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

Covent Garden to Southwark Bridge: The Splendid Sights along the River Thames

Why hello there and thanks for joining me once again on my adventures of the capital! Today’s walk really is a true river and city stroll which will take in some of the most well-known sights London has to offer. I’ll begin in Covent Garden then move onto Victoria Embankment Gardens go along Embankment to explore Temple and then the bridges of Blackfriars. My journey will then see me go past the Tate Modern, Millennium Bridge and end at Southwark Bridge! It’s a long walk with plenty to see, so we best get going!

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Covent Garden to Southwark Bridge

Located near the West End between Charing Cross Road and Drury Lane, Covent Garden is a bustling shopping and tourist site which dates back to the Saxon era. Back in mid-Saxon times, the area was a thriving trading settlement which was 60 hectares (148 acres) in size.

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Covent Garden
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Covent Garden Market

The trading part within Covent Garden was established along the Thames near The Strand and stretched as far back as Short’s Gardens near Covent Garden. By the late Saxon period and with the threat of Viking raids, the trading settlement moved leaving the area derelict and was turned into farmland.

Covent Garden derives its name (‘Convent Garden’) from the presence there in the Middle Ages of a garden belonging to Westminster Abbey. In the 16th century the land was acquired by Henry VII and granted to John Russell who was the 1st Earl of Bedford. The land would be under the Bedford family name up until 1918.

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Covent Garden

The recognisable Piazza within Covent Garden was laid out in 1631 by Inigo Jones with the inspiration for it coming from the piazza’s of Italy which Jones had extensive knowledge of. The streets of Covent Garden have historical significance behind them with King Street, Charles Street and Henrietta Street named in honour of Charles I and the Queen Henrietta Maria. Catherine Street is named after the consort of Charles II, with Bedford Street, Russell Street, Southampton Street and Tavistock Street deriving their names from the Russell Family.

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Covent Garden

One of the distinctive features in Covent Garden on the west side of the Piazza is the St. Paul’s Church which was also designed by Inigo Jones as part of a commission from the 4th Earl of Bedford in 1631. The parish church has significant links to the theatre community which has resulted in it gaining the nickname of the ‘actors’ church’. The church was completed in 1633 and was the first new church in London since the Reformation when the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church.

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St. Paul’s Church
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St. Paul’s Church

One of established aspects within the market was traders selling fruit and vegetables with the Earl of Bedford recognising the potential of this, which meant as a result he obtained a right to hold a market there. Furthermore, one of the main features of Covent Garden today are the shows which go on there, something which dates back to the 17th Century.

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A Show within Covent Garden

Into the 18th Century and with the aristocracy moving to more fashionable areas such as Soho and Mayfair, Covent Garden attracted many artists, journalists and writers who would regularly use the coffee shops and taverns in the area.

The Covent Garden Theatre, now termed the Royal Opera House was built by John Rich and opened in 1733. In 1786 the renowned composer Handel conducted his ‘Messiah’ within it, although in 1808 the entire area was gutted due to a fire. It would be reconstructed by Sir Thomas Smirke within a year, but in 1856 that too was destroyed by a fire! E.M. Barry’s Italian Opera House (The Royal Opera House) would replace it on the same site.

The 19th Century saw the reconstruction of the flower market, with the fruit and vegetable market being relocated to Nine Elms in Vauxhall in 1966. In the 1970s the land was acquired by the Greater London council and the Department of the Environment. The central Piazza has since been redeveloped into a mixture of restaurants and cafe’s, with commercial shops and stalls.

The market we see today really is something to behold and you can see why it attracts millions of tourists a year, especially around Christmas with the breathtaking festive decorations which lighten up the area. If you want to get into the Christmas spirit, or act like a tourist for the day, Covent Garden is certainly the place to be with plenty of sights to snap!

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Homage to the old flower market

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Inside the market
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Inside the market
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Outside the market

One of the most notable sights at Christmas is the famous tree within the Piazza, considerably bigger than most of our trees we’ll have!

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Covent Garden Christmas Tree

There is one final feature of Covent Garden which many walk past and visit every year, and that’s the London Transport Museum which is right in the corner of the area. Opened in 1980 the museum helps to showcase the transport heritage of the capital with a collection of old tubes, buses, trams and trains as well as plenty of memorabilia, and an amazing shop!

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The London Transport Museum

I’m now going to leave Covent Garden and make my way to the next stop on my walk, Victoria Embankment Gardens.

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Victoria Embankment Gardens
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Victoria Embankment Gardens

Victoria Embankment Gardens are a series of gardens on the north side of the River Thames between Westminster Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge. The gardens were designed by Sir Joseph Bazelgette and opened in 1865.  My walk sees me firstly visit the gardens located near The Strand. The area really is a delightful place to sit and relax whilst you overlook the River Thames in the background and are full of flowers, trees, plants and fountains!

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Victoria Embankment Gardens near the Strand
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Victoria Embankment Gardens near the Strand

At the moment we’re well into Autumn and heading towards Winter, but during the Spring months, the gardens are a hub for beautiful tulips which have an array of colours like a rainbow!

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Victoria Embankment Gardens in Spring

I’ll now leave Victoria Embankment Gardens near the Strand and take a rather wonderful stroll along the Thames where you get to see many of the capital’s best landmarks.

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View from Embankment

You certainly won’t be struggling for the sights of London, with Waterloo Bridge and The London Eye on display, and if you want to find out more about them, check out one of my previous walks!

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Waterloo Bridge and The London Eye

A walk along the Thames takes you to the Victoria Embankment Gardens section in Temple. One thing I love about the Embankment area are that the trees are all perfectly spaced out with the branches draped over the edge of the walls, there’s something really pleasing and pretty about this. The long stretch as far as the eye can see is full of trees and runners, with the busy road on the left and the peaceful flowing of the Thames on the right.

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Pretty Embankment Views
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Pretty Embankment Views

The Victoria Embankment Gardens in Temple are just as tranquil and picturesque as the one near the Strand.

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Victoria Embankment Gardens (Temple)
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Victoria Embankment Gardens (Temple)
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Victoria Embankment Gardens (Temple)

On the end of the gardens sits the historically grand and architectural gem Two Temple House which is a late Victorian mansion built by William Waldorf Astor and opened in 1895. Designed by neo-Gothic architect John Loughborough Pearson, the house hosts art exhibitions as well as being a venue to hire.

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Two Temple House
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Two Temple House
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Two Temple House
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Two Temple House

Walking past the house you find many cute little alleyways and streets as you go through Temple which is known for its law practices, although on a weekend it’s eerily quiet without all the lawyers and solicitors present!

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Temple Walk
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Temple Stairs

Going through Temple along the Strand takes you to The Royal Courts of Justice which is the High Court and Court of Appeal of England and Wales. Designed by George Edmund Street who unfortunately died before they were completed, the Victorian Gothic style building was opened by Queen Victoria in 1882 and is one of the largest courts in Europe.

No matter whether a building hosts law or art or events, the landmarks in London are never understated or dull, but have such character and architectural brilliance about them, something which was evident when they were all built. Whereas the newer buildings of London are more glass based, the older ones still have a marvellous place in the city and are one of many reasons we all fall in love with the capital.

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The Royal Courts of Justice
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The Royal Courts of Justice
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Royal Courts of Justice

I’ll take a walk away from Temple and back onto Embankment as I head towards my next stop on today’s walk, Blackfriars!

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View from Temple

The walk along Embankment to Blackfriars gives you a glistening autumnal feel with the golden leaves along the pathway and the sun shining onto the trees.

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En route to Blackfriars

Just before Blackfriars Bridge you find this cute little pub called The Black Friar which is a Grade II listed public house. Built in 1875 on the former site of a medieval Dominican friary, it was redesigned in 1905 by architect Herbert Fuller-Clarke, with most of the internal decoration done by sculptors Frederick T. Callcott and Henry Poole. The pub faced being demolished during the 1960s until it was saved by a campaign spearheaded by poet Sir John Betjeman. It really is a true hidden gem of the capital and perhaps one of the smallest pubs you’ll come across but with so much character and illustrates the historical side of London, and why pubs are such an integral part of the identity of our great city.

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The Black Friar
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The Black Friar

A walk from the Black Friar takes me to one of London’s many bridges, Blackfriars Bridge! Opened in 1869 the bridge was designed by Joseph Cubitt and is 923 feet long and with a width of 105 feet. In 1972 the bridge was granted Grade II listed status!

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Blackfriars Bridge

Standing on the bridge on the one side you get a stunning view of the London Eye and on the other you can see St Paul’s, The Walkie Talkie, The Tate, The Shard and Blackfriars Railway Bridge.

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View from Blackfriars Bridge
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View from Blackfriars Bridge
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Blackfriars Railway Bridge from Blackfriars Bridge

There are two structures that have the honour of being called Blackfriars Railway Bridge, the first was opened in 1864 and designed by Joseph Cubitt too for the London, Chatham and Dover Railway. The abutments of this are still present today on the end of the bridge’s old structure. In 1924 with the formation of Southern Railway, the inter-city and continental services were transferred to Waterloo and St Paul’s which resulted in the bridge gradually declining. It would become too weak to support modern trains and as a result was removed in 1985, though pillars of it can still be seen and have Grade II listed status.

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The old and new Blackfriars Railway Bridge
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The old and new Blackfriars Railway Bridge
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The old and new Blackfriars Railway Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge

The second bridge, originally called St Paul’s Railway Bridge, was designed by John Wolfe-Barry and Henry Marc Brunel, and opened in 1886. In 1937 St Paul’s railway station was renamed Blackfriars with the bridge changing its name also. Blackfriars Bridge railway station opened in 1864 before closing to passengers in 1885 following the opening of what today is the main Blackfriars Station. Blackfriars Bridge railway station would continue as a goods stop up until 1964.

The current Blackfriars Railway Bridge has 4,400 roof-mounted solar panels which makes up 50% of the power for the station which is located on the bridge for Thameslink trains.

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Blackfriars Railway Bridge
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The old and new Blackfriars Railway Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge

On the day that I did this lovely walk, the tide was out so this gave me a unique opportunity to walk along the Thames and under the bridges to see some of the capital’s favourite landmarks from a different perspective.

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Tide out, great views!
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Tide out, great views!

My walk takes me to another one of London’s most recognisable landmarks, the Tate Modern which is Britain’s national gallery of international modern art and part of the Tate Group (Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool, Tate St Ives, Tate Online). The gallery was opened by the Queen in 2000 with it holding collections of British art from 1900 to the present day.

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Tate Modern
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Tate Modern

The Tate Modern is housed in the former Bankside Power Station which was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the same architect who designed Battersea Power Station and you can see the similarities! The structure was built in two stages between 1947 and 1963, with the power station closing in 1981.

The building was at risk of being demolished until numerous campaigns helped to save it, before the Tate announced plans to turn it into a gallery in 1994. In that same year a competition was run to find the architects to design the gallery, and in 1995 Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meurn of Herzog & de Meuron were chosen. The £134 million development took five years to undertake and it is quite remarkable that it has only been open since 2000 as I just can’t imagine it not being a gallery!

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Tate Modern

Right outside the Tate Modern you find another landmark which has been in the capital since the turn of the 21st Century, the Millennium Bridge. Opened in June 2000, the bridge is 325 metres in length and was designed by Arup (engineers), Foster and Partners (architects) and Sir Anthony Caro (sculptor).

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Millennium Bridge
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Millennium Bridge

The bridge was the first to be built over the Thames for 100 years with it taking two years to construct at a cost of £18.2 million, which was paid for by the Millennium Commission and the London Bridge Trust.

One unique aspect of the Millennium Bridge is that it has had two openings, first in 2000 and then again in 2002. On its opening day the bridge had 80,000 people walk across it and 2,000 on it at any one time. However, on the southern and central part of the bridge people felt it swaying and as a result the bridge was closed and given the nickname the ‘Wobbly Bridge’. The bridge lasted only one day and it wasn’t until February 2002 that it reopened to the public!

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Millennium Bridge

Once again you get a stunning view across the Thames, with the newly built One Blackfriars building on one side, and on the other Southwark Bridge, St Paul’s, the Walkie Talkie and the Cheesegrater. It is always amazing how even though all the bridges are along the same path of the river, they provide their own distinctive view of the capital’s landmarks.

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One Blackfriars
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View from Millennium Bridge 
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View of Blackfriars Railway Bridge from Millennium Bridge

A photo which many Instagrammers love to take is of St Paul’s front view on the end of the bridge, and you can see why it’s so popular!

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View of St Paul’s from Millennium Bridge

My journey will now end at Southwark Bridge which was originally built in 1819 by Sir William Arrol & Co with the design from Ernest George and Basil Mott. Known as Queen Street Bridge, it was redesigned by John Rennie and reopened in 1921 with the new name Southwark Bridge given to it.

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Southwark Bridge
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Southwark Bridge

Well thank you for joining me on my walk where I’ve explored the very best of London’s recognisable sights from Covent Garden to the Tate Modern, and uncovered the wonderful stories and history of four of the capital’s bridges!

In the meantime you can catch me on Twitter and Instagram and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too! Also why not have a read of my other walks which explore all over London, from north to south, to west to east via central, there’s something there for you! 🙂

Sources: (not the food sauces)

All photos taken by London Wlogger © Copyright 2018

The Covent Garden Trust: History of Covent Garden

The London Transport Museum: Information about The London Transport Museum

Westminster City Council: History of Victoria Embankment Gardens 

Two Temple House: History of Two Temple House

Royal Courts of Justice: History of the Royal Courts of Justice

The Black Friar: History of the Black Friar

Blackfriars Bridges: History of Blackfriars Bridges

The Tate Modern: History of the Tate Modern

The Millennium Bridge: History of the Millennium Bridge

The Millennium Bridge: Facts about the Millennium Bridge

Southwark Bridge: History of Southwark Bridge