Lesnes Abbey and woods

This gem of a scenery is tucked away a few kms east of Woolwich, in Erith.

Lesnes Abbey is a site of ruins from 12th century, in the Borough of Bexley. At one point a few centuries later on the building was used as a monastery.

The site offers a lot for a day packed with a variety of fun activities. It’s free to visit. Walking amongst the ruins of the rooms from where the abbey once stood, there is plenty of  hide and seek games to be had and reimagining the spaces from past times.

Uphill from the abbey, the path swings to an outlook with the most extraordinary views over the City of London. Bear in mind, this is a very long cycle even from the Eastend, and over 1 hour drive or trip on public transport from central London, yet the proximity apparent in the views tell a different story.

Lesnes Abbey and woods are on the Green Chain Walk route from Oxleas Wood to Thamesmead Riverside. We took a different route on the Woolwich Ferry and cycling east on the Thames Path, through Crossness Nature Reserve.

Lesnes Woods up on the hill are a true sanctuary of old tall trees, ferns and squirrels playfully enjoying the abundance of the nature reserve. There’s a fossil park, a cool tree trunk sculpture of a Green Man, and a plethora of secluded walks through the dense woodland rich in flora and fauna.

At the top of the woods a heath is a welcome flat walk through fern surrounded paths. On the way back, try a different way down. If you get to the clearing with the abbey for a view, you’re onto another special lookout over the ruins.

Hiking in the UK

For outdoorsy adventurers, hiking is a much-loved choice of activity taken close to one’s place of habitat or place of visit.

The subtle differences between hiking in different parts of the world are on the type the equipment, the style of the hike like the intensity of the walk, and the distance covered. This reveals a lot about the flora and fauna, the weather conditions expected in general and the end objective for the hike.

This article presents a short oversight of hiking in the south of the United Kingdom, and towards the end of the winter. The overall equipment relevant message is to wear comfortable waterproof boots, bring a change of cotton t-shirts, carry 1-2 litres of water, prepare lunch snacks and carry cash for group saver fares, the pub lunch option and pub celebration at the end.

I have hiked in India, the Pacific North West in the US, in Scotland, in Bali, in Italy, in the Arctic part of Norway, in Morocco, on the north coast of Trinidad and in Tobago and in Fuerteventura and every single hike was different on many aspects.

In the south of the UK, hikes tend to be longer, often including a couple of very steep climbs up hills and the same dissent. The most recent hike took me up and down Pitch Hill in Surrey Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, twice climbed it on the same day, a near-vertical and rather muddy aspect, and over a distance of 30km round trip on foot.

Walking sticks were encouraged whereas in other parts of the world they are prohibited as it can attract lightning strikes in tundra conditions. UK’s well known cloudy skies, even in winter, require sunblock as there is still plenty of exposure doing outdoor sports to cause skin damage.

20 min stops every two hours are also encouraged to take in the views from higher viewpoints. In contrast, stopping for this long or any period of time longer to a couple of minutes, in the middle of the winter, in the northernmost part of Norway, will cause your body temperature to drop really quickly and dramatically and make the focus of the latter part of your hike an effort to warm up instead of watching the path or scenery. This can make the body feel very uncomfortable, and rather demoralising, in severe sub minus C conditions.

The photos in this post are from my hike in Surrey this week.

It looks mud messy but it was a great all round exercise. I could not recommend anything else more satisfactory to do outdoors this time of the year. Hiking engages people in community spirited discussions, recharges the body with a full-on exercise uptake, and in the UK, it is rewarded with log fires in the pub, local bitter brews, and new memories and vistas to take away.

Sensational layouts; a short story of photojournalism in tabloits

Restricted images hide a story. Retelling the story by slicing away the margins is how tabloits make headlines. The most extreme, the better. It may not make sense, but the readers’ shock deters them from revisiting and unpacking the reality.

This introduction of new journalism made it into our every day lives. It trimmed the stories to polarising and accusatory as the norm.

For example, see this image in its entirety.

What information does this image contain that is useful to you? The path, the river, the people in the distance, the dog, the season. Is the dog seeking your attention by waiting on you?

Now, what story does the image below tell?

Consider your first thoughts looking at this image. Is the dog angry, about to react, or playful, is the ground cold and wet?

The second story has dramatised the narrative by removing useful information that would have told the story in all its complexity. It automatically polarised understanding by simplification. The narrative is cut short and the story is left for the viewer to interpret.

Now imagine the text defining the already minimised story.
Dog stares before it runs away, or attacks.
Greying dog lost in the winter.

By doing so we have already disassociated the image from the reality.

Next time you see a close up in the news, ask yourself, what is the purpose of such trimming and what are you missing out in terms of information.

Photography is a gift of storytelling. Butchering details, however insignificant they may appear, is a political decision made by editorial professionals serving singular story telling.

You don’t have to consume what is given and to enrich your understanding ask the questions that can better inform you.

Judy & Punch film preview – spoiler alert

I went to the UK launch of the Judy & Punch movie at the Picturehouse Central near Picadilly Circus.

The event had a live puppet show and actors portraying the audience husslers you’d get in the 17th century pre show crowds.

Drinks flowing, the pre movie event was comic, dark and intense with high pitched call outs and bashing noises, floating between comedy, with hints of tragedy, to fairy tale like medieval perkiness.

Now onto the movie.

Set in the mountain village of Seaside, the scenes are made in 17th century English/western European surroundings with a forest, unwavering views over the mountains and further away and filled with all the weird and wonderful characters you’d find in the dark streets of London mid century.

The story of the name Seaside goes like that. The villagers believed the sea would rise to near the top of the mountain, making their village a seaside settlement. They went on as far as building boats, which coincidentally and comically the housekeeper of Judy & Punch wonders what happened to them.

The script takes you through the success of a puppeteer couple who have returned to Seaside after the money and drink thirsty husband burned through their earnings from the big shows in the Big Smoke.

They start very successful shows at the village, waiting on the day talent spotters will come through and open up a new chance for a show in the city.

Whilst all of this rolls out, the husband keeps on failing. Whilst the wife (Judy and female puppeteer) goes out for the day, he gets drunk, nearly forgets a crawling baby to the fireplace, chases a dog for stealing his breakfast sausages and trips over throwing the baby out of the window into the dense thick forest down the mountain.

The wife returns (Judy) and the fight kicks off where he leaves her for dead in the forest. Nearby travellers/White witches find her, bring her back to health and before they move on their next journey, go back to the village to tell some truths about Mr Punch, who is about to hang the elderly housekeepers to clear his name of his wife’s and baby’s disappearance.

I won’t spoil the finale. From second to second I couldn’t predict what would happen. All I can reveal is that’s the first movie that I watched mesmerised without noticing how the time went past.

Go check it out for yourself and tell me what you think.

Seaside shenanigans at the Judy and Punch preview at Picturehouse Central, London

Driving around in Westfalen

Christmas in Germany, through the markets and shops, the streets decorated with pine trees, lights out letting the natural phenomena shed light as clouds, day and dusk allow.

Yet the most fascinating part in the journey is driving from place to place.

Unlike the English quintessential village feel, the countryside in Westfalia is a mix of wild growth areas and farmed fields, wind turbines and easyness, in the sense of a down to earth grounded kind.

Christmas in Germany

Christmas markets in Germany date back to 15th century.

Every town hosts their own. Cologne has the biggest with seven markets merging into one. In Dortmund’s market (see my earlier blog about Christmas around the globe https://cowboysandeffigies.com/2017/12/16/christmas-through-my-friends-eyes/) you can find the biggest Christmas tree in the whole of Germany.

Castrop-rauxel decorations

The tradition has proven that even though many hire the markets for a festive season abroad, the Glühwein tastes million times better in its place of origin. It may be the humidity and fog, I am not expert in this, however I can attest to it as after years of tasting it in Britain: there is nothing that compares to the taste in the source of origin.

Wetten street market

In Rothenburg you will find the prettiest ever, jumping in a fairy tale adventure.

Spending time in North Germany this Christmas, you will see some of the ideas and festive cheer, sugar, sausages, cane, mushrooms, hot dogs, crafts, beads, logs, mineral rocks and a load of trees.

The bestest was in the Fredenbaum woods: log fires, masonry and fairy lights galore at Phantastischer mittelalterlicher lichter weihnachts markt (Fantastic Medieval Lights Christmas market). A full immersive experience of drifters dressed in handcrafted furs, leathers, wearing traditionally crafted bows, arrows, knifes in a wooden fairground made for adults.

Fredenbaum

Traditional craft maker stalls in Fredenbaum

In a nutshell,  Germans get top marks all the way.

Merry Christmas folks, have a good one.