Saturday, June 27, 2009

Prime Time Greenwich

'Say, can you direct us to the Prime Meridian?' said one half of an American couple. The light was fading as I pointed to the path winding up towards the observatory. They'd left it late to photograph themselves astride the line but maybe like me they'd latched on to the idea that evening is best time to visit Greenwich Park in Summer.

On hot days it's crowded, mainly by tourists, and it's good to see at least one sector of the economy is flourishing. The DLR brings a lot of Londoners as well . So it's the last place I'd spend the day in Summer, except when the grandchildren visit and occasionally for the brass band concerts on Sunday afternoons. I walk through it a lot, though, crossing the heath and entering by a side gate near the Ranger's House.

It was different when I arrived at 7pm last Thursday, seeking respite after a day of hot classrooms. The top of the park is some 100 feet above the river and well supplied with ancient trees, so much cooler than the slopes, where couples were still lying on the grass. The Pavilion Cafe was closed, of course - Heaven forfend English people should drink tea beyond the prescribed hours, and closing time is around 5pm.

R and I had a a difficult time finding a tea-shop open in Greenwich town at 5.30pm last Saturday, except for a place called Biscuit, where youthful assistants were enjoying a Heavy Metal concert from the speakers and didn't seem to care it was completely at odds with peaceful recuperation. We carried tea in cardboard cups across to the Maritime Museum gardens, until we were turned out of there, too.

Fortunately, the park itself is open until dusk. The outdoor seating area behind the pavilion was deserted so I read a book, listened to birdsong and watched squirrels having an evening frolic. A pair of Magpies stalked around the bushes.

The light was beginning to fade as I passed General Woolf's statue overlooking the grassy slopes, down to the white square of the Queen's House flanked by colonnades. The domes of the Naval Hospital beyond were barely visible but the Thames was a silver ribbon meandering left towards the city.

It was good to rediscover the park as a quiet green retreat. I expect the Americans thought flash-lit photos were a small price to pay for the tranquil atmosphere.


Roderic Vincent said...

Ah, fond memories. I haven't been to Greenwich for years, and it's only just the other side of this tiny city. Must get there soon.

Sheila Cornelius said...

Roderic, glad this brought back memories. If I were you I'd wait until September now - unless you pay a late afternoon visit.