Monday, 8 August 2016

Out where the pines grow wild and tall*

Back in London with my father, a few days here before returning to Warsaw. Time to revisit old haunts together.

For as long as I can remember back to my earliest childhood, my family has always been coming to Sandy Lane (as we call it, Oxshott Heath as it is). My father can't recall who first found this weekend leisure venue, but ever since he had his own car, we'd spend many a Saturday or Sunday afternoon on the heath - sometimes, we'd come mushroom picking (earlier start), best in early-autumn, looking for prawdziwki, the brown velvet-capped boletus that's safe and tasty to eat, but hard to find.

From the car park on Sandy Lane it's not too far to the sand pit, a large man-made excavation made during WW1, when sand was needed in large amounts for sandbags destined for the trenches. The sand pit was enlarged during WW2. Today, it was the venue for radio-controlled model dune-buggy racing. This woodland is surrounded by fair exurbia, London's answer to Zalesie Górne, Magdalenka, Izabelin or Konstancin. Beyond the common, detached houses with large mature gardens.

The last time my father and I were at this tree together (below) was more than 19 years ago, with Moni and Eddie just before we moved to Warsaw.

Further on, past brambles bearing ripening blackberries, climbing gently towards an escarpment. As children my brother and I used to race down the path to the bottom. There used to be a large wooden hut hosting a tea room and selling ice cream down here. On the far horizon, the Surrey Hills, Leatherhead and Reigate.

Below: photos taken by my father 52 years ago - May 1964. My brother with, and without, ice cream. In the distance the escarpment, path running down it also visible in the photo above.

Left: war memorial overlooking the escarpment. As is usual across Britain, the majority of the names of the fallen are from WW1, with a smaller number from WW2. Many of the WW1 dead were from the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Below: it was a beautiful day for the trip; not too hot, yet sunny and clear, cooled by a westerly wind. Good walking weather. My father surveys the horizon.

Left: we walk back through the westerly part of the woods, where we'd pick mushrooms. It's been a dry summer, so little to be found here right now - we came across three puffballs, but none of the prized prawdziwki.

The journey from home to Sandy Lane by car took 45 minutes each way; during my childhood it would take half an hour - less congestion, safer speed limits.

Still, it was wonderful to revisit a place that was such a familiar part of our weekends in the 1960s and early 1970s.

* Title of post is a line from My Father's House, from Bruce Springsteen's album Nebraska.

This time three years ago:
Behold and See [Short story, Part IV]

This time four years ago:
A new-found fascination for Mars

This time five years ago:
Rhetorical question: why the fuss?

This time six years ago:
Varsovians! Ditch the car - buy a quarterly karta miejska

This time seven years ago:
The limited interests of mankind's geniuses

This time eight years ago:
Into the fading light

This time nine years ago:
Ar y Ffordd i Pwyl Rhydd

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