Autumn Colours

The sprawling heath in Hampstead is one of the most beautiful places in London this time of year.


I took a walk through the trails in the woods and later up Parliament Hill (photos of that part for another time) and brought my camera along to capture the pretty colours.

Autumn Colours

Joggers, families walking dogs and couples holding hands stuck to the main paths so it was easy to find complete silence on some of the trails through the woods.

Out for a Run

The ground was a blanket of Autumn colour, the air fresh and wildlife scurrying about.

Through the Branches

The branches above were still losing their leaves.


It was, of course, drizzly (it is London afterall) and the leaves were shining.

Fiery Forest

Wild mushrooms cling to the branches, some flowers are still in bloom and the bushes around Kenwood House are pretty reds and orange.

Forest Growth

There are even lots of pretty magpies flitting through the trees…


Perfect for a lazy Sunday stroll.

Forest Floor

Crunching leaves under your feet, leaves floating down when a breeze comes through and squirrels chasing each other along the branches above your head, it’s a great escape from the rush of the city streets.

Hiking Trails

Either take the Northern line to Hampstead or the London overground to the Hampstead Heath station.

Fall Colours

After the walk, warm up with rum and chocolate crepes at La Creperie on the high street or pop into one of the many bakeries, pubs or warm book shops.

Fallen Leaves

Sunday Roast: Garden Gate

What better way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon than in the pub for hours eating the most delicious Sunday lamb roast I’ve had since I moved to London, drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows and playing a hilarious game of Monopoly with good friends?

Here’s a thumbs-up recommendation for Garden Gate in Hampstead for letting us hang about all afternoon and for serving up some awesome food. When you’re with three born-and-bred Brits who are all raving about how tasty the roast is, you know you’re onto something good. (Mouth-wateringly good, to be precise.) They even have nut roast for the vegetarians out there. And if you don’t like Monopoly, there are plenty of other board games to keep you entertained until you’ve got enough room for blackberry and apple crumble dessert with custard on top.

Now you know where to find me for many Sundays to come….

PS – There is also a big, heated, outdoor beer garden.

Pub: The Garden Gate
Address: South End Road, London, NW3 2QE
Food served: Noon – 10pm every day; till 9pm on Sundays

Listen to a Londoner: Donna Hardie

Listen to a Londoner. This is a weekly post where people who live (or have lived for a while) in London answer a few questions about the Big Smoke. If you fit the bill and want to be interviewed, give me a shout at Always looking for new volunteers!

Donna Hardie

Remember that recent post on Completely London magazine? I managed to get in touch with Donna – the editor of this new property publication that is cooler than your average property publication. She agreed to answer a few of my nosy questions. It’s a bit of a twist on the usual Listen to a Londoner posts, but she’s definitely a Londoner in the know! Here she talks about London’s secret river, tells us why Brockley is a cool place to live and lets us in on what to expect in the next issue of Completely London, out mid-February.

LLO: Completely London’s first issue is full of little London secrets. Which is your favourite? 
 For me it has to be the River Fleet that flows under the streets of London, including right underneath the Zetter hotel in Clerkenwell where I’ve often had breakfast, completely unaware of what was flowing right beneath my feet. It’s a piece of London that can be traced right back to Anglo-Saxon times – a tangible link to the city’s past. 

LLO: If you could move to any area of London, where would you choose and why?
Mmm, a tough one. If money were no object and I didn’t have to worry about how easy it is to get to work in east London, then I’d say somewhere pretty and village-like. Maybe Hampstead – a place that’s so chocolate-box perfect, you could actually be in a country village. But to be honest, I’m a confirmed south east Londoner, so I’m not sure how at home I’d feel north of the Thames (see our next issue where we challenge two readers to a north/south swap for 24 hours). I also think it would be fantastic to live in Shoreditch where I work so I wouldn’t have the morning commute. Maybe in an open-plan converted loft apartment with vaulted ceilings and a private roof terrace where my dog Bob could go out and play around. Shoreditch is buzzy, exciting and vibrant without the crowded chaos of the West End. I love the shady old Victorian streets in Spitalfields where Jack the Ripper lurked – there’s a very real sense of history all around you.

LLO: There are plenty of areas in London that are artsy and eclectic, but compromise safety. Others feel secure, but the vibe isn’t as fresh or exciting. Where can you find the best of both worlds? 
I’m obviously biased but where I live now in Brockley pretty much hits the mark. It hasn’t quite got there on the social scene yet – when I bought my house 10 years ago there, estate agents were already calling it ‘up and coming’. A decade down the line and it still hasn’t quite made it but there’s been a spattering of trendy coffee shops, delis and bars opening over the last few years which might mean Brockley’s turning a corner. It has enough going on locally though to make it feel lively – you can dip into the foodie scene of East Dulwich which is next door, or soak up the arty atmosphere of Deptford and New Cross just around the corner. Brockley itself is one place in London where houses are still reasonably priced, so it attracts a lot of young families to the area –  and for that reason there’s a safe sense of community. The East London line opens at Brockley station in June, and I’m sure when that happens, the area will be transformed, hopefully for the better, but it would be a shame if we had to compromise our sense of safety and community for the sake of a booming social scene. 

LLO: Any advice for incoming expats looking to let their first flat in London?
 Research your area thoroughly before you commit to renting. Websites such as give you information on the schools are in the area, the kind of people who live there, the crime figures, the choice of entertainment on offer and more. And as word of mouth is invaluable, you should ask like-minded people who have already gone through the renting process for their advice. Search online for expat forums where you can get first-hand advice.

LLO: What can we look forward to in the Spring issue of Completely London?
 The theme of our next issue is ‘Change’. And we’ve got lots to pique your interest – ways to breathe new life into your social life, interviews with people who have undergone life-changing situations, a peek into homes that had a previous life, a look at London gems that steadfastly resist change and much more that will redefine your views on our great Capital.

Thanks Donna!

[Stop in any London branch of Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward to pick up a free copy of Completely London….]

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

London Art Spot: Jacqueline K Crofton


Jaq is a born and bred London-based artist I’ve gotten to know over the past few years. She gave me my first job when I moved to London. She is a perfect example of an artist who lives and breathes her art, picking up inspiration in the little things, the shape of a flower perhaps or the swish of a woman’s dress. Colours , forms and textures hold onto these moments in her painting. Many are woven with scraps of Japanese paper, leaves, petals and other found items. Some are flecked with gold leaf. 

A well-established artist, Jaq is a member of the RSA and has exhibited her work all over the world from New York to Tahiti. It can be found in private collections of connoiseurs and on the walls of hotels and a few famous restaurants in London and Paris. (Random fact: One of Jaq’s pieces can be spotted hanging on a wall on the set of EastEnders.) Her work is represented by Jiq Jaq Gallery in Hampstead, NW3. Her new website should be launched by the end of the year. For now, check out: 

Jaq took a few minutes to talk to us for this week’s London Art Spot about her changing style, world travels and drawing Lucien Freud.

Homage to a Poet

LLO: Your painting style has evolved over the years from still life and figurative pieces to your current abstract collection which is very different. Can you tell us a bit about your style?  

JKC: I still do figure; in fact, I am doing tiny figures in oil today. They are somewhat abstract. I feel a yearning to return to figure – nudes, form, dancers, dresses, shapes. It can be hard to be entirely abstract and that may be over now as we are entering a new era where art must change from hard edge, conceptualism, etc., which was particularly seen before the recession and tied up with bankers, etc. 

Paint is still significant while all the other elements are incidental, like adding texture. Like a cake mix, sometimes you want to add more and more, but you have to learn control. I love colour, though too much all at once gives me nausea. Figure is there just to add a subject, to concentrate attention. 

Meaning and conceptualism is, for me, not relevant – just an intellectual exercise, unimportant. I see myself as an eye, a heart and a hand all working together. There is little thought. The more I think, the more problems appear in the work. I have technicolour dreams about colour and shape. I wish I could capture all the pictures I have painted in sleep or in half-sleep. My sleep is a great artist for sure. I wake up eager to capture the emotion, feeling excitement. I must work without stopping or it’s gone. I often go perhaps eight or nine hours with no food, no rest, no sitting down. My work is very much my personality. 

Blue Azzuro

LLO: Mixed media features heavily in your work these days. How do you choose which materials are integrated into your paintings?

JKC: I love paper – especially Japanese handmade – cloth, flowers, stones, shells. They are works of art on their own. I collect all sorts of things, sometimes just for inspiration, or as a visual aide to recall a memory. I like the act of tearing paper up and creating something new. Though sometimes the work can be decorative, I think there is a human need for decoration, a physical want. There was a movement called P&D (Pattern and Decoration) in the 70s. I think we will return to that or similar. 

Fundama Watches Over Me

LLO: You recently returned from a trip along the Suez Canal and travel quite often. What sort of ideas have you gained from these experiences? Do you always carry a sketchbook?

JKC: I always, every day, carry a sketchbook. Every place I go and the people I meet, are all very interesting. Recently in Oman I was inspired by the women and men and the robed taxi driver, the Jonathan Johnston flautist from Ireland moving on the stage and off and the dancers in the wings at a show, the architecture, the sea, the sky, the flowers.

The effort of travelling can be too much; sometimes it’s easier to stay put with all that packing and unpacking. The Middle East was quite an eye opener. It’s a new world to me. Dubai is super futuristic, Egypt very dirty, Oman very polite. Petra, Jordan was truly beautiful and amazing.

Sometimes ideas will creep into my work. Often its quite unexpected, a memory of a colour, a shape a texture, a face. I captured in photo a small girl in costume selling postcards. Who knows if I will ever use it, but it’s stored for the future. I always bring art materials when I travel – four or five or more sketchbooks, watercolour paper, coloured watercolour pencils, gouache, pigment pens, sometimes oils, sometimes watercolours and other bits and pieces. Sometimes I bring too much, other times not enough. I have even brought canvasses with me. Once, I was painting canvasses on the deck of a ship and the passengers thought I was crew, teaching. I ended up helping some people with painting.

Heure Bleue

LLO: In what ways has living in London influenced your work?

JKC: I think I could be anywhere for my work, though certain intellectual ideas I might miss, newspapers, London oddities. I think London is getting a bit regularised. It used to be very peculiar, full of eccentricities and personalities. Its getting to be like a glorified Homebase, every High Street the same, no individuality. Everywhere is the same. It sounds critical and it’s a shame. I am Londoner, born and bred. I was here in the 60s and I saw the rebirth of modern London from the start. London is visually interesting, particularly buildings in haze, like a Whistler. I like the RSA building where I go sometimes as I am a fellow, and I like the restaurant The Wolseley. I cannot tell you how often I have sat a table away from Lucien Freud. Though he doesn’t know me, I drew him once or twice and sent it to him. Sometimes he nods to me now. Even though the weather can make it difficult getting around, that’s the thing about London – you don’t know what you will see, who you will meet. When it’s great, it’s truly great.

Fair Drift

Listen to a Londoner: Luke Smith

Listen to a Londoner. This is a weekly post where people who live (or have lived for a while) in London answer a few questions about the Big Smoke. If you fit the bill and want to be interviewed, give me a shout at Always looking for new victims volunteers….

Luke SmithLuke Smith, 24

Luke works for a living. Hopefully that will change when TV channels want to commission funny comedy instead of drivel.

LLO: Best thing about London?
There’s ALWAYS something to do and see.

LLO: Worst thing about London?
 It costs the earth to do anything.

LLO: North, south, east or west?
 North all the way

LLO: How do you spend your time on the tube?
 Reading books

LLO: Most random thing you’ve seen in London.
  A musical quartet, flute, cello, drums and violin playing in Camden. They are called Speakers Corner Quartet. They were moved on because they didn’t have a permit. 😦 

LLO: Best local band?

LLO: Favourite London discovery?
Hampstead is really nice and has a real character to it.

LLO: Favourite market?
Portobello Market

LLO: Give us a funny London story.
 I was on the way home from a date and people were much more chatty and relaxed. I didn’t fancy the girl and couldn’t think of a way to  let her down gently. I ended up discussing it with the people in the carriage. They said I should go to an art gallery, separate, and if we met up at the same exhibit it was meant to be (?) They’d learned this from Hitch and were quite serious about it. A very beautiful girl with an ugly boyfriend chimed in and said she’d like to go to a museum as a date. The conversation then turned to celebrities. I pointed out most celebrities were short. The two guys I was talking to didn’t believe me until I pointed out the men and women were often the same height. And the women were all obviously short. They were quite struck by this, it had never occured to them.   

LLO:What would you change about the city if you had the power to do so? 
I would get rid of all the bloody musicals and remakes and have london the place for challenging, interesting and stimulating new writing for the stage. They exist already, but I think more could be done.

 Thanks Luke!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.