London Walks - 2016

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On this page: Surrey Quays (I) - Hampstead Heath - West Hampstead - Surrey Quays (II) - Battersea Park 2016 - The Queen's Walk - Kensington - The Queen's Walk II


The walk started with a view down over the old red pillars of the original train bridge for the London Chatham and Dover Railway from the concourse of the new Blackfriars Station platforms which now cross the bridge; the only station platforms in the world that actually lie across a river.  The new station has 4,400 solar panels on its roof which provides 50% of the station’s power.  We then had coffee in the splendid modern atrium of Unilever House.  The original Art Deco building was completed in 1933 for Lever Brothers.  In 2004 a glass sided office block was created behind the original, now listed, façade.    Crossing Blackfriars Bridge, 1869, we noted the stone pillars shaped like pulpits to commemorate the Blackfriars Monastery from which it takes its name.

Heading west along the Embankment/Queens Walk we came to the Oxo Tower dating from the 1920s when the American Leibig Extract of Meat Company set up a meat processing plant here making, among other things, the iconic OXO cube.  The company wanted to put the name OXO in illuminated lights but this was reject by the planning authorities.  Amended plans replaced the lights with three windows depicting OXO.   Site redeveloped in the 1980s with shopping arcade, art gallery, design studios, two floors of low-rent housing and a smart restaurant at rooftop level where we visited the viewing gallery.

We passed the ITV studios, the site of the proposed Garden Bridge, a wooden seat made from a tree trunk and commemorating the Marchioness pleasure boat disaster in August 1989.  Waterloo Bridge, originally the Strand Bridge, was renamed in 1816 to commemorate Wellington’s victory at the battle of Waterloo.   Rebuilt 1937/1945.   Known as the ‘Ladies Bridge’ as women played a key part in its construction.  They would have earned around one shilling and six pence an hour, far less than the male rate.   When the men returned from war the women were ousted.

On past the National Theatre, South Bank Centre, Hungerford Bridge, the London Eye and the site of the Festival Gardens 1951, County Hall and the preserved façade of the Victorian General Lying-In Hospital a reminder of the days when women were allowed a few days rest after giving birth rather than having to ‘get-up-and go’ as nowadays.   We came to St Thomas’s Hospital and the striking statue of Mary Seacole (1805-1881).  Born to a Scottish soldier and a Jamaican woman Mary Jane Grant learned her nursing skills from her mother who kept a boarding house for invalid soldiers.  She married Edwin Seacole in 1836.  She travelled widely and studied traditional and European medical ideas.  In 1854 she travelled to England and approached the War Office asking to be sent as an Army nurse to the Crimea.  She was refused but went anyway and established the British Hotel near Balaclava to provide comfortable quarters for sick and convalescent officers; she also nursed on the battlefield.  She became known as Mother Seacole and at the time her reputation rivalled that of Florence Nightingale.  Statue created by Martin Jennings completing tes a 12 year campaign which raised £500,000 to honour her.  Unveiled in June 2016 by Baroness Fluella Benjamin.

After lunch at St Thomas’s we admired the huge South Bank Lion on Westminster Bridge.  Made of Coade stone a special type of ceramic popular with 19thc sculptors, it once stood outside the Lion Brewery near Hungerford Bridge.   Everyone thought he was definitely a ‘friendly lion’.   We recalled how Wordsworth had composed his poem in 1802 on the original bridge – Earth has not anything to show more fair…. The current bridge dates from 1862.

We looked across at the Palace of Westminster and noted the now faded green paint on Westminster Bridge and faded red paint on Lambeth Bridge representing green for the Commons and Red for the Lords.   Passing the statue of Violette Szabo (1921-1945) a World War II secret agent working for the SOE and French Resistence Movement we finished at Lambeth Palace London Home of the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1190. (Report: Anita Butt; Photos: Maria Buckley)

Red pillars of original Blackfriars Railway Bridge

Unilever House

Facade of an earlier City of London School for Boys

Sculpture on Unilever House by William Reid Dick

Sign for the London, Chatham and Dover Railway

All aboard the log seat

Facade only of the Victorian Lying-in-Hospital

Trying the new "fun" seating on the Embankment

Lamp standard naming the Queen's Walk

TV studios

More seating - no one brave enough to try it

Yet mores seating - still no takers

The London eye through the trees

Memorial to the International Brigade voulunteers who went to the aid of the Spanish Republic during the civil war 1936-39, by Ian Willams

New statue of Mary Seacole

Bust of Violette Szabo SOE and French Resistance worker


SEPTEMBER - Starting from South Kensington station our walk around the garden squares of South Kensington began with Bina Gardens, nicknamed "the secret garden" a small garden originally created in the 1880s it is now owned and managed by local residents who pay a rent of £120 a year to use it. Close by, Gledhow Gardens was developed by James Gunter who founded a property empire on the proceeds of his bakery business and took its name from family connection to Gledhow Hall in Yorkshire. The gardens were formed by joining together the originally separate back gardens of the surrounding Victorian villas. The gardens now belong to the residents through the generosity of Dr Robert Ker. It has some of the oldest and healthiest trees in London, interesting wildlife and some rare bird species. The gardens are kept as organic and pesticide-free as possible. We admired the church of St Mary Le Boltons and the houses in The Boltons, one recently priced at £40 million. In Braham Gardens we found some of the tallest plane trees in any London square flanked by pink red-brick houses in the Victorian Dutch-Gothic style by Harold Peto. We passed the Mosaic Room gardens at the Ismali centre on Crompton Road, continuing around Lexham Gardens where a plaque recorded that Kenny Everett once lived there. On into Cornwall Gardens and finally Queen’s Gate Gardens and Gloucester Road. The whole walk was undertaken in scorching hot weather. (Report: Anita Butt, Photos: Maria Buckley)

Top row (l to r): Superloo at South Kensington, Entrance to The Royal Society of Sculptors, Everybody needs a garage!, The Boltons.


Above row (l to r): St Mary The Boltons, Font, Altar, Victorian gothic style house by Harold Peto in Braham Gardens.

Left: Stained glass greenhouse in garden of The Royal Society of Sculptors.


Right: Kenny Everett lived in Lexham Gardens.


Below row (l to r): The Ismali Centre/Mosaic Rooms and entrance on Cromwell Road, Horse sculpture in Cornwall Gardens, Arched entrance to Cornwall Gardens.

Bottom row (l to r): Porch in Cornwall Gardens, It's them again, Through the arched entrance to Cornwall Gardens.


AUGUST - The Queen’s Walk was officially opened by the Queen in 1994 following the completion of redevelopment works along the Victoria Embankment from Tower Bridge to Lambeth Bridge.
We started our walk at Tower Bridge, skirting City Hall, pausing to admire HMS Belfast, built by Harland & Wolff and commissioned in 1939. After seeing action in the Arctic and North Cape in 1943, Normandy 1944, and Korea in 1950/52 she was decommissioned in August 1963 and has been a museum ship, part of the Imperial War Museum, since October 1971.
In the glass atrium of Hays Galleria, which was once Hays Wharf built in 1855 for the old tea clippers, we admired David Kemp’s iron Navigators sculpture which is half sea creature and half ship. At London Bridge we recalled that there had been a bridge of some sort here since the Romans built a crossing around 50AD. A series of bridges have come and gone down the centuries the current one opened by the Queen in 1973, its predecessor having been sold to an American oil company and rebuilt in Arizona, the rumour being that they thought they were buying Tower Bridge at the time.

Passing Southwark Cathedral we came to the replica of Sir Francis Drake’s ship The Golden

Hinde where it is possible to stay on board overnight. Leaving the riverside for a while we passed the remains of the Bishop of Winchester’s Palace and the Clink Prison, the original Clink Prison having been a cellar in the palace itself. Back on the embankment at Southwark Bridge we found the old Ferrymans Seat in the wall at Bear Gardens. Originally there had been a number of these stone seats set in the walls so that ferrymen could rest their legs while waiting for customers. We observed that the seat would not be large enough for modern bums. Madeleine Nicholson who used to work in this area before the redevelopment told us about how it looked in those days before the Globe Theatre was built and the how the whole area smelt of Wrights Coal Tar soap from the nearby soap factory – a bar was passed round for everyone to sniff.
Passing the house where Christopher Wren is said to have lodged while building St Paul’s and under the Millenium Bridge we arrived at Tate Modern Art Gallery created in 2000 in what had been the old Bankside Power Station. A new ten story building The Switch House has opened this summer with a 360o viewing gallery on the 10th floor and the old oil storage tanks have also been converted into spaces for performance art at a cost of £260 million. We visited both levels before lunch and a leisurely stroll to Blackfriars Bridge for the bus back to Liverpool Street.
    (Report: Anita Butt, Photos: Vivien Shooter)

Top left: Coffee time

Top centre: We're ready to start

Top right: Hays Galleria previously Hays Wharf for the old tea clippers

Above left: The Navigators sculpture

Above centre: Look at that

Above right: Looking at the skyline

Left: The Globe Theatre

Below: Pointing out the ferryman's Set in the wall near the Globe

Right (above): Ready to go up to the new viewing gallery on the extension to the Tate Modern

Right (below): Looking round the old oil storage tanks now converted to performance art spaces:



JULY - In the 18th century Battersea was still a barely inhabited swamp when Chelsea was a fishing village. It grew into a land of market gardens until the railways arrived in the mid 1800s. Battersea Fields, as it was onec known, was opened by Queen Victoria as a park in 1848, an area of 200 acres. The mixed marshlands were  reclaimed from the Thames by in-filling from soil excavated during the creation of the Royal Dockyards. In 1951 the park was transformed into “The Festival Gardens” as part of the Festival of Britain along with the Battersea Funfair with features such as the Big Dipper, the Guinness Clock and the Far Tottering and Oyster Creek railway. The park is noted for its variety of trees 20 of which are notable species. The very first game under new Football Association rules was played there in 1858.

We enjoyed the delightful Herb Garden maintained by "Thrive" – a charity who tend this and other gardens throughout the park. "Thrive" was founded in 1978 and believes gardening can change lives. Its horticultural therapists work with mentally and physically challenged people and estimate that just 30 minutes of gardening a day can help stroke victims and others recover and start to get their life back. "Thrive" are currently in touch with over 900 garden projects in the UK. 

The delightfully lush Old English Garden has been regenerated with funding by Jo Malone Limited to designs by Sarah Price. The Peace Pagoda on the embankment was created in 1985 and shows four different gilded figures of Buddha from his life story.  Every morning at dawn a saffron robed monk makes a perambulation of the pagoda, gently beating a drum. From this point we also admired the elegant Albert Bridge of 1872, saved from demolition in the 1970s by John Betjeman. Among winding paths we found the Brown Dog statue. A small terrier sitting on a plinth replaces the original from 1906 which represented a brown dog “done to death” in the laboratories of University College along with 232 others. During a period of large pro-vivisectionist marches in London the original dog was removed by the local Council to avoid demonstrations in the park. It was replaced in 1985 by a new statue based on a terrier owned by the sculptor Nicola Hicks. Incidentally the work of William Bayliss – who had performed the dissection of the “brown dog” in 1906 led to the discovery of hormones.

One of the up-to-date amusements in the park is the Go-Ape aerial walkways; we were entertained by the antics of the youngsters as we ate our pizzas in the Go-Ape café at lunchtime.

(Report Anita Butt, Photos: Maria Buckley)


This way in

Memorial to 5397 Australian Air Crew lost in action in WWII

Part of the Grand Vista created for the Festival of Britain.

In the Old English Garden

The park was re-furbished in 2004 with help from Wandsworth Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Tea Terrace where we had our coffee - recently recreated as it was at the time of the Festival.

One of many unusual tree species throughout the park.

The original pump house for the park's water features is now a gallery/events space.

New apartments opposite the park with the restored

original chimney of old Battersea Park Power Station.


JUNE - Below is a pictorial record of the walk in this area. The first walk was arranged for March for the second group (20 members), but was cancelled due to bad weather. For the write up see Surrey Quays (I) below.

(Report as Surrey Quays II, Photos: Maria Buckley)

Along the side of Albion Dock

Another view alongside the side of Albion Dock

Surrey Dock now Surrey Water.

Victorian Bridge Gear on Surrey Dock

Guess who?

Mural depicting The Fighting Temeraire in tunnel under Salter Road.


Mural depicting The Fighting Temeraire in tunnel under Salter Road.


View of Canary Wharf from top of Stave Hill

Relief Map by Michael Rizzello (1985) designed to hold rainwater and showing the docks as they were in 1896.

Nature reserve

Russian Dock Woodlands . . .

Nature Reserve and on Stave Hill


We arrived at Whitehouse Pond at West Hampstead in the pouring rain. One of the highest spots in London at 134 metres above sea level. A flagpole marked the site of the Armada Beacon lit here in 1588. When the Spanish Armada was first sighted off the Hampshire coast a series of beacons were lit across the country to warn the Navy. The signal took two days to make its way as far as Hampstead before moving on to the east coast. We plodded on past Jack Straw’s Castle, a former public house named after one of the leaders of the 14c Peasants’ Revolt who is reputed to have stayed in the vicinity. Now converted to flats, when a pub it was popular with Karl Marx, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and William Thackeray. Opposite the castle was the site of Heath House an early 18c mansion owned by Samuel Hoare, a Quaker banker and philanthropist. In the 19c his grandson John Guerney Hoare was active in a long and bitter battle to stop the Heath being built over by developers until it was finally decreed a public park in the 1870s.

Entering woods we soon came to a gate with a spiral staircase let into a wall. On climbing the stairs we were immediately on the magnificent pergola of what had been The Hill, home of William, Lord Leverhulme (1851-1925) in the early 1900s. William and his younger brother James founded Lever Brothers (we know it more as Unilever) manufacturing Sunlight Soap (also Lux and Lifebuoy). They created Port Sunlight Village in the Wirrall for their workers. He extended the house with a ballroom and art gallery and acquired two neighbouring properties to expand his garden and had Thomas Mawson design and build the wonderful pergola. He died in 1925 aged 74 and it is said that 30,000 people turned out for his funeral back in Port Sunlight.

After his death the house was bought by Baron Inverforth who converted it into expensive apartments. It became Manor House Hospital in 1955 – outside the NHS and funded by the trade unions until it folded in 1998. The property is now Grade II listed and contains a gated block of luxury homes. Permission to develop the house as apartments was conditional upon the gardens and pergola being retained for use by the public as a park and part of the Heath.

The rain had stopped while we were on the pergola and we made our way down through the woods to The Old Bull & Bush pub, immortalised in the song "Down at the Old Bull and Bush" by the Australian-born music hall star Florrie Forde (1875-1940). The pub can trace its history back to the mid 17c when it was originally a farm. It became the haunt of artists such as William Hogarth who is said to have

planted a tree in the garden that some say still stands today. It became a popular venue with Londoners spending a day away from London’s smog up in healthy Hampstead.

On Wildwood Terrace we passed the former residence of Michael Ventris (1922-56) an architect and scholar who made crucial links between early Cretan civilisation and Mycenaean Greece. Also on Wildwood Terrace a plaque to Sir Nikolaos Pevsner (1902-1983) historian of art and architecture whose books remain standard reference points on English architecture.

We were close by what would have been North End (Bull & Bush) station on the Northern Line. It was never completed but would have been the deepest London Underground station at 221 feet below ground back in the early 1900s. The tunnels were inspected by Winston Churchill during WWII as a possible site for housing the Cabinet underground should the Cabinet War Rooms be hit during the bombing. A site near Dollis Hill was selected but this information was only released well after the war in 1973.

We passed the weather boarded Wylde’s Farm cottage once the home of artist John Linnell (1792-1882) and visited by his friend William Blake. Charles Dickens also stayed here with his wife Catherine in 1837 when they were mourning the death of her sister Mary Hogarth.

Nearby was the home of Sir Raymond Unwin (1863-1940) engineer, Architect, Town Planner who with his business partner designed the Rowntree Village and the first Garden City at Letchworth and subsequently Hampstead Garden Suburb for Henrietta Barnett. He moved here in 1906 and stayed for the rest of his life.

Up through the woods to meet the busy Spaniards Road where we found a blue plaque to Dame Henrietta Octavia Weston Barnett (1851-1936), social reformer, educationalist, author, who with her husband Canon Samuel Barnett founded the first University Settlement at Toynbee Hall in Whitechapel, named after Arnold Toynbee who had advocated education of the working classes and the reduction of division between social classes. The Barnetts were also involved in the establishment of the model housing development at Hampstead Garden Suburb.

Passing the Toll House at Spaniards Inn we were soon entering the grounds of Kenwood House once again. After lunch we crossed the Heath by yet another route, pausing to admire the view from Parliament Hill Fields once more, before returning via Gospel Oak Station by which time the sun was very hot.


(Report: Anita Butt, Photos: Maria Buckley)

Shall we go straight home - now?

The raised pergola walk

at Lord Leverhulme's one time home "The Hill".    The

Gardens now maintained for the public.

More views of the pergola

Yet another view

View point to Harrow on the Hill

A lovely ancient gnarled  tree trunk

Long view of the pergola

View of the lower garden

Lake in the lower garden

Wylde's Farm Cottage retreat of William Blake and Charles and Catherine Dickens. Home of John Linnell, artist.

Home of Sir Raymond Unwin, Engineer, Architect and Town Planner lived here 1906-1940

Plaque on Sir Nikolaus Pevsner's house

Plaque on home of Michael Ventris

Plaque on the Toll Gate House at Spaniards Gate on Spaniards Road


The information board for Kenwood House


APRIL - We made two visits to Hampstead Heath in April, a walk of four miles up to Parliament Hill and across to Kenwood House where we had time to visit the stunning 18c house and its first class art collection before returning via the Hampstead Ponds to Gospel Oak. Parliament Hill took it’s name from the time of the Civil War when it was defended by troops loyal to Parliament. Legend has it that Guy Fawkes and Robert Catesby planned to watch the destruction of Parliament from this high point where we enjoyed panoramic views of London. Over time plots of land were sold off for building particularly during the early 19c but the Hill remained chiefly as A common. In 1875 the Heath was acquired for the people by the Metropolitan Board of Works. Parliament Hill was purchased for the public in 1888 for £300,000 and added to Hampstead Heath. Until the 1940s cattle were still reared on the hill for sale at Smithfield Market. The Heath has been managed by the City of London Corporation since 1989. The Heath has its own constabulary. A huge construction project is in hand reconfiguring the ponds on the west and east sides of Heath to contain storm water. Of the 25 ponds on the Heath only four are for swimming with separate Men’s and Ladies' ponds. 

(Report: Anita Butt, Photos: Maria Buckley)

The usual suspects with Kenwood House in the background

An American thorn tree, the largest specimen in the United Kingdom

Reclining figures by Henry Moore

Barbara Hepworth Obelisk

London County Boundary marker on the approach to the Heath

Windows Kenwood House

In the Old Kitchen Kenwood

In the Old Kitchen Kenwood


MARCH - The Surrey Docks complex was developed by four separate companies who amalgamated in 1865. It covered 300 acres, had ten docks, timber ponds (so wood did not dry out) and a 3.5 mile canal to Peckham and many access points to the Thames. We started our walk from Canada Water which is now a third of the size of the original Canada Dock; Tesco’s and the Surrey Quays shopping mall built in 1988 is the in-fill of the other two thirds. Amongst the reeds at the side of the dock we paused to look across to the Victorian Dock Master’s House and the iron sculpture of the Deal Porters carrying huge loads of timber balanced on their heads.

We walked along Albion Channel beside what was originally Albion Dock, to Surrey Water and eventually reached the Thames alongside the Rotherhithe Tunnel ventilation shaft. We followed the Thames Path for a while passing recent apartment blocks on the river’s edge to Rotherhithe Street passing a 1883 grain store. A mosaic depicting The Fighting Temeraire lined the tunnel under Salter Road. We were then in the Russian Dock Woodlands. Created in 1980 it is hard to imagine that this 35 acres of woodland was originally Russia Dock.

We climbed the 66 steps to the top of man-made Stave Hill created by the London Docklands Development Company in 1985 from industrial spoil.

On the top there were fine views across to Canary Wharf and south to Crystal Palace. A bronze relief map by Michael Rizzello depicted the lay out of the docks in 1896. It had rained overnight so the dock basins depicted were all full of water but Roger had a bottle of water to hand just in case.

Returning to the path beside what had been Russia Dock we found the original dockside walls, crane tracks, mooring chains and anchor bollards and a bronze compass set in the ground indicating the parts of the world where goods came from; cargoes of softwood and other timber from Leningrad in the Baltic, tar, oil and tallow from Gdansk, Poland, and timber, wheat and dairy produce from Montreal.

After lunch at the Moby Dick pub we were at Greenland Dock one of London’s earliest enclosed commercial docks. Opened in 1696 on 10 acres for 120 merchant ships the dockside was edged with poplar trees to provide shelter from winter gales; river ice made theft from the vessels more difficult. Between 1763 to 1809 it was the centre of the whaling trade and after that became the main UK port for Scandinavian and Baltic timber. There is now a marina and water sports centre, the latter being not too popular with local residents because of the noise. At the end of Greenland Dock we crossed south lock into South Dock getting a close look at the massive Victorian

hydraulic equipment which operated the lock gates. During the Blitz Surrey Docks suffered more damage than any other British dock area. In September 1940 the entire 350,000 ton stock of timber was destroyed by fire in a single night and the flames could be seen 30 miles away. But the London docks kept going and contributed hugely to the war effort. At South Dock and at Russia Dock concrete blocks each weighing 3,375 tons were constructed at breakneck speed to make the 2 mile floating Mulberry harbour for the D-Day landings in Normany in 1944. The finished harbour enclosed an area 70 times larger than Greenland Dock. Because the lock itself had been wrecked by bombs the concrete blocks were towed to the Thames through extremely narrow cuts and at one point the maximum clearance was just 9.5 inches (24cm).

Returing on the other side of Greenland dock we paused to imagine the towering V-shaped Cunard White Star liners moored alongside. The unnervingly lifelike graffiti painting of a boy sitting on a wall made us wonder if it could be a ‘Banksy’. At Surrey Quays at the end of the walk we passed the former Docker’s Shelter where the dockers waited hoping to be hired on the ships. A stunning mural depicts the docker’s life in the docks and at home during earlier times.

(Report: Anta Butt, Photos: Monica Donegan)



Above left: A lovely day for a walk by the water

Above: Bronze sculpture depicting the Surrey Docks before redevelopment


Above right: View of Canary Wharf from Stave Hill


Left: At the top of Stave Hill


Below: In the Russia Woodland


Right: Resting on a couple of "arty" chairs


Bottom left: View from the Moby Dick


Bottom centre: Thames-side apartments


Bottom right: Everybody out on the Greenland Dock




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