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!
A warm Wlogger welcome to you and thanks for joining me on my next walking adventure of the capital! My expedition today will see me explore South-East London as I begin at Crystal Palace Park and explore its stadium, lakes, green areas… and dinosaurs! I’ll then take a detour to Sydenham Wells Park go through Sydenham Hill Wood and to Dulwich Wood. I’ll end my journey at Dulwich & Sydenham Golf Club, which might seem like an odd place to end a walk… but all will be revealed later on! So let’s discover some of the lesser-known natural sights of London!
Located in South-East London, Crystal Palace Park is a Victorian pleasure ground used for cultural and sporting events.
The park was built by Sir Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace Company between 1852 and 1854. It was created as the magnificent setting for the relocated and enlarged Crystal Palace structure, which had been designed for the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park.
The area was designed to impress, educate, entertain and inspire, eventually becoming an international attraction with its educational themes for the park covering discovery and invention. The Crystal Palace was a large glass and iron structure that was situated on the Sydenham Ridge and provided stunning views across London with the palace viewable from many location across the city. One of the main aims of the park and palaces creation was to display Victorian grandeur and innovation, and was financed when people paid to visit it.
After the park was officially opened on the 10th June 1854 by Queen Victoria, a number of displays, events and sporting activities were introduced as a way to increase visitor numbers. To coincide with the 1911 Festival of the Empire, the park was transformed with a railway being installed and buildings to represent the Empire which would remain there up until the 1940s.
However, on the 30th November 1936 The Crystal Palace was destroyed in a fire, after musicians waiting to play a concert noticed smoke coming from the floorboards, which reportedly began in the women’s cloakroom and spread to the central transept. The fire quickly spread through the dry wooden boards and the nature of The Crystal Palace – a huge open space with no fire breaks – meant that within a short time the fire was wildly out of control. The flames rose to 800 feet in the air with London sending 61 pumps and 381 firefighters to help tackle the fire. The cause of the fire was never discovered, but theories have included old and faulty wiring as well as a discarded cigarette falling between the floorboards.
It would’ve been amazing to have seen The Crystal Palace in all its stunning glory, as it looked simply magnificent. You can imagine had it been around today, it would’ve attracted the same number of tourists that landmarks such as The London Eye, The Shard, Buckingham Palace and more do. Something our Instagram feeds would be full of!
After the fire the park began a period of decline. There were plans talked about to recreate the palace, although these never materialised. During the Second World War the park became a place for military vehicle dismantling and later a site for bomb damage rubble.
When you enter Crystal Palace Park, one of the first sights you see is its renowned and spectacular National Sports Centre. Opened in 1964, the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre was designed by the LCC Architects Department under Sir Leslie Martin between 1953-1954 and is a Grade II listed building. Over the years the stadium has hosted football, cricket, rugby, basketball, American Football, and even Motor Racing. The main sport to be hosted there today is athletics with a capacity of 15,500, and 24,000 with temporary seating.
The site of the athletics stadium is on the same land as a football ground which hosted the FA Cup Final from 1895 to 1914. The owners of the ground wanted their own football club to play at their own venue, so this lead to the formation of Crystal Palace F.C. The South Londoners were forced to leave the stadium in 1915 by the military, and as a result played at the ground they play at today, Selhurst Park. The largest attendance for a domestic match there was between Aston Villa and Sunderland in the 1913 FA Cup Final, when 121,919 spectators went there.
A short walk down a hill from the National Sports Centre, you come to the picturesque lake area with beautiful trees and plants.
One of the most iconic features of the park are the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs which are a collection of over 30 statues created by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins (1807-1894) around 1854. The array of statues also includes the first ever attempt anywhere in the world to model dinosaurs as full-scale, three-dimensional active creatures.
The set also includes models of other prehistoric creatures, including plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs discovered by Mary Anning in Lyme Regis, and a South American Megatherium brought back to Britain by Charles Darwin on his voyage on HMS Beagle.
Known as the Dinosaur Court, the models represent 15 genera of extinct animals, not all dinosaurs. They are from a wide range of geological ages, and include dinosaurs, ichthyosaurs, and plesiosaurs mainly from the Mesozoic era, and some mammals from the more recent Cenozoic era.
The dinosaurs have been listed on the Historic Heritage List of England as Grade 1 monuments which is one of the highest and most important ratings. Many of the dinosaurs you see when you visit the National History Museum, the Oxford Museum of Natural History and other history museums in the UK are based on these specimens.
This was the first time I’d ever been to Crystal Palace Park and thus seen the dinosaurs, and they are incredible statues, and so critical to both the park’s identity as well as what they demonstrate for the world of natural history and science. One thing I’ve also thought is that it was very random having these in a London park, but knowing the story behind them makes sense!
Surrounded by the dinosaurs and as you weave your way around the park, there are some really lovely trees and woods, as well as a lake. Like with many of the parks I’ve explored across London, this one is full of splendour and tranquility.
I’ll now take a walk outside the lake area and walk across the park where once again you stroll through all the prettiness of the park which illustrates what a vast area of marvellous sights it is.
A distinctive part of the park you always see no matter where you stand and which can be seen from many vantage points in the capital is The Crystal Palace Transmitter tower which is a broadcasting and telecommunications station that serves Greater London and the Home Counties. Built in 1956, it’s the 5th tallest structure in London standing at 219 metres (719 ft). In terms of coverage it’s the most important transmitting station in the country, with nearly 12 million people receiving output from it.
I’ll now leave the park and head to my next destination today, Sydenham Wells Park! This cute little green area is named after the medicinal springs which were found in Sydenham in the 17th Century, when Sydenham was still in Kent. In 1901 the park was opened to the public and is one of nine parks in the borough to have a Green flag award, which is the benchmark national standard for publicly accessible parks and green spaces in the UK.
The park is right near many houses and you do get that community feel that this park is at the centre point of the area which is popular with families and people looking for a place to relax with their thoughts.
My journey will now take me from Sydenham Wells Park onto both Sydenham Hill Wood and Dulwich Wood, which are located right next to one another. Together they are the largest part of the old Great North Wood, which was an ancient landscape of woodland and wooded commons which once covered the high ground between Deptford and Selhurst
With both of the woods adjacent to one another, I first visited Sydenham Hill Wood which is designated as a Local Nature Reserve and Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation. In 1732 an oak-lined formal avenue, known as the Cox’s Walk, which leads from the junction of Dulwich Common and Lordship Lane was formed by Francis Cox. It connected his Green Man Tavern and Dulwich Wells with Sydenham Wells Park.
The old Nunhead to Crystal Palace railway once passed through the wood and you can tell where part of the line used to be, especially the footbridge which goes over the woods and used to have the tracks underneath it.
The woodland is home to more than 200 species of trees and plants, as well as rare fungi, butterflies, scarce bees, woodpeckers, wasps, stag beetles, other insects, hedgehogs, birds and woodland mammals.
Walking through the woodlands reminds me a lot of my walk through Highgate Wood as you feel like you’re nowhere near London’s hustle and bustle. It’s a very magical place to explore as with every corner of the woods you find something new which amazes and pleasantly surprises you, whether it’s a pretty species of tree, or a cute stairway, there’s an abundance of beauty.
Right next to Sydenham Hill Wood is Dulwich Wood, which is privately owned by the Dulwich Estate. Back in the Middle Ages, the Manor of Dulwich belonged to Bermondsey Abbey having been given to the Abbey in 1127 by King Henry I. The Dulwich Estate was surveyed in 1542 after Henry VII dissolved the monasteries. The wealthy Edward Alleyn in 1605 bought the Manor of Dulwich from the Calton family who had owned it since the dissolving of the monasteries.
Weaving your way between the trees and plants adds quite a bit of mystery when you walk through the woods, which is quite small, though there are many different pathways you could take, each taking you to a different woodland wonder.
Once you come out of Dulwich Wood, you’re able to get a glimpse of the London skyline, but to truly appreciate and see it, you need to take a stroll to the neighbouring Dulwich & Sydenham Hill Golf Club. A walk to the top of the balcony of the clubhouse provides a breathtaking panoramic view of London!
From across the golf course you get to see all the well-known and iconic London skyline landmarks including The Shard, The London Eye, Canary Wharf, The Walkie Talkie, The Gherkin, St Paul’s and more. One amazing aspect of my walks is that I’ve seen this exact same view of the London skyline from so many different perspectives, from Stave Hill, to Alexander Palace, to Hampstead Heath, and it’s always awe-inspiring and glorious. It really is a fitting and perfect place to end my walking adventure today!
Well that’s all from me on my walking adventure which has seen me discover some of the natural gems of South-East London from Crystal Palace Park, to Sydenham Wells Park and Sydenham Hill Wood, to Dulwich Wood, with the stunning London skyline view to finish with!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
I’m now going to leave Covent Garden and make my way to the next stop on my walk, 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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
The Victoria Embankment Gardens in Temple are just as tranquil and picturesque as the one near the Strand.
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.
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!
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.
I’ll take a walk away from Temple and back onto Embankment as I head towards my next stop on today’s walk, Blackfriars!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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).
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!
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.
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!
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.
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! 🙂
It’s that time of the week again as I make another one of my trips around our great capital! This week’s journey starts at Waterloo Station and takes the short walk to a spectacular piece of architecture, as I end at The London Eye. My walk will take me via the Royal Festival Hall, and three bridges, Waterloo, Hungerford, and Golden Jubilee. So let’s get started!
Like all good walks, I need to begin somewhere, and today it’s Waterloo Station. This terminus is Britain’s busiest train station with over 88 million people using it every year, with a staggering 22 platforms! But wait. I hear you ask. Doesn’t Clapham Junction have a sign saying IT’S the busiest train station in Britain?! Well that’s true, this is measured by how many trains pass through it, but for the sheer volume of passengers, Waterloo takes the honour.
Waterloo Station was built in 1848 by London & South Western Railway as an extension of the mainline from Nine Elms Railway Station, which in the 1830s was a London Terminus.
Back in the 1850s to deal with the overcrowding problems of London’s cemeteries bodies were transported to a purpose-built Cemetery in Brookwood, Surrey from Waterloo. This gave it the name of the ‘Death Line’!
In 1878 and 1885 new platforms were built in the North and South of the station respectively. The terminus was rebuilt between 1900 and 1922 with it officially reopening in March 1922. It took nearly 100 years for the roof to be refurbished, happening between 2001 and 2003.
Until it was moved to St Pancras in 2007, the Eurostar service ran from Waterloo Station, which began in 1994. Interestingly, French passengers weren’t happy about arriving in London to a station which reminded them of the French’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. Incredibly, one French politician went so far as to write a letter to then Prime Minister Tony Blair to demand it changed its name! But to no avail!
The terminus today covers an area of 24.5 acres with the roof measuring 20ft x 540ft with a maximum single span of 118ft. In addition to mainline South West Trains, the underground station has the Bakerloo, Jubilee, Northern and Waterloo & City tube lines.
One of the entrances has what is known as the Victory Arch, which is Grade II listed. It was built from Portland Stone between 1907 and 1922 by James Robb Scott. It represents war and peace, with the Britannia figure over the top of it bearing the torch of liberty.
My walk from a busy station takes me past the Royal Festival Hall, a grade I listed hall which first opened in 1951.
It’s one of the world’s leading performance venues with a capacity of 2,500 seats with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment being notable residents.
From the sound of music I take a slight detour to the sound of water, to my next destination along the Southbank, Waterloo Bridge!
Until the beginning of the 19th century, Blackfriars was the only bridge between Westminster and London Bridge. John Rennie was the engineering mastermind behind the first stone bridge which was laid on the 11th October 1811.
Originally called the Strand bridge, it was renamed Waterloo Bridge as a lasting legacy of the victory achieved in the Battle of Waterloo. It opened in 1817, on the second anniversary of the battle, at a total cost of £937,391.
By 1884 the foundations of the bridge were becoming exposed by the scour of the river, and as the years progressed it gradually got worse. In 1924 traffic was closed from it with a temporary bridge constructed. For almost a decade there was controversy as to what to do with the old bridge, and finally in 1934 it was decided to erect a modern bridge. The new bridge we see today opened in 1945 at a cost of around £1 million.
The demolition of the old bridge and the design and construction of the new one were undertaken by Messrs. Rendel, Palmer & Tritton in association with the Council’s Chief Engineer, Sir Peirson Frank. The collaborating architect was Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. The new bridge is constructed with reinforced Portland Stone and grey Cornish granite, which was cut from the old bridge. To this day it sits perfectly on the South Bank scenery!
I now go from one vintage bridge to another, Hungerford Bridge, and to a more modern-day structure, the Golden Jubilee Bridge! Designed by Sir Isambard K. Brunel, Hungerford Bridge opened on the 1st May 1845, with the area having formally been a wharf and timber yard.
However, in 1859 the Charing Cross Railway Act authorized the construction of a railway to cross the Thames near the site of Charing Cross Station with the suspension bridge removed. The new railway bridge began work 1860 and was completed in 1864 with a walkway either side.
By the 1990s a decision was made to replace the footbridge with a new structures either side of the Hungerford Railway Bridge. Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands and engineers WSP Group won the competition to design it in 1996, and the two new 4-metre (13 ft) footbridges were completed in 2002. The Golden Jubilee name is in honour of the fiftieth anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne.
My final stop on today’s walk takes me to perhaps the most famous wheel in the world, The London Eye! Designed by Marks Barfield Architects and opening in 2000, it’s the world’s largest cantilevered observation wheel standing at 135m high. Interestingly, the wheel only had planning permission in its current location for five years with a plan to move it to a new location. However, due to its popularity it remained, and has now become Britain’s most popular paid for visitor attraction, and a marvelous addition to the London skyline!
The London Eye
It takes 30 minutes to go around the London Eye with a view of 40 km in all directions! There are 32 capsules to represent the 32 London boroughs with each weighing as much as 1,052,631 pound coins. Although, there are 32, for superstitious reasons they are numbered 1-33,with 13 being left out, as this is seen as an unlucky number.
The London Eye can carry 800 people in each rotation, which is the same as 11 London red double decker buses. And don’t worry about the pace of the rotation… it goes at a speedy 26cm per second… twice as fast as a sprinting tortoise! One of the most notable events each year on it is the fireworks display on New Year’s Eve, and last year I was luckily enough to be there! Lasting just over 10 minutes, it’s a truly breathtaking spectacle, and a wonderful way to greet the New Year!
Well my walk has taken me from the busiest railway station in Britain to the most popular attraction in Britain via the bridges of the capital. Hope you enjoyed it, and please leave your comments and thoughts below! You can also catch me on Twitter and Instagram too, and don’t forget to sign up to my blog!