Our pretty house!
For something different, we took the overground train which services most of the south of London. It was a little over an hour each way, plus a healthy walk up Wimbledon hill, though we found it a more enjoyable way to travel than the underground trains, as one can watch the passing scenery.
(This is me in my dinner-attire, with some of our lovely Christmas decorations - these ones sent from Newfield Farm, NZ.)
On Christmas Day, we had a small sleep in and ate breakfast in bed - which was a nice change from the usual early morning getting-ready-for-work routine. We then decided to gather around the Christmas Tree and open our Moffat presents.
Together, we cooked a roast chicken and stuffing, boiled some new potatoes to have with a herb butter, baked some pumpkin, kumara and carrot, boiled some peas, and (eventually) made a gravy.
It was so great to have a meal that was all self-made (even the stuffing!), and while it got pretty hot in our wee kitchen, it was a nice reward to sit down to such a delicious lunch afterwards.
After we had let our lunch settle for a while, we decided it was time for a spot of Christmas Squirrel Hunting. Google informed us that there was a large woodland relatively close to our flat, so we set off, armed with the GPS and camera.
Oxleas Wood is an ancient woodland that is part of a chain (The Green Chain) of woods sitting atop Shooters Hill (nice name!) in the London borough of Greenwich. Oxleas Wood is around 72 hectares, and parts of the wider green chain are around 8000 years old, considered by ecologists to be a very important wildlife habitat.
Because the area has quite a slope, it wasn't very suitable for housing, so it was largely left in its natural state, though some timber was taken for dockyards at Woolwich and Deptford. (These two places are north of Shooters Hill, on the South East banks of the Thames.)
Shooters Hill has been quite an important place in history, and for some time was used as a beacon site to pass messages around the country. The Hill is about the tenth highest site in London, so for many years fires were lit on the hill that could be seen miles away. (This is so Lord of the Rings!)
The Hill was also an important route for travellers, and in the early days it is documented that robbers and thieves used the woods as a hideout from which to attack those who passed through. The Green Chain Education website notes that in 1313, King Edward II called for the highway through the woods to be widened, in order to make the area safer. Apparently this did not do much to deter the highwaymen, and for some time the road through the area featured the bodies of convicted robbers hung from gibbets - or gallows.
In 1311, the site became part of the Royal manor of Eltham, and was leased to a baronet from the 1600s to 1800s, when the woods were taken over by the Government war department, and are now owned by the council.
A large campaign to save the woods took place in the 1980s and 1990s, when the council proposed making a new crossing over the Thames which would have a link road cutting directly through the Green Chain. Luckily, for now, the protesters were successful and the plans have been put on hold.
While we spent about 1.5 hours in the Wood, we actually did not cover very much of it. When we got home, I put my research skills to work, reading about the great history of the area. We will have to go back sometime, as it turns out there is a castle - or actually a folly (these are basically decorative buildings that look like baby castles) - in the Woods somewhere, and we'd also like to take a walk through more of the actual wood to see if we can spot some more wildlife.
Have a look at this picture and see how long it takes you to spot the squirrel...
As it grew darker, and we decided we'd better head home, something exciting happened. I turned around to look at a path we had wandered up earlier in the afternoon, and I saw a large, reddish brown creature with a white-tipped tail mincing across the path and into an overgrown, fenced garden.
Fox or not? I shall never know.
As we walked back to our car, I turned for one last look at this delightful neighbourhood with its pretty houses. Yes, I could definitely live here!
We returned home (after spending quite some time scraping a large pile of dog turd off my shoe. Grrrrrr) to a relaxing evening reading books, and eating our Christmas dessert - homemade sticky toffee pudding, from a delicious Jamie Oliver recipe. (Sorry to put dog turd and pudding in the same paragraph...)
All-in-all, a really lovely day. It was really special to have the day together and to be able to try our own wee Christmas on the other side of the world!
(My rad Paint.net skillz)