160: which way is Tring station?

Thursday found me in Ealing this week, for a work outing and then for a sleepover at London sister’s followed by a hike along a bit of the Ridgeway. Regular visitors to my little corner of t’Internet will know that we have signed up for Race to the Stones in July this year with two of our cousins, so a long weekend was an excellent excuse for a hike.

The work outing was to Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery, originally Sir John Soane’s country retreat and now restored to former glory as an art space. Their current exhibition is of works by Anthony Caro, including the Child’s Tower Room over which the well-behaved children of Ealing were scampering while leaving the other sculptures alone. To Museum of Childhood veterans this was a source of wonder, as had these been at Bethnal Green the tower room would have been demolished and the gaps in the other sculptures would have been filled with crisps, sand and small children. No parents were sipping cappucino in the gallery, no one was changing a nappy/using a potty on the floor and there were no riots. Most odd. There was a lovely family craft activity happening with cardboard and tape, none of which was being applied to priceless artworks. I wonder what they’re doing wrong?

In the evening we went for dinner at Piccola Italia, where I indulged in lovely garlicky tiger prawns followed by sea bass ravioli and an affogato with rum and raisins. It was here I put forward my theory of how to train the little owls who live in the tree on Ealing Common, which I still think would have worked if only they were prepared to try. It would have taken patience and an inexhaustible supply of Russian dwarf hamsters but the end result would have been worth it.

On Friday morning we loaded up our backpacks with flasks and hiking necessities like Frazzles and KMC (Kendal Mint Cake’s rebrand – just cover it in dark chocolate and add an electrolyte or something and it immediately becomes a health food. Possibly.) and headed off towards the Ashridge Estate, a National Trust-managed area in Hertfordshire.

Starting at the Bridgewater Monument, we followed a route in one of Tan’s books of circular walks which would cover Ivinghoe Beacon and some excellent views. We headed downhill first into Aldbury and then across farmland and a golf course where we met a family who asked us if we’d just come from Tring station, as they had gone off course somewhere along the way. We professed ignorance, attempted to help, and then realised as we carried on the walk that Tring station was signposted everywhere for miles around.

Once we’d crossed the farmland and some golf course we were onto chalk downlands, where the red kites were out in force. Skylarks were shouting their heads off and we were even lucky enough to spot one. The whitethroats were in song in the trees, and the views were indeed excellent. A slight detour meant we added half a mile or so onto the walk but it was worth it.

We stopped for lunch on top of Ivinghoe Beacon – sausage rolls, Frazzles, KMC, coffee for Tan and hot chocolate for me – and watched the kites doing aerobatics overhead and a kestrel balancing on the air while we ate. The skies were HUGE, as you can see, and we had a great view of the Whipsnade Lion chalk figure in the distance.

Another slight detour while finding the path back to the monument meant we saw a herd of about 15 deer running across the path in front of us. Back on the right route, there were many little lambs, primroses, violets and early bluebells – spring was springing all over the place.

We covered about eight miles, appreciated our walking poles and the sunshine and are looking forward to next month’s hiking adventure in Majorca!

Other things making me happy this week:

  • Filling my Instagram feed with owls and baby Highland cows
  • Haagen Daz x Pierre Herme macaron ice cream
  • A skills sharing session with the learning team in the V&A cafe on Monday
  • A D&D field trip to the cinema this evening
  • Fixing the hole in my tights
  • March complete on the temperature supernova
  • Seeing my stepdaughters – one with child, one with imminent bump – yesterday, complete with mad dogs
  • Sock one done of a new pair

A Happy Easter to you all, whatever you’re up to!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Kate Shugak investigations 1-7 (so far) in anticipation of #23 coming out this week – Dana Stabenow

Asterix volume 2 – Goscinny & Uderzo

Agatha Raisin and the Witchs Tree – M. C. Beaton

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