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Friday, 30 December 2011

The UK's favourite TV moment? That royal kiss.

To end the year on a high note – Kate and William’s kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace has been revealed as the UK’s favourite TV moment of 2011. I’m not surprised. It was an amazing day, the streets packed with excited crowds cheering and waving. I was right outside the palace, and despite not having a huge telephoto lens ended up with my own version of that iconic moment.
Here’s hoping 2012 will produce some equally good memories.
Happy New Year everyone!!!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Dickens and London

For a real insight into what London was like in Victorian times, check out the Dickens and London exhibition at the Museum of London. Charles Dickens called the city his ‘magic lantern’ and it became a constant thread running through his novels. (left, Charles Dickens in his study, 1859, William Powell Frith © Victoria and Albert Museum)

“Implacable November weather,” he writes at the beginning of Bleak House. “As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth … Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snow-flakes — gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun..……

This exhibition puts the author’s words alongside historic paintings and artefacts to create a picture of the sprawling metropolis he knew (left, © Museum of London). 

Objects range from a watchman’s box from Furnival’s Inn, one of the old Inns of Court where he had chambers as a young man, to a heavy metal door from Newgate Prison. There are more personal treasures as well – the author’s writing desk and chair, the velvet-covered lectern he used when giving readings, an original manuscript that gives an insight into his working methods, his bank ledger and a collection of boot blacking pots of the kind he stuck labels on as a child to earn money while his father was in Marshalsea Prison for debt.

Dickens’ London was developing rapidly into a modern city with steam boats, railways, the electric telegraph and the penny post, reflected in the exhibition’s paintings and displays. The author was fascinated by all these, but also aware of its dark side – the poverty, prostitution and childhood mortality, which he included in his writing, hoping to raise public awareness. The exhibition includes a Doré etching of an opium den, mentioned in The Mystery of Edwin Drood. (Dickens himself took laudanum, a tincture of opium, to reduce pain and help him sleep.)
But perhaps the most chilling is a painting, Applicants For Admission to a Casual Ward by Luke Fildes, 1874 (above, © Royal Holloway, University of London). It shows people queuing to enter the workhouse – a place of last resort. In The Uncommercial Traveller, Dickens wrote of the appalling state of one such institution in Wapping, but even as a child, lived in their shadow. One of his childhood homes was in Norfolk St (now Cleveland St, not far from the Telecom Tower), just a few doors from a forbidding brick building which he knew as a workhouse. Throughout his life he worked unceasingly, haunted by the fear of falling back into the poverty he had known in his childhood, eventually driving himself into an early grave. The exhibition ends with a specially commisioned film, The Houseless Shadow, by William Raban. It uses Dickens’ description of a walk through the Victorian city after dark to illustrate images of today’s London. The problems he knew are still with us, 150 years on.

Dickens and London is part of an international celebration to mark the bicenenary of his birth. It runs until June 10 2012. A book accompanies the exhibition: Dickens’ Victorian London, by Alex Warner.

Another book, Dickens and the Workhouse, by Ruth Richardson, comes out in February.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Emergency! Hat needed!

An intriguing party invite arrives, but with the stipulation that guests must wear a home-made hat.

That was the situation two customers in John Lewis in London’s Oxford St were struggling with last weekend. One was thinking of somehow attaching a mini-Eiffel tower to her head (she was French), the other was at a loss until she found that milliner Mary Jane Baxter was in the haberdashery department, showing how to make an emergency hat from a cereal box, scraps of material and some trimmings. These crafty creations had shoppers queuing to try them on and many went away, inspired, with a signed copy of her book, Chic on a Shoestring. (This has instructions for the hat, a feather fascinator, and many more imaginative accessory ideas.)
Their verdict? A lovely present, and great for an inexpensive wardrobe revamp even if there's no party invite on the mantlepiece.
Chic on a Shoestring by Mary Jane Baxter, Publisher Kyle Books, £14.99 (but currently cheaper on Amazon. )

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Standing room only at the world’s oldest Grand Music Hall

Forget the X Factor. THE show to watch on Sunday evening was at Wilton’s Music Hall in east London, not far from Tower Hill. A capacity crowd cheered, booed and sang along as members of the Players’ Theatre recreated the atmosphere of a Victorian night out, with all the hits of yesteryear.

The show was a fundraising gala – although a Trust has saved the building from the threat of demolition, it still needs more restoration work.

The theatre, with barley sugar twist columns and ornate plasterwork, dates from 1858, and in its heyday attracted stars like Champagne Charlie and Arthur Lloyd. (Some say Britain’s first Can-Can was seen there.) But times changed, and by the time the Trust took over, it had gone from housing a Methodist Mission and a rag warehouse to standing empty and abandoned.

Now, however, the theatre is thriving again, with shows which range from comedy and magic to classical concerts, opera and jive. (See details at ) It still shows its age, but the exposed brickwork and crumbling plaster are all part of its charm. Good acoustics mean performers can be heard without microphones, and the intimate size fosters a real feeling of community and warmth – something more important than ever in these straitened times. It’s not often you can find a show that will appeal to all ages as last Sunday’s one did. And as we all joined in on “Daisy, Daisy” and “When You’re Smiling” I couldn’t help wondering who would remember Amelia Lily and “I’m With You” in 150 years’ time.

Wilton's Music Hall: Graces Alley, London E1 8JB
020 7702 9555

The Players’ Theatre Club stages shows at various venues around London:

There are guided tours of Wilton's on Monday evenings:
(I've just watched the 2002 film version of Nicholas Nickleby and realised that Wilton's features as the Crummles' theatre in Liverpool - those columns are unmistakable. It's also in another 2002 film, The Importance of Being Earnest, with Colin Firth and Rupert Everett.)

Saturday, 26 November 2011

The ultimate recyclable Christmas tree?

There won’t be any fallen pine needles to sweep up at St Pancras railway station in London this year - the Christmas tree on the main concourse is made entirely of 600,000 Lego bricks. It’s ten metres high and took two months to build. 

Even the decorations are made out of Lego.

The company says it’s the tallest tree ever made with its bricks.
There are no details yet of what will happen to them come January 6 when the tree is dismantled, but maybe we'll see another one next year.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Christmas Traditions

Stir Up Sunday, the traditional day to make Christmas puddings, falls this year on November 20. 
I can remember, as a child, clamouring for a turn at stirring the mixture - and a lick of the spoon. The highlights were making a wish and watching the silver coin go in. (I still treasure a sixpence from one my Grandmother made.)
Today, with time so precious, the pudding, mince pies and often even our Christmas cake are bought ready-made, with no hidden bounty. They probably taste just as good, but a little of the pre-Christmas magic has vanished.
Some countries, though, still hold proudly to their traditions.
Lucia di Domenico, a chef from Puglia, in the heel of Italy, was in London this week for some cookery demonstrations.

She’s passionate about the quality and variety of her region’s cuisine, and brought with her a selection of 12 different sweets which she and her neighbours would prepare on Christmas Eve (left).

These ranged from a rich chocolate cake to my favourite, calzoncelli (below), said to resemble the cheeks of the infant Christ. There are many local recipes for these little deep-fried treats, but Lucia, who has a restaurant in Orsara, prefers one which includes chickpea puree, cinnamon and orange peel.


Lucia’s demonstrations encompassed several regional specialities, complemented with local wines. Determined the dishes would be authentic, she had packed all the ingredients needed in her luggage. There were even bags of the black flour, Grano Arso, to make the dark pasta found in southern Italy, Cavatelli. It struck me how difficult it could have been, explaining what they all were to UK Customs, but luckily she and her bags had no problems.
Lucia's Orsara restaurant: Posta Guevara
The demonstrations were part of a Puglia promotion organised by Antonio Tomassini

Friday, 11 November 2011

The World comes to London

“Are you going to Ethiopia?”
 “No, Turkey, then a quick look at China.”

There were some surreal conversations floating round this week at World Travel Market in Docklands, where thousands of travel professionals rubbed shoulders with government ministers and journalists.
Despite – or perhaps because of – the recession, attendance was up by 5% overall, and exhibitors were working hard to get their messages across. Exotic national costumes were everywhere; a Turkish hotel group, Lykia, even hosted a belly-dancing masterclass (left) as a taster of what's on offer to guests at their Antalya establishment. Amongst all the razzamatazz, one small stand representing Libya caught my eye. The company, Arkno Tours, is hoping to run trips there come the spring.

Encouragingly,  many more companies seem to be embracing sustainable tourism – and not just with hotel messages such as: ‘Water is precious. Do you need your towels replaced every day?’
The need for this was brought home by the Travel Foundation's massive copy of Rodin’s sculpture, The Thinker (left). Artist Dan Broadley created this using 1.100 plastic water bottles – the number the Ascos Coral Beach Hotel in Paphos was handing out to guests every day during the summer season. Cyprus doesn’t have the infrastructure to recycle large amounts of plastic, and landfill sites are filling up. The hotel decided to offer visitors carafes and reuseable cups instead, and more than 20 other local hotels are now doing the same. A small change with a big impact.

And tourism’s next ‘hot destinations’? Despite some local problems, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico and Argentina are all being tipped. For British tourists though, travel journalist Simon Calder might be nearer the mark with his suggestion that the popularity of Croatia and Spain will continue.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The best view of London? (And it's free!)

 This is the London skyline from the roof terrace of the recently-opened shopping complex at One New Change, just east of St Paul’s cathedral. (Click to enlarge.) A glass lift whisks you to the 6th floor, and suddenly there's this amazing panorama which takes in many of the capital’s landmarks - from the Shard at London Bridge (left), to Tate Modern (centre), the London Eye and Houses of Parliament (behind the spire), the dome of St Paul’s and the back of the gold-leafed statue of Justice on the top of the Old Bailey (far right and below).

The cathedral is so close it feels almost within touching distance, and  you can glimpse many details not easily visible from the ground, such the apostles in this group on the south facade.

One New Change was conceived by French architect Jean Nouvel, and has walkways that follow the medieval street pattern while at the same time framing the cathedral. It replaces a 1950s building that housed the Bank of England’s accounts department. A circular mosaic and a row of sculptures by Charles Wheeler were saved during demolition, and are at the far end of the terrace.
If you have time to linger and perhaps catch a sunset, there are places to sit, as well as a restaurant and a café.
The roof terrace is still largely unpublicised, so shouldn't be crowded. And even better, admission is free. So next time you’re in London, put One New Change on your must-see list.
One New Change EC4M 9AF

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

What would Van Gogh have thought?

A few weeks ago I was in Auvers-sur-Oise, the village just north of Paris where Van Gogh spent his last 70 days.

The stone cottages and their gardens are still much as he painted them, but the little lanes are now brightened by masses of flowers along the verges. This planting intrigued me - too co-ordinated to be self-sown, but not regimented like a municipal scheme. How had they got there? Who was looking after them?

The answer was on a nearby poster. They’re part of a project, “Je Jardine Ma Ville” where, in return for free plants and compost, residents create and maintain flower beds in public spaces outside their homes. Some 160 volunteers of all ages have put in around 10,000 plants, many of which are pictured on the poster for easy identification. Apart from the occasional sunflower so loved by Van Gogh, most are perennials so should bring colour to Auvers for many years to come.

Back in London, I checked the progress of a similar, if smaller, scheme beautifying the bare soil round street trees in Willesden Green’s Blenheim Gardens. Last spring a handful of volunteers put in hundreds of flowering plants, and many residents ‘adopted’ the tree pits outside their homes and even donated seedlings from their own gardens. Now they're planting 2,500 bulbs (see left), from snowdrops and jonquils to bluebells and tulips. Spring should see an explosion of colour.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Which apple?

How many varieties of apples can you name?

Probably just a handful.

But despite the limited selection available commercially, there are in fact around 2000 different kinds in the UK, and fifty of those grown in West London were on display at a recent harvest celebration at Turnham Green (left). They had wonderful names like Lane’s Prince Albert, Ellison’s Orange, D’Arcy Spice, Laxton’s Fortune, Newton Wonder, Lord Lambourne and Howgate Wonder. The oldest was the small, red, flattish Court Pendu Plat, cultivated since 1613, though probably enjoyed by the Romans.
Some visitors to the event brought with them apples to be identified by expert Steve Oram. He immediately recognised the one I had as a Blenheim Orange, an 18th c variety good for eating or cooking (left).

The day was organised by Abundance London.
Over the past few weeks, with the help of local school children, its volunteers have picked around two tons of fruit which would otherwise have gone to waste. Some was on sale at the event, either fresh from the tree or transformed into jam, chutney, cakes, crumble and juice. Delicious!

A reminder that Apple Day - a celebration of this fruit - is on October 21. More details of events at

Monday, 12 September 2011

Fresh from the press!

Visitors to the Queens Park Day in north-west London this afternoon had a chance to see how good freshly-pressed apple juice can taste. As part of the festival, a quarter of a ton of apples were peeled, chopped and processed by helpers from the Transition Kensal to Kilburn group, including David Young (pictured).  The press attracted a stream of fascinated onlookers and by the end of the afternoon, it had produced an incredible 450 glasses of juice. The apples came from local gardens as part of the nation-wide Abundance scheme, through which garden owners offer their surplus fruit to be picked by volunteers and given to good causes. Before Abundance came along, most of these apples, pears, etc would have been left to ripen, fall and rot. Now, through the efforts of local groups of fruit harvesters, it's getting to people who will enjoy it.

Abundance Sheffield has produced a guide to setting up a harvesting group:

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Take one pot of basil....

I saw this tip for a continuing supply of free basil in a newspaper and was amazed to find  a) it worked for me and b) how fast it was, compared with growing.plants from seed.

Take one supermarket pot of basil, cut off a stem or two at the base and put in a glass of water. Within days there’ll be a mass of tiny roots. Pop the cuttings in compost and they will become new plants, ready to take over when the original one is finished. When these start to get too tall, pinch out the tops and they'll produce sideshoots and become bushy. Keep on taking cuttings whenever the plants look like flagging and you’ll have free basil constantly at hand on your windowsill, ready to toss into salads and sauces.
Here you can see the original plant (back) with the rooted cuttings and a new plant. Magic!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Carnival Colour

The Notting Hill Carnival, held in west London over two days at the end of August, is Europe's biggest street festival. It attracts up to a million people with its steel bands, massive sound systems,  floats and dozens of stalls selling everything from jerk chicken to corn on the cob. This year's costumes were as eye-catching as ever - a blaze of colour on a rather grey day. Here are some of my favourites.

I'm hoping we'll see some of these again at the Thames Festival's  Night Carnival on Sept 11 - another spectacular event.

Friday, 26 August 2011

How Prince Charles's old curtains went shopping

Claire Morsman is a woman with a mission: to get us to swap our plastic carrier bags for reuseable cloth ones.
I met her last year at the “Garden Party to Make a Difference” – a festival of ideas to encourage sustainable living, organised by Prince Charles’s Start organisation and held in the gardens adjoining his London home, Clarence House.
She was there with her sewing machine, showing people how to make simple shopping bags from unwanted fabric such as old curtains – including some donated by the Prince (pictured).
Now she’s back at the 2011 Start festival, being held over the August bank holiday weekend at Kew Gardens, in SW London – and has more royal curtains to turn into bags for visitors.
The idea of creating reuseable carriers from unwanted material came when Claire saw how plastic bags were clogging up the water and killing marine life around the houseboat where she lives. With the help of her mother, she designed a simple bag pattern which her husband put on the internet, and began encouraging people to sew their own. Each bag takes around 15 – 20 minutes, and folds down to a small square which can be kept in a handbag or pocket. She sent one to Prince Charles. He liked the idea, invited her to the Start festival, and donated some curtains to be transformed. Bag-making groups have now sprung up all over the world. Claire keeps track of the number of times the pattern is downloaded, and it’s thought that the 100,000th Morsbag will be sewn up this autumn. The bags are given away free to shoppers (something she calls “sociable guerrilla bagging”) and have potentially stopped millions of plastic ones from going into circulation.
More details, and the pattern, are at
Start@Kew, with family entertainment and dozens of demonstrations of simple, sustainable living ideas, runs until August 29. Admission is included in the Kew entrance ticket. See:

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Harvest time again

The fruit harvesting season has arrived. So far we’re seeing bumper crops of plums, pears and apples – perhaps because so many pests were killed off by the cold winter. But in urban areas, much of the fruit often goes unpicked because the owners either can't reach it or have too much. To counter this, a network of voluntary fruit-picking groups has sprung up, all with different names, but part of an umbrella movement called Abundance. They gather the fruit, then redistribute it to charities, schools and community cafes on a non-profit basis. It's a very sociable activity - this morning  in NW London, half a dozen of us collected more than 80kg of eating apples from two gardens.
We also try to keep in touch with nearby groups - it's so useful to share experiences.  Earlier this month, pickers from across London gathered for a picnic in St James Park. We sampled each other’s jams, including kumquat and hedgerow, tried fruit leather, and enjoyed a salad with home-grown courgettes and beetroot, Two members also recounted their experiences with organised foraging expeditions for wild food such as samphire and mushrooms.
If you’d like to start your own local fruit-picking group, Abundance Sheffield has produced an on-line handbook:

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Buried treasure - Billingsgate Roman House and Baths

Few visitors to London, walking along Lower Thames Street, would realise that some of the City’s best Roman remains lie beneath their feet. The Billingsgate Roman House and Baths, in the basement of a 1970’s office building, are not usually open to the public. But during the recent Festival of British Archaeology, experts were on hand to welcome the public to this rare, hidden treasure (left).

The house was possibly an inn or private residence and dates from the 2nd century AD. The baths were added later, perhaps because of customer demand. It’s a rare example of a building in use until the early 5th century AD. Being by the Thames, it was probably frequented by sailors, traders and visitors. Bathers would alternate between cold, warm and hot rooms before cooling down with cold water and massaging oils into their skin, then scraping off the excess. It seems to have been a budget, rather than a luxury, establishment – the floors were covered with basic tiles, not costly mosaics.

After the Roman legions withdrew in 410 AD, business declined. The buildings were eventually abandoned and gradually disappeared from view. They were rediscovered in 1848 by workmen building the new Coal Exchange, and the complex became one of the country’s first scheduled monuments. It wasn’t excavated properly until the late 1960s, when the road was widened and the current office block built on the site. This summer work has been going on to prevent further damage from water in the sub-soil and stabilize the remains. On the two days the site was open, a steady stream of visitors descended the narrow staircase to the basement, where a viewing platform provided a good view of what has been uncovered: the baths and the north and east wing sections of the house.

At first, under the glare of fluorescent lights, it was hard to distinguish the different features among the jumble of bricks and stones, but a model (above) showed the baths as they were.

And archaeologists who’d worked on the project, such as Jane Sidell (left) were there to explain the layout and what had been achieved.  It’s hoped more people will be able to visit the site in the future - when the present building is demolished, its replacement is likely to allow better access to this fascinating glimpse of the past. In the meantime, the complex may be opening during Open House Weekend on Sept 17 and 18.

There’s a blog about the excavation:

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Waddesdon’s Royal Wedding Tribute

Visiting the gardens of Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire the other day, I was amazed to find on the Parterre an elaborate carpet bedding scheme linked to April’s Royal wedding. William and Catherine’s names are spelt out in silver plants below an image of doves carrying wedding rings threaded on ribbons. It looks complicated, but carpet bedding today is much easier to create than in Victorian times. The design is translated into a grid system on a computer, with each square corresponding to a tray of plants chosen for their colour and texture. The trays are delivered and slotted into place over two days, rather like painting by numbers.

Waddesdon was created in the late 19th century by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild. He built on a grand scale, with no expense spared. The top of the hill which dominated what had been a farming estate was removed to provide a platform for a French Renaissance-style mansion, and as there was no running water, 11 miles of pipe were laid from Aylesbury. The house was opened only in the summer for weekend house parties. The future Edward VII was a frequent visitor.
On Ferdinand’s death, the estate passed to his younger sister, Alice, a passionate gardener who employed 100 staff to tend the beds, lawns and greenhouses. Among her creations was this giant bird, one of the earliest examples of 3D carpet bedding. The estate then went to a great-nephew, James, who bequeathed it to the National Trust in 1957. It's now managed by a Rothschild family charitable trust.
As well as exploring the gardens with their sculptures, restored Victorian aviary and rose garden, I took a tour down a steepish path to the the watergardens and Dairy, now a venue for weddings and private dining.

The path leads on to a lily pond surrounded by grotto-like areas made of Pulham rock - Portland cement poured over rubble and shaped into artificial crags - very popular in the 1870s.
But a highlight of the day was undoubtedly Windmill Hill, the new Waddesdon archive centre a short drive away, which has a breathtaking view of the surrounding countryside. Here Stephen Marshall Architects have transformed the buildings of an old dairy farm into a stunning repository for documents reflecting the history of the estate and the Rothschild family. Low buildings and walls surround two grassed courtyards with a reflecting pool and sculptures, including Angus Fairhurst's bronze A Couple of Differences between Thinking and Feeling -  (below) which seemed to fascinate visitors.

With so much to see, I didn’t have time to see the interior of the manor itself. That must wait for another visit.

Tours of the water gardens and Windmill Hill are not available every day. Check with Waddesdon Manor for details:
Ph:   01296 653226    

Thursday, 30 June 2011

How to turn 8000 plants into a Van Gogh masterpiece

I’ve just been to London’s Trafalgar Square to check how the ‘living art’ on display outside the National Gallery is doing. Van Gogh’s 1889 painting of ‘A Wheatfield with Cypresses’ has been recreated with more than 25 varieties of plants, and although the colours in this living wall aren’t all perfect matches, as the foliage grows, it’s looking pretty good, and attracting much attention from passers-by.

For those not quite sure how the original looks, there's also a copy with an explanation. I wonder what the artist would have made of it all?
The living painting will be on display until the end of October.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Streetscape - the Greening of Blenheim Gardens

From this................. this............

                                           ..........................................and  this!                                                                                                                     


We're lucky to have lots of trees along the streets where I live in north-west London. But too often the area around them gets filled with weeds and litter. Now some keen gardeners are working on a project which is changing this. When they saw the local council (Brent) carrying out footpath improvements outside their homes, they got permission to plant flowers around the tree pits that were being created. A few months on, using lots of low-maintenance hardy perennials and a smattering of bulbs and colourful annuals, they've transformed their street. A walk along Blenheim Gardens has become a journey of discovery – each tree pit is different, with surprises around every corner.
All the work and after-care, such as weeding and watering, is on a voluntary basis, and as more people get involved, surplus plants from their gardens are being added to the planting. It’s a great example of how to improve the environment while increasing community spirit.
The project is being supported by the council and the Mapesbury Residents' Assn (MapRA).

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Chic on a Shoestring

Great excitement!

‘Chic on a Shoestring’ - a new book by my friend Mary Jane Baxter - has now hit the shops. She’s a stylist/fashion journalist who always manages to look fantastic by taking market and charity shop finds and transforming them into eyecatching outfits - in other words, a recycling genius. She’s now sharing her ideas, showing how to revamp your wardrobe for very little money. Odd bits of lace, old scarves, ties and t-shirts, left-over knitting wool, beads, sequins and buttons all find their way into simple-to-make projects. There are even instructions on how to make a stunning ‘emergency hat’ if you’re suddenly invited somewhere special but don’t have the time/cash to buy one new. Lots of beautiful photos and how-to illustrations - can't wait to get started!

It’s published by Kyle Books at £14.99 but I’ve found Amazon doing a special deal:

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

A walk on the wild side

This morning the sun came out after some overnight rain, and I headed to Murphy's Bush. It's a remnant of the native forest that once covered this area of Manukau,  20 kilometres south of New Zealand's largest city, Auckland. The air was alive with the cries of birds - tui, greywarbler, fantail, pigeon and silvereye - and flocks wheeled and swooped above the canopy. This huge Puriri tree, (above) beside the walking track, has bright red fruit, one of their favourite foods. 
 Murphy's Bush was owned many years ago by Mr Conway Grey Murphy, who protected the bush from grazing cattle, and encouraged people to use it for picnics and outings. Dominating it today are these Kahikatea, or White Pines, (above) which can grow up to 50 metres or more. Their trunks seem quite flexible and were swaying alarmingly in the breeze. (Early Maori used them to make weapons and canoes.)

Beside the track I found a Rewarewa, or NZ Honeysuckle. Though small now, it may eventually grow up to 30 metres high. Its flowers play an important part in honey production.
I loved the patterns made by the sunlight on the leaves of this Nikau palm tree. It bears pink flowers, followed by green berries which turn red as they ripen.

One of the star attractions of Murphy's Bush is this giant Totara. Its age wasn't recorded on the name plaque,  but they can live for over a thousand years, and grow up to 30 metres tall.

Ponga ferns abound in the reserve. The silver undersides of the fronds (NZ's emblem) were shining out from the shadows.
Although the bush was full of birds, the dense canopy made them difficult to spot. But this tui appeared overhead, and stayed long enough for a photo.