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

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

The Shard to Monument: Modern-Day and Classic Architecture

Thanks for joining me as I take another journey across London’s sights! This week I’ll take a short walk, but I’ll see a lot! My route begins at The Shard takes me through Borough Market and past Southwark Cathedral before taking a stroll across London Bridge and finally finishing at Monument.

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The Shard to Monument

My journey starts at the tallest building in the UK, The Shard. With 95 stories and standing at 309.6 metres (1,016ft) high, it’s also the fourth tallest building in Europe and the 105th tallest building in the world.

The Shard’s developer was Irvine Sellar, who had an ambitious vision to create an architecturally striking building that incorporated retail, offices, hotel, apartments, restaurants and a public viewing gallery. In November 1998 Sellar acquired Southwark Towers, occupied by PwC, and in May 2000 he arranged a lunch in Berlin with award-winning architect Renzo Piano.

Interestingly, Renzo said that he hated tall buildings! But he loved the energy of the railway lines at London Bridge and the Thames nearby. He sketched his vision of the building we see today, and The Shard was born! The inspiration of the design came from the spires of London churches and the masts of tall ships depicted by the 18th-century Venetian.

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The Shard looks just as glamorous at night as it does during the day – Photo Credit: The Shard

There were testing times for The Shard ahead due to the lengthy planning process, high-profile public inquiry, and investment problems as a result of the global economic crash. However, in 2008 the State of Qatar came on board with much needed investment.

The construction came under great challenges with sub-zero temperatures, gale force winds, and The Thames breaking through the protective dam. Nevertheless, in 2012 it was complete and opened by the Prime Minister of Qatar. Since then, its restaurants, hotel and viewing gallery have been opened to the public and tenants have begun to move into its offices.

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The breathtaking view across the city from The Shard. Photo taken April 2016

The Shard is located at London Bridge station, the oldest railway station in London fare zone 1, and one of the oldest in the world having opened in 1836. The station is the fourth busiest in the country with 56 million passengers travelling into it each year (many delayed!).

Currently, London Bridge is under a major construction project including a new bus station underway, station concourse, more entrances to the station, platform developments, and links to Crossrail. All this is due for completion in Spring 2018.

I leave the impressive Shard building and London Bridge station to take me on to Borough Market, London’s oldest food market which is over a 1,000 years old, having dated as far back as 1014.

Many of the Market’s stallholders are producers, from farmers to fisherman, with all the stalls, shops, and restaurants combining traditional British produce and regional specialities from across the world.

After a tasty trip to Borough Market I head to Southwark Cathedral which is the mother church of the Anglican Diocese of Southwark, and has been a place of Christian worship for more than 1,000 years. It has only been a cathedral since the creation of the diocese (a district under the pastoral care of a bishop in the Christian Church) of Southwark since 1905.

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The pleasantly beautiful Southwark Cathedral

The current building has retained its Gothic structure that was built between 1220 and 1420. In 1539 it became the property of King Henry VIII who rented it out to the congregation, with being re-named St Saviour’s. However, in 1611 a group of merchants known as ‘the Bargainers’ bought it from King James I for £800, as they became tired of renting the church for worshiping.

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Throughout the 16th and 17th century many repairs were done to it, and by the 1820s is was threatened with demolishment due to proposals for a new London Bridge. Luckily, after much consultation, the building was restored, and it was thanks to architect George Gwilt that many of today’s parts are still there.

A new diocese was created with a new nave designed by Sir Arthur Blomfield in 1895 and by 1905 St Saviour’s church became Southwark Cathedral. The diocese has a population of two and a half million servicing over 300 parishes from Thamesmead in the east to Thames Ditton in the west.
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In 2000 major extensions, designed by Richard Griffiths, were added to the north of the Cathedral, adding meeting & conference rooms, a library, Education Centre, and a shop. Today, the cathedral holds five services a day all year round and is a centre of teaching, worship, prayers, and pilgrimage.

After embracing one element of heritage I move onto another, and to pretty much why this area is known as London Bridge! Before Medieval times, the only way to cross the Thames on the north bank to the southern suburb of Southwark was by ferry or a rickety wooden bridge… so both risky and not that convenient!

However, in 1176 after two successive wooden bridges were destroyed by fires, Henry II commissioned the building of a permanent stone crossing and after 33 years of construction, it was to last more than 600 years!

The finished bridge was 275m long with 20 gothic arches, and had a chapel, shops, and seven storey houses either side of it. Although the bridge was 8m wide, the buildings reduced the space for traffic to just 4m, making the journey still arduous which sometimes could take as long as an hour! Fire hazards were still prevalent with the worst coming in 1212 caused by sparks from a house, with at least 3,000 people dying.

In 1281, 1309, 1425 and 1437, several parts of the bridge collapsed. The 1281 collapse happened when expanding ice from the frozen Thames crushed five of the arches. These collapses were blamed on Queen Eleanor who was accused of misappropriating the bridges revenues and failing to repair them properly. Hence this is where the rhyme “London Bridge is falling down” comes from, as a dig at the Queen!

By the 18th century the old London Bridge, then over 600 years old, needed to be replaced with John Rennie winning the competition to design it (unconfirmed whether it was a process like The Apprentice or X Factor!).  Rennie’s proposal was a five stone arch bridge 928 (283m) feet long and 49 feet (15m) wide. It started its development in 1824 and was completed in 1831 at a cost of £2.5 million (£205 million in 2015).

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View of Tower Bridge from London Bridge
In 1967 the bridge was placed on the market and sold to an American in 1968, Robert P. McCulloch of McCulloch Oil for $2,460,000. Its reconstruction was designed by Lord Holford and completed in 1972 at a cost of £4 million (£51 million in 2015). Today, it truly gives you a beautiful view across the city with The Shard, Tower Bridge, the Walkie Talkie, and Cannon Street station all visible from it.

A walk a long the bridge takes me to our final stop today, Monument. The structure located at Monument Street and Fish Street Hill was built between 1671 and 1677 to commemorate the Great Fire of London, and to celebrate the rebuilding of the city. The fire which started in a baker’s house in Pudding Lane on Sunday 2nd September 1666 was finally extinguished on Wednesday 5th September. It destroyed most of the city with only stone buildings, St Paul’s and the Guildhall, surviving. Although it did help eradicate some of the black rats that carried the Bubonic Plague.

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The Monument commemorating the Great Fire of London

Sir Christopher Wren, the architect of St Paul’s Cathedral, and is colleague Dr Robert Hooke, provided the design of the Monument structure. The plans drew up contained 311 steps leading to the viewing platform surmounted by a drum and a copper urn to symbolise where the flames of the Great Fire came from. It is 61 metres high (202 feet), the exact distance between it and the site on Pudding Lane where the fire began.

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The inscription on the bottom of the sculpture

On 4th October 1677, the Court of Alderman requested Dr Gale, a master of St Paul’s School, to devise a fitting inscription for the new pillars.

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Three Latin inscriptions were devised covering the three panels. The north side records the City’s destruction, the south its restoration, and the east signifies the years and mayoralties in which the erection of the Monument was commenced. Also on the west is a sculptured design by Cidder.

So my journey has taken me from one end of London Bridge to the other where I’ve seen both impressive modern-day and older architecture. Hope you’ve enjoyed my short stroll, and stay tuned for another walking route next week!

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, and don’t forget to follow the blog and me on Twitter and Instagram 🙂

Sources: (not the food sauces)

All photos unless credit given London Wlogger © Copyright 2016

The Shard

The Railway Age 

National Rail

Day Tours of London

Southwark Cathedral History 

History of London Bridge

London Bridge Facts

History of Monument 

Marble Arch to Mayfair: Streets and Squares

It’s that time again as I take another walking journey to explore the wonders of the capital! This week my route begins at Marble Arch takes me along the shopping areas of Oxford Street, Regent Street and New Bond Street via Cavendish Square on to Berkeley Square before finishing in Shepherd Market in Mayfair.

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Marble Arch to Mayfair

So I start at Marble Arch, a monument located at the junction at Oxford Street, Edgware Road and Park Lane in Westminster. The arch, unsurprisingly is made from Carrara marble, who knew it! It was built in 1825 and designed by our good friend John Nash, who you’ll remember had a significant part to play in our last walking journey, Victoria to Green Park!

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Marble Arch

The arch’s unique design was based on the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in Paris, as well as the Arch of Constantine in Rome (you can see the resemblance in both!).

John Flaxman was picked to create the sculpture though he sadly died before he could complete it, which meant the job was split between three men, J.C.F Rossi, Sir Richard Westmacott and Edward Hodges Baily.

Interesting, the Marble Arch was originally intended to be the ceremonial entrance to Buckingham Palace and it was located there until it moved to its current place in 1851. Its new location in Marble Arch is opposite the Speaker’s Corner, once the site of executions at Tyburn Gallows. The square panels on the north side have three figures representing Wales, England and Scotland with other sculptures to represent Peace and Plenty. Legend has it there are three small rooms in the arch occasionally used as a police station and lookout.

The bronze gates, designed by Samuel Parker, feature the Lion of England and the figure of St George and the Dragon, England’s patron saint. So with its Royal history, you can pass through the gates once graced by many famous royals!

I move from Marble Arch onto my next location, to perhaps one of the most famous shopping areas in the world, Oxford Street! Currently Europe’s busiest shopping street with around half a million daily visitors and an annual turnover of over £1 billion, it runs for approximately 1.2 miles (1.9km). It covers Park Lane, Edgware Road, Bayswater Road, Vere Street, New Bond Street, Bond Street Station, Oxford Circus and to Regent Street.

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Oxford Street

It was previously known as Tyburn Road, after the River Tyburn which ran to the south of the street located near Uxbridge Road, Worcester Road and Oxford Road. By about 1729, it had become known as Oxford Street. In the 1730s the turnpike trust was established to improve the road’s upkeep which was notorious as a route taken by prisoners on their final journey to Newgate Prison.

By the 18th century the street went under many redevelopments after its surrounding fields were purchased by the Earl of Oxford. In the 1750s buildings began to be erected on the corner of Oxford Street and Davies Street. The street became popular with entertainers including theatres and by the end of the century it was built up from St Giles Circus to Park Lane. It wasn’t until the 19th century that Oxford Street changed from residential to retail with drapers, cobblers and furniture stores beginning to appear. Notable retail occupants were John Lewis in 1864 and Selfridges in 1909.

Today, several retail chains regard their Oxford Street branch as their flagship store, and with nearly 300 stores in the area you can get everything from furniture to fashion, to cooking to computing!

I leave Oxford Street to take a slight detour up to Cavendish Square located at the Eastern end of Wigmore Street. It was first laid out by architect John Prince at the beginning of 1717 for the 2nd Earl of Oxford, with its name deriving from the Earl’s wife, Henrietta Cavendish-Holles. Notable residents in the square were the Duke of Portland, Duke of Chandos, Princess Amelia and the Lane Baronets.

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Cavendish Square

In 1951 a blue plaque was unveiled to commemorate H.H. Asquith,  the liberal Prime Minister of the UK from 1908 to 1916, who himself owned and lived at 20 Cavendish Square. The University of Westminster’s founder, Quintin Hogg, also has a plaque there with The Royal College of Nursing’s HQ around the square too.stat

The bronze statue on the south side of the square, sculptured by Thomas Campebell, is of William George Frederick Cavendish Bentinck  (Lord George Bentinck) (1802-1848) who was a Conservative MP for King’s Lynn, Norfolk.

From the pleasant Cavendish Square I take a walk back onto Oxford Street and along to Regent Street. Like its partnering Oxford Street, it features many shops with 7.5 million tourists visiting it every year. Its history dates back as far as the 19th century and was designed by that man again, John Nash! Is there anything in London he didn’t design?! The project of having handcrafted architecture for the shops took 14 years to complete with the name Regent Street coming from Prince Albert Regent who supported its development. In the modern day it now features some of the most recognisable shops in the country, including Liberty, toy store Hamleys and Apple.

 

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Regent Street

My journey from Regent Street takes me onto New Bond Street,  the streets just keep coming! One thing you notice about New Bond Street is the brands on offer get pretty high end, from Gucci to Rolex! Built in the 1720s by Sir Thomas Bond, by the 18th century it became a place for more upper-class residents of Mayfair to socialise, hence the many luxury brands that continue to be there today!

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The well heeled New Bond Street

From there I take a walk through many short streets onto Berkeley Square in Mayfair. The square, named after John Berkeley, the first Lord of Berkeley of Stratton, acquired the land in 1675 and from there developed his estate. One of the most notable buildings in the square is Landsdowne House, designed by Robert Adam in 1762, and became the venue for many cabinet meetings as well as the home for eight years of Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridges.

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Berkeley Square

Every September to the north of the pump house in the square, is the glamorous Berkeley Square Ball in aid of the Princes Trust.

My journey now takes me to my final location on this week’s walk to a charming small square and piazza of Shepherd Market, tucked away between Piccadilly and Curzon Street in Mayfair.

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The entrance to Shepherd Market

Mayfair itself is named after the infamous 15 day fair established by James II in the 1680s which took place in Shepherd Market. Developed in 1735-1746  by local architect Edward Shepherd, the market featured path alleys, a duck pond, a two-storey market and theatre. During the 1920s it was an ultrafashionable address for some of London’s most refined inhabitants and is described as ‘The Heart of Mayfair’.

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The tranquil Shepherd Market

Not a single part of the market is wasted today with places ranging from a barbers to a stationery shop to pubs to restaurants to a pharmacy. The great aspect for me is despite being near a busy road, and amongst the vast buildings of Mayfair, it has still kept its village and histroical feel, and is definitely a hidden gem!

My walking journey has truly taken me through the streets and squares of London! Please share your thoughts and comments on London below, I’d love to hear them! Also remember to follow the blog either on WordPress or via email, and check me out on Twitter and Instagram too! I’ll see you next week for another walking adventure! 🙂

Sources: (not the food sauces)

All photos: London Wlogger © Copyright 2016

About Britain

Famous Wonders

Timeout London

British History

Kingsfund

The Culture Trip

Berkeley Square

Shepherds Market

 

Victoria to Green Park: Royal Palace & Parks

*drum roll*… it’s time for my first walking journey around London! Today my first route as I delve into the city’s sights, history and beauty, takes me from Victoria Station right up to Green Park. On my walk I’ll be taking in the wonders of St James’s Park, go along The Mall, pop by Buckingham Palace before finishing in Green Park.

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Victoria to Green Park

I start my journey at London Victoria Station, the second busiest terminus in London and the UK after London Waterloo. It connects the city to the South, Gatwick Airport with access to the District, Circle and Victoria tube lines. Officially opened in 1862, Victoria is named after nearby Victoria Street, with the latter named after Queen Victoria. Today it’s in midst of a major redevelopment project including a new underground ticket hall due for completion in 2018.

A walk along Buckingham Palace Road (sit tight we aren’t going to the palace just yet!), takes me to the oldest of London’s eight Royal Parks, St James’s  Park. 470 years ago the park was mainly farmland and woods with its name coming from the leper hospital that used to be there.

The site was acquired by Henry VIII in 1536 who created a deer park and built a hunting lodge which later became St James’s Palace. In 1603, the King, James I, drained and landscaped the park and when Charles II became King in 1660 he ordered the park to be redesigned by Frenchman André Mollet. King Charles introduced the game, Pelle Melle, from France to the courts of St James’s Park which gave names to the present day Pall Mall and The Mall.

In 1820s the park got a complete makeover with the canal becoming a curved lake, new winding paths and shrubberies. Prince Regent, later George IV, commissioned Buckingham House to be enlarged and The Mall tuned into a grand processional route. This was the start of many of the cities best-known landmarks being created. John Nash, an architect and landscaper oversaw the designs which were completed in 1827. The park we see today is still very much as Nash designed it.
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St James’s Park

To get from one side of the park to the other you take a quick walk over The Blue Bridge. This was first designed by John Nash and replaced by a suspension Bridge in 1857 with the one we use today dating back to 1957. The views from the bridge across the river are simply stupendous, on one side you have Buckingham Palace, and other Whitehall, Horse Guards, and the London Eye .

To get to Buckingham Palace a short walk along The Mall is required.

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The Mall

Originally laid by Charles II, The Mall was the grand approach to Buckingham Palace. It’s London’s primary ceremonial road leading from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace stretching 1km of road. The Mall we see today was designed in 1911 by Sir Aston Webb.

The walk down The Mall leads you to one of the most iconic and recognisable places in the world! Buckingham Palace has been the UK’s sovereigns residence since 1837 and is the headquarters (an office!) for the Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II . The palace has 775 rooms including 78 bathrooms, 52 royal & guest bedrooms and 92 offices. It’s 108 metres long, 120 metres deep and 24 metres high. Quite simply, one of the hottest tourist attractions there is!

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Buckingham Palace

As I leave the splendour of Buckingham Palace, I come towards the end of my journey as I reach another of London’s Royal Parks, Green Park. Whilst St James’s is London’s oldest Royal Park, Green Park is the smallest comprising of 40 acres of trees and grassland dating back to 1554. It may be small, but what it does have is a big personality of beautiful greenery (as expected with the name!).

It has been a lovely stroll through some of central London’s beautiful scenery and historical sights, and incredible to think that they’re all just a stones throw away from each other!

Hope you’ve enjoyed my journey, and stay tuned for more walks soon 🙂 Don’t forget to follow the blog, Twitter & Instagram accounts, and leave your comments below!

Sources: (not the food sauces!)

All photos: London Wlogger © Copyright 2016

Transport Heritage

Transport for London

Royal Parks St James’s 

Walk London 

Royal UK

Royal Parks Green Park

The Journey Begins…

Welcome to the London Wlogger! Thanks for joining me on my journey around the great city of London, exploring its hidden gems, places and sights all on foot.

I think we’re too dependent on public transport in London, we’d rather take a tube to get us 2 minutes from Victoria to Green Park than take a little longer on foot to experience the beauty of walking past Buckingham Palace and through Green Park itself.

Each time this blog, or wlog, (see what i did there!), will take you through London on foot to help you discover everything amazing it has to offer.

Stay tuned every week for a new walking adventure….

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One of my favourite walks along the Regent’s Canal