insights, outtakes and observations from our sabbatical year in England
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Morning Walks in the Whetstone Stray Open Space
A brisk walk down Woodside Lane (where we live) to Laurel Way takes you to the Riverside Walk along the Dollis Brook. It is part of the Dollis Valley Greenwalk, a 16 km path from Hampstead Heath to Mill Hill. This is where Kiwi and I go for our morning walk (which takes us about an hour in total).
the Dollis Brook
According to the sign on the gate, the part between Laurel Way and Totteridge Lane is the "Whetstone Stray Open Space". The Dollis Brook meanders through the space from one end to the other. I am definitely in love with the space, though I am not sure why it is "Stray" (though often I think both the dog and i would qualify for that label), but it is surely "Open". Once you come in the gate on Laurel Way, you can choose one of two routes.
veer to the right...
hunting for the ball...
If you veer to the right, you follow a paved path which meanders along with the brook on the left, and spaces of unmown tall grasses and trees on the right. Kiwi loves the fields of taller grasses and shrubs, which are bordered by barely mown grass. It gives her a place 'to hunt' for the balls thrown and lying in the knee high grasses.
There are two small disadvantages to a voyage on this side of the space. One is that, if the dog is not really looking when I throw the ball, I too end up having to hunt in the grasses (and thistles and nettles) for the ball. The other disadvantage is that the margin of error is high if I lean a bit too much to the left. That is, if I am not careful in how I aim, the ball ends up dropping into the stream (which is just beneath the trees you see on the left of the photo. It is not the worry about losing the ball. I haven't lost one yet. But Kiwi is, after all, a water-dog: she just heads through the brush and plunges into the stream to fetch the ball out (generally first laying down in the water for a nice cooling soak). This of course leaves me with the job of cleaning up a soaking wet/muddy dog when I get home!)
another field lies ahead...
If you veer instead to the left, you encounter a series of 4 connected open field areas, each 'pinched' at the end by a series of trees planted across the field, so that you you end up walking through a narrow corridor into the next area, with trees rising above you, so the next open field is not fully visible to you until moments before you enter it. There are no paths here. The land is not flat enough for a real game of soccer or football, but it is perfect for Red Rover, or tag, or just thowing and catching a ball. It is perfect for throwing the ball to the dog.
This side of the open space is ringed with tall trees, and walls of blackberry bushes. Everymorning I see at least one person out with a bucket, presumably gathering berries for their breakfast. There are also fields of nettles, though I try to avoid those (apparently the leaves make a good tea!). There are certainly plants that are familiar ones to me... like the open field of fireweed, which reminds me of being at the lake. :-)
One of my goals for the end of the year is to know the 'real' names for all the trees here. There are any number of trees: a pair of towering poplars (reminding me of some Monet painting), massive hanging willow trees. There are also a number of large twisted trees, probably some kind of Oak, covered with layers of vine making their way up the trunk from roots to sunlight. I don't know the name of this particular type of Oak, though I am sure it not not Greary Oak (the trees that cover the bottom of Vancouver Island). Still these have that same kind of twisted branch structure that reminds me of home... all they are missing is the moss hanging from the tree tips! Instead, they are dotted with tiny acorns.
All in all, it is a great place for a morning walk. Some mornings we are blessed with clear skies but, this being England and all, more frequently they sky is streaked with clouds. Clouds that (hopefully) maintain their hold on the raindrops inside til I get back home. We will see how long THAT piece of luck continues to hold up!