Friday, 28 May 2010

Kingston and lime trees

Now I'm alerted to lime trees (thanks to Oliver Rackham [see Rackham ‘label’ down the side] and my trip to Berlin) I'm seeing them everywhere, and as often as not they’re big. There’s a nice bunch at the back of the Institute of Education in Bloomsbury.

And then guess what. I'm walking down a few steps this morning to get to the riverside walk on my way to Kingston, where I was (though I didn’t then know it) to have a nice German bratwurst in the market square, and noticed the stainless steel information display erected like an odd-shaped sloping table at the water’s edge and for the first time ever went over to read it. A main item on it is lime trees, evidently a local feature worthy of remark. So are the great crested grebes on the river that I've mentioned before.

There was some good history, too, that I hadn’t been aware of. I knew Kingston had at one time been the seat of Saxon kings, probably because it had the first bridge as you went up the Thames (I presume the Roman London Bridge had fallen down). But it also had royal connections into the middle ages, with the Treaty of Kingston, 1217, about which I read ‘The Treaty of Kingston, describes peace negotiations commenced between John and Louis, dauphin of France immediately after the defeat of the latter's supporters at Lincoln in May 1217. Talks broke down before a further naval defeat at Sandwich persuaded Louis to agree terms at Lambeth’ (Wikipedia).

Also, Raven’s Ait, an island (old English eyot = ‘island’) in the river up by Surbiton, was the source of osiers for the basket makers. The baskets, I guess, would be for the salmon that were the main product of Kingston.

And finally Sopwith! Tommy Sopwith had a works in Kingston -- 6 fitters and carpenters and a boy -- designing flying boats for the First World War. The prototypes were tested on the Thames until the Thames Conservancy objected, so Sopwith moved down to Richmond where the Port of London Authority, who control the river up as far as it’s tidal, were more hospitable. Sopwith’s colleague in the venture was none other than Hawker, Harry Hawker, later of Hawker Siddeley.

So fancy living in a place like that. The sausage was nice, too.

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