We’re getting good at this, and into something of a rhythm. I know it will be broken in a couple of weeks when the whole Christmas thing is at its height, but today Celia and I again headed out with boots, packed lunches, backpacks and waterproofs to a neighbourhood in London unlike our own.
Celia is the Walks Directions Chief, and today we did the walk backwards. I would have struggled with this, so fortunately my part was simply printing the route and putting it inside a plastic folder. While I was breakfasting the rain was hammering against the windows, and the wind was shaking the trees. A walk seemed unlikely. Then miraculously it stopped raining, the wind dropped and I changed my nightwear for leggings, several top layers and two pairs of socks.
A few weeks ago we were surprised to find ourselves watching a German Shepherd having a hydrotherapy session in a building we had thought was selling wine. Today we met a standard poodle called Lily who is having hydrotherapy at another facility following amputation of a hind leg due to cancer.
She wasn’t the only dog we saw. Along the river path there were lots of mucky, wet dogs. Dogs running with their owners, dogs rushing down to the water to chase the ducks, dogs sniffing at interesting things in the grass. Some of the owners smiled, a couple said hello. Others looked straight ahead as though we didn’t exist. Lily’s owner was the friendliest and chatted for several minutes about her pet’s ordeal, courage and the benefits of hydrotherapy. Her leg was amputated just fourteen short weeks ago. She’s nine, a sweetheart, a hero and her owners obviously love her to bits.
We set off from Hammersmith station, crossed Hammersmith Bridge, and spent a fair few minutes hearing coxes shouting at teams of rowers through loud hailers. Some of the crews were flying along, aided by the flow of the tide. The path was neither one thing nor the other, semi asphalt and quite tiring to walk along. The little fungi we saw was huge, as though to make up for lack of variety. It was a relief to leave it and walk on fallen leaves at the edge of the nature reserve we had managed to largely miss. Swans and geese gathered at the edge of the water. Why there, and in such numbers Celia wondered. Maybe that’s where people feed them. A flat had a model of a cow on the balcony. A goose sat sentinel on a tree.
It began to rain. Rain was not forecast. We grumbled a little, but not much, which was fortunate as it soon stopped, started again later, stopped again. We read plaques on benches, looked at door knockers, read information boards, admired Gustav Holst’s and Ninette De Valois’s houses, recrossed the river at Barnes, and had lunch in a shelter looking at an empty bandstand.
The notes told us to look for a sculpture of storks on a nest. It didn’t say why the sculpture was there. Anyway, we found it; then a sign to a food market where I bought some biscuits, Celia bought some radishes, Celia used the loo and I met Lily. To my mind, this was the point where the walk picked up and became more interesting.
For reasons I can’t explain, I didn’t take a single picture of Chiswick House. Chiswick House is lovely. Maybe I was too distracted by the dogs. Chiswick House is a venue which welcomes dogs, and the dogs were making the most of it, though there was a Christmas market, and some of the dogs being walked around it by their owners evidently felt they had been sold short on the walk front. Outside the café, as their owners snacked and drank coffee, dogs rushed about, looking busy and important. Celia went inside for a coffee, I queued for the loo having not realised there was one at the food market until we had left it. We followed a busy dog called Milo and his human pack out of the grounds. Then we headed for Chiswick High Road as traffic roared in from the west on multiple lanes. It has changed beyond recognition since Hogarth lived there, he called his house a country retreat. Some people say the name Chiswick means a place where cheese was made. No sign of that now. Hogarth has a busy roundabout named after him, and it’s at least two hundred yards after you leave the main road before the noise of the traffic stops dominating.
I wanted to see the statue of Hogarth and his dog, Trump. The name did not have the associations of farting or a narcissistic man that it does today. Then we retraced our steps, walked through the churchyard where Hogarth is buried and down to the river and Chiswick Mall. This is not a shopping centre. Celia wondered what the word mall meant as Chiswick isn’t the only mall in town. I looked it up when I came home. It’s a public area set aside as pedestrian walk. We walked along it. The mall in Chiswick separates the houses from their front gardens which border the river. The river was high, some of the gardens very wet. So was the mall. The houses were big. They had names like Riverview, The Herons, The Swans, Bellevue. I only had slight house envy.
It wasn’t late but already the light was beginning to go. We dawdled along the river, enjoying the pink of the sky, the wide expanse of water, the houseboats, the cheerful looking pubs. Kelmscott, William Morris’ house, which houses a museum, was closed due to flooding. We walked back to the station, boarded a train and reached Walworth and MasterB by five o’clock.
Stay safe. Keep well. Get walking.