It was time to take a walk on Saturday – a family walk following the River Shuttle from its head in New Eltham to the woods behind our house, in Bexley.
There was a lot of moaning to begin with.
The Lovely Melanie and I thought it was a grand idea, a day out in the open air, getting some exercise, exploring the local area – what’s not to like?? If you’re six or nine years old, apparently just about everything.
To all the young kids who read this blog, keeping up with what the grown-ups are thinking, saying and doing, I say this: don’t slag off your parents ideas for entertainment, it’s terribly demoralising for them.
Kids, you can moan about your sandwiches, moan about the weather, moan about anything except the basic reason you’re out and about. We, your parents or guardians, have gone out of our way to find something fun, affordable and different for you to do; your complaints of boredom and boringness and how boring it is and the boring time you’re having on this boring walk that is so much more boring than any other boring thing in the world? They’re pretty boring, OK? Especially when we’ve only been walking for five minutes.
Anyway. We caught the train to New Eltham and set off to follow part of the Green Chain Walk.
The first thing to note is that none of us are experienced walkers. We might not have a car but that doesn’t mean we’re hobbit-footed wanderers of the roads. Duh! London has the best public transport in the country!
But once off the high streets of New Eltham and onto the Green Chain Walk we could, almost, as the Lovely Melanie mused, have been in the countryside.
As someone who was born and raised adjacent to the countryside I wasn’t so sure, but our walk was very green. We were never more than five minutes from a bus stop or corner shop, but we were surrounded by trees and grass and mud the whole time.
We crossed Avery Park first, Millie and I venturing through some hedges to discover hundreds of abandoned hanging baskets alongside tons and tons of composts.
Here’s Millie on top of one of the Compost Hills.
Then we stopped at our first playground and had a cup of warming tea or hot chocolate in the cafe before popping into the Avery Park Hothouse to see the tropical plants.
“Hot” is a relative term here, because the hothouse was decidedly un-hot, despite being full of cacti and palm trees – one palm tree in particular was impressive for both its large size and the fact of it being indoors.
The Avery Park playground was far from our last because we stopped at about eight more on our travels. The number of children’s playgrounds in this part of London is astonishing! Follow the path of the River Shuttle as a child and you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven! Eight different playgrounds in just five miles of walking!
One even had a pond where we could feed the ducks on the remains of my Marmite sandwiches. 🙂
But after four hours of walking we were beginning to feel the cold (it was a cold, damp February Saturday, after all) and stomping down miles of muddy paths, only stopping for another playground eventually began to take their toll.
By the time I recognised where we were (in Sidcup, a route we’d explored just last year) my legs were starting to complain, as were the girls. The last mile home, all through familiar territory, were a struggle, but we made it, and collapsed through the back door of our warm and lovely home roughly five hours after we left.
Five hours to walk five miles may be a laughable time for you serious ramblers out there, but for us it was just about right. And I even recovered in time to go out that very same night to the Catford Constitutional for a birthday party!