Tower Bridge to Stave Hill: Discovering London’s Secret Treasures

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!

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Tower Bridge to Stave Hill

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.

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Tower Bridge

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!

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Rotherhithe Riverside

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.

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Southwark Park Bandstand

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.

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Jabez West Drinking Fountain

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.

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Ada Salter Rose Garden
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Fountain Within The Ada Salter Rose Garden

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.

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Treemendous Views!

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!

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Southwark Park Gates

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.

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Canada Water Shops

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.

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Cute Water Walkway

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.

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Canada Water Library in the Distance

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.

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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!

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Overlooking Greenland Dock

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.

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Greenland Dock

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.

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Pretty Pathway
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Ditch within the Woodlands
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Loved this Old Wooden Bridge!

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.

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Woodland Wonders
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Pretty Pond
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Always Find Something New!
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Stepping into Paradise
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Funky Chairs
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Picnic Areas
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Pond Life

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.

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Stairs Leading up Stave Hill

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?!

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Spot the Landmarks!
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Looking Across the Skyline

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!

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View of Russia Dock Woodland

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.

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View of Canary Wharf

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.

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Michael Rizzello Map

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! 🙂

Sources: (not the food sauces)

All photos taken by London Wlogger. © Copyright 2018

Tower Bridge: History of Tower Bridge

Southwark.Gov: History of Southwark Park

Hidden London: History of Canada Water

Hidden London: History of Greenland Dock

Southwark.Gov: History of Russia Dock Woodland

The Conversation Volunteers: Info about Stave Hill

Hyde Park Corner to Italian Gardens: Arches and Watery Wonders

There’s nothing quite like walking through a park and along a river, and today I’ll be visiting some of London’s best green spaces!

My route begins at Hyde Park Corner where I’ll visit the Wellington Arch and the Apsley Gate, before heading to Hyde Park and the beautiful lakes at the Serpentine. From there I go past the Serpentine Sackler Gallery and another famous arch, then I’ll end my journey in one of London’s great hidden gems, Italian Gardens! So, boots on, let’s do some walking!

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Hyde Park Corner to Italian Gardens

I start at the Wellington Arch, which is located near Hyde Park Corner tube station. Built between 1825 and 1827, the arch was designed by Decimus Burton and has been in its current position since the 1880s. Just like Marble Arch, it was intended to be located at the front of Buckingham Palace.

However, in 1828 with it nearing completion, the cost of the arch had exceeded the budget, and the Treasury declined to pay for the sculpture, as most of their funds had been used to rebuild Buckingham Palace, which itself had run hugely over budget! During this time committees were formed to commemorate two great heroes; Nelson and Wellington. Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square was completed, though the Wellington Memorial was less fortunate.

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The original arch (Photo credit: English Heritage)

In May 1838 sculptor Matthew Cotes Wyatt erected the largest equestrian statue on the arch. Although this caused controversy as it was disproportionate to the size of the arch itself, and the Government demanded it to be taken down.

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The Wellington Arch Today

The arch was dismantled in 1883 and rebuilt on its present site in 1885, however, after its relocation the arch still had no sculpture on top of it. In 1891, a quadriga (a four-horse chariot) entitled ‘Triumph’ was sculptured by Adrian Jones, and in 1912 it was erected on top of the arch we see today.

Right next to the Wellington Arch stands the Apsley Gate which is the entrance to Hyde Park. Made from Portland stone, this too was designed by Decimus Burton, and built between 1826 and 1829.

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The Apsley Gate

Through the Apsley Gate takes me to Hyde Park! With 350 acres of green space and stunning landscapes, it’s one of London’s eight Royal Parks.

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Hyde Park

Back in 1536, Henry VII acquired Hyde Park from the monks of Westminster Abbey and would normally use it as a private hunting ground. However, when James I came to the throne, he limited access to it. It wasn’t until 1637 when Charles I made it open to the public that everyone could enjoy its beauty. In 1665, many London citizens camped out in the park to escape the Great Plague.

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Hyde Park

To mark many significant occasions, Hyde Park became a venue for national celebrations. Notable events included fireworks in 1814 to mark the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the Great Exhibition in 1851, and the Silver Jubilee in 1977 in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s 25 years on the throne. Since 2007, Hyde Park has hosted the spectacular Winter Wonderland theme park, which includes fairground rides, food markets, shows, and is the perfect way to get into the Christmas spirit!

One of main aspects of Hyde Park that I love is the wonderful Serpentine Lake. This amazing sight was the idea of Queen Caroline, the wife of George II, and was created by damming the Westbourne Stream in 1730. It’s nearly 40 acres with many picturesque views and a cafe nearby where you can sit to see all its beauty. This splendid area was one of the first lakes to be created in England.

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It’s such a wonderful feeling just hearing the sound of the birds and the trickling of the water, so very peaceful. The walk along the lake takes you to the Serpentine Bridge which goes over the waters.

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The Serpentine Bridge

When the park was extensively redesigned in the 1820s, John Rennie built the bridge to connect the West Carriage Drive between Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. When standing on the bridge the view is breathtaking, with Hyde Park on one side, and Kensington Gardens on the other, you feel you’re amongst something special.

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View from the Serpentine Bridge overlooking Hyde Park
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View from the Serpentine Bridge looking at Kensington Gardens

Next to the Serpentine Bridge sits the Serpentine Sackler Gallery which was established in 1970 to showcase contemporary art and architecture. In its 47 years this Grade II listed building has presented pioneering exhibitions of 2,263 internationally renowned artists and architects.

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The Serpentine Sackler Gallery

From art to another arch! The route from the Serpentine Bridge and Italian Gardens takes you to Henry Moore’s ‘The Arch’. This six-metre high sculpture is made from seven travertine stones which were sourced in Northern Italy. Weighing 37 tonnes it’s positioned on the north bank of the Long Water and was presented by Moore in 1980, two years after his 80th birthday celebrations were held in the Serpentine Gallery.

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Henry Moore Arch

In 1996 it was dismantled after it was deemed to be structurally unstable. After an 18 month review and discussions between The Royal Parks and The Henry Moore Foundation it was rebuilt and placed in Kensington Gardens during July 2012. It’s great to see it back as it provides a unique view through it of Kensington Gardens, and if you ever want to see rabbits, there are loads near it!

It’s now time to move onto my final stop on today’s walk, Italian Gardens! This Grade II listed water garden is over 150 years old, and is located to the north of Kensington Gardens, near Lancaster Gate. The garden features four main basins and five urns which have designs of a Swan’s breast, woman’s head, ram’s head, dolphin, and oval. Also there is a white marble Tazza Fountain.

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Italian Gardens

The gardens were designed by James Pennethorne, and built in 1860. The inspiration for them came from a similar layout in Osborne House on The Isle of Wight where Prince Regent and the royal family would spend their holidays.

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To ensure Italian Gardens kept its wonderful beauty, two notable recent renovations have been undertaken on it, in 1991 and 2011 respectively. In 1991 the vases were re-carved, whilst in 2011 repairs were done including clearing silt from the fountain basins and removing the algae from the Portland stone and marble. The Tazza fountain which overlooks the Long Water also underwent work.

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The Tazza Fountain

When you sit within these gardens it’s one of the most tranquil places you’ll ever visit, like being in a bubble, not aware of your surroundings. This is a true hidden gem of London, and somewhere you can just stay for ages watching the water flowing from the fountains. You do get a lump in your throat at its beauty.

Now eagle-eyed viewers will notice that the majority of my walks are done when the weather is pretty amazing! There’s two reasons for this. Firstly, recently this winter we’ve had loads of sunny days in London (of course it still does rain…!). And secondly, for me the best way to showcase London’s wonderful sights is to do it when you get clear skies, but rainy day walks can also be good!

But enough talking,  I think I’ll stop describing the gardens… as the photos below need no captions, or descriptions 🙂

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Well, what a stunning way to end today’s walk! It’s been a stroll where we’ve seen some of London’s great arches and green spaces, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did walking it! Thanks for joining me, and don’t forget to follow me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook, and to sign up to my blog too 🙂

See you next week for another walk!

Sources: (not the food sauces)

All photos taken by London Wlogger, unless photo credit given © Copyright 2017

History of the Wellington Arch – English Heritage 

History of the Apsley Gate – The Royal Parks

History of Hyde Park – The Royal Parks

Information about the the Serpentine Sackler Gallery – Serpentine Galleries

About The Arch by Henry Moore – The Royal Parks 

History of Italian Gardens – The Royal Parks