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Living in multi-cultural London I sometimes forget that the north of England has such a different vibe. So an outing to the UK’s City of Culture 2017, Hull, re-opened my eyes to an almost quintessential ‘olde England’, one of beguiling pubs, quirky history, Morris dancers and, yes, white phone-boxes. All very East Riding, the Yorkshire county of which Hull is the hub.


When you spot a man with the word ‘LIGHT’ inscribed on his shirt, you know something’s up. In the case of James Turrell, the genial Californian genius, it is more than apt, as light has been his medium for decades. Not everyone can make it to his monumental Roden Crater, in Arizona, where he’s been exploring skyscapes for over 40 years, but anyone in the UK this summer should go to Houghton Hall, in Norfolk.


The term Empty Quarter is usually applied to a vast Arabian desert which spills its grains over the borders of Saudi, Oman, the UAE and Yemen. Well I recently found a very English equivalent – minus the sand-dunes of course, but in relative terms for this tightly squeezed island of ours, a pretty impressive emptiness.


Look at a map of England, and you’ll see a tight web of roads, towns, sprawling cities, tiny villages and the odd contour of hills. Spool northwards, beyond Leeds up through the Yorkshire moors and dales, to reach the fells of the northern Pennines. Here, squeezed between the Lake District to the west and Tyne and Wear to the east, abutting Hadrian’s Wall to the north, is a great chunk of nothingness. That’s it! Nothing – nada – nyet!

As autumn watches the trees turn to russet, yellow, fiery ochre and crimson before their leaves drift gently earthwards, I thought it was time for a blog to mark the colours of this season. London’s parks and above all the wilder Hampstead Heath have impressive vegetation, towering oaks and horse chestnut trees, and wonderful vistas, but for autumnal colours you need variety. So it was off to Winkworth Arboretum, a haven of over 1,000 shrubs and trees tucked away in the rolling hills of Surrey, southwest of the big smoke.

Winkworth Arboretum maple