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

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

A warm Wlogger welcome to you and thanks for joining me on my next walking adventure of the capital! My expedition today will see me explore South-East London as I begin at Crystal Palace Park and explore its stadium, lakes, green areas… and dinosaurs! I’ll then take a detour to Sydenham Wells Park go through Sydenham Hill Wood and to Dulwich Wood. I’ll end my journey at Dulwich & Sydenham Golf Club, which might seem like an odd place to end a walk… but all will be revealed later on! So let’s discover some of the lesser-known natural sights of London!

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Crystal Palace Park to Dulwich Wood:

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

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Crystal Palace Park

The park was built by Sir Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace Company between 1852 and 1854. It was created as the magnificent setting for the relocated and enlarged Crystal Palace structure, which had been designed for the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park.

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The breathtaking Crystal Palace (Source: Crystal Palace Museum)

The area was designed to impress, educate, entertain and inspire, eventually becoming an international attraction with its educational themes for the park covering discovery and invention. The Crystal Palace was a large glass and iron structure that was situated on the Sydenham Ridge and provided stunning views across London with the palace viewable from many location across the city. One of the main aims of the park and palaces creation was to display Victorian grandeur and innovation, and was financed when people paid to visit it.

After the park was officially opened on the 10th June 1854 by Queen Victoria, a number of displays, events and sporting activities were introduced as a way to increase visitor numbers. To coincide with the 1911 Festival of the Empire, the park was transformed with a railway being installed and buildings to represent the Empire which would remain there up until the 1940s.

However, on the 30th November 1936 The Crystal Palace was destroyed in a fire, after musicians waiting to play a concert noticed smoke coming from the floorboards, which reportedly began in the women’s cloakroom and spread to the central transept. The fire quickly spread through the dry wooden boards and the nature of The Crystal Palace – a huge open space with no fire breaks – meant that within a short time the fire was wildly out of control. The flames rose to 800 feet in the air with London sending 61 pumps and 381 firefighters to help tackle the fire. The cause of the fire was never discovered, but theories have included old and faulty wiring as well as a discarded cigarette falling between the floorboards.

It would’ve been amazing to have seen The Crystal Palace in all its stunning glory, as it looked simply magnificent. You can imagine had it been around today, it would’ve attracted the same number of tourists that landmarks such as The London Eye, The Shard, Buckingham Palace and more do. Something our Instagram feeds would be full of!

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The destroyed Crystal Palace (Source: London Fire Brigade)

After the fire the park began a period of decline. There were plans talked about to recreate the palace, although these never materialised. During the Second World War the park became a place for military vehicle dismantling and later a site for bomb damage rubble.

When you enter Crystal Palace Park, one of the first sights you see is its renowned and spectacular National Sports Centre. Opened in 1964, the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre was designed by the LCC Architects Department under Sir Leslie Martin between 1953-1954 and is a Grade II listed building. Over the years the stadium has hosted football, cricket, rugby, basketball, American Football, and even Motor Racing. The main sport to be hosted there today is athletics with a capacity of 15,500, and 24,000 with temporary seating.

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National Sports Centre

The site of the athletics stadium is on the same land as a football ground which hosted the FA Cup Final from 1895 to 1914. The owners of the ground wanted their own football club to play at their own venue, so this lead to the formation of Crystal Palace F.C. The South Londoners were forced to leave the stadium in 1915 by the military, and as a result played at the ground they play at today, Selhurst Park.  The largest attendance for a domestic match there was between Aston Villa and Sunderland in the 1913 FA Cup Final, when 121,919 spectators went there.

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National Sports Centre
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National Sports Centre
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National Sports Centre

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

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Crystal Palace Park near the Lakes and Ponds

One of the most iconic features of the park are the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs which are a collection of over 30 statues created by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins (1807-1894) around 1854. The array of statues also includes the first ever attempt anywhere in the world to model dinosaurs as full-scale, three-dimensional active creatures.

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Crystal Palace Dinosaurs 

The set also includes models of other prehistoric creatures, including plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs discovered by Mary Anning in Lyme Regis, and a South American Megatherium brought back to Britain by Charles Darwin on his voyage on HMS Beagle

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Crystal Palace Dinosaurs 

Known as the Dinosaur Court, the models represent 15 genera of extinct animals, not all dinosaurs. They are from a wide range of geological ages, and include dinosaurs, ichthyosaurs, and plesiosaurs mainly from the Mesozoic era, and some mammals from the more recent Cenozoic era.

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Crystal Palace Dinosaurs 
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Crystal Palace Dinosaurs 

The dinosaurs have been listed on the Historic Heritage List of England as Grade 1 monuments which is one of the highest and most important ratings. Many of the dinosaurs you see when you visit the National History Museum, the Oxford Museum of Natural History and other history museums in the UK are based on these specimens.

This was the first time I’d ever been to Crystal Palace Park and thus seen the dinosaurs, and they are incredible statues, and so critical to both the park’s identity as well as what they demonstrate for the world of natural history and science. One thing I’ve also thought is that it was very random having these in a London park, but knowing the story behind them makes sense!

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Crystal Palace Dinosaurs 
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Crystal Palace Dinosaurs 

Surrounded by the dinosaurs and as you weave your way around the park, there are some really lovely trees and woods, as well as a lake. Like with many of the parks I’ve explored across London, this one is full of splendour and tranquility.

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

I’ll now take a walk outside the lake area and walk across the park where once again you stroll through all the prettiness of the park which illustrates what a vast area of marvellous sights it is.

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Crystal Palace Park
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Crystal Palace Park
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Crystal Palace Park

A distinctive part of the park you always see no matter where you stand and which can be seen from many vantage points in the capital is The Crystal Palace Transmitter tower which is a broadcasting and telecommunications station that serves Greater London and the Home Counties. Built in 1956, it’s the 5th tallest structure in London standing at 219 metres (719 ft). In terms of coverage it’s the most important transmitting station in the country, with nearly 12 million people receiving output from it.

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Crystal Palace Transmitter Tower
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Crystal Palace Transmitter Tower

I’ll now leave the park and head to my next destination today, Sydenham Wells Park! This cute little green area is named after the medicinal springs which were found in Sydenham in the 17th Century, when Sydenham was still in Kent. In 1901 the park was opened to the public and is one of nine parks in the borough to have a Green flag award, which is the benchmark national standard for publicly accessible parks and green spaces in the UK.

The park is right near many houses and you do get that community feel that this park is at the centre point of the area which is popular with families and people looking for a place to relax with their thoughts.

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

My journey will now take me from Sydenham Wells Park onto both Sydenham Hill Wood and Dulwich Wood, which are located right next to one another. Together they are the largest part of the old Great North Wood, which was an ancient landscape of woodland and wooded commons which once covered the high ground between Deptford and Selhurst

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Sydenham Hill Wood

With both of the woods adjacent to one another, I first visited Sydenham Hill Wood which is designated as a Local Nature Reserve and Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation. In 1732 an oak-lined formal avenue, known as the Cox’s Walk, which leads from the junction of Dulwich Common and Lordship Lane was formed by Francis Cox.  It connected his Green Man Tavern and Dulwich Wells with Sydenham Wells Park.

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Sydenham Hill Wood

The old Nunhead to Crystal Palace railway once passed through the wood and you can tell where part of the line used to be, especially the footbridge which goes over the woods and used to have the tracks underneath it.

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

The woodland is home to more than 200 species of trees and plants, as well as rare fungi, butterflies, scarce bees, woodpeckers, wasps, stag beetles, other insects, hedgehogs, birds and woodland mammals.

Walking through the woodlands reminds me a lot of my walk through Highgate Wood as you feel like you’re nowhere near London’s hustle and bustle. It’s a very magical place to explore as with every corner of the woods you find something new which amazes and pleasantly surprises you, whether it’s a pretty species of tree, or a cute stairway, there’s an abundance of beauty.

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

Right next to Sydenham Hill Wood is Dulwich Wood, which is privately owned by the Dulwich Estate. Back in the Middle Ages, the Manor of Dulwich belonged to Bermondsey Abbey having been given to the Abbey in 1127 by King Henry I. The Dulwich Estate was surveyed in 1542 after Henry VII dissolved the monasteries.  The wealthy Edward Alleyn in 1605 bought the Manor of Dulwich from the Calton family who had owned it since the dissolving of the monasteries.

Weaving your way between the trees and plants adds quite a bit of mystery when you walk through the woods, which is quite small, though there are many different pathways you could take, each taking you to a different woodland wonder.

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Dulwich Wood
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Dulwich Wood
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Dulwich Wood
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Dulwich Wood

Once you come out of Dulwich Wood, you’re able to get a glimpse of the London skyline, but to truly appreciate and see it, you need to take a stroll to the neighbouring Dulwich & Sydenham Hill Golf Club. A walk to the top of the balcony of the clubhouse provides a breathtaking panoramic view of London!

From across the golf course you get to see all the well-known and iconic London skyline landmarks including The Shard, The London Eye, Canary Wharf, The Walkie Talkie, The Gherkin, St Paul’s and more. One amazing aspect of my walks is that I’ve seen this exact same view of the London skyline from so many different perspectives, from Stave Hill, to Alexander Palace, to Hampstead Heath, and it’s always awe-inspiring and glorious. It really is a fitting and perfect place to end my walking adventure today!

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

Well that’s all from me on my walking adventure which has seen me discover some of the natural gems of South-East London from Crystal Palace Park, to Sydenham Wells Park and Sydenham Hill Wood, to Dulwich Wood, with the stunning London skyline view to finish with!

Thanks for joining me and in the meantime you can follow all my walks on Twitter and Instagram, and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too so you don’t miss a post! Also why not have a read of my other walks which explore all over London, from north to south, to west to east via central, there’s something there for you! 🙂 Here are the links to them all below for you!

Victoria to Green Park

Marble Arch to Mayfair

The Shard to Monument

King’s Cross to Hampstead Heath

Leadenhall Market to Old Spitalfields Market

Waterloo to The London Eye

St Paul’s Cathedral to Moorgate

Mile End Park to London Fields

Hyde Park Corner to Italian Gardens

Little Venice to Abbey Road

Regent’s Park to Soho Square

Clapham Common to The Albert Bridge

Grosvenor Gardens to Knightsbridge

Holland Park to Meanwhile Gardens

Hackney Downs to Springfield Park

Tower Bridge to Stave Hill

Shoreditch to Islington Green

Highgate to Finsbury Park

Ravenscourt Park to Wormwood Scrubs

Covent Garden to Southwark Bridge

Putney Bridge to Barnes Common

Westminster Abbey to Vauxhall Bridge

Sources: (not the food sauces)

All photos taken by London Wlogger unless referenced © Copyright 2019

Information about Crystal Palace Park: Crystal Palace Park

Information about The Crystal Palace: The Crystal Palace Museum

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

Information about The Crystal Palace Transmitter Tower: The Big Tower

Information about Sydenham Wells Park: Lewisham.Gov

Information about Sydenham Hill Wood and Dulwich Wood: Wild London

 

Highgate to Finsbury Park: Exploring Hidden Highgate Gems

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

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Highgate to Finsbury Park

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

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Enter Please!

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

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

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Waterlow Park
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Waterlow Park
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Waterlow Park
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Waterlow Park

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

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Waterlow Park

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

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Waterlow Park
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Waterlow Park Pond

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

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Lauderdale House
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View looking out from Lauderdale House

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

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Waterlow Park

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

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

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

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Highgate Cemetery

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

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

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

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

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Highgate Cemetery

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

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Highgate Village
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Highgate Village
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Highgate Houses

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

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Highgate Wood Entrance

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

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Highgate Wood
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Highgate Wood
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Highgate Wood

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

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

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Highgate Wood
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Highgate Wood

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

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

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

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Highgate Wood
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Highgate Wood

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

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

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

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Highgate Wood Playing Fields

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

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Alexandra Palace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Alexandra Palace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Alexandra Palace Hill

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

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Priory Park

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

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Entrance to Finsbury Park

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

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Finsbury Park

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

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Finsbury Park

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

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Finsbury Park

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

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

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

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

Sources: (not the food sauces)

All photos taken by London Wlogger. © Copyright 2018

Waterlow Park: History of Waterlow Park

Highgate Cemetery: History of Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Wood: History of Highgate Wood

Alexandra Palace: History of Alexandra Palace

Finsbury Park: History of Finsbury Park

Grosvenor Gardens to Knightsbridge: Exploring the Exclusive Side of London

Welcome one and all to another walk across London! This week I’ll be visiting the exclusive and wealthy side of the capital, as my journey begins in Grosvenor Gardens. From there I go via upmarket Belgravia to Sloane Square before finishing at one of the world’s most famous department stores, Harrods in Knightsbridge. So let’s grab the walking boots and go!

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Grosvenor Gardens to Knightsbridge

My walk starts in Upper Grosvenor Gardens which has only been open to the public recently, and with its plants and benches is the perfect place to relax. The name Grosvenor derives from the Grosvenor family who were landowners in the area.

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Grosvenor Gardens

One of the distinctive features within the garden is a sculpture of a Lioness chasing a Lesser Kudu. It was created by the famous animal sculptor Jonathan Kenworthy, and has been there since 2000 to mark the opening of the gardens to the people of Westminster. It certainly is an eye-catching aspect of the gardens which you don’t miss!

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Lioness and Lesser Kudu Sculpture

At one of the entrances also stands this war memorial with poppy wreaths laid in remembrance.

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War Memorial

Whenever you’re in a garden you normally only take in the plants, grass area and sculptures, however, the outer fencing has this really unique and stylish design!

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Fence on the Outside of the Gardens

It’s time to move onto my next location on today’s walk as I head for affluent Belgravia and Eaton Square. Now if you thought living in London was expensive, you’ve not seen anything yet! In December Eaton Square was given the honour of being the most expensive place to buy a home in the UK. The average home in this area costs a staggering £17 million! Some properties in the area have been on the market for as much as over £50 million! Looking at the size of the houses you can see why!

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Eaton Square
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Eaton Square

Opposite the houses sits some beautiful gardens too, which are private to the residents of the mansions!

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Eaton Square
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Eaton Square

I must say walking through all these expensive and fancy mansions is actually quite fun to get a glimpse of the high life! Though I’ll never be able to afford them, or you never know if this blog takes off and makes me a millionaire I might…. but for now strolling past them will have to do!

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Eaton Square

I leave the well-heeled Belgravia mansions to go onto my next stop, Sloane Square! Located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the square used to be called ‘Hans Town’ after Sir Hans Sloane whose estates owned the land at the time. The square was laid out in 1771 by architects Henry Holland Snr and Henry Holland Jnr.

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Sloane Square
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Sloane Square

Within the square sits The Venus Fountain which was sculptured in 1953 by  Gilbert Ledward. The life-sized bronze Venus is seen kneeling on top of a large vase whilst pouring water into a pool lined with light blue ceramic tiles. The Venus is sitting on a relief of King Charles II and his mistress, Nell Gywnn.

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The Venus Fountain
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The Venus Fountain

At the opposite end of The Venus Fountain you find a Royal Naval Air Service memorial which again has poppy wreaths laid out on it in remembrance.

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Royal Naval Air Service

Next to Sloane Square you’ll find the picturesque Parish Church of Holy Trinity Sloane Square which is an Anglican parish church built between 1888-1890, and designed by architect John Dando Sedding.

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The Parish Church of Holy Trinity Sloane Square

A walk along Sloane Street takes you to one of London’s secret hidden gems at Cadogan Place Gardens. Once known as the London Botanic Gardens, they were laid out at the end of the 18th century by William Sailsbury. Walking through the gardens feels like you’re in one of London’s Royal Parks or the countryside, not a small pretty garden near Knightsbridge. Within the gardens sits lawns, plants, hedges and sculptures, everything you’d expect from a beautiful garden! The more you walk through it, you discover lots of picturesque surprises!

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It’s time to move onto my final location in Knightsbridge, Harrods. To get there I pass many high-end brands from Gucci to Chanel and many other brands I don’t normally buy from!

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Street in Knightsbridge

One of Knightsbridge’s most recognisable stores is Harrods which was founded in 1834 by Charles Henry Harrod. The store is 20,000 m2  with 330 departments that covers 90,000 m2 of retail space. Harrods’ motto is Omnia Omnibus Ubique, which means “all things for all people, everywhere” in Latin! From clothing to electronics to jewellery to toys to furniture, it’s all there for you! I do love the distinctive green colouring of the branding and with its unique products makes it a huge tourist hot spot!

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Harrods
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Harrods
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Harrods

My walk has taken me through some of London’s richest and most exclusive areas, whether it’s the mansions of Belgravia to the gardens near Knightsbridge, it has been a trip through the capital’s upmarket side! Hope you’ve enjoyed reading my walk, and you can catch me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook, and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too!

Until next time, have a great week, and see you soon!

Sources: (not the food sauces)

All photos taken by London Wlogger. © Copyright 2017

Information on Grosvenor Gardens – London is Cool

Information on Grosvenor Gardens – Secret London

Information on Grosvenor Gardens – My Parks Westminster

Information on Sloane Square – The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

London’s Most Beautiful Fountains – Londonist

About The Parish Church of Holy Trinity Sloane Square – Holy Trinity Sloane Square

Information about Cadogan Place Gardens – London Gardens Trust

History of Harrods – Harrods

Clapham Common to The Albert Bridge: Ponds, Parks and Picturesque Views

A warm welcome to you, and thanks for joining me on another walk around London! Throughout my walks of the capital I’ve explored many parks, and today I shall be exploring two of South London’s most wonderful natural spaces. My walk begins in Clapham Common takes me via Battersea Park before ending along the Thames at the splendid Albert Bridge.

I’ll admit I’d never actually been to either Clapham Common or Battersea Park before this walk, so for me it was even more exciting to do!

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Clapham Common to The Albert Bridge

My journey starts in Clapham Common which dates back to the late 17th century when the recreational area was used for horse racing and cricket. It wasn’t until the 1760s when a wealthy local resident by the name of Christopher Baldwin led an initiative to improve the Common by leveling it off and filling in its ditches and planting trees.

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Clapham Common

During the 19th century the Common was managed by a group of local trustees who continued to level it out and plant trees. As late as the 1920s sheep were still grazing on the Common, though it was now becoming a well-known area of leisure for people within the suburb which was growing both in size and wealth.

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Football Picthes on Clapham Common

However, in the 1860s Commons in London were at risk of being sold to developers as new legislation meant they could be purchased for the benefits of the public. In 1877, the Metropolitan Board of Works bought Clapham Common from its Manorial Owners with its aim to be ‘free and unenclosed forever’!

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Clapham Common

Both the board and its successor, the London County Council, continued to make improvements to it and in 1890 they responded to public demand to build one of the largest and best surviving Victorian bandstands in the country.

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Clapham Common Bandstand

During the First World War troops would be trained in digging trenches on the Common. Whilst in the Second World War the site was used for big events and housed an anti-aircraft battery, with bomb shelters being dug within it.

Sports facilities and entertainments continued on the Common after the War with the London County Council and its successor, the Greater London Council, making improvements to it. The Common was the venue for the International London Horse Show from 1954 to 1985. However, by the 1990s local residents became unhappy with the large scale concerts and other events which they thought were unsuited and damaging the local recreational space. Since 1971, the Common has been owned and managed by the London Borough of Lambeth.

Today, it’s 220 acres of wonderful grass areas, the lovely Mount Pond, many football pitches, and is one of London’s most famous Commons. I did love standing by the pond, with all you can hear is the sound of the birds and the wind, truly the definition of peaceful!

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Mount Pond
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Mount Pond
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Mount Pond

Opposite the Bandstand you’ll find the very popular and convenient La Baita, which in Italian means ‘the hut’. This cafe serves authentic Italian cuisine with sandwiches and drinks offered too. The perfect way to sit there and enjoy the Common on a sunny day.

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La Baita

Outside Clapham Common you’ll find the pretty St. Barnabas Church which was erected in 1897.

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St. Barnabas Church

It’s now time to continue my walk through Clapham Common and along the main road to Battersea Park.

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Leaving Clapham Common

Along my walk I go past Battersea Park train station, and this rather vintage railway bridge!

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Entrance to Battersea Park

Back in 1843 property developer Thomas Cubitt and the local vicar, the Honourable Reverend Robert Eden, reported to Queen Victoria’s Commison on improving the Metropolis. In 1846 an Act of Parliament was passed which gave to the authorisation of a formation of a park on part of Battersea Common and Battersea Fields.

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Scrubs of Battersea Park

A year before in 1845 architect James Pennethorne produced a preliminary layout of the park, but it wasn’t until 1854 when the main developments of the park took place. The park was formally opened to the public by Queen Victoria in 1858.

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Like with Clapham Common, the park was used during the First World War. Allotments were laid out in the park, an anti-aircraft station was set up on the croquet field, and a clothing depot was installed on one of the cricket fields. The park was also used during World War Two for an allotment, a piggery, an experimental radio station, and the running track became an anti-aircraft gun site. Today, the 200 acre park is managed by Wandsworth Council.

It’s not just Clapham Common that has a beautiful and picturesque pond, as Battersea Park has this amazing one too!

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Every pond should have somewhere to enjoy its splendour, and next to it you can relax in this riverside cafe!

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It’s only when you walk through the park that you find out how vast it is! Also the hidden gems within it keep appearing with more ponds and pathways filled with trees.

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Near the northern side of the park sits the Festival Gardens that were designed by Russell Page. In 1951 they were transformed into the ‘Pleasure Gardens’ as part of the Festival of Britain which celebrated the British industry, arts and science to promote the feeling of recovery after the World War.

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Festival Gardens Today

The event was intended to be a one-off year exhibition, but the fun fair remained there as a permanent attraction until it closed in 1974.

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One of the eye-catching features within the park is this cool metal structure!

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At the end of Festival Gardens you find the distinctive and rather amazing structure of the Peace Pagoda. Regular London Wlogger readers will remember another Pagoda appearing in Victoria Park in one of my previous walks!

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Peace Pagoda

The construction of the Peace Pagoda actually relates to the unlikely town of Milton Keynes in the UK. Back in 1978, the Reverend Gyoro Nagase arrived in England from Japan to assist with the construction of the first Peace Pagoda in the UK in Milton Keynes. Now you might think, it’s very random for a famous Japanese religious monument to be in Milton Keynes, but there is logic behind it! Back in the seventies when the new town of Milton Keynes was being developed, one of the planning advisers had visited Sri Lanka where he saw a Peace Pagoda. It was proposed to the Milton Keynes Development Corporation who loved the idea, and it remains there today.

In 1984, Reverend Gyoro Nagase moved to London to assist with 50 volunteers and Buddhist monks and nuns of the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Order to construct the Peace Pagoda in the park, and its amazing structure was completed in 1985.

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View from the Pagoda

To get to my final destination today I need to take a walk along the side of the Thames, and the view across it is simply stunning from the Peace Pagoda. You can tell I enjoyed taking videos on this walk!

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A famous place for morning joggers and dog walkers, I walk along the side of the river to reach The Albert Bridge!

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Located over the River Thames connecting Chelsea on the north bank to Battersea on the south bank, the Albert Bridge was designed and built by Rowland Mason Ordish in 1873. However, it proved to be structurally unsound, so between 1884 and 1887 Sir Joseph Bazalgette incorporated design elements of a suspension bridge to it.

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Two concrete piers were added to it to further strengthen it in 1973, which means today the bridge is an odd hybrid of three different design styles! For six years after it was opened it became a toll bridge, though this was unsuccessful and the charge was lifted.

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End of the Bridge with the Old Tollbooths

The bridge was given the nickname of ‘The Trembling Lady’ as it had the tenancy to vibrate when large numbers of people walked across it. The entrance sign to warn troops from the nearby Chelsea Barracks is still there today.

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Today, there are still traffic control limits over it to prolong its life, making it the least busy of London’s bridges. The bold colouring of the bridge was painted on it in 1992 to make it more visible for ships, and I think you’d find it hard to miss it! At night the bridge is illuminated with 4,000 bulbs, and with Grade II listed status it’s one of the capital’s riverside icons.

The view from it you can imagine is amazing! On one side you can see the Chelsea Bridge, and on the other is Battersea Bridge.

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Across the Thames with Chelsea Bridge in the Distance
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Other side is Battersea Bridge

I couldn’t think of many nicer places to end a walking adventure of London! I’ve taken a trip through South London to visit a famous Common, Park and Bridge, and seen how the first two played their part in both World Wars. Hope you had a great time reading my walk, and please share your thoughts below! Whilst I have you here, you can give me a follow on TwitterInstagram and Facebook, and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too!

I’ll see you next week!

Sources: (not the food sauces)

All photos taken by London Wlogger. © Copyright 2017

History of Clapham Common – Clapham Common Management Advisory Committee 

History of St Barnabas Church – British History Online

History of Battersea Park – Historic England

History of the Festival of Britain – Historic UK

History of the Peace Pagoda – Battersea Park History 

History of The Albert Bridge – Transport Trust

Regent’s Park to Soho Square: London’s Prettiest Gardens

Greetings one and all! My walks have taken me to some of London’s most famous parks including Hyde Park, Green Park, and St James’s Park. Today, I visit another one of the capital’s beauty natural areas, Regent’s Park. From there I’ll go past the distinctive BT (British Telecom) Tower before ending in my final destination of Soho Square!

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Regent’s Park to Soho Square

My journey begins in one of London’s eight Royal Park, Regent’s Park. Designed by John Nash, the park covers 395 acres of land and includes the Queen Mary’s Gardens which features over 12,000 roses of 400 varieties!

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Queen Mary’s Gardens

Originally part of the vast Forest of Middlesex, known as Marylebone Park, in 1538 the land was seized by King Henry VII. He turned the 554 acres of land into a hunting chase, and for the next 50 years it became a place where the King and Queen would entertain visiting dignitaries.

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Queen Mary’s Gardens

However, between 1649 and 1660 after the Civil War, the Commonwealth Government under Oliver Cromwell chopped down many the park’s trees to help pay off the debts from the war. When Cromwell died, Charles II became King and the park returned to the crown. Over the next 150 years the land was leased out to tenant farmers as hunting had gone out of fashion.

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Waterfall within the Park

In 1811, there became a greater financial opportunity to start building on parkland than farming on it, and the new Prince Regent, later King George IV, wanted to take advantage of this. This lead to designs being produced for a new summer palace in the grounds.

The government architect, John Nash, was the man behind the redesigned park which was renamed Regent’s Park. The park featured a huge lake, canal, and the new royal residence. 56 villas and a series of grand regency terraces were built within the park by John Nash to pay for it.

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However, the Prince’s attention turned to improving Buckingham Palace, so the idea of a summer house didn’t materialise. Nor did the 56 villas either, as only 8 were built! The park was originally only exclusive for residents of the villas and terraces, but in 1835 it was open to the public!

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Like most of London during World War Two the park was bombed, with rubble from the buildings that were destroyed being dumped on the park’s lawns. In 1932, the Queen Mary’s Gardens opened to the public, with the rose gardens being completed in 1934.

Today, the beautiful rivers, scrubs, plants and fields provide a reminder of what it was like to be in Regency London. You do feel very lucky to have such stylish and peaceful gardens in London, as you feel like you’re in the countryside, not the centre of a city!

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Queen Mary’s Gardens

The park also features many sporting facilities with football and cricket pitches. It’s the perfect combination. On one part of the park you have the rivers and plants, and the other the sporting side of a park!

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The park also features the amazing Jubilee Gates which are made from iron and were installed to mark the Silver Jubilee of King George V, and the official opening of the Queen Mary’s Gardens in 1935. The gates have Grade II listed status and were donated by Sigismund Goetze who was a wealthy and successful artist that lived in Grove House on the northern perimeter of the park from 1909 to 1939.

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Jubilee Gates

I’d love to stay in the pleasant Regent’s Park, but I’ll continue my walk to Soho Square, and doing so I pass by one of the distinct buildings of the London skyline in Fitzrovia, the BT Tower.

Opened in 1965 by Prime Minster Harold Wilson, the BT Tower was built from 13,000 tonnes of steel and 4,600 square meters of glass. It was commissioned by the General Post Office to support microwave aerials carrying telecommunications transmissions from London to the rest of the country.

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BT Tower

Architects Eric Bedford and G.R.Yeats were the men behind its unique design, with a cylindrical shape chosen for it so the building wouldn’t shift no more than 20cm in the high winds. The aerials on the tower were originally designed to handle up to 150,000 simultaneous telephone conversations and 40 television channels! Imagine the demand for those aerials now if they were used for WiFi signals…!

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The tower stands at 189 metres high which at the time made it the tallest building in London until 1980, when the NatWest Tower overtook it. Today, it’s the 11th tallest building in the capital, and you do sometimes forget it’s there as more notable buildings like The Shard and The Cheesegrater in London get more attention! Over the years the tower has gone by many names including the Museum Tower, the Post Office Tower,  the London Telecom Tower, and currently the British Telecom (BT) Tower.

It was awarded Grade II listed status in 2003, and even today it’s still a major broadcasting and communications hub with most UK TV’s passing through it. Regularly fundraising events such as BBC Children in Need are still held there.

With great phone signal in the area by the BT Tower, I now move onto the final destination of today’s walk, Soho Square. Outside Soho Square stands St Patrick’s Church, which is a Roman Catholic Parish Church which was built between 1891 and 1893 and designed by John Kelly. The current structure had replaced an earlier and smaller chapel which was built by Father Arthur O’Leary in the 1790s.

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St Patrick’s Catholic Church

My journey ends in pretty Soho Square which dates back to 1670s and was formally known as King Square after Charles II.

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Soho Square

In the middle of the square sits a statue of Charles II which was carved by Danish sculptor Caius Gabriel Cibber in 1681. However, in 1875 when the square was altered it was removed from the square due to its poor state and it was given to artist Frederick Goodall. He placed the statue on the island in his lake at Grim’s Dyke until 1890 when dramatist W.S. Gilbert purchased the property. When Gilbert died in 1911, Lady Gilbert directed it to be returned to the square, and in 1938 it was restored into its original place.

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Charles II Statue

The picturesque Tudor-like hut in the middle surprisingly has only been there since 1925. During World War Two the hut was used as a bomb shelter with 12 inches of brick and a concrete roof to accommodate around 150 to 200 people. However, today I’d love to say there is a magical use for it, but alas, it’s now just a shed, filled with gardening tools to help keep the square looking lovely!

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Soho Square Hut

My walk has taken me from one of London’s most famous parks to a secret square via one of London’s tallest building. I hope you found the walk both enjoyable and fascinating, and I look forward to you joining me again next week! In the meantime, why not follow me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook, and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too.

See you soon!