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Following the stones

Following the stones

We started today with a little trepidation because 4 weeks ago to the day we were also going on a day trip, although to a different destination, and immediately after finishing breakfast I had a heart attack and was carted off to hospital where I spent the next 4 days. It turned out to be a minor heart attack but it is, apparently, going to take 6 weeks to get back to normal (another 2 weeks to go from now).

We were not really expecting any problems today, and there weren't any, so we set off for the railway station.

We were headed for London, change at Stratford onto the DLR for Woolwich Arsenal then just two more stops on South-Eastern Trains to Abbey Wood Station. A short walk and here we are. But where exactly?

This is Lesnes Abbey Woods in the London Borough of Bexley just two miles south of the River Thames at Cross Ness or two and a half miles east of Woolwich Ferry. In the picture above the pointed skyscraper of Canary Wharf is visible near the centre line of the image with the top of the Shard showing more to the left.

The ruins at the bottom of the picture above is one of the features we've come to see. The abbey was built during the 12th century and  the first inmates probably came from the Holy Trinity Priory in Aldgate.

Although there is not a lot of structure left above ground the ruins are quite extensive. The area below was obviously the abbey church showing the bases of the columns in the church nave and the second picture shows its position relative to the other parts.

There are some parts with a significant amount showing above ground as shown here.

The inhabitants were known as Augustinians or Black Cannons and they used to meet every day in the Chapter House to discuss the business of the day and here Amanda is trying to pretend to be one of the  Cannons sitting on the bench. She doesn't seem to have much of an audience (perhaps they were warned that we were coming). smilies

It is interesting to speculate how they aquired, and organised the delivery of, all the stone needed for such a large building especially as there is no stone like it locally. The River Thames, as I said previously, is 2 miles away so the stone could have been delivered by sea – but from where? How would they have contacted the people who could supply the stone.

The abbey ruins are situated next to a wood which we wanted to explore next. Just bear in mind that it isn't flat around here and you will, like us, be going up and down some hills but the wood is really lovely and covers some 217 acres.

We were also looking for some geological deposits known as the Blackheath beds which are very fossiliferous and which I visited about 55 years ago. They were easy to find then, I have the fossils to prove it, but we couldn't find them this time. That was a little disappointing but I'd like to try again sometime.

The abbey was demolished around 1525, partly because of the dissolution of the monastaries by Henry VIII and partly because it was then already in a rather neglected state, and some of the stone was used to build Hall Place (Tudor) about 3 miles away measured in a straight line. We decided to follow the stones to Hall Place and so jumped on a number 229 bus which would take us very near Hall Place. The journey took around 50 minutes because the bus goes a rather long way round but it does make the journey simple.

The walk from the bus stop to Hall Place, which is still in the London Borough of Bexley, was quite short and we had our first glimpse of Hall Place from the road.

It certainly looked interesting so we hurried round to the entrance. Entry to the grounds is free and there is a lot to see but to go into the house requires an entrance fee of £8 per adult, £6 pounds for oldies (us) and a further discount of 50% for National Trust members (also us) so we paid £3 each for the house. If you have a National Art Pass from the ArtFund then entry to the house is free.

However it was now lunchtime so before we got to the house we found their cafe by the River Cray and had some lunch. I had seen some reviews of the cafe on the internet and they tended to be rather disappointing so we were not expecting much. However things must have improved as my soup and bread roll was really tasty and Amanda's bacon sandwich, she said, was exceptionally good. We also had no complaints about our coffee and tea. We sat outside on the river terrace and could watch the ducks and geese swiming about including Mrs Canada Goose and family.

After lunch we crossed the river over the bridge next to the cafe to see the Rock Gardens and it was certainly worth the short walk. You can see the house, with the cafe this side of it, in the second picture which will give an idea of distance.

There was a great variety of plants including some that were of particular interest to Amanda and lots of different colours which made a really attractive display.

Back across the river we turned away from the house towards the greenhouses where we found a large conservatory which was free entry so we went in. There was a rectangular path with the centre taken up with a pond surrounded by lush vegetaion and around the outside of the path were benches covered in various plants, flowers and cactuses.

We then made our way towards the western end of the grounds which had some beautiful areas of parkland together with lots of colour from numerous Azaleas which are in bloom at this time of year.

Walking towards the colour we were soon to realise just how many Azalea blossoms and colours there were and these pictures show just a few.

There was another bridge here over the river which was partly festooned with Wisteria.

The only downside to this part of the grounds is the traffic noise from a very busy road nearby. We turned round here and started to head back towards the house passing through the 'Really Useful Garden' on the way. Yes, that really is the name. It appears to be a herb garden with, yes, really useful herbs and I must say the Box hedges look really neat.

Next we went into this garden with flower beds divided into compartments by rather neatly trimmed wavy hedges. We expected to walk out the far end but discovered that the way in was the only way out.

As we neared the house we encountered the Queen's Beasts – a set of ten brilliantly executed topiary heraldic animals which were planted to celebrate our current queen's coronation. They've grown into big beasts.

At the far end of the Queen's Beasts is this turret on the house demonstrating some pretty impressive flushwork.

In architecture  flushwork is the decorative combination of flint and stone on the same flat plane. Flushwork begins in the early 14th century, but the peak period was during the wool boom between about 1450 and the English Reformation of the 1520s. Flushwork, and flint architecture in general, is usually found in areas with no good local building stone. Although the labour cost of creating flushwork was high, it was still cheaper than importing the large quantity of stone necessary to build or face the entire structure. The dark squares are flint and the light squares are stone.

The same technique has been used on the front of the house to good effect.

We finally went in to this Tudor house built in 1537 although the brick part was added in the 17th century and started our visit in the Great Hall with the Minstrel's Gallery.

Just off the Great Hall is the Kitchen.

One of the other rooms has this ornate ceiling.

Hall Place is one of London's hidden gems and, in our opinion, one that shouldn't be missed. I'm surprised that it isn't better known but I'm glad it isn't. smilies

I am supposed to be taking things easily but I don't think that I did that today. Consequently by this time I was feeling tired and so was Amanda so we decided to call it a day. We caught a bus, from the same stop from which we alighted when we arrived, to Bexley Station and then a train to London Cannon Street and thence to Liverpool Street Station and home.


Tunnels, tribulations and lots of time.

Tunnels, tribulations and lots of time.

Late last year I mentioned Brunel’s tunnel under the Thames in our Return from Rotherhithe trip but I wasn’t able to show you the actual tunnel. We can now rectify that omission. Isambard Brunel was nearly drowned whilst building this tunnel and you can read the story  here should you be interested.

We travelled to London although not as far as Liverpool Street Station this time. We changed at Stratford onto the Piccadilly Line and travelled to Canada Water where we changed once more onto the Overground.

Naturally, at this point, the Overground is underground and why not? The Underground runs overground in places so why shouldn’t the Overground run underground? It’s all very logical. When you’ve re-organised your thinking processes we’ll continue.

We then travelled one stop to Rotherhithe. This is the southern end of Brunel’s tunnel and it’s where we encountered the first tribulation.

I was hoping that, as this tunnel is of particular historical interest, the tunnel lights would be on most of the time but no, all was dark. The southern end of Brunel’s tunnel is some way from the station platform so I could see no sign of it. Bother!

Nothing for it but to get on the next train and proceed to the northern end, Wapping Station, to find out what we can see there. There appears to be a train every three minutes on this stretch of the Overground network so not long to wait.

We soon arrived at Wapping and were pleased to discover that we could see this end of Brunel’s tunnel. One thing I had noticed was that the platforms at both Rotherhithe and Wapping were very narrow – not more than six feet I should say. Just enough for two people to pass without going too near the edge.

There are two separate tunnels running parallel and this is the view from Wapping Station platform.

You should be able to see that the tunnel is horseshoe shaped which makes it quite distinctive. The next picture shows the view looking along one of the two tunnels. You should be able to see that the tunnel floor slopes downward and then upward with the two railway lines reflecting light in the far distance.

Time to move on so it’s back on the train northwards one stop to Shadwell to get the DLR to Tower Gateway which is where we find our next tribulation – it’s raining. There wasn’t any rain in the weather forecast. Oh gosh they can’t have got it wrong can they?

We wait a short time for it to stop and walk the short distance to Tower Hill Station on the District Line where we travel to Embankment. When we did our Strand-ed walk I photographed Watergate Walk but omitted to photograph the actual Watergate so here it is.

When it was built in 1626 it was on the shoreline of the River Thames with those steps going down into the water and was intended for visitors to the Duke of Buckingham’s house but then later the Embankment was built making the shoreline much further south.

Back on to the Underground we travel back east to Blackfriars. We were on our way to Blackfriars Lane and passed The Blackfriar pub which I have photographed before but I had the opportunity this time to include the whole building showing its shape rather well.

Very soon after that we were walking along the narrow Blackfriars Lane.

We passed Apothecaries Hall where The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London is based. The hall was originally part of the Dominican priory of Black Friars but was purchased by the Society of Apothecaries in 1632. The original building was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and a new hall was built on the same site and completed in 1672.

We continued along Blackfriars Lane until we reached Carter Lane which we turned into. It is interesting to note that this was, at one time, one of London’s main thoroughfares.

Part the way along Carter Lane we arrived at the junction with Burgon Street where there were a number of little narrow lanes round about.

A little further along Carter Lane we spotted this YHA building (hostel) with interesting decoration on it and it turns out that the building was originally the St. Paul’s Choir School, built in 1874, hence the latin inscription and the ecclesiastical motifs on the facade.

A short way on and we were opposite St. Paul’s Cathedral and as it was lunch time a visit to St. Paul’s Crypt Cafe was in order and that was where we hit our next tribulation – it was manic. The place seemed to be full of school parties so we turned round and left. The best thing to do seemed to be to go straight to the British Museum, our next port of call anyway, and get some lunch there and that is what we did.

Their Gallery Cafe was much more civilised. Afterwards we went up to the upper floor where we had plenty of time.

There was a variety of clocks and watches here from the very old to the relatively modern including this early wooden clock and it is all wood even the gear wheels.

There was a rather fine watch dating from 1625 which shows the date, the age and phase of the moon, the seasons, month, day of the week, quarter hours, the time and alarm setting. Anything else you want to know?

There was even a clock dating from the early 1500s.

We moved on to the the dead body department (Egyptian Mummies) where we saw Gebelein Man dating from 3500 BC. He looks as though he could do with feeding up a bit. Just in case you are a little confused his legs are on the left and his arms on the right.

After looking at many Egyptian mummies we had had enough and headed for home but we went the long way. Walking from the British Museum to Holborn Station we continued walking along Holborn to just past Chancery Lane station and thence to Hatton Garden. We weren’t there for the jewellery but for this:

Easily bypassed as ‘just another doorway’ but a closer look produces this:

It’s one of those intriguing narrow alleyways. Walking a short way in we reach Ye Olde Mitre pub built in 1546 and extended in 1782. Henry VIII was married in St.Ethelredas near by and his daughter, Queen Elizabeth, is said to have danced around the cherry tree at the pub door with Sir Christopher Hatton.

Well that’s it for today. A walk back to Chancery Lane Station and thence home. Do keep reading these posts as I’m sure one day an interesting one will come along when I’ve had enough practice.

Return from Rotherhithe

Return from Rotherhithe

It all started so well too. We arrived, as usual, at Liverpool Street Station after an uneventful journey and walked down to Aldgate where, by chance, we discovered something that we weren't anticipating.

This is a modern wooden monument which is standing on the site of one of the old London gates, namely, Aldgate. It is thought that there was a gate already spanning the road to Colchester in the Roman period, when the City wall itself was constructed and it was always an obstacle to traffic. It was rebuilt between 1108-47, again in 1215, reconstructed completely between 1607-09 and finally removed in 1761.

Geoffrey Chaucer occupied appartments above the gate in the late 1300s when he was employed as a customs official.

It's amazing what can be found just wandering around London. However we set off once again along Minories and soon arrived at our first intended destination – the Tower of London. This is where things started to go pear-shaped or, to be precise, people-shaped.

We have been to this area many times but have never seen so many people and, so it turned out, they were all around the Tower. One of the factors was probably that it was half-term and children were on holiday this week and also that it was a beautifully sunny day and not at all cold.

The other factor which may explain the numbers of people was this:

You have probably heard about these ceramic poppies. There is supposed to be one for every British life lost in the first world war but I'm not going to count them. They are around all four sides of the Tower and so are the people trying to view them. The crowds were so dense that one could only shuffle along and, consequently, it took a long time to get round.

We did, eventually, get all the way around the Tower and here are a few of the photographs that I took to prove it.

When we decided to leave we went along the pavement on the north side of the Tower and even that was shuffle, shuffle, shuffle as far as Tower Bridge Road. Walking along Tower Bridge Road to cross Tower Bridge wasn't easy. We wouldn't really want to experience that again and we probably won't because the poppies are to be removed in the early part of November.

I managed to get a quite nice photograph of the Tower, once we had reached the other side, and a nice picture of Tower Bridge.

We turned round and headed east along Shad Thames. As it was now 12:15 we decided to stop in Peapod for an early lunch. Although it's small and the range of offererings is also small the soup, whatever the flavour, is alway delicious.

After lunch we headed further along Shad Thames until we could access the riverside walk. Staying close to the riverside we had some interesting views of the Thames, one of the old docks and some of the converted old warehouses.

Then the riverside path diverts inland to the narrow streets of Bermondsey. We found that here, as we found in Wapping on the north side, a lot of the old warehouses have been converted to expensive accomodation some with rather splendid river views.

We followed Bermondsey Wall (that's a road not a wall) and again, as in Aldgate, we came across something totally unexpected.

This is all that remains of King Edward III's manor house, built over 650 years ago, on what was then a small island surrouned by marshland.

These remains are in Bermondsey Wall East near the Angel Pub which dates from around 1830 and the pub is therefore Victorian.

Just a short way on we found King's Stairs Gardens which leads to Southwark Park. We did expect to find this and it was an attractive garden but we didn't have time to explore the relatively large park.

Along more narrow streets to St. Mary's Church, Rotherhithe.

The present church replaces the previous 12th century building and was completed in 1716. It was designed by John James, an associate of Sir Christopher Wren.

Shortly after this we passed the Mayflower pub.

The original pub was built in the 16th century but was substantially rebuilt in the 18th century and has associations with the Mayflower which took the settlers to America. Christopher Jones was Master of the Mayflower and he lived in Rotherhithe and is buried in an unmarked grave in the churchyard of St. Mary's Church. The Mayflower (ship) , apparently, was moored nearby before it left on its journey to America via Portsmouth and Plymouth.

Just past the Mayflower pub was what I can only describe as a 'garden gantry'.

This view is looking back after we had passed under it. You should be able to see the Mayflower pub on the right and, a little further back, St. Mary's Churchyard on the left.

We were now at our next planned point of interest.

This was the pumping house built for pumping excess water from Brunel's tunnel under the Thames which was started in 1825 and opened in 1843. This was the world's first tunnel to pass under a river and if I were to say that it was an arduous project it would be an understatement particularly when one realises that the Thames was like an open sewer at the time. I should also mention that it was Marc Brunel, Isambard Kingdom Brunel's father, who oversaw this project although Isambard did join the project much later.

The chimney which carried the steam engine exhaust is rather obvious.

The pumping house is now a small museum and to one side is the original shaft from where the tunnels were started. It is possible to access the shaft on guided tours which take place only on some days. Check the web site if you're interested. The chairs on the floor of the shaft are for visitors when they are listening to the guide.

We walked on a little further staying close to the river until we reached Surrey Water where we turned towards the river along the very short canal to see an old obsolete bascule bridge similar to that which we saw at Shadwell.

That's a chunky bit of machinery and so back to Surrey Water with a view towards Canary Wharf.

Walking to the far end of Surrey Water we found the entrance to the canal, with its little bridge, easily enough and followed the canal which heads for Canada Water. It reminded us very much of the canal we followed from Wapping to Shadwell Basin on a previous trip.

The canal is old but the housing alongside is relatively new. An attractive environment.

We finally arrived at Canada Water which we found to be rather boring. A small lake surrounded by shops. However we could get a number 47 bus which dropped us outside Liverpoool Street Station for the train back home.

We haven't, however, finished with the Rotherhithe peninsula yet. We intend to go again but possibly not until next year. You can come again next time if you like. smilies




We caught the No. 11 bus at Liverpool Street Station heading west and had to wait a little while, when the bus encountered some heavy traffic, between the Bank of England and the Old Royal Exchange.

The hold-up wasn't for long and we alighted in the Strand, within sight of Nelson's Column, near Bedford Street.

We walked west a very short distance until we could walk through a gap into William IV Street, right into Chandos Street and then to the next left junction.

This is our first 'target'. No, not The Marquis of Granby pub but the little alley behind it – Brydges Place. This is said to be the narrowest alley in London although not for its whole length. The end we were about to enter was narrow but not exceptionally so.

The Marquis pub was known to Charles Dickens when he worked nearby and he remembered the name in Pickwick Papers and transferred it in the story to the pub owned by Sam Weller's father. The pub was originally called the Hole in the Wall and dates from the 17th century

However, as we progressed past the rear wall of The Marquis pub the far end did begin to look a little tight

then even tighter

and finally it was pretty narrow even for a slim person like Amanda (I have to say that otherwise she will ask for her £10 back smilies ) but we did manage to pop out the far end into St. Martin's Lane.

We turned right (north) and walked up St. Martin's Lane until we reached the Coliseum Theatre where we found Mays Court on the far side. The wall on the right is, as you may notice, the side wall of the Coliseum.

When it was built in 1904 it was the largest theatre in London and the first to have a revolving stage.

We walked through Mays Court back into Bedfordbury and turned left (north) as far as Goodwin's Court. The entrance next to the small shoe repair shop could be easily missed.

I have been to Goodwin's Court before when I came up here on my own but Amanda hadn't seen it. This is a complete row of houses built in 1690 with bow windows through which can be seen small rooms with steep staircases which have remained unchanged for over 300 years.

We walked back the way we came into Bedfordbury and walked south past the Lemon Tree:

The name dates from the 17th century when oranges and lemons were regarded as a luxury and as a treat to be sold in theatres by people like Nell Gwynne.

We went back to the bottom of Bedfordbury and thence to the corner of Trafalfar Square by St. Martin's in the Fields. We decided to have some coffee in the crypt where one sits over tombs in the floor which some people seem to find a bit creepy but I have to say it doesn't affect us at all. However, we may have had grave expressions on our faces whilst drinking. smilies

We finished our coffee and made our way to the south edge of Trafalgar Square where it's joined by The Mall which passes through the Admiralty Arch.

The Queen lives at the other end of the Mall and we considered walking down to give her the opportunity of asking us to lunch but eventually decided that it was too long a walk. Yes, I know she'll be disappointed but we'll give her the opportunity some other time. Everything comes to him who waits; but in this case – 'her'.

We left Trafalgar Square via Northumberland Avenue and turned left into Northumberland Street to see the pub which is quite popular among Sherlock Holmes fans.

We walked down the alley, Craven Passage, at the side of the pub and on the right wall of the alley we saw this:

This is all that remains of a turkish bath which, originally, was covered in this sort of decoration. There were dozens of these baths all over London in the last century.

The alley leads into Craven Street with its late 18th century buildings featuring delicate iron balconies.

This street has a number of claims to fame including Benjamin Franklin's house where he lived for a little over 15 years.

Herman Melville, author of 'Moby Dick' also lived here. It was also in this street that Charles Dickens saw the 'Lion' door knocker which gave him the idea of using it in A christmas Carol. It turned into the ghostly face of his dead partner Marley.

Craven Passage crosses Craven Street and continues on and so did we. At the top of some steps is the Ship and Shovell.

One interesting thing about this pub is that it has two separate buildings on each side of the passage and it has been here for nearly 300 years. The name goes back to before the Embankment was built and the river bank lay just a short distance away where barges came to unload coal and gravel; hence the name.

You may notice that just beyond the pub are the arches under the railway now a small shopping centre.

Following through the arches brings us out into Villiers Street which runs along the south-west side of Charing Cross Station up and into the Strand. This view is taken from in the Strand looking down Villiers Street towards the Embankment.

The footbridge with the windows is part of the Charing Cross Hotel and a little way down on the left is an alley with a plate reading "York Place formerly Of Alley".

This area was owned by George Villers, Duke of Buckingham who, in 1670, sold it to a London developer with the condition that streets built on the site were to bear the Duke's full name and title. So we ended up with George Court, Villiers Street, Duke Street, Buckingham Street and, of course, Of Alley which has been renamed relatively recently to York Place.

At this end of the railway arches are some escalators which go up to the next floor and there are also some stairs further up Villiers Street which also go up to the next floor. There is a walkway up here that will take you onto the Golden Jubilee Bridge across the Thames.

The walkway also gives a good view of Watergate Walk.

It was time to move on so we went through Of Alley and into John Adam Street with some imposing buildings.

However we weren't here for imposing buildings but quite the opposite. A short way along John Adam Street is a turning called York Buildings and a short way down there is this opening on the left:

You could be forgiven for thinking that this must be the entrance to an underground car park or some such but you'd be wrong. The giveaway is the nameplate on each side. This is a public road called Lower Robert Street.

You could also be forgiven for walking past rather than going down into the gloom but I didn't come here to miss the chance to explore – so down we went. A little further in when one's eyes become accustomed to the gloom it doesn't seem so dark.

There is even a glimmer of artificial light at the bottom. You should also be able to see that is a narrow pavement down the left-hand side so you don't have to walk in the road.

Looking back we have this view.

and looking onward we see this:

It's lit with fluorescent lights and daylight can be seen at the far end where it joins Savoy Place. It is the last remnant of the notorious Adelphi Arches. It is a public road although not heavily used but we did see about 5 taxis and a van go past whilst we were down there.

The Adelphi Arches were roads, cellars and paths built under the Adelphi buildings and were originally meant for warehousing and storage but became the haunt of many unsavoury characters. Corpses were often found there in the last century and when the owners decided to clear the site in 1930 they discovered at least three inhabitants whos existence had never been suspected. They included one old lady who was keeping cows down there. The majority of the Adelphi Arches were demolished with the main Adelphi building in 1936 although a small part of the building remains.

This is where it emerges onto Savoy Place:

Well that was exciting and it's a pity we didn't meet any of the unsavoury characters. We walked along Savoy Place through this arcade for part of the way:

After a short distance we turned up Carting Lane which meets the Strand at its top end where this photograph was taken.

On the way up this lane we passed an unusual street lamp.

Dating from the 1890s it is lit by gas, you can probably see it burning, and it has an unusually thick post. It is a Sewer Gas Destructor Lamp. The only one left out of a total of 200 and it is still doing its job. The gas being burned is normal domestic gas but the heat from that burn draws sewer gas up its large post and burns that too.

We went out into the Strand and turned east soon arriving at the Savoy Hotel.

The forecourt is the only place in England where traffic drives on the right and it needed a special Act of Parliament to do it. It was done to prevent carriages waiting to drop people off at the Savoy Theatre entrance, which is on the right, from blocking the hotel entrance in the centre.

We were thinking about having lunch here but decided that it really wasn't upmarket enough for us so we decided to eat in the London Transport Museum Cafe instead. On the way there we spotted an interesting building which we didn't know. Amanda suggested it was/may have been a church because there was a cross on the front apex.

It wasn't a church but that guess was close. It turns out to be the Rectory for St. Paul's Church in Covent Garden.

After lunch we came back to the Strand, crossed to the south side again, and went down a small alley called Savoy Buildings.

This alley connects with Savoy Hill, Savoy Row, Savoy Way, Savoy Court and round to Savoy Steps which is shown in the picture.

It's called Savoy Steps because there aren't any steps. We walked up to the top and back again but could not find any steps. I did try and find out why it's called Savoy Steps but have had no luck. The building on the right is the Savoy Chapel which is all that's left of the Savoy Palace that existed in Chaucer's time (14th century). The chapel is usually open to the public but it was closed for renovation when we were there.

Back into the Strand we walked east to Somerset House and arrived in the courtyard just in time to see the fountains being turned off. smilies I managed to get this picture a little before they all stopped.

So we went into the building and straight out the back onto the terrace where one gets a view of the Thames and the London Eye. Not a particularly good view but a view just the same.

We walked east along the terrace and through another arch to this courtyard which is the Strand Campus of King's College. This picture is looking back at the archway that we came through from the Somerset House riverside terrace.

Rather elegant don't you think?

Back into the Strand and continuing east we found this somewhat less elegant structure and another part of it around the corner in Surrey Street.

Notice the rather unusual roof in the lower picture. There are three rows of dormer windows one above the other. The building is the old Strand underground station which was a spur from Holborn on the original Piccadilly Railway which is now the Piccadilly Line. It is now closed.

Further along the Strand we entered the Temple with the intention of having another look at the Temple Church which we last visited in 2010. However we discovered that they now charge for entry at £4 per adult so no thank you. Having been in there I would say that you won't get value for money.

At this point we decided to call it a day. Our various little ramblings were either around or in the Strand so we were feeling totally Strand-ed. We crossed the Strand and caught a No. 11 bus again but back to Liverpool Street Station this time.

I'll leave you with the very last photograph of this trip taken from the top deck of the bus of a rather nice building we spotted on the corner of Pageantmasters Court and Ludgate Hill.


Today I was at Liberty to do as I liked.

Today I was at Liberty to do as I liked.

Amanda had a lunch appointment today with her sister and, at the moment, it's not easy to find a day where the sun is out for a good part of the day but today was one of those days so I just had to go. Amanda really didn't mind.

I started, as usual, at Liverpool Street Station and caught the number 23 bus which starts here and goes past a number of interesting locations such as the Bank of England and Mansion House:

Then on to St. Paul's Cathedral and Ludgate Hill which seems to have cornered the market in buses. I counted at least twelve.

Going along the Strand I took this photograph which I thought would interest Marie and anyone else who has stayed there.

The funny colour in the top right hand corner is on the window of the bus. Next, Trafalgar Square. Well, Nelson's Column at least. The rest of the square is obscured by traffic.

On the other side of the square is Admiralty Arch which, as you know, leads into The Mall and thence to Buckingham Palace.

Then up Regent Street

to Oxford Street. No I didn't take a photograph of Oxford Street.

At Bond Street Station in Oxford Street I got off the bus  – into mayhem. smilies That's how Oxford Street always strikes me on a normal weekday. God knows what it's like on a Saturday. Perhaps 4:00 AM on a Sunday would be a good time.

Having crossed to the north side of the road, a short walk from the bus stop in the same direction as the bus was travelling, there is a very narrow entrance to Gee's Court which is easy to miss and, to prove it, I managed to miss it but went up James Street instead and the open area on the right into St. Christopher's Place is very easy to spot.

This is Gee's Court looking towards Oxford Street:

and it narrows significantly where it joins Oxford Street. Gee's Court runs into St. Christopher's Place which is tucked behind Oxford Street and would be very easy to miss.

The network of narrow paved streets or alleys harbours an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants with a very pleasant atmosphere.

After looking around St. Christopher's Place I turned south, crossed Oxford Street and turned down Duke Street passing through Grosvenor Square along Carlos Place (keep going straight where the road curves left) past the Connaught Hotel to here:

This gateway could easily be regarded as the entrance to a churchyard especially with the end of a church showing at the back but that assumption would be wrong. This is one ot the entrances to Mount Street Gardens a small public garden/park also known as St. George's Gardens. Because it is so sheltered there are plants growing here that you might not expect. For example there is a Canary Islands Date Palm.

You wouldn't find it worth while to make a special trip to see it however it is worth a vist  if you are in the area.

I now headed east along Grosvenor Street and Maddox Street and on my way passed this impressive church on the corner of Maddox Street and St. George's Street.

It is St. George's Church built in the early part of the 18th century and Mount Street Gardens used to be the burial ground for this church but that usage ceased in the middle of the 19th century.

Continuing across St. George's Street to the other part of Maddox Street I soon arrive in Regent Street with Great Marlborough Street opposite and that is where I go to find this:

Although it looks like an ancient timber-framed building it is actually Victorian. The perfectly straight timbers should give it away. Have you been there? Do you recognise it? There is a name above the door on the angled part but it isn't easy to read. Does this view give you a clue?

Yes, it's Liberty's of London. They give their address as Regent Street but the majority of the building is in Great Marlborough Street shown here. In 1924 this building was constructed, in the Tudor style, from the timbers of two ships: HMS Impregnable and HMS Hindustan and the frontage on Great Marlborough Street is the same length as the Hindustan. It is a Grade II listed building.

Liberty sells a wide range of luxury goods including women's, men's and children's fashion, cosmetics and fragrances, jewellery, accessories, homeware, furniture, stationery and gifts. Liberty is known for its floral and graphic prints. Let me give you some advice. If you go into Liberty's with your credit cards you could come out bankrupt so don't say you weren't warned.

The inside of the building is a delight and is worth visiting even if you don't intend to buy anything. There are light wells like these which run from the ground floor to the roof.

Even the stairs are nice (there are also lifts).

It is a veritable Aladdins Cave in here. You know you can't afford it.

Time to move on – but not very far. Travelling east along Great Marlborough Street, away from Regent Street, to the end of the Liberty building where I immediately turned right to enter Carnaby Street and I'm in Soho.

Carnaby Street does seem popular and it's certainly busy but I pass through and out the far end. There are plenty of interesting streets in Soho as evidenced by Great Windmill Street, Rupert Street and others.

I eventually turned south down Wardour Street and crossed Shaftesbury Avenue to Chinatown. This really consists of just a few streets – the southern end of Wardour Street together with Gerrard Street, Lisle Street etc.

Colourful init? Even the street names are in English and Chinese.

All I have to do now is find my way through the maze of back streets to the western end of Long Acre via Leicester Square.

Well it's simple enough as far as the junction of Cranbourn Street and Charing Cross Road but then, when I reach Charing Cross Road, I expect to see Long Acre on the other side. But no! On the other side is the continuation of Cranbourn Street. The bit on my map shows Cranbourn Street that I'm in, then a short length of un-named road before Long Acre. I take a chance and go along Cranbourn Street and it does lead into Long Acre.

Why Long Acre? I'm looking for Stanford's the map and guide book shop. Stanford's moved into the shop in 1873 so it must have been built before that.

They have just about every map and guide book that there is and I want to try and find the London AZ Super Scale Street Map (scale: 9 inches to 1 mile) which has every little alleyway marked on it but covers only the central portion of London.

One thing that you can't fail to notice is the floor.

A map of the world on the Ground Floor and a street map of London in the Basement. Fascinating!

I did find my map so that was a worthwhile visit but I'm getting tired so it's once again time to go home. I walk down to the Strand and get an 11 bus to Liverpool Street Station.

I expect we'll be back – both of us next time.


We have a Tate à Tate and Barry goes to heaven.

We have a Tate à Tate and Barry goes to heaven.

Wednesday. Train from our local station to Stratford. Change on to the Jubilee Line and thence to Waterloo Station where we once again emerged into daylight. We headed north and found ourselves on the approach to Waterloo Bridge over the Thames and then, off to our left we saw this.

The Royal Festival Hall with the London Eye and Big Ben in the background. However we weren't looking for the Royal Festival Hall but it does act as a guide. What we were looking for was the Queen Elizabeth Hall which is next to it.

Amanda spotted some steps which appeared to be going up into Queen Elizabeth Hall so we hopped up those. Well I was speaking figuratively and we didn't actually hop, you understand, as it would have been difficult going up stairs on one leg and old legs at that. Then I spotted an open door with some greenery beyond. Going through the door we weren't surprised to find a garden because that is what we had come here to see.

The top picture shows the path we came in on to this point and the second picture shows the way on. This is on the roof of the Queen Elizabeth Hall and there are even tables and chairs where you can sit awhile and buy a snack and a drink from that grey/green shed at the back if you so choose.

From the far end of the roof we had this view over the river showing one of the piers where you can get on the Thames Clippers and there is also Hungerford Bridge which, although a railway bridge, has pedestrian walkways on each side.

If you happen to be in this area then the roof garden is worth a visit.

Turning to our left gave us this view of the other end of the Royal Festival Hall.

We had heard that people can just pop in to the the foyer area and use the facilities so we put it to the test. We went down, on a bright yellow spiral stairway, to riverside level and walked in. Easy Peasy so far. There seemed to be a good number of people sitting around in comfortable seating chatting or just using their laptops and, what is more, there were toilets.

There were different levels and we didn't feel like interlopers so it does seem to be open to the public. There is also a snack bar.

Time to move on. We walked east along the Thames-side path, past the Oxo Tower which we visited last time, to the Tate Modern. We have been here before but didn't see much more than the old Turbine Hall so we were going to look round the galleries this time.

We looked round a number of the galleries and I list below photographs of everything that has merit.

Oh! Just the Turbine Hall then. Enough said.

We left via the Turbine Hall and walked a short way further east. Time to catch the bus – but not one of those red double deck buses as we are going on a river bus to Tate Britain. The 'buses' have different routes and different designations e.g. the one we wanted was the 'Tate to Tate' and its designation was RB2. There are electronic displays on each pier which give arrival times for the next buses and their designations. If you have a Travel Card or an Oyster Card then showing them when you pay will get you a 33% discount. If you have a London Bus Pass (London Residents only) then that will get you a 50% discount.

Our fare was £4.50 each with the discount. We didn't have long to wait and we were off. The seats are comfortable and this photograph shows only a quarter of the accommodation as there is just as much off to the right hidden by the structure and as much again behind me.

We had a good view of the Tate Modern on the way upstream.

We passed under the Millenium Bridge then Blackfriars Station/Bridge

We were there in what seemed like no time at all and watched our 'bus' leave for its final stop at Vauxhall.

We left the pier and walked the short distance to Tate Britain.

It is a nice building, and entry is free, but before we started to look round we wanted lunch, it was 1 o'clock, so we found the restaurant.

A pleasant place for a meal and the food was good BUT the portions were very small. I, for example, had Fishcake with Mushy Peas (£8) and that is all that was on my plate – nothing extra such as salad or potatoes. Amanda had Crispy Lamb (£7) with Radicchio Salad and Goats Cheese and Potato Crumble. There was not much of the salad and the crumble was little more than a sprinkling of garnish. Choice of desserts were limited but we had a slice of cake each.

Having finished lunch we ventured forth to look around. It is a nice building and the main rotunda is quite spectacular featuring a rather interesting staircase.

We found another interesting staircase in another part of the building.

We weren't going to be able to look at everything so we chose a particular period which included John Constable.

I've chosen to show that particular Constable because we used to have a print of it hanging in our sitting room which we had inherited from my parents but it wasn't a very good one so we disposed of it. This version is much better. smilies

Time was getting on and we had some more places to visit yet so we left the Tate and walked north-west up to Victoria Street and Westminster Cathedral. Do not confuse this with Westminster Abbey. The foundation stone was laid in 1895 and the fabric of the building was finished in 1903. The design was of the Early Christian Byzantine style by the Victorian architect John Francis Bentley. It still isn't finished although it would appear so with a cursory glance. It is a striking building and certainly worth a visit. Entry is free.

Whilst we were in there I asked if I could go up to heaven and an angel in the guise of a young lady from the gift shop agreed to take me up in the lift. She left me there and returned to earth. I could tell I was in heaven because of the views.

There a number of well known landmarks in that last picture – can you spot them.

Unfortunately the authorities in heaven decided that I couldn't stay because I hadn't been good enough so I was sent back to earth for some more practice. You can't win them all.

As we were getting ready to leave for our next destination we chanced to see a young man with a hawk which was used for scaring the pigeons away from the area which it certainly did. It was a Harris Hawk.

We caught a No. 11 bus in Victoria Street and made the short journey to Westminster Abbey where we were hoping to see a part of the abbey where entry was free after 4:30 PM and we arrived there just after half past four. Walking towards the West Front we turned right under an arch into the Dean's Yard. This is it:

Turning sharp left inside the yard there is an open doorway with an attendant on guard whom you should ask to visit the Cloisters and he should let you pass.

Note the difference in the roof profile on different sides of the quadrangle. If you follow the signs you may also visit the College Gardens. I have also heard that you can get in to the Cloisters free on weekends after 2:30 PM but we haven't tested that yet. You can try it if you like and do let me know if you get in.

We decided that we were getting tired and chose to head home. We walked to St. James's Park Station and on the way saw this.

A number of visitors seem interested in seeing this rotating sign, I don't know why, so I thought I'd include it. I hope that you are suitably interested.

Time to go home.

More of the same but more of the difference.

More of the same but more of the difference.

A week ago I said we planned to return to Hampstead one day; well this is one day! Same place – different bits.

It all started so well. Today (Tuesday) was forecast to be this week's sunny day and, surprisingly, that is how it turned out; right to the very end. We went to Hampstead Station (Northern Line) via the tube and emerged into the sunlight.

We turned south along Heath Street (You can go north along Heath Street as well) and then right into Church Walk. A very pleasant street with lots of Georgian Houses. It turned out that this part of Hampstead was mainly Georgian so not very old at around 200 – 300 years.

And it wasn't called Church Walk for nothing you know.

It was a Georgian church and we didn't go inside as it was about to be invaded by a large party of what appeared to be visitors on a tour of Hampstead. We didn't see them again.

We turned right further along into Holly Walk which runs alongside a separate piece of ground used as the churchyard and you should notice a couple of large memorials just behind the railings in the next picture.

That lane led us up to Mount Vernon where we noticed this house together with another rather nice little lane called Holly Berry Lane. The plaque on the wall says:

"The Watch House – In the 1830s the newly formed Hampstead Police Force set out on its patrol & nightly watch from this house"

It was an arresting sight and so was looking back down Church Walk from the top.

There are plenty of nice little corners in this part of Hampstead and it is hilly.

One of the things we had planned to do on our next visit to Hampstead was to see two National Trust properties – 2 Willow Road and Fenton House. We discovered before we left home that they are both closed Mondays and Tuesdays and, of course, this weeks sunny day was Tuesday so we didn't even go near 2 Willow Road but Fenton House was in this area so we caught a glimpse of it behind its rather fancy gates. Next time perhaps?

We saw the Holly Bush Inn which is Georgian and a mere 200 years old. It did, however, have a menu posted outside and the various dishes did sound nice but it was too early for lunch so we passed by.

We were on top of a hill here and we wanted to head for Flask Walk and Well Walk which were on the other side of Hampstead High Street so we needed to head down the hill. From High Street we turned into Back Lane

which led us into Flask Walk. Flask Walk displays two distinct aspects. The top alleyway part with its shops and the lower part with its leafy residential aspect.

Why 'Flask' Walk? It recalls the centuries-old practice of Londoners climbing up to the two villages, Hampstead and Highgate, to fill leather flasks with pure spring water rather than risk the cholera-riddled infected waters of London.

On the way down Flask Walk we came across this building. Since many of the worker's homes in Victorian Hampstead had no running water, this public building provided both drinking water and facilities for bathing.

I don't need to tell you the date because it's on the building.

On our route we were going past Burgh House and Hampstead Museum and we thought we'd have a look round but, no, closed Mondays and Tuesdays. They seem to have a thing in Hampstead about closing on Mondays and Tuesdays but we did at least see the outside. It is, like a lot of Hampstead, Georgian.

We joined Well Walk and went past one of the original Chalybeate wells originally promoted for the medicinal value of the chalybeate waters (water impregnated with iron). Keats, the poet, and Constable, the painter, both lived in this area for a time.

We eventually joined East Heath Road on the edge of the 791 acres of Hampstead Heath. We were headed for one of the places we missed last time because we became lost on the heath and eventually ran out of time. So will we get lost this time? Of course not. *cough*

We started off along a well marked path in a wooded part of the heath.

We were looking for an obvious junction which we found and where we turned left arriving, eventually, at Viaduct Pond. See, I told you we wouldn't get lost.

The viaduct carries another path across the pond. We made our way up the side of the pond onto that very path then took a smaller path through the woods ahead and finally emerged onto a larger path. We knew where we were now so turned left and headed for our next destination. Just to be safe we asked some people coming from the opposite direction who told us that we were indeed going the wqrong way. Whoops! Lost again. If you do go to Hampstead Heath no matter how many maps you take you will get lost. It is a nice place to get lost though.

They did gives us some directions which we managed to follow and finally arrived on the path we wanted.

That's Amanda on the path and just ahead of her is a right turn which we need to take. This is what we were looking for.

It is Kenwood House run by English Heritage and, best of all, entry is free. They have a place for refreshments called the Brewhouse Cafe which is where we now repaired to have lunch. The food turned out to be very good. I had poached salmon with roast new potatoes and cous cous and Amanda had free-range pork sausages with apricot chutney and roast new potatoes. Can't you just picture those little sausages gambolling around in a big field? Lovely! The main courses were just £9.50 each. Good value.

There is also a very nice outdoor area where you can choose to eat your meal or refreshments if you so choose.

After lunch we went into the house which, you may remember, is free.

The original house dates from the early 17th century and the orangery was added in about 1700. In 1754 it was bought by William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield who commissioned Robert Adam to remodel it from 1764-1779. Adam added the library (one of his most famous interiors) to balance the orangery, and added the Ionic portico at the entrance. In 1793-6 George Saunders added two wings on the north side, and the offices and kitchen buildings and brewery (now the restaurant) to the side.

The house does not contain much furniture but it does have an extraordinary collection of paintings including a self-portrait by Rembrandt and paintings by Vermeer, Gainsborough and Landseer to name but a few.

The first picture above is the Library, added by Robert Adam, and the second picture is the Upper Hall with Amanda sitting at the table waiting for dinner. I didn't have the heart to tell her it probably wouldn't arrive.

Out in the grounds is this rather grand bridge.

Except it isn't anything of the sort. It's a fake. Just a wooden facade painted to look like a real bridge. The back looks quite different.

It was created around 200 years ago. Don't believe everything you see.

That was our Hampstead trip for the day but we had a little more time so we went, via the tube, to Lancaster Gate and into Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens. Just inside the gate is the Italian Gardens.

I was looking forward to photgraphing the fountains – but – no fountains. Sorry fountains are closed on Monday and Tuesday. I don't actually know if that is true but they definitely weren't running. Not one little drop. I don't know why but it was disappointing.

However there was something unusual.

No not the non-fountain but what's behind it. Oh! You can't see it? I'll move round a bit then.

Can you see the Heron perched on the edge of the bowl now? This one is obviously hoping for a fish dinner and, because it's so used to all the visitors, it hasn't taken fright as it would do normally and flown away.

So that was the end of our day – or was it?

We caught the Central Line to Liverpool Street Station for our train home except that there wasn't one. No trains running on the main line to Norwich. There were hundreds of people standing around on the main concourse all looking at the departures board. I've never seen so many 'Cancelled' and 'Delayed' indicators. Who do they think they are – an airport?

We had planned to get a train somewhere between 6:00 and 6:30. So much for planning.

We eventually learned that a train had damaged the overhead power lines which supply electricity to the trains motors and that this was just north of Chelmsford (one of the places our train goes through). This left just one track operating for trains going both ways so all trains were having to take turns to share this section.

Then just before 7:30 there was an announcement that a train was leaving for our neck of the woods but that induced a torrent of people and by the time we got to the train we would have needed a shoe horn to get in. We didn't bother.

Then, shortly after, another announcement said that a train going to Harwich International (north of our station) which wasn't going to stop at our station was having two additional stops which did include our station. We got to the train to find that there was room but only if we were prepared to stand. We had no idea how long we'd have to wait if we didn't get this one so we decided to take a chance.

It did actually leave on time, about 7:40, and we crawled for 30 minutes to the next stop. When we started again we picked up speed and we going quite well for some time until we stopped and waited – and waited – and waited. We must have waited there for about an hour then started a stop-start journey through various stations until we finally arrived at ours. After we'd been standing for 1 and a half hours two younger people offered us their seats and we collapsed into them before they changed their minds.

That journey took a total of 2 hours 45 minutes instead of the normal 55 minutes.

We were very glad to arrive home especially as it was 10:30. What an end to an otherwise nice day!