With travel restrictions lifting, incredibly sunny weather, and Alison being asked to take some holiday (to help spread out leave), we decided this was going to be a week of exploration and nature. The car was more than a little dead as a result of lockdown, but luckily we managed to get it all fixed – new battery, new tyre, full service – last Friday, which meant we could get out of London and go find some wide, open, socially-distanced spaces without putting ourselves or anyone else at risk.
To ease ourselves into this brave new world, we went out to the Surrey Hills for a walk around the Devil's Punchbowl. It was a glorious day and a really interesting walk, but we'd also made plans to drop by some family after work (keeping distant by going out to walk their adorable new puppy) so had to cut the loop short. Still, we went and checked out the Sailor's Stone and Gibbet Hill, which have a fairly morbid story behind them. The stone was erected as a kind of part-tombstone, part-memorial to an "unnamed sailor" that was murdered by three men on the hill; he was on his way home having returned from a lucrative sailing commission and had met the men in a nearby pub, where he had bought them lunch and some drink and left them with a fairly generous "tip" for their company, having heard their tales of destitution. The men then rode after him, waited until he was out in the middle of nowhere on the moors, killed him, and robbed him of everything. They were caught trying to sell his clothes a town over and sentenced to hang. I'll admit that I hate the notion of corporal punishment, but in this instance it does feel fitting. There's something so much worse about murdering a person that has shown such generosity to you hours earlier... At any rate, the men were hung from a nearby high point, no known as Gibbet Hill. Their crime was so reviled that no one would take them down, so they stayed swaying on the hill for three years until a storm brought them down.
Wonderfully, for an area so plagued by highwaymen and footpads, the priest that sentenced the three murderers to hang was himself well-known to be a highwayman on that very moor 😂
Following our history lessons and some failed attempts at finding nightingales along the edges of the old A3 we drove over to Rob's for the aforementioned dog walk and then wound our way back into London, stopping at Home Park. Alison had come up with the great idea of making picnic dinners for the week, so that we could leisurely leave the house and then stay out as late as we liked, so we had packed an assortment of treats and the old royal park was open late. I'd never been before and we didn't explore too far, but what we did see struck me as a bizarre mix of wild and landscaped, as is the tradition of upper-class British garden-parks. At any rate, chilling in the rays of the setting sun by the banks of the Long Water, with a herd of sleepy fallow deer illuminated not far away, was a wonderful cap to the day. We did manage to get locked in, having missed the sign saying that the park was closing "early" (we'd thought it was a 24-hour park), but that just gave an excuse to explore a bit more.
Overall, it was a great day! It was also the first major test of my new camera setup – both my new lens and a proper camera backpack that I was given for Christmas – which was equally great. The Sigma performed admirably and I managed to get some great shots of the deer in the park, as well as Hampton Court itself glowing gold in the dusk light, plus the backpack was ideal for our short hike. Two thumbs up 👍👍