Saturday, 17 March 2018

A Friday ramble Farringdon to Holland Park

It is hard to believe that yesterday was such a gorgeous spring day as I look out of the window and snow is falling. I had decided yesterday morning that I would walk some or all of the way back to Ealing after I finished work around 2pm. The map app said it was 9 miles which I thought was a bit ambitious but I thought Cowcross Street to Holland Park seemed a better option coming in at just under 5 miles.

A few minutes from the start in Clerkenwell I visited the beautiful St. Peter's Italian Church and saw a clock on the side of a building that I hadn't seen before.

St Peter's Italian Church

I realised at this point that my walk would take a bit longer than I'd planned as I was seeing so many interesting things along the way. After Clerkenwell Road came Theobalds Road where the Holborn Library and Local Studies and Archive are situated and then on to New Oxford Street.

Holborn Library
Kingsway tram tunnel

I decided not to follow the route the app was showing as I really do not like walking down Oxford Street. The crowds can be avoided though by walking along the streets to the back of the shops where it feels as if you are in a different place.

This entranceway intrigued me as it had the most beautiful green tiling. It was Rathbone Square a newish (2015) public space which if you look at the linked web page should be bustling with people on a lovely Friday afternoon. The reality was slightly different as aside from the security guard and a few people walking through the garden was empty and the promised shops, restaurants and bars are sadly not there.

I glimpsed the Sanderson Hotel, formerly Sanderson House on Berner Street and remembered seeing some pictures of beautiful John Piper stained glass on a stairwell. I've not been in the Sanderson before but managed to find the glass behind a curtain in the lobby. It is absolutely gorgeous although I would have preferred seeing it in 1960 when it was on more prominent display in the wallpaper showroom.


The architectural history of Britain is depicted in 15 Portland stone sculptures on the side of Henrietta House in Henrietta Place. Designed by Christopher Haddon in 1990 the offices are now occupied by CBRE.

A gorgeous but rather sad sight was the Welbeck Street car park which is likely to be demolished to make way for a 10-storey hotel. There has been an online petition and alternative plans submitted to adapt the car park to use as a hotel but sadly it looks like this brutalist gem will be lost.

A bit further along the back roads of Oxford Street is Edwards Mews where there is a discreet rear entrance to Selfridges and also their car park. In the foyer was a sculpture called Carmen Miranda by Joana Vasconcelos. Something to think about before you throw out any pots and pans!

Just along the way in Edwards Mews there were some more Selfridges buildings which looked like they had been built in the 1960s. The tiling was lovely and I am pretty sure that I remember the logo that you can see on the wall from their carrier bags.

After Marble Arch I began walking along Bayswater Road which was the busiest and noisiest stretch of road that I walked along - I looked at a few things on the side roads as well. There were some blocks of flats that caught my eye, a convent, a synagogue, a sculpture or two as well as some delightful houses.

On the final leg from Notting Hill Gate to Holland Park I saw a ghost sign and a crest and Ruth Rendell's house in Holland Park. Three hours and almost 8 miles of walking later I arrived at Holland Park station. It was a lovely walk no doubt helped by the mild weather we had but it does make you realise how small London really is. From Farringdon in the east to Holland Park in the west could be walked in just over an hour and a half if I'd stuck to the route but with sightseeing it obviously took a little longer. Next time I'll finish in Ealing.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Festival Gardens and more

A strange thing happened on Monday, something which hasn't happened for a few years now - we had a warm and sunny August Bank Holiday in London! I can vividly remember the same day three years ago when I helped on two guided walks on what must have been the wettest day of the year.

On this glorious Monday my partner asked me where I fancied going to explore. This is a question that he asks me most weekends and usually we are able to think of somewhere one or neither of us has been to in or around London. My answer on Monday was Battersea Park. I've seen it from 'my' side of the Thames and even walked a little way along the bit by the river but I didn't really know that much about it or know how large it is.

What I did know was that it had been the Festival Gardens for the Festival of Britain in 1951 and that some of the site was still there, although restored or changed. I was also aware of the Buddhist Peace Temple.

Battersea Park was almost 20 years in the making and was officially opened in 1858, the same year that Chelsea Bridge opened. At the time of opening it still had six years before it was complete. The park is 220 acres of green space that at times feels a long way from the centre of  London or even the Thames.

We wandered without much prior knowledge but found the information boards scattered around very useful. It was looking at one of these that we realised that there was not only a Barbara Hepworth sculpture in the park but a Henry Moore as well.

There are big open spaces, a fun fair, lakes and ponds, an old English garden as well as adventure play areas, boats and lakeside cafes. There is also Battersea Park Children's Zoo for which there is an entry fee.

The Peace Pagoda has been part of the park since 1985 and is a gift of the Japanese Buddhist movement. It is very close to the river and can be clearly seen from the embankment.

Just off of the North Carriage Drive are the fountains and the Grand Vista, the remains of the Festival of Britain Pleasure Gardens from 1951. We saw the fountains working from a distance but these had stopped by the time that we had got close enough to see them properly. I understand that they are only 'live' about once every hour. The area has a feel of the Festival although looking at pictures afterwards there have been some refurbishments by Wandsworth Council that are not entirely true to the original.This area was designed by John Piper and Osbert Lancaster and on this extremely hot August day the pools were being used by many people to cool off.

I loved Battersea Park and wished we had joined the many other people who were enjoying picnics in the sunny expanses or in the shaded areas, next time perhaps.