Hampstead Magic

The story goes that C S Lewis was walking on Hampstead Heath in the snow , when he came back the experience had inspired him to write The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe. This place with Kenwood house sitting at the top of the ridge and the grass sloping away to ponds surrounded by fantastic trees definitely had a feel of magic.

Kenwood house sits in a glorious position overlooking the heath and is itself full of wonders , beautiful works of art left to the nation free for everyone to see.

In the sun the sounds of birds were not altogether the norm, there was a flash of green as a ring collared parakeet flew by. I loved these chatty birds with their long tails and airplane shapes in flight. They were often together and seemed to favour the oak trees to sit in and chat to each other.

These parrots eat fruits, nuts, berries and seeds. They are the most northerly breeding parrot in the world. They nest in tree holes and roost on flocks that can be made up of hundreds of birds. The existence if these birds is shrouded in urban myths. First idea, they were kept by Henry VIII the cage fell from the palace window . Story number two, they were released by Jimi Hendrix, a third that they escaped from the film set of The African Queen. They were most probably released or escaped pets initially. There are two main strongholds the one in the SE roosting in Hither Green Cemetery and westward along the Thames at Richmond. They were first recorded in the wild in 1855. There are now approximately 8,500 breeding pairs.

They are very fast, they are bubbly and exciting to watch . This one left the oak tree in a flash and that is all I managed to capture.

I scribbled down some interesting facts about Hampstead Heath .

  • It covers 791 acres, there are 25 main ponds.
  • There are areas of ancient woodland, bog , hedgerows and grassland.
  • The flag at Whitestove pond is 440 ft above sea level,it is inner Londons highest point.
  • This high point is the site of a beacon to warn of the approach of the Spanish Armada in 1588.
  • The Spaniards inn pub was visited by Dick Turpin.
  • 15 species of Dragonfly and 7 species of bat can be found on the heath.
  • Four of Londons rivers rise on the heath:- Eastbourne,Tyburn,Brent and Fleet.
  • There are 800 ancient trees on the heath some of them are over 500 years old.
  • A Saxon ditch mentioned by Ethelred The Unready can be walked along on the heath.
  • The sands on the summit are Bagshot sands and were laid down 40 million years ago.
  • On Hampstead West Heath there is a Mesolithic site 10,000-50,000 years old

This is a fascinating place steeped in history with incredible views across modern London and full of natural wonders,

The birds continued to be really interesting with the Egyptian geese on the lake.

The Eygyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca) is an introduced species for ornamental ponds, it was first introduced in the seventeenth century. They are native to Africa south of the Sahara.They were considered sacred by the Eygyptians and appeared in their artwork. Forty years ago the numbers of these geese started to increase and over the last 15 years the population has risen even more. There are now 900 breeding pairs just in Norfolk.

They are unusual as they nest in winter and they can have up to 10 chicks. They are grass feeders and they prefer to nest in tree holes or rabbit burrows.

Another very attractive bird caught my eye on the lake , the tufted duck ( Aythya fuligula) there are 19,000 resident in the UK and 110,000 overwintering. They are a diving duck.

The bird life was full of super surprises on this trip, a Jay spent at least 15 minutes hoping about investigating grass for worms and didn’t mind an audience,

The chestnut tree i saw at Stowe gardens on the Sunday was super but this tree on the heath was magnificent.

Hampstead Heath was a new explore for me, I definitely want to visit more and explore the other areas . A magical trip !

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