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Medieval Mischief

Medieval Mischief

First of all let's set the tone of this trip before we do anything else.

This little alley dates back to medieval times so, knowing that, if you think that you know why it was given that name then you are probably right. They were fairly blunt about names at that time so we will leave it there. 'Nuff said.

Here are some more pictures of that alley:

So where is it and what were we doing there?

It is Shrewsbury and we went shopping. Not only that but as we have a railway station in Knighton we used the railway to get there. The sneaky part is that travelling cost us nothing and I'll explain why. In Britain, when one is over 60, one can apply to the local council for a concessionary travel pass which permits travelling on buses free. In Wales that same pass can apply to some railway routes and one of those is the Heart of Wales Line. Now guess where that line runs through. Yes – Knighton.

The Heart of Wales line, which runs the 120 miles between Swansea and Shrewsbury, could not be described as 'Mainline' and is, in fact, very very rural. This is our train waiting in our station and, as you can see, couldn't be any shorter. It has just one carriage and no locomotive because it is a diesel railcar with engines under the floor.

It may be small but it provides some very nice landscape views.

So back to Shrewsbury.

We were wandering around the town looking at the shops, of which there was a great variety, with an occasional foray into places of interest which was when we found ourselves in the grounds of Shrewsbury Castle.

The original castle was built by the Normans but, apart from the gateway, very little of that building survives. Much of it was demolished during the rebuilding and strengthening of the castle around 1300 when an outer bailey was also added. It was never used as a fortress after that and over the centuries fell into disrepair until the civil war when further alterations were made.

We didn't actually buy very much in Shrewsbury although I did get a new pair of shoes. We plan to go back on further visits.

Is there Much Wenlock?

Is there Much Wenlock?

Is there Much Wenlock? There is actually Little Wenlock!

Confused? I'll explain. Little Wenlock is a village, a little south of the town of Wellington in Shropshire, and Much Wenlock is a small market town also in Shropshire. The 'Much' part indicates that it is larger than Little Wenlock. We stayed in Much Wenlock for three nights at the Talbot Inn in High Street. High Street is only one vehicle wide which may give you an idea of the size of the place.

It is a nice little inn with a courtyard accessed through the arch.

The accommodation was basic but comfortable with the bedroom and bathroom ensuite and the food was good.

Immediately opposite the Talbot Inn was Raynald's Mansion dating from the early 1400s. A very impressive building but privately owned and not open to the public.

Near the end of High Street is The George pub and next to that is an alley.

An alley in the Shropshire dialect is a 'shut'. The name, apparently, comes from old english.

Opposite the far end of High Street in Wilmore Street is the 16th century Guildhall another impressive timber-framed building with an interesting interior. The Guildhall is open to the public between April and October on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

A little further along Wilmore Street is the church built in 1150 by the Cluniac monks of Wenlock Priory.

A little further along the same road we found this rather interesting old police station. Victorian I imagine.

The following day we drove to Church Stretton and into Carding Mill Valley owned by the National Trust. This valley forms part of the Long Mynd which is a heath and moorland plateau and is, itself, part of the Shropshire Hills. The Long Mynd geology is mostly Pre-Cambrian and the high ground is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

I realised at this point that I had left my camera back at the inn. Bother! (or something like that). So for this walk I had to use my smartphone camera.

We set off walking up the valley alongside the small stream.

You may have noticed that there is plenty of heather about. We reached the Lightspout Waterfall which may be  only 12 feet high but attractive nevertheless.

I'm sorry about the strange lady but she just wouldn't get out of the way. At this point we decided that we'd had enough and went back the same way to the car. Driving back to Much Wenlock we stopped en-route to try and get a view from Wenlock Edge.

It was tricky finding a place where trees were not completely obscuring the view and that was the best that we could do.

The following day we went to Ludlow where we've been twice before and there are plenty of pictures of that town already on the web site so I didn't take any more especially as it was dull and cloudy.

From Ludlow we went to Bishops Castle; a little town near the Welsh border and this time I remembered to take my camera.

It was a nice little town but we felt that it had an odd atmosphere. We later decided it was because there were so few people around. I don't know why that would have been as there were plenty of shops and it was only late afternoon. Perhaps they had wind of our visit.

The following, and last, day we went to Shrewsbury on the bus. This is Shropshire's county town and I had been here once before about 60 years ago but could remember nothing about it and Amanda had not been here before.

We both liked Shrewsbury and it had plenty of interesting buildings, many of them timber-framed, and many interesting streets. We got off the bus in the Square right near the Old Market Hall (Elizabethan); the stone building on the left in the next photograph.

This next view is a short way from the bus stop.

Shrewsbury has plenty of narrow alleyways or 'shuts' as they are known in the local dialect although in the last of these three pictures the alley is labelled 'Compasses Passage'. I suppose that alley may have been built or renamed at a date when the term 'shut' had fallen into disuse.

Those steps in the corner of the next picture are Bear Steps named supposedly after a pub called The Bear which no longer exists. These steps take you through the 15th century building, part of which is visible to the left of the steps, and into St Alkmund's Place shown in the second picture below.

The next photograph is Henry Tudor House, in Barracks Passage, built in the early 15th century.

We walked to Shrewsbury Castle and had a brief look from the outside. The original castle was Norman but very little of that remains and the current building, in red sandstone, looks much more modern so we didn't go in.

However we did see this lovely timber-framed building by the castle entrance but I haven't been able to find out anything about it.

Shrewsbury was our last day so after returning to Much Wenlock for the night we travelled back home, without incident, the next day.


mTicket to Ride

mTicket to Ride

No, it isn't a typographic error it's meant to be 'mticket'.

I discovered something rather useful recently. It is that we can buy railway tickets on our railway line via a mobile phone and after paying for them they are then downloaded and stored on the mobile 'phone. These tickets can then be shown on the phone's screen to anyone who may need to see them. We then don't need to visit the ticket office or get tickets from a machine. So I decided to try it.

It has been a long time since we have been on any sort of trip which was because either the weather was bad or because domestic commitments got in the way. For example we have just had the outside of our house painted which was quite a long job but we now seem to be clear of domestic tasks so we were just waiting for a sunny day.

The weather forecasts don't help. A few days ago the weather forecast for Saturday was sunny all day. Then it changed to some sun and some sunny spells. Then it changed again to mainly sunny spells plus the chance of some showers in the afternoon. Then on Friday the forecast for Saturday was mostly sun so we took the chance.

We don't like generally travelling on a weekend because that's when everybody else does but this time the weather dictated when we travelled so on Friday I bought two mtickets and on Saturday 22nd August we caught a train to Norwich for the day.

It cost us less to travel to Norwich than it does to London even though Norwich is a bit further. We boarded a train at our one horse local station, where we have never had to show our tickets, and got off two stops later at Colchester where we caught the London to Norwich train. We were doing quite well until we were just south of Diss where the train slowed down and stopped. Signals I thought but then an announcement was made to the effect that there was a fault on the locomotive. It said that the driver was in contact with the service department and they were hoping to fix the fault within 15 minutes.

About 12 minutes later the train began to move – phew – and we eventually arrived in Norwich about 12 minutes late. I was expecting to show our mtickets on the train at some stage but, no, nobody wanted to see them. I did, however have to show them at the station barrier.

We caught a No. 26 bus in the station forecourt which took us to the Roman Catholic Cathedral. I bet you didn't know that Norwich has two cathedrals did you? This cathedral is no where near as old as the Anglican Cathedral, having been built in the late 1800s, but it is still a very impressive cathedral. When we were in Norwich last, 9 years ago, I did take one photograph of the outside but didn't have time to do any more.

This is another outside view that I took this time from the Cathedral Garden.

We went into their visitor centre, called the Narthex, where we encountered our first dragon. From 21st June until 5th September there are 184 dragons scattered around Norwich which they call an 'Art Sculpture trail'.

We were very kindly given a cathedral tour by one of the Deacons who retired a short while ago but who still obviously loves 'his' cathedral. It was a very interesting tour and we learned a lot that we would not have otherwise known about.

This shows the view along the Nave towards the East End.

There are lots of individual stone sculptures at the base of the pillars, at the top of the pillars and above them showing a great variety of forms and shapes. This is one on the base of a pillar.

This next photograph was taken from the East End looking under the crossing and along the Nave and the one after shows the Crossing.

We finished up having a cup of tea/coffee and a sausage roll in the cathedral refectory and, I must say, their sausage rolls are particularly nice; cooked that day I was told. They do have other food here which I suspect is just as good so if you want a light lunch this is the place to go.

We left the cathedral and decided a quick visit to the Plantation Garden was in order. We photographed it thoroughly last time but the weather was decidedly better this trip and I took another couple of photographs.

If you look, in the second picture, just above the steps on the left you will see Amanda sitting behind the bench under the tree playing her part as an 'extra'.

We made our way back onto the streets of Norwich and headed for the river. In doing so we crossed Pottergate.

Norwich really does have some nice streets. We wound our way through numerous narrow back streets to the river bridge which took us north of the river; an area which we hadn't visited before. Our first point of interest was the 16th century Church of St. Michael Coslany at the junction of Oak Street and Colegate.

It was locked so we weren't able to go inside but it was yet another building with some fine flushwork.

We saw a number of churches which I won't picture or describe here but we finished at St. Georges back in Colegate where we found another dragon.

The view of the church from the eastern part of Colgate was rather nice together with that very attractive timber-framed building which was built by Henry Bacon who became sheriff of Norwich in 1548.

We continued along Colegate and turned right into Fye Bridge Street and along to the River Wensum. Over the bridge we found two more dragons.

We then turned left along Quay Side and thence onto the riverside walk. From there we went a short distance to the church of St. Martin at Palace Plain where I left Amanda to rest whilst I crossed back over the river and found yet another dragon.

I walked along the north bank of the river on the riverside path to try and get a photograph of Cow Tower across the river. When we were last in Norwich I took some photographs of Cow Tower from the same side of the river as the tower and now I have it surrounded.

I walked back to the churchyard to find Amanda and there she was with a 'friend'. It was a Sparrow Hawk which had killed a pigeon and was eating it on the grass a short distance away. When I arrived it stopped eating and glared at me but didn't move away.

After watching it for a while we both moved slowly away and it remained, apparently, undisturbed. We headed back to Quay Side along to Wensum Street then right into Elm Hill. This is Elm Hill.

A well preserved medieval street. Looking in the opposite direction we can see the Britons Arms, the white building, where we are hoping to get afternoon tea.

Amanda had Darjeeling Tea, I had coffee and we both had Raspberry, Cream and Hazelnut Meringue Roulades which were the size of tea plates. On our last visit to Norwich we had lunch here and we both had their home-made pork pie. You just cannot get better anywhere.

After our late afternoon blowout we caught a bus nearby down to the railway station and caught the train home.

A good day.

P.S. Apparently the temperature around our tea time was in the low eighties – too hot. smilies

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.



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.


Off the Wall and Mind the Gap

Off the Wall and Mind the Gap

'Off the wall' is an expression used in the UK and, I believe, in the USA which means unusual or bizarre. In this particular case 'Off the wall' is on the wall! But I'm getting a little ahead of myself here so lets go back to the beginning shall we?

Yesterday, Wednesday, we hopped on a train once again and ended up at Liverpool Street Station in London emerging onto Bishopsgate at about 10:15 AM in sunny weather. The temperature was around 46 F which was a little cool but is pretty good for February. We could have been up to our knees in snow.

We were intending to spend the morning wandering the streets so a bit of sun is nice and not having to dress up like a couple of Arctic explorers was also nice. You can join us if you like.

Turn left along Bishopsgate, right into Middlesex Street ( used to be Petticoat Lane until the Victorians renamed it) then left into Wentworth Street where the Petticoat Lane Market is now held.

Down Wentworth Street to Brick Lane and turn left along Brick Lane.

It does feel, when wandering along Brick Lane, that this is part of Bangladesh and we did see a sign referring to the area as Banglatown. We also saw signs in what I belive may be Bengali.

Wanna buy a Saree? This is not really about the shop but the decoration on the boarding filling the window. Yes it's street art again.

If you take the trouble to look there's a lot of it about.

Some of it is fairly conventional.

But some of it is definitely 'off the wall'.

We couldn't leave without showing you this little chap. Well, maybe not so little.

I am given to understand that it is supposed to be a hedgehog. The general shape is about right but the poor thing's spines seem to be a bit sparse. The artist is known as 'Roa' and is from Belgium.

I took far more photographs than I could show here and we decided to stop at this point.

Right! Keep up! Don't lag behind or you'll miss the bus. We have a number 26 to catch. We didn't have to wait long and we were off to our next destination. On the way we saw this old shack, from the top deck of the bus, which you may recognise.

Then we made our way up Fleet Street.

Past the Temple Inns of Court and the Royal Courts of Justice.

Finally arriving at Aldwych where we get off the bus. Still with us? Good.

A short walk up Wellington Street, turn left along Tavistock Street, turn right into Tavistock Court and we're here – Covent Garden Market. Why are we here? Well that will have to wait for an hour or so because it's time for lunch and our intrepid travellers are famished.

Some time ago we visited Docklands and had lunch at a cafe called Henry's which we quite liked although they blotted their copybook by taking 30 minutes to bring our dessert. Remember? There is another branch of Henry's here in Covent Garden and we thought we'd see if they could do any better.

We arrived at about 1:10 PM so we expected it to be busy but they found us a table and left us to study the menu. We were on the same level as the street but there was a lower floor in a large well which gave us the impression that we were on a balcony. This was our view.

We gave our order for our main courses about 10 minutes after we arrived but it took about 20 minutes for them to arrive. I ordered a Chicken and King Prawn Jambalaya and Amanda ordered Blackened Chicken Breast & Avocado Salsa which were both very nice and quite filling. We both decided to have a dessert and I had a Sticky Toffee Glory which is described thus:

Fresh bananas, vanilla ice cream and broken meringue,smothered in toffee sauce.

I had that when we ate in their cafe at Docklands and I remarked at the time that although it was very tasty I could not detect any meringue so I decided to try again here and I have to say I could not detect any meringue in this one either. Perhaps the meringue is broken into such small pieces that it's undetectable but that would seem rather pointless.

We both did enjoy our lunch however and we would go there again but not if we were in a hurry as they are rather slow. If you have plenty of time we would recommend it especially as, for London, the prices are very reasonable. It cost us £44 for two including a tip.

Time to move on to our next destination and we had to walk only about 100 yards to here:

This building, so I understand, used to be the old Covent Garden Flower Market and is spread over three floors. On entering the people at the desk suggest starting on the top floor (there are lifts and stairs) and working downwards. I can see the logic in that as it means starting with the earliest transport and moving towards the present day.

The first area one encounters is this:

It certainly looks striking. The light grey ramp on the right is the way on to the main displays. This next picture gives an idea of the main space with galleries on each side. It certainly is big enough for a bus or two and some trains.

We started at the top where there are some examples of horse drawn buses and trams.

I suspect that those vehicles wouldn't provide as much comfort as we expect today.

The horse drawn trams don't look particulary luxurious and look rather similar to the horse drawn buses except that the trams run on rails and appear to be able to carry many more passengers.

We moved down to the floor below and forward in time to when underground trains started to run although these were hauled by steam locomotives.

You may notice that there is no cab on this locomitive so the driver and fireman had no shelter. They may not have needed it underground but there would be times when the train was running out in the open and in all weathers.

The old style carriages had separate compartments along the length of each coach with each compartment arranged across the coach with bench seats along each side. You can see, in the photograph below, that although we were prepared to 'mind the gap' there wasn't any gap!

If Amanda is waiting for the train to start she may be in for a long wait unlike this old buffer (notice the manic look in his eyes) who decided to try one of these individual shelters used during the second world war for people who would be working in the open, such as a railway yard, and not near a normal shelter when there was an air raid.

Then we get to the time when electric locomotives were introduced which didn't fill the tunnels with smoke.

The London Underground has been running for 150 years this year.

There were taxis, buses and trams in fact far too many vehicles to go through here and many more photographs will appear on the main web site in due course.

When we had finished looking around, and there is an astonishing amount to look at, we retired to the cafe for some refreshment. I had coffee but Amanda decided to have hot chocolate and this is what she had:

The cafe is situated above the shop and the shop is stocked with a wide range of London Transport items.

This is a really interesting museum and certainly worth a visit. It is run as a registered charity which is partly funded by donations from Transport for London but the rest must come from the general public. Your visit will help to support them and it will keep you happily amused for some time.

We finally decided that we'd had enough for one day and caught the No. 26 bus back to Liverpool Street Station and thence to home.