MAY 2017

Well, Easter came and Easter went, as did my chocolate egg!

On Bank Holiday Monday I set off with every intention of walking around Regents Park and on up to Primrose Hill to take in the wonderful views of London and to walk off the chocolate, but with a slight nip in the air I diverted to the Tate Modern extension.

Opened last June and named ‘The Switch House’ it does appear, both inside and out, to blend seamlessly with the existing Power Station even down to the concrete stairwells. Modern lifts will take you to the 10th floor viewing platform, offering a 360-degree view of London and beyond. Unfortunately, it also allows a somewhat intrusive view into the luxury apartments of Neo Bankside, a very modern four storey glass fronted block erected before The Switch House. Great for interior design tips but I would think very annoying for the residents and I wonder how long it will be before views from that side of The Switch House are restricted.

Talking of views, Greenwich Park (upper level) offers some of the best natural views of the city of London and beyond. The Park covers 183 acres and is said to be the most historic of all London's Royal Parks. It was formerly a hunting park then in 1427 it became the first of the Royal Parks to be enclosed. It is still home to a small herd of Fallow and Red deer which you will find at the Wilderness Deer Park.

Alexander Palace, Hampstead Heath and Highgate are also prime sites for splendid natural views over London as well as being great destinations for a family day out. By contrast, the space on the Observation Deck at the top of the Oxo Tower building is very limited but it does afford an alternative view of London, especially at night. It is free to visit and is located between the restaurants (take the lift).

Staying with heights; according to the table for "Highest points in Greater London above sea level", Sanderstead Plantation comes in second at 175 metres/574ft above sea level, beaten only by Westerham Heights in Bromley at 245 metres/804ft above sea level.

This year Wandle Park will host the 7th Environmental Fair on the 10th June from 11.00 - 6.00. Wandle Park was re-opened in 2012 after redevelopment and is ideal for families, offering a sandpit for toddlers, a play area, skate park, rose garden and trim trail. There is also a "stream" with ducks, plus the occasional heron. If the weather is fine, why not take a picnic. Main entrance is off Cornwall Road, Waddon.

Perhaps not so well known is the nature reserve at Hutchinson's Bank/Chapel Bank/Threecorner Grove. Located off Featherbed Lane, Croydon, this part of the North Downs was traditionally grazed by sheep until the 1950's but now the grazing has been reintroduced. Entrance is via Farleigh Dean Crescent and Thorpe Close. Hutchinson's Bank is a steep grassland dry chalk valley offering lovely views along the valley and over towards Croydon plus it is the top place for butterfly spotting so take a camera. Chapel Bank and Threecorner Grove feature enchanting ancient woodland.

Now, one for all cycling fans when Croydon hosts Round 5 of the Matrix Fitness Grand Prix Series on the 18th May to tie in with the Croydon Cycle Fest. This all-day event involves closing roads in the centre of Croydon and will incorporate Round 5 of the women's Matrix Fitness GP series, followed by Round 5 of the Tour Series as well as several charity races and other entertainment. Some of the biggest and oldest cycling clubs in the world are based in and around Croydon so this could be a very popular event. Details of the day and the road closures can be found at

Finally, one for your diaries and an opportunity to discover "art on your doorstep". Every year in June, crafts people across the South East of England open their doors to the public. The event, which takes place from 9th - 25th June, offers an opportunity to meet, talk to and see artists working. 300 artists across the South East will be taking part this year to celebrate 20 years of local art. A useful e-guide covering all the South East galleries and workshops is available on

Happy Venturing!

APRIL 2017

April brings seasonal sale promotions in many shops, adverts for bargain holidays, a marked surge of activity in garden centres and the general hope that at last the gloom of winter is behind us. Venturing Beyond aims each month to offer you its own brand of mini "bargain" in the form of free outings, free events or free venues to visit. This month I am starting close to home with events in Croydon that you may or may not already know about.

Every Monday evening during April and May, the upstairs area at the Spread Eagle Pub & Theatre Venue in Central Croydon, will be transformed into a boutique cinema with sofas and complimentary popcorn! Free screenings start around 8.00pm but spaces are limited so you will need to book in advance on 0208 7811134. There is a different film screening each Monday with the theme for April being "Superheroes” followed by "The Roaring Twenties" throughout May. Call or check the web site for individual film listings. 

One for the calendar is the Addiscombe Carnival on Sunday 28th May offering a Family Fun Day with music, stalls, food, arena displays and stage shows, 11.00 - 5.00 in Ashburton Park, Lower Addiscombe Road.

Or how about a step back in time at Croydon Airport Visitors Centre, Airport House, Purley Way which is open on the first Sunday of every month from 11.00 - 16.00.

National Mills Weekend takes place on the 13th & 14th May and Shirley Windmill kick off their season by opening on the Sunday 14th May from 12 - 5. Shirley windmill is located at Postmill Close, Croydon CR05DY. Two more windmills taking part in the weekend event are Reigate Heath Windmill RH28QR, which is a mid 18th  century mill currently used as a Chapel (open 12 - 5 phone 01737276103 for details) and Buckland Windmill nr Reigate - however this mill will only be open by appointment so please phone 01737843388. Sadly, Outwood Windmill at Outwood Common, which is said to be Britian's oldest working windmill built in 1665, is currently listed as closed but it might be worth checking the National Mills website nearer the time for up to date information. 

For information on all guided walks in the Borough and on friends of parks open days contact the community partnership officer 0208726 6000 or check

Venturing into London and one for all the family is The Feast of St George celebrations in Trafalgar Square on Saturday 22nd April from 12 - 6.00. According to the web site there will be live music, cookery demonstrations, food stalls, a beautiful banqueting area and a host of indoor and outdoor family games. Free entry.

I have to thank one of my neighbours for the next suggestion, namely a visit to Canada House, the Grade II listed Greek revival building, home of the High Commission of Canada in England situated in Trafalgar Square. In 1993 Canada House was closed by the Canadian government as a cost cutting measure with the intention of selling it. It has since been re-opened a couple of times and currently offers tours of the building on selected Friday afternoons, the next being 28th April at 3.30 followed by the 5th May at 4.00 and the 19th May at 3.30. Each room has an individual provincial theme and the tour takes approximately one hour. Admission is free but you will need to register in advance using the web site Alternatively, Canada Gallery, situated within the building, is open Monday to Saturday 11 - 5.45 (no booking required) and "serves as a window into the world of contemporary Canadian art". The current exhibition is by Rodney Graham, Canadian Impressionist. Entrance via Pall Mall.

Finally, whilst there is a charge for a Chelsea Pensioner led tour of the Chelsea Royal Hospital, you can watch the Chelsea Pensioners on Parade wearing full ceremonial uniform in the Royal Hospital central courtyard, every Sunday from April to November from 10.40 to 10.55 followed by a Service in the Wren Chapel at 11.00 which is open to members of the public. The Wren Chapel was built between 1681 and 1687 and is a rare example of Wren's pure ecclesiastical work. The Chelsea Royal Hospital Museum is also free and is open Monday to Friday, 10 - 4.00 (entrance in London Gate).

Happy Venturing.

MARCH 2017

And now for something completely different ...  but I am sure many of you will have already discovered this very cheap way to do sight-seeing in London ... take the No 11 bus. In particular, the section of the route that runs between Liverpool Street Station and Victoria Station so let's take a look ..

Liverpool Street Station is close to Spitalfields Market, Brick Lane and Shoreditch. The bus route travels via the Bank of England, which is the world's second oldest bank; the Royal Exchange, which is now a luxury shopping complex and Mansion House which is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London.

On to St Paul's Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge - offering a quick look over to the Tate Modern, then onto Ludgate Circus and Fleet Street. The imposing Daily Express Building is Grade II Art Deco, then there is the Old Bailey and Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub which was used by Dr Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens and WB Yeats.

Look for the grand Victorian building that is the Royal Courts of Justice; opposite this is Twinings Tea Shop & Museum (216 The Strand). This shop first opened in 1717 and is reputedly the smallest shop front in London. Free entry plus there is a tea tasting counter.

Journeying on to the Aldwych - the tube station was originally called the Strand tube station; opened in 1907 and closed in 1994, the branch never proved popular. Used in WW2 as an air raid shelter and safe storage for precious artefacts from the British Museum, including the Elgin Marbles, in more recent times it has been used in films and tv shows, e.g. Patriot Games, Atonement and Sherlock. Did you know that there are about 40 disused stations on the tube network?

Passing Covent Garden, Somerset House, St Clement Danes, Trafalgar Square and Admiralty Arch, you are beginning to feel this really is a great way to see the sights. Did you know that Australia House was used as Gringott's Wizarding Bank in the Harry Potter movies? Or that the Banqueting House, Whitehall, is the only remaining building from the once enormous Whitehall Palace, main residence of the English Monarchs from 1530 to 1698 until it was destroyed by fire? Prior to that date, it had grown to be the largest palace in Europe with more than 1,500 rooms, overtaking the Vatican and Versailles.

Continuing down Horse Guards Parade, Parliament Square, Downing Street, Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, then onto Westminster Abbey, Westminster City Hall, Westminster Cathedral to arrive at Victoria Station and all for the price of one bus ticket (if they still issued them that is!)

If all that sightseeing has wetted your appetite to discover more about our Capital, the Museum of London Docklands currently has an exhibition called Tunnel: The Archaeology of Crossrail, spanning 8,000 years of human history unearthed by the excavations for Crossrail. Open daily 10 - 6 and it is free.

Happy Venturing. See you next month.


Is Christmas a dim distant memory? Mine “flu” by for in keeping with many others, including Her Majesty the Queen, I had flu over the entire period and had to cancel several planned events and outings. However, I made up for it by celebrating my birthday in style at the wonderful Eden Tea Rooms in Selsdon High Street. Together with several friends we feasted on the most amazing afternoon tea, complete with vintage china. Par excellence.

February is half term month so this “Venturing” offers a few ideas for family based outings to museums that you might not have thought of visiting. Many of the top museums now offer free family trails and activity packs that can either be downloaded or collected at the museum so it is well worth an internet search to see what your favourite museum has on offer.

The British Museum has a useful free “e-newsletter” that will keep you updated on family events throughout the year. Their free Activity Trails and Gallery Backpack downloads include Museum Explorer for Colour & Shape (children 3 to 5 years) and a choice of 6 different pdfs for children 6+ years. Subjects include Ancient Greece/Britain/Egypt as well as Creatures. They offer free use of their art materials and a free map of the museum (available in the Great Court at weekends and during the school holidays 10.30 to 16.30). The Museum is open 10.00 to 17.00 with a late night on Friday until 20.30.

The V & A also offers Back Packs (available until 31.3.17) suitable for 5 - 12 year olds with an Agent Animal pack for the under 5’s. During the school holidays these can be picked up at the Grand Entrance or downloaded from the web. Open everyday 10.30 to 17.00.

The Bank of England Museum (Bartholomew Lane EC2R) offers free activity sheets including I Spy at the Bank (under 5’s with a small prize for completing); Explore the Bank (5-7 year olds) or Investigate the Bank (8 to 11 year olds). Open Mon - Fri 10.00 to 17.00. For adults with an interest in photography there is currently a “Capturing the City; Photography at the Bank of England” exhibition using images from their own collection.

However, if you would prefer to get out, stretch your legs and, dare I say, get some spring sunshine, how about a visit to Happy Valley Hi Tech Nature Trail? This 252-acre green space in Coulsdon recently won a top award for innovation from the Green Flag Award Scheme. Walkers can scan QR codes on their mobile phones to open web pages that tell them more about the local wildlife and history. The Trail can also be used using the GPS feature on smartphones.

Finally, a couple of “freebies”. If you have a young Lego fan in the family, then how about their free monthly “Lego mini build”. This event is for 6 to 14 year olds; children are shown how to make the mini build (one per child) which they can then take home, completely free. You will need to register a month in advance in order to attend: e.g. registration for March is from 9.00 a.m. on 15th February but with120 mini builds available at each participating store you are in with a chance of getting a place. Currently the nearest participating stores to Croydon are at Leicester Square, London Westfield, London Stratford or Bluewater. You might like to incorporate it into a family day out. Registration at

Martin Lewis’s free weekly email not only gives free financial information and advice but is also a wonderful source of free tickets for events like The Ideal Home Show (24.3 - 9.4) and Grand Designs Live at ExCel (29.4 - 7.5). Free to sign up at

Well that is all for this month. I hope you have enjoyed the suggestions. See you in March. 


January is Panto time - oh yes it is! London’s very own panto hero, Dick Whittington is said to have paused at Highgate Hill whilst on his journey home to Gloucestershire (clearly he was taking the scenic route) when the bells allegedly told him to turn again “thrice” Mayor of London. The bells were those of St Mary le Bow Church, 5 miles from Highgate Hill so what our hero lacked in navigational skills he certainly made up for in superhero hearing. A statue to him, supposedly on the very spot where he heard the bells ring out, was erected in Highgate Hill in 1821. The statue was restored in 1935 with “his cat” added in the early 60’s.

Perhaps not so well known is the statue to him outside the Guildhall; it is to the left of four busts to Pepys, Cromwell, Shakespeare and Wren outside the building. It depicts Whittington standing in front of a milestone together with his cat and the head of a rat poking out from his pile of clothes. In reality, Richard Whittington (1354 - 1423) was the 3rd son of a landowner with no expectation of inheriting so he journeyed to London and became an apprentice in the Mercers’ Company. He did very well becoming the richest merchant in London and an important banker to three successive English kings. He was Mayor of London four times and during his life time laid out large sums on public works including a 128-seat public lavatory flushed by the Thames. At College Hill there is a plaque (just behind Skinners’ Hall) marking the site where he lived with his wife Alice. There is no mention in history of either a cat or a plague of rats. (Oh no there isn’t!)

The author, J M Barrie, lived close to Kensington Gardens and first used Peter Pan as a character in a section of The Little White Bird published in 1902. It was an adult novel and Peter appeared as a seven-day-old baby in the chapter entitled Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. The stage play Peter Pan premiered on 27th December 1904 and he later arranged for the now famous Peter Pan statue to be erected in secret (during the night) to magically appear on the morning of 1st May 1912 to the delight of the local children. 

Not a panto hero (yet) but definitely a character loved by children and adults alike, check the web for “A Paddington Bear Day Out for Families”. It covers the locations in the books and the film and has a family friendly itinerary. Don’t miss the bronze Paddington Bear that stands under the clock at Platform 1 of Paddington Station and the statue, commissioned in 2013, of Michael Bond and Paddington which can be found in Sheldon Square near Paddington Basin.

Hardly a fairy tale palace but a building that would have caused a lot of interest when it was erected is Strawberry Hill House, 268 Waldegrove Road, Twickenham. This extraordinary white building is Britain’s finest example of Georgian Gothic Revival architecture and interior decoration. There is an entrance fee but as it is part of Open House weekend (16th & 17th September) so make a note in your diary now and then go to visit it for free. The library frequently appears in different guises in various television programmes. 

Rapunzel had a tower in the woods, London has a Tower on the north bank of the Thames. The Tower of London is officially Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress. Every evening over the last 700 years the Beefeaters (officially known as Yeomen Warders) have carried out the Ceremony of the Keys. Interestingly, during all that time, the Ceremony has never been cancelled and was only delayed once in WWII when a bomb knocked 2 warders off their feet. Tickets are free but have to be booked in advance. Surprisingly, at the time of writing it was fully booked till November 2017 so you really need to think ahead for this one.

No panto would be complete without some small animals - think Snow White and Babes in the Wood. Vauxhall Inner City Farm, 165 Tyers Street, Lambeth, is open Tuesday to Sunday all year and entry is free. Phone 0207 5824204 for details.

Finally, “why did Dick Whittington have a beard”? - because 9 out of 10 cats prefer whiskers. Boom Boom!

See you next month.