A Different View
I've explored the cheaper options for getting to London lately as I've been tempted up there quite a lot in March. As a result, I've enjoyed a different view of our capital from the bus compared to my usual train journey.
Highlights are a quick glimpse of Chiswick House, plus the trip along the Thames Embankment and a view of the boat houses moored on the river, even a Thames barge last week. Then we go past Chelsea Physic Garden and the Royal Hospital grounds with the latter looking quite calm compared to RHS showtime. It's a surprise to see the Chelsea pensioners in the local Tesco Express dressed in their workaday blue uniform instead of the red finery we're used to.
Spotting the Thames boat houses made me itch to capture their varied gardens for my Unusual Front Gardens series, as does the green wall I spotted on the side of the Porsche showroom as we whisked through Chiswick. I've yet to find the best opportunity to photograph these as I've either been sitting on the wrong side or the bus raced past them too quickly.
However, last Wednesday's tea-time snarl of rush-hour traffic gave me plenty of time to ponder London's plane trees. It was their seed balls which grabbed my attention first as they lent an out-of-season festive air to the streets. You can just about see a few of their baubles in the photo at the top of this post.
Even though I've photographed the plane trees at the Inner Temple Gardens previously, I hadn't really appreciated just how tall they are. Seeing them next to street after street of fine houses and how effortlessly they dwarf them brought this realisation sharply into focus.
I don't particularly like pollarded trees, but somehow in last week's stark evening light they seemed just right for where they are. I was struck by how each tree was like a giant hand with the knobbliest of fingers. These must have been trimmed back to their 'knuckles' over the winter. As my friend Helen says, "They always remind me of fists being shaken at the sky."
London is famous for its plane trees. They manage to thrive in polluted air as their bark regularly sloughs off the worst of what the tree has absorbed. They don't mind constricted roots and can last for hundreds of years. However, the pollarded version means they're relatively high maintenance and the threat of disease in recent years means they're being replaced (if at all) by other options such as silver birch.
It'll be a shame if these trees suffer the same fate. They're already a firm favourite on my alternative way home.