A very happy hello to you and thanks for joining me on another expedition of London’s best sights and hidden gems. My walk today will explore more of London’s wonderful bridges, as I begin at Chiswick Bridge and take a stroll past Kew Railway Bridge and Kew Bridge. My journey will end in the picturesque and quaint Kew Green where I’ll watch a cricket match! It’s a short walk, but I’ll uncover a really beautiful part of the capital along the River Thames.
My first stop on my walk is Chiswick Bridge, which opened in 1933. Located in Mortlake, the reinforced concrete deck arch bridge was designed by Sir Herbert Baker and Alfred Dryland – with it being constructed by Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company.
The two villages of Chiswick and Mortlake, located either side of the north and south banks of the River Thames, had been linked by a ferry since the 17th century. However, in the 19th century with the arrival of the railway and London Underground, as well as increased ownership of cars, the populations of Chiswick and Mortlake grew rapidly.
This caused congestion problems, which led to the construction of the A316 road. The new road required two new bridges to be built at Twickenham and Chiswick. In addition, to Chiswick Bridge opening, Twickenham Bridge was built as well as the rebuilding of Hampton Court Bridge. After the construction of the bridges, this resulted in the ferry being closed permanently.
The bridge is 606 feet (185 m) long, and carries two 15-foot (4.6 m) wide walkways, and a 40-foot (12 m) wide road. At the time it was built, the 150-foot (46 m) central span was the longest concrete span over the Thames. One distinct and unusual feature of Chiswick Bridge is only three of its five arches span across the river, with the other two passing over the towpath. The bridge is also famous for being the finishing point in the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race.
I really love Chiswick Bridge’s concrete structure, which makes it look so grand and elegant. Like all the bridges I’ve discovered on my walks, it stands prominent along the Thames, with such splendour. The view from it isn’t too bad either with the natural beauty of trees and glorious greenery on both sides of the riverbank.
As you leave Chiswick Bridge you get to enjoy a wonderful walk under the trees along the riverside path.
Walking along the towpath takes you to the very unique Kew Railway Bridge. Opening in 1869, the five wrought iron lattice girder bridge was designed by W. R. Galbraith and built by Brassy & Ogilvie for the London and South Western Railway. The bridge was part of an extension of the railway from Acton Junction to Richmond.
Given Grade II listed structure protection in 1983, it carries London Overground trains between Richmond and Stratford, and District Line London Underground trains from Richmond and Upminster. It’s such a quirky bridge and one of the few in London which carries only trains, not cars or pedestrians. The colour of it blends in so well with the colour of the trees and water, which adds to its wonderful character.
I’ll now take a stroll along the lovely riverside onto the final of the three bridges on my journey, Kew Bridge.
The first bridge on the site was built by Robert Tunstall of Brentford who previously owned the ferry which was located on the river in Kew. This bridge was inaugurated on 1 June 1759 by the Prince of Wales and was opened to the public three days later. There was massive excitement for the opening of the new bridge with over 3,000 people crossing over it in its first day.
The original bridge was constructed with two stone arches at each end and seven timber arches in between, which was costly to maintain and consequently ‘only’ lasted 30 years. In 1782, the bridge gained consent to be replaced with a new structure which was designed by James Paine – opening on 22 September 1789.
By the 1890s the second bridge wasn’t able to cope with the weight of the traffic and engineer Sir John Wolfe Barry was invited to assess the bridge. He suggested to build a new bridge, rather than modify it. Designed by Sir John Wolfe-Berry and Cuthbert A. Brereton, the third bridge was opened by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra on 20 May 1903 – and this is the bridge we see today. The bridge has also inspired many artists who’ve painted or drawn it, including Paul Sandby, James Webb, Henry Muhrman, J.M.W. Turner and Myles Birket Foster.
Like with so many of London Bridge’s, the stone design makes it distinct and is quite similar to Chiswick Bridge. The view across the river of Kew is really breathtaking with beautiful trees either side and you can just about see Kew Railway Bridge in the distance too.
My final destination on my walk is Kew Green, which has to be one of my favourite destinations that I’ve visited on all my London expeditions. The 30 acre (12 hectare) triangular space has been a venue for cricket since the 1730s – with one of the earliest matches being played there between Kent and Brentford in June 1730. Kew Cricket Club was established in 1882 following the amalgamation of two local clubs – Kew Oxford Cricket Club and Kew Cambridge Cricket Club.
On the day I visited I was lucky enough to watch an actually cricket match, which was a friendly between Kew Cricket Club and Acton Cricket Club. When cricket is being played it’s so scenic and whenever you think of village cricket you certainly have this view in mind. It’s such a quintessentially and traditional British sight a game of cricket on a village green, something you’d see on a postcard. I do love the sound of a willow bat on ball, very soothing and pleasant. The beautiful pavilion on one side with the St Anne’s Church on the south side makes it very reminiscent of Richmond Green. Unlike Richmond Green, I have actually played on this green back in 2014 for a work cricket day for a friend – so it’s one cricket ground I’ve ticked off my list!
Well that’s all from me today, and I couldn’t think of a more perfectly pleasant way to end my walk than on the cute Kew Green basking in the sun watching cricket! Hope you’ve enjoyed joining me on this walk which has seen me explore another three of London’s bridges and one of its great little treasures.
Thanks for reading and in the meantime you can follow all my walks on Twitter and Instagram, and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too so you don’t miss a post! Also why not have a read of my other walks which explore all over London, from north to south, to west to east via central, there’s something there for you! 🙂 Here are the links to them all below for you!
A lovely welcome to you and it’s my pleasure to be able to take you on my next walking adventure of our wonderful capital. Today’s journey will take me across South London as I begin in Norbury Park. From there I’ll stroll to the sublime Streatham Common and its picturesque Rookery Gardens, before ending my walk in Tooting Commons.
I begin my walk in the quaint Norbury Park, which is located between Croydon and Streatham. In 1935, the site was purchased by Croydon Corporation from a local builder, with the land formerly used as the North Surrey Golf Course, which dated back to 1920.
The site used to be purely fields, as documented on the Thomas Bainbridge map of 1800. It also indicated that the fields were owned by Pembroke College – however on 25 December 1934 the college’s lease to the golf course expired. In 1955, a school was developed right next to the park, which would become Norbury Manor Girls – opening in 1958. The site today is occupied by Norbury Park Business & Enterprise College of Girls.
The Ordnance Survey in 1955 indicated that on the east end of the park there were 11.5 acres allocated to allotments. There are still allotments there today, which really add a touch of distinction to the park’s surroundings. There’s something really interesting about an allotment, perfect for your own little bit of garden oasis if you don’t have the space for it at home. It’s also quite a personal thing I find, as you spend plenty of time, care and effort trying to grow your vegetables or look after plants. Beside the park you’ll find the Norbury Brook, which is a tributary of the River Wandle, and it’s ever so peaceful hearing its trickles of water. You’re never too far away from a river when you’re in a London park!
It wasn’t until 1956 that the park was officially named Norbury Park when the pavilion was constructed, with a play area being added to the park in 1969. The park nicely provides a mix of the natural wonders and recreational use. A quirky and unique feature is its BMX track, which definitely makes it one of the coolest parks in London!
I’m now going to make my way out of Norbury Park and stroll to my next destination, Streatham Common. An ancient common, it used to be the land of the Manor of South Streatham on which the manorial tenants had the right to graze their cattle and gather fuel. In 1362, Edward of Woodstock, known in history as the Black Prince, granted the Manor of South Streatham the Common.
In 1884, the Metropolitan Board of Works paid £5 to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, the Lords of the Manor of South Streatham, for the 66 acres (26.7 hectares) of common land in order to preserve it as a public open space. The eastern part of the Common was allowed to grow into a wonderful woodland area. The Board also planted trees to maintain the rural aspects of the Common, so there were huge benefits of them owning the area. The ownership of the Common would be relinquished by The Board with control being taken over by the London County Council in 1896 – with control passing to the Greater London Council in 1965 and finally the London Borough of Lambeth in 1971.
Right at the top of the common there is a formal garden known as The Rookery, which was formerly part of the grounds of the large manor that housed visitors to one of Streatham’s historic mineral wells. In the 18th Century crowds would visit Streatham to take the waters, as they were believed to have healing powers. The Rookery’s name derives from the large house that stood close to the wells. The house was demolished after the surrounding grounds were purchased by the London County Council, which resulted in it being landscaped with the gardens created – eventually being opened to the public in 1913. The area is now managed by the Streatham Common Community Garden which encourages community food growing as one of its many initiatives.
Whilst walking through the area it’s so tranquil, and reminds me so much of Holland Park, which has a similar garden in it. You can also immediately tell that a grand estate was on this site and that there were a large area of grounds. One thing I’ve noticed on all my walks, is that even though London has parks, woods, rivers, green spaces and natural beauty, there aren’t too many gardens like this, which does surprise me, given the history of the capital having many estates and Royal status. One thing I need to try and do is track down more of these secret gardens as they’re so pretty!
Taking a walk outside The Rookery, you enter a lovely open green space, and whilst you head towards the top of the hill you get to a real marvellous sight as you come across the Common’s breath-taking and enchanting woodland. With all of its trees, plants and cute pathways that lead you to hidden wonders, it reminds me of many of the woods I’ve explored before, such as Highgate Wood, Russia Dock Woodland and Dulwich Wood. You feel like you’re in the countryside and when the sun is shining (which it was on the day I explored it!), it really lightens and brightens up the scenic areas, bringing out all the golden colours. There aren’t too many places that perfectly combine a Common of open space, recreational areas, a glorious garden and a woodland like Streatham Common. Whatever your nature needs, Streatham Common has them sorted for you!
My final destination on my walking adventure today as a leave Streatham Common is Tooting Commons, which consist of two adjacent areas of common land lying between Balham, Streatham and Tooting – these are known as Tooting Bec Common and Tooting Graveney Common. Tooting Bec Common is in the parish of Streatham, whereas Tooting Graveney Common is in the parish of Tooting. Did you know Tooting Bec Common was also known as Tooting Heath?! The boundary between the two commons followed a watercourse called the York Ditch, which was a tributary of the Falcon Brook.
Up until the late 19th Century the neighbouring areas were predominately rural land, with the Commons mainly agricultural rather than recreational. The areas had animals grazing out on them from the local farms as well as wild fruit being grown there. As the years progressed and London’s metropolis began to get more populated, the agricultural grounds gave way to recreational facilities, such as a tennis court, bowling green, football pitch, a sailing boat pond and a tearoom.
Tooting Bec Common comprises of nearly 152 acres (62 hectares) and was one of the first commons owned by The Metropolitan Board of Works (MBW), which they purchased in 1875. Likewise Tooting Graveney Common was acquired by The MBW in 1875 – and is smaller than Tooting Bec, with a size of 66 acres (27 hectares). The Commons were transferred to the London County Council (later the Greater London Council) and then from the GLC to Wandsworth Borough Council in 1971.
The Commons are another fine example of the glorious open green space that we enjoy in London, and it’s quite a distinctive feature of South London these Commons, as we also enjoy others including Clapham Common and Wandsworth Common too.
Well that’s all from me folks on this walk discovering South London’s finest, including Norbury Park, Streatham Common and its picturesque Rookery, and finishing at the tremendous Tooting Commons. It’s a walk which has seen me be lucky enough to stroll through parks, commons, woodland and gardens!
Thanks for joining me and in the meantime you can follow all my walks on Twitter and Instagram, and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too so you don’t miss a post! Also why not have a read of my other walks which explore all over London, from north to south, to west to east via central, there’s something there for you! 🙂 Here are the links to them all below for you!
A warm Wlogger welcome to you and thanks for joining me on my next walking adventure of the capital! My expedition today will see me explore South-East London as I begin at Crystal Palace Park and explore its stadium, lakes, green areas… and dinosaurs! I’ll then take a detour to Sydenham Wells Park go through Sydenham Hill Wood and to Dulwich Wood. I’ll end my journey at Dulwich & Sydenham Golf Club, which might seem like an odd place to end a walk… but all will be revealed later on! So let’s discover some of the lesser-known natural sights of London!
Located in South-East London, Crystal Palace Park is a Victorian pleasure ground used for cultural and sporting events.
The park was built by Sir Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace Company between 1852 and 1854. It was created as the magnificent setting for the relocated and enlarged Crystal Palace structure, which had been designed for the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park.
The area was designed to impress, educate, entertain and inspire, eventually becoming an international attraction with its educational themes for the park covering discovery and invention. The Crystal Palace was a large glass and iron structure that was situated on the Sydenham Ridge and provided stunning views across London with the palace viewable from many location across the city. One of the main aims of the park and palaces creation was to display Victorian grandeur and innovation, and was financed when people paid to visit it.
After the park was officially opened on the 10th June 1854 by Queen Victoria, a number of displays, events and sporting activities were introduced as a way to increase visitor numbers. To coincide with the 1911 Festival of the Empire, the park was transformed with a railway being installed and buildings to represent the Empire which would remain there up until the 1940s.
However, on the 30th November 1936 The Crystal Palace was destroyed in a fire, after musicians waiting to play a concert noticed smoke coming from the floorboards, which reportedly began in the women’s cloakroom and spread to the central transept. The fire quickly spread through the dry wooden boards and the nature of The Crystal Palace – a huge open space with no fire breaks – meant that within a short time the fire was wildly out of control. The flames rose to 800 feet in the air with London sending 61 pumps and 381 firefighters to help tackle the fire. The cause of the fire was never discovered, but theories have included old and faulty wiring as well as a discarded cigarette falling between the floorboards.
It would’ve been amazing to have seen The Crystal Palace in all its stunning glory, as it looked simply magnificent. You can imagine had it been around today, it would’ve attracted the same number of tourists that landmarks such as The London Eye, The Shard, Buckingham Palace and more do. Something our Instagram feeds would be full of!
After the fire the park began a period of decline. There were plans talked about to recreate the palace, although these never materialised. During the Second World War the park became a place for military vehicle dismantling and later a site for bomb damage rubble.
When you enter Crystal Palace Park, one of the first sights you see is its renowned and spectacular National Sports Centre. Opened in 1964, the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre was designed by the LCC Architects Department under Sir Leslie Martin between 1953-1954 and is a Grade II listed building. Over the years the stadium has hosted football, cricket, rugby, basketball, American Football, and even Motor Racing. The main sport to be hosted there today is athletics with a capacity of 15,500, and 24,000 with temporary seating.
The site of the athletics stadium is on the same land as a football ground which hosted the FA Cup Final from 1895 to 1914. The owners of the ground wanted their own football club to play at their own venue, so this lead to the formation of Crystal Palace F.C. The South Londoners were forced to leave the stadium in 1915 by the military, and as a result played at the ground they play at today, Selhurst Park. The largest attendance for a domestic match there was between Aston Villa and Sunderland in the 1913 FA Cup Final, when 121,919 spectators went there.
A short walk down a hill from the National Sports Centre, you come to the picturesque lake area with beautiful trees and plants.
One of the most iconic features of the park are the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs which are a collection of over 30 statues created by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins (1807-1894) around 1854. The array of statues also includes the first ever attempt anywhere in the world to model dinosaurs as full-scale, three-dimensional active creatures.
The set also includes models of other prehistoric creatures, including plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs discovered by Mary Anning in Lyme Regis, and a South American Megatherium brought back to Britain by Charles Darwin on his voyage on HMS Beagle.
Known as the Dinosaur Court, the models represent 15 genera of extinct animals, not all dinosaurs. They are from a wide range of geological ages, and include dinosaurs, ichthyosaurs, and plesiosaurs mainly from the Mesozoic era, and some mammals from the more recent Cenozoic era.
The dinosaurs have been listed on the Historic Heritage List of England as Grade 1 monuments which is one of the highest and most important ratings. Many of the dinosaurs you see when you visit the National History Museum, the Oxford Museum of Natural History and other history museums in the UK are based on these specimens.
This was the first time I’d ever been to Crystal Palace Park and thus seen the dinosaurs, and they are incredible statues, and so critical to both the park’s identity as well as what they demonstrate for the world of natural history and science. One thing I’ve also thought is that it was very random having these in a London park, but knowing the story behind them makes sense!
Surrounded by the dinosaurs and as you weave your way around the park, there are some really lovely trees and woods, as well as a lake. Like with many of the parks I’ve explored across London, this one is full of splendour and tranquility.
I’ll now take a walk outside the lake area and walk across the park where once again you stroll through all the prettiness of the park which illustrates what a vast area of marvellous sights it is.
A distinctive part of the park you always see no matter where you stand and which can be seen from many vantage points in the capital is The Crystal Palace Transmitter tower which is a broadcasting and telecommunications station that serves Greater London and the Home Counties. Built in 1956, it’s the 5th tallest structure in London standing at 219 metres (719 ft). In terms of coverage it’s the most important transmitting station in the country, with nearly 12 million people receiving output from it.
I’ll now leave the park and head to my next destination today, Sydenham Wells Park! This cute little green area is named after the medicinal springs which were found in Sydenham in the 17th Century, when Sydenham was still in Kent. In 1901 the park was opened to the public and is one of nine parks in the borough to have a Green flag award, which is the benchmark national standard for publicly accessible parks and green spaces in the UK.
The park is right near many houses and you do get that community feel that this park is at the centre point of the area which is popular with families and people looking for a place to relax with their thoughts.
My journey will now take me from Sydenham Wells Park onto both Sydenham Hill Wood and Dulwich Wood, which are located right next to one another. Together they are the largest part of the old Great North Wood, which was an ancient landscape of woodland and wooded commons which once covered the high ground between Deptford and Selhurst
With both of the woods adjacent to one another, I first visited Sydenham Hill Wood which is designated as a Local Nature Reserve and Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation. In 1732 an oak-lined formal avenue, known as the Cox’s Walk, which leads from the junction of Dulwich Common and Lordship Lane was formed by Francis Cox. It connected his Green Man Tavern and Dulwich Wells with Sydenham Wells Park.
The old Nunhead to Crystal Palace railway once passed through the wood and you can tell where part of the line used to be, especially the footbridge which goes over the woods and used to have the tracks underneath it.
The woodland is home to more than 200 species of trees and plants, as well as rare fungi, butterflies, scarce bees, woodpeckers, wasps, stag beetles, other insects, hedgehogs, birds and woodland mammals.
Walking through the woodlands reminds me a lot of my walk through Highgate Wood as you feel like you’re nowhere near London’s hustle and bustle. It’s a very magical place to explore as with every corner of the woods you find something new which amazes and pleasantly surprises you, whether it’s a pretty species of tree, or a cute stairway, there’s an abundance of beauty.
Right next to Sydenham Hill Wood is Dulwich Wood, which is privately owned by the Dulwich Estate. Back in the Middle Ages, the Manor of Dulwich belonged to Bermondsey Abbey having been given to the Abbey in 1127 by King Henry I. The Dulwich Estate was surveyed in 1542 after Henry VII dissolved the monasteries. The wealthy Edward Alleyn in 1605 bought the Manor of Dulwich from the Calton family who had owned it since the dissolving of the monasteries.
Weaving your way between the trees and plants adds quite a bit of mystery when you walk through the woods, which is quite small, though there are many different pathways you could take, each taking you to a different woodland wonder.
Once you come out of Dulwich Wood, you’re able to get a glimpse of the London skyline, but to truly appreciate and see it, you need to take a stroll to the neighbouring Dulwich & Sydenham Hill Golf Club. A walk to the top of the balcony of the clubhouse provides a breathtaking panoramic view of London!
From across the golf course you get to see all the well-known and iconic London skyline landmarks including The Shard, The London Eye, Canary Wharf, The Walkie Talkie, The Gherkin, St Paul’s and more. One amazing aspect of my walks is that I’ve seen this exact same view of the London skyline from so many different perspectives, from Stave Hill, to Alexander Palace, to Hampstead Heath, and it’s always awe-inspiring and glorious. It really is a fitting and perfect place to end my walking adventure today!
Well that’s all from me on my walking adventure which has seen me discover some of the natural gems of South-East London from Crystal Palace Park, to Sydenham Wells Park and Sydenham Hill Wood, to Dulwich Wood, with the stunning London skyline view to finish with!
Thanks for joining me and in the meantime you can follow all my walks on Twitter and Instagram, and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too so you don’t miss a post! Also why not have a read of my other walks which explore all over London, from north to south, to west to east via central, there’s something there for you! 🙂 Here are the links to them all below for you!
Hello there fellow London and walking enthusiasts, and thanks for joining me on my next expedition of the capital! Today’s journey is a tourists dream as I begin at Westminster Abbey, take a stroll through Parliament Square and the Houses of Parliament to see Big Ben. I’ll continue discovering more of the bridges that pass over the Thames as I see Westminster Bridge, Lambeth Bridge and finish at Vauxhall Bridge. It’s a short walk, but like most places in London, there’s so much to see!
Located near The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey is a Gothic church dating back to the 960s when Saint Dunstan and King Edgar installed a community of Benedictine monks on the site. Between 1042 and 1052, the Abbey, named St Peter’s Abbey, was rebuilt by Edward the Confessor to provide himself with a Royal burial church. Completed around 1060 it was the first church in England to be built in a Romanesque style, and was consecrated on the 28th December 1065 a week before Edward’s death, and who was subsequently buried in the church.
The Westminster Abbey we see today was constructed in 1245 by Henry III who had selected it as the site for his burial. Work on Westminster Abbey continued between 1245 and 1517 with it being completed by architect Henry Yevele. In 1503 Henry VII added a Perpendicular style chapel which was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1540 Henry VIII gave Westminster Abbey cathedral status which would spare it from the destruction or dissolution.
Nicholas Hawksmoor was the mastermind behind building the two Western Towers at Westminster Abbey which were constructed between 1722 and 1745 and which were inspired by a Gothic Revival design. The walls and floors of the Abbey are made from purbeck marble, with it being 69m (225 feet) high, with a width of 26m (85 feet) and a floor area of 32,000 square feet.
Since the coronations of both King Harold and William the Conqueror in 1066, Westminster Abbey has seen every English and British monarch crowned there (except Edward V and Edward VII who were never crowned). The King Edward’s chair is the throne on which English and British sovereigns are crowned. The chair is now located within the Abbey in the St George’s Chapel near the West Door and has been used for every coronation since 1308. Since 1066 there have been 39 Coronations!
The most recent Coronation at Westminster Abbey was that of Queen Elizabeth II who was crowned Queen at the age of 25 on the 2nd June 1953 after the death of her father King George VI on the 6th February 1952. The Coronation took place more than a year after King George VI’s death because of the tradition that holding such a festival is inappropriate during the period of mourning that follows the death of a monarch. During the service Queen Elizabeth II took and subscribed an oath to govern the people’s according to their respective laws and customs. This was the first coronation to be televised with 27 million people in the UK alone watching it, plus millions from overseas.
To date there have been 17 Royal Weddings at Westminster Abbey, with the most recent being when Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, married Miss Catherine Middleton on the 29th April 2011.
Since 1760 most Kings and Queens have been buried in Westminster Abbey with over 3,300 people being either buried or commemorated there. Included in this are 17 British monarchs and influential figures including Isaac Newton, Edward the Confessor and Charles Dickens.
You can only stand there and admire the wonders of this architectural gem which holds so much history and signficant moments in Britain, something which adds to its splendour and incredible nature. London is very lucky to have such traditionally classic and vintage landmarks like this which provide you with so much insight and knowledge.
It’s now time to leave Westminster Abbey and head over to the neighbouring Parliament Square which sits just outside the landmark. Laid out in 1868, Parliament Square was opened to free up the space around the Palace of Westminster and improve traffic flow, and featured London’s first traffic signals! The architect responsible for the square was Sir Charles Barry, with it being redesigned in 1950 by George Grey Wornum. The square has been known as a place for protests and demonstrations down the years too. It really does feel like the focal point of Westminster with Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey all in sight when you stand there, and symbolises all that’s iconic in the capital.
Surrounded by Parliament Square you’ll find 12 statues which honour British, Commonwealth and Foreign political figures. The statues include former British Prime Ministers Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George, Henry John Temple (3rd Viscount Palmerston), Edward George Geoffrey Smith-Stanley (14th Earl of Derby), Benjamin Disraeli (1st Earl of Beaconsfield), Sir Robert Peel and George Canning.
There are also statues for former South African Prime Minister Jan Smuts and South African President Nelson Mandela, as well as former US President Abraham Lincoln. Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian Independence Leader, features within the square too. The newest statue in the square is that of Millicent Fawcett, a campaigner for women’s suffrage which was completed in April 2018.
I do love all these statues around Parliament Square as it’s amazing to see so many great leaders and influential people who quite rightly deserve to be remembered so we all know the positive impact they had on the world. It does make you reflect whilst you’re standing in the square.
On the end of Parliament Square you find Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Known as The Clock Tower, or since 2012 as the Elizabeth Tower to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, Big Ben was completed in 1859 and designed by architect Augustus Pugin. The reference to ‘Big Ben’ actually doesn’t refer to the tower itself, but to the clock tower’s largest bell which weighs a staggering 13.5 tons!
The name for the bell, Ben, has some conjecture about it as there are a few accounts of who it’s named after. One being Benjamin Caunt, a heavyweight boxing champion, whereas another is Sir Benjamin Hall, a Welsh Civil Engineer who was involved in the bell’s construction. While Big Ben is the nickname of the bell, it is officially called the Great Bell.
Towering over the city of London, Big Ben is 96 metres (315 ft) high, and has 334 steps if you fancy walking up it! The time on the clock is known for its precision and accuracy, and has been both the largest and most accurate four-faced chiming clock in the world.
The clock’s face has 23 lightbulbs illuminating it with each of them enjoying a lifetime of over 60,000 hours and a life span of seven years. With an exterior which is renowned throughout the world, only residents of the UK can go within it and must arrange a tour through their Member of Parliament in advance. To ensure accurate time keeping, workers hand wind the clock three times a week, with each winding taking workers about 1.5 hours to complete.
The clock experienced its first and only major breakdown in 1976 when the air brake speed regulator failed, it caused significant damage to the clock and required a shutdown for a total of 26 days over 9 months. The tower’s belfry houses 4 quarter bells which are tuned to G-sharp, F-sharp, B, and E.
At the moment most people will recognise that Big Ben is having a bit of makeover! Work on the renovations began in August 2017 and are expected to finish in 2021, which means there will be no chimes during this time, apart from major events such as New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Sunday.
This is the first significant work to the tower since 1983-1985, with the landmark’s current renovations installing its first toilet, a lift, having a clock face repainting and re-gilding, as well as replacing broken panes of glass and replacing the dials. It’s quite sad seeing old Ben like this at the moment, but I can’t wait for it to look brand new in a few years time and back to normal!
Right next to Big Ben, you’ll find the Houses of Parliament. Officially known as The Palace of Westminster, they’re the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the Parliament of the UK. The building is owned by the monarch and is a royal residence. It is also managed by committees appointed by both houses which report to the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Lord Speaker.
The initial palace was built in 1016 on the site of William the Conqueror’s first palace and was the primary residence of the Kings of England, before it was destroyed in a fire. After that happened it would become the home of the Parliament of England. However, in 1834 a greater fire heavily damaged the Houses of Parliament and was redesigned by architect Charles Barry whose design was inspired by a Gothic Revival style.
The Houses of Parliament are the centre for political life in the UK with debates taking place in them on a daily basis. Within the Houses of Parliament sits the House of Commons which has 650 MPs from areas all over the UK who have been elected. Known also as the Chamber, there are only 427 seats within it, meaning many MPs need to stand! Parliament produces 80 million printed pages a year, ranging from the official parliamentary record – called Hansard – to committee reports and draft legislation. When a proposed new law, a bill, is sent from the House of Commons to the House of Lords, the clerk of the Commons writes “Soit bail as Seigneurs” on it – which means “let it be sent to the House of Lords” – in Norman French.
Whenever anyone thinks of London and is from either the capital, or from the UK, or across the world, The Houses of Parliament immediately springs to mind and for that reason it’s so symbolic and a true definition of ‘London’.
My walk now takes me past the Houses of Parliament to another one of the capital’s most recognisable features, Westminster Bridge. Proceeded by Lambeth Bridge, and following Hungerford Bridge and Golden Jubilee Bridges, the first Westminster Bridge was completed in 1750 and engineered by Charles Labelye to help relieve the capital’s trading congestion.
By the middle of the 19th century the bridge began to subside and was redesigned by Thomas Page and replaced in 1862 with the bridge we see today. The bridge is 820 feet (250m) long and 85 feet (26m) in width with seven case iron arches. Since the removal of Rennie’s New London Bridge in 1967, it’s the oldest road structure bridge which crosses the Thames in Central London.
The bridge truly is an architectural masterpiece with it looking very grand and royal! it probably is the most photographed of London’s bridges, given that many will be looking to take a snap of Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament too!
A stroll along the Thames will now take me to my next bridge on today’s walk, Lambeth Bridge. Designed by Peter W. Barlow, the first bridge opened in 1862 on the site of a horse ferry between the Palace of Westminster and Lambeth Palace on the Southbank.
The current structure, a five-span steel arch, designed by engineer Sir George Humphreys and architects Sir Reginald Blomfield and G. Topham Forrest, was built by Dorman Long & Co and was opened on the 19th July 1932 by King George V. One interesting fact is that constructors, Dorman Long & Co, also built the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle; the Chien Tang River Bridge in Hangzhou, China; the 3km long Storstrøm Bridge in Denmark; and the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia!
Lambeth Bridge is painted red to match the seats in the House of Lords, the part of the Palace of Westminster closest to the bridge. The crests on the sides of the bridge honour the London County Council who were responsible for its construction. I really love the colours and design of Lambeth Bridge with the grid-type appearance on it which adds a great deal of character and beauty to it.
At the end of Lambeth Bridge sits The Victoria Tower Gardens which were created by Joseph Bazalgette and have been present next to the Houses of Parliament since 1870. Although it’s a stones throw away from Parliament Square and the hustle and bustle around Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament it’s very tranquil and peaceful there next to the river.
I’m going to head off to my final destination on my walk, Vauxhall Bridge, as I go along the Thames.
Replacing Regent Bridge (Old Vauxhall Bridge) which was built in 1816, Vauxhall Bridge was designed by Sir Alexander Binnie & Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice and opened in 1906. With five arches spanning 809 feet (247m) in length and 80 feet (24m) in width, the steel and granite structure was the first of London’s bridges to carry trams. The bridge’s piers are decorated with 8 vast bronze statues, designed by Alfred Drury and Frederick Pomeroy. The statue titles include, Agriculture, Architecture, Education, Fine Arts and Engineering.
I wouldn’t say that Vauxhall Bridge is the prettiest of London’s bridges, but I do like the prominent red colouring and statues which appear on it. Plus the view from it is very nice indeed with The London Eye on one side, and Battersea Power Station on the other!
Well that’s all from me folks on this walk of the capital. Although many of the sights on today’s walk are well-known and recognised throughout the world, it’s always a pleasure going past and discovering them from different angles. Also I think we do sometimes take them for granted and should always try to take a bit of time to enjoy them. I’ve loved going on to see Lambeth and Vauxhall Bridges too as many would go the other way on the Thames near The London Eye, so it was marvellous to explore what’s on offer in Lambeth and Vauxhall!
Thanks for joining me and in the meantime you can catch me on Twitter and Instagram and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too! Also why not have a read of my other walks which explore all over London, from north to south, to west to east via central, there’s something there for you! 🙂 Here are the links to them all below for you!
Welcome one and all as I take another stroll across the capital! For my walk today I’ll be embracing the colours of Autumn as I explore Hammersmith & Fulham and Acton to really get into the spirit of the changing of the season. I’ll begin in Ravenscourt Park, go past Acton Green Common and Acton Park before ending my journey at Wormwood Scrubs. So grab the coat, scarf and walking boots!
I start my walk in Ravenscourt Park which is an 8.3 hectare (20.5 acre) public green area in the borough of Hammersmith & Fulham. Its origins date back to the medieval manor and estate of Palingswick (or Paddenswick) Manor which was first recorded on the site in the 12th century. The name still has significance to the area today with a Paddenswick Road near Ravenscourt Park.
Back in the 13th century the Manor House within Ravenscourt Park had a moat surrounded by it which today forms part of the lake that is within the park. Whilst in the 14th century the Manor was occupied by King Edward III’s mistress Alice Perrers.
In 1650 the Manor House was rebuilt and in 1747 renamed Ravenscourt after it was sold to Thomas Corbett with the name Ravenscourt probably deriving from the raven on his coat of arms.
Private owner George Scott who was a builder and philanthropist bought the Ravenscourt House in 1812 and a leading landscaper by the name of Humphry Repton helped to lay down the gardens in the estate. Park plans in 1830 indicated that there were 78 houses within the park which had risen to 330 by 1845. The Ravenscourt House was also the first public library in Hammersmith in 1889.
George Scott’s family sold the estate to a developer in 1887 with it being acquired by the Metropolitan Board of Works. A year later in 1888 a public park was laid out by J.J. Sexby with the management of the park transferring to the London County Council in 1889. In 1941 the building suffered severe damage during the Second World War. However, in 1965 the park was owned by the Greater London Council and finally the London Borough of Hammersmith in 1971.
The park’s café today is the old stables of the manor and is certainly one of the grandest café’s in London! The park also has a variety of facilities including football pitches, tennis & basketball courts and a playground.
Walking through the park you really get a sense that the season is changing with an array of beautiful colours, all of which look like a watercolour painting and many different shades of yellow, brown, red, orange and gold. When you look at the vast area of the park as well as the lake which used to be the Manor’s moat, you can get a feeling of how the grand estate would’ve looked. The lake is something to behold and matched with the trees colours, it makes for the perfect picture, or painting!
It’s now time to leave the tranquility of Ravenscourt Park to go in search of more pretty autumnal colours in my next stop Acton Green Common. Located next to Turnham Green tube station, the 5.9 hectare (14.5 acres) common is quite unique given that it’s split into two, with a road and crossing in between it.
The Acton Green Common has a place in history as part of the site of the Battle of Brentford during the Civil War when on the 12th November 1642 the Royalists under Prince Rupert surprised them and beat the Parliamentarian army under Lord Essex.
I do love the symmetry where you have trees either side of the pathway and as far as you can see there are trees across the green. Once again the crisp orange colouring comes out perfectly with the sun shining on them which really does brighten up the park. Also the lengthening shadows illustrates the sun is getting lower and winter is on its way.
I’m now going to make my way out of Acton Green Common and onto yet another lovely green space, Acton Park. One aspect you get when walking around Acton is that the trees aren’t just confined to the parks as they can be seen across the roads and houses!
Acton Park first opened to the public in 1888 as a commemoration to the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria and in 1945 the park’s allotments were converted into temporary houses for ex-servicemen.
In London we’re so lucky that nearly every area has some kind of green space where you can relax in the peace and quiet of a park setting. Also it’s not just the grass areas which I love, but the variety of trees are also so remarkable, big ones, tall ones, small ones, thin ones, the list is endless and all have their own distinct look and personality. You really don’t get this when you walk around some areas of central London, so you do have to go off track into the London boroughs to see all of natures glory.
It’s now time to leave Acton Park and move onto my final autumnal destination, the quite unique Wormwood Scrubs! Based in the North-Eastern corner of Hammersmith & Fulham, the area is the largest open space in the borough at 80 hectares (200 acres) and is one of the largest commons in London.
The park has been open to the public since 1879 and was even the home of Queens Park Rangers Football Club in the late 1888s.
Its history dates back to the early 19th century when the entire district of Hammersmith & Fulham was open fields with several areas of common land. In 1812 a 77 hectare (190 acre) area known as Wormholt Scrubs was leased by the War Office from the Manor of Fulham. The area was used to exercise cavalry horses which until then had used Hyde Park, Belgrave Square and Regent’s Park. In 1878, 55 hectares (135 acres) of the land became known as Wormwood Scrubs after being bought by the War Office.
In order to create metropolitan exercising ground for the military, in 1879 Parliament passed the Wormwood Scrubs Act. This act enabled the military to expel civilians from the area whenever they were training, but allowed civilians free use of it when they were not. The military were banned from building any permanent structures other than rifle butts on the open land.
The area gained the reputation of being one of the duelling grounds of London with several duels being fought there. The scrubland played a part in the 1908 Olympics with the marathon’s final stages going through it on the route from Windsor Castle to the Olympic Stadium in White City.
In 1910 Wormwood Scrubs gained a significant contribution in aviation history when pioneering airships took flight from an improvised landing ground. Four years later in 1914 all air related activities on the scrubs passed to the authority of the Admiralty with the area remaining an emergency landing ground until the 1930s. During the Second Wold War, the scrubs hosted the military department called The Chief Cable Censorship Department, an outstation of the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park.
Back in 1986 local birdwatcher Lester Holloway set up a campaign to save Scrubs Wood which was under threat from plans by British Rail to turn it into a cleaning depot. The campaign would succeed with an area of the nature reserve known as ‘Lester’s Embankment’ in 1987.
There has been many conservation efforts undertaken on the area with the park home to over 100 species of birds, 250 species of wildflowers, bats and lizards.
The entire area really is something to behold, as it’s a vast area of meadowland with hardly anything around it, there aren’t too many trees or houses, just scrubland and long grass. I have to say it’s one of the first times my walks have taken me to such a place and it’s eerily quiet when you’re stood in the middle of it as there’s literally no one walking through or by it. This is one of the reason why I love exploring London as you come across such weird and wonderful places like this which you’d not normally come across, or even know about.
Well that’s all from me today folks! I hope you enjoyed discovering some of West London’s best green areas which showcased the colours of autumn so amazingly well, which I’m sure you can agree are looking absolutely golden at the moment! I’ll be discovering more of beautful autumnal London next time!
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, from river ones to park ones, there’s something there for you! 🙂
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
I’ll now rejoin the Regent’s Canal and head onto my final stop on my walk, Islington Green!
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!
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! 🙂
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?!
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!
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.
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.
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! 🙂