Wintery Park Visit

The new year in the UK has been a slow one. There is another national lockdown to try and curb the ongoing pandemic and with the cold days it feels quite grim at times. I’ve been trying my best to keep positive though and nothing helps me more than being active. In light of this I decided to bundle up and visit one of our local parks. Valentines park was voted one of the 10 best in the country last year, so I always enjoy my visits as there’s always lots to see.

As I arrived at the park the lingering cold mist was clearing and the sun was beginning to break through the clouds. The huge boating lake at front of the park was starting to pick up colours of blue in the sky.

I walked to the far side of the park where there’s an old house called Valentines mansion, built in 1696 which still looks pretty grand. It’s now used for events but it’s a really elegant feature to the area. Nearby is a vegetable garden that is still in use, although there’s nothing growing now as it’s winter. There’s also plenty of cheeky squirrels around looking for food.

One of the things I really like about this park is just how varied the trees and wildlife is. There’s plenty of geese, ducks and smaller birds, and the trees seem to come in all shapes and sizes.

Having taken a few snaps as I walked around the park and starting to feel quite cold I headed home. I’m sure I’ll be back soon, as not only is this lockdown likely to last a while yet but the park is so vast there’s plenty still to see.

Goodbye to 2020

Today is the last day of 2020, a year that was unexpected and tough for so many. The coronavirus pandemic has impacted almost every person in the world this year, and I’m no exception. There have been times that I have felt I could take things in my stride and others when I felt stressed, anxious and alone. But I always like to think that even in the worst of things, there’s always a silver lining and I think I tried to convey some of these in my photos this year, whether it was making the most of places being quieter and tourist free or just being grateful for the fact that we had long hot summer which is unusual for the UK. I was also happy to have ticked a few places off my bucket list which I didn’t expect like visiting Chatsworth House, the Lake District, and the confetti flower fields. My favourite photos of the year are shared below.

With several vaccines now available, I hope and pray that 2021 will be a better one for all of us, that with a little more patience and caution we will get through this once in a lifetime difficult, but shared experience and come out stronger together. I hope that all of our loved ones are safe and that we can enjoy each others’ company once again soon, very soon. Take care everyone and I wish you all a happy, healthy amazing year ahead.

London in Autumn

The weather in London has been fairly mild so far which means that there is still plenty of greenery still around. Taking a day off I went for a walk around London to see what I could spot.

I started off in Regents Park heading towards Queen Mary’s rose garden. The trees were bare but there was still plenty of life in the rose garden this late in the year.

Walking around the 85 rose beds I eventually came through to a tucked away Japanese style garden which was nice and serene. There was also a waterfall nearby but I ended up on a path leading towards a little island on the lake instead. There were still some lovely autumnal colours around this part of the park; the yellowing leaves on the branches of the weeping willow trees looked picturesque next to the lake.

Ending up on the far side of the park and lake there was plenty of wildlife. I love how the seagulls are perched on the wooden posts, all neatly in a line, and I was delighted to see a grey heron near some silver birch trees, standing stock still almost like a statue even as I approached it. There was also a huge tree with fiery red leaves that just seemed to glow even with the sun hidden behind thick grey clouds.

Heading out the park I headed towards Baker Street and the famous Sherlock Holmes’ address. I’ve been past before and there have been long queues outside the museum dedicated to the figure. This time due to the pandemic, there was not a person in sight.

Walking along I decided to see what Christmas decorations might be up around London. I went to Carnaby Street, Oxford Street and St Christopher’s Place. Along the way I passed some purple monkeys hanging upside down which made me smile.

Then I walked up to Piccadilly Circus and spotting a blue police box which I thought was interesting. Then went past Chinatown and Leicester Square where I caught sight of a statue of Harry Potter which was an addition to the other iconic statues dotted around.

My final stop was at Covent Garden. I usually avoid this place as it’s thronging with tourists all year round. On this particular visit the atmosphere was quite different. There were plenty of people milling around but no where near as busy as usual for this time of year.

The decorations were up but sadly not many people to admire them.

I really enjoyed walking around London, there’s always something new to explore and this trip was no different, however it did feel a bit like a ghost town in places. Where the streets and squares are normally full of people, whether they be Londoners or tourists, there were people out taking photographs like I was but not many more. I tried to make the most of this unique year by going to spots that I would normally avoid because they are so busy and enjoy being able to take photographs with no people walking in front of the lens, but I do hope that things return to how things were to some degree soon, as London just isn’t the same without the busyness and rush of the people who have things to do and places to be.

Lake District

On our drive back to London from Scotland we decided to make a stop at the Lake District. I’ve wanted to go to the Lakes for years so I was really looking forward to it. We were lucky with the weather too, as it was bright, sunny and a complete contrast to the day before at Loch Lomond.

We drove to one part of the area called Ullswater and got out to have a look around. Here there was a pier and a gift shop alongside a brilliant blue lake. Walking around the lake the scenery was just beautiful with vibrant blues and greens everywhere you looked.

Having walked for a while the kids were getting tired and the older ones getting bored (teenagers eh!) so we headed back to the car. We next drove to another part of the Lakes and this time leaving the grumpy teenagers behind with their gadgets we went for another walk.
We came across a couple of families that were getting their boats into the water at a part of the lake that was low enough to do so. We watched for a while intrigued to see that people did this.

After some time we continued down a road and then some smaller paths. It was quieter and less busy, and anyone we did pass said hello which we thought was very friendly. There were also people swimming in this part of the lake as it was less deep. My niece found some blackberries which I helped her pick and we also came across some strange rock formations. No idea what these were for.

We eventually went back to the car to check up on the teenagers and then we drove to our final spot in the Lakes. We drove uphill to a small church that was tucked away in the hills. From there we were able to hike up to the top of steep hillsides.

The climb was easy because the earth and grass were soft and it wasn’t slippery but it was difficult because of just how steep it was. After walking uphill for about 10 minutes I found myself breathing harder than I expected! It was well worth it though. As we climbed higher and higher the view became more and more breathtaking.

When we finally reached as far as we could due to time restraints we stopped and just took in the view. The landscape was stunning, and the sun bursting through the clouds casting light spots and shadows across the hills was just wonderful. It really was soul food to just look around and see how beautiful this world can be.

We soaked in the view for a while and then carefully and steadily made our way back to the church where the car was, passing lots of friendly smiley people along the way. We were a bit disappointed to not have been able to make it to the top so my brother in law took a short cut and drove up to a high point. From here you could see the hills, the lake glittering in the sun and the tiny sailboats on the water. It was an amazing view.

We finally started making the long journey back home, hoping to beat traffic and arrive early evening. It was a great summer break, visiting the Peak District, Scotland and the Lake District. I’m so pleased to be able to tick off a few places off my bucket list and it was a nice reprieve from the city and the tough year that 2020 has unexpectedly been.

Scotland Trip – part 3

After having spent the morning at a market and a museum we decided to spend the rest of the day at Loch Lomond, which is a well known beauty spot in Scotland. One little village which sits on the loch is Luss so we started there.

It was a grey, overcast day but we decided to make the most of it. Due to the mishaps of the morning we arrived a at Luss in the late afternoon so we decided to go into the shops first as they would close soon. They had a strange but interesting fairy house and a giant toadstool nearby.

As we arrived so late we missed the chance to take a ride on a speed boat.

We instead decided to take out a pedal boat which were still available to hire. It was harder than it looked but the slower pace allowed us to take in the scenery around us. The lake was huge and the distant hills seemed to go on for miles.

After the boat trip we decided to go to some other notable points around the lake. One tucked away spot was where there was a waterfall. We took a beaten down path through the woodland and followed the sound of roaring water.

The waterfall looked amazing, but I didn’t get a chance to try any fancy photography tricks as the air was filled with tiny little midges which were flying into our faces! There was also an iron tunnel nearby which led to a closer view of the waterfall.

Having spent a while exploring the area and getting tired of waving our hands around our faces we moved onto the next, hopefully midge free spot. Driving further around the loch we found a walkway that stretched out over the water which was very peaceful.

This last stop we made was to a viewing tower over looking the loch. There were also benches to sit on and lots of wildflowers around to admire.

Climbing to the top it was now dusk. If the weather had been clear we would have a seen a beautiful sunset over the lake. I was a bit disappointed but not too much as the view was still pretty amazing.

After spending some time at the top and taking in the view and the quiet we decided to start the long journey back to the hotel, along dark, winding, narrow roads to get some rest and some food. Although the day didn’t quite go as planned we still enjoyed it and managed to explore some of what Scotland has to offer.

Scotland Trip – part 2

The fourth day into our trip we decided to spend seeing parts of what Scotland was well known for. We had a good plan for the day but as the day went on we ended up doing all sorts of other things instead.

We were up early to go to some local markets. We made our way to one nearby only to find that it was closed. We then had to circle round to another one we found further away. This market wasn’t great but it was good to look around and see what was on offer. I ended up buying a blue stone necklace for my little niece as it was her birthday. It caught her eye and I couldn’t say no.

After spending half an hour or so at the market we were still on schedule, so the next stop was going to the Kelingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

Walking up to the entrance we were told that due to the pandemic we had to pre-book and that they had no slots for walk ins! Helpfully though the staff told us that there was another museum nearby that we could go to that did have free slots. We booked our places online and made our way to the Royal College of Surgeons where the Hunterian Museum is based. It was a steep walk up but the building and the view from the top was stunning.

We also found this iconic view, I love the symmetry and elegance of the arches.

We located the entrance to the Hunterian Museum and made our way up the beautiful yellow staircase.

The museum itself was lovely, high ceilings and lots of light. I also really liked the exposed wood beams in the ceiling. Inside there was an array of beautiful and strange objects. I only took photos of artefacts that were attractive or interesting to me but there were lots of jars with eyeballs, and other odd animal parts in that I didn’t take to too well.

After walking around the museum we headed back to the car to drive into town to find something to eat. There was some cool street art around although I wasn’t able to have a proper look around for them.

As we had to find food that was suitable for a halal diet we found restaurants were closed either permanently or due to the pandemic, so it took a lot longer than expected. After finding our patience frayed we finally found a restaurant and then headed back to the hotel to freshen up.

Scotland Trip – part 1

I went to Scotland in the Summer with my sister and her family and having spent a day in the Peak district, the next day we continued driving north to our destination, Scotland.

On the drive up we could see the landscape change. The view became more hilly and the greens became deeper and more lush. With the grey clouds chasing us the view became quite dramatic but so beautiful.

Once we arrived at the hotel we checked in, found somewhere to have dinner and then had an early night.

The next day we spent at a theme park so the kids could have some fun (and me of course). We walked through the nearby country park to the rides on what was a bright, beautiful day. Quite a change from the day before.

We spent some time on the rides, and then we visited the small indoor rainforest which was also on site. Here they had some quite impressive species, and we spent time marvelling at the different and some quite deadly animals we could see.

We spent the afternoon at a park as the sun was out with some friends of my sister and her family who then invited us back to theirs for dinner, which was a nice end to the day.

Scenes in the Square

Earlier this year iconic film character statues were unveiled in London’s Leicester Square. Leicester Square is the perfect spot for the statues, seeing as it’s the location where all the big film premiers take place.

The statues are of characters from different eras of cinema so people of every age will be able to recognise some of them at least. I think one of my favourites was Bugs Bunny sitting a flower bed. The sunflowers growing around the statue added a nice summery, colourful touch.

We also found Mary Poppins, Mr Bean and Charlie Chaplin.

Harder to spot were Laurel and Hardy, up on the roof of the ticket office. Another one I really liked was Gene Kelly from his iconic song in Singing in the Rain. The statue felt so animated.

I thought these statues were a really nice selection and like that there were both British and American film icons, real life and made up. Batman and Wonder Woman were hiding somewhere in the area too but I didn’t find them. You can also do an audio tour. Next time maybe.

The End

I went to Trafalgar Square, one of my favorite spots in London, to check out the new piece of artwork on the Fourth Plinth. The piece is called The End by Heather Phillipson, and is a giant ice cream with a cherry on top, and with a fly and a drone stuck into it on each side.

I thought it was quite an interesting piece of work. Depending on which side you look at it might promote curiosity (the drone) or disgust (the fly). The piece is meant to represent Trafalgar Square as a place of celebration and protest.

What I thought was an interesting touch is that the artwork transmits a live feed of Trafalgar square from the drone’s point of view.

As a side note, I did think Trafalgar Square was very quiet for this time of year. Only a few people meandering. Although I enjoyed the place not being busy, it was a touch sad as to the reason why this tourist location usually buzzing at time of the year was so quiet.

Back into London

It’s been a while since I went into London or anywhere away from home due to the pandemic that’s sweeping the globe. After a tough few months trying to keep myself and loved ones safe the pandemic has lessened in parts of the UK. While we all still need to be careful and take precautions, I decided to go into London one day. I’ve missed London and with Eid celebrations coming up, I wanted to see if I could find any gifts.

I went early and it wasn’t busy meaning that I could take pictures of these colourful mosaics in an underground station that normally have swathes of people passing across all day long.

I also found some street art on Oxford street and banners hung from above thanking our hardworking NHS.

I wandered around the shops for a while, found a few nice gifts and just enjoyed being in the centre of London again. I’ll continue to be careful as we need to be, but I really hope things continue to get better and that we all find a sense of normality soon.