Lesnes Abbey Woods to the Thames Barrier: Woodland, historical and architectural gems of South-East London

A very warm welcome to you and thanks for coming along with me on my next journey of the capital. Today’s walking adventure explores some of London’s lesser-known sights. I’ll begin my stroll in Lesnes Abbey Woods, continue through Thamesmead and then join the Thames Path. This will then take me past Royal Arsenal, Woolwich before ending my walk at the Thames Barrier. With a wonderful woodland, historical gem, magnificent military area and the architectural brilliance of a barrier awaiting me, let’s start discovering more of London!

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Lesnes Abbey Woods to The Thames Barrier

My journey starts in Lesnes Abbey Woods, or sometimes known as Abbey Wood, which is an ancient woodland based in South-East London situated in the London Borough of Bexley. The name Lesnes derives from the ruins of Lesnes Abbey church, and we’ll discover that more as the walk goes on!

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Lesnes Abbey Woods
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Lesnes Abbey Woods
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Lesnes Abbey Woods
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Lesnes Abbey Woods

The wood’s date back to the Bronze Age and are full of wild bluebells and daffodils in the Spring, but all year round there’s a variety of beautiful trees, shrubs, plants and bushes spread around a vast area of woodland. In order to persevere its natural beauty, a local community group called the Lesnes Abbey Conservation Volunteers runs practical conservation events to help manage the woodland. The group was started in 1994 and is a registered environmental conservation charity run by the local people, and works closely with Bexley Council.

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Lesnes Abbey Woods
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Lesnes Abbey Woods
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Lesnes Abbey Woods
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Lesnes Abbey Woods

I’ve been very lucky on my walks to explore many woodlands, whether that’s Highgate Wood, Russia Dock Woodland, Dulwich Wood or the woods in Streatham Common – they all have their own unique elements and offer a real magical perspective. You definitely get this same feeling with Lesnes Abbey Wood, as it’s probably the largest woodland I’ve walked through, given that it also has the adjacent Abbey Wood next to it. But the huge woodland area just keeps going and going, and you uncover so many different parts of it, each offering their own breathtaking sights.

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Lesnes Abbey Woods
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Lesnes Abbey Woods
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Lesnes Abbey Woods
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Lesnes Abbey Woods

You sometimes forget you’re only a short train ride into central London, as it does have that countryside feel about it. One aspect about this woodland that I really enjoyed was just how peaceful it was and that you could walk for 10-15 minutes and not walk past anyone. I’m pretty sure you could walk around the entire woodland and still not discover everything, although, it’s sometimes quite hard to differentiate parts of the woodland as they all look so pretty!

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Lesnes Abbey Woods
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Lesnes Abbey Woods
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Lesnes Abbey Woods
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Lesnes Abbey Woods
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Lesnes Abbey Woods
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Lesnes Abbey Woods
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Lesnes Abbey Woods
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Lesnes Abbey Woods

I’ll now head out of the woodland to something of a historical gem which lies just outside of Lesnes Abbey Wood. When you walk down the path you see quite a few old stones and walls, but as you look more closer it’s the ruins of an old structure.

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Lesnes Abbey

This piece of architectural brilliance is the remains of the old Lesnes Abbey, which is where the woodlands name derives from. After the Norman Conquest of 1066, the estate of Lesnes was owned by Bishop Odo, the half-brother of William the Conqueror and who was one of the most powerful men in Norman England. Lesnes Abbey was built by Richard de Luci in 1178. De Luci was the Chief Justiciar of England under Henry II, and it’s rumoured that he founded the abbey in repentance for his role in the murder of Thomas Becket. By 1525 it would become dissolved by cardinal Wolsey, which was partly due to the wider dissolution of monasteries in England. After this the monastic buildings were all pulled down, except for the lodging area.

In 1930 the London County Council bought the site and opened it to the public as a park. In 1986 control passed to the London Borough of Bexley. Today only the foundations of the ancient monument remain and they give you a real sense of what the abbey must’ve looked like. The walls stand at 2.5m (9ft) high and were built from a mix of flint, chalk and Kentish ragstone. The western part of the old abbey includes the foundations of a brewhouse, kitchen and cellarer’s store. The eastern part of the ruins includes a sacristy, parlour, chapter house, porter undercroft and warming house.

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Lesnes Abbey
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Lesnes Abbey
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Lesnes Abbey
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Lesnes Abbey
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Lesnes Abbey
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Lesnes Abbey
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Lesnes Abbey

This is the first time on my walks that I’ve discovered the old ancient ruins of a building, as many of the churches I’ve walked past are still in use. Also, quite rarely, you’re able to freely walk through them and touch the stone walls and former abbey structures. Walking around it you can only imagine what it used to look like and its grand nature. If you love your historical landmarks, this is definitely worth a visit, as it has such a quirk and uniqueness about it, given that it’s only part of a landmark. It’s really amazing that this site has protected status, as it’s such a wonderful sight, and I’m sure you’d agree it would be terrible to see it removed.

There are a few photos online which provide an illustration of what the abbey looked like, and it’s such a spectacular sight, and so beautiful. It’s actually quite a shame that the abbey was pulled down, but the remains of it do mean that a part of it is still there for us to enjoy.

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The old Lesnes Abbey (Source: Visit Lesnes)

I’m now going to leave the Lesnes Abbey and whilst you walk out of it you get a stunning view of the woodland area once you exit the park, which highlights the scale of just how big it is.

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Lesnes Abbey

On my way to join the Thames Path I go through Birchmere Park in Thamesmead, which was a town created as part of the Greater London Council’s ‘new town’ plans, and was built over the former Erith marshes. The masterplan dates back to 1967, and was the only New Town development in Greater London. Designed to accommodate 60,000 people, Thamesmead was to have its own amenities, industry and centre with substantial areas of parkland, lakes and canals to provide a varied landscape. Today, the lake is very popular for fishing and there’s also a really cute river running through the residential area of the town.

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Thamesmead
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Thamesmead
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Thamesmead
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Thamesmead

I’d certainly love this pretty river in my neighbourhood and does remind me of many of my walks through the Regent’s Canal especially through Little Venice, Shoreditch and Mile End.

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Thamesmead
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Thamesmead
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Thamesmead

My journey now takes me to the Thames Path, as I make my way to Woolwich and the Thames Barrier. The walk on this part along the Thames really opens your eyes as to just how vast the area of the river is when you head outside of the centre of London. I think we normally think of the River Thames as being associated with areas like the Southbank, but it’s a pretty long stretch of water and does go on for quite some distance!

Opposite the path is North Greenwich and Beckton, and the areas are known for their high pylons as well as trading ports. Also in the far distance there are many wind turbines, which are the perfect location as they’re in a really deserted area. The view I’d admit isn’t the most picturesque you’ll see, but it does give you a flavour of a vibrant trading area where boats offload their cargo.

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The Thames Path
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The Thames Path
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The Thames Path
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The Thames Path
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The Thames Path
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The Thames Path
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The Thames Path

Walking along the path I reach my next destination of Royal Arsenal, Woolwich. The Royal Arsenal carried out armaments manufacturing, ammunition proofing and explosives research for the British armed forces. It was originally known as the Woolwich Warren, given that the land it was once on was a domestic warren in the grounds of a Tudor house. A lot of the area’s history is linked to the Board of Ordnance, which was a British Government body. They purchased the warren in the late 17th Century in order to expand an earlier base at Gun Wharf in the Woolwich Dockyard.

The next two centuries saw a growth in operations and innovations, and as a result the site expanded massively. At the time of the First World War the Arsenal covered 1,285 acres (520 hectares) and employed nearly 80,000 people. However, after this its operations were scaled down and the factory would finally close in 1967.  The Ministry of Defence moved out in 1994, which would ultimately see the Royal Arsenal cease to be a military establishment.

Walking through the area today it’s an impressive housing complex of modern living and leisure space. There are reminders of the military days with a number of cannons located throughout the complex. It’s great to see that these cannons have been restored and put on display, as it’s very important that we don’t forget the past of these areas. Even though they’ve changed so much and the modern architecture is now a major part of the area, you want to know the history and background when you walk through it.

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Royal Arsenal, Woolwich
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Royal Arsenal, Woolwich
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Royal Arsenal, Woolwich

One cool and eye-catching piece of architecture is this art installation known as ‘Assembly’ which has been there since 2001 and is right next to the Royal Arsenal Woolwich pier. The 16 cast iron statues were designed by Peter Burke – and they’re quite mysterious and scary to be honest, but excellent at the same time!

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Royal Arsenal, Woolwich – Assembly

Behind the statues there’s the old Riverside Guard Rooms, which has Grade II listed status.

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Royal Arsenal, Woolwich

Taking a stroll along the Thames you come to the south pier of the Woolwich Ferry which began operating in 1889. The ferry links Woolwich to North Greenwich and runs every 5-10 minutes throughout the week and every 15 minutes on the weekends. Around two million passengers use it every year, which includes pedestrians, cyclist, cars, vans and lorries. With all the bridges in London which allow us to cross the Thames, once you go past Tower Bridge there aren’t anymore bridges to cross over, so this is one of the only methods to get from one side of the Thames to the other.

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Woolwich Ferry
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Woolwich Ferry

I couldn’t help record the ferry crossing from one side to the other as it’s very pleasing to watch!

I also did a short timelapse video, as the ferry is very slow as you can see!

My journey will conclude at perhaps one of the most important structures in the modern era, the Thames Barrier. The barrier prevents most of Greater London from being flooded from exceptionally high tides and storm surges moving up from the North Sea. It was completed in 1982 and opened in 1984. It closes during high tide and opens during low tide to restore the river’s flow towards the sea. It’s located east of the Isle of Dogs on the northern bank of Silvertown in Newham and on the south bank of New Charlton in Greenwich.

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The Thames Barrier

The history of barrier dates back to a report by Sir Hermann Bondi on the North Sea flood of 1953 – which was a major flood to hit England, Scotland, Belgium and Holland – killing 2,551 people. This flood affected parts of the Thames Estuary and parts of London, and played a significant factor in the barrier being planned.

The concept of rotating gates was devised by Reginald Charles Draper who constructed a working model of a barrier in 1969. The barrier was designed by Rendel, Palmer and Tritton for the Greater London Council and was tested at the Hydraulics Research Station near Oxford. A site at New Charlton was chosen because of its straightness of riverbanks and as a result of the underlying river chalk being strong enough for the barrier. Construction of the barrier began in 1974 and was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II in May 1984. The barriers cost £534 million (£1.6 billion today), with an additional £100 million for river defences.

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The Thames Barrier

The barriers are built across a 520 metre (1,706 ft) wide stretch of the river with all the gates made of steel. The gates are filled with water when they submerge and empty as they emerge from the river. Each of the four large central gates are 20.1 metres (66ft) high and weigh 3,700 tonnes each.

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The Thames Barrier
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The Thames Barrier

I’ve explored many parts of London and still have a number of areas which are on my lists of walks, but the Thames Barrier was always one of my top priorities and on the day I did this walk it was first time I’d actually been to it. It’s such an impressive and futuristic sight and you can imagine how much power and force those barriers go through to stop the water. Aside from its amazing architectural design, you can’t underestimate just how crucial these barriers are to help protect Londoners and people further afield from flooding.

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The Thames Barrier
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The Thames Barrier

Well that’s all from me on today’s walk where I’ve explored a picturesque woodland wonderland, an abbey gem, the fascinating history of Woolwich and the remarkable sight of the Thames Barrier. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this walking adventure, and please do share your thoughts in the comments section.

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!

Victoria to Green Park

Marble Arch to Mayfair

The Shard to Monument

King’s Cross to Hampstead Heath

Leadenhall Market to Old Spitalfields Market

Waterloo to The London Eye

St Paul’s Cathedral to Moorgate

Mile End Park to London Fields

Hyde Park Corner to Italian Gardens

Little Venice to Abbey Road

Regent’s Park to Soho Square

Clapham Common to The Albert Bridge

Grosvenor Gardens to Knightsbridge

Holland Park to Meanwhile Gardens

Hackney Downs to Springfield Park

Tower Bridge to Stave Hill

Shoreditch to Islington Green

Highgate to Finsbury Park

Ravenscourt Park to Wormwood Scrubs

Covent Garden to Southwark Bridge

Putney Bridge to Barnes Common

Westminster Abbey to Vauxhall Bridge

Crystal Palace Park to Dulwich Wood

Clapham Junction to Battersea Bridge

Norbury Park to Tooting Commons

Sources:

All photos taken by London Wlogger unless stated © Copyright 2019

Information about Lesnes Abbey Wood

Information and photo about Lesnes Abbey

Information about Birchmere Park

Information about Royal Arsenal Woolwich

Information about the Woolwich Ferry

Information about the Thames Barrier

Putney Bridge to Barnes Green: Meandering along the River Thames

A very good day to you all and thanks for joining me on my next walk across the capital! Today’s expedition sees me begin at the picturesque Putney Bridge before walking through Bishop’s Park and then to the home of Fulham Football Club, Craven Cottage. I’ll then take a stroll along the Thames past Hammersmith Bridge, through Chiswick, over Barnes Bridge and to Barnes Common with my journey ending at Barnes Green! Time to grab those walking boots and start the adventures!

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Putney Bridge to Barnes Green

My walk starts in West London at Putney Bridge which is the second bridge on the site. The first was opened in 1729 which at time was known as Fulham Bridge. The bridges development came as a result of both demand from the public and then Prime Minister Robert Walpole for a bridge to cross over the Thames.

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Putney Bridge

Previously, the only way to go from one side of the bank to the other was by a ferry crossing. The deciding factor for Walpole was when he had to attend a debate at the House of Commons but found that the ferry was unattended on the opposite side of the river, with the ferryman in the nearby pub drinking! Despite trying to get the ferryman’s attention, Walpole was unsuccessful and had to get to Parliament the longer way round. This prompted the decision to build the first bridge in Putney.

The bridge was made out of wood with 26 arches to connect Putney and Fulham, and it was the first bridge to be built over the Thames since London Bridge.  The original bridge was also once a toll bridge which in its first few years netted £1,500 per year in tolls, which in today’s money would be £130,000. In 1877 when all the bridges in London were taken into public ownership, the toll was removed. This was also prompted after it was  purchased by The Metropolitan Board of Works in 1879.

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Putney Bridge

The second bridge and the stone one we see today was designed by civil engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette and completed in 1886. The bridge is 700 ft long and 43 ft wide, with it being opened by King Edward VII and the Princess of Wales on the 29th May 1886.

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View from Putney Bridge
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View from Putney Bridge of the Tube Bridge

Putney Bridge has the distinction of being the only bridge in Britain with churches on either side of it. On the north bank is All Saints’ Church with St Mary’s Church on the south bank.

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All Saints’ Church
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All Saints’ Church
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All Saints’ Church
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St Mary’s Church
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St Mary’s Church

The bridge has been quoted many times as the starting point for The Boat Race between Oxford University and Cambridge University since 1845 when the course was revised. However, the actual starting point is a little further upstream!

I have to say Putney Bridge is one of my favourite bridges in London as the design of it is so elegant and grand, perhaps because of the stone it’s made out of makes it look more picturesque than the other bridges over the Thames. I also really enjoy the view you get from either side with the tubes going over the river on one side, something not normally accustomed to London as you always relate the London Underground with being… underground! Whilst on the other side the trees along the embankment and beautiful clear, crisp water that flows into the distance.

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View from Putney Bridge
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View from Putney Bridge of Bishop’s Park

I’ll now leave Putney Bridge and make my way to the neighbouring Bishop’s Park which sits right next to the bridge. Opened in 1893 by the chairman of the London County Council Sir John Hutton, the Grade II listed park was formerly owned by the Ecclesiastical and Church Estates Commissioners for England as Lords of the Manor of Fulham. This had been given to the Fulham District Board of Works on condition that it be laid out and maintained for public recreation.

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Bishop’s Park
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Bishop’s Park
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Bishop’s Park

The meadows had been protected from flooding as a result of the creation of an embankment by the river which was built between 1889 and 1893 by Joseph Mears, who was the father of Joseph Mears and Gus Mears, the founders of Chelsea Football Club.

I do really love the walk along the Thames near the embankment, it’s so pretty with so much character with the river, path, trees and open fields all on display when you walk through it. Also as I mentioned in my last walk of Covent Garden to Southwark Bridge, I do enjoy branches hanging over the wall with the water in sight!

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Walk on the Edge of Bishop’s Park
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Looking out from Bishop’s Park

The Ecclesiastical and Church Estates Commissioners for England sold off the house and gardens in 1894, with the house being demolished in 1897. The gardens were preserved and opened as an extension to Bishop’s Park in 1900 as a result of the extension of the river walk.

The park today has a vast area of playground facilities and a beautiful pond with perhaps the cutest and colourful small footbridge you’ll see! (You’ll notice the difference in the leaves for the pond photo, as on the day I did the walk this area was closed off, the photo here was one I took back in April!)

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Bishop’s Park
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Bishop’s Park

Just outside Bishop’s Park you find my next stop on my walk, Craven Cottage football ground! The stadium has been the home of Fulham Football Club since 1896 with a capacity of 25,700. Before it was the residence of Fulham FC, there was a cottage built on the site in 1780 by William Craven, the sixth Baron Craven. Before this the surrounding areas were woods which made up part of Anne Boleyn’s hunting grounds.

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Craven Cottage

The writer of The Last Days of Pompeii, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, lived in the cottage until it was destroyed by a fire in May 1888. Some other rumoured former tenants at the cottage included Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jeremy Bentham, Florence Nightingale and even Queen Victoria, although there is not much evidence of this!

The area was abandoned following a fire before it became the home of Fulham FC who had had eight previous grounds. The old cottage is still present in the stadium today at the corner of the pitch.

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Craven Cottage

After a walk down a small alley by the stadium, I rejoin the sublime riverside walk along the Thames which will lead me to Hammersmith Bridge! This is one of the most satisfying and relaxing walks by the Thames given that it’s so quiet with natural beauty of the trees on the other side of the bank.

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View of the Thames near Craven Cottage
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En Route to Hammersmith Bridge
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En Route to Hammersmith Bridge

Just before you reach Hammersmith Bridge you pass by the Harrods Furniture Depository which was built on an old soap factory in 1894 as a storage centre for larger items which couldn’t be stored in the world-famous Harrods department store in Knightsbridge. The current building that I walked past dates back to 1914 and was built by architect W.G.Hunt.

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Harrods Furniture Depository

The building which has Grade II listed status is no longer owned by Harrods but has retained many of its original features. In 2000 it was converted into a residential estate with 250 townhouses and penthouses known as Harrods Village. Looking out on the Thames and Hammersmith Bridge isn’t a bad view!

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Harrods Furniture Depository

Right next to the Harrods Furniture Depository, I come across another one of the capital’s stunning bridges, Hammersmith Bridge! Like with many of London bridges, the structure we see today isn’t the original one. Designed by William Tierney Clark the first Hammersmith Bridge opened in 1827 and was the first suspension bridge over the Thames.  By the 1870s the bridge was no longer strong enough to support the weight of the heavy traffic and in 1884 a temporary bridge was put up to allow more limited cross-river traffic while a replacement was constructed.

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Hammersmith Bridge

The current Hammersmith Bridge was designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette with it being opened by the Prince of Wales in 1887. At 700 feet long and 43 feet wide, it cost £82,117 to build with it being built by Dixon, Appleby & Thorne.  The bridge has not been without its structural problems and has been closed on numerous occasions as a result of the weight and volume of traffic across it, something that wasn’t anticipated when it was built given that it’s not within central London.

This has led to serve weight restrictions on the bridge with only one bus in each direction permitted on the bridge at any one time. Consequently, as a result of this problem, there have been substantial improvements to it in 1998, 2000, 2016 and 2017.

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Hammersmith Bridge

One of the unique aspects of Hammersmith Bridge is that it is the lowest bridge in London with a water clearance of just 12 feet at high tide, which makes it prone to flooding. The bridge was originally painted green before changing its colours to pale pink, however, in 2000 it reverted back to its original green colour, something I think makes it so distinct!

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Hammersmith Bridge Crests

On the ends of the bridge, there are seven coats of arms including the Royal Arms of the UK in the centre, the coat of arms of the City of London; Kent; Guildford; the original coat of arms of the City of Westminster, the coat of arms of Colchester, and Middlesex.

There aren’t too many suspension bridges in London over the Thames as many of them are built with stone, so this makes Hammersmith Bridge much more special than the others, as it has a real grandness and presence about it. It’s not just the colour I love, but how historical and powerful the pillars are on it. It also looks much longer than all the other bridges in London which again adds to its uniqueness and awe-inspiring nature.  The view across the water and onto the banks adds to the wonderful splendour of the bridge as you see the river meander its way around.

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View from Hammersmith Bridge
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View from Hammersmith Bridge

A short walk from Hammersmith Bridge takes me to Furnival Gardens which had an active fishing trade until 200 years ago with the creek eventually being filled in in 1936. The parks name derives from scholar Dr Frederick James Furnivall, who founded what is now the Furnivall Sculling Club in 1896.

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Furnival Gardens

Just by the gardens my walk takes me past many small alleyways through Chiswick with the Thames on my left and houses on my right, and a pathway in between. It really is a journey that keeps on giving and provides me with so many reasons why I love London so much and also why every area is so different.

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Chiswick River Walk
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Chiswick River Walk
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Houses of Chiswick

One of the amazing aspects of London are its hidden gems which includes its cute little houses, and there are many of these to see on my walk as I go through Chiswick. Each and everyone I’d love to live in, as they all look like they’re from a fairytale!

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Houses of Chiswick
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Houses of Chiswick
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Houses of Chiswick

There aren’t just the small cute cottages on my journey, but the real grand estates which have perhaps the quirkiest and coolest front gardens ever which overlook the Thames, with the road in between them and the house.

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Houses of Chiswick
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Cool Front Gardens!
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Cool Front Gardens!
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Cool Front Gardens!

Opposite some of the rows of houses you can walk out on the river when the tides out and get a better view across the water giving you a different perspective of it, and it’s eerily quiet with only the sound of trickling water due to the quiet residential area.

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Chiswick River Walk
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Chiswick River Walk
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Chiswick River Walk
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Chiswick River Walk

At the end of the houses a walk along the Thames will take me onto my next destination, Dukes Meadows.

Located in Chiswick, the delightful Dukes Meadows was purchased from the Duke of Devonshire in 1923. A seaside-type promenade and the bandstands were opened by Prince Albert, Duke of York in 1926. In 1998 a group of local people formed the Dukes Meadows Trust which has the aim to protect the park. When you enter the park there are two ceramic markers which were installed in 2002.

I absolutely love this walk through the park past the open spaces, trees, bandstands and besides the Thames as it’s a woodland of natural mysteries and like many of my walks you don’t realise you’re still within London. When we think of the Thames Path and walking along it, we might normally think of Embankment or the Southbank but there are so many more marvellous walks and sights to enjoy when you continue to take a stroll out of Central London to explore its outskirts.

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Dukes Meadows
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Dukes Meadows
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Dukes Meadows
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Dukes Meadows
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Dukes Meadows
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Dukes Meadows
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Dukes Meadows’ Bandstands
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Dukes Meadows

At the end of this part of Dukes Meadows my walking route takes me to Barnes and the eye-catching Barnes Bridge. Followed by Hammersmith Bridge and preceded by Chiswick Bridge, Barnes Bridge is a Grade II listed structure which opened in 1895.

The original bridge on this location was constructed in 1849 with a design created by civil engineer Joseph Locke, whose bridge had two pairs of cast iron arch spins, considerably similar to Richmond Bridge which was also designed by Locke. In the same year the bridge was opened to the railways. However, during the latter stages of the 19th Century concerns were raised over the suitability of cast iron bridges following the collapse of one, and this prompted the construction of the new Barnes Bridge. The new bridge was designed by Edward Andrews and constructed by Head Wrightson on behalf of the London & South Western Railway, opening in 1895.

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Barnes Bridge

An aspect that makes Barnes Bridge unique is that it’s only one of three bridges in London which combines pedestrian and rail use, with the others being Hungerford Bridge & Golden Jubilee Bridges and Fulham Railway Bridge. It’s actually quite a surreal experience walking alongside the railway as normally in London we’re used to walking next to the cars so it has an odd feel about it. Once you get to the end of the pathway on the bridge you’ll find Barnes Bridge Station which has connections to Hounslow and London Waterloo.

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Path on Barnes Bridge
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Walking alongside the Trains!

Like with all the views from London’s bridges, this one doesn’t disappoint and with the houses next to the river it really does have the feel of a seaside town, and you’d expect to see some coloured changing huts or deck chairs! I have mixed feelings on the design of Barnes Bridge as it’s not the most pretty of London’s bridges, but it does have a lot of character and I love the fact it is one of a few that has a railway you can walk next to!

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View from Barnes Bridge

My walk today will leave Barnes Bridge Railway station and take me to Barnes Common, and whilst I take a stroll there I passed more sweet little cottages, with the most vibrant colours.

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Cute Houses of Barnes

I also passed this old building which I would’ve thought used to be a pub, which is now a residential house!

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Used to be a Pub?!

Before I get to Barnes Common I walk through this little secret path which has water flowing underneath it.

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Park Pathway
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Stream next to the Park

Walking along it I come to a really picturesque community park called Vine Road Recreation Ground which highlights all the colours of the season and somewhere to take a moment to relax whilst you watch the world go by.

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Vine Road Recreation Ground
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Vine Road Recreation Ground
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Vine Road Recreation Ground
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Vine Road Recreation Ground

Just out of Vine Road Recreation Ground and on the edge of Barnes Common you come across something I’ve not seen much, a double level crossing with two sets of barriers! It might not be the most exciting of sights, but I thought it was quite cool and unique, once again something new on my walks of London!

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One of Two of Level Crossings!
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The other Level Crossing!

At 49.55 hectares (122.4 acres), Barnes Common is one of the largest protected common lands in London and is made up of nationally scarce lowland acid grassland, meadows, secondary woodland, reed-beds, and rough grassland with heath. The area is designated as a Local Nature Reserve and Site of Nature Conservation Interest, and managed by the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames with assistance from the Friends of Barnes Common.

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Barnes Common
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Barnes Common

The entire area is so magical and enchanting as you weave your way between the trees and along the small pathways onto the open green spaces. We really are truly lucky to have such a beautiful area within our capital and it’s quite the contrast to the touristy areas that people associate London with. It’s commons and woods like these which are one of the main reasons I love exploring and discovering new parts of London as there are many people who would’ve never been to areas like this when they’ve been to the capital. That’s why it gives me wonderful satisfaction in taking these photos and showing you all stunning sights like these!

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Barnes Common
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Barnes Common
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Barnes Common
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Barnes Common
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Barnes Common
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Barnes Common
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Barnes Common

My final stop on my walk is Barnes Green which is right next to Barnes Common, and to get there you go over this lovely little bridge over a river, which is a personal favourite of mine when I explore a park.

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Cute River besides Barnes Commom and Barnes Green
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Bridge to Barnes Green
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Cute River besides Barnes Commom and Barnes Green
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River by Barnes Green

I fell in love with Barnes Green the moment I stepped into it as it really has that village feel about it with the lovely pond at the heart of it. You sometimes forget that even though somewhere is in London, it can still have that picturesque and homely feel about it that you normally find in a countryside town. At the centre of any of village is its green and pond, and Barnes certainly has that!

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Barnes Green
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Pond in Barnes Green
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Pond in Barnes Green
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Pond in Barnes Green
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Pond in Barnes Green
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Pond in Barnes Green

Well that’s all for today’s walk which has seen me explore three of London’s bridges, Fulham & Hammersmith, Chiswick and Barnes! Thanks for joining me and I hope you enjoyed reading about my walk as much as I did doing it and taking photos of its sights!

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 links to them all below for you!

Victoria to Green Park

Marble Arch to Mayfair

The Shard to Monument

King’s Cross to Hampstead Heath

Leadenhall Market to Old Spitalfields Market

Waterloo to The London Eye

St Paul’s Cathedral to Moorgate

Mile End Park to London Fields

Hyde Park Corner to Italian Gardens

Little Venice to Abbey Road

Regent’s Park to Soho Square

Clapham Common to The Albert Bridge

Grosvenor Gardens to Knightsbridge

Holland Park to Meanwhile Gardens

Hackney Downs to Springfield Park

Tower Bridge to Stave Hill

Shoreditch to Islington Green

Highgate to Finsbury Park

Ravenscourt Park to Wormwood Scrubs

Covent Garden to Southwark Bridge

Sources: (not the food sauces)

All photos taken by London Wlogger © Copyright 2018

Londonist: History of Putney Bridge

Friends of Bishop’s Park: History of Bishop’s Park

Fulham FC: History of Craven Cottage

British Listed Buildings: History of the Harrods Furniture Depository

Londonist: History of Hammersmith Bridge

Parks & Gardens: History of Furnival Gardens

Dukes Meadows Park: History of Dukes Meadows

Barnes Village: History of Barnes Bridge

Barnes Common: History of Barnes Common

Covent Garden to Southwark Bridge: The Splendid Sights along the River Thames

Why hello there and thanks for joining me once again on my adventures of the capital! Today’s walk really is a true river and city stroll which will take in some of the most well-known sights London has to offer. I’ll begin in Covent Garden then move onto Victoria Embankment Gardens go along Embankment to explore Temple and then the bridges of Blackfriars. My journey will then see me go past the Tate Modern, Millennium Bridge and end at Southwark Bridge! It’s a long walk with plenty to see, so we best get going!

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Covent Garden to Southwark Bridge

Located near the West End between Charing Cross Road and Drury Lane, Covent Garden is a bustling shopping and tourist site which dates back to the Saxon era. Back in mid-Saxon times, the area was a thriving trading settlement which was 60 hectares (148 acres) in size.

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Covent Garden
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Covent Garden Market

The trading part within Covent Garden was established along the Thames near The Strand and stretched as far back as Short’s Gardens near Covent Garden. By the late Saxon period and with the threat of Viking raids, the trading settlement moved leaving the area derelict and was turned into farmland.

Covent Garden derives its name (‘Convent Garden’) from the presence there in the Middle Ages of a garden belonging to Westminster Abbey. In the 16th century the land was acquired by Henry VII and granted to John Russell who was the 1st Earl of Bedford. The land would be under the Bedford family name up until 1918.

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Covent Garden

The recognisable Piazza within Covent Garden was laid out in 1631 by Inigo Jones with the inspiration for it coming from the piazza’s of Italy which Jones had extensive knowledge of. The streets of Covent Garden have historical significance behind them with King Street, Charles Street and Henrietta Street named in honour of Charles I and the Queen Henrietta Maria. Catherine Street is named after the consort of Charles II, with Bedford Street, Russell Street, Southampton Street and Tavistock Street deriving their names from the Russell Family.

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Covent Garden

One of the distinctive features in Covent Garden on the west side of the Piazza is the St. Paul’s Church which was also designed by Inigo Jones as part of a commission from the 4th Earl of Bedford in 1631. The parish church has significant links to the theatre community which has resulted in it gaining the nickname of the ‘actors’ church’. The church was completed in 1633 and was the first new church in London since the Reformation when the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church.

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St. Paul’s Church
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St. Paul’s Church

One of established aspects within the market was traders selling fruit and vegetables with the Earl of Bedford recognising the potential of this, which meant as a result he obtained a right to hold a market there. Furthermore, one of the main features of Covent Garden today are the shows which go on there, something which dates back to the 17th Century.

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A Show within Covent Garden

Into the 18th Century and with the aristocracy moving to more fashionable areas such as Soho and Mayfair, Covent Garden attracted many artists, journalists and writers who would regularly use the coffee shops and taverns in the area.

The Covent Garden Theatre, now termed the Royal Opera House was built by John Rich and opened in 1733. In 1786 the renowned composer Handel conducted his ‘Messiah’ within it, although in 1808 the entire area was gutted due to a fire. It would be reconstructed by Sir Thomas Smirke within a year, but in 1856 that too was destroyed by a fire! E.M. Barry’s Italian Opera House (The Royal Opera House) would replace it on the same site.

The 19th Century saw the reconstruction of the flower market, with the fruit and vegetable market being relocated to Nine Elms in Vauxhall in 1966. In the 1970s the land was acquired by the Greater London council and the Department of the Environment. The central Piazza has since been redeveloped into a mixture of restaurants and cafe’s, with commercial shops and stalls.

The market we see today really is something to behold and you can see why it attracts millions of tourists a year, especially around Christmas with the breathtaking festive decorations which lighten up the area. If you want to get into the Christmas spirit, or act like a tourist for the day, Covent Garden is certainly the place to be with plenty of sights to snap!

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Homage to the old flower market

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Inside the market
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Inside the market
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Outside the market

One of the most notable sights at Christmas is the famous tree within the Piazza, considerably bigger than most of our trees we’ll have!

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Covent Garden Christmas Tree

There is one final feature of Covent Garden which many walk past and visit every year, and that’s the London Transport Museum which is right in the corner of the area. Opened in 1980 the museum helps to showcase the transport heritage of the capital with a collection of old tubes, buses, trams and trains as well as plenty of memorabilia, and an amazing shop!

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The London Transport Museum

I’m now going to leave Covent Garden and make my way to the next stop on my walk, Victoria Embankment Gardens.

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Victoria Embankment Gardens
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Victoria Embankment Gardens

Victoria Embankment Gardens are a series of gardens on the north side of the River Thames between Westminster Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge. The gardens were designed by Sir Joseph Bazelgette and opened in 1865.  My walk sees me firstly visit the gardens located near The Strand. The area really is a delightful place to sit and relax whilst you overlook the River Thames in the background and are full of flowers, trees, plants and fountains!

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Victoria Embankment Gardens near the Strand
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Victoria Embankment Gardens near the Strand

At the moment we’re well into Autumn and heading towards Winter, but during the Spring months, the gardens are a hub for beautiful tulips which have an array of colours like a rainbow!

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Victoria Embankment Gardens in Spring

I’ll now leave Victoria Embankment Gardens near the Strand and take a rather wonderful stroll along the Thames where you get to see many of the capital’s best landmarks.

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View from Embankment

You certainly won’t be struggling for the sights of London, with Waterloo Bridge and The London Eye on display, and if you want to find out more about them, check out one of my previous walks!

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Waterloo Bridge and The London Eye

A walk along the Thames takes you to the Victoria Embankment Gardens section in Temple. One thing I love about the Embankment area are that the trees are all perfectly spaced out with the branches draped over the edge of the walls, there’s something really pleasing and pretty about this. The long stretch as far as the eye can see is full of trees and runners, with the busy road on the left and the peaceful flowing of the Thames on the right.

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Pretty Embankment Views
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Pretty Embankment Views

The Victoria Embankment Gardens in Temple are just as tranquil and picturesque as the one near the Strand.

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Victoria Embankment Gardens (Temple)
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Victoria Embankment Gardens (Temple)
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Victoria Embankment Gardens (Temple)

On the end of the gardens sits the historically grand and architectural gem Two Temple House which is a late Victorian mansion built by William Waldorf Astor and opened in 1895. Designed by neo-Gothic architect John Loughborough Pearson, the house hosts art exhibitions as well as being a venue to hire.

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Two Temple House
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Two Temple House
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Two Temple House
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Two Temple House

Walking past the house you find many cute little alleyways and streets as you go through Temple which is known for its law practices, although on a weekend it’s eerily quiet without all the lawyers and solicitors present!

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Temple Walk
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Temple Stairs

Going through Temple along the Strand takes you to The Royal Courts of Justice which is the High Court and Court of Appeal of England and Wales. Designed by George Edmund Street who unfortunately died before they were completed, the Victorian Gothic style building was opened by Queen Victoria in 1882 and is one of the largest courts in Europe.

No matter whether a building hosts law or art or events, the landmarks in London are never understated or dull, but have such character and architectural brilliance about them, something which was evident when they were all built. Whereas the newer buildings of London are more glass based, the older ones still have a marvellous place in the city and are one of many reasons we all fall in love with the capital.

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The Royal Courts of Justice
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The Royal Courts of Justice
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Royal Courts of Justice

I’ll take a walk away from Temple and back onto Embankment as I head towards my next stop on today’s walk, Blackfriars!

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View from Temple

The walk along Embankment to Blackfriars gives you a glistening autumnal feel with the golden leaves along the pathway and the sun shining onto the trees.

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En route to Blackfriars

Just before Blackfriars Bridge you find this cute little pub called The Black Friar which is a Grade II listed public house. Built in 1875 on the former site of a medieval Dominican friary, it was redesigned in 1905 by architect Herbert Fuller-Clarke, with most of the internal decoration done by sculptors Frederick T. Callcott and Henry Poole. The pub faced being demolished during the 1960s until it was saved by a campaign spearheaded by poet Sir John Betjeman. It really is a true hidden gem of the capital and perhaps one of the smallest pubs you’ll come across but with so much character and illustrates the historical side of London, and why pubs are such an integral part of the identity of our great city.

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The Black Friar
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The Black Friar

A walk from the Black Friar takes me to one of London’s many bridges, Blackfriars Bridge! Opened in 1869 the bridge was designed by Joseph Cubitt and is 923 feet long and with a width of 105 feet. In 1972 the bridge was granted Grade II listed status!

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Blackfriars Bridge

Standing on the bridge on the one side you get a stunning view of the London Eye and on the other you can see St Paul’s, The Walkie Talkie, The Tate, The Shard and Blackfriars Railway Bridge.

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View from Blackfriars Bridge
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View from Blackfriars Bridge
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Blackfriars Railway Bridge from Blackfriars Bridge

There are two structures that have the honour of being called Blackfriars Railway Bridge, the first was opened in 1864 and designed by Joseph Cubitt too for the London, Chatham and Dover Railway. The abutments of this are still present today on the end of the bridge’s old structure. In 1924 with the formation of Southern Railway, the inter-city and continental services were transferred to Waterloo and St Paul’s which resulted in the bridge gradually declining. It would become too weak to support modern trains and as a result was removed in 1985, though pillars of it can still be seen and have Grade II listed status.

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The old and new Blackfriars Railway Bridge
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The old and new Blackfriars Railway Bridge
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The old and new Blackfriars Railway Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge

The second bridge, originally called St Paul’s Railway Bridge, was designed by John Wolfe-Barry and Henry Marc Brunel, and opened in 1886. In 1937 St Paul’s railway station was renamed Blackfriars with the bridge changing its name also. Blackfriars Bridge railway station opened in 1864 before closing to passengers in 1885 following the opening of what today is the main Blackfriars Station. Blackfriars Bridge railway station would continue as a goods stop up until 1964.

The current Blackfriars Railway Bridge has 4,400 roof-mounted solar panels which makes up 50% of the power for the station which is located on the bridge for Thameslink trains.

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Blackfriars Railway Bridge
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The old and new Blackfriars Railway Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge

On the day that I did this lovely walk, the tide was out so this gave me a unique opportunity to walk along the Thames and under the bridges to see some of the capital’s favourite landmarks from a different perspective.

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Tide out, great views!
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Tide out, great views!

My walk takes me to another one of London’s most recognisable landmarks, the Tate Modern which is Britain’s national gallery of international modern art and part of the Tate Group (Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool, Tate St Ives, Tate Online). The gallery was opened by the Queen in 2000 with it holding collections of British art from 1900 to the present day.

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Tate Modern
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Tate Modern

The Tate Modern is housed in the former Bankside Power Station which was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the same architect who designed Battersea Power Station and you can see the similarities! The structure was built in two stages between 1947 and 1963, with the power station closing in 1981.

The building was at risk of being demolished until numerous campaigns helped to save it, before the Tate announced plans to turn it into a gallery in 1994. In that same year a competition was run to find the architects to design the gallery, and in 1995 Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meurn of Herzog & de Meuron were chosen. The £134 million development took five years to undertake and it is quite remarkable that it has only been open since 2000 as I just can’t imagine it not being a gallery!

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Tate Modern

Right outside the Tate Modern you find another landmark which has been in the capital since the turn of the 21st Century, the Millennium Bridge. Opened in June 2000, the bridge is 325 metres in length and was designed by Arup (engineers), Foster and Partners (architects) and Sir Anthony Caro (sculptor).

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Millennium Bridge
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Millennium Bridge

The bridge was the first to be built over the Thames for 100 years with it taking two years to construct at a cost of £18.2 million, which was paid for by the Millennium Commission and the London Bridge Trust.

One unique aspect of the Millennium Bridge is that it has had two openings, first in 2000 and then again in 2002. On its opening day the bridge had 80,000 people walk across it and 2,000 on it at any one time. However, on the southern and central part of the bridge people felt it swaying and as a result the bridge was closed and given the nickname the ‘Wobbly Bridge’. The bridge lasted only one day and it wasn’t until February 2002 that it reopened to the public!

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Millennium Bridge

Once again you get a stunning view across the Thames, with the newly built One Blackfriars building on one side, and on the other Southwark Bridge, St Paul’s, the Walkie Talkie and the Cheesegrater. It is always amazing how even though all the bridges are along the same path of the river, they provide their own distinctive view of the capital’s landmarks.

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One Blackfriars
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View from Millennium Bridge 
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View of Blackfriars Railway Bridge from Millennium Bridge

A photo which many Instagrammers love to take is of St Paul’s front view on the end of the bridge, and you can see why it’s so popular!

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View of St Paul’s from Millennium Bridge

My journey will now end at Southwark Bridge which was originally built in 1819 by Sir William Arrol & Co with the design from Ernest George and Basil Mott. Known as Queen Street Bridge, it was redesigned by John Rennie and reopened in 1921 with the new name Southwark Bridge given to it.

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Southwark Bridge
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Southwark Bridge

Well thank you for joining me on my walk where I’ve explored the very best of London’s recognisable sights from Covent Garden to the Tate Modern, and uncovered the wonderful stories and history of four of the capital’s bridges!

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! 🙂

Sources: (not the food sauces)

All photos taken by London Wlogger © Copyright 2018

The Covent Garden Trust: History of Covent Garden

The London Transport Museum: Information about The London Transport Museum

Westminster City Council: History of Victoria Embankment Gardens 

Two Temple House: History of Two Temple House

Royal Courts of Justice: History of the Royal Courts of Justice

The Black Friar: History of the Black Friar

Blackfriars Bridges: History of Blackfriars Bridges

The Tate Modern: History of the Tate Modern

The Millennium Bridge: History of the Millennium Bridge

The Millennium Bridge: Facts about the Millennium Bridge

Southwark Bridge: History of Southwark Bridge