Thursday, September 04, 2014

Down South

I'd reached the point in my visit when I was really in need of a more tranquil day, without all the rushing around, and Wednesday's outing was the perfect antidote to the crowds and the noise of central London. The plan was to meet friends David, Janie and Ray at half past noon in south London for a bucolic ramble, and we couldn't have had more brilliant weather for our outing -- a perfect September day.

Since the best route for me to get to Forest Hill was via Whitechapel, I timed it so that I could stop in the Whitechapel Gallery for a bit before catching my overground train. The gallery displays primarily contemporary art, often a bit edgy and incomprehensible. The major exhibition at the moment is Giulio Paolini: To Be or Not to Be, which looked like it must have some deep meaning but I didn't get it. I did, however, like the piece in the space where they have an annual installation  (Continuum of Repair: The Light of Jacob's Ladder) and some small dinos that were inspired by the ones at Crystal Palace Park (more on that later). 

Getting down to Forest Hill/Sydenham was so easy that I really don't know why I've never gone before. Ray and I came in to Forest Hill by different trains and were met by David for the walk up the hill to the Horniman Museum where Janie was waiting for us. After a tasty meal at the cafe, we walked around the grounds and took in the amazing views back down on London. It was too nice a day to spend inside in the museum, and we had other destinations, so we pressed on by car from there.

Our next stop was West Norwood Cemetery so that I could tick off number six of the Magnificent Seven that I've now visited. (Only Nunhead yet to see.) Opened in 1837, this is the second of the Victorian cemeteries to be built outside central London. Each of the Magnificent Seven has its own character, and West Norwood seems less formal (no grand central avenue) than some of the others. It also seems better maintained, perhaps because it was open to new burials until fairly recently. Like all of the cemeteries, it has some great architectural monuments and tombs, twisty drives and paths, and a good canopy of shade trees (not like a lot of American cemeteries that are mainly flat grass with few trees). 

Then, on we went to Crystal Palace Park, a real gem of a place that also dates from the mid 19th century. The Crystal Palace itself once stood here, after being moved from its original site in Hyde Park where it was built for the Great Exhibition of 1851. It subsequently burned down in 1936. I'd seen photos of it, but I had absolutely no idea of the scale until seeing the remains of the foundation. Apparently, some Chinese investors have plans to reconstruct the palace, but I think I'd rather that they left it just as it is. One of the must-sees in the park is the dinosaur court, a little pond with life-size (maybe) dino statues. These were the first dino sculptures in the world, and are probably inaccurate to our current knowledge, but it's astonishing to think that they were made before Darwin's seminal writing on evolution. 

Big thanks to David and Janie for treating met to this grand day out, and to Ray for coming up from Wokking to do it with me. 

None to report (I was too knackered to go to Pilates class)

19,114 steps, 7.54 miles

1 comment:

  1. This particular cemetery, your #7, looks much like of Cedar Grove, here, interestingly. Love the dinos. They seem to be in such good shape. What, no COOKIES today?!?