I’ve been remiss. I promised myself when I started this blog two months ago that I would try for one every two or three days over a period of three or four months and then review the situation. And here I am, five days from the last post. I can only put this down to the fact that we are in London and that I don’t have control of the diary and that my dear wife has set us a hectic schedule. Excuses, excuses.
Primrose Hill is another of Northwest London’s valuable open air assets. It has a character all of its own and from the top of this this grassy knoll are some fabulous views across London. It is one of London’s protected viewpoints and is detached from The Regent’s Park by Prince Albert Road and the London Zoo.
In essence, it is an northerly extension of The Regent’s Park and its amenities include an outdoor gym, a children’s playground, and toilets, which are all located on the south side. And the trees in the park are kept low so as not to obscure the view. (Toilets, by the way, are all-important to 70+ year olds. It is essential to carry with you a mental map of the location of these facilities, each one surrounded by — it would appear — an isochrone of ever-decreasing diameter so that when the call comes you know to head towards the nearest public loo, hospital, pub, McDonald’s, Starbucks or whatever!)
The entrance to Primrose Hill is about a 12-minute walk from where we park ourselves when we come to London. When I’m feeling lazy — or at least too lazy to head in the direction of Hampstead Heath, instead of turning left, I set off right in the opposite direction towards Primrose Hill. When I’m feeling very lazy, I walk around the perimeter of the park where the slopes are less steep but most times I enter from Primrose Hill Road, look left, take three photographs and head up to the summit where I can look south and see London spread out in front of me. It’s when I observe that view, I know for sure that I am in London again. And although I’m probably treading on some thin ice as I write this, it’s this very specific view makes me feel comfortable and as if I’m at home. Strange, as I don’t have any childhood memories of this place and only visited for the first time when I was all of 15.
On occasion, I walk from the summit to the eastern perimeter of the hill to observe the spire of St. Mark’s, just opposite the entrance to The Regent’s Park, as it rises between the trees and the lampposts with the tall buildings of the City of London and the cranes that are part of London’s constant rejuvenation situated behind it.
I’ve noticed that over the years, without actually realising it until several years after I began, that I have three spots from which I have taken dozens of photographs. One is from the point at which I enter the park, turn left and look towards the summit; this always presents a different prospect, varying with the time of day, with the weather and from season to season.
My second point of focus is from the southern section of Albert Terrace looking west, from which point I can see several trees which also alter their appearance with the seasons.
More recently, I have been photographing a clump of trees which, to my mind at least, mimic the contour of the hill itself, and which also change character with the seasons.
And for whatever reason, I see these as the epitome of the essential quality of this wonderful space in London.
There was even a day last November when a thick fog encompassed the whole of London and the result around Primrose Hill was simply astounding. The trees were enshrouded by an inspissated cloak of moisture that the reproduction for this website simply doesn’t do justice. The individual branches (there weren’t too many leaves) and, in particular, the spiders’webs were just ribbons of hanging water drops. Even Photoshop couldn’t quite have dreamt this up.
On the summit of Primrose Hill, there is a stone edging that contains an inscription by William Blake, the English poet, painter, and printmaker, an influential figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. The epigraph reads: “I have conversed with the spiritual sun. I saw him on Primrose Hill.”
And that about sums it up, I guess!