Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Southwark

On Saturday afternoon, after spending most of the day at the Lord Mayor's Show (and associated festivities) I decided that my best route back to South London was down the Jubilee Line, and the best way to pick up the Jubilee Line would be at London Bridge which is only a short walk across the Thames from the City.

The South Bank of the Thames is the lesser known part of London for most tourists. Although it boasts several major rail terminus stations most of the tourist attractions are found on the North Bank of the river (being the older part of London).

My journey from St Paul's began by crossing the river on the famous (or should that be infamous) Millennium Bridge also known as the Wobbly Bridge - due to the fact that when it first opened some irregularities of construction meant that the bridge wobbled alarmingly as people walked across it.

The Millennium Bridge

The first thing you see as you cross the Millennium bridge and arrive of the South Bank is the Tate Modern, this disused power station houses a number of permanent exhibitions as well as special displays of modern art.

The Tate Modern

A little further along the riverbank (amongst the pubs) is the recreation of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Although the 2008 Theatre season is now over there are still other events and theatre tours on offer.

The Globe Theatre

This area of London (away from the river) has a large amount of accommodation under railway arches (there are a lot of railways leading out of the centre of town into the Kent and Surrey countryside).

Under the arches

Near some of these you will find The Clink Prison Museum. This would appear to be one of London's lesser known attractions and at £5 one of the more affordable. Definitely on my to do list!
A little further along you come across a small dock just off the river. Here is a recreation of Sir Francis Drake's galleon the Golden Hinde. This replica has travelled all over the globe and now is permanently on display in London.

The Golden Hinde

The next landmark is Southwark Cathedral. This magnificent Cathedral apparently has an extremely small parish, being located amongst offices and other industry.

Southwark Cathedral

To the south of Southwark Cathedral amongst the railway lines in Borough Market. This food market occupies a site on which there has been a market for over 200 years.

Borough Market

Nearly back at London Bridge now. Right by the station is the London Bridge Experience. Here you can find the history of London Bridge through the ages. Many years ago I visited a similar exhibit near the Tower of London. At around £15 this is another affordable attraction and one I'll be visiting when I'm next in the area (and it isn't a wet Saturday late afternoon!).

Under the arches (again)

If you still have time left it's a short walk from here up to the mainline station and London Bridge.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Charlton

This afternoon I took a healthy walk around my local area. First of all a brisk stroll through Charlton Park where I saw a girls football (soccer) team taking practice and about a half dozen squirrels.

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View looking towards Queen Elizabeth Hospital

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View looking towards Charlton House

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Here are some of the dozen or so squirrels - just after they chased each other up the tree!

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Charlton House - 400 years and counting

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St Luke's Church, Charlton

Although there has been a church in Charlton since the 11th Century this church dates from only the 17th Century. Apparently there is only one bell left now since the bells were removed in the WW2 and only one made it back... the same is true (sadly) for the stained glass windows.

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Here's another famous part of Charlton, the football Club.

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And, nearly the last famous part - the level crossing.

Just down from where I live I Marion Wilson Park - famous in history as a lair for highwaymen. Now famous for the collection of animals that inhabit the various enclosures.

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The herd of deer

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Flock of ducks

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One of the horses

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Goats (complete with magpie friends)

Saturday, 20 September 2008

London Bridge

Yesterday lunchtime I took a short hop on the Jubilee Line from Green Park down to London Bridge. The reason for my journey? World Traders were organising a sheep drive over London Bridge.

Unfortunately my lunch-break happened too late for me to actually witness the sheep crossing the bridge but I did arrive just in time to see the sheep being taken back to their truck for the journey home.

Here's what happened. About 500 Liverymen (and women) from around the City took the opportunity to take turns driving the sheep across the bridge. This is the exercise of an ancient privilege (of hearsay and legend rather than documented evidence) which allowed Freemen to drive sheep across London Bridge (thought to stem from the fact that Freemen of the City were exempt from Bridge tolls/taxes and London Bridge is the oldest and at one time only bridge over the Thames). My parents (both Freemen of the City - as am I) both took part, wearing robes and so I'm told straw boaters (that would be something to see). For more about the Sheep Drive see this report from the Telegraph.


Some of the 15 sheep

London Bridge


Far left - the Corporation of the City of London wash the bridge!

Whilst I was there I took the opportunity to walk across London Bridge to Monument and back. There isn't much to see at Monument right now as the eponymous Monument itself is being cleaned. The Monument commemorates the Great Fire of London and if laid down would reach from where it stands to the site of the Bakery in Pudding Lane where the fire started. The Great Fire of London burned for four days and nights and decimated large parts of old London including the original St Paul's Cathedral and Guildhall along with thousands of homes and 87 churches. Only five deaths were documented but hundreds of thousands were left homeless. The fire did effectively wipe out any remainders of the Plague (1665) and also allowed the redesign of some parts of London - including many of the beautiful churches designed by Christopher Wren, the current St Paul's Cathedral and a new Guildhall.

Monument

Just after crossing the Thames looking east (or west) will afford views of another London curiosity. Some examples of the elevated walkways that populate the City. Part of a post-war planning initiative these were imposed on many developments through the 60s and 70s. Much was built but little was connected, which means that largely these remain unused.


Elevated walkway

I walked back across the bridge to London Bridge to get the tube back to my office. There are quite good views each way from the Bridge up and down the Thames.


The Thames (looking East)

The Thames, Black Cab included (looking West)


City Dragon

London Bridge must be one of the ugliest main line stations in London - probably matched only by Euston and the new frontage of Kings Cross.


London Bridge (including red buses)

Arriving back at North Greenwich in the evening I took the opportunity to capture Canary Wharf with a lovely sunset and some evening shots of the O2.



Thursday, 24 July 2008

Royal Observatory (Greenwich)

Today we took a trip across Blackheath and through the Park to the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. Our original destination was the Planetarium, which we never got around to in the event, but the Observatory itself is a worthwhile day out... and even better, free entry!

We started by getting a bus from Charlton to the edge of Blackheath from where we walked to the top entrance of Greenwich Park. We walked along the beautiful tree lined avenue and finally reached our destination of the Royal Observatory.

Standing in front of the Observatory there are amazing views over the Thames towards Greenwich, Woolwich and Canary Wharf.

Panorama from in front of the Observatory.

There are some amazing exhibitions to see at the Observatory; the original home of the Astronomer Royal has been recreated, including the stunning Octagon Room. There are numerous examples of clocks and watches as well as other equipment used to watch the universe. Amongst other things to see was the amazingly impressive 28 inch telescope. Not for the faint-hearted this one as it involved a climb up a very precarious feeling spiral staircase, a walk across a rather narrow terrace and a descent down another long spiral staircase with chequer-plate treads which mean you can see all the way down! A quick stop in the courtyard to admire the Greenwich Meridian (and the plaques to the three previous meridians!) and we moved on to the 'space' side of the exhibits. These were great fun (if probably more aimed at the younger visitors!) and ended with an excellent short film.

The Greenwich Meridian

The famous 'ball' which drops at 1pm every day - we missed it by 15 minutes!

The top of the Planetarium which is constructed using significant angles relative to the Greenwich Meridian and astronomical features! It is made out of copper, and has signs warning against touching as the metal becomes hot in the sun.

The airship (again) which seemed to be following us as we saw it on Blackheath, at the Observatory and again when we were nearly home!

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Trafalgar Square

Occasional, and on this occasion also accidental. My enforced route march on the way home took me to Charring Cross via Trafalgar Square.

The remains of the Canada Day celebrations.

Nelson's Column and the latest occupant of the Fourth Plinth.

The National Gallery and St Martin's in the Fields

Piper in a kilt!

More remains from Canada Day celebrations

Friday, 27 June 2008

Kings Cross/St Pancras

First thing this morning I found myself in the vicinity of Kings Cross after a meeting. The area of Kings Cross isn't very high on London's list of tourist attractions. Although recent regeneration has changed the face of the area quite a lot is still a bit run down and shabby, and the whole area still has a reputation as a red light district.

At the centre of this area are the 'twin' stations know by Londoners as Kings-Cross-St-Pancras. These are actually two stations which sit next to each other. St Pancras has recently been transformed as at the end of last year it took over the role as London Terminus for Eurostar services (previously a role held by Waterloo Station) and the correct title of the station is now St Pancras International.


The initial most impressive thing about St Pancras station is the amazing Victorian Gothic architecture on the front of the station.

At one time the Midland Grand Hotel this building then became St Pancras Chambers and served as office space. After falling into disuse at one time it was slated for demolition, and was saved by being awarded Grade I listed status. Thanks largely (I would imagine) to the new international rail terminus the frontage is now being returned to its former hotel status.

Inside the station is probably just as impressive as the outside of the station. At the time it was built it was the largest enclosed space and the largest single span. An interesting side note (for me) is that the man who designed it William Henry Barlow was born in my very own Charlton!


Platform level looking through the security area to the Eurostar trains.



This statue is entitled 'The Meeting Place' and stands under the station clock. You don't really get a feel for the size of it here, but it is apparently 30ft high (and cost £1m!).



This shows the lower level of the station (so that's where all the people went!). Where there are all the facilities that you would normally associate with a station.



These are some of the original features of the Victorian Station, showing the bottom of one of the supporting arches and the ticket office.

Some more fantastic Victorian Gothic architecture, taking you back out of the front of the station.

The amazing vaulted ceiling of the station, just visible on the left the station clock.



Next to St Pancras the front of Kings Cross is nowhere near as impressive. The original station has been obscured by a 'temporary' extension (which is due to be demolished at some point during the regeneration of the area). Looking from the front there is no indication that another beautiful Victorian station is behind!

Kings Cross is famous these days for Platform Nine and Three Quarters, which fans of Harry Potter will know is from whence the Hogwarts Express departs. Kings Cross Station does indeed have eleven platforms, however, sadly, Platforms 9 and 10 (and indeed 11) aren't in the beautiful main station area but a rather less impressive side extension. There is a rather incongruous monument to the mythical platform as you walk between the sections of the station.



The trolley hasn't been abandoned by a frustrated traveller but is, on closer inspection, part of the 'art' being positioned half-in and half-out of the wall on the way to the 'hidden' platform!