Saturday, Arpil 28th 2015
We decided to have a leisurely in-town day today and so we took time over breakfast. For this we went to the Gallipoli Cafe & Bistro in Upper Street, where they serve a tasty Turkish breakfast. (For us pesky vegetarians they kindly exchange the sausage for grilled haloumi.) The interior decor of the cafe is very elaborate as the picture below shows.
The picture is made up of several photos stitched together so there is some distortion and a bit missing at top left but I think it gives a good impression of the cafe interior.
After breakfast, we set out to find somewhere where we could wander and explore. An idea came to mind: when, on those sad occasions, I have to take Freya to the cattery, our train crosses a green expanse studded with bodies of water. I had often wondered what it was. Today, I was able to find out by the simple process of going there!
The green area is called Springfield Park and it is in Hackney, in Upper Clapton, to be precise. Click on the above map to see a Google Map of the area. It is easily reached by bus and provides a charming setting for strolls, jogging and athletic pursuits.
How did such a spread of pleasant greenness (it is also a local conservation area) survive amidst the inexorable spread of the city? Briefly, in Georgian times when the area was still open country, there were once three family houses here, each with its own land. The whole estate came up for sale by auction in the early 1900s, by which time the surrounding area had been built up. A group of philanthropically minded local businessmen bought the property to ensure its survival and the London County Council later took it over. It is now in the care of Hackney Council. Two of the houses fell into disrepair and had to be demolished. Of the three, only Springfield House remains and today houses a cafe. You will find a little more detail on the Wikipedia’s Springfield Park page.
Today it is accepted that parks have an important part to play in the conservation of wild life. But wild life is not only to be conserved; it is also to be enjoyed. For this, a park has to be designed so that it attracts wild creatures but is also comfortable for humans to move about in. This requires a compromise between ’wildness’ and convenience, for example in the provision of pathways and benches.
Springfield Park, it seems to me, has achieved a successful combination of rough areas where wild creatures can feel at home and tidier parts where people can walk and observe. The crow in the above photo was happy to pose… as long as I didn’t venture too close.
Here are some more scenes from the park.
A nice example of compromise: a natural-looking lake but with a fountain! The fountain probably helps aerate the water for aquatic creatures as well as looking pretty.
This was once a bowling green but today the pavilion is boarded up and the grass has been cut by a machine following a spiral path. It is no longer a flat green but a spread of rough grass. Perhaps it is being allowed to return to a more natural state. (I wonder what happened to the bowls players, though.)
This old tree stands still unclothed from winter, its muscular limbs showing its age and its successful weathering of storms. Will it burst into new life or has its day passed?
Other, younger, trees nearby were already covered with blossom which shines brightly in the sunlight.
The River Lea passes this way but where it runs through the park it is called the River Lee Navigation (note the change of spelling). That is because it has been modified and managed to make it suitable for sailing on. Large numbers of barges were to be seen, most moored and obviously serving as people’s homes. One must admit that it is a pleasant spot to live in.
If ever one gets tired of the greenery and the water, there is always the pub on the other side of the river…!
A broad path or track runs along the river. It is used by walkers and joggers and, less happily, by others (see below).
We saw a pair of swans on the water. They were doing their mating dance, their heads rising and descending in unison.
We also spotted a heron fishing in one of the quieter streams which abound in this area which is part of the Walthamstow Marshes.
Looking back, I could see the railway bridge and the very trains that carry Freya and me to and from Chingford.
In the photo you also see what I referred to above as a less happy sharing of the path: cyclists. Now, I have nothing against cyclists provided they follow the rules and do not come into conflict with pedestrians. The problem is that local authorities are creating more and more shared spaces, that is, paths that are used by both cyclists and pedestrians. This doesn’t work. On tow paths and tracks such as this, there are notices saying “Cyclists give way to pedestrians” but, generally, cyclists do not give way to pedestrians. They may ring their bells (which, with my hearing loss I usually don’t hear, anyway) and blunder through groups of walkers. Far from “giving way”, they are likely to shout at you for obstructing them. Cyclists and pedestrians need to be on separate paths. When will government at last understand this?
After our pleasant walk through the park (and, to be fair, the cyclists we met on the broad track caused us no problems) we caught a bus to Dalston. It was time for a late lunch and we knew where we wanted to go. We had started the day with a Turkish breakfast and so we continued with a Turkish lunch at Evin Cafe Bar in Kingsland High Street. We have been here before (see Cornish fishermen and the William Morris Gallery).
Before catching the bus home, we walked up the road and photographed the spectacular Turkish mosque, Aziziye Camii. Yes, I’ve photographed it before (see A stroll along Ermine Street) but it’s worth photographing again!