A very happy hello to you and thanks for joining me on another expedition of London’s best sights and hidden gems. My walk today will explore more of London’s wonderful bridges, as I begin at Chiswick Bridge and take a stroll past Kew Railway Bridge and Kew Bridge. My journey will end in the picturesque and quaint Kew Green where I’ll watch a cricket match! It’s a short walk, but I’ll uncover a really beautiful part of the capital along the River Thames.
My first stop on my walk is Chiswick Bridge, which opened in 1933. Located in Mortlake, the reinforced concrete deck arch bridge was designed by Sir Herbert Baker and Alfred Dryland – with it being constructed by Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company.
The two villages of Chiswick and Mortlake, located either side of the north and south banks of the River Thames, had been linked by a ferry since the 17th century. However, in the 19th century with the arrival of the railway and London Underground, as well as increased ownership of cars, the populations of Chiswick and Mortlake grew rapidly.
This caused congestion problems, which led to the construction of the A316 road. The new road required two new bridges to be built at Twickenham and Chiswick. In addition, to Chiswick Bridge opening, Twickenham Bridge was built as well as the rebuilding of Hampton Court Bridge. After the construction of the bridges, this resulted in the ferry being closed permanently.
The bridge is 606 feet (185 m) long, and carries two 15-foot (4.6 m) wide walkways, and a 40-foot (12 m) wide road. At the time it was built, the 150-foot (46 m) central span was the longest concrete span over the Thames. One distinct and unusual feature of Chiswick Bridge is only three of its five arches span across the river, with the other two passing over the towpath. The bridge is also famous for being the finishing point in the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race.
I really love Chiswick Bridge’s concrete structure, which makes it look so grand and elegant. Like all the bridges I’ve discovered on my walks, it stands prominent along the Thames, with such splendour. The view from it isn’t too bad either with the natural beauty of trees and glorious greenery on both sides of the riverbank.
As you leave Chiswick Bridge you get to enjoy a wonderful walk under the trees along the riverside path.
Walking along the towpath takes you to the very unique Kew Railway Bridge. Opening in 1869, the five wrought iron lattice girder bridge was designed by W. R. Galbraith and built by Brassy & Ogilvie for the London and South Western Railway. The bridge was part of an extension of the railway from Acton Junction to Richmond.
Given Grade II listed structure protection in 1983, it carries London Overground trains between Richmond and Stratford, and District Line London Underground trains from Richmond and Upminster. It’s such a quirky bridge and one of the few in London which carries only trains, not cars or pedestrians. The colour of it blends in so well with the colour of the trees and water, which adds to its wonderful character.
I’ll now take a stroll along the lovely riverside onto the final of the three bridges on my journey, Kew Bridge.
The first bridge on the site was built by Robert Tunstall of Brentford who previously owned the ferry which was located on the river in Kew. This bridge was inaugurated on 1 June 1759 by the Prince of Wales and was opened to the public three days later. There was massive excitement for the opening of the new bridge with over 3,000 people crossing over it in its first day.
The original bridge was constructed with two stone arches at each end and seven timber arches in between, which was costly to maintain and consequently ‘only’ lasted 30 years. In 1782, the bridge gained consent to be replaced with a new structure which was designed by James Paine – opening on 22 September 1789.
By the 1890s the second bridge wasn’t able to cope with the weight of the traffic and engineer Sir John Wolfe Barry was invited to assess the bridge. He suggested to build a new bridge, rather than modify it. Designed by Sir John Wolfe-Berry and Cuthbert A. Brereton, the third bridge was opened by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra on 20 May 1903 – and this is the bridge we see today. The bridge has also inspired many artists who’ve painted or drawn it, including Paul Sandby, James Webb, Henry Muhrman, J.M.W. Turner and Myles Birket Foster.
Like with so many of London Bridge’s, the stone design makes it distinct and is quite similar to Chiswick Bridge. The view across the river of Kew is really breathtaking with beautiful trees either side and you can just about see Kew Railway Bridge in the distance too.
My final destination on my walk is Kew Green, which has to be one of my favourite destinations that I’ve visited on all my London expeditions. The 30 acre (12 hectare) triangular space has been a venue for cricket since the 1730s – with one of the earliest matches being played there between Kent and Brentford in June 1730. Kew Cricket Club was established in 1882 following the amalgamation of two local clubs – Kew Oxford Cricket Club and Kew Cambridge Cricket Club.
On the day I visited I was lucky enough to watch an actually cricket match, which was a friendly between Kew Cricket Club and Acton Cricket Club. When cricket is being played it’s so scenic and whenever you think of village cricket you certainly have this view in mind. It’s such a quintessentially and traditional British sight a game of cricket on a village green, something you’d see on a postcard. I do love the sound of a willow bat on ball, very soothing and pleasant. The beautiful pavilion on one side with the St Anne’s Church on the south side makes it very reminiscent of Richmond Green. Unlike Richmond Green, I have actually played on this green back in 2014 for a work cricket day for a friend – so it’s one cricket ground I’ve ticked off my list!
Well that’s all from me today, and I couldn’t think of a more perfectly pleasant way to end my walk than on the cute Kew Green basking in the sun watching cricket! Hope you’ve enjoyed joining me on this walk which has seen me explore another three of London’s bridges and one of its great little treasures.
Thanks for reading and in the meantime you can follow all my walks on Twitter and Instagram, and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too so you don’t miss a post! Also why not have a read of my other walks which explore all over London, from north to south, to west to east via central, there’s something there for you! 🙂 Here are the links to them all below for you!
A lovely welcome to you and it’s my pleasure to be able to take you on my next walking adventure of our wonderful capital. Today’s journey will take me across South London as I begin in Norbury Park. From there I’ll stroll to the sublime Streatham Common and its picturesque Rookery Gardens, before ending my walk in Tooting Commons.
I begin my walk in the quaint Norbury Park, which is located between Croydon and Streatham. In 1935, the site was purchased by Croydon Corporation from a local builder, with the land formerly used as the North Surrey Golf Course, which dated back to 1920.
The site used to be purely fields, as documented on the Thomas Bainbridge map of 1800. It also indicated that the fields were owned by Pembroke College – however on 25 December 1934 the college’s lease to the golf course expired. In 1955, a school was developed right next to the park, which would become Norbury Manor Girls – opening in 1958. The site today is occupied by Norbury Park Business & Enterprise College of Girls.
The Ordnance Survey in 1955 indicated that on the east end of the park there were 11.5 acres allocated to allotments. There are still allotments there today, which really add a touch of distinction to the park’s surroundings. There’s something really interesting about an allotment, perfect for your own little bit of garden oasis if you don’t have the space for it at home. It’s also quite a personal thing I find, as you spend plenty of time, care and effort trying to grow your vegetables or look after plants. Beside the park you’ll find the Norbury Brook, which is a tributary of the River Wandle, and it’s ever so peaceful hearing its trickles of water. You’re never too far away from a river when you’re in a London park!
It wasn’t until 1956 that the park was officially named Norbury Park when the pavilion was constructed, with a play area being added to the park in 1969. The park nicely provides a mix of the natural wonders and recreational use. A quirky and unique feature is its BMX track, which definitely makes it one of the coolest parks in London!
I’m now going to make my way out of Norbury Park and stroll to my next destination, Streatham Common. An ancient common, it used to be the land of the Manor of South Streatham on which the manorial tenants had the right to graze their cattle and gather fuel. In 1362, Edward of Woodstock, known in history as the Black Prince, granted the Manor of South Streatham the Common.
In 1884, the Metropolitan Board of Works paid £5 to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, the Lords of the Manor of South Streatham, for the 66 acres (26.7 hectares) of common land in order to preserve it as a public open space. The eastern part of the Common was allowed to grow into a wonderful woodland area. The Board also planted trees to maintain the rural aspects of the Common, so there were huge benefits of them owning the area. The ownership of the Common would be relinquished by The Board with control being taken over by the London County Council in 1896 – with control passing to the Greater London Council in 1965 and finally the London Borough of Lambeth in 1971.
Right at the top of the common there is a formal garden known as The Rookery, which was formerly part of the grounds of the large manor that housed visitors to one of Streatham’s historic mineral wells. In the 18th Century crowds would visit Streatham to take the waters, as they were believed to have healing powers. The Rookery’s name derives from the large house that stood close to the wells. The house was demolished after the surrounding grounds were purchased by the London County Council, which resulted in it being landscaped with the gardens created – eventually being opened to the public in 1913. The area is now managed by the Streatham Common Community Garden which encourages community food growing as one of its many initiatives.
Whilst walking through the area it’s so tranquil, and reminds me so much of Holland Park, which has a similar garden in it. You can also immediately tell that a grand estate was on this site and that there were a large area of grounds. One thing I’ve noticed on all my walks, is that even though London has parks, woods, rivers, green spaces and natural beauty, there aren’t too many gardens like this, which does surprise me, given the history of the capital having many estates and Royal status. One thing I need to try and do is track down more of these secret gardens as they’re so pretty!
Taking a walk outside The Rookery, you enter a lovely open green space, and whilst you head towards the top of the hill you get to a real marvellous sight as you come across the Common’s breath-taking and enchanting woodland. With all of its trees, plants and cute pathways that lead you to hidden wonders, it reminds me of many of the woods I’ve explored before, such as Highgate Wood, Russia Dock Woodland and Dulwich Wood. You feel like you’re in the countryside and when the sun is shining (which it was on the day I explored it!), it really lightens and brightens up the scenic areas, bringing out all the golden colours. There aren’t too many places that perfectly combine a Common of open space, recreational areas, a glorious garden and a woodland like Streatham Common. Whatever your nature needs, Streatham Common has them sorted for you!
My final destination on my walking adventure today as a leave Streatham Common is Tooting Commons, which consist of two adjacent areas of common land lying between Balham, Streatham and Tooting – these are known as Tooting Bec Common and Tooting Graveney Common. Tooting Bec Common is in the parish of Streatham, whereas Tooting Graveney Common is in the parish of Tooting. Did you know Tooting Bec Common was also known as Tooting Heath?! The boundary between the two commons followed a watercourse called the York Ditch, which was a tributary of the Falcon Brook.
Up until the late 19th Century the neighbouring areas were predominately rural land, with the Commons mainly agricultural rather than recreational. The areas had animals grazing out on them from the local farms as well as wild fruit being grown there. As the years progressed and London’s metropolis began to get more populated, the agricultural grounds gave way to recreational facilities, such as a tennis court, bowling green, football pitch, a sailing boat pond and a tearoom.
Tooting Bec Common comprises of nearly 152 acres (62 hectares) and was one of the first commons owned by The Metropolitan Board of Works (MBW), which they purchased in 1875. Likewise Tooting Graveney Common was acquired by The MBW in 1875 – and is smaller than Tooting Bec, with a size of 66 acres (27 hectares). The Commons were transferred to the London County Council (later the Greater London Council) and then from the GLC to Wandsworth Borough Council in 1971.
The Commons are another fine example of the glorious open green space that we enjoy in London, and it’s quite a distinctive feature of South London these Commons, as we also enjoy others including Clapham Common and Wandsworth Common too.
Well that’s all from me folks on this walk discovering South London’s finest, including Norbury Park, Streatham Common and its picturesque Rookery, and finishing at the tremendous Tooting Commons. It’s a walk which has seen me be lucky enough to stroll through parks, commons, woodland and gardens!
Thanks for joining me and in the meantime you can follow all my walks on Twitter and Instagram, and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too so you don’t miss a post! Also why not have a read of my other walks which explore all over London, from north to south, to west to east via central, there’s something there for you! 🙂 Here are the links to them all below for you!
Hello there fellow London and walking enthusiasts, and thanks for joining me on my next expedition of the capital! Today’s journey is a tourists dream as I begin at Westminster Abbey, take a stroll through Parliament Square and the Houses of Parliament to see Big Ben. I’ll continue discovering more of the bridges that pass over the Thames as I see Westminster Bridge, Lambeth Bridge and finish at Vauxhall Bridge. It’s a short walk, but like most places in London, there’s so much to see!
Located near The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey is a Gothic church dating back to the 960s when Saint Dunstan and King Edgar installed a community of Benedictine monks on the site. Between 1042 and 1052, the Abbey, named St Peter’s Abbey, was rebuilt by Edward the Confessor to provide himself with a Royal burial church. Completed around 1060 it was the first church in England to be built in a Romanesque style, and was consecrated on the 28th December 1065 a week before Edward’s death, and who was subsequently buried in the church.
The Westminster Abbey we see today was constructed in 1245 by Henry III who had selected it as the site for his burial. Work on Westminster Abbey continued between 1245 and 1517 with it being completed by architect Henry Yevele. In 1503 Henry VII added a Perpendicular style chapel which was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1540 Henry VIII gave Westminster Abbey cathedral status which would spare it from the destruction or dissolution.
Nicholas Hawksmoor was the mastermind behind building the two Western Towers at Westminster Abbey which were constructed between 1722 and 1745 and which were inspired by a Gothic Revival design. The walls and floors of the Abbey are made from purbeck marble, with it being 69m (225 feet) high, with a width of 26m (85 feet) and a floor area of 32,000 square feet.
Since the coronations of both King Harold and William the Conqueror in 1066, Westminster Abbey has seen every English and British monarch crowned there (except Edward V and Edward VII who were never crowned). The King Edward’s chair is the throne on which English and British sovereigns are crowned. The chair is now located within the Abbey in the St George’s Chapel near the West Door and has been used for every coronation since 1308. Since 1066 there have been 39 Coronations!
The most recent Coronation at Westminster Abbey was that of Queen Elizabeth II who was crowned Queen at the age of 25 on the 2nd June 1953 after the death of her father King George VI on the 6th February 1952. The Coronation took place more than a year after King George VI’s death because of the tradition that holding such a festival is inappropriate during the period of mourning that follows the death of a monarch. During the service Queen Elizabeth II took and subscribed an oath to govern the people’s according to their respective laws and customs. This was the first coronation to be televised with 27 million people in the UK alone watching it, plus millions from overseas.
To date there have been 17 Royal Weddings at Westminster Abbey, with the most recent being when Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, married Miss Catherine Middleton on the 29th April 2011.
Since 1760 most Kings and Queens have been buried in Westminster Abbey with over 3,300 people being either buried or commemorated there. Included in this are 17 British monarchs and influential figures including Isaac Newton, Edward the Confessor and Charles Dickens.
You can only stand there and admire the wonders of this architectural gem which holds so much history and signficant moments in Britain, something which adds to its splendour and incredible nature. London is very lucky to have such traditionally classic and vintage landmarks like this which provide you with so much insight and knowledge.
It’s now time to leave Westminster Abbey and head over to the neighbouring Parliament Square which sits just outside the landmark. Laid out in 1868, Parliament Square was opened to free up the space around the Palace of Westminster and improve traffic flow, and featured London’s first traffic signals! The architect responsible for the square was Sir Charles Barry, with it being redesigned in 1950 by George Grey Wornum. The square has been known as a place for protests and demonstrations down the years too. It really does feel like the focal point of Westminster with Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey all in sight when you stand there, and symbolises all that’s iconic in the capital.
Surrounded by Parliament Square you’ll find 12 statues which honour British, Commonwealth and Foreign political figures. The statues include former British Prime Ministers Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George, Henry John Temple (3rd Viscount Palmerston), Edward George Geoffrey Smith-Stanley (14th Earl of Derby), Benjamin Disraeli (1st Earl of Beaconsfield), Sir Robert Peel and George Canning.
There are also statues for former South African Prime Minister Jan Smuts and South African President Nelson Mandela, as well as former US President Abraham Lincoln. Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian Independence Leader, features within the square too. The newest statue in the square is that of Millicent Fawcett, a campaigner for women’s suffrage which was completed in April 2018.
I do love all these statues around Parliament Square as it’s amazing to see so many great leaders and influential people who quite rightly deserve to be remembered so we all know the positive impact they had on the world. It does make you reflect whilst you’re standing in the square.
On the end of Parliament Square you find Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Known as The Clock Tower, or since 2012 as the Elizabeth Tower to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, Big Ben was completed in 1859 and designed by architect Augustus Pugin. The reference to ‘Big Ben’ actually doesn’t refer to the tower itself, but to the clock tower’s largest bell which weighs a staggering 13.5 tons!
The name for the bell, Ben, has some conjecture about it as there are a few accounts of who it’s named after. One being Benjamin Caunt, a heavyweight boxing champion, whereas another is Sir Benjamin Hall, a Welsh Civil Engineer who was involved in the bell’s construction. While Big Ben is the nickname of the bell, it is officially called the Great Bell.
Towering over the city of London, Big Ben is 96 metres (315 ft) high, and has 334 steps if you fancy walking up it! The time on the clock is known for its precision and accuracy, and has been both the largest and most accurate four-faced chiming clock in the world.
The clock’s face has 23 lightbulbs illuminating it with each of them enjoying a lifetime of over 60,000 hours and a life span of seven years. With an exterior which is renowned throughout the world, only residents of the UK can go within it and must arrange a tour through their Member of Parliament in advance. To ensure accurate time keeping, workers hand wind the clock three times a week, with each winding taking workers about 1.5 hours to complete.
The clock experienced its first and only major breakdown in 1976 when the air brake speed regulator failed, it caused significant damage to the clock and required a shutdown for a total of 26 days over 9 months. The tower’s belfry houses 4 quarter bells which are tuned to G-sharp, F-sharp, B, and E.
At the moment most people will recognise that Big Ben is having a bit of makeover! Work on the renovations began in August 2017 and are expected to finish in 2021, which means there will be no chimes during this time, apart from major events such as New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Sunday.
This is the first significant work to the tower since 1983-1985, with the landmark’s current renovations installing its first toilet, a lift, having a clock face repainting and re-gilding, as well as replacing broken panes of glass and replacing the dials. It’s quite sad seeing old Ben like this at the moment, but I can’t wait for it to look brand new in a few years time and back to normal!
Right next to Big Ben, you’ll find the Houses of Parliament. Officially known as The Palace of Westminster, they’re the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the Parliament of the UK. The building is owned by the monarch and is a royal residence. It is also managed by committees appointed by both houses which report to the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Lord Speaker.
The initial palace was built in 1016 on the site of William the Conqueror’s first palace and was the primary residence of the Kings of England, before it was destroyed in a fire. After that happened it would become the home of the Parliament of England. However, in 1834 a greater fire heavily damaged the Houses of Parliament and was redesigned by architect Charles Barry whose design was inspired by a Gothic Revival style.
The Houses of Parliament are the centre for political life in the UK with debates taking place in them on a daily basis. Within the Houses of Parliament sits the House of Commons which has 650 MPs from areas all over the UK who have been elected. Known also as the Chamber, there are only 427 seats within it, meaning many MPs need to stand! Parliament produces 80 million printed pages a year, ranging from the official parliamentary record – called Hansard – to committee reports and draft legislation. When a proposed new law, a bill, is sent from the House of Commons to the House of Lords, the clerk of the Commons writes “Soit bail as Seigneurs” on it – which means “let it be sent to the House of Lords” – in Norman French.
Whenever anyone thinks of London and is from either the capital, or from the UK, or across the world, The Houses of Parliament immediately springs to mind and for that reason it’s so symbolic and a true definition of ‘London’.
My walk now takes me past the Houses of Parliament to another one of the capital’s most recognisable features, Westminster Bridge. Proceeded by Lambeth Bridge, and following Hungerford Bridge and Golden Jubilee Bridges, the first Westminster Bridge was completed in 1750 and engineered by Charles Labelye to help relieve the capital’s trading congestion.
By the middle of the 19th century the bridge began to subside and was redesigned by Thomas Page and replaced in 1862 with the bridge we see today. The bridge is 820 feet (250m) long and 85 feet (26m) in width with seven case iron arches. Since the removal of Rennie’s New London Bridge in 1967, it’s the oldest road structure bridge which crosses the Thames in Central London.
The bridge truly is an architectural masterpiece with it looking very grand and royal! it probably is the most photographed of London’s bridges, given that many will be looking to take a snap of Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament too!
A stroll along the Thames will now take me to my next bridge on today’s walk, Lambeth Bridge. Designed by Peter W. Barlow, the first bridge opened in 1862 on the site of a horse ferry between the Palace of Westminster and Lambeth Palace on the Southbank.
The current structure, a five-span steel arch, designed by engineer Sir George Humphreys and architects Sir Reginald Blomfield and G. Topham Forrest, was built by Dorman Long & Co and was opened on the 19th July 1932 by King George V. One interesting fact is that constructors, Dorman Long & Co, also built the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle; the Chien Tang River Bridge in Hangzhou, China; the 3km long Storstrøm Bridge in Denmark; and the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia!
Lambeth Bridge is painted red to match the seats in the House of Lords, the part of the Palace of Westminster closest to the bridge. The crests on the sides of the bridge honour the London County Council who were responsible for its construction. I really love the colours and design of Lambeth Bridge with the grid-type appearance on it which adds a great deal of character and beauty to it.
At the end of Lambeth Bridge sits The Victoria Tower Gardens which were created by Joseph Bazalgette and have been present next to the Houses of Parliament since 1870. Although it’s a stones throw away from Parliament Square and the hustle and bustle around Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament it’s very tranquil and peaceful there next to the river.
I’m going to head off to my final destination on my walk, Vauxhall Bridge, as I go along the Thames.
Replacing Regent Bridge (Old Vauxhall Bridge) which was built in 1816, Vauxhall Bridge was designed by Sir Alexander Binnie & Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice and opened in 1906. With five arches spanning 809 feet (247m) in length and 80 feet (24m) in width, the steel and granite structure was the first of London’s bridges to carry trams. The bridge’s piers are decorated with 8 vast bronze statues, designed by Alfred Drury and Frederick Pomeroy. The statue titles include, Agriculture, Architecture, Education, Fine Arts and Engineering.
I wouldn’t say that Vauxhall Bridge is the prettiest of London’s bridges, but I do like the prominent red colouring and statues which appear on it. Plus the view from it is very nice indeed with The London Eye on one side, and Battersea Power Station on the other!
Well that’s all from me folks on this walk of the capital. Although many of the sights on today’s walk are well-known and recognised throughout the world, it’s always a pleasure going past and discovering them from different angles. Also I think we do sometimes take them for granted and should always try to take a bit of time to enjoy them. I’ve loved going on to see Lambeth and Vauxhall Bridges too as many would go the other way on the Thames near The London Eye, so it was marvellous to explore what’s on offer in Lambeth and Vauxhall!
Thanks for joining me and in the meantime you can catch me on Twitter and Instagram and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too! Also why not have a read of my other walks which explore all over London, from north to south, to west to east via central, there’s something there for you! 🙂 Here are the links to them all below for you!
Welcome one and all as I take another stroll across the capital! For my walk today I’ll be embracing the colours of Autumn as I explore Hammersmith & Fulham and Acton to really get into the spirit of the changing of the season. I’ll begin in Ravenscourt Park, go past Acton Green Common and Acton Park before ending my journey at Wormwood Scrubs. So grab the coat, scarf and walking boots!
I start my walk in Ravenscourt Park which is an 8.3 hectare (20.5 acre) public green area in the borough of Hammersmith & Fulham. Its origins date back to the medieval manor and estate of Palingswick (or Paddenswick) Manor which was first recorded on the site in the 12th century. The name still has significance to the area today with a Paddenswick Road near Ravenscourt Park.
Back in the 13th century the Manor House within Ravenscourt Park had a moat surrounded by it which today forms part of the lake that is within the park. Whilst in the 14th century the Manor was occupied by King Edward III’s mistress Alice Perrers.
In 1650 the Manor House was rebuilt and in 1747 renamed Ravenscourt after it was sold to Thomas Corbett with the name Ravenscourt probably deriving from the raven on his coat of arms.
Private owner George Scott who was a builder and philanthropist bought the Ravenscourt House in 1812 and a leading landscaper by the name of Humphry Repton helped to lay down the gardens in the estate. Park plans in 1830 indicated that there were 78 houses within the park which had risen to 330 by 1845. The Ravenscourt House was also the first public library in Hammersmith in 1889.
George Scott’s family sold the estate to a developer in 1887 with it being acquired by the Metropolitan Board of Works. A year later in 1888 a public park was laid out by J.J. Sexby with the management of the park transferring to the London County Council in 1889. In 1941 the building suffered severe damage during the Second World War. However, in 1965 the park was owned by the Greater London Council and finally the London Borough of Hammersmith in 1971.
The park’s café today is the old stables of the manor and is certainly one of the grandest café’s in London! The park also has a variety of facilities including football pitches, tennis & basketball courts and a playground.
Walking through the park you really get a sense that the season is changing with an array of beautiful colours, all of which look like a watercolour painting and many different shades of yellow, brown, red, orange and gold. When you look at the vast area of the park as well as the lake which used to be the Manor’s moat, you can get a feeling of how the grand estate would’ve looked. The lake is something to behold and matched with the trees colours, it makes for the perfect picture, or painting!
It’s now time to leave the tranquility of Ravenscourt Park to go in search of more pretty autumnal colours in my next stop Acton Green Common. Located next to Turnham Green tube station, the 5.9 hectare (14.5 acres) common is quite unique given that it’s split into two, with a road and crossing in between it.
The Acton Green Common has a place in history as part of the site of the Battle of Brentford during the Civil War when on the 12th November 1642 the Royalists under Prince Rupert surprised them and beat the Parliamentarian army under Lord Essex.
I do love the symmetry where you have trees either side of the pathway and as far as you can see there are trees across the green. Once again the crisp orange colouring comes out perfectly with the sun shining on them which really does brighten up the park. Also the lengthening shadows illustrates the sun is getting lower and winter is on its way.
I’m now going to make my way out of Acton Green Common and onto yet another lovely green space, Acton Park. One aspect you get when walking around Acton is that the trees aren’t just confined to the parks as they can be seen across the roads and houses!
Acton Park first opened to the public in 1888 as a commemoration to the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria and in 1945 the park’s allotments were converted into temporary houses for ex-servicemen.
In London we’re so lucky that nearly every area has some kind of green space where you can relax in the peace and quiet of a park setting. Also it’s not just the grass areas which I love, but the variety of trees are also so remarkable, big ones, tall ones, small ones, thin ones, the list is endless and all have their own distinct look and personality. You really don’t get this when you walk around some areas of central London, so you do have to go off track into the London boroughs to see all of natures glory.
It’s now time to leave Acton Park and move onto my final autumnal destination, the quite unique Wormwood Scrubs! Based in the North-Eastern corner of Hammersmith & Fulham, the area is the largest open space in the borough at 80 hectares (200 acres) and is one of the largest commons in London.
The park has been open to the public since 1879 and was even the home of Queens Park Rangers Football Club in the late 1888s.
Its history dates back to the early 19th century when the entire district of Hammersmith & Fulham was open fields with several areas of common land. In 1812 a 77 hectare (190 acre) area known as Wormholt Scrubs was leased by the War Office from the Manor of Fulham. The area was used to exercise cavalry horses which until then had used Hyde Park, Belgrave Square and Regent’s Park. In 1878, 55 hectares (135 acres) of the land became known as Wormwood Scrubs after being bought by the War Office.
In order to create metropolitan exercising ground for the military, in 1879 Parliament passed the Wormwood Scrubs Act. This act enabled the military to expel civilians from the area whenever they were training, but allowed civilians free use of it when they were not. The military were banned from building any permanent structures other than rifle butts on the open land.
The area gained the reputation of being one of the duelling grounds of London with several duels being fought there. The scrubland played a part in the 1908 Olympics with the marathon’s final stages going through it on the route from Windsor Castle to the Olympic Stadium in White City.
In 1910 Wormwood Scrubs gained a significant contribution in aviation history when pioneering airships took flight from an improvised landing ground. Four years later in 1914 all air related activities on the scrubs passed to the authority of the Admiralty with the area remaining an emergency landing ground until the 1930s. During the Second Wold War, the scrubs hosted the military department called The Chief Cable Censorship Department, an outstation of the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park.
Back in 1986 local birdwatcher Lester Holloway set up a campaign to save Scrubs Wood which was under threat from plans by British Rail to turn it into a cleaning depot. The campaign would succeed with an area of the nature reserve known as ‘Lester’s Embankment’ in 1987.
There has been many conservation efforts undertaken on the area with the park home to over 100 species of birds, 250 species of wildflowers, bats and lizards.
The entire area really is something to behold, as it’s a vast area of meadowland with hardly anything around it, there aren’t too many trees or houses, just scrubland and long grass. I have to say it’s one of the first times my walks have taken me to such a place and it’s eerily quiet when you’re stood in the middle of it as there’s literally no one walking through or by it. This is one of the reason why I love exploring London as you come across such weird and wonderful places like this which you’d not normally come across, or even know about.
Well that’s all from me today folks! I hope you enjoyed discovering some of West London’s best green areas which showcased the colours of autumn so amazingly well, which I’m sure you can agree are looking absolutely golden at the moment! I’ll be discovering more of beautful autumnal London next time!
In the meantime you can catch me on Twitter and Instagram and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too and have a read of my other walks, from river ones to park ones, there’s something there for you! 🙂
Hello there! Thanks for joining me on my next outdoor adventure as I explore the best walks of the capital. Today’s stroll begins in Highgate’s Waterlow Park, takes me past the Highgate Cemetery and onto the woodland wonders of Highgate Wood. I’ll take a detour up to the renowned Alexandra Palace and finish the walk at Finsbury Park. So let’s get going!
I do love it when my walks start with a picturesque entrance and Waterlow Park in Highgate provides just this, with a very welcoming park gate which says to me ‘Come on in’.
The park’s history dates back to the 16th century where the area was known for its affluent residents, many of whom built homes and fine gardens, some of which are now within Waterlow Park. One of the attractions to the residents was that the air was cleaner than other parts of London.
A walk through the park illustrates just how peaceful it is and that with every turn there’s something of glorious green to see!
You’ll never struggle to find a spot to sit, or to grab a photo of the park.
Another one of the attractions of people moving to Highgate in the 16th Century was the plentiful water supply from the park’s three historic ponds which are still fed by natural springs. I always think a park isn’t complete without a pond or a lake, there’s something very satisfying about hearing the trickling of water in a tranquil park setting.
At the head of the park and sitting grandly on the top of the hill is Lauderdale House which was the home of the Earl of Lauderdale in the 17th Century. The house today is a delightful cafe where you can stop for a spot of tea or light lunch, with a view overlooking the glorious grounds of the park. The garden area of the house is commonly noted as one of the very early examples of terraced gardens in Britain. It really doesn’t feel like a park, more that you’ve wandered into someone’s estate and garden!
During the 17th Century there was a home within the park for the poet Andrew Marvell where a bronze plaque within the park dedicated to him stands. Another resident in the park was prolific architect and park designer Sir James Pennethorne who unsurprisingly helped with designing some of the elements of the park.
From 1856 English philanthropist and Liberal Party politician Sydney Waterlow lived within the park and soon acquired the neighboring properties to create his own mini-estate, with Lauderdale House being let out as Convalescent homes for medical professionals.
However, Sydney Waterlow didn’t stay long at the estate and it remained empty and deteriorated for a number years until he presented it to the London County Council in 1889 and it was termed as ‘a garden for the gardenless’. So if you didn’t have a garden, you could enjoy it as your very own one. The council named it after Sydney and ensured that all the historic features within it remained.
It’s time to leave Waterlow Park and as a you head out you take a stroll past Highgate Cemetery. Established in 1839, the cemetery is split into the West and East Cemeteries with approximately 170,000 people buried in and around the 53,000 graves.
Spanning 15 hectares (37 acres) in size, the cemetery was acquired by The Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust in 1975 with them acquiring the freehold to both the East and West Cemeteries by 1981.
Some of the notable people within the East Cemetery include the tomb of Karl Marx, the ashes of the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams, William Foyle (co-founder of book store Foyles), Sir Thomas Lauder Brunton, 1st Baronet (Scottish physician known for his work in the treatment of angina pectoris), Patrick Caulfield (painter and printmaker known for his pop art canvasses) and Roger Lloyd-Pack (British actor).
Within the West Cemetery notable people buried there include Julius Beer (Owner of the UK newspaper The Observer), James Bunstone Bunning (City Architect to the City of London), Charles Cruft (founder of Crufts dog show), the parents, wife and brother of Charles Dickens, Lucian Freud (painter, grandson of Sigmund Freud, and elder brother of Clement Freud), Bob Hoskins (actor), George Michael (singer), and Jean Simmons (actress).
Additionally, there are the graves of 318 Commonwealth service personnel with 259 from the First World War and 59 from the Second.
It’s now time to move on to my next stop on today’s walk, Highgate Wood! To do so I get to walk through Highgate and experience what a pleasant area it is, with it having a real village feel about it. With cute little houses, village greens and not a great deal of traffic, you forget you’re still in London!
Now this is one true hidden gem of London that I’m about to explore! Lying between East Finchley, Highgate Village and Muswell Hill, Highgate Wood is a 28 hectare (70 acre) ancient woodland.
Highgate Wood appears within the Ordnance Survey map of Middlesex in 1886 which illustrates the area’s illustrious history. Predominately an oak, hornbeam and holly wood, there are more than 50 tree and shrub species within the woodlands. The wood is also home to the rare deciduous tree with brown berries, known as The Wild Service Tree or the Sorbus torminalis.
The woods aren’t just home to trees and plants, but 71 different species of bird have been recorded there, as well as foxes, grey squirrels, seven species of bats, 180 species of moth, 12 species of butterfly and 80 species of spider!
There have also been prehistoric flints found within the wood with excavations from Romano-Britons found which indicated that pottery materials were produced from local materials between AD 50-100.
The wood hasn’t always been well maintained or looked after with The City of London Corporation’s not being sympathetic to the historical origins. After they acquired it asphalt paths were laid, ornamental trees planted and dead wood removed and burned, with it being managed as more of an urban park than an ancient woodland.
In 1968 the Conversation Committee of the London Natural History Society became concerned after the planting of exotic conifers which were seen as inappropriate for an ancient woodland. Consequently, this type of planting programme was halted and hasn’t been used since.
Since then the management of the woodland has been more considered with little human interference. It’s listed as one of only eight Green Heritage Sites in London and is a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conversation. The woodland is currently a registered charity managed and funded by the City of London.
Walking through the woodland it does remind me of the Children’s rhyme a ‘Teddy Bear’s Picnic’ as it has that fairytale and adventurous feel you’d find in a storybook. With loads of campfires and logs for sitting on across the park, it really is a wonderful place for children to explore and to be introduced to the wonders of nature. It’s very easy to get lost within all the amazing trees and when you look up & across all you see is leaves and branches, something you don’t get to enjoy that much everyday. For as far as you can see, there’s nothing but the glorious woods and every time you take a stroll around it there’s something new and enlightening.
Having already discovered the breathtaking Russia Dock Woodland, Highgate Wood is certainly up there with it!
The wood isn’t just trees and plants, but a walk to the end of it takes you to a large open green field used for football and cricket.
As much as I’d love to spend all day in the woodland, I’m now going to head off to a place which gives you a truly wonderful view of London, Alexandra Palace.
Known as ‘Ally Pally’, the palace was designed by Owen Jones, John Johnson and Alfred Meeson, and first opened in 1873 on Queen Victoria’s 54th birthday. The spectacular celebration for the opening included concerts, recitals and fireworks. However, just 16 days later a fire broke out in the Palace destroying the structure.
It wasn’t until two years later in 1875 that the new Alexandra Palace was opened to the public with it containing the new Henry Wills organ, one of the largest in Europe at the time. The palace also has the honour of having marksmen from the Alexandra Palace Rifle Society representing Great Britain in the 1908 Olympics where they won Gold, Silver and Bronze medals.
During the First World War the palace was used as a Belgian refugee camp and later as a German and Austrian internment camp.
One of the most significant events occurred on the 2nd November 1936 when the world’s first regular high-definition public television broadcast took place from the BBC studios at Alexandra Palace. A blue plaque is present to commemorate this and the TV mast is still there today. 1936 also saw the park become free for the public to use as a result of the 1900 Alexandra Park and Palace Act.
During the Second World War the palace was once again used by Belgian refugees with the transmitter tower being used as a decoy for enemy aircrafts.
The palace’s grounds were the home to horse racing until the racecourse was closed in 1970. In 1980, for the second time, a fire broke out across the palace burning a large part of the building. Substantial restoration began after the fire and it was reopened in 1988.
The palace was recognised in 1996 as a building of special architecture and historic significance with it receiving a Grade II listing. The venue has hosted a wide range of events including numerous concerts, Master Snooker, the World Darts Championship, Antiques Fairs, beer festivals, award ceremonies and a firework display every Bonfire Night.
One of the most prominent aspects of the palace and one that I thoroughly enjoyed is the stunning view you get of the capital from it. It’s such an awe-inspiring view across London of some of its most well-known landmarks, and great to experience them from another angle on my walks, having seen them on Hampstead Heath as well as Stave Hill! It always amazes me just how much you can from just one area of the capital and perfectly demonstrates that all of London’s landmarks are in such close proximity to one another!
Behind the palace is a pretty little lake and cafe, so it you require a bit of down-time and relaxation, it’s ideal for just that!
I’m now going to begin a stroll to my final destination on this walk, Finsbury Park by heading down the hills on Alexandra Palace!
Once I’ve left there I walk down Priory Road through the quaint Priory Park.
The walk takes you along the road past the houses and Finsbury Park station until you get to the gates of the park.
Opened in 1869, the 46 hectares (110 acres) park was designed by Frederick Manable. Based in Harringay, it was one of the first of the great London parks laid out in the Victorian Era. The park was originally landscaped as a woodland area in the Manor of Brownswood and part of the woodland called Hornsey Wood which was cut back to be used as a grazing land in the Middle Ages.
In the 18th Century a tea room was opened where Londoners could enjoy the woodlands. These tea rooms were developed into larger buildings known as the Hornsey Wood House (Tavern). The area was also home to boating, shooting and archery, before the tavern was demolished in order to make the area into a park. Once the park opened, the pub across the park along the Seven Sisters Road called itself the Hornsey Wood Tavern after its original one! However, the tavern would close in 2007 with the area being developed.
In the 19th century Londoners began to demand more open green space, something which had become even more common in Paris. To counteract the increasingly urbanisation of London, in 1841 the people of Finsbury petitioned for a park to be developed to help eradicate the poor conditions in the city. The first plans for the park were drawn up in 1850 with its name originally being called Albert Park. However, it was renamed Finsbury Park and opened in 1869.
The park played a role in both the First and Second World Wars with it being the location for pacifist meetings in WWI, and used as military training grounds and hosting anti-aircraft guns in WWII.
Through the 1980s the park went into a decline and when its owner, the Greater London Council was wound up, Haringey Council took over the ownership of it. Luckily in 2003 the park was awarded £5 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund which helped with significant renovations to improve its facilities to enable the park we see today. The park is commonly known as the ‘People’s Park’ due to its strong community feel.
Well that’s all for this week’s walk of the capital which has seen us take a trip through Highgate’s park and woodlands, the spectacular architecture and views of Alexandra Palace, and the fabulous Finsbury Park.
Thanks for coming along on my walk and in the meantime you can catch me on Twitter and Instagram and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too and have a read of my other walks! 🙂
Greetings to you all and thanks for coming along with me on another journey across the capital! Today’s walk begins in Shoreditch with a visit to Boxpark and Brick Lane, before taking me to The Geffrye Museum of the Home. I’ll then go to Haggerston Park, with a pleasant walk along the Regent’s Canal to Shoreditch Park, with my final stop of Islington Green!
My walk begins in swanky Shoreditch and at one of its fairly recent sights, Boxpark, which was installed in 2011 as the world’s first pop-up mall. Created by Roger Wade, the whole concept of the area was to refit and repurpose shipping containers into an independent and revolutionary retail experience which showcases fashion and creativity in a street setting.
The distinctive model of the park is an alternative set-up not just for customers, but also retailers who are on the hunt for more affordable space in the capital. With an array of brands and places to dine, the park illustrates the unique reputation that Shoreditch brings. The success of Boxpark Shoreditch has seen two others ‘pop up’, one in Wembley and another in Croydon. It’s certainly quite different to walking around a huge mall, and with space in London becoming more sought after, you expect niche and quaint places such as these to be launching in many other areas.
Now it’s time to leave Boxpark and do a bit of a wander around a few other sights in Shoreditch. Located in East London, Brick Lane was formerly known as Whitechapel Lane, though its name today derives from the brick and tile manufacturers who used the brick earth deposits in the 15th century.
Brewing began in Brick Lane around 1680, with one such brewer named Joseph Truman beginning his brewing there in 1683, and his family would go on to establish the sizeable Black Eagle Brewery on Brick Lane. The old building is still prominent in the Shoreditch skyline today, with it being used for food markets and events.
The Brick Lane market was first developed in the 17th century for the selling of fruit and vegetables. The area saw a wave of immigration throughout the 18th and 19th century with French Huguenots, the Irish and many people of the Jewish faith settling there.
The theme of immigration has continued into the 20th century with many Bangladeshi immigrants now residing in the area. It’s now the hub of London’s Bangladeshi community, which reenforced Brick Lane’s reputation of being famed for its many authentic curry restaurants. If you go there on a Sunday, which I did, the markets are thriving with a range of stalls selling a variety of clothes, handbags, jewellery and vintage, chic boutiques.
The Brick Lane and Shoreditch area is seen by many to be quite edgy and hip, and whilst you walk around there past the many lovely independent coffee shops, there’s loads of street art which demonstrates the trendy reputation.
Shoreditch really is one of the most unique parts of London with it being a cultural hub of creativity and diversity through its art, food, people and places.
It’s time to leave Brick Lane, and head towards a peaceful little area called Arnold Circus, no clowns here though! The housing development within the Boundary Estate was opened in 1900 which makes it one of the earliest social housing schemes built by a local Government authority. The bandstand within the circus has the honour of having Grade II listed status.
Leaving the gardens, a walk towards Hoxton brings you to the very picturesque Geffrye Museum of the Home which was established in 1914 and aims to inspire everyone about the multiple meanings of the home from 1600 to the present day. To do this the museum showcases displays of urban living rooms, gardens, special exhibitions and events.
Located on a former almshouse, a house built originally by a charitable person for poor people to live in, the building was developed in 1714 with the bequest of the former Lord Mayor of London and Master of the Ironmongers’ Company. The almshouse had fourteen houses with each having four rooms which provided retirement homes for up to 56 pensioners.
By the 18th century the area was mainly rural with market gardens to supply Londoners with fresh vegetables and herbs. During the 19th century with London expanding the area became home to the centre for London’s furniture and clothing trades, with the farmland being replaced with housing, factories and workshops.
The Shoreditch area by 1910 had become one of London’s most heavily populated places and with serve overcrowding and little sanitation, the Ironmonger’s Company relocated and as a result sold the almshouses & gardens to the London County Council in 1912.
With the arts and crafts movement gaining momentum in the area, the location was converted into a museum in 1914 to inspire and educate people about the local furniture trade. With the furniture industry moving away from Shoreditch, the focus turned to collections around the home. As the years went on, the museum increased its collections of paintings, furniture and decorated arts, with a period garden being added in the 20th century. The focus of the museum today centres on the home and home life reflected in changes in society, patterns of behaviour, style, fashion and taste.
The area does have a really grand and historical feel to it, and it’s quite hard to believe such a glorious area is hidden within bustling Shoreditch!
It’s now time to carry on my walk to my next destination of Haggerston Park which is located in the south-west corner of Hackney. Originally created in the 1950s, and extended in the 1980s, the park is carved out from the area of derelict housing, a tile manufacturer and the old Shoreditch gasworks. Occupying 6 hectares (15 acres) the scenic park includes many open green spaces as well as many football pitches. It really is the perfect place if you require a quiet spot for a picnic or just to relax, and the area is pretty vast for a park right within the Shoreditch area.
Taking a detour out of the park I’ll now head off to Shoreditch Park, however, to get there I’ll need to walk along one of my favourite stretches of water, the Regent’s Canal! My walks have frequently taken me along this stretch of water, as it goes through a vast majority of places and sights through the capital. To find out more about its history, check out my walk from King’s Cross to Hampstead Heath!
I recall the first time I walked along the Regent’s Canal back in 2014 having just stumbled across it when walking through Shoreditch, and since then it has always been one of my go-to walks and places to explore. It’s both a quiet and pretty place to stroll along with so much to see along it, whether that’s the boats, buildings, parks, locks or the lovely nature, it’s the place to be for a London walk. You can’t help but fall in love with it!
I’ll now take a detour off the canal, and head to Shoreditch Park which at 7.1 hectares (17 acres) is one of the borough’s largest parks serving the South of Hackney. During the Regency Era and subsequent creation of the Regent’s Canal, the area was originally open fields and was developed into terraced housing for workers and families. However, during the Blitz and later air-raids in the early 1940s the area was badly damaged.
In 1945 the damaged homes from the bombs were cleared with temporary housing erected there as a stop-gap for the homeless families during the war. These were only designed to be there for a short-term basis, and nearly 20 years on they were removed in 1964, with the site being redeveloped and cleared between 1964 and 1973.
The park we enjoy today has a number of facilities for sport, adventure & children’s playgrounds and an outdoor beach volleyball court. Every year the park is home to the Shoreditch Festival which offers live music, food and entertainment.
I’ll now rejoin the Regent’s Canal and head onto my final stop on my walk, Islington Green!
Based near Angel station, Islington Green is a small triangle of open land which marks the Northern boundary between the modern district of Angel and Islington. At the heart of the green is the Statue of Sir Hugh Myddleton (1560-1631) sculptured by John Thomas. Myddleton had a major role in constructing the original terminus for the New River, which was an artificial waterway in England opened in 1613 to supply London with fresh drinking water from the River Lea and Chadwell Springs and Amwell Springs. It’s so fitting that there is a statue for someone who did quite a remarkable job in helping provide such a significant aspect to people’s lives of clean drinking water!
Well that’s all for today’s walk exploring the East and Inner sides of London, where you can discover everything from art, to museums, to parks, it really is a walk that would cater for everyone! Thanks for coming along on my walk and in the meantime you can catch me on Twitter and Instagram and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too and have a read of my other walks! 🙂
Testing testing… is this blog still on?! Welcome one and all as I take another trip around our great capital to explore some of its best sights, sounds and secrets. My journey today begins at perhaps one of the most iconic landmarks in London, Tower Bridge, and will take me to a true hidden gem, Stave Hill, where my adventure ends. On the way I’ll pass through Southwark Park, Canada Water, Greenland Dock and Russia Dock Woodland, so grab those walking boots and let’s get going!
We start at a sight that isn’t just recognisable to Londoners, but people across the world, Tower Bridge. Opened on the 30th June 1894, it was designed by Horace Jones, the City’s Architect, in collaboration with John Wolfe Barry, and took eight years to construct using five major contractors and 432 workers a day.
Originally chocolate brown in colour, the bridge was repainted in 1977 red, white and blue to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, adding to the patriotic nature of the landmark. In order to construct it, a staggering 11,000 tons of steel were used to create the framework of the Tower and its walkways. Since 1976 the closing of the bridge has been operated with hydraulic power driven by oil and electricity rather than steam which was previously used. If you ever want to pass under the bridge, it’s free to do so and you can do it 365 days per year, though remember to give 24 hours’ notice! Every year the bridge is raised on average 850 times, so when you’re walking by it, you may well see it being lifted!
I do love the structure of Tower Bridge, it’s so distinctive and really illustrates the old, traditional historical significance to London, which only a few landmarks can bring. Also it has a real Royal feel to it and has to be the most beautiful bridge in the capital!
A short walk from Tower Bridge takes me to the Rotherhithe riverside where you get a ground-eye view of many of the capitals well-known landmarks. When you look across the river you can spot The Shard, Tower Bridge, The Walkie Talkie, The Cheese Grater, The Gherkin and even St Paul’s Cathedral, it’s like they’re all trying to squeeze into the photo!
Walking along the river takes you to Southwark Park which opened to the public in 1869. Designed by Alexander McKenzie, the park is 25 hectares in size and includes a lake, bandstand, bowling green, play area, gallery, cafe and football pitches.
Right beside the bandstand sits a drinking fountain which is commemorated to Mr Jabez West, who was a member of the local Temperance Society. This was London’s first public memorial to honour a working class man.
A walk through the park takes you to the tranquil lakes and plants. The Ada Salter rose garden was built by West Bermondsey MP Alfred Salter in 1936 and was dedicated to Ada’s wife with the aim to provide somewhere of beauty where mothers and the elderly could sit.
In 2001, £2.5m from the Heritage Lottery Funds was used for major refurbishment of the park. These included a replica of the 1833 bandstand from the Great Exhibition being replaced. Also a new bowling pavilion, children’s play area, restoring the lake and the main gates were created.
One of the main aspects of Southwark Park is that it combines nature with leisure and recreation, as on the one hand you have the picturesque lake, with the leisure of football pitches, something that parks like St James’s Park, Green Park and Hyde Park don’t have. It’s quite a vast area with a real community feel about it and has everything you could possible want from a park.
Leaving Southwark Park through its grand old gates, I take a short walk past Surrey Quays Overground station and Surrey Quays Shopping Centre to my next destination, Canada Water!
As the name suggests, Canada Water’s origin comes from that of the country, Canada! Constructed in 1876 on the site of two former timber ponds, the name derives from the former Anglo-Canadian trade which took place in the docks. In 1926 two neighbouring timber ponds were replaced by the Quebec Dock, which were connected to the Canada Dock.
In 1964 the Canada Estate was built on the former site of the chemical works and consisted of five courts of 4 storey blocks. It wasn’t until the early 1980s when the docks finally shut down with the closure of the Surrey Docks, Quebec Dock and Canada Dock, with the majority of the old Canada Dock being filled in.
The site that we see today has been redeveloped quite heavily with the Surrey Quays Shopping Centre now present with other entertainment places such as a cinema, bingo hall, bowling alley and restaurants. The regeneration project is a joint initiative by Southwark Council and British Land which was completed in 2012, and included new homes, commercial premises, a library and cultural spaces. The area is well connected too with Canada Water station being opened in 1999 with links to the London Overground and Jubilee Line.
Although Canada Water isn’t one of the most picturesque parts of London, I think it becomes much more appealing when you know the back story and origin of it, and that it used to be a major docking area. That makes it a bit more special to think that one day there was significant trade going on in the area, quite the contrast to the shops now there.
Having explored the history of one dock, it’s time to discover another as we head to Greenland Dock.
The area has the honour of being the oldest of London’s riverside wet docks and used to be part of the Surrey Commercial Docks, most of which have now been filled in. Originally named Howland Great Wet Dock after the family that owned the land, the dock was excavated in 1696. It was renamed Greenland Docks by the mid-18th century when it became a base for arctic whaling, hence where the name Greenland comes into it!
During the 19th century it handled trade in Scandinavian and Baltic timber and Canadian gran, cheese and bacon, and was enlarged in 1904. The majority of the trading however was timber with the Surrey Commercial Docks controlling 80% of the capital’s timber trade.
Technological changes in the shipping industry would soon push the docks into a spiral of decline and with timber being packaged as well as bulk carriers being far too large to accommodate the London docks, they were closed in 1970 with Greenland Dock being sold to Southwark Council. Between 1984 and 1990 the area saw vast change with 1,250 homes being built. Although trading has ceased in the docks, the waters are still used for boating and other water recreational uses.
Leaving Greenland Dock, it’s now time to move on to two of the most hidden gems and incredible wonders that London has to offer, as we first pay a visit to Russia Dock Woodland, then to Stave Hill.
The Russia Dock was one of the former Surrey Commercial Docks which also included the Island Dock and Surrey Basin. The docks were used to import timber from Norway, Sweden and Russia with it being mostly soft wood known as ‘deal wood’, which was used for newsprint and manufacturing furniture. Following the closure of the docks in the early 1970s the area was developed by the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) and in 1980 was turned into a 34.5-acre (140,000m2) woodland. The woodland still contains some of the old features of the docks such as wall capstones, gauges, bollards, mooring chains and tracks. Now the area is maintained and owned by Southwark Council.
It’s hard to believe that this area is right in the heart of the capital, with Canary Wharf just a stone’s throw away! You definitely feel like you’re in a woodland far-far away from the hustle and bustle that London brings. Every corner of the woodland provides a treasure trove of secret pathways, ponds and plants, so you feel like you’ll discover something new every time. It does have the feeling you’re in a fairytale land as every part of it is magical.
If ever there was a way to end a walk, our final stop is a fitting finale and the perfect piece de resistance. Right on the edge of Russia Dock Woodland sits Stave Hill which was added in 1985 by the LDDC, and is an artificial grass hill made up of waste material and rubble.
At the bottom of Stave Hill you’re greeted with a kind of stairway to heaven, and I have to say I didn’t just walk up them, I ran up them as I was so excited about the view I was about to experience.
Once you get to the top the view is awe-inspiring and you aren’t short of iconic landmarks to see across the skyline, how many can you spot?!
As you pan across the 360 degree viewing tower, you get a birds-eye view of Russia Dock Woodland which demonstrates how big it really is!
On the opposite side of the view down the stairs, sits a unique perspective of Canary Wharf with the trees sitting in front of it.
On the hill sits a cast bronze map of the former docks, designed by Michael Rizzello. When you’re up there all you can hear is the birds tweeting and the sound of the winds breeze, adding to the peaceful feeling you’re immersed in.
Well what a truly special way to end the walk, I have to say the view from Stave Hill is up there with another of my favourites in Hampstead Heath. What makes Russia Dock Woodland and Stave Hill so different is that if you didn’t stumble across them, you’d probably never know they were there, I certainly didn’t! This is one of my more longer walks which takes a few hours to do, so give yourself plenty of time!
Thanks for joining me on my walk, I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as I did walking it! In the meantime, you can catch me on Twitter and Instagram and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too and have a read of my other walks! 🙂