Fresh air and fun, London style

I’m in London, doing a spot of childminding for two-year old William.  But after all that city living in Poland and Berlin, my inner Country Mouse needed some attention.

A city farm then.  This turned out to be a Good Idea.  It involved an exciting trip through the waterways and futuristic high-rise building sites on the route of the Docklands Light Railway.  It involved, in the smart business district of Canary Wharf, an exciting intermittent fountain that commanded William’s rapt attention for many minutes.

William and the fountain at Canary Wharf.

It involved a ferry crossing to get us from one side of the Thames to the other.  ‘Did you see the seal?’ said one of the crew.  No, we didn’t, but it turns out they’re rather common.

The ferry goes from Canary Wharf to the far side, back and forth, all day.

And it involved a saunter along the Thames views.  Then we arrived.  Surrey Docks City Farm.  Path, through parkland and with riverside.

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The view from Surrey Docks Farm.

It’s a farm, but not as we know farms here in North Yorkshire.  The animals are behind fences, and the crops are in beds rather than fields.  But it’s nicely ramshackle, in a good way, and a real piece of countryside among the high-rise.  William and I befriended sheep: monster woolly breeds from the South Downs and from Oxford, quite unlike their rangier northern cousins.  Donkeys requested loving pats on the back. Here was the biggest sow ever.  Ducks were a-dabbling, up tails all.  Goats played King of the Castle to increasingly complicated rules, jostling each other off the heights: and hens busied themselves policing the entire site.

A few goats having fun.

William was, if anything, even more interested in the vegetables.  Those gourds!  They were long, thin, and taller than him.  Those pumpkins!  So big, so h-e-a-v-y. And the long leaves of the cavolo nero!  So tough, so leathery, and such an intense shade of dark green.

William holds a pumpkin inspection.

Everything in the cafe is home-made.  So we had lunch there – an enormous lunch – before retracing our steps.  The ferry was still as exciting, and there were workmen hanging off the gangway onto the boat, doing unimaginably interesting things.

Maintenance work on the jetty.

The fountain as entrancing as first time round.  By the time our train journey was over, William was fast asleep.

Snapshot Saturday: a view of densely-packed London from the River Thames

‘Redoubt’ tugs cargo-laden barges down the Thames. The river is as much a busy highway as it ever was.

I had to be in London, because it’s not every day my son gets a chance to sing in the Royal Festival Hall. Admittedly, he was only one of some 400 singers from Lewisham Choral Society and the Hackney Singers, who’d combined to perform Bach’s B minor Mass.  What a privilege to hear so many voices give such a finely tuned and moving performance.

The other treat was that I was seated between my daughter-in-law, and a new friend made entirely thanks to blogging.  She’d discovered my blog after following up a comment I had made on the wonderful ‘Spitalfields Life’.  She commented – often – on mine, and eventually we met. I do like this blogging malarkey.

Views from the deck.

Anyway, I got to the Festival Hall from Greenwich by way of a commuter trip along the Thames.  And on this journey I got a sense of densely packed communities, sometimes in tower blocks; and of the densely packed offices of Canary Wharf and the City.

Something old, something new ….

I saw too the Docklands area, where once tobacco, ivory, spices, coffee, tea, cocoa, wine and wool were unloaded from densely packed ships along the quayside to be processed in wharfside buildings – once busy, crowded industrial sites, and now transformed into desirable apartments and businesses.

Once a busy hive of industry, these wharfside buildings are now dwellings for people who would never have chosen to work there.

I saw the Tower of London, with the city behind showing itself developed in a manner unimaginable to the many unhappy souls who entered, never to return to life as they had known it …. or to life at all.

The Tower of London, with the now almost equally famous Gherkin behind.

This journey is a treat which some lucky Londoners can enjoy every day as part of their regular commute.

My response to this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge: ‘Dense’