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

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

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

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Crystal Palace Park to Dulwich Wood:

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

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Crystal Palace Park

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

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The breathtaking Crystal Palace (Source: Crystal Palace Museum)

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

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

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

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

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The destroyed Crystal Palace (Source: London Fire Brigade)

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

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

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National Sports Centre

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

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National Sports Centre
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National Sports Centre
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National Sports Centre

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

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Crystal Palace Park near the Lakes and Ponds

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

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Crystal Palace Dinosaurs 

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

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Crystal Palace Dinosaurs 

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

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Crystal Palace Dinosaurs 
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Crystal Palace Dinosaurs 

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

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

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Crystal Palace Dinosaurs 
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Crystal Palace Dinosaurs 

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

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

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

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Crystal Palace Park
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Crystal Palace Park
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Crystal Palace Park

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

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Crystal Palace Transmitter Tower
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Crystal Palace Transmitter Tower

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

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

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

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

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Sydenham Hill Wood

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

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Sydenham Hill Wood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dulwich Wood
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Dulwich Wood
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Dulwich Wood
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Dulwich Wood

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

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

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

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

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

Victoria to Green Park

Marble Arch to Mayfair

The Shard to Monument

King’s Cross to Hampstead Heath

Leadenhall Market to Old Spitalfields Market

Waterloo to The London Eye

St Paul’s Cathedral to Moorgate

Mile End Park to London Fields

Hyde Park Corner to Italian Gardens

Little Venice to Abbey Road

Regent’s Park to Soho Square

Clapham Common to The Albert Bridge

Grosvenor Gardens to Knightsbridge

Holland Park to Meanwhile Gardens

Hackney Downs to Springfield Park

Tower Bridge to Stave Hill

Shoreditch to Islington Green

Highgate to Finsbury Park

Ravenscourt Park to Wormwood Scrubs

Covent Garden to Southwark Bridge

Putney Bridge to Barnes Common

Westminster Abbey to Vauxhall Bridge

Sources: (not the food sauces)

All photos taken by London Wlogger unless referenced © Copyright 2019

Information about Crystal Palace Park: Crystal Palace Park

Information about The Crystal Palace: The Crystal Palace Museum

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

Information about The Crystal Palace Transmitter Tower: The Big Tower

Information about Sydenham Wells Park: Lewisham.Gov

Information about Sydenham Hill Wood and Dulwich Wood: Wild London

 

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

Hello there fellow London and walking enthusiasts, and thanks for joining me on my next expedition of the capital! Today’s journey is a tourists dream as I begin at Westminster Abbey, take a stroll through Parliament Square and the Houses of Parliament to see Big Ben. I’ll continue discovering more of the bridges that pass over the Thames as I see Westminster Bridge, Lambeth Bridge and finish at Vauxhall Bridge. It’s a short walk, but like most places in London, there’s so much to see!

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Westminster Abbey to Vauxhall Bridge

Located near The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey is a Gothic church dating back to the 960s when Saint Dunstan and King Edgar installed a community of Benedictine monks on the site. Between 1042 and 1052, the Abbey, named St Peter’s Abbey, was rebuilt by Edward the Confessor to provide himself with a Royal burial church. Completed around 1060 it was the first church in England to be built in a Romanesque style, and was consecrated on the 28th December 1065 a week before Edward’s death, and who was subsequently buried in the church.

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Westminster Abbey

The Westminster Abbey we see today was constructed in 1245 by Henry III who had selected it as the site for his burial. Work on Westminster Abbey continued between 1245 and 1517 with it being completed by architect Henry Yevele. In 1503 Henry VII added a Perpendicular style chapel which was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1540 Henry VIII gave Westminster Abbey cathedral status which would spare it from the destruction or dissolution.

Nicholas Hawksmoor was the mastermind behind building the two Western Towers at Westminster Abbey which were constructed between 1722 and 1745 and which were inspired by a Gothic Revival design. The walls and floors of the Abbey are made from purbeck marble, with it being 69m (225 feet) high, with a width of 26m (85 feet) and a floor area of 32,000 square feet.

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Westminster Abbey

Since the coronations of both King Harold and William the Conqueror in 1066, Westminster Abbey has seen every English and British monarch crowned there (except Edward V and Edward VII who were never crowned). The King Edward’s chair is the throne on which English and British sovereigns are crowned. The chair is now located within the Abbey in the St George’s Chapel near the West Door and has been used for every coronation since 1308. Since 1066 there have been 39 Coronations!

The most recent Coronation at Westminster Abbey was that of Queen Elizabeth II who was crowned Queen at the age of 25 on the 2nd June 1953 after the death of her father King George VI on the 6th February 1952. The Coronation took place more than a year after King George VI’s death because of the tradition that holding such a festival is inappropriate during the period of mourning that follows the death of a monarch. During the service Queen Elizabeth II took and subscribed an oath to govern the people’s according to their respective laws and customs. This was the first coronation to be televised with 27 million people in the UK alone watching it, plus millions from overseas.

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Westminster Abbey

To date there have been 17 Royal Weddings at Westminster Abbey, with the most recent being when Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, married Miss Catherine Middleton on the 29th April 2011.

Since 1760 most Kings and Queens have been buried in Westminster Abbey with over 3,300 people being either buried or commemorated there. Included in this are 17 British monarchs and influential figures including Isaac Newton, Edward the Confessor and Charles Dickens.

You can only stand there and admire the wonders of this architectural gem which holds so much history and signficant moments in Britain, something which adds to its splendour and incredible nature. London is very lucky to have such traditionally classic and vintage landmarks like this which provide you with so much insight and knowledge.

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Westminster Abbey

It’s now time to leave Westminster Abbey and head over to the neighbouring Parliament Square which sits just outside the landmark. Laid out in 1868, Parliament Square was opened to free up the space around the Palace of Westminster and improve traffic flow, and featured London’s first traffic signals! The architect responsible for the square was Sir Charles Barry, with it being redesigned in 1950 by George Grey Wornum. The square has been known as a place for protests and demonstrations down the years too. It really does feel like the focal point of Westminster with Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey all in sight when you stand there, and symbolises all that’s iconic in the capital.

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Parliament Square
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Parliament Square

Surrounded by Parliament Square you’ll find 12 statues which honour British, Commonwealth and Foreign political figures. The statues include former British Prime Ministers Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George, Henry John Temple (3rd Viscount Palmerston), Edward George Geoffrey Smith-Stanley (14th Earl of Derby), Benjamin Disraeli (1st Earl of Beaconsfield), Sir Robert Peel and George Canning.

There are also statues for former South African Prime Minister Jan Smuts and South African President Nelson Mandela, as well as former US President Abraham Lincoln. Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian Independence Leader, features within the square too. The newest statue in the square is that of Millicent Fawcett, a campaigner for women’s suffrage which was completed in April 2018.

I do love all these statues around Parliament Square as it’s amazing to see so many great leaders and influential people who quite rightly deserve to be remembered so we all know the positive impact they had on the world. It does make you reflect whilst you’re standing in the square.

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

On the end of Parliament Square you find Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Known as The Clock Tower, or since 2012 as the Elizabeth Tower to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, Big Ben was completed in 1859 and designed by architect Augustus Pugin. The reference to ‘Big Ben’ actually doesn’t refer to the tower itself, but to the clock tower’s largest bell which weighs a staggering 13.5 tons!

The name for the bell, Ben, has some conjecture about it as there are a few accounts of who it’s named after. One being Benjamin Caunt, a heavyweight boxing champion, whereas another is Sir Benjamin Hall, a Welsh Civil Engineer who was involved in the bell’s construction.  While Big Ben is the nickname of the bell, it is officially called the Great Bell.

Towering over the city of London, Big Ben is 96 metres (315 ft) high, and has 334 steps if you fancy walking up it! The time on the clock is known for its precision and accuracy, and has been both the largest and most accurate four-faced chiming clock in the world.

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Big Ben (Pre-2017!)

The clock’s face has 23 lightbulbs illuminating it with each of them enjoying a lifetime of over 60,000 hours and a life span of seven years. With an exterior which is renowned throughout the world, only residents of the UK can go within it and must arrange a tour through their Member of Parliament in advance. To ensure accurate time keeping, workers hand wind the clock three times a week, with each winding taking workers about 1.5 hours to complete.

The clock experienced its first and only major breakdown in 1976 when the air brake speed regulator failed, it caused significant damage to the clock and required a shutdown for a total of 26 days over 9 months. The tower’s belfry houses 4 quarter bells which are tuned to G-sharp, F-sharp, B, and E.

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Big Ben

At the moment most people will recognise that Big Ben is having a bit of makeover! Work on the renovations began in August 2017 and are expected to finish in 2021, which means there will be no chimes during this time, apart from major events such as New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Sunday.

This is the first significant work to the tower since 1983-1985, with the landmark’s current renovations installing its first toilet, a lift, having a clock face repainting and re-gilding, as well as replacing broken panes of glass and replacing the dials. It’s quite sad seeing old Ben like this at the moment, but I can’t wait for it to look brand new in a few years time and back to normal!

Right next to Big Ben, you’ll find the Houses of Parliament. Officially known as The Palace of Westminster, they’re the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the Parliament of the UK. The building is owned by the monarch and is a royal residence. It is also managed by committees appointed by both houses which report to the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Lord Speaker.

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Houses of Parliament

The initial palace was built in 1016 on the site of William the Conqueror’s first palace and was the primary residence of the Kings of England, before it was destroyed in a fire. After that happened it would become the home of the Parliament of England. However, in 1834 a greater fire heavily damaged the Houses of Parliament and was redesigned by architect Charles Barry whose design was inspired by a Gothic Revival style.

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Houses of Parliament

The Houses of Parliament are the centre for political life in the UK with debates taking place in them on a daily basis. Within the Houses of Parliament sits the House of Commons which has 650 MPs from areas all over the UK who have been elected. Known also as the Chamber, there are only 427 seats within it, meaning many MPs need to stand! Parliament produces 80 million printed pages a year, ranging from the official parliamentary record – called Hansard – to committee reports and draft legislation. When a proposed new law, a bill, is sent from the House of Commons to the House of Lords, the clerk of the Commons writes “Soit bail as Seigneurs” on it – which means “let it be sent to the House of Lords” – in Norman French.

Whenever anyone thinks of London and is from either the capital, or from the UK, or across the world, The Houses of Parliament immediately springs to mind and for that reason it’s so symbolic and a true definition of ‘London’.

My walk now takes me past the Houses of Parliament to another one of the capital’s most recognisable features, Westminster Bridge. Proceeded by Lambeth Bridge, and following Hungerford Bridge and Golden Jubilee Bridges,  the first Westminster Bridge was completed in 1750 and engineered by Charles Labelye to help relieve the capital’s trading congestion.

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Westminster Bridge

By the middle of the 19th century the bridge began to subside and was redesigned by Thomas Page and replaced in 1862 with the bridge we see today. The bridge is 820 feet (250m) long and 85 feet (26m) in width with seven case iron arches. Since the removal of Rennie’s New London Bridge in 1967, it’s the oldest road structure bridge which crosses the Thames in Central London.

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Westminster Bridge

The bridge truly is an architectural masterpiece with it looking very grand and royal! it probably is the most photographed of London’s bridges, given that many will be looking to take a snap of Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament too!

A stroll along the Thames will now take me to my next bridge on today’s walk, Lambeth Bridge. Designed by Peter W. Barlow, the first bridge opened in 1862 on the site of a horse ferry between the Palace of Westminster and Lambeth Palace on the Southbank.

The current structure, a five-span steel arch, designed by engineer Sir George Humphreys and architects Sir Reginald Blomfield and G. Topham Forrest, was built by Dorman Long & Co and was opened on the 19th July 1932 by King George V. One interesting fact is that constructors, Dorman Long & Co, also built the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle; the Chien Tang River Bridge in Hangzhou, China; the 3km long Storstrøm Bridge in Denmark; and the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia!

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Lambeth Bridge

Lambeth Bridge is painted red to match the seats in the House of Lords, the part of the Palace of Westminster closest to the bridge. The crests on the sides of the bridge honour the London County Council who were responsible for its construction. I really love the colours and design of Lambeth Bridge with the grid-type appearance on it which adds a great deal of character and beauty to it.

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Lambeth Bridge
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View from Lambeth Bridge

At the end of Lambeth Bridge sits The Victoria Tower Gardens which were created by Joseph Bazalgette and have been present next to the Houses of Parliament since 1870.  Although it’s a stones throw away from Parliament Square and the hustle and bustle around Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament it’s very tranquil and peaceful there next to the river.

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The Victoria Tower Gardens
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The Victoria Tower Gardens

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

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View Outside The Victoria Tower Gardens

Replacing Regent Bridge (Old Vauxhall Bridge) which was built in 1816, Vauxhall Bridge was designed by Sir Alexander Binnie & Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice and opened in 1906. With five arches spanning 809 feet (247m) in length and 80 feet (24m) in width, the steel and granite structure was the first of London’s bridges to carry trams. The bridge’s piers are decorated with 8 vast bronze statues, designed by Alfred Drury and Frederick Pomeroy. The statue titles include, Agriculture, Architecture, Education, Fine Arts and Engineering.

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Vauxhall Bridge

I wouldn’t say that Vauxhall Bridge is the prettiest of London’s bridges, but I do like the prominent red colouring and statues which appear on it. Plus the view from it is very nice indeed with The London Eye on one side, and Battersea Power Station on the other!

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

Well that’s all from me folks on this walk of the capital. Although many of the sights on today’s walk are well-known and recognised throughout the world, it’s always a pleasure going past and discovering them from different angles. Also I think we do sometimes take them for granted and should always try to take a bit of time to enjoy them. I’ve loved going on to see Lambeth and Vauxhall Bridges too as many would go the other way on the Thames near The London Eye, so it was marvellous to explore what’s on offer in Lambeth and Vauxhall!

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

Victoria to Green Park

Marble Arch to Mayfair

The Shard to Monument

King’s Cross to Hampstead Heath

Leadenhall Market to Old Spitalfields Market

Waterloo to The London Eye

St Paul’s Cathedral to Moorgate

Mile End Park to London Fields

Hyde Park Corner to Italian Gardens

Little Venice to Abbey Road

Regent’s Park to Soho Square

Clapham Common to The Albert Bridge

Grosvenor Gardens to Knightsbridge

Holland Park to Meanwhile Gardens

Hackney Downs to Springfield Park

Tower Bridge to Stave Hill

Shoreditch to Islington Green

Highgate to Finsbury Park

Ravenscourt Park to Wormwood Scrubs

Covent Garden to Southwark Bridge

Putney Bridge to Barnes Common

Sources: (not the food sauces)

All photos taken by London Wlogger © Copyright 2018

Guide London: Information about Westminster Abbey

Visit London: Information about Parliament Square

Parliament: Information about Big Ben

Parliament: Information about The Houses of Parliament

British History: Information about Westminster Bridge

British History: Information about Lambeth Bridge

Royal Parks: Information about The Victoria Tower Gardens

Vauxhall History: Information about Vauxhall Bridge

Shoreditch to Islington Green: Trendy, Traditional and Tranquil East London

Greetings to you all and thanks for coming along with me on another journey across the capital! Today’s walk begins in Shoreditch with a visit to Boxpark and Brick Lane, before taking me to The Geffrye Museum of the Home. I’ll then go to Haggerston Park, with a pleasant walk along the Regent’s Canal to Shoreditch Park, with my final stop of Islington Green!

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Shoreditch to Islington Green

My walk begins in swanky Shoreditch and at one of its fairly recent sights, Boxpark, which was installed in 2011 as the world’s first pop-up mall. Created by Roger Wade, the whole concept of the area was to refit and repurpose shipping containers into an independent and revolutionary retail experience which showcases fashion and creativity in a street setting.

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Boxpark Front View

The distinctive model of the park is an alternative set-up not just for customers, but also retailers who are on the hunt for more affordable space in the capital. With an array of brands and places to dine, the park illustrates the unique reputation that Shoreditch brings. The success of Boxpark Shoreditch has seen two others ‘pop up’, one in Wembley and another in Croydon. It’s certainly quite different to walking around a huge mall, and with space in London becoming more sought after, you expect niche and quaint places such as these to be launching in many other areas.

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Boxpark Brands!

Now it’s time to leave Boxpark and do a bit of a wander around a few other sights in Shoreditch. Located in East London, Brick Lane was formerly known as Whitechapel Lane, though its name today derives from the brick and tile manufacturers who used the brick earth deposits in the 15th century.

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Bustling Brick Lane

Brewing began in Brick Lane around 1680, with one such brewer named Joseph Truman beginning his brewing there in 1683, and his family would go on to establish the sizeable Black Eagle Brewery on Brick Lane. The old building is still prominent in the Shoreditch skyline today, with it being used for food markets and events.

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Well-Known Truman Brewery

The Brick Lane market was first developed in the 17th century for the selling of fruit and vegetables. The area saw a wave of immigration throughout the 18th and 19th century with French Huguenots, the Irish and many people of the Jewish faith settling there.

The theme of immigration has continued into the 20th century with many Bangladeshi immigrants now residing in the area. It’s now the hub of London’s Bangladeshi community, which reenforced Brick Lane’s reputation of being famed for its many authentic curry restaurants. If you go there on a Sunday, which I did, the markets are thriving with a range of stalls selling a variety of clothes, handbags, jewellery and vintage, chic boutiques. 

The Brick Lane and Shoreditch area is seen by many to be quite edgy and hip, and whilst you walk around there past the many lovely independent coffee shops, there’s loads of street art which demonstrates the trendy reputation.

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Funky but Scary!
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All the Colours of the Rainbow!
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Not sure what this means?!

Shoreditch really is one of the most unique parts of London with it being a cultural hub of creativity and diversity through its art, food, people and places.

It’s time to leave Brick Lane, and head towards a peaceful little area called Arnold Circus, no clowns here though! The housing development within the Boundary Estate was opened in 1900 which makes it one of the earliest social housing schemes built by a local Government authority. The bandstand within the circus has the honour of having Grade II listed status.

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Arnold Circus Bandstand

Leaving the gardens, a walk towards Hoxton brings you to the very picturesque Geffrye Museum of the Home which was established in 1914 and aims to inspire everyone about the multiple meanings of the home from 1600 to the present day. To do this the museum showcases displays of urban living rooms, gardens, special exhibitions and events.

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The Geffrye Museum of the Home

Located on a former almshouse, a house built originally by a charitable person for poor people to live in, the building was developed in 1714 with the bequest of the former Lord Mayor of London and Master of the Ironmongers’ Company. The almshouse had fourteen houses with each having four rooms which provided retirement homes for up to 56 pensioners.

By the 18th century the area was mainly rural with market gardens to supply Londoners with fresh vegetables and herbs. During the 19th century with London expanding the area became home to the centre for London’s furniture and clothing trades, with the farmland being replaced with housing, factories and workshops.

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Glorious Grounds of the Museum

The Shoreditch area by 1910 had become one of London’s most heavily populated places and with serve overcrowding and little sanitation, the Ironmonger’s Company relocated and as a result sold the almshouses & gardens to the London County Council in 1912.

With the arts and crafts movement gaining momentum in the area, the location was converted into a museum in 1914 to inspire and educate people about the local furniture trade. With the furniture industry moving away from Shoreditch, the focus turned to collections around the home. As the years went on, the museum increased its collections of paintings, furniture and decorated arts, with a period garden being added in the 20th century.  The focus of the museum today centres on the home and home life reflected in changes in society, patterns of behaviour, style, fashion and taste.

The area does have a really grand and historical feel to it, and it’s quite hard to believe such a glorious area is hidden within bustling Shoreditch!

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Grand Gardens

It’s now time to carry on my walk to my next destination of Haggerston Park which is located in the south-west corner of Hackney.  Originally created in the 1950s, and extended in the 1980s, the park is carved out from the area of derelict housing, a tile manufacturer and the old Shoreditch gasworks. Occupying 6 hectares (15 acres) the scenic park includes many open green spaces as well as many football pitches. It really is the perfect place if you require a quiet spot for a picnic or just to relax, and the area is pretty vast for a park right within the Shoreditch area.

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Tranquil Haggerston Park
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Peaceful Paradise!
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The Park’s Football Pitches
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Picnic Perfect!

Taking a detour out of the park I’ll now head off to Shoreditch Park, however, to get there I’ll need to walk along one of my favourite stretches of water, the Regent’s Canal! My walks have frequently taken me along this stretch of water, as it goes through a vast majority of places and sights through the capital. To find out more about its history, check out my walk from King’s Cross to Hampstead Heath!

I recall the first time I walked along the Regent’s Canal back in 2014 having just stumbled across it when walking through Shoreditch, and since then it has always been one of my go-to walks and places to explore. It’s both a quiet and pretty place to stroll along with so much to see along it, whether that’s the boats, buildings, parks, locks or the lovely nature, it’s the place to be for a London walk. You can’t help but fall in love with it!

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One of my Favourite Places!
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Down by the Lovely River
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Beautiful Boats of the Canal

I’ll now take a detour off the canal, and head to Shoreditch Park which at 7.1 hectares (17 acres) is one of the borough’s largest parks serving the South of Hackney.  During the Regency Era and subsequent creation of the Regent’s Canal, the area was originally open fields and was developed into terraced housing for workers and families. However, during the Blitz and later air-raids in the early 1940s the area was badly damaged.

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Splendid Shoreditch Park

In 1945 the damaged homes from the bombs were cleared with temporary housing erected there as a stop-gap for the homeless families during the war. These were only designed to be there for a short-term basis, and nearly 20 years on they were removed in 1964, with the site being redeveloped and cleared between 1964 and 1973.

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Maybe the Only Park in London to Spell out its Name?!

The park we enjoy today has a number of facilities for sport, adventure & children’s playgrounds and an outdoor beach volleyball court. Every year the park is home to the Shoreditch Festival which offers live music, food and entertainment.

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Fun for all the Family!

I’ll now rejoin the Regent’s Canal and head onto my final stop on my walk, Islington Green!

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The Familiar Boats of the Regent’s Canal
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Autumnal Wonders

Based near Angel station, Islington Green is a small triangle of open land which marks the Northern boundary between the modern district of Angel and Islington. At the heart of the green is the Statue of Sir Hugh Myddleton (1560-1631) sculptured by John Thomas. Myddleton had a major role in constructing the original terminus for the New River, which was an artificial waterway in England opened in 1613 to supply London with fresh drinking water from the River Lea and Chadwell Springs and Amwell Springs. It’s so fitting that there is a statue for someone who did quite a remarkable job in helping provide such a significant aspect to people’s lives of clean drinking water!

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Statue of Hugh Myddelton

Well that’s all for today’s walk exploring the East and Inner sides of London, where you can discover everything from art, to museums, to parks, it really is a walk that would cater for everyone! 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

Boxpark: History of Boxpark

Brick Lane: History of Brick Lane

Geffrye Museum: History of the Geffrye Museum

Haggerston Park: History of Haggerston Park

Shoreditch Park: History of Shoreditch Park

Islington Green: Information about Islington Green

Tower Bridge to Stave Hill: Discovering London’s Secret Treasures

Testing testing… is this blog still on?! Welcome one and all as I take another trip around our great capital to explore some of its best sights, sounds and secrets. My journey today begins at perhaps one of the most iconic landmarks in London, Tower Bridge, and will take me to a true hidden gem, Stave Hill, where my adventure ends. On the way I’ll pass through Southwark Park, Canada Water, Greenland Dock and Russia Dock Woodland, so grab those walking boots and let’s get going!

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Tower Bridge to Stave Hill

We start at a sight that isn’t just recognisable to Londoners, but people across the world, Tower Bridge. Opened on the 30th June 1894, it was designed by Horace Jones, the City’s Architect, in collaboration with John Wolfe Barry, and took eight years to construct using five major contractors and 432 workers a day.

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Tower Bridge

Originally chocolate brown in colour, the bridge was repainted in 1977 red, white and blue to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, adding to the patriotic nature of the landmark. In order to construct it, a staggering 11,000 tons of steel were used to create the framework of the Tower and its walkways. Since 1976 the closing of the bridge has been operated with hydraulic power driven by oil and electricity rather than steam which was previously used. If you ever want to pass under the bridge, it’s free to do so and you can do it 365 days per year, though remember to give 24 hours’ notice! Every year the bridge is raised on average 850 times, so when you’re walking by it, you may well see it being lifted!

I do love the structure of Tower Bridge, it’s so distinctive and really illustrates the old, traditional historical significance to London, which only a few landmarks can bring. Also it has a real Royal feel to it and has to be the most beautiful bridge in the capital!

A short walk from Tower Bridge takes me to the Rotherhithe riverside where you get a ground-eye view of many of the capitals well-known landmarks. When you look across the river you can spot The Shard, Tower Bridge, The Walkie Talkie, The Cheese Grater, The Gherkin and even St Paul’s Cathedral, it’s like they’re all trying to squeeze into the photo!

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Rotherhithe Riverside

Walking along the river takes you to Southwark Park which opened to the public in 1869. Designed by Alexander McKenzie, the park is 25 hectares in size and includes a lake, bandstand, bowling green, play area, gallery, cafe and football pitches.

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Southwark Park Bandstand

Right beside the bandstand sits a drinking fountain which is commemorated to Mr Jabez West, who was a member of the local Temperance Society. This was London’s first public memorial to honour a working class man.

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Jabez West Drinking Fountain

A walk through the park takes you to the tranquil lakes and plants. The Ada Salter rose garden was built by West Bermondsey MP Alfred Salter in 1936 and was dedicated to Ada’s wife with the aim to provide somewhere of beauty where mothers and the elderly could sit.

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Ada Salter Rose Garden
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Fountain Within The Ada Salter Rose Garden

In 2001, £2.5m from the Heritage Lottery Funds was used for major refurbishment of the park. These included a replica of the 1833 bandstand from the Great Exhibition being replaced. Also a new bowling pavilion, children’s play area, restoring the lake and the main gates were created.

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Treemendous Views!

One of the main aspects of Southwark Park is that it combines nature with leisure and recreation, as on the one hand you have the picturesque lake, with the leisure of football pitches, something that parks like St James’s Park, Green Park and Hyde Park don’t have. It’s quite a vast area with a real community feel about it and has everything you could possible want from a park.

Leaving Southwark Park through its grand old gates, I take a short walk past Surrey Quays Overground station and Surrey Quays Shopping Centre to my next destination, Canada Water!

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Southwark Park Gates

As the name suggests, Canada Water’s origin comes from that of the country, Canada! Constructed in 1876 on the site of two former timber ponds, the name derives from the former Anglo-Canadian trade which took place in the docks. In 1926 two neighbouring timber ponds were replaced by the Quebec Dock, which were connected to the Canada Dock.

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Canada Water Shops

In 1964 the Canada Estate was built on the former site of the chemical works and consisted of five courts of 4 storey blocks. It wasn’t until the early 1980s when the docks finally shut down with the closure of the Surrey Docks, Quebec Dock and Canada Dock, with the majority of the old Canada Dock being filled in.

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Cute Water Walkway

The site that we see today has been redeveloped quite heavily with the Surrey Quays Shopping Centre now present with other entertainment places such as a cinema, bingo hall, bowling alley and restaurants. The regeneration project is a joint initiative by Southwark Council and British Land which was completed in 2012, and included new homes, commercial premises, a library and cultural spaces. The area is well connected too with Canada Water station being opened in 1999 with links to the London Overground and Jubilee Line.

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Canada Water Library in the Distance

Although Canada Water isn’t one of the most picturesque parts of London, I think it becomes much more appealing when you know the back story and origin of it, and that it used to be a major docking area. That makes it a bit more special to think that one day there was significant trade going on in the area, quite the contrast to the shops now there.

Having explored the history of one dock, it’s time to discover another as we head to Greenland Dock.

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Greenland Dock

The area has the honour of being the oldest of London’s riverside wet docks and used to be part of the Surrey Commercial Docks, most of which have now been filled in. Originally named Howland Great Wet Dock after the family that owned the land, the dock was excavated in 1696. It was renamed Greenland Docks by the mid-18th century when it became a base for arctic whaling, hence where the name Greenland comes into it!

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Overlooking Greenland Dock

During the 19th century it handled trade in Scandinavian and Baltic timber and Canadian gran, cheese and bacon, and was enlarged in 1904. The majority of the trading however was timber with the Surrey Commercial Docks controlling 80% of the capital’s timber trade.

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Greenland Dock

Technological changes in the shipping industry would soon push the docks into a spiral of decline and with timber being packaged as well as bulk carriers being far too large to accommodate the London docks, they were closed in 1970 with Greenland Dock being sold to Southwark Council. Between 1984 and 1990 the area saw vast change with 1,250 homes being built. Although trading has ceased in the docks, the waters are still used for boating and other water recreational uses.

Leaving Greenland Dock, it’s now time to move on to two of the most hidden gems and incredible wonders that London has to offer, as we first pay a visit to Russia Dock Woodland, then to Stave Hill.

The Russia Dock was one of the former Surrey Commercial Docks which also included the Island Dock and Surrey Basin. The docks were used to import timber from Norway, Sweden and Russia with it being mostly soft wood known as ‘deal wood’, which was used for newsprint and manufacturing furniture. Following the closure of the docks in the early 1970s the area was developed by the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) and in 1980 was turned into a 34.5-acre (140,000m2) woodland. The woodland still contains some of the old features of the docks such as wall capstones, gauges, bollards, mooring chains and tracks. Now the area is maintained and owned by Southwark Council.

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Pretty Pathway
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Ditch within the Woodlands
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Loved this Old Wooden Bridge!

It’s hard to believe that this area is right in the heart of the capital, with Canary Wharf just a stone’s throw away! You definitely feel like you’re in a woodland far-far away from the hustle and bustle that London brings. Every corner of the woodland provides a treasure trove of secret pathways, ponds and plants, so you feel like you’ll discover something new every time. It does have the feeling you’re in a fairytale land as every part of it is magical.

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Woodland Wonders
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Pretty Pond
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Always Find Something New!
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Stepping into Paradise
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Funky Chairs
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Picnic Areas
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Pond Life

If ever there was a way to end a walk, our final stop is a fitting finale and the perfect piece de resistance. Right on the edge of Russia Dock Woodland sits Stave Hill which was added in 1985 by the LDDC, and is an artificial grass hill made up of waste material and rubble.

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Stairs Leading up Stave Hill

At the bottom of Stave Hill you’re greeted with a kind of stairway to heaven, and I have to say I didn’t just walk up them, I ran up them as I was so excited about the view I was about to experience.

Once you get to the top the view is awe-inspiring and you aren’t short of iconic landmarks to see across the skyline, how many can you spot?!

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Spot the Landmarks!
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Looking Across the Skyline

As you pan across the 360 degree viewing tower, you get a birds-eye view of Russia Dock Woodland which demonstrates how big it really is!

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View of Russia Dock Woodland

On the opposite side of the view down the stairs, sits a unique perspective of Canary Wharf with the trees sitting in front of it.

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View of Canary Wharf

On the hill sits a cast bronze map of the former docks, designed by Michael Rizzello. When you’re up there all you can hear is the birds tweeting and the sound of the winds breeze, adding to the peaceful feeling you’re immersed in.

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Michael Rizzello Map

Well what a truly special way to end the walk, I have to say the view from Stave Hill is up there with another of my favourites in Hampstead Heath. What makes Russia Dock Woodland and Stave Hill so different is that if you didn’t stumble across them, you’d probably never know they were there, I certainly didn’t! This is one of my more longer walks which takes a few hours to do, so give yourself plenty of time!

Thanks for joining me on my walk, I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as I did walking it! 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

Tower Bridge: History of Tower Bridge

Southwark.Gov: History of Southwark Park

Hidden London: History of Canada Water

Hidden London: History of Greenland Dock

Southwark.Gov: History of Russia Dock Woodland

The Conversation Volunteers: Info about Stave Hill

Mile End Park to London Fields: Exploring Parks of the 19th & 21st Century

Hello there! Thanks for joining me for another walking adventure across the city of London! This week I’m going to be exploring East London, where my journey begins at Mile End Park. From there I’ll take the beautiful Regent’s Canal walk to the amazing Victoria Park, before finishing in the very peaceful London Fields.

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Mile End Park to London Fields

Based in East London, Mile End Park is a relatively new addition to London having been opened in 2004 as part of the Millennium Commission, who called for suitable projects to be created as a way to mark the millennium.

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However, plans for a park in Mile End date back to 1943 when Sir Patrick Abercrombie mooted them in his 1944 ‘Greater London Plan’. The site has had development done to it before the park we see today, including trees being planted, a playing field opened in 1952 as well as the East London Stadium being built and opened in 1966.

In 1985 the land became the responsibility of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. By 1995 the Tower Hamlets Environment Trust, the East London Partnership, and the London Borough of Tower successful got Millennium funding worth £12.33m.

The aim of the new park was to make it a sustainable area which was built and would benefit the local community and act as a catalyst for regional regeneration. The area includes many green spaces, a playground, Ecology Park, Art Pavilion, cafe, and outdoor gallery space. I only discovered this gem a few years back when I was walking a long The Regent’s Canal, and it’s totally worth the visit!

And speaking of The Regent’s Canal, it’s time to join it, as we make our way along our journey. The Regent’s Canal was opened in 1801 to connect the Grand Junction Canal’s Paddington Arm with the Thames at Limehouse. For more information on the history of The Regent’s Canal, check out my previous walk, King’s Cross to Hampstead Heath!

My pleasant walk along the Regent’s Canal takes me under numerous bridges, and its beauty demonstrates why this is my favourite stretch of walking!

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A short walk past Mile End lock which is upstream.

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Mile End Lock

My route takes me to one of the aforementioned developments within the Mile End project, The Art Pavilion.

This pavilion provides a stunning gallery space with grass and the small lake overlooking the area. It’s a popular place for exhibitions and installations, and there aren’t many places in London which have this cute feel and unique view.

From culture to a canal, as I rejoin the Regent’s Canal once again passing through the tranquil riverside.

This takes me to the Old Fort Lock where the Regent’s Canal meets the Hertford Union Canal.

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Old Fort Lock

I’ll now take a detour off the Regent’s Canal to make my way to the truly wonderful Victoria Park.

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Lakeside view at Victoria Park

Opened in 1845, Victoria Park is located in the East of London bordering Bethnal Green, South Hackney, and Cambridge Heath. The park has 86.18 hectares of open space with a riverside cafe and many marvellous lakes.

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Bridge to enter one of the Park’s islands

Back in 1839, the Annual Report of the Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages noted that the East End of London had a higher mortality rate than the rest of the city due to overcrowding, insanitary conditions, and polluted air. One way to reduce the amount of deaths and extend people’s lives was to create a park. Over 30,000 residents signed a petition, and in 1841 London’s first public park to be built specifically for people had begun! Hence, Victoria Park is also known as the ‘People’s Park’.

The Government bought land that had formally been used for market gardens, grazing, and gravel digging. The man behind the design for Victoria Park was James Pennethorne who was an architect to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests.

A boating lake with three islands was also created with The Chinese Pagoda sitting within one of these. It was originally the entrance at Hyde Park Corner to the Chinese Exhibition between 1842 and 1843, however, this summerhouse later moved to its current position in Victoria Park.

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The Chinese Pagoda

A walk along the vast area of Victoria Park takes you to many open green spaces, and a nice little seating area!

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Nothing like a peaceful park!
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Lovely seating area in the park

One of the distinct monuments within the park is that of the Burdett-Coutts Memorial Drinking-Fountain which was designed by H.A. Darbishire and has been in the park since 1862.

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The Burdett-Coutts Memorial Drinking Fountain

The fountain made from pink marble, granite, and stone, has a distinctive cupola, ornamental slate roof, four clock-faces, Gothic arches, and inscriptions.

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It was gift by wealthy philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts to the people who visited Victoria Park and gave residents clean drinking water too.

In 1872 the park was extended on land that was originally going to be used for residential developments. A well-loved and valuable institution to the people in London, especially those in the East, the park has Grade II listed status. In 2011 the park had major restorations and improvements done to it with £12m being spent by Tower Hamlets Council, and I think it’s well worth it!

The park today hosts numerous events including the Lovebox Music Festival, and is a popular attraction for many who live in the East End.

After taking in the splendour of Victoria Park I’m now going to rejoin the Regent’s Canal as I make my way to the final destination, London Fields.

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On the edge of Victoria Park sits the Regent’s Canal

As you walk along the Regent’s Canal you come across these distinctive gasometers near Bethnal Green which have been there since the 1850s. There aren’t many of these around in London these days, so it’s great to see these iconic ones still going strong along the river.

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Gasometers near Bethnal Green

The walk up the streets takes me to London Fields, a 31-acre park located in south-central Hackney. It was first recorded by its name London Field in 1540, though there has been pasture land adjoining nearby Cambridge Heath since 1275.

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London Fields

The land was used by drovers to pasture their livestock before taking them to market in London. By the late 19th century, its name was pluralised to ‘London Fields’.

Council flats began to be built in the surrounding area to replace the slums in the early 1930s. Today, the park has a playground, cricket pitch, a lido, and a tennis court, and if you want a nice, quiet area to enjoy your lunch, it’s perfect!

My journey has taken me from two parks, one opened in the 21st century and the other in the 19th century, taking in one of London’s most popular walks along the Regent’s Canal. I hope you’ve enjoyed taking in some of the capital’s great green spaces! Don’t forget to follow me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook, and to sign up to my blog too 🙂

Stay tuned for another walk through London next week! 🙂

Sources: (not the food sauces)

All photos taken by London Wlogger unless credit given. © Copyright 2017

About Mile End Park – London Gardens Online

About The Art Pavilion and images of the inside – Tower Hamlets Gov

The Old Fort Lock – Canal and River Trust

History of Victoria Park – Tower Hamlets Gov

Information about the Chinese Pogoda – London Gardens Trust

History of Burdett-Coutts Memorial Drinking-Fountain – The Victorian Web

Bethnal Green Gasworks – The Guardian 

History of London Fields – British History Online

History of London Fields – Hidden London

St Paul’s Cathedral to Moorgate: The Influence of The Great Fire of London

A warm welcome to a new week, and a new walk! This instalment takes me from the iconic St Paul’s Cathedral past the financial district of Bank before finishing in Finsbury Circus in Moorgate. So grab your boots, and let’s get walking!

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St Paul’s Cathedral to Moorgate

My journey begins at St Paul’s Cathedral which has had a dedication to Paul the Apostle (St Paul) on its site since AD 604.

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The grand St Paul’s Cathedral

The cathedral we see today is at least the fourth to have stood on this site. It was created by one of Britain’s most famous architects, Sir Christopher Wren between 1675 and 1710, with its predecessor having been destroyed in The Great Fire of London in 1666.

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The cathedral stands at 365 feet (111m) high which made it the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1967… which is remarkably small when you consider The Shard is the tallest building now at 1,016 feet (309.6m)! After Liverpool Cathedral, St Paul’s is the second largest church building in the UK, and has one of the most distinctive domes in the world.

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The area surrounding St Paul’s is steeped in history and sights too, with the Paternoster Square sitting opposite the cathedral. It can trace its origins back to medieval Paternoster Row, where St Paul’s clergy would hold rosary beads and recite the ‘Paternoster’, or Lord’s Prayer (Paternoster translates as ‘Our Father’) whilst walking through the area.

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Temple Bar with St Paul’s in the background

The square is 70,000m² of office space, retail outlets and cafés. Standing at the entrance of the square is the Temple Bar arch, which was constructed by Sir Christopher Wren between 1669 and 1672. Its name derives from the gateway’s original position near the Temple Law courts, and displays its four original states  (Charles I, Charles II, James I and Queen Anne of Denmark), and was carved by John Bushnell.

It was one of the eight original City gateways – the others being Aldgate, Aldersgate, Bishopsgate, Cripplegate, Ludgate, Moorgate and Newgate.

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The Temple Bar Gate is actually the only one of these gates that has survived, with the others being demolished by the end of the 18th century. However, by 1878 it had become too expensive to maintain and caused traffic congestion. This lead to it being dismantled. Though in 1880, Sir Henry Meux bought all the stones and rebuilt it as a gateway to his park and mansion at Theobalds Park (located between Enfield and Cheshunt).

In 1984 the gates were purchased by the Temple Bar Trust from the Meux Trust, and in 2004 it was returned from Theobalds Park and re-erected at the entrance to Paternoster Square.

Another notable landmark in the Square is the Paternoster Column, which stands at 23.3m tall, and was erected in 2008.

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Paternoster Column

Comprised of a hexagonal stone base, a fluted Corinthian column and a glided copper urn, it was designed to be the ‘centre of gravity’ for the entire Paternoster development. The structure is a recreation of those designed for the west portico of the old St Paul’s. Also the London Stock Exchange is located within the square, which was founded in 1801.

From Paternoster Square and St Paul’s I take a short walk to a rather pleasant area known as Festival Gardens.

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Festival Gardens next to St Paul’s

First laid in 1951 by Sir Albert Richardson for the Corporation of London’s contribution to the Festival of Britain, it’s based over once bomb damaged land from the Second World War.

The gardens include a wall fountain, which was a gift from the Worshipful Company of Gardeners. Erected in 1973, the sculpture in the garden is that of ‘The Young Lovers’ by George Ehrlich.  The gardens provide a perfect view of St Paul’s and across the rest of the surrounding area!

From the tranquil gardens and splendour of St Paul’s, my walk takes me onto my next destination, Bank! Within the vicinity of the Bank area, there are three famous monuments, Mansion House, the Royal Exchange, and the Bank of England.

The Mansion House was completed in 1758 as a residence for Lord Mayors to undertake their work as heads of the City’s governmental, judicial and civic duties. Before the Mansion House was constructed they used to have to do these functions in their own houses or halls, a true Working from Home initiative!

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The Mansion House

Designed by George Dance the Elder, this Grade I listed building is in the heart of the City, right next to Bank tube station. Today, the house has a collection of plates and art including sculptures and 84 Dutch paintings of the Harold Samuel Art Collection.

Just a slight stroll from the Mansion House takes me to another synonymous financial part of Bank, The Royal Exchange. The origins of The Royal Exchange date back to 1566 when a wealthy merchant by the name of Sir Thomas Gresham established London’s first purpose-built centre for trading stocks. Its design was based on the world’s oldest financial exchange, the Bourse in Antwerp, Belgium.

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The Royal Exchange, with the Cheesegrater and The Gherkin behind it

It was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth I in 1571, and one thing to note is that if you ever wanted a drink there, you could, as it was awarded a license to sell alcohol! Two additional floors were added to the original trading floor in 1660 to house retail businesses. However, in 1666, The Great Fire of London destroyed it, and it took three years for it to be reopened. The 1669 site was designed by City surveyor Edward Jerman.

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Amazingly, and by a shocking coincidence, the new Royal Exchange was destroyed by a fire too in 1838, which was most likely caused by an overheated stove in Lloyd’s Coffee House on nearby Lombard Street… talk about bad luck! It was certainly third time lucky in 1844 when the current Royal Exchange was built and designed by Sir William Tite.

Traders moved out of the building after the Second World War which left it disused for several decades. The London International Financial Futures Exchange moved into the building in 1982 which meant trading returned there. By 2001 architect Aukett Fitzroy Robinson remodeled it and turned it into a luxury shopping and dining destination. Today, The Royal Exchange is one of London’s leading landmarks, which has kept its retail theme with boutique shops and dining offerings.

To the side of The Royal Exchange sits The Bank of England which was founded in 1694, and was initially to act as the Government’s banker and debt manager. It’s the central bank of the UK, with its Monetary Policy Committee responsible for setting the economy’s Base Rate and Interest Rates.

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The Bank of England

Back in 1688 there were calls for a national or public bank to mobilise the nation’s resources, given that businesses were flourishing, though money and credit systems were weak.

Scottish entrepreneur William Paterson invited the public to invest in a new project, and in just a few weeks, £1.2 million was invested to form the initial capital stock of the Bank of England. This was lent to the Government in return for a Royal Charter, which was sealed on the 27th July 1694, and the Bank became the Government’s banker and debt manager.

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The Back of the Bank

During the 1920s and 1930s, the Bank was redesigned by Sir Herbert Baker, whilst surviving several bombs during the Blitz. In 1946 it was nationalised and subsequently came under the ownership of the Government, rather than private stockholders. Full responsibility for monetary policy was transferred to The Bank of England in 1997. Today, as well as being the UK’s central bank to maintain monetary and financial stability, a free museum of its history is inside too.

After taking in all that financial jargon, it’s time to get some peaceful rest! And my final location of today’s walk can provide just that, as I head to Finsbury Circus in Moorgate.

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Finsbury Circus

The gardens were created in 1815 by William Montague and George Dance the Younger on the site that was originally part of Finsbury Manor. A campaign led by Alpheus Morton to make the park public succeeded in the early 20th century, having been a private space for the surrounding buildings.

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Finsbury Circus

The bandstand in the gardens has been there since 1955, though currently the area behind it is being used as a major construction site for Crossrail.

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Finsbury Circus Bandstand

I’ve seen how The Great Fire of London played its part in the reconstruction of some of the capital’s most iconic buildings, and how London’s banking district plays its part in both the City’s and the UK’s history.

Thanks for joining me, and I hope you’ve enjoyed the walk! Stay tuned for another walk next week 🙂 In the meantime, you can follow me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook, and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too 🙂

Sources: (not the food sauces)

All photos taken by London Wlogger. © Copyright 2017

History of St Paul’s Cathedral – St Paul’s Cathedral

About Paternoster Square – Paternoster Square 

Gardens of St Paul’s – City of London

History of Mansion House – City of London

History of The Royal Exchange – The Royal Exchange

History of The Bank of England – The Bank of England

History of Finsbury Circus – Historic England