March 18th, 2018
So I’m taking a bit of a career break at the moment and living in Hangzhou, China for a few months to study Chinese. Last weekend one of my Chinese friends came to visit so we did a few of the local tourist attractions. Actually I’ve been to Hangzhou once before back in 2016, but that time unfortunately coincided with a G20 summit and it was soo crowded so I just walked round the lake and left.
The first stop is Leifang pagoda 雷峰塔. The original pagoda was built in 975. It was damaged and then totally collapsed in 1924, but was then later rebuilt in 2002. Underneath the new pagoda is an exhibition on the reconstruction, and you can see the remains of the originally foundations. I’m actually a big fan of rebuilding ruined historic sites, as long as it’s done in keeping with the original building, and I wish we did more of it in the UK. How much more interesting a tourist attraction would Pontefract castle be if they rebuilt it in the original style?
On Sunday we went to “Lingying scenic area”. I love a good “scenic area”, and this one is based around Lingyin temple 灵隐寺, one of the largest and reputedly wealthiest Buddhist temples in China. There’s a small rocky area with a number of ancient stone carvings, and lots of temple buildings, one of them containing an impressively large Buddha statue. I tried doing the praying-with-burning-incense-sticks thing and nearly set my fingers on on fire, possibly a bad omen.
Behind the temple is Feilai peak 飞来峰, the highest mountain in the surrounding area. From the temple you can climb up some steps to the viewing platform at the top and then take the cable car back down. I love how the Chinese word for cable car 缆车 has exactly the same pronunciation as 懒车 “lazy car”. Very appropriate.
February 26th, 2018
Last day out in the UK for a few months as doof.me.uk will soon be temporarily relocated. Decided to go walking near the Roman town at Silchester I visited a few times before. And from there walked along the downs to Newbury.
Iron age fort
There’s something about Newbury as a destination for my hikes, whenever I go there it always turns into proper adventure. This time I wildly underestimated distances as usual and the sun started to set while I was still on the hills 6-7 miles from Newbury so I ended up doing the last two hours or so along some country lanes in the dark. It was quite exciting actually – lucky I brought my torch though.
Downland at sunset
February 20th, 2018
I went for another outing on Saturday, this time from Saunderton to Henley. I wanted to go all the way to Goring but it was way too boggy for that. In the mud I managed less than 2mph on average.
Church at Radnage
February 16th, 2018
I went for an adventure on Thursday and ventured further east out into the Thames estuary from Dartford to Gravesend and then across the river to Tilbury in Essex.
Dartford had a lively market and a Wimpy, rumours of the latter’s demise proved unfounded. The highlight of the walk was definitely going under the QE2 bridge at the Dartford crossing. Reminded me a little bit of my excursion to Hull many years ago.
Walking along the salt marshes in the sunshine was quite pleasant, although it got a bit sketchy between Northfleet and Gravesend, ending up in some industrial estate. At Gravesend I hopped on this ferry to Tilbury on the other side. As the light was fading I hurried over to take a look at Tilbury fort: it was closed.
Tilbury is a rather bleak place. Dominated by the docks and more lorries than I ever saw in one place before. And that infamous Amazon warehouse. This poignant Newsnight documentary gives an accurate feel for the town.
February 14th, 2018
I went to visit a friend in York last weekend. The Friday afternoon was really sunny so I took some photos of the minster. And also nearly froze to death. It’s cold up north.
On Sunday, somewhat inspired by All the Stations, I went on a rail adventure around west Yorkshire. First stop was Pontefract. It has a rather delightful market town centre, but almost everything is closed on a Sunday.
I heard Pontefract had a castle, but the reality was rather disappointing. Most of it was destroyed after the civil war, and what’s left is being renovated. The views over the countryside and power plants were quite good though.
After Pontefract I went to Wakefield and discovered there’s not much worth visiting there. They have a modern art gallery but I soon remembered I don’t like modern art and got back on the train to Doncaster.
Doncaster has an old marketplace which looked interesting but closed. So I walked around the minster instead. And rather nice it is too! Very petite compared to the one in York.
January 12th, 2018
Way back in 2010 I walked along the easternmost section of the Thames Path, to a rather dreary town called Erith. Actually the official end of the Thames Path extension is a little bit further at Crayford Ness so I’ve had this niggling sense of unfinishedness ever since. Well, time to put that right!
I was a bit disappointed when I got to the Thames Barrier that the exhibition centre was closed for refurbishment. Not sure when it’s going to open again but based on the scale of construction it should be pretty epic.
The wind was bitterly cold and I was walking into it the whole time, but the late afternoon was beautifully clear and I managed to take some nice photos of the Dartford crossing and the Thames estuary.
I wanted to finish up in Dartford itself as I’ve never been there, but it had already gotten dark and it seemed a bit far so I caught the train back from another drab commuter suburb called Slade Green.
December 31st, 2017
I was in Eastbourne a few days ago visiting my grandmother. The only clear day of the Christmas period so I managed to take a few photos of the pier.
The gold colour scheme is new and very controversial, the idea of a certain middle eastern investor who bought the pier recently.
December 31st, 2017
Here’s another walk I did recently, from High Wycombe to Henley-on-Thames. Nothing particularly exciting or out of the ordinary, but a nice route to do.
West Wycombe hill
Turville, which was the filming location for the Vicar of Dibley
November 30th, 2017
I’ve been meaning to revisit Aylesbury since I discovered it back in 2015. I thought I could do a little ring around it along the signposted Aylesbury Ring. But that turned out to be wildly optimistic and I barely made it a quarter of the way round.
It was bitterly cold but the scenery was lovely and surprisingly varied. I like this old house with a moat.
November 7th, 2017
Everybody is so jealous of my birthday cakes. This year my mum really outdid herself with this perfect likeness of Kumamoto prefecture’s cheeky mascot Kumamon!
Kumamon expresses satisfaction with his cake