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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.