Hidden treasures in North London – discovering Hampstead Pergola

As you know by now, we love nothing more than a saunter around Hampstead Heath. It’s green, it’s walkable, and most importantly [for some] has a large collection of dogs to swoon over. We love Kenwood House and have a few favourite routes we explore. However, lately we made an exciting new discovery, thanks to a tip off from a podcasting friend (check out her brilliantly-engaging podcast, Uncatalogued, if you love museums and want to know more about the fascinating people who bring them to life). This discovery was Hampstead Pergola, described as “essentially, a raised walkway” near the Golders Hill Park part of the Heath. But what a raised walkway it is…

In 1904, Lord Leverhulme bought a large house in this area, named ‘The Hill’. With an interest in landscape gardening, he bought up the surrounding land and aimed to built his Pergola, for parties, summer evenings, and as a vantage point for enjoyment of the stunning gardens surrounding it. The architect he enlisted was the renowned Thomas Mawson, and he cleverly utilised the leftover materials from the nearby building of the Hampstead extension of the Northern line to cut transport costs. The Pergola was completed in 1906, after just a year in construction, and Lord Leverhulme expanded it twice more, in 1911 and 1925.

Hampstead Pergola

The house, visible to a degree through the Pergola’s framing, is still privately owned and now split into a number of apartments.

Hampstead Pergola

After Lord Leverhulme’s death, the Pergola fell into disrepair and became a shadow of its former self. In recent years, however, the council have undertaken renovation and repairs and, although not manicured, there are some beautiful plants, foliage and floral displays.

Hampstead Pergola

At this time of year, there was plenty of wisteria to gaze at…

Hampstead Pergola

The atmosphere is casual, with no staff, maps or formal guides, so as you wander through you keep discovering more unfolding in front of you. Gardens with attractive ponds:

Hampstead Pergola

And really interesting trees, coming into springtime blossom, like this one, known colloquially as the tissue tree – does anyone know its proper name?

Hampstead Pergola

And some beautiful ‘bleeding heart’ (technically known as Dicentra)…

Hampstead Pergola

And some wonderfully balletic bees, taking advantage of the lavender plants!

Hampstead Pergola

The pergola’s architecture was striking, particularly when we wandered down to the lower garden and looked back up towards it:

Hampstead Pergola

At the edge of the garden, decorative balls drew your eye down the rhododendron bushes and the length of the path…

Hampstead Pergola

While, back up on the higher ground, the sun cast geometric shadows on the walkways:

Hampstead Pergola

Creating, overall, a spectacular hidden sight!

Hampstead Pergola

Have you been to Hampstead Pergola? We’re planning to visit in every season, particularly in summer once the roses are out… Perhaps in a few weeks to celebrate someone’s birthday with a picnic!

Lumiere London – the city in a new light

Although one of us is currently incapacitated, having [very annoyingly] broken his foot slipping in a tube station (don’t worry, our love for public transport hasn’t abated too much), we wanted to see what we could catch of the first Lumiere festival to come to London, as I remember them being such a success up in Durham a few years ago. We headed out for the evening, but our first stop was the Benjamin Franklin House near Trafalgar Square, the only house still standing that Franklin lived in. He came to London intending to lodge here for a few short months but stayed for 16 years, even remaining while his wife died at home. The house remains in a fairly faithful state, although it was since used by Charing Cross station as a small hotel, but it has no original furniture. Rather than fill the house with replicas, the team have decided to approach this in an unconventional way, using image projection, recorded speech and an actress to take us through the story. Ultimately, we thought this was very successful (although rarely have I read more divisive opinions on Trip Advisor!). The actress herself was completely engaged and spoke clearly – had she been anything less than perfect the tour would have suffered (on which note, she did rather need a new costume…). The tour was informative, and we learned a great deal about the man himself and his rich and varied life. In the face of presumably limited resource, we thought this was an ingenious way to bring the house to life.

Benjamin Franklin House

We then wandered up to Trafalgar Square itself, to see the Lumiere installations everyone has heard so much about. On which note, first of all, out heartfelt congratulations to the Lumiere PR and marketing team – with so much going on in London, this was the thing everyone was talking about. Unfortunately, though, this did mean that a) we couldn’t see anything, really and b) so popular were some of the installations that they had to be turned off to deal with the crowds. Our first stop was the National Gallery, which itself was looking beautiful as always…

National Portrait Gallery

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Hanbury Hall – beautifully disorganised

We decided [somewhat foolishly] to drive from Leeds to Wales to Lincoln over the course of two days, to spend New Year’s Eve with friends in Cardiff and then visit other relatives on New Year’s Day – we covered a fair few miles, but of course found time to stop off at a National Trust house in Worcestershire on the way. Excited for this one, we got out of the car and showed our cards, only to be told that the house was closed. Slightly disappointed, we decided to go to the café anyway (obviously) and maybe to walk around the gardens. So, we wandered up the drive of Hanbury Hall, and as we approached a lovely tour guide called out of the front door to ask us if we wanted to join a tour. Naturally, we did – when he said that we couldn’t, as it was full. Somehow, though, we ended up in the hallway of this beautiful house, and on a tour. We weren’t complaining, if slightly confused…

Hanbury Hall

Built in 1701, the house has a colourful history with many family stories and much scandal. We were taken through a number of the rooms on the ground floor and talked through the family history. The Christmas decorations were also pretty wonderful, with garlanding on the stunning stairs, which were painted by Sir John Thornhill, of St Paul’s Cathedral dome, the Painted Hall at Greenwich and Chatsworth fame. The legend has it that he and his painting team made a fair bit of mess, which resulted in him painting in the housekeeper’s face to one of the cherubs…

Painted staircase inside Hanbury Hall

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Trip up North – Leeds Art Gallery

We love you, Yorkshire! The time between Christmas and New Year was perfect for a few days exploring the North of England (while trying to stay out of the floods), where one of us comes from. Leeds Art Gallery was one of our stops, home at the time to the British Art Show, which meant it was almost completely full of contemporary installations. We did put in an [early] appearance in the creative children’s section, as you may be able to tell…

Letters at Leeds Art Gallery

And made sure we took a look at the one room which remains constant amid the changing exhibitions; home to Renaissance and Victorian works by a range of artists, The Temptation of Sir Percival was one which caught our eye. Painted by Arthur Hacker in 1894, it depicts Percival, one of the Round Table knights, being tempted in his piety by a beautiful, predatory maiden. Excalibur of course features in the painting, as the counterfoil to her advances, and we particularly liked the use of colour and emotion in a classical scene.

Painting at Leeds Art Gallery

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Merry Christmas!

Wishing all our readers a very happy festive season, and hoping you have a few days off to relax and enjoy the company of your loved ones, yummy food, and maybe even a few presents! London themed wrapping, anyone…?

With love from the Month of Sundays duo xx [the kisses are from her, not me…]

Merry Christmas

P.S. Festive photography tip: this year we ordered some photographic Christmas cards to send to family and friends from moo.com. We chose five designs (which you will have seen before!) from last year’s wintry fun. They were ready quite quickly and cost around 80p each. Recommended!

Wintering at Winterville

Have you been to Winterville? We couldn’t face the Winter Wonderland crowds so thought we’d see if this was quieter, more interesting and just as festive!

So it was quieter. Almost too much quieter [it was a little bit creepy]. There were a lot of rides, and I’m a bit rubbish with rides [disappointingly], but they were fun to watch… And there were some indoor sections which were pretty amazingly decorated. Our favourite was a bar/café/stalls section (we really wish we’d seen the band playing!):

Stage at Winterville

We did have much mulled wine, which was very good.

Bar at Winterville

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Sunsets in Primrose Hill

Just two photos to share with you today, but we think they’re pretty good ones… We had a gorgeous day pottering around Primrose Hill (we’d definitely recommend the Greenberry Café for brunch – worth queuing for a little while [or booking!], as once you’re seated they are super accommodating and the food is delicious!) and snapped these photos as the sun set while we were on a walk.

View from Primrose Hill

Beautiful reflection on the water…

Regent's Canal

We hope you all had a fantastic Sunday!