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

Norbury Park to Tooting Commons: Strolling in Woods, Parks and Commons

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.

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Norbury Park to 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.

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Norbury Park

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.

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Norbury Park
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Norbury Park
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Norbury Park

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!

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Norbury Park
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Norbury Park
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Norbury 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!

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Norbury Park
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Norbury Park

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.

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Streatham Common
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Streatham 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.

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Streatham Common
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Streatham Common
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Streatham Common

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.

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The Rookery in Streatham Common
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The Rookery in Streatham Common
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The Rookery in Streatham Common
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The Rookery in Streatham Common
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The Rookery in Streatham Common

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!

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The Rookery in Streatham Common
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The Rookery in Streatham Common
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The Rookery in Streatham Common
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The Rookery in Streatham Common
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The Rookery in Streatham Common
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The Rookery in Streatham Common
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The Rookery in Streatham Common
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The Rookery in Streatham Common
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Streatham Common
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Streatham Common

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!

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Streatham Common Woodland
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Streatham Common Woodland
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Streatham Common Woodland
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Streatham Common Woodland
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Streatham Common Woodland
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Streatham Common Woodland

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.

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Tooting Commons
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Tooting Commons

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.

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Tooting Commons
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Tooting Commons

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.

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Tooting Commons
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Tooting Commons
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Tooting Commons

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!

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

Sources: (not the food sauces)

All photos taken by London Wlogger © Copyright 2019

Information about Norbury Park: London Gardens Online

Information about Streatham Common and The Rookery: Friends of Streatham Common

Information about Tooting Common: Friends of Tooting Common

Clapham Junction to Battersea Bridge: Discovering Wandsworth and Battersea

Why hello there, and thanks for joining me on my next expedition of London. Today’s journey will see me explore south of the capital, as I begin at the iconic Clapham Junction station, take a stroll through Wandsworth Common and Wandsworth Bridge, before passing by Battersea Railway Bridge, and concluding at Battersea Bridge. It’s a walking adventure which has everything you love in London – the Thames, bridges, and parks!

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Clapham Junction to Battersea Bridge

I start my walk at Clapham Junction train station, which is actually technically based in Battersea.  Before there was a railway, the area was rural, and was known for growing lavender, which is where the street name outside the station, ‘Lavender Hill’ derives from. There was a coach road from London to Guildford near where the south part of the station is now located.

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Clapham Junction Station

On 21 May 1838 the London and South Western Railway was formed after the merging of the London and Southampton Railway, which lead to the opening of the line from Nine Elms to Woking. This was the first railway through the area, however, it still didn’t have a station on the site. A second line between Nine Elms and Richmond opened on 27 July 1846, and then a line opened to London Victoria in 1860. This lead to the opening of Clapham Junction on 2 March 1863 as an interchange station between the lines from London, Brighton, the South Coast, and West London.

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Clapham Junction Station

Despite being in Battersea, the station has been stated as located in Clapham. One of the reasons given for this was partly due to the railway companies trying to attract middle and upper class clientele to the site, as Clapham was seen as more fashionable than the industrial Battersea, so they used this factor for station’s name.

Clapham Junction today has about 2,000 trains passing through it every day, which is the most for any station in Europe. At peak times 180 trains per hour will pass through the stations, with 117 stopping. About 430,000 passengers during the day on weekdays will pass through the station, which still doesn’t make it the highest by volume, as Waterloo has that honour.

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Clapham Junction Station

With 17 platforms there are mainline links from London to Surrey, Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the outskirts of London, as well as other parts of London via the London Overground. The station announcements are currently made by Celia Drummond and the late Phil Sayer.

As someone who uses the station on a regularly basis during peak hours, it’s a whole experience in itself, with the hustle and bustle of busy commuters, all with their own set destinations in mind, and there’s no time to stop and ponder!

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Clapham Junction Station

I’ll now leave the station to head to my next destination, Wandsworth Common. Now of course, I could hop on a train to the common which has a station right next to it, but this is a walking blog of course!

Just outside the station there’s a memorial plaque to remember those who lost their lives in the Clapham Junction railway crash back on 12 December 1988, when three trains collided with each other, killing 35 people and injuring 484.

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Clapham Junction Crash Memorial

Walking from there I head to the 69.43 hectare (171.6 acres), Wandsworth Common, which is a real south London gem of natural wonders and recreation. Back in the 1860s with the expansion of London, its railways, and the 4th Earl of Spencer selling off parts of the Common, there was demand to protect the area. This resulted in the Wandsworth Common Act 1871 being created to help ensure its future was secure.

After the creation of the London County Council (LCC) in 1890, which became the owner of the Common, it would turn the rubbish-strewn unkempt space, into the island of tranquility that we see today. In 1965 the LCC became the GLC, and the ownership of Wandsworth Common was handled by Wandsworth Borough Council. In addition to its own Act of Parliament, The Commons Act 2006 also ensures its safeguarding. The Common is split into twelve separate sections, and includes everything from an area for football, cricket and rugby, a playground, trees and plants, as well as a large lake.

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Wandsworth Common
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Wandsworth Common

Wandsworth Common is classed as a site of importance, so much so it has a Grade 1 status for nature conservation. It includes nine different ecological habitats, which cover grassland, woodlands, meadows, trees, plantation, amphibian wetland, and the pond and lakes.

The grassland throughout the Common is ideal for wild flowers, butterflies, grasshoppers, and other insects, and the tiny holes in the ground provide a solitary residence for bees.

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Wandsworth Common
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Wandsworth Common

There are a number of woodland areas whilst you walk through the vast space of the Common, which are a perfect place for grasses, shrubs, mosses, wild flowers, and plants to thrive. As well as the plants, the woodlands are a great habitat for beetles, centipedes, birds, and bats to enjoy.

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Wandsworth Common
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Wandsworth Common
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Wandsworth Common

One of the distinct elements of the Common is its water oasis which is teeming with life – from ducks and geese, to pond skaters and dragonflies, and fish and newts. It’s somewhere that covers every facet of nature and everything you could wish for to help all creatures and plants to survive and thrive. Being someone who loves being in the great outdoors and always loves exploring natural beauty like this, it’s refreshing and exciting to know that as time goes on, these essential areas are kept and maintained so splendidly.

This area does remind me of my walk to the neighbouring Clapham Common which has the perfect beautiful combination of ponds, green space, and trees too.

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Wandsworth Common
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Wandsworth Common
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Wandsworth Common
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Wandsworth Common
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Wandsworth Common
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Wandsworth Common
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Wandsworth Common
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Wandsworth Common
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Wandsworth Common
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Wandsworth Common
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Wandsworth Common

It’s time to leave Wandsworth Common and head down the long Trinity Road to my next stop, Wandsworth Bridge. The first bridge on the site was a toll bridge built by Julian Tolme in 1873, in the expectation that once the Hammersmith and City Railway terminus was built there would be an increase in the number of people wanting to cross over the river at this part along the Thames.

However, the railway terminus was never built and drainage problems made it difficult for vehicles to cross, which ultimately made Wandsworth Bridge commercially unsuccessful. As a result in 1880 it was taken into public ownership and the toll was removed. Although in 1926 a Royal Commission suggested that it should be replaced as it was too weak and narrow for buses.

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Wandsworth Bridge
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Wandsworth Bridge

Just over ten years later the bridge was demolished, and replaced with a steel cantilever bridge designed by Sir Thomas Peirson Frank, which opened in 1940, and is the bridge we see today. When it was opened it was painted in dull shades of blue as a camouflage against air raids, and this colour has remained ever since.

The length of the bridge is 650ft (200m), with a width of 60ft (18m). It proceeds Fulham Railway Bridge and follows Battersea Railway Bridge, and is one of the busiest bridges in London with over 50,000 vehicles a day going over it. It’s been given the name by many as being one of London’s most boring bridges, but I don’t buy that as I really love the colour of it as it compliments the blue of the river and the sky nicely.

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View from Wandsworth Bridge
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View from Wandsworth Bridge

Walking beyond Wandsworth Bridge along the Battersea Reach apartment complex, you walk past The Tidal Thames planting project which is a series of plants that were laid out near the river banks in 2005 when the complex was developed. Amongst this and across the Thames you’ll find an array of fish, birds, creatures, insects, and plants.

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Along the Battersea Reach

Whilst I stroll along the river towards Battersea Railway Bridge I pass this helipad and was lucky enough to see the helicopter landing, which was a pretty surreal experience!

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Along the Battersea Reach

The walk takes me to the second of the three bridges that I’ll discover on my walk, Battersea Railway Bridge. Designed by William Baker, who was the chief engineer of the London and North Western Railway, the bridge opened on 2 March 1863 at a cost of £87,000 (£8.2m in today’s money). The bridge is 754ft (230m) in length, with a width of 34ft (10.5m), and carries two railway tracks on it which lead into Imperial Wharf station.

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Battersea Railway Bridge

Consisting of five 120ft (37m) lattice girder arches set on stone piers, the bridge has been strengthened and refurbished twice – once in 1969 and again in 1992. The bridge was given the honour of Grade II listed status in 2008 to protect it from unsympathetic development. I personally really like Battersea Railway Bridge, especially the colour and cross design, something very satisfying and aesthetically pleasing about it. Also I find the fact that neither cars nor pedestrians can go across it adds to its uniqueness, as there aren’t too many bridges in London which are specifically for trains.

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Battersea Railway Bridge

I’ll now keep walking along the river onto my final sight on my walk, Battersea Bridge. Like with the original Wandsworth Bridge, the first Battersea Bridge was also a toll bridge, and was commissioned by John, Earl Spencer, who’d recently acquired the rights to operate a ferry on the Thames. There were plans to build the bridge out of stone, however, this was deemed to be too expensive, so a cheaper wooden one was built instead. The original bridge was designed by Henry Holland and only opened to pedestrians in 1771, and then to vehicle traffic in 1772.

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Battersea Bridge

Unfortunately, the bridge was poorly designed, and quite dangerous for those passing over it, as well as ships and boats who would often collide with it! Iron girders were installed, in addition to removing two piers from it to avoid the ships from colliding with it. It was in fact the last surviving wooden bridge on the Thames despite all its problems, and has inspired many artists including J. M. W. Turner, John Sell Cotman, and James McNeill Whistler to paint about it.

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Battersea Bridge

The bridge would be taken into public ownership in 1879, before being demolished in 1885. It was replaced with the structure we see today, which was designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, and built by John Mowlem & Co. It’s the narrowest of London’s bridges, and surprisingly one of the least busy, though I certainly didn’t feel that when I was on it!

The golden colouring of the bridge makes it really distinctive and eye-catching – and I personally love the lamp posts on it too, which adds a great deal of character to it. Whilst standing on the bridge you can see The Albert Bridge as well as Battersea Park and The Shard.

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View from Battersea Bridge

Well that’s all from me on this expedition of the capital, which has seen me explore some of the iconic bridges of south London, as well as one of the busiest railway stations in Europe and a captivating common. What are your memories of Wandsworth and Battersea? Have you explored them recently? Share your thoughts in the comments section, I’d love to hear from you!

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

Sources: (not the food sauces)

All photos taken by London Wlogger © Copyright 2019

Information about Clapham Junction: Railway Wonders of the World

Information about Wandsworth Common: The Friends of Wandsworth Common

Information about Wandsworth Bridge: British History Online

Information about Battersea Railway Bridge: Know Your London

Information about Battersea Bridge: Londonist

Crystal Palace Park to Dulwich Wood: The Natural Wonders of South-East London

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!

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Crystal Palace Park to Dulwich Wood:

Located in South-East London, Crystal Palace Park is a Victorian pleasure ground used for cultural and sporting events.

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Crystal Palace Park

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.

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The breathtaking Crystal Palace (Source: Crystal Palace Museum)

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!

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The destroyed Crystal Palace (Source: London Fire Brigade)

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.

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National Sports Centre

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.

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National Sports Centre
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National Sports Centre
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National Sports Centre

A short walk down a hill from the National Sports Centre, you come to the picturesque lake area with beautiful trees and plants.

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Crystal Palace Park near the Lakes and Ponds

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.

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Crystal Palace Dinosaurs 

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

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Crystal Palace Dinosaurs 

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.

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Crystal Palace Dinosaurs 
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Crystal Palace Dinosaurs 

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!

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Crystal Palace Dinosaurs 
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Crystal Palace Dinosaurs 

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.

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Crystal Palace Park
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Crystal Palace Park
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Crystal Palace Park
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Crystal Palace Park
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Crystal Palace Park
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Crystal Palace Park
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Crystal Palace Park Lake

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.

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Crystal Palace Park
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Crystal Palace Park
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Crystal Palace Park

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.

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Crystal Palace Transmitter Tower
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Crystal Palace Transmitter Tower

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.

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Sydenham Wells Park
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Sydenham Wells Park
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Sydenham Wells Park
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Sydenham Wells Park
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Sydenham Wells Park
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Sydenham Wells Park
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Sydenham Wells Park
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Sydenham Wells Park

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

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Sydenham Hill Wood

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.

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Sydenham Hill Wood

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.

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Sydenham Hill Wood Footbridge
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The Old Train Line Would’ve Passed Under the Footbridge
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View from the Footbridge

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.

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Sydenham Hill Wood
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Sydenham Hill Wood
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Sydenham Hill Wood
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Sydenham Hill Wood
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Sydenham Hill Wood

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.

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Dulwich Wood
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Dulwich Wood
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Dulwich Wood
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Dulwich Wood

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!

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View from Dulwich & Sydenham Hill Golf Club
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View from Dulwich & Sydenham Hill Golf Club
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Zoomed-in View from Dulwich & Sydenham Hill Golf Club
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Zoomed-in View from Dulwich & Sydenham Hill Golf Club

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!

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

Sources: (not the food sauces)

All photos taken by London Wlogger unless referenced © Copyright 2019

Information about Crystal Palace Park: Crystal Palace Park

Information about The Crystal Palace: The Crystal Palace Museum

Information about the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs: Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs

Information about The Crystal Palace Transmitter Tower: The Big Tower

Information about Sydenham Wells Park: Lewisham.Gov

Information about Sydenham Hill Wood and Dulwich Wood: Wild London

 

Westminster Abbey to Vauxhall Bridge: Exploring London’s Iconic Landmarks

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!

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Westminster Abbey to Vauxhall Bridge

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.

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Westminster Abbey

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.

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Westminster Abbey

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.

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Westminster Abbey

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.

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Westminster Abbey

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.

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Parliament Square
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Parliament Square

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.

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Nelson Mandela
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Robert Peel
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Mahatma Gandhi
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Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield
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Millicent Fawcett
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Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby
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Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston
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Jan Smuts
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David Lloyd George
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Winston Churchill

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.

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Big Ben (Pre-2017!)

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.

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Big Ben

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.

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Houses of Parliament

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.

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Houses of Parliament

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.

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Westminster Bridge

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.

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Westminster Bridge

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!

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Lambeth Bridge

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.

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Lambeth Bridge
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View from Lambeth Bridge

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.

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The Victoria Tower Gardens
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The Victoria Tower Gardens

I’m going to head off to my final destination on my walk, Vauxhall Bridge, as I go along the Thames.

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View Outside The Victoria Tower Gardens

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.

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Vauxhall Bridge

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!

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View of Battersea Power Station from Vauxhall Bridge
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View of The London Eye from Vauxhall Bridge

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!

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

Sources: (not the food sauces)

All photos taken by London Wlogger © Copyright 2018

Guide London: Information about Westminster Abbey

Visit London: Information about Parliament Square

Parliament: Information about Big Ben

Parliament: Information about The Houses of Parliament

British History: Information about Westminster Bridge

British History: Information about Lambeth Bridge

Royal Parks: Information about The Victoria Tower Gardens

Vauxhall History: Information about Vauxhall Bridge

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

Highgate to Finsbury Park: Exploring Hidden Highgate Gems

Hello there! Thanks for joining me on my next outdoor adventure as I explore the best walks of the capital. Today’s stroll begins in Highgate’s Waterlow Park, takes me past the Highgate Cemetery and onto the woodland wonders of Highgate Wood. I’ll take a detour up to the renowned Alexandra Palace and finish the walk at Finsbury Park. So let’s get going!

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Highgate to Finsbury Park

I do love it when my walks start with a picturesque entrance and Waterlow Park in Highgate provides just this, with a very welcoming park gate which says to me ‘Come on in’.

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Enter Please!

The park’s history dates back to the 16th century where the area was known for its affluent residents, many of whom built homes and fine gardens, some of which are now within Waterlow Park. One of the attractions to the residents was that the air was cleaner than other parts of London.

A walk through the park illustrates just how peaceful it is and that with every turn there’s something of glorious green to see!

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Waterlow Park
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Waterlow Park
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Waterlow Park
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Waterlow Park

You’ll never struggle to find a spot to sit, or to grab a photo of the park.

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Waterlow Park

Another one of the attractions of people moving to Highgate in the 16th Century was the plentiful water supply from the park’s three historic ponds which are still fed by natural springs.  I always think a park isn’t complete without a pond or a lake, there’s something very satisfying about hearing the trickling of water in a tranquil park setting.

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Waterlow Park
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Waterlow Park Pond

At the head of the park and sitting grandly on the top of the hill is Lauderdale House which was the home of the Earl of Lauderdale in the 17th Century. The house today is a delightful cafe where you can stop for a spot of tea or light lunch, with a view overlooking the glorious grounds of the park. The garden area of the house is commonly noted as one of the very early examples of terraced gardens in Britain. It really doesn’t feel like a park, more that you’ve wandered into someone’s estate and garden!

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Lauderdale House
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View looking out from Lauderdale House

During the 17th Century there was a home within the park for the poet Andrew Marvell where a bronze plaque within the park dedicated to him stands. Another resident in the park was prolific architect and park designer Sir James Pennethorne who unsurprisingly helped with designing some of the elements of the park.

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Waterlow Park

From 1856 English philanthropist and Liberal Party politician Sydney Waterlow lived within the park and soon acquired the neighboring properties to create his own mini-estate, with Lauderdale House being let out as Convalescent homes for medical professionals.

However, Sydney Waterlow didn’t stay long at the estate and it remained empty and deteriorated for a number years until he presented it to the London County Council in 1889 and it was termed as ‘a garden for the gardenless’. So if you didn’t have a garden, you could enjoy it as your very own one. The council named it after Sydney and ensured that all the historic features within it remained.

It’s time to leave Waterlow Park and as a you head out you take a stroll past Highgate Cemetery. Established in 1839, the cemetery is split into the West and East Cemeteries with approximately 170,000 people buried in and around the 53,000 graves.

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Highgate Cemetery

Spanning 15 hectares (37 acres) in size, the cemetery was acquired by The Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust in 1975 with them acquiring the freehold to both the East and West Cemeteries by 1981.

Some of the notable people within the East Cemetery include the tomb of Karl Marx, the ashes of the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas AdamsWilliam Foyle (co-founder of book store Foyles), Sir Thomas Lauder Brunton, 1st Baronet (Scottish physician known for his work in the treatment of angina pectoris), Patrick Caulfield (painter and printmaker known for his pop art canvasses) and Roger Lloyd-Pack (British actor).

Within the West Cemetery notable people buried there include Julius Beer (Owner of the UK newspaper The Observer), James Bunstone Bunning (City Architect to the City of London), Charles Cruft (founder of Crufts dog show), the parents, wife and brother of Charles DickensLucian Freud (painter, grandson of Sigmund Freud, and elder brother of Clement Freud),  Bob Hoskins (actor), George Michael (singer), and Jean Simmons (actress).

Additionally, there are the graves of 318 Commonwealth service personnel with 259 from the First World War and 59 from the Second.

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Highgate Cemetery

It’s now time to move on to my next stop on today’s walk, Highgate Wood! To do so I get to walk through Highgate and experience what a pleasant area it is, with it having a real village feel about it. With cute little houses, village greens and not a great deal of traffic, you forget you’re still in London!

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Highgate Village
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Highgate Village
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Highgate Houses

Now this is one true hidden gem of London that I’m about to explore! Lying between East Finchley, Highgate Village and Muswell Hill, Highgate Wood is a 28 hectare (70 acre) ancient woodland.

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Highgate Wood Entrance

Highgate Wood appears within the Ordnance Survey map of Middlesex in 1886 which illustrates the area’s illustrious history. Predominately an oak, hornbeam and holly wood, there are more than 50 tree and shrub species within the woodlands. The wood is also home to the rare deciduous tree with brown berries, known as The Wild Service Tree or the Sorbus torminalis.

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Highgate Wood
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Highgate Wood
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Highgate Wood

The woods aren’t just home to trees and plants, but 71 different species of bird have been recorded there, as well as foxes, grey squirrels, seven species of bats, 180 species of moth, 12 species of butterfly and 80 species of spider!

There have also been prehistoric flints found within the wood with excavations from Romano-Britons found which indicated that pottery materials were produced from local materials between AD 50-100.

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Highgate Wood
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Highgate Wood

The wood hasn’t always been well maintained or looked after with The City of London Corporation’s not being sympathetic to the historical origins. After they acquired it asphalt paths were laid, ornamental trees planted and dead wood removed and burned, with it being managed as more of an urban park than an ancient woodland.

In 1968 the Conversation Committee of the London Natural History Society became concerned after the planting of exotic conifers which were seen as inappropriate for an ancient woodland. Consequently, this type of planting programme was halted and hasn’t been used since.

Since then the management of the woodland has been more considered with little human interference. It’s listed as one of only eight Green Heritage Sites in London and is a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conversation. The woodland is currently a registered charity managed and funded by the City of London.

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Highgate Wood
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Highgate Wood

Walking through the woodland it does remind me of the Children’s rhyme a ‘Teddy Bear’s Picnic’ as it has that fairytale and adventurous feel you’d find in a storybook. With loads of campfires and logs for sitting on across the park, it really is a wonderful place for children to explore and to be introduced to the wonders of nature. It’s very easy to get lost within all the amazing trees and when you look up & across all you see is leaves and branches, something you don’t get to enjoy that much everyday. For as far as you can see, there’s nothing but the glorious woods and every time you take a stroll around it there’s something new and enlightening.

Having already discovered the breathtaking Russia Dock Woodland, Highgate Wood is certainly up there with it!

The wood isn’t just trees and plants, but a walk to the end of it takes you to a large open green field used for football and cricket.

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Highgate Wood Playing Fields

As much as I’d love to spend all day in the woodland, I’m now going to head off to a place which gives you a truly wonderful view of London, Alexandra Palace.

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Alexandra Palace

Known as ‘Ally Pally’, the palace was designed by Owen Jones, John Johnson and Alfred Meeson, and first opened in 1873 on Queen Victoria’s 54th birthday. The spectacular celebration for the opening included concerts, recitals and fireworks. However, just 16 days later a fire broke out in the Palace destroying the structure.

It wasn’t until two years later in 1875 that the new Alexandra Palace was opened to the public with it containing the new Henry Wills organ, one of the largest in Europe at the time.  The palace also has the honour of having marksmen from the Alexandra Palace Rifle Society representing Great Britain in the 1908 Olympics where they won Gold, Silver and Bronze medals.

During the First World War the palace was used as a Belgian refugee camp and later as a German and Austrian internment camp.

One of the most significant events occurred on the 2nd November 1936 when the world’s first regular high-definition public television broadcast took place from the BBC studios at Alexandra Palace. A blue plaque is present to commemorate this and the TV mast is still there today. 1936 also saw the park become free for the public to use as a result of the 1900 Alexandra Park and Palace Act.

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BBC TV Mast
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BBC TV Mast
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View of the BBC TV Mast

During the Second World War the palace was once again used by Belgian refugees with the transmitter tower being used as a decoy for enemy aircrafts.

The palace’s grounds were the home to horse racing until the racecourse was closed in 1970. In 1980, for the second time, a fire broke out across the palace burning a large part of the building. Substantial restoration began after the fire and it was reopened in 1988.

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Alexandra Palace

The palace was recognised in 1996 as a building of special architecture and historic significance with it receiving a Grade II listing. The venue has hosted a wide range of events including numerous concerts, Master Snooker, the World Darts Championship, Antiques Fairs, beer festivals, award ceremonies and a firework display every Bonfire Night.

One of the most prominent aspects of the palace and one that I thoroughly enjoyed is the stunning view you get of the capital from it. It’s such an awe-inspiring view across London of some of its most well-known landmarks, and great to experience them from another angle on my walks, having seen them on Hampstead Heath as well as Stave Hill! It always amazes me just how much you can from just one area of the capital and perfectly demonstrates that all of London’s landmarks are in such close proximity to one another!

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View looking out from Alexandra Palace
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View looking out from Alexandra Palace

Behind the palace is a pretty little lake and cafe, so it you require a bit of down-time and relaxation, it’s ideal for just that!

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Back of Alexandra Palace
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Lake behind Alexandra Palace
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Lake behind Alexandra Palace

I’m now going to begin a stroll to my final destination on this walk, Finsbury Park by heading down the hills on Alexandra Palace!

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Alexandra Palace Hill

Once I’ve left there I walk down Priory Road through the quaint Priory Park.

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Priory Park

The walk takes you along the road past the houses and Finsbury Park station until you get to the gates of the park.

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Entrance to Finsbury Park

Opened in 1869, the 46 hectares (110 acres) park was designed by Frederick Manable. Based in Harringay, it was one of the first of the great London parks laid out in the Victorian Era. The park was originally landscaped as a woodland area in the Manor of Brownswood and part of the woodland called Hornsey Wood which was cut back to be used as a grazing land in the Middle Ages.

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Finsbury Park

In the 18th Century a tea room was opened where Londoners could enjoy the woodlands. These tea rooms were developed into larger buildings known as the Hornsey Wood House (Tavern). The area was also home to boating, shooting and archery, before the tavern was demolished in order to make the area into a park. Once the park opened, the pub across the park along the Seven Sisters Road called itself the Hornsey Wood Tavern after its original one! However, the tavern would close in 2007 with the area being developed.

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Finsbury Park

In the 19th century Londoners began to demand more open green space, something which had become even more common in Paris. To counteract the increasingly urbanisation of London, in 1841 the people of Finsbury petitioned for a park to be developed to help eradicate the poor conditions in the city. The first plans for the park were drawn up in 1850 with its name originally being called Albert Park. However, it was renamed Finsbury Park and opened in 1869.

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Finsbury Park

The park played a role in both the First and Second World Wars with it being the location for pacifist meetings in WWI, and used as military training grounds and hosting anti-aircraft guns in WWII.

Through the 1980s the park went into a decline and when its owner, the Greater London Council was wound up, Haringey Council took over the ownership of it. Luckily in 2003 the park was awarded £5 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund which helped with significant renovations to improve its facilities to enable the park we see today. The park is commonly known as the ‘People’s Park’ due to its strong community feel.

Well that’s all for this week’s walk of the capital which has seen us take a trip through Highgate’s park and woodlands, the spectacular architecture and views of Alexandra Palace, and the fabulous Finsbury Park.

Thanks for coming along on my walk and in the meantime you can catch me on Twitter and Instagram and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too and have a read of my other walks! 🙂

Sources: (not the food sauces)

All photos taken by London Wlogger. © Copyright 2018

Waterlow Park: History of Waterlow Park

Highgate Cemetery: History of Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Wood: History of Highgate Wood

Alexandra Palace: History of Alexandra Palace

Finsbury Park: History of Finsbury Park