Tuesday, 10 May 2011

(8 May 2011) Hampstead Heath

The map for the Hampstead Heath walk
Preparing for this walk felt a lot like scraping a barrel. Although a pretty area, Hampstead Heath has no historical significance at all. Contrary to the legend, Queen Boudicca was not buried there, William the Conqueror had as much to do with it as with any other heath in England, and so on. With this in mind I tried to keep pointless trivia to a minimum, but this inevitably made it a boring walk. At least it was an opportunity to walk in the Heath and chat with friends.

Golders Hill Park

After breakfast in Golders Hill, we go for a walk in the park. Golders Hill is a Jews in Golders Hillrelatively new part of London that grew after the tube station was built. Upon entering the park, we come across a large group of orthodox Jewish kids playing football. Unusual sight elsewhere, but Golders Hill is at the centre of Jewish activity in the UK since the 1930s and Hitler's rise in Germany. There are many synagogues, a museum of Jewish history and the residences of prominent British Jews.

Golders Hill Park, a lemur
Golders Hill Park features a tiny zoo with rather outlandish animals. Alpacas, Maras, Red-legged Seriemas, Ring-tailed Lemurs, White-naped Cranes etc.

Hampstead Heath

Spaniards InnWe walk through the forest towards the Spaniards Inn, but it's too early for lunch. So, time for some trivia instead:
Byron, Dickens and Shelly are said to have been regulars of the pub. However, I've heard this about so many pubs that either someone is lying or most 19th century literary figures spent their whole lives in pubs.

In 1780, a group of rioters wanting to burn down nearby Kenwood House stopped for a drink at the Spaniards Inn. When the landlord of the pub realised it, he kept the drink flowing until they got wasted and the law came to collect them.

Kenwood House is next on our way. It's the stately home that dominates the northern part of the Heath since the 17th century. Kenwood HouseIn 1927, it was offered to the nation by its last owner, the Lord Iveagh of the Guinness family (of the beer fame). The name "Kenwood" is believed to indicate that the original land owner was some Norman noble from Caen (some go so far as to claim that it was William the Conqueror).

More trivia:

- The bridge is fake. Seriously!
Kenwood House

- In the film "Notting Hill", that's where Julia Roberts is filming her period drama and Hugh Grant turns up.

Some more photos:

Kenwood House Kenwood House, Library

The house is relatively empty by the standards of a museum, but still quite interesting thanks to Lord Iveagh's art collection. My favourite from there:

Vermeer's 'A Woman Playing the Guitar'In "A Woman Playing the Guitar" Vermeer looks much freer than in his better-known masterpieces. The arm is cut by the edge, the focus is closer to the wall than the girl, and the girl plays a guitar! Were modest girls even allowed to play the guitar in 1670?

self-portrait by RembrandtRembrandt isn't one of my favourite artists, but still seeing one of his self-portraits on the walls of a relatively forgotten estate is quite something. He is already old and looks more distant than ever.

There was also some interest in de Jongh's "Old London Bridge from the west" showing it as it was in the 17th century. There were houses and shops on the bridge, the rents of which were paying its costs. The resulting traffic was unbearable and the richer would prefer to use the gondola-like boats to cross the Thames comfortably.
de Jongh's 'Old London Bridge from the west'

de Jongh's 'Old London Bridge from the west'Past the ponds and towards Kentish Town for lunch. On the Highgate (east) side of Hampstead Heath there are eight ponds dug in the 17th and 18th century; one for men's bathing, one for women's bathing, one for fishing, one for model boats, etc.

The Bull and Last pubLunch at "The Bull and Last", just outside the SE side of the Heath. Enough space for 12 people and decent food.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

(1 May 2011) St. Albans and Shuttleworth Collection

The map for this secret walk

Today's destination was the splendid Shuttleworth Collection of vintage aircraft, near Bedford. On the way we stop at St. Albans for breakfast.

St. Albans
St. Albans CathedralSt Albans existed in pre-Roman times, originally named Verulam by the Ancient British Catuvellauni tribe. When the Romans invaded, Verulamium became the second largest town after Londinium. The town today takes its name from Saint Alban, who in AD 308 became the first British Christian martyr, beheaded at the orders of Emperor Diocletian for refusing to give up his faith. The Normans, Viking raids and the War of the Roses left their marks, but that's for another trip.

Today, St. Albans is considered as one of the prettiest towns near London, with notoriously high property prices.

St. Albans Cathedral St. Albans

St. Albans lake

Shuttleworth Collection
Old Warden ParkFounded in 1928 by aviator Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth, this is one of the most prestigious collections of very old aircraft. Due to the very strong winds today, we didn't see the Edwardian-era ones fly, but it was still well worth the visit.

Early attempts (Victorian era)
From left to right, Stringfellow's Monoplane 1848, Lilienthal's Normal Apparatus 1894, Pilcher Bat 1895 and Pilcher Triplane 1899.
Stringfellow's Monoplane 1848 Lilienthal's 'Normal Apparatus' 1894 Pilcher Bat 1895 Cranfield Pilcher Triplane 1899

First aircraft (Edwardian era)
All these do fly, but only during evening airshows when the wind has calmed down. Today we could only see them inside their hangars. Oh well. An excuse to go to one of their evening airshows too.
From left to right, 1909 Bleriot Type XI, 1910 Deperdussin, 1910 Bristol Boxkite, 1910 Avro Triplane IV, and 1912 Blackburn Monoplane.

Bleriot Type XI 1909 Deperdussin 1910 Bristol Boxkite 1910 1910 Avro Triplane IV 1912 Blackburn Monoplane

If you like this era, make sure you watch "Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines".

World War I
S.E.5AAgain rather delicate aircraft that are too valuable to fly in windy conditions. Still, we had the immense pleasure to see a 1917 S.E.5A take off and fly for a couple of minutes before the pilot noticed an engine failure and decided to land quickly to avoid damaging the plane.
We also saw a Sopwith Triplane's demonstration of its rotary engine, as well as a Bristol F.2b Fighter, Sopwith Pup and Bristol M.1C.

1917 Sopwith Triplane 1917 Bristol F.2b Fighter 1916 Sopwith Pup 1917 Bristol M.1C

Mignet HM14 Flying FleaWith World War I having proven the potential of aviation, the interwar period saw numerous new designs, some of which were quite outlandish. For example, the Mignet HM14 Flying Flea was designed by Henri Mignet specifically for the home-builder. It was very simple to build and fly, but after a great commercial start, the design proved faulty and resulted into a few fatal accidents. Mignet corrected his design, but by then it was too late and the type never recovered from the bad press.

Schneider SG38 Another very interesting exhibit is the Schneider SG38 glider in Nazi colours. After World War I, Germany was not allowed an air force, but gliders were allowed. Many of the Luftwaffe aces of World War II had been trained in these basic Schneider gliders.

Polikarpov Po-2The Collection's pride is the Soviet Polikarpov Po-2, which was used for training, reconnaissance, ground attack, crop-dusting, and even pshychological warfare. In 1943, it was fitted with large loudspeakers for nuisance raids, broadcasting noises throughout the night to keep the enemy awake.

The Collection also includes a De Havilland DH53 Humming Bird, Hawker Cygnet, De Havilland DH51, De Havilland DH.60 Cirrus Moth, De Havilland DH.60X Moth, Southern Martlet, Hawker Tomtit, Dessoutter I, Comper Swift, De Havilland DH.88 Comet, Hawker Hind, Gloster Gladiator, Abbot Baynes Scud II, De Havilland DH82A Tiger Moth, Blackburn B2, Avro 19 Anson, Ryan PT-22, Spartan 7W Executive, two Miles Magisters and an Avro Tutor.

DH53 Humming Bird Hawker Cygnet De Havilland DH.51 De Havilland DH.60 Cirrus Moth De Havilland DH.60X Moth Southern Martlet Hawker Tomtit Dessoutter I Comper Swift De Havilland DH.88 Comet Hawker Hind Gloster Gladiator Abbot Baynes Scud II De Havilland DH82A Tiger Moth Blackburn B.2 Avro 19 Anson Ryan PT-22 Spartan 7W Executive Miles Magister Miles Magister

Avro 621 Tutor

World War II
Westland LysanderThanks to its superb short-take-off-and-landing abilities, the Lysander was used as a "spy taxi". It was dropping and picking up secret agents at night during the Nazi occupation of Europe. As with many other planes in the Shuttleworth Collection, this is the last of its type that is airworthy.

Hawker Sea Hurricane MkIbOne of the most successful fighter aircraft of World War II, the Hurricane is best known for helping win the Battle of Britain. This is the carrier-based Sea Hurricane Ib. Again the only airworthy aircraft of its type in the world.

Next, a F-86 Sabre. What a way to illustrate the amazing technological leaps from the beginning to the end of World War II! The Sabre is best known for its legendary dogfights with MiG-15s in the Korean War.

F-86 Sabre

The collection also includes a De Havilland Chipmunk, Percival Provost, Ryan Navion, Antonov An-2 and Yak-52s.

De Havilland Chipmunk Percival Provost Ryan Navion Antonov An-2 Yak-52

Yak-52 aerobatics:
Yak-52 Aerobatics