Just Back From… Surrey

Travelling from the far west of Cornwall means that you don’t reach another county for a good hour and a half. So we haven’t been very far over the last couple of years since the first lockdown. Last week though we headed east to celebrate a significant birthday – that of our second eldest granddaughter who turned 18. I was there at her birth, though only just made it as she was over her due date and I had to return home to begin my final term of teaching practice for my PGCE. Oh, how long ago that time seems.

The ‘Out of Order’ installation, which consists of twelve tumbling telephone boxes, has been in place on Kingston’s lovely Old London Road since it was first installed in 1989. The piece was created by David Mach, one of the UK’s most successful artists and a former lecturer at Sculpture School in Kingston.

Whilst in the south-east I managed to visit a few of my favourite places in the area (we lived on the Hampshire/Surrey/West Sussex border for seven years back in the 2000s) and enjoy a few walks with my daughter along the River Thames. As usual the weather there was several degrees warmer than it ever is in Cornwall, the sun shone, the sky was blue, there was chocolate cake and I did a lot of walking!

River Thames Walks

I was surprised at how countrified the towpath along the river can be once you are away from the suburbs. We strolled towards Sunbury from Hurst Park / Meadows in Moseley where the river was busy with paddleboarders, kayakers and canoeists plus the inevitable rowers, with plenty of swans, ducks and geese.

Multimillion £ houses along the River Thames in Hampton.

On the towpath towards Ham from Kingston it was much busier and noisier due to the low-flying aircraft overhead. But once again after leaving the delightful Canbury Park towards Teddington Lock it feels like you are almost in the country. Stunning houses along the river front once again. And so much blossom!

Houses along the Thames in Teddington

RHS Wisley Gardens

Hilltop – The Home of Gardening Science

The flagship gardens of the Royal Horticultural Society are at Wisley in Surrey, very close to the M25 motorway Junction 10 with the A3. It has been transformed since my last visit in 2015 and is extremely busy, especially when events like an Easter Egg hunt is on. The main changes are at the Welcome entrance and at Hilltop which is where the model gardens and allotments used to be. Now it is a centre for gardening science with a library and three new gardens surrounding it. There is a permanent exhibition that demonstrates the benefits of gardens for wellbeing and gives tips for creating garden spaces that improve the natural environment in a changing climate and a series of free talks, demonstrations and interactive sessions are offered daily.

Naturally I cannot resist photographing the beautiful plants and flowers, but it was lovely to see a variety of sculptures around the garden, including this one in the Cottage Garden.

Diva by Mark Swan

Devil’s Punch Bowl

The Old A3 road around the Devil’s Punch Bowl at Hindhead

Once upon a time I used to drive along the old A3 all the time as we lived close by to Hindhead. We lived there in fact the entire 5 years it took for the A3 tunnel to be built and suffered the long delays caused by the roadworks. However now it has been dug up and a lovely all-weather circular path (2.5 miles) made along the former road joins the Devil’s Punch Bowl to the Hindhead Common where the Celtic Cross and the Sailor’s Stone can be found. I stood looking at the sweep of the track trying to work out my bearings, but it was very confusing. Chatting to a chap coming the other way, who also used to drive along this road we both agreed that it all looked very different.

Watts Chapel

On the way to the Devil’s Punch Bowl I stopped off at Watts Chapel. I have posted about this delight before (click on the link), but I had missed one of the friezes (Owl) around the chapel so I wanted to go back and find it.

The outside of the building is made up of four large friezes which represent in turn Hope, Truth, Love and Light. Symbolic birds are represented by the peacock (Hope), the owl (Truth), the pelican (Love) and the eagle (Light). Surrounding these are attendant spirits depicted as angel heads holding symbolic discs.
Watts Cemetery Chapel – Designed and decorated by Mary Seton Watts this example of Art Nouveau was completed in 1904.

The light wasn’t much better than on my previous visit, but at least it wasn’t raining. I took very similar photos as before, but here are a few more details I captured this time round.

Kingston Street Art

Coming back into Kingston we found some hoardings that had been creatively covered with street art.

Of course I cannot finish this post without showing you the marvellous cake created by the 18 year old for her birthday, it tasted as good as it looks.

18th birthday cake

The Blue House – Frome

The Blue House, next to the town bridge, is Grade 1 listed; it was formerly the Bluecoat School and Almshouses, named after the colour of the school uniforms. Built in 1726 at a cost of £1,401 8s 9d, it replaced an almshouse dating from 1461 and rebuilt in 1621. The Blue House provided a home for twenty widows and schooling for twenty boys.

The front of the building is adorned by two statues, of a man and a woman, indicating the building’s dual purpose. The building’s role as a school came to an end in 1921 and it now provides studio and one-bedroom flats for seventeen elderly residents. Wikipedia

Frome Museum

The Italianate building was built as a Literary and Scientific Institute in 1865 for John Sinkins. The architect was J Hine and it was built by the company Carr and Pickford. It is a Grade II listed building. It houses a collection of local history and has a particular important collection of artefacts from the bronze foundry of J.W.Singer. A Cockey lamp is on show, with its art nouveau style; more than 60 can still be seen around the town. (Edward Cockey (1781–1860) was an industrial entrepreneur in Frome, Somerset, England, descended from a local family of metalworkers.) Wikipedia


In the twenty years since I met the OH there have been a few significant birthdays within the family, including the births of seven new grandchildren. We don’t make a big fuss of celebrating our own. We used to like having a short spring break and an autumn break which often coincided with one of our birthdays. Mostly in the UK, but my most memorable overseas one was on Vancouver Island in 2010 when I got to have a lovely birthday meal in Tofino.

The first one we celebrated together though was in the Algarve back in 2002 when we stayed in a hotel near to Carvoeiro. I was presented with a cup cake and a sparkler when we went for breakfast, but I ended up having a pizza on my own in the evening as the OH became very ill during the day and had taken to his bed!

My birthday in 2003 was by far the most special as it was the day we got married. As I was on a PGCE course and couldn’t take time off we had a brief honeymoon in the eclectic enchanting Italianate style village of Portmeirion in north Wales. Famous for the cult TV show ‘The Prisoner’ in the 1960s and also for Portmeirion pottery.

I don’t have digital photos from either of those years.

New Forest

Other trips include a weekend in Oxford, a week in the New Forest (where we attended the wedding of my youngest son), a fortnight in Penzance to house hunt, a week in Bridport and a few wonderful days in Montreux tagged on at the end of a trip to Geneva back in 2009.

Pub near Oxford with a telephone kiosk in the pond!

My birthday is at the beginning of October so during the period I was teaching that was term time so holidays were restricted to the school holidays. It was a relief when I stopped teaching and could travel whenever I liked.

Oxford college

The OH on the other hand has a birthday that is normally during the spring half-term so we were able to get away even though it is a more expensive time. His most glamorous getaways have been a day visiting the island of Ithaca during our week in Cephalonia in 2003, and another island trip in 2006, that time a day trip from Malta to Sicily.

His UK birthday holiday breaks have taken us to the Cotswolds,

Cotswolds – Lower Slaughter

North Devon, Aberaeron in west Wales, Keswick in the Lake District and Penzance in 2015 before our move to Cornwall.

Habourmaster Hotel – Aberaeron, Ceredigion Coast.

I would have said that the best thing about birthdays was travelling to a new place to explore, but since moving to Cornwall in 2016 we have rarely left the county and certainly not to celebrate a birthday. We usually find a nice local bar or restaurant where we can clink a couple of glasses together and have a wander around a beautiful beach or garden.

NZ Sav Blanc

We do however have a very clever granddaughter who makes excellent birthday cakes. This one was for her sister’s 15th birthday. A shame we weren’t there to help eat it!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #193|Birthdays

We’re goin’ to the zoo, zoo, zoo

This month Becky’s Squares has been focusing on odd things – you can interpret this any way you want so I took you all to the zoo this month. San Diego Zoo to be precise and the photos featured were either odd looking animals, animals with odd names, odd facts or slightly odd photos. I hope you enjoyed my selection.

Day 28

I shall say goodbye with one of the “Meeters and Greeters” at San Diego zoo. An odd figure who is a lot less scary than some of the unusual, different, unique, strange, peculiar, and extraordinary creatures that we have met this month, featured once again below.

A warm thank you to Becky for hosting yet another hectic month of squares. How does she do it!