyest was the black-headed gull, wearing a mixture of juvenile and adult plumage. The others allowed me to thrust the lens within inches of them.

Pigeon
Pigeon
Coot
Coot
Black-headed Gull
Black-headed Gull

The pigeons in particular were very interested in us and settled around us in crowds, hoping we were going to feed them. I was glad to see that, unlike many flocks in the city centre, these pigeons looked generally healthy and well fed, with quick intelligent eyes.

By the way, the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association, formed in 1859 and responsible for supplying drinking water for humans and particularly for cattle and draught horses, thirsty after long journeys by road, still exists and is still pursuing worthy projects.

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About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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2 Responses to A watery theme

  1. Reluctant Blogger says:

    I remember having a disagreement with my grandparents once when I was in my early 20s. I vividly remembered them taking me out for country walks when I was a small child. They insisted they had not done so – that they only ever took me to London. Eventually we worked out that what I was remembering was walks around Hampstead. And looking at your photos I can see why I made the mistake that I did and that they realised where this “countryside” place was.

    It reminds me a bit of the area around Whipps Cross for its country feel. I remember when I was driven to hospital to have my daughter we had to cross a cattle grid – and this was in London!

    I must revisit Hampstead – it looks rather lovely. I dread to think how much those cottages on Flask Walk sell for!

    Glad your breakfast was as good as ever!

    • SilverTiger says:

      Hampstead Heath certainly gives the impression of countryside from certain angles.

      Hampstead is quite a picturesque part of London. Being atop a hill that the horse buses couldn’t climb prevented it being colonized by workers who only got as far as Camden Town, Kentish Town and Somers Town.

      The irony is that today, Hampstead forms part of the enlarged Borough of Camden, something that many resent. Snobby, Hampsteadites? Surely not… 🙂

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