The Heath. Photo: Andy Sewell, text: Katy Evans-Bush (5/5)

© Andy Sewell

And so the day ends. The summer is a particular kind of time, like high noon: a bit brutalist. It doesn’t allow many shadings: you’re either in it or you’re not. The Heath gives a respite, with its dark nooks and ancient crannies, and the thronging Bank Holiday weekend is the end of empiricist summer. September, as timeless in its way as summer is always trying to be the new thing, is a second chance to bathe in warmth and light, in the presence – but still beyond the reach – of gathering autumn. For those of us who can’t relax when the whole world is ordering us to, and those who can’t go away somewhere in the de rigeur month of August, September is a valediction.

So into the woods we go. Not a wolf in sight. KEB

… for The London Column © Katy Evans-Bush 2011

Katy Evans-Bush’s new book is Egg Printing Explained

buy The Heath, by Andy Sewell

The Heath. Photo: Andy Sewell, text: Katy Evans-Bush (4/5)

© Andy Sewell.

Things people do on Hampstead Heath:

Argue, bathe, be a human sculpture, break up, build a snowman, Capoeira, carve their initials, climb the hill, compose poetry in their head, cottage, daydream, do magic tricks, drink Ribena, eat crisps, examine the evidence, expose themselves, fall in love, fantasise about the past, forget the city, gaze at the city, get lost, get mugged, go fly a kite, go walking with granny, grope a stranger, hide from the mob, idealise the past, identify trees and insects out of a book, imagine the Heath full of wolves, jog, kiss, knit under a tree, laugh, lie in the grass, look at the sky, look for their lover’s lost wedding ring, look for their lover, make friends, meditate, mug someone, nobble an acquaintance by the bathing pond, open a packet of biscuits, play with the baby, pose, pull the dog on the lead, push-ups, quaff wine, question reality, read a book, read a Kindle, record a video, search for the change that fell from their pockets, shelter from the rain, sit on blankets, slip on the ice, splash, stare at the ground, strain their muscles, sunbathe, surreptitiously check their emails, Tai chi, tea and cakes at Kenwood, think about John Keats, think about what to have for dinner, tread carefully in the mud, unravel their picnic blanket, unravel the mysteries of the universe, visit Uncle Walter’s bench, walk off the tea and cakes, watercolours, weight training, whistle with a blade of grass, wish there weren’t so many people around, worry, write a book, yodel, zzzzz.

… for The London Column, © Katy Evans-Bush 2011

Andy Sewell’s book The Heath may be purchased here.

The Heath. Photo: Andy Sewell, text: Katy Evans-Bush (3/5)

© Andy Sewell

The Bog of Despair

We’d lunched on Greek salad and coffee
In a place with white walls and a skylight,
And when the guy in the corner’s phone
Went off in a polyphonic can-can
We laughed without even trying to hide it.

We’d looked in a shop where a scarf
Of silk sat waiting for me to buy it,
And walked past a dog in a puddle
Of mud, who shook his coat,
But missed us – and we laughed.

The Heath was lovely that day –
The air was full of spring.
We’d walked up a foresty path,
Past a rubber hung like a thief on a tree,
Full of swag, and we’d laughed and laughed.

We’d walked past the swimming pond
And up the mound of Parliament Hill,
Talking about John Keats,
And other people we know, and the dog,
Looking for somewhere to sit, and laughing.

But every bench we came to
Was engraved in memory of someone
Loved and regretted, young, a child.
I imagined them sitting quiet
Along the hill, or invisibly playing.

The benches sat on a fat slope
Far from the blue chiffon horizon,
The blink of Canary Wharf,
The London Eye’s diamond necklace.
We read them, and flinched, and laughed.

We turned and started down:
You had to get your kids from school,
And I had a shiny scarf to get,
And the jeweller’s-window view
Of London had ceased to amuse us.

Your new shoes from Paris stuck
In the mud, and we laughed: the Bog
Of Despair! We laughed because
We could feel, behind us, up the hill,
The children watching us.

see Me and the Dead, by Katy Evans-Bush

see The Heath, by Andy Sewell

The Heath: Photo: Andy Sewell, text: Katy Evans-Bush (2/5)

© Andy Sewell.

To Fanny Brawne,Wentworth Terrace, Hampstead
cFeb 1820

My dearest Girl,

I continue much the same as usual, I think a little better. My Spirits are better also, and consequently I am moew resign’d to my confinement. I dar not think of you much or write much to you. Remember me to all.

Ever your affectionate

John Keats.

To Fanny Brawne, Wentworth Terrace, Hampstead
cMarch 1820

Sweetest Fanny,

You fear sometimes, I do not love you so much as you wish? My Dear Girl I love you ever and ever and without reserve. The more I have known you the more have I lov’d. In e;ry way – even my jealousies have been agonies of Love, in the hottest fit I ever had I would have died for you. I have vex’d you too much. But for Love! Can I help it? You are always new. The last of your kisses was ever the sweetes; the last smile the brightest; the last movement the gracefullest…

Your affectionate

J. Keats.

To Fanny Brawne, Wentworth Terrace, Hampstead
cMarch 1820

My dearest Fanny, I slept well last night and am no worse this morning for it. Day by day if I am not deceived I get a more unrestrain’d use of my Chest. The  nearer a racer gets to the Goal the more his anxiety becomes, so I lingering upon the borders of health feel my impatience increase. Perhaps on your accounbt I have imagined by illnessmore serious than it is: how horrid was the chance of slipping into the ground instead of into your arms – the difference is amazing Love. Death must come at last; Man must die, as Shallow says; but before that is my fate I feign would try what more pleasures then you have given, so sweet a creature as you can give. Let me have another opportunity of years before me and I will not die without being remember’d. Take care of yourself dear that we may both be well in the Summer…

Your affectionate


Andy Sewell’s book The Heath may be purchased here.

The Heath. Photo: Andy Sewell, text: Katy Evans-Bush (1/5)

Photo © Andy Sewell

Time was when Hampstead was a happy hunting-ground for lurking footpads and half-masked highwaymen. Coaches were stopped and rifled on the roads that crossed or skirted the famous Heath, while hapless pedestrians were not infrequently stripped of money and jewels and left dead or well nigh strangled under the bushes. The daring outlaws guilty of such crimes were, after capture and trial at the Old Bailey, strung up to prominent trees on the Heath and kept dangling there till their skins were “crackling in the sun.”

There was an earlier time, fully seven centuries ago, when all Hampstead was so infested with wolves that the pioneer settlers on its wild heights dare not venture out across the Heath after dark; and geologists tell us that farther back still far back in prehistoric ages the whole Thames valley was a vast arm of the sea, and the higher ridges of Hampstead, that are to this day thickly coated with a soft, silvery sea-sand, may have formed part of an ancient beach that was foam-whitened and deserted daily by the incoming and the outgoing tides.

Out of these mists of conjecture and tradition Hampstead materialises, clothes itself with history, and grows in size and definite importance as a very popular and fashionable health and pleasure resort; an importance that, with certain modifications, it retains to this day. By the year 1698 its chalybeate springs had become so famous for their medicinal qualities that the waters were sold by the flask at apothecaries’ shops and at Coffee Houses in Fleet Street and Charing Cross, while physicians sent their patients out to lodgings in the village of Hampstead that they might drink at the Wells daily and enjoy the benefit of the purer air of the locality. It presently came to pass, therefore, that a Pump Room and Assembly Rooms were established in Well Walk, and Hampstead competed successfully with Bath and Tunbridge as a health resort for wealthy and fashionable invalids and idlers.

from Some Hampstead Memories, by Mary Adams
Priory Press 1909

To this day, Hampstead Heath exists out of time. Certain times lie very heavy on it; we feel the 18th and 19th centuries all over it, but that is because of the houses, the personalities who still help to define London for us – Leigh Hunt, Keats, Dr Johnson – and because we simply know more about the more recent times. In some way, though, the other times all still co-exist up there on those hills over London. On some days you can even feel the wolves. Maybe, “up where the air is clear” (as they said in Mary Poppins) you can not only see further across, but feel further back. In fact, it is like the way time stands utterly still to a person lying suspended in water, alone, surrounded by nothing but trees and sky, on a summer day. All heaviness vanishes: the world stops its ceaseless dragging, and only the water, the sky, the summer day – and Hampstead Heath – remain.

… for the London Column. © Katy Evans Bush 2011

Andy Sewell’s book The Heath may be purchased here.