Thursday 28 May 2015

The King's Troop in Hyde Park, central London

The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery with their First World War-era 13-pounder guns  in Hyde Park 

Friday 22 May 2015

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015, central London

Main Avenue at Chelsea Flower Show - like Oxford Street at Christmas, only busier, greener and more aromatic

Sunday 17 May 2015

The Sky Garden, Fenchurch Street, central London

Although you have to book tickets a couple of weeks in advance, entrance to the Sky Garden (at the top of the so-called Walkie-Talkie skyscraper) is free and open to anyone - a prerequisite for planning permission, apparently. Once you have been through security, a fast, silent lift whizzes you up to the 35th floor, where you are greeted by a huge wall of glass panels facing the space age Shard. You will be drawn out, through the revolving doors, on to the balcony to take in the sweeping views over the Thames and south London sprawl. Back inside, you can climb the stairs through the lush, green shrubbery to another wall of glass overlooking the Gherkin and Cheesegrater skyscrapers, next to the ageing NatWest Tower. As you climb and descend the staircases, there are fine views west, taking in St. Paul's Cathedral, and east, taking in the Tower of London and Canary Wharf. Finally, you should buy an expensive drink from the self-assured, smartly dress bar staff, grab a seat and enjoy this extraordinary airy space. The orange and raspberry fruit juice (£3.50) is particularly good. 8/10

Monday 4 May 2015

Walks around Polesdon Lacey, Surrey

At the far end of Polesdon Lacey's car park, you'll find a big sign charting several colour-coded walks, varying in length from about 1.5 miles to 4.5 miles. Most of them take you down the steep hill into the Mole Valley that nestles between the Edwardian country house and Ranmore Common to the south west. Virtually devoid of any development, this Arcadian countryside contains the odd farmhouse and a charming Youth Hostel that looks like it belongs in the 1930s. It is hard to believe you are less than five miles from the M25 - London's heavily congested circular motorway. The longer walks climb up towards Ranmore Common, from where there are viewpoints back to the National Trust property. All the routes end up looping round through the bucolic woods and fields south east of Polesdon Lacey.  If you are National Trust members, you can stroll back to the car park via an 18th century belvedere on to the Long Walk, which leads to the foot of the lawn tumbling down from the elegant mansion. Lined on one side by a hedge, punctuated with white statues, and on the other, by woodland, this narrow lawn offers heart-warming views over the tranquil Mole Valley. 8/10