Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Miss Willmott's garden at Warley Place

Good day at Warley Place in Great Warley with my sisters today. The gardens were the work of pioneering feminist gardener Ellen Willmott in the early 1900s. She once employed 100 gardeners and was the first woman to be elected to the Horticultural Society. The ruins and foliage looked glorious in the sunshine with hundreds of foxgloves out, clumps of bamboo, palm trees and exotic plants everywhere. 

An omelette and pint of Thatchers bitter in the nearby Thatchers Arms was followed by a tour of the restored gardens. Many features have been unearthed since my last visit including new rockeries and lots of plant labels on display in the information hut. Also interesting to learn that there's a play about Miss Willmott, Ellen's Love, being performed at Little Warley Cricket field on September 3-5. Well worth a visit to see Alpine ravines, boathouses and the remains of opulent terraces and a once grand conservatory.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Dagenham meets 1984

Unlikely literary mentions of Dagenham Part One: Dagenham (which was then officially part of Essex rather than part of a London borough) gets a couple of mentions in George Orwell's 1939 novel Coming Up For Air, which I've just read.

When the book's narrator George Bowling returns to his childhood home of Lower Binfield he finds the fields of his idyllic childhood market town built over with mock-Tudor suburban houses. Orwell comments: "Do you know the look of those new towns that have suddenly swelled up like balloons in the last few years, Hayes, Slough Dagenham and so forth? The kind of chilliness, the bright red brick everywhere, the temporary looking shop windows fill of cut-price chocolate and radio parts. It was just like that."

A few pages later he reiterates, "it had given me a jolt to see Upper Binfield swollen into a kind of Dagenham." Coming Up For Air, with its themes of impending war and totalitarian threats, is thought to have pre-dated many of the themes of his seminal novel 1984. And it seems Dagenham might have had a role inspiring Orwell to create Airstrip One.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Romford Pele gets drunk in Highbury

Romford Pele is getting drunk in Highbury. Enjoyed the launch of the Brewhouse and Kitchen last night, the new Islington bar close to Highbury Corner. It specialises in craft beer brewed on the premises and one of the top beers is a cheeky tribute to Arsenal's Essex lad done good, Ray Parlour, aka the "Romford Pele". Romford Pele is a light, fruity beer that is most palatable and brings a flavour of the Essex geezer into N1, though as it's an Arsenal tribute beer it's probably best drunk in silence. Click on the link for more information on the Brewhouse.