Sunday, 11 March 2012

Rural Suburbia

Dare I say it, but... I think spring is peeking around the corner. This morning for the first time this year (when I have been at home anyway), it was warm and dry enough for me to get out on the terrace and prepare for the change of season. I spent a very pleasant hour pulling dead leaves off plants, weeding and sweeping up the winter debris before sitting outside with my book and a cup of coffee. A perfect way to spend a Sunday morning.

It is a pleasure to be able to spend a decent amount of time outdoors – that doesn’t only involve hopping between shops or walking to the office. Last week I got some proper fresh air when I was back up north visiting friends and family. I spent an afternoon with my folks at a wildlife reserve and went for a quick three-mile trek around the lake with my dad before enjoying a cuppa in the cafe. I was just what the doctor ordered.

However, last Saturday I discovered a little gem just at the southern end of the Northern Line. I headed down to Colliers Wood to meet a couple of friends to plan a holiday. We decided to have a bit of fun before settling down to the internet and went to Merton Abbey and Watermill. A centre for the Arts and Crafts Movement in the 18th Century, my chum has been raving about it for ages – and I can see why. With a working water mill, crafts shops, a market and a good range of eateries and watering holes, it’s the perfect place to while away a few hours. Whilst there I picked up a birthday present for my mum and managed to track down the crystal Buddha I have been after for ages – for the reasonable price of four quid.

But our wander didn’t stop there. 5 minutes away was the Merton City Farm. Well, I was as happy as a pig in mud! There were sheep, llamas, goats, chickens, Edna the barn owl, and – most excitingly – a plethora of rabbits and guinea pigs.

My human pals pulled me away from my new furry friends with the promise that our day out in the urban countryside was not over yet. We walked further out to Morden Hall Park. With a wetland nature reserve, gardens, a beautiful hall framed by bridges across a small stream and the obligatory National Trust shop and cafe, we could have easily spent the entire afternoon exploring. We rounded off the day window shopping in the garden centre and aquarium before heading home. I have made my friend promise to take me back when the weather is warm enough for a picnic, when we have more time to talk to the animals and my bank balance will allow me to fully appreciate the old abbey’s delights.

So, as night falls over London on one of the warmest days of the year so far, I am really looking forward to spring and summer, and future visits to my friends south of the river – and hopefully further discoveries of countryside escapes in the capital.

Maybe we should have just planned a staycation...

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