29 May 2015

The Golden Jubilee Bridges

If you are planning to go to the Southbank or come to the market in Embankment Gardens this weekend (see my last post below) you may need to cross the Thames on foot. The obvious choice for the pedestrian is to use one of the Golden Jubilee bridges that run either side of Hungerford Railway Bridge.

Ooh, isn't it lovely!   But look closer....
These elegant foot bridges are reported to carry approx 8.4 million people every year so it disappoints me that they are not being maintained as well as they should be. I wonder if anyone is looking at or checking anything other than the fine views because whenever I begin to climb up any of the four flights of stairs that lead to one of the pair of elevated footpaths I am appalled at how dirty and unkempt everything is – layers of filth on the verticals of the steps, in the corners, near the lifts, and all the way along the edges. Everywhere, really except for the handrails which have been buffed clean by people's hands and clothing over the years.
And the glass side panels on all staircases are dull and/or dirty in large patches – surely these cannot have been designed to end up looking like this?
It sends a terrible message about how we, as Londoners, disrespect our environment.

The stairs outside the Royal Festival Hall and a close up of them.
The metal that runs all the way along is grubby and could/should just be wiped clean. Ditto the area by the lift.
The approach from Embankment tube station is just as bad, perhaps worse. On exiting the station one can easily see the ugly side of the foot bridge, and it's not a pretty sight. Again, lots of filth, scuffed paint and ingrained dirt. What do visitors to London make of this? 

I already wrote about this issue in March 2012 and made some other suggestions – read it here.
On the day I took these photos the eastern bridge (13 May 2015) I spotted a man in a Veolia Environmental Services hi-vis jacket scraping out the moss that had grown between the paving stones and the metal edging. Perhaps this was a precursor to some proper cleaning. I hope so.

The metal signs giving information about the views are also in a sorry state – a buff with a soft sander or a cloth shouldn't be that hard to do. Or better still, get a new sign made!! After all, this must need updating by now considering the amount of new build in the past 10 years. http://www.janeslondon.com/2015/05/cityshowcase-market-at-embankment.htmlhttp://www.janeslondon.com/2015/05/cityshowcase-market-at-embankment.html

27 May 2015

CityShowcase Market at Embankment Gardens

Warning!!!  This is a blatant plug!!!

Those of you who have followed my clay pipe creations will be aware that I have been promising to produce a range of London landmarks to complement the Pete and Joe cards.


Well... (drum roll please) ... I can announce that they are hot off the press this week and will available to buy from Yours Truly this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Embankment Summer Market.

Also see the #CityShowcase website.
If you can't get to the Embankment Gardens please see my online store.

25 May 2015

Boston Manor House

Earlier this month I went on a tour of the lovely Boston Manor House with a group from London Historians.
It's hard to believe that I had never visited this gorgeous Jacobean house before.
The house with its adjacent walled garden is set within beautiful parkland just a short walk from Boston Manor tube station and is a stark contrast the neighbouring modern constructions, particularly the elevated section of the M4 and the huge glass tower of GlaxoSmithKine.

It was a lovely surprise to find that Janet, our guide, was wearing one of my clay pipe necklaces – she said it was a present from a friend at Christmas. How lovely.
Boston Manor House has a rich history and has had many owners who have had extended, remodelled and renovated it over the centuries. The rooms inside are a joy; intricate carved and moulded walls and ceilings, trompe l'oeil up the stair case walls and some very special hand printed wallpaper on the upper floor.
I'll leave it at that – go see it for yourself!

Interior details including a date in the ceiling and a not very bog standard toilet.

21 May 2015

Tree carving in Kentish Town

I spotted this tree stump carving in Islip Street, Kentish Town, last June and forgot all about it until now. I am nor even sure if it's still there.
It resembles a temple, or a lantern


Some more opportunities here.

18 May 2015

Archway Blues and Greens

A couple of weeks ago I took a couple of colourful snaps

Archway Tower... under renovation
The Co-operative Store, Junction Road
That's it!

15 May 2015

Off The Cally – Barnsbury Wood and Bingfield Park

A couple of months ago Jen and I went to investigate Barnsbury Wood, London's smallest local nature reserve, hidden behind a triangle of houses just a few minutes' walk east of Caledonian Road and Barnsbury Station.

This lovely little patch of woodland is only open at limited times – please see here for more info.
It was such a lovely day so I suggested we continue our wander over to the west side of Caledonian Road, just south of the railway line.
On the corner of Lyon Street we spotted that Salami's, a once colourful and popular grocer has closed down. A sign proclaims that Tesco have an application pending for the site. Oh well. Moving on....
Turning into Lyon Street, it looks at first to be a dead end. A raised platform on the right hand side of the road runs parallel to the railway line (I wonder if it was an loading bay for a siding or warehouses – I am still hunting for info on that). The land on the other side of the wall looks to be unused at the moment.


At the end of the road it turns left and then joins Gifford Street where a few walls with brickwork arches are all that the remain of the Christ Apostolic Church which burned down in 2003. Is This Love?
The right-hand/north side of Gifford Street comprises a lovely terrace of well-kept two storey cottages and three storey houses. These finish at the corner where the brick shells of some light industrial businesses and warehouses can be found, some of them gutted with the sun shining through. St Andrews Mission Hall with its pitched roof still sits intact, set back in the corner. I am keen to find out what will become of these lovely constructions as, to my eye, they look too good to be replaced. This area has a wonderful feeling of stepping in time to when children played in the streets. The map below shows how the area looked in the late Victorian period.

Approx 1888 (from The A-Z of Victorian London)
Today Bingfield Park replaces many of these grid format streets
Notice also the Great Northern Railway depot sheds and the Potato Market on York Way.
We then followed the road south around the edge of Bingfield Park, into Rufford Street, around the pointy corner junction of Randell's Road, and into Bingfield Road, managing to resist the temptations of Crumbell's Castle Adventure Playground, and finishing back on The Cally next to some painted parrots.
What a nice afternoon.
I was thinking how lovely it all was and wondered why the area gets such bad press then, less than a week later, near Copenhagen Street, a lad was stabbed and died within minutes. So sad.

13 May 2015

Free walking tours this month

Earlier this year I wrote about Walk London's free winter walks.
Well, they have recently announced that Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st May will be SPRING INTO SUMMER WEEKEND when 41 guided walks across Greater London will be FREE to attend.
Find out more here.


There are also many lovely designated and protected paths in and around London that are always open and well worth investigating. These include The Thames Path, The Capital Ring and The Lea Valley Walk. Find them all on the TfL site here.

11 May 2015

Foraging and dangling... and a free potato

I have been out and about a lot this weekend.
On Saturday I visited Boston Manor and Brentford which I will write about soon.
And then yesterday I met up with a group of friends for another forage on the foreshore. This time we went to the stretch of beach at the foot of Ratcliffe Stairs, Limehouse


It was a glorious day and we stayed there for hours collecting bits of old clay pipe, broken pottery, eroded wood, animal teeth, rusty metal etc, and even managed to catch a glimpse of The Red Arrows flying towards Central London for the VE Day commemorative celebrations.
After a pint and a sandwich at The Old Ship, six of us then went to Greenwich Peninsula to check out The Urban Village Fete* at North Greenwich which we all felt was rather disappointing, so hurrah for the thrill of the Dangleway!!


Only one of our group had been on the £4.50 'ride' before [read his account here] but, for the rest of us it was huge fun – like a fairground ride. I have no idea what the in-built commentary was saying because we couldn't hear it above our squeals of excitement. Such a great view, and a perfect day weather-wise.
We landed (disembarked?) on the North side in an area once covered by the Royal Victoria Dock which now resembles... ooh... everywhere and nowhere because, apart from a few cranes and well-developed dockers' mistresses left around the edges of the quay, it could be anywhere bland and characterless in any city in the world really.
We found a nearby cafe with outdoor tables. My baked potato was so tasty that when I mentioned it to the waiter he gave me a free uncooked potato to take home. How sweet.
A lovely lovely day. Thanks all.

*One gripe... This journey necessitates a change from the DLR to the Jubilee Line. Despite these two relatively new stations having the same name and being shown on the tube map as an intersection, it's somehow necessary to exit to street level, hunt for scant signage/directionals, navigate escalators and pedestrian crossings etc, in order to make the connection. The only conclusion for this appalling bit of contemporary planning is that it's been designed to make us get lost and be distracted by the shops and restaurants. Bad bad bad.

8 May 2015

In and out the dusty bluebells


Sitting on my back step admiring the lovely bluebells in my garden I was reminded of a game I used to play in the Infants' school playground back in the 1960s.
First of all we had to find a few friends who wanted to play so this necessitated skipping around the playground holding hands calling out "who wants to play... [insert game name here].... join in" (with the word 'join' really extended/emphasised).
Once we had a group of say eight, then seven stood in a circle holding hands with arms raised like gothic arches and one person (let's call her the leader) wove in and out of the ring whilst those of us in the ring sang:
     In and out the dusty bluebells
     In and out the dusty bluebells
     In and out the dusty bluebells
     Who will be my partner?
Then the leader would stop behind that child and rhythmically pat on her shoulders (mostly a girls' game though I do recall boys sometimes joined in) whilst we sang:
     Pitter patter pitter patter on my shoulder 
     Pitter patter pitter patter on my shoulder 
     Pitter patter pitter patter on my shoulder 
     You will be my master!
This child then joined behind the leader and held onto her hips, the circle got smaller and the whole thing repeated until there was just one child left who got banged on the head by everyone. I haven't a clue what the point of it was, or what it all meant, but I liked it.
Over the years I have been asking people if they remember this game and, apart from one friend who grew up in Kennington but can't recall the words to the song, I have drawn a blank.
Recently I found the game mentioned in My East End by Gilda O'Neill (I urge you to read this book; it's wonderful). As seen below, the words are slightly different: 


The reference to a dog is logical as regards use of words like master, follow and even the inclusion of patting*, but how this links in with bluebells is beyond me.
Does anyone else remember or know anything about this game?

* I am now singing words from another song;
"We all pat the dog, we all pat the dog.. e, i, adio, we all pat the dog"
What was that from?!!

6 May 2015

Knightsbridge observations

Just east of Harvey Nicks and the Park Tower Knightsbridge Hotel, occupying a prime bit of real estate facing Hyde Park, is an ornate Victorian parade that stretches between William Street and Wilton Place.


Last week I noticed that the shop windows at street level are boarded up.
The 18 shops along there included a branch of Spaghetti House which had been there for 46 years.
The landlord, Cheval Property Management, has plans to redevelop the site although I can see nothing about it on their website.
I am not sure who or what occupies the upper levels and I am keeping my fingers crossed that the fa├žade is retained, cleaned and reused. But I rather suspect that demolition of this impressively decorated terrace with its lovely mouldings and unusual windows, might be on the cards. I hope I am wrong.

4 May 2015

Hawley Road villa demolition update

Update to post from last month

Here are some pics I took last week which show that the villa on the end is still standing but most of the others have been demolished.
Hmmm... Interesting.


The more modern pink and green building near The Hawley Arms has been demolished, however the Victorian one on the bend next to the railway line (shown bottom left and middle in my last post) is still there.

1 May 2015

Canalway Cavalcade 2015 – Little Venice, May Bank Holiday Weekend


Three days of colourful boats, stalls, music, demonstrations, food, dancing and lots more this weekend 2nd, 3rd and 4th May at the canal basin at Little Venice.
More info here.
Hope to see you there – come and find me at my stall on Warwick Crescent overlooking the boats.
Oh, I almost forgot – please bring a pint of ale with you ;-)

29 April 2015

Squid Beaks and The Cephalopod Molluscs at The Grant Museum of Zoology


This is one of London's charming hidden gems – step back in time to a room packed full of interesting and intriguing specimens.
The museum is free to visit and can be found at the top end of Gower Street opposite University College. More info here.
The title of this post comes from some info cards I noticed in one of the cabinets (shown second pic bottom row) – a great name for a band and a marvellous venue for the first gig...

27 April 2015

Drapers' Hall – a guided tour

This follows on neatly from last week's post about Cutlers' Hall. 

Last month I met up with a group from London Historians for a guided tour of Drapers' Hall.


Drapers' Hall is thought by many to be the grandest of the livery halls which, I suppose, befits their standing at No.3 on the order of precedence.
It is indeed very impressive; festooned with gorgeous reliefs, chandeliers, tapestries, carpets, sculptures and paintings – each item with its own story to tell. Also impressive is the silver vault.
The Drapers' animal is the ram, who sits on top of the coat of arms. He appears here and there throughout the building though I didn't see as many different depictions of rams as I did elephants at Cutlers' Hall, or rhinos at the Apothecaries' Hall*.
You can glean more info about Drapers' Hall from their site – there is even a virtual tour available – but it's not the same as being there yourself and walking into each room not knowing what to expect and involuntarily saying "ooh!".

The rooms of Drapers Hall form a square ring around a quadrangle (not accessible on the tour).
I was intrigued by this space and the mouldings/carvings around the windows each depicting a different country. I also liked the reflections of the outside world and the rooms opposite, and the rams' heads above the upper windows.

*Oops!  Just checked my archives to link to the Apothecaries Hall and it turns out I never wrote about it. So many things; so little time.

22 April 2015

A villa in Hawley Road – RIP

For decades I have been watching the decline of a lovely old villa in Hawley Road at the junction of Kentish Town Road, opposite Quinn's public house.

Top left in August 2008. Top right in June 2013.
The bottom two pics taken in early March this year.
As you can see, this must have once been a lovely, family home. But, having stood empty for [I'd estimate] +20 years, it has subsequently become the home of squatters, sniffers and taggers. Nothing wrong with squatting, mind; why should buildings stand unoccupied when so many people have nowhere to live?!
In early March when I took these pics, because I'd noticed that all the villas along that stretch of road were surrounded by hoardings, probably awaiting demolition. 




Quinn's pub top left with some clever street art on the side. Top middle and right are the villas next to the one above. The pics in the second row are in the stretch from the railway bridge to the Hawley Arms, and judging from the hardings and wire mesh panels, I guess by the time of writing this they have all succumbed to the wrecking ball, even the relatively new building in the pic bottom right. 
I found some pics and more info here.
An article in The Kentish Towner shows the £35million redevelopment scheme and mentions that only 95 signatures were collected for a petition to save the villas from demolition. Sad.