Belfast Northern Ireland September 2015

Belfast Northern Ireland, what a weekend.


I had been meaning to visit Belfast Northern Ireland for many years, and eventually made the effort to do so.


I couldn’t go to Belfast and not say anything about ‘the troubles. Irish is in my blood.I felt I Ever since I made enquiries into my background and where my roots were, I had started taking an interest in `irish history. Firstly I had to gain enough qualifications to get into university. I did that. My life as a mature student age 30  in 1992 at N.L.U North London University began. People often laugh at Humanities and Media studies but that’s what i took. But specialised in Irish & French studies.  I was literary and intellectually curious but did not possess the brain that learns language well, After a year I dropped French and  switched it to English. I loved French literature and politics but could not deal with Grammar. 

It was a fantastic course which absorbed me for years. I was thrilled to go and live and study for 3 month at Galway University.  It was always challenging but worth it. For my dissertation (10,000 words) I chose to write about the Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland. It started with good intentions but I  felt lost and overwhelmed – and in way too deep. Although I originally was sympathetic to the Nationalist cause, I had to be objective. I got through it but strangely I had never visited Belfast before now.


On this journey we took a guided tour around Belfast the coach led us through Shankhill Road, there were union jack flags everywhere, as well as Unionist murals at every turn. In such a tiny area almost 100 peace walls exist, heavy gates, and even an old prison.

The commentator relayed the tales of the troubles. The whole area felt claustrophobic oppressive and very sad. Although I’d studied Irish studies and covered the ‘troubles’ many years ago and thought I knew about the area; there was nothing like seeing it so close. It felt extremely intense and I fought to hold back the tears but couldn’t it was just awful.

Almost 3,000 lives lost there. 


The following day we took a coach tour to The Giant’s Causeway somewhat hungover after a night out in Belfast’s many bars


Myself looking a bit chubby-cheeked and the cockney mole, my travelling -walking companion.


People travel from afar to see The Giants Causeway County Antrim



The Titanic Quarter.

Seeing the Titanic experience really brought home how grand a city Belfast once was. Perhaps will be again.  The exhibition was full of visual experiences illustrating the  Titanic experience from the building of the ship and the impact it had on the economy of Belfast. It was thrilling, grand, and ultimately tragic.

Historic Belfast

The whole city was booming from employment at Belfast shipyards as well as the massive economic rise from the linen industry; the Titanic was massive for Belfast.

In part of the tour you actually get into a car similar to going on a ghost train, it takes you deep down to the bottom of the recreated ship where you can see where the boiler makers and all of the crew worked, in extreme dark.

 Emerging from the dark, there are further displays of the ship, different floors show it from different levels and angles video and audio recordings, give you a sense of the dizzy heights the richest millionaires would have felt floating 1st class on this magnificent ship, and the depths of the toil workers endured day and night to build this ship.

After the Titanic experience, we visited St Georges 19th century indoor Market which was packed with stalls, too many food stalls, and live music

We had a browse bought a couple of items, then walked back to the Botanic Quarter to pick up our luggage. We had our farewell drink and lunch at The Woodworkers, a new bar with the best craft beers on six rotating taps. A wide selection of beers a very relaxed atmosphere, and decent music.

Previous to this we had found an Egyptian café in the same area close to the University,  I loved the fact that we were given warm hospitality and a really lovely lunch which was well needed after a cold morning on the top of the open air bus around Belfast.

Since being back I have joined up with a new walking group

More about that next episode.




A tale of two walks.


Walking around London, and walking in the countryside in the Chiltern Hills

My latest two walks, could not have been more different.  Walking to Chelsea from Brixton via Clapham into my favorite London space, Battersea Park. This is an easy walk I do on a regular basis.  

Once Upon a Time, I cycled there to work. These days, I  pop up there for a change of scenery and walk through the park and over Chelsea Bridge. The Kings Road is basically a mainstream shopping street, these days. During my time spent there, I have come across; George Best, Bob Geldof, Alan Clarke, and Mark Almond, to name a few; but the real-life characters have (in the main ) all gone. I love both of the two walks, as they are interesting in different ways. 

For some reason I decided to walk along by Chelsea Embankment towards Vauxhall, From there on It can only be described, as a nightmare around Vauxhall. alongside the High Rise buildings and ugly roadwork everywhere; it’s highly polluted with diversions everywhere. It is scary just crossing the road.

Pounding the pavements, alongside traffic can be a harrowing experience after about 6-7 miles of it.

Trudging on to Kennington, up towards the Oval cricket ground. I crossed over to Brixton Road. At this point somehow I managed to get caught up in a labyrinth of NEW sprawling housing estates, made up of blocks of housing at the beginning of Brixton Road, bordering on Camberwell. It was not fun.



An entirely different experience, walking through the woods and fields in the Chiltern Hills, we passed through places with names such as Ballinger Bottom and Lee. Look at that sky, how beautiful it is against the wheat. A real picture.

Big sky

Big sky

This group was led by the South Bank Ramblers, the journey took about an hour and a half on the starting from Brixton.

Edible Mushroom

Edible Mushroom


The Cock and Rabbit is famous for being used by CI Barnaby in the Midsummer Murders!, tv series. It was the pub where he often stopped off for a pint during one of his murder investigations. There is more than one sign for this pub. You can see the name of the pub named in the T.V series on the other side. The series Midsummer Murders epitomizes Middle-class English life and is so far-fetched with murders every week, so ludicrous but fascinating at the same time.

Before we reached the pub, as we rambled through woods and fields; and chatted with other walkers, we were drooling over what might be on the menu!  I tried to imagine the food! thinking of classic dishes served elegantly in a Bistro-type environment.
Images of my favourite tv chef, Gino D’Acampo came to mind!

As my mother often said, “you’ve got a vivid imagination!” it was wishful thinking anyway, no signs of anyone in the house so dishy! I was pretty shocked at the state of the interior which was basically dirty, but reluctantly ordered a pasta Sicilian dish that was piled up about a foot high. I felt sick looking at it and wish I had just got a packet of crisps. I’m no food critic but that pub is living off the merits that it attracts crowds based on its notoriety.  It is a lovely location, but they are getting away with murder!





As the nights draw in we have now reached the Autumn Equinox. I’m off to Belfast for my Birthday weekend and hope to have a few walks and tales to tell on my return.


Another one bites the dust. R.I.P  Lou Reed a true troubador!



Berwick to Seaford on a Blue Moon weekend

Magnificent views blue sky& a blue moon

Walking from Berwick to Seaford, we take in, WILMINGTON ,LONG MAN, ALFRISTON & CUCKMERE HAVEN; where the river exeat floats toward Seaford. The walk stretches for approximately 13 miles. It is a gentle undulating walk but with two extended hill climbs.

Starting at Berwick, we walk to the village of Wilmington with its ancient Church then, the first climb starts, up to the Long Man chalk figure. We scan the Cuckmere valley. After the second climb up, we witness a dramatic view where the river drifts towards the sea. We Continue walking for a further 4 miles along the cliff coastal path to Seaford. It is the first time I have walked from Berwick to Seaford and I’m not sure I could remember all that again! 

 Blue Moon lingers high in the sky as we walk in the heat towards Seaford


The moon, or something kept me from having a good sleep. After a restless night not being able to drop off and waking up sporadically, I jumped up checked the clock which said 8.07!!


I was going to have to leave at 8.10 which gave me 3 minutes to sort myself out. I had been lying awake for some time but as the alarm hadn’t gone off I didn’t know what time it was.

Walking as quickly as I could towards the tube, I witnessed a car crash at the junction of Coldharbour Lane/ Atlantic Road, It wasn’t a serious crash, just a bonnet to bonnet collision. Drivers going too fast as usual and a van blocking the way. Drivers and cars constantly irritate me and I couldn’t wait to get away.

Was it the Blue moon causing my restless night! 

Like the tides affected by the gravitational forces of the moon. Moon Beams or other, the tensions had been building for most of the week. The last few days I had found myself  unable to relax, the usual conflicts from the workplace playing on my mind and a general unease about the future.

Towards the man in the hill

Wilmington Long Man /Alfriston & Cuckmere Haven. 

looking down to Exceat

Nevertheless, the walk was to be done. A beautiful day we had walked from Berwick to Alfrington, which was a good place to stop for lunch.

 Alfrington is a very pretty village and somewhere I would visit again. From there it’s only a three-mile walk to Exceat;  you could just follow the river and avoid the hill.  The Exceat is the river that joins the sea at Seaford, so we had another magnificent view of the Seven Sisters. Admittedly not having breakfast or enough water or any sun-cream I came out of this walk with a headache and sunburn. It happens, especially on the longer walks.

Walking towards Seaford from Exceat

Due to rushing out I hadn’t properly prepared. By the time I got to the Gallon Inn, I was parched. (This was a drop off point for those only wanting to do a 9 mile walk.) I bought a small bottle of sparkling mineral water for £2.50.! Can we start placing water fountains in the countryside? Carrying all this water around is getting a bit expensive as well as heavy.


Arriving at Seaford

Arriving at Seaford

As we finished our 12 mile walk, I wasn’t keen to rush for a train back to London and arrived at the seafront. A few of us sat down drinking tea for about an hour; gazing at the sea.


This walk seems so long ago now. The planned walk I had for this week, I opted out of due to heavy rain. The second Wednesday I have booked off to do a walk & not been able to do it due to extreme weather conditions. At the end of October I will be taking every Wednesday off for 6 months while I work on my ‘career plan’! but as well as that I have the option to go on a midweek Autumn or Winter Walk and do my courses at home in the evening hopefully feeling mellow and glowing from the Autumn sunshine !.


Until next time. Keep going .

Hope you all have a good Bank Holiday Monday.


Amazing gardens


This walk was taken from the book Amazing gardens in UK. We started in a place called Knockholt, an easy walk across country, though lanes and woods, to Cudham to visit a wonderful, varied and original garden.  We returned via Newyears Wood and Fairtrough Farm. 


Watch your head!

Watch your head! A surprise not on the agenda

wild flowers in beautiful vase

Wild flowers in beautiful vase.


This recent walk led by Judith Robertson, absolutely suited my mood, it was truly relaxing. There were a couple of surprises in store; one being the sight of a Hawk trainer, which we came across when ambling along after our picnic lunch.

Garden as Therapy

The other surprise was meeting the owners of the garden. The man had been in an accident where he fell asleep at the wheel, while driving in Australia. He lived to tell the tale but had suffered severe injuries which had an impact on his ability to do much for many months. The garden became his haven.

He & his wife were extremely friendly and welcoming.  We were a large group of about 30, and on our arrival it was fantastic to be provided with cake & tea. Judith had planned this treat in advance. It is part of the Open Gardens scheme, throughout the UK, you can visit the garden and the host provides refreshment for a few quid. It’s well worth it.

 We all wandered about the garden and found so many nooks and crannies to hide out in. Perfect. I didn’t want to leave. Meeting people with a story to tell just added to the element of what makes a great day out.  

go wild in the country

Go wild in the country

The Cottage Garden Cudham

The Cottage Garden Cudham



Losing ourselves in time, we then had to make a run for it.

We were all feeling so relaxed after a great afternoon, and needed to make up some time. This escalated into a power walk and then a run during the last mile. The train from Knockholt to London only run every hour, so we really did not want to hang about at train station for an hour. 

The walk leader had found this particular walk from, “The Most Amazing Gardens in Britain and Ireland: A Guide to the Most Magnificent and Memorable Gardens (Readers Digest) Paperback – 28 May 2010”.

All in all a really lovely day out.







Ramble on!

Ramble On, “The story of our love for Walking Britain “by Sinclair Mckay

Ramble On’ tells the story of how country walks were transformed from a small and often illegal pastime to the most popular recreational activity in the country




“In the Gower Peninsular, to consider the surprisingly Long History of walking gear ; while Wearing Quite Unsuitable Clothes.”! Sinclair McKay

I have to agree with the words above from one of the essays. It is about the insane commercialism of walking gear. To see people walking around Central London in Clothes that are suitable for wearing when skiing in the Alps or, Ramblers in towns with walking sticks is laughable.

You may feel you can’t go out for a walk unless your head to toe in Jack Wolfskin clothing, or another extremely expensive brand such as Cotswold; total nonsense of course.  

McKay discusses the commercialism of the countryside, the years of battles and forbidden land rules.  Among many other subjects he writes about, he manages to drop in a quote from the fantastic, hysterical film, Withnail & I.  RE-watching it recently, it was still  hilarious.

Based in the Lake district, stuck in a cottage without food and little money, Withnail asks “What’s the point of the country”?


The fundamental comic point being that it is an error for town dwellers to think that they can rejuvenate in the country!. Author McKay entertains us with interesting stories about the history of walking as well as a wry observation of some of the more general trends with walkers.

In all walks of life some people take everything really serious and with any group there is a certain mentality. But on the positive side a group has the basic mind-set that walking is good for you mentally as well as physically and a good old day out.

At best you can meet interesting people who you can get talking too.  The brain can free flow and with the right scenery that can be truly enjoyable.


Off for a walk down the Old Seaford Sussex area this weekend.


Best Wishes Julie.