A very happy hello to you and thanks for joining me on another expedition of London’s best sights and hidden gems. My walk today will explore more of London’s wonderful bridges, as I begin at Chiswick Bridge and take a stroll past Kew Railway Bridge and Kew Bridge. My journey will end in the picturesque and quaint Kew Green where I’ll watch a cricket match! It’s a short walk, but I’ll uncover a really beautiful part of the capital along the River Thames.
My first stop on my walk is Chiswick Bridge, which opened in 1933. Located in Mortlake, the reinforced concrete deck arch bridge was designed by Sir Herbert Baker and Alfred Dryland – with it being constructed by Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company.
The two villages of Chiswick and Mortlake, located either side of the north and south banks of the River Thames, had been linked by a ferry since the 17th century. However, in the 19th century with the arrival of the railway and London Underground, as well as increased ownership of cars, the populations of Chiswick and Mortlake grew rapidly.
This caused congestion problems, which led to the construction of the A316 road. The new road required two new bridges to be built at Twickenham and Chiswick. In addition, to Chiswick Bridge opening, Twickenham Bridge was built as well as the rebuilding of Hampton Court Bridge. After the construction of the bridges, this resulted in the ferry being closed permanently.
The bridge is 606 feet (185 m) long, and carries two 15-foot (4.6 m) wide walkways, and a 40-foot (12 m) wide road. At the time it was built, the 150-foot (46 m) central span was the longest concrete span over the Thames. One distinct and unusual feature of Chiswick Bridge is only three of its five arches span across the river, with the other two passing over the towpath. The bridge is also famous for being the finishing point in the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race.
I really love Chiswick Bridge’s concrete structure, which makes it look so grand and elegant. Like all the bridges I’ve discovered on my walks, it stands prominent along the Thames, with such splendour. The view from it isn’t too bad either with the natural beauty of trees and glorious greenery on both sides of the riverbank.
As you leave Chiswick Bridge you get to enjoy a wonderful walk under the trees along the riverside path.
Walking along the towpath takes you to the very unique Kew Railway Bridge. Opening in 1869, the five wrought iron lattice girder bridge was designed by W. R. Galbraith and built by Brassy & Ogilvie for the London and South Western Railway. The bridge was part of an extension of the railway from Acton Junction to Richmond.
Given Grade II listed structure protection in 1983, it carries London Overground trains between Richmond and Stratford, and District Line London Underground trains from Richmond and Upminster. It’s such a quirky bridge and one of the few in London which carries only trains, not cars or pedestrians. The colour of it blends in so well with the colour of the trees and water, which adds to its wonderful character.
I’ll now take a stroll along the lovely riverside onto the final of the three bridges on my journey, Kew Bridge.
The first bridge on the site was built by Robert Tunstall of Brentford who previously owned the ferry which was located on the river in Kew. This bridge was inaugurated on 1 June 1759 by the Prince of Wales and was opened to the public three days later. There was massive excitement for the opening of the new bridge with over 3,000 people crossing over it in its first day.
The original bridge was constructed with two stone arches at each end and seven timber arches in between, which was costly to maintain and consequently ‘only’ lasted 30 years. In 1782, the bridge gained consent to be replaced with a new structure which was designed by James Paine – opening on 22 September 1789.
By the 1890s the second bridge wasn’t able to cope with the weight of the traffic and engineer Sir John Wolfe Barry was invited to assess the bridge. He suggested to build a new bridge, rather than modify it. Designed by Sir John Wolfe-Berry and Cuthbert A. Brereton, the third bridge was opened by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra on 20 May 1903 – and this is the bridge we see today. The bridge has also inspired many artists who’ve painted or drawn it, including Paul Sandby, James Webb, Henry Muhrman, J.M.W. Turner and Myles Birket Foster.
Like with so many of London Bridge’s, the stone design makes it distinct and is quite similar to Chiswick Bridge. The view across the river of Kew is really breathtaking with beautiful trees either side and you can just about see Kew Railway Bridge in the distance too.
My final destination on my walk is Kew Green, which has to be one of my favourite destinations that I’ve visited on all my London expeditions. The 30 acre (12 hectare) triangular space has been a venue for cricket since the 1730s – with one of the earliest matches being played there between Kent and Brentford in June 1730. Kew Cricket Club was established in 1882 following the amalgamation of two local clubs – Kew Oxford Cricket Club and Kew Cambridge Cricket Club.
On the day I visited I was lucky enough to watch an actually cricket match, which was a friendly between Kew Cricket Club and Acton Cricket Club. When cricket is being played it’s so scenic and whenever you think of village cricket you certainly have this view in mind. It’s such a quintessentially and traditional British sight a game of cricket on a village green, something you’d see on a postcard. I do love the sound of a willow bat on ball, very soothing and pleasant. The beautiful pavilion on one side with the St Anne’s Church on the south side makes it very reminiscent of Richmond Green. Unlike Richmond Green, I have actually played on this green back in 2014 for a work cricket day for a friend – so it’s one cricket ground I’ve ticked off my list!
Well that’s all from me today, and I couldn’t think of a more perfectly pleasant way to end my walk than on the cute Kew Green basking in the sun watching cricket! Hope you’ve enjoyed joining me on this walk which has seen me explore another three of London’s bridges and one of its great little treasures.
Thanks for reading and in the meantime you can follow all my walks on Twitter and Instagram, and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too so you don’t miss a post! Also why not have a read of my other walks which explore all over London, from north to south, to west to east via central, there’s something there for you! 🙂 Here are the links to them all below for you!
Hello there my fellow walking fans and thanks for joining me as I take my next journey around London. My adventure today sees me explore Richmond’s most popular and picturesque sights. I’ll begin my walk at Richmond Green and take a stroll down to the riverside where I’ll pass by not one, but four bridges – Richmond Railway Bridge, Twickenham Bridge, Richmond Lock and Footbridge and Richmond Bridge. I’ll then take a walk up Richmond Hill to discover one of the finest views you’ll see and from there uncover Richmond Park’s amazing landscapes, including the superb Isabella Plantation. My walk will then end in woodlands of Wimbledon Common.
I have to say this walk was one of my favourites to do and was always on my list, so I hope you enjoy it as much as I did doing it!
My walk starts at Richmond Green, which is owned by the Crown Estate and leased to the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. The Green is roughly 12 acres (4 hectares) and is overlooked by a mixture of period townhouses, historic buildings and commercial establishments, including the Richmond Lending Library.
In the Middle Ages Richmond Green was used for jousting tournaments when English monarchs were living in or visiting the area. There have been houses and commercial premises around the Green for over 400 years, which were built for people visiting Richmond Palace. Charles I brought his court to the area in 1625 to escape the plague of London and by the 18th Century these would become the homes of minor nobility, diplomats and court hangers-on.
The mid-19th Century saw the Green being cut off from the Old Deer Park as a result of the construction of the railway and this was further exacerbated by the A316 road being built in the early 20th Century.
Whenever you think of a village green, I envision a view like Richmond Green, with all its surrounding houses and spacious areas. It’s such a cute and lovely little gem of Richmond, and does perfectly illustrate all that’s wonderful about green spaces in the town.
One of the Green’s most familiar features is its association with cricket with matches being played on it since the 17th Century. The earliest reference to cricket on Richmond Green is from a 1666 letter by Sir Robert Paston, a Richmond resident. The earliest known fixture on the Green was Surrey vs. Middlesex in June 1730 – a match won by Surrey. The first reference of a team playing on the Green was in July 1743 – while today it’s the home to two village teams playing there. One cricketing feature of the Green is the beautiful pub called The Cricketers. I’d love to one day play on the Green as it’s got that real village cricket feel about it!
I’ll now leave Richmond Green and head towards the picturesque Richmond waterfront where I’ll find not one, but four bridges! Down by the river is really like something from a postcard and would make a wonderful watercolour painting!
As you head away from the waterfront and Richmond Bridge, you come to the first of three bridges in a row, Richmond Railway Bridge. After the railway came to Richmond in 1846, the line was extended to Windsor, which meant a bridge was required to pass over the Thames. The original bridge was designed by Joseph Locke and J.E. Errington, opening in 1848. The bridge’s design and structure were similar to Barnes Bridge, which also used three 100 foot cast iron girders supported on a stone-faced land arches with two stone-faced river piers.
The bridge was rebuilt in 1908 after concerns were raised about its structural integrity. Further developments occurred in 1984 with its main bridge girders and decking being replaced. In 2008 the bridge was declared a Grade II listed structure to preserve it.
The most striking aspect of the bridge for me is its colour, such a bright and radiant yellow really adds elegance to it. I’m a huge fan of its structure and character, does have a real waterway feel about it.
Right next to Richmond Railway Bridge is Twickenham Bridge, which opened in 1933 and carries both cars and pedestrians across it. The bridge was constructed for the new Chertsey Arterial Road, which connects the Old Deer Park on the south bank of the river and St. Margarets on the north bank. The name of the bridge derives from the fact it’s on the road to the town Twickenham, which is approximately 3km upstream from the bridge.
The bridge’s architect was Maxwell Ayrton, with Alfred Dryland being the head engineer. The bridge incorporates three permanent hinges enabling the structure to adjust to changes in temperature, and was the first reinforced concrete bridge structure in the UK to use such an innovation. The arch springings, as well as the arch crowns, have decorative bronze cover plates. One notable and historic element of the bridge is that in 1992 the first Gatso speed camera in the UK was placed there. Like Richmond Railway Bridge, it was declared a Grade II listed structure in 2008.
Once again the colour of the bridge glistening in the sunshine and reflecting in the water adds to its beauty. There really aren’t too many more lovely sights than a bridge over a river, and luckily London provides so many of these views.
The final bridge in the trio is the unique Richmond Lock and Footbridge, which opened in 1894. The bridge is a lock, rising and falling low-tide barrage integrating controlled sluices and paired with pedestrian bridges. The Grade II listed structure is the furthest downstream of the 45 Thames locks and the one and only operated by the Port of London Authority.
It connects the promenade at Richmond with the neighbouring district of St. Margarets on the west bank. At high tide the sluice gates are raised and partly hidden behind metal arches forming twin footbridges. The lock bridge was built to maintain the lowest-lying head of water of the 45 navigable reaches of the Thames above the rest of the Tideway. Below the structure for a few miles, at low tide, the navigable channel is narrow and restricts access for vessels with the greatest draft. The next major point of mooring below the lock is at Brentford Dock.
I’ve explored many of London’s bridges, but this one is so distinct, never have I explored one which has a lock within it. It’s such a quirky structure and so different to the other locks I’ve walked past on my routes. An architectural piece of brilliance, it has a grand and historical nature about it. The one thing also that struck me was how complex the bridge is, as it isn’t just a normal bridge, there’s so many technical aspects within it to function the lock. Also the view from it is something to behold across the Thames of the other bridges and it feels quite eerily as you’re quite high up, so you can only hear the breeze of the wind.
I’ll now take a stroll back to Richmond’s waterfront towards my next stop on today’s walk, Richmond Bridge.
I just love the riverside area in Richmond, it has such a special feel about it as it’s not like other parts of London that are along the Thames. – it has the essence of a small village. Richmond is known for being an affluent place and the estate like buildings on the waterfront promenade do illustrate that wealthy reputation.
Beside the waterfront sits the pretty Richmond Bridge, which opened in 1777 as a replacement for a ferry crossing which connected Richmond town centre on the east bank with its neighbouring district of East Twickenham to the west. Designed by James Paine and Kenton Couse, the stone arch bridge had tolls charged on it until 1859. A grade I listed structure, the bridge was widened and slightly flattened between 1937 and 1940, but otherwise still conforms to its original design.
Today, it’s the oldest surviving Thames bridge in London and you can’t help but be taken in my its splendour. The historical significance of it really comes through in its stone structure and I have to say it’s one of my favourite bridges in London, which is a bold statement as there are so many wonderful structures to choose from! It’s the ideal vantage point to see across Richmond’s pretty waterfront.
I’ll now follow the river as it meanders its way through Richmond and take a detour to my next stop today, Richmond Hill.
I’ve taken in some amazing views of London, whether that’s from Parliament Hill or Stave Hill or Sydenham or Alexandra Palace, but the one from Richmond Hill is something so special. Unlike the other aforementioned viewpoints, you get a different perspective from the hill as you can’t see any of London’s iconic landmarks, more the pleasant sight of trees and the river, it feels like the countryside. The awe-inspiring view for me demonstrates why I love London so much, as you uncover something new and thrilling with every area you explore.
A walk down the path and taking a left at the bottom of the hill brings you to the vast Petersham Meadows.
After you’ve walked through the meadows you come to the remarkable Richmond Park! The park was created by Charles I in the 17th Century as a deer park and is the largest of London’s Royal Parks. At 955 hectares (2,360 acres) it’s also the second largest park in London, after the 4,046 hectares (10,000 acres) Lee Valley Park and is Britain’s second largest urban walled park after Sutton Park in Birmingham. To put that into further perspective, Richmond Park is around three times the size of Central Park in New York!
One of the most amazing parts of London, the park is a national nature reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation with Grade I listing. An Historic England site, its landscapes have inspired many famous artists and been the setting for several films and TV programmes.
Richmond Park includes many buildings of architectural or historic interest. The Grade 1 listed White Lodge was formerly a royal residence and is now home to the Royal Ballet School. The park’s boundary walls and ten other buildings are listed as a Grade II listing, including Pembroke Lodge, the home of 19th Century British Prime Minister Lord John Russell and his grandson, the philosopher Bertrand Russell.
Historically the preserve of the monarch, the park is now open for all to use and includes a golf course and other facilities for sport and recreation. It played an important role in both world wars and in the 1948 and 2012 Olympics.
The great thing about Richmond Park is that it combines so many incredible elements – a wonderful view, picturesque gardens, spacious splendour and hidden gems. You can’t underestimate just how big it is and with every step you take you encounter more and more of its awesomeness and can truly get lost within all its beauty.
Now I was walking around Richmond Park and I thought, there’s one thing the park is known for which I’ve still not seen… deers! But luckily that changed as I came across the majestic sight of a herd of deer! They’re so tame and you can get so close to them without them getting scared. If you approach them slowly and quietly, you can get such a great photo, and this was the closest I’d ever gotten to them, and might ever get to see them. There aren’t too many places in London where you can get to meet such amazing creatures, and this has to be the first time I’ve come across an animal like it on my walks!
A distinct part of Richmond Park is its picturesque Isabella Plantation, which is a 16 hectare (40 acre) woodland garden planted in the 1830s. It first opened to the public in 1953 and is best known for its evergreen azaleas, which line its ponds and streams.
Located in the gardens are the National Collection of Wilson 50 Kurume Azaelas (introduced to the west from Japan in the 1920’s by the plant collector Ernest Wilson), large collections of Rhododendrons and Camellias, plus many other rare and unusual trees and shrubs.
I immediately fell in love with the gardens with all its cute streams, colourful plants and tranquility. You can tell there’s definitely a Japanese influence on it and it did remind me quite a bit of my walk around Kyoto Garden in Holland Park.
My final destination on this edition of the London Wlogger is Wimbledon Common, which is a short walk from Richmond Park. Now on my walks I’ve seen quite a lot of sights, but this had to be one of the weirdest things yet… a pedestrian crossing button… where there’s no road or crossing! Very odd indeed!
Wimbledon Common is a large open space made up of three areas – Wimbledon Common, Putney Heath and Putney Lower Common, which together are managed under the name Wimbledon and Putney Commons. The area is 460 hectares (1,140 acres) of protected woodland and common land, and is the largest expanse of heathland in the London area.
In 1864, the lord of the manor, Earl Spencer, who owned Wimbledon manor, attempted to pass a private parliamentary bill to enclose the Common for the creation of a new park with a house and gardens and to sell part for building. In a landmark decision for English common land, and following an enquiry, permission was refused and a board of conservators was established in 1871 to take ownership of the common and preserve it in its natural condition.
In the 19th Century the windmill in the common was the headquarters of the National Rifle Association and drew large crowds each July. These annual gatherings were attended by the élite of fashion. The Common is also home to The Wombles, a series of characters created by Elizabeth Beresford, who later got their own TV show and musical group!
The Common once again offers the blend of breathtaking natural sights with many hidden treasures and pathways. I really loved the tall trees, which tower above you when you walk through them. It truly is the most wonderful of places to finish my walk!
Well it has been a splendid walk where I’ve explored the best that Richmond has to offer – with its bridges, views and park, and then finishing like many of my walks before have done, in marvellous woodland setting!
Thanks for joining me and in the meantime you can follow all my walks on Twitter and Instagram, and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too so you don’t miss a post! Also why not have a read of my other walks which explore all over London, from north to south, to west to east via central, there’s something there for you! 🙂 Here are the links to them all below for you!
A warm Wlogger welcome to you and thanks for joining me on my next walking adventure of the capital! My expedition today will see me explore South-East London as I begin at Crystal Palace Park and explore its stadium, lakes, green areas… and dinosaurs! I’ll then take a detour to Sydenham Wells Park go through Sydenham Hill Wood and to Dulwich Wood. I’ll end my journey at Dulwich & Sydenham Golf Club, which might seem like an odd place to end a walk… but all will be revealed later on! So let’s discover some of the lesser-known natural sights of London!
Located in South-East London, Crystal Palace Park is a Victorian pleasure ground used for cultural and sporting events.
The park was built by Sir Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace Company between 1852 and 1854. It was created as the magnificent setting for the relocated and enlarged Crystal Palace structure, which had been designed for the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park.
The area was designed to impress, educate, entertain and inspire, eventually becoming an international attraction with its educational themes for the park covering discovery and invention. The Crystal Palace was a large glass and iron structure that was situated on the Sydenham Ridge and provided stunning views across London with the palace viewable from many location across the city. One of the main aims of the park and palaces creation was to display Victorian grandeur and innovation, and was financed when people paid to visit it.
After the park was officially opened on the 10th June 1854 by Queen Victoria, a number of displays, events and sporting activities were introduced as a way to increase visitor numbers. To coincide with the 1911 Festival of the Empire, the park was transformed with a railway being installed and buildings to represent the Empire which would remain there up until the 1940s.
However, on the 30th November 1936 The Crystal Palace was destroyed in a fire, after musicians waiting to play a concert noticed smoke coming from the floorboards, which reportedly began in the women’s cloakroom and spread to the central transept. The fire quickly spread through the dry wooden boards and the nature of The Crystal Palace – a huge open space with no fire breaks – meant that within a short time the fire was wildly out of control. The flames rose to 800 feet in the air with London sending 61 pumps and 381 firefighters to help tackle the fire. The cause of the fire was never discovered, but theories have included old and faulty wiring as well as a discarded cigarette falling between the floorboards.
It would’ve been amazing to have seen The Crystal Palace in all its stunning glory, as it looked simply magnificent. You can imagine had it been around today, it would’ve attracted the same number of tourists that landmarks such as The London Eye, The Shard, Buckingham Palace and more do. Something our Instagram feeds would be full of!
After the fire the park began a period of decline. There were plans talked about to recreate the palace, although these never materialised. During the Second World War the park became a place for military vehicle dismantling and later a site for bomb damage rubble.
When you enter Crystal Palace Park, one of the first sights you see is its renowned and spectacular National Sports Centre. Opened in 1964, the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre was designed by the LCC Architects Department under Sir Leslie Martin between 1953-1954 and is a Grade II listed building. Over the years the stadium has hosted football, cricket, rugby, basketball, American Football, and even Motor Racing. The main sport to be hosted there today is athletics with a capacity of 15,500, and 24,000 with temporary seating.
The site of the athletics stadium is on the same land as a football ground which hosted the FA Cup Final from 1895 to 1914. The owners of the ground wanted their own football club to play at their own venue, so this lead to the formation of Crystal Palace F.C. The South Londoners were forced to leave the stadium in 1915 by the military, and as a result played at the ground they play at today, Selhurst Park. The largest attendance for a domestic match there was between Aston Villa and Sunderland in the 1913 FA Cup Final, when 121,919 spectators went there.
A short walk down a hill from the National Sports Centre, you come to the picturesque lake area with beautiful trees and plants.
One of the most iconic features of the park are the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs which are a collection of over 30 statues created by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins (1807-1894) around 1854. The array of statues also includes the first ever attempt anywhere in the world to model dinosaurs as full-scale, three-dimensional active creatures.
The set also includes models of other prehistoric creatures, including plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs discovered by Mary Anning in Lyme Regis, and a South American Megatherium brought back to Britain by Charles Darwin on his voyage on HMS Beagle.
Known as the Dinosaur Court, the models represent 15 genera of extinct animals, not all dinosaurs. They are from a wide range of geological ages, and include dinosaurs, ichthyosaurs, and plesiosaurs mainly from the Mesozoic era, and some mammals from the more recent Cenozoic era.
The dinosaurs have been listed on the Historic Heritage List of England as Grade 1 monuments which is one of the highest and most important ratings. Many of the dinosaurs you see when you visit the National History Museum, the Oxford Museum of Natural History and other history museums in the UK are based on these specimens.
This was the first time I’d ever been to Crystal Palace Park and thus seen the dinosaurs, and they are incredible statues, and so critical to both the park’s identity as well as what they demonstrate for the world of natural history and science. One thing I’ve also thought is that it was very random having these in a London park, but knowing the story behind them makes sense!
Surrounded by the dinosaurs and as you weave your way around the park, there are some really lovely trees and woods, as well as a lake. Like with many of the parks I’ve explored across London, this one is full of splendour and tranquility.
I’ll now take a walk outside the lake area and walk across the park where once again you stroll through all the prettiness of the park which illustrates what a vast area of marvellous sights it is.
A distinctive part of the park you always see no matter where you stand and which can be seen from many vantage points in the capital is The Crystal Palace Transmitter tower which is a broadcasting and telecommunications station that serves Greater London and the Home Counties. Built in 1956, it’s the 5th tallest structure in London standing at 219 metres (719 ft). In terms of coverage it’s the most important transmitting station in the country, with nearly 12 million people receiving output from it.
I’ll now leave the park and head to my next destination today, Sydenham Wells Park! This cute little green area is named after the medicinal springs which were found in Sydenham in the 17th Century, when Sydenham was still in Kent. In 1901 the park was opened to the public and is one of nine parks in the borough to have a Green flag award, which is the benchmark national standard for publicly accessible parks and green spaces in the UK.
The park is right near many houses and you do get that community feel that this park is at the centre point of the area which is popular with families and people looking for a place to relax with their thoughts.
My journey will now take me from Sydenham Wells Park onto both Sydenham Hill Wood and Dulwich Wood, which are located right next to one another. Together they are the largest part of the old Great North Wood, which was an ancient landscape of woodland and wooded commons which once covered the high ground between Deptford and Selhurst
With both of the woods adjacent to one another, I first visited Sydenham Hill Wood which is designated as a Local Nature Reserve and Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation. In 1732 an oak-lined formal avenue, known as the Cox’s Walk, which leads from the junction of Dulwich Common and Lordship Lane was formed by Francis Cox. It connected his Green Man Tavern and Dulwich Wells with Sydenham Wells Park.
The old Nunhead to Crystal Palace railway once passed through the wood and you can tell where part of the line used to be, especially the footbridge which goes over the woods and used to have the tracks underneath it.
The woodland is home to more than 200 species of trees and plants, as well as rare fungi, butterflies, scarce bees, woodpeckers, wasps, stag beetles, other insects, hedgehogs, birds and woodland mammals.
Walking through the woodlands reminds me a lot of my walk through Highgate Wood as you feel like you’re nowhere near London’s hustle and bustle. It’s a very magical place to explore as with every corner of the woods you find something new which amazes and pleasantly surprises you, whether it’s a pretty species of tree, or a cute stairway, there’s an abundance of beauty.
Right next to Sydenham Hill Wood is Dulwich Wood, which is privately owned by the Dulwich Estate. Back in the Middle Ages, the Manor of Dulwich belonged to Bermondsey Abbey having been given to the Abbey in 1127 by King Henry I. The Dulwich Estate was surveyed in 1542 after Henry VII dissolved the monasteries. The wealthy Edward Alleyn in 1605 bought the Manor of Dulwich from the Calton family who had owned it since the dissolving of the monasteries.
Weaving your way between the trees and plants adds quite a bit of mystery when you walk through the woods, which is quite small, though there are many different pathways you could take, each taking you to a different woodland wonder.
Once you come out of Dulwich Wood, you’re able to get a glimpse of the London skyline, but to truly appreciate and see it, you need to take a stroll to the neighbouring Dulwich & Sydenham Hill Golf Club. A walk to the top of the balcony of the clubhouse provides a breathtaking panoramic view of London!
From across the golf course you get to see all the well-known and iconic London skyline landmarks including The Shard, The London Eye, Canary Wharf, The Walkie Talkie, The Gherkin, St Paul’s and more. One amazing aspect of my walks is that I’ve seen this exact same view of the London skyline from so many different perspectives, from Stave Hill, to Alexander Palace, to Hampstead Heath, and it’s always awe-inspiring and glorious. It really is a fitting and perfect place to end my walking adventure today!
Well that’s all from me on my walking adventure which has seen me discover some of the natural gems of South-East London from Crystal Palace Park, to Sydenham Wells Park and Sydenham Hill Wood, to Dulwich Wood, with the stunning London skyline view to finish with!
Thanks for joining me and in the meantime you can follow all my walks on Twitter and Instagram, and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too so you don’t miss a post! Also why not have a read of my other walks which explore all over London, from north to south, to west to east via central, there’s something there for you! 🙂 Here are the links to them all below for you!
Hello there fellow London and walking enthusiasts, and thanks for joining me on my next expedition of the capital! Today’s journey is a tourists dream as I begin at Westminster Abbey, take a stroll through Parliament Square and the Houses of Parliament to see Big Ben. I’ll continue discovering more of the bridges that pass over the Thames as I see Westminster Bridge, Lambeth Bridge and finish at Vauxhall Bridge. It’s a short walk, but like most places in London, there’s so much to see!
Located near The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey is a Gothic church dating back to the 960s when Saint Dunstan and King Edgar installed a community of Benedictine monks on the site. Between 1042 and 1052, the Abbey, named St Peter’s Abbey, was rebuilt by Edward the Confessor to provide himself with a Royal burial church. Completed around 1060 it was the first church in England to be built in a Romanesque style, and was consecrated on the 28th December 1065 a week before Edward’s death, and who was subsequently buried in the church.
The Westminster Abbey we see today was constructed in 1245 by Henry III who had selected it as the site for his burial. Work on Westminster Abbey continued between 1245 and 1517 with it being completed by architect Henry Yevele. In 1503 Henry VII added a Perpendicular style chapel which was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1540 Henry VIII gave Westminster Abbey cathedral status which would spare it from the destruction or dissolution.
Nicholas Hawksmoor was the mastermind behind building the two Western Towers at Westminster Abbey which were constructed between 1722 and 1745 and which were inspired by a Gothic Revival design. The walls and floors of the Abbey are made from purbeck marble, with it being 69m (225 feet) high, with a width of 26m (85 feet) and a floor area of 32,000 square feet.
Since the coronations of both King Harold and William the Conqueror in 1066, Westminster Abbey has seen every English and British monarch crowned there (except Edward V and Edward VII who were never crowned). The King Edward’s chair is the throne on which English and British sovereigns are crowned. The chair is now located within the Abbey in the St George’s Chapel near the West Door and has been used for every coronation since 1308. Since 1066 there have been 39 Coronations!
The most recent Coronation at Westminster Abbey was that of Queen Elizabeth II who was crowned Queen at the age of 25 on the 2nd June 1953 after the death of her father King George VI on the 6th February 1952. The Coronation took place more than a year after King George VI’s death because of the tradition that holding such a festival is inappropriate during the period of mourning that follows the death of a monarch. During the service Queen Elizabeth II took and subscribed an oath to govern the people’s according to their respective laws and customs. This was the first coronation to be televised with 27 million people in the UK alone watching it, plus millions from overseas.
To date there have been 17 Royal Weddings at Westminster Abbey, with the most recent being when Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, married Miss Catherine Middleton on the 29th April 2011.
Since 1760 most Kings and Queens have been buried in Westminster Abbey with over 3,300 people being either buried or commemorated there. Included in this are 17 British monarchs and influential figures including Isaac Newton, Edward the Confessor and Charles Dickens.
You can only stand there and admire the wonders of this architectural gem which holds so much history and signficant moments in Britain, something which adds to its splendour and incredible nature. London is very lucky to have such traditionally classic and vintage landmarks like this which provide you with so much insight and knowledge.
It’s now time to leave Westminster Abbey and head over to the neighbouring Parliament Square which sits just outside the landmark. Laid out in 1868, Parliament Square was opened to free up the space around the Palace of Westminster and improve traffic flow, and featured London’s first traffic signals! The architect responsible for the square was Sir Charles Barry, with it being redesigned in 1950 by George Grey Wornum. The square has been known as a place for protests and demonstrations down the years too. It really does feel like the focal point of Westminster with Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey all in sight when you stand there, and symbolises all that’s iconic in the capital.
Surrounded by Parliament Square you’ll find 12 statues which honour British, Commonwealth and Foreign political figures. The statues include former British Prime Ministers Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George, Henry John Temple (3rd Viscount Palmerston), Edward George Geoffrey Smith-Stanley (14th Earl of Derby), Benjamin Disraeli (1st Earl of Beaconsfield), Sir Robert Peel and George Canning.
There are also statues for former South African Prime Minister Jan Smuts and South African President Nelson Mandela, as well as former US President Abraham Lincoln. Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian Independence Leader, features within the square too. The newest statue in the square is that of Millicent Fawcett, a campaigner for women’s suffrage which was completed in April 2018.
I do love all these statues around Parliament Square as it’s amazing to see so many great leaders and influential people who quite rightly deserve to be remembered so we all know the positive impact they had on the world. It does make you reflect whilst you’re standing in the square.
On the end of Parliament Square you find Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Known as The Clock Tower, or since 2012 as the Elizabeth Tower to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, Big Ben was completed in 1859 and designed by architect Augustus Pugin. The reference to ‘Big Ben’ actually doesn’t refer to the tower itself, but to the clock tower’s largest bell which weighs a staggering 13.5 tons!
The name for the bell, Ben, has some conjecture about it as there are a few accounts of who it’s named after. One being Benjamin Caunt, a heavyweight boxing champion, whereas another is Sir Benjamin Hall, a Welsh Civil Engineer who was involved in the bell’s construction. While Big Ben is the nickname of the bell, it is officially called the Great Bell.
Towering over the city of London, Big Ben is 96 metres (315 ft) high, and has 334 steps if you fancy walking up it! The time on the clock is known for its precision and accuracy, and has been both the largest and most accurate four-faced chiming clock in the world.
The clock’s face has 23 lightbulbs illuminating it with each of them enjoying a lifetime of over 60,000 hours and a life span of seven years. With an exterior which is renowned throughout the world, only residents of the UK can go within it and must arrange a tour through their Member of Parliament in advance. To ensure accurate time keeping, workers hand wind the clock three times a week, with each winding taking workers about 1.5 hours to complete.
The clock experienced its first and only major breakdown in 1976 when the air brake speed regulator failed, it caused significant damage to the clock and required a shutdown for a total of 26 days over 9 months. The tower’s belfry houses 4 quarter bells which are tuned to G-sharp, F-sharp, B, and E.
At the moment most people will recognise that Big Ben is having a bit of makeover! Work on the renovations began in August 2017 and are expected to finish in 2021, which means there will be no chimes during this time, apart from major events such as New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Sunday.
This is the first significant work to the tower since 1983-1985, with the landmark’s current renovations installing its first toilet, a lift, having a clock face repainting and re-gilding, as well as replacing broken panes of glass and replacing the dials. It’s quite sad seeing old Ben like this at the moment, but I can’t wait for it to look brand new in a few years time and back to normal!
Right next to Big Ben, you’ll find the Houses of Parliament. Officially known as The Palace of Westminster, they’re the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the Parliament of the UK. The building is owned by the monarch and is a royal residence. It is also managed by committees appointed by both houses which report to the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Lord Speaker.
The initial palace was built in 1016 on the site of William the Conqueror’s first palace and was the primary residence of the Kings of England, before it was destroyed in a fire. After that happened it would become the home of the Parliament of England. However, in 1834 a greater fire heavily damaged the Houses of Parliament and was redesigned by architect Charles Barry whose design was inspired by a Gothic Revival style.
The Houses of Parliament are the centre for political life in the UK with debates taking place in them on a daily basis. Within the Houses of Parliament sits the House of Commons which has 650 MPs from areas all over the UK who have been elected. Known also as the Chamber, there are only 427 seats within it, meaning many MPs need to stand! Parliament produces 80 million printed pages a year, ranging from the official parliamentary record – called Hansard – to committee reports and draft legislation. When a proposed new law, a bill, is sent from the House of Commons to the House of Lords, the clerk of the Commons writes “Soit bail as Seigneurs” on it – which means “let it be sent to the House of Lords” – in Norman French.
Whenever anyone thinks of London and is from either the capital, or from the UK, or across the world, The Houses of Parliament immediately springs to mind and for that reason it’s so symbolic and a true definition of ‘London’.
My walk now takes me past the Houses of Parliament to another one of the capital’s most recognisable features, Westminster Bridge. Proceeded by Lambeth Bridge, and following Hungerford Bridge and Golden Jubilee Bridges, the first Westminster Bridge was completed in 1750 and engineered by Charles Labelye to help relieve the capital’s trading congestion.
By the middle of the 19th century the bridge began to subside and was redesigned by Thomas Page and replaced in 1862 with the bridge we see today. The bridge is 820 feet (250m) long and 85 feet (26m) in width with seven case iron arches. Since the removal of Rennie’s New London Bridge in 1967, it’s the oldest road structure bridge which crosses the Thames in Central London.
The bridge truly is an architectural masterpiece with it looking very grand and royal! it probably is the most photographed of London’s bridges, given that many will be looking to take a snap of Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament too!
A stroll along the Thames will now take me to my next bridge on today’s walk, Lambeth Bridge. Designed by Peter W. Barlow, the first bridge opened in 1862 on the site of a horse ferry between the Palace of Westminster and Lambeth Palace on the Southbank.
The current structure, a five-span steel arch, designed by engineer Sir George Humphreys and architects Sir Reginald Blomfield and G. Topham Forrest, was built by Dorman Long & Co and was opened on the 19th July 1932 by King George V. One interesting fact is that constructors, Dorman Long & Co, also built the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle; the Chien Tang River Bridge in Hangzhou, China; the 3km long Storstrøm Bridge in Denmark; and the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia!
Lambeth Bridge is painted red to match the seats in the House of Lords, the part of the Palace of Westminster closest to the bridge. The crests on the sides of the bridge honour the London County Council who were responsible for its construction. I really love the colours and design of Lambeth Bridge with the grid-type appearance on it which adds a great deal of character and beauty to it.
At the end of Lambeth Bridge sits The Victoria Tower Gardens which were created by Joseph Bazalgette and have been present next to the Houses of Parliament since 1870. Although it’s a stones throw away from Parliament Square and the hustle and bustle around Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament it’s very tranquil and peaceful there next to the river.
I’m going to head off to my final destination on my walk, Vauxhall Bridge, as I go along the Thames.
Replacing Regent Bridge (Old Vauxhall Bridge) which was built in 1816, Vauxhall Bridge was designed by Sir Alexander Binnie & Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice and opened in 1906. With five arches spanning 809 feet (247m) in length and 80 feet (24m) in width, the steel and granite structure was the first of London’s bridges to carry trams. The bridge’s piers are decorated with 8 vast bronze statues, designed by Alfred Drury and Frederick Pomeroy. The statue titles include, Agriculture, Architecture, Education, Fine Arts and Engineering.
I wouldn’t say that Vauxhall Bridge is the prettiest of London’s bridges, but I do like the prominent red colouring and statues which appear on it. Plus the view from it is very nice indeed with The London Eye on one side, and Battersea Power Station on the other!
Well that’s all from me folks on this walk of the capital. Although many of the sights on today’s walk are well-known and recognised throughout the world, it’s always a pleasure going past and discovering them from different angles. Also I think we do sometimes take them for granted and should always try to take a bit of time to enjoy them. I’ve loved going on to see Lambeth and Vauxhall Bridges too as many would go the other way on the Thames near The London Eye, so it was marvellous to explore what’s on offer in Lambeth and Vauxhall!
Thanks for joining me and in the meantime you can catch me on Twitter and Instagram and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too! Also why not have a read of my other walks which explore all over London, from north to south, to west to east via central, there’s something there for you! 🙂 Here are the links to them all below for you!