Cool summer evening stroll

Today was cool and rainy so I headed for the tree covered cemetery in Nunhead. The wind had at least subsided, but a light jacket was still needed.

With the rain, everything is so green and was beautiful in the soft light. Too bad my cell phone camera struggled to capture it.

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Richmond Park perimeter: the Tamsin Trail

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Richmond Park is one of London’s best known parks. The Tamsin Trail follows its perimeter, for a total of about 7.5 miles. The Park is also one of the most popular and was packed on a sunny Sunday afternoon in mid-Summer. It was warm and there wasn’t a lot of shade and the trail was busy with mountain bikes (you could get by with a road bike in dry weather). There were however wide open vistas of grasslands and patches of wood, a creek that appeared to be free-flowing, and the best of all, deer. As I walked, I made sure to scan the horizon for antlers, but the deer were easy to spot. Just look for a bunch of people stopped with their cameras. The deer were all huddled under a shaded tree and not at all bothered by the bikes and dogs going by.

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This was my second visit to Richmond Park and quite different than my first which was in late-Autumn/early-Winter. It was a cool day and I had the Park largely to myself. The deer were grazing out in the open and the trees were bare.

In both seasons the Park is beautiful, but I do prefer having it to myself. It can take a while to get to on public transport from East London, but if you’re in the West, it won’t take long at all. It is well served by the tube, Overground and buses. The walk from Richmond Station is really nice too. There are multiple gates so you can come through from Wimbledon or many other entry points.

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Escaping to Sicily from London

View from Taormina

Sicily is one of those special places where the mountains meet the sea. Mt Etna, nearly as high as New Zealand’s tallest mountain, is a spectacular sight as you drive along the coast towards Taormina, and on a clear day it can probably be seen quite far inland. When it’s not too active, you can hike right up to see the bubbling lava. While I was there it was active and off-limits, but Stromboli — an island volcano — was accessible to hikers on the other side of Sicily, and was highly recommended for a visit.

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The Catania region had the most delicious food. Pasta with the freshest vegetables, pizza with torn mozzarella, almond and pistachio desserts, and all very affordable. My favourite was the local dish pasta a la norma or pizza al a norma with aubergines and aged ricotta. I’m going to try and recreate it at home, but am so far struggling to find the aged ricotta. A great excuse to visit an Italian deli.

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The sea was cold in early May, but the sun was warm so quick refreshing dips were perfect. There wasn’t much else to do besides eat, swim, and gaze at the gorgeous hilltop views over the bright blue Mediterranean. We walked through the botanic gardens most evenings with views to Etna, hiked up to Castelmola and explored a few beaches. Unfortunately, the weather was too bad up at Etna so we didn’t have the chance to do any more serious walking. Overall, it was a great trip. Next time I’ll rent a car (the drivers were scary though, especially in Catania on a weekday, the weekend was fairly quiet and I would recommend picking up a car at the airport then and avoiding the city centre) and explore the interior as well.

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Hiking in Kent

Just a short train ride south of London are hundreds of trails through the Kent countryside. Mostly passing through woods, rolling meadows and farmland.

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Did I mention cake? There are also a few villages with lovely cake shops to fuel your miles. And pubs with ale en route. No need to pack a picnic. Although next time I certainly will with all the beautiful places to sit and enjoy the view.