21 members met on the platform of a very windy Kettering station eagerly anticipating the Annual London walk taking in the Royal Parks. Included in this number were three first timers who are fairly new to the club. The train’s first stop was at Wellinborough where we were joined by Ian and Carna B.
On arrival at St. Pancras we met up outside the Rolling Luggage shop for a headcount, not the easiest thing to do with people drifting off to the toilet etc.
Finally we set off for the underground where the value of wearing hi-vis jackets by the leaders and back markers was proved when moving through the throngs of passengers especially with holdups due to non- functioning tube tickets.
Eventually with all present we exited the tube at Lancaster Gate and entered Kensington Gardens for a welcome refreshment stop at the café in the Italian Gardens where the forecast high winds made their presence known. An ice cream van had been specially arranged for Ann R but she was nowhere to be seen.
Feeling suitably refreshed we then made our way through the park where the first stop was to admire "The Arch” which is a six metre high Roman travertine statue by the sculptor Henry Moore and through which Kensington Palace was nicely framed in the distance.
Continuing through the park the first Parakeets were seen but more of them later.
The next port of call was a real surprise in the form of Kensington Garden allotments. How many in the group realised they existed? Very few would be the author’s guess.
Continuing on our way we finally reached the Parakeets area and boy were there some very tame Green Ring Tailed parakeets here. There were also numerous pigeons probably refugees from Trafalgar Square where their presence is now discouraged.
Several members of the public were hand feeding the parakeets, apples being the preferred fodder.
A few yards further on the statue of Peter Pan was visited.
After retracing our steps a pause was made to look at a very informative board showing the species of flora and fauna contained within the park.
Then on to the Physical Energy Statue which is a bronze statue of a man on horseback by George Frederick Watts. It has a somewhat modernistic appearance but was actually erected in 1907 by the artist’s widow.
The walk continued past the Diana Playground down to the Round Pond. Here we paused by the Queen Victoria Statue and the imposing Kensington Palace home to several Royals over the years.
The Regency style Band Stand , near the edge of the park, gained permission from Queen Victoria for music to be played in Kensington Gardens. This was rescinded after a protest from the Archbishop of Canterbury who thought music in the gardens would be 'unseemly and working people could do without band concerts !
Our walk then passed by the immensely imposing Albert Memorial. It commemorates the death of Prince Albert of typhoid in 1861. The monument shows Prince Albert holding a catalogue of the Great Exhibition which he inspired and he led to organise in 1851.
On exiting Kensington Gardens we entered the vast expanse of Hyde Park and were met by the sight of some pony and traps preparing for a trot along Rotten Row. Unfortunately these were not available to carry any footsore walkers with them.
A short walk took us to the very evocative Princess Diana Memorial Fountain which was opened by the Queen in July 2004.
Lunch was taken at The Lido. Unfortunately it was too early in the season and the pool was not open for swimming although as there was an extremely cold wind I don’t imagine there would have been many takers!
After lunch we set off alongside The Serpentine where numerous varieties of water fowl were passed. At one point a man approached a Golden Eye Duck which was sitting quite peacefully on the ground then at his approach it got up to reveal a number of duckling underneath.
We then made our way out through the Rose Garden to Hyde Park Corner. There, with the aid of several pelican crossings, we made our way into Green Park. Rumour has it that there are no formal flower beds in this park as King Charles II wife ordered all the flower beds to be dug up after she caught her husband picking flowers there for another woman!
At the edge of the park we crossed in front of Buckingham Palace. There was a considerable amount going on as the Marathon was being run the next day and railing, signposting and seating were all being erected ready for the event. Obviously many tourists were milling around and our walk leader, in her hi-vis jacket, was stopped a couple of times and asked questions!
We made our way into St James’s Park which has lots of wildlife, particularly water fowl. The Blue Bridge gave a lovely view of the Palace and the attractive lake. At the end of the lake there were a group of pelicans enjoying being the centre of attention.
The walk then concluded by wending its way back to Green Park and up to the underground station. Here a group caught the bus, some the underground and one adventurous traveller walked back to The President Hotel. Time was spent in the bar catching up on the day before we enjoyed the evening meal prior to which the chairman made a mercifully brief speech thanking all those involved in organising what can only be described as a truly memorable London walk.
Thanks are due to the following Sue and Peter H, Jem and Sue C for organising, leading and back marking the walk and to Ian B for assisting on the day.
The amount of work involved in the planning and execution of this cannot be overestimated.
Extra thanks are due to Sue H for her very informative and interesting running commentary at the various points of interest around the route and for providing this report.
Photographs were provided by Julie S, Vonnie Mc. and Carna B.
Only a small selection of these have been used in this post and the remainder will be the subject of a separate post in the near future.
Cheers to all involved in making such a successful day out in London.