Chez l'abeille

Culture. Travel. Writing. My world in words and pictures


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The Streets of London: The Line.

Starting the walk southwardsI’m not going to write too much about this walk as it really belongs to Kate, who has cleverly set her friends the year-long challenge of challenging her. Celebrations for significant birthdays occur in different ways and Kate has come up with a genius plan: creating memories through shared experiences. Not being one for the adrenalin fuelled event, my challenge came with art loving and tracking skills required; completing “The Line” ; a sculpture walk between Stratford and the Greenwich Peninsular.

We had chosen August in anticipation of fine summer weather. Heading out with thunderstorms of biblical proportions forecast wasn’t actually part of the plan but somehow we managed to miss the downpours and successfully navigated our way along the back waters of Bow. Here are the highlights.

The River Lea and Cody Dock

It took a little while to get going as signage along the way wasn’t always the easiest thing to decipher – but we followed our noses southwards and headed into unknown territory.

The rains came down just as we had arrived at Cody Dock – a rather fascinating and curiously empty creative quarter which has been developed post London 2012. As if by magic the man operating the cafe appeared so tea and cake kept us occupied until the rains stopped and we navigated our way southwards via the DLR to the Royal Docks.

The Royal Docks

On a previous visit I had seen several artworks around the dock but there is currently only the one so after a quick photo stop we were up, up and away across the Thames via the cable-car!

 

The Greenwich Peninsular

This is a great section of the walk, which curls around the back of the tent-like O2. The artworks here fit into the environment so well that it could be easy to overlook some of them, especially my favourite,”Here”.

Still dry and now thirsty #ChallengeKate was completed! We headed to the nearest bar and congratulated ourselves with a cocktail in the sunshine.

Happy 50th Kate!!!

©Chez l’abeille  2017

 

 

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The Streets of London: Thames Path, Tower Bridge to Greenwich.

Leaving Tower Bridge

It’s almost exactly a year since I’d walked along the north bank of the Thames from Tower Hill to The Isle of Dogs so a stroll along the south side seemed the perfect thing to be doing on a late spring Sunday. Having lived in Southwark for over 20 years now I thought I knew my bit of London quite well but there were still surprises in store.

Heading along from Tower Bridge the first signs of history started to appear around St Saviours Dock. The tide was out and the Thames mud glistened in the sun, rippled with algae like some noxious ice cream recipe.

Dickens apparently described this area as “the filthiest, strangest and most extraordinary of the many localities that are hidden in London.” I don’t know if he would recognise it today as the many warehouses and storerooms along the old Bermondsey Wall have gradually been converted into expensive apartments.

Just along Bermondsey Wall East is a collection of brass statues, dedicated to Dr Alfred Salter and his wife Ada. Both Alfred and Ada Salter worked hard to change the lives of the poor in Rotherhithe. His pioneering work lead to the establishment of a comprehensive health service in Rotherhithe, long before the NHS. He also went on to become the Labour MP with Ada becoming the first female mayor of Bermondsey Borough Council. His daughter’s cat sits on the wall watching carefully!Dr Salter's dream

From here the path turns towards old Rotherhithe, that bit of Southwark that thrusts into the Thames and loops it northwards. It also takes you back in history again to The Mayflower Pub and St Mary’s church across the way. In the pretty little church garden I found a monument to Christopher Jones, the Captain of the Mayflower who started out for the New World, with the Pilgrim fathers, from a mooring nearby. Through the churchyard, in the garden of the St Mary’s Rotherhithe Free School and Watch Tower I also discovered a delightful hidden cafe. As it was now time for a cup of tea it was a most welcome find and I was also able to do a bit of research into the school next door. It was founded in 1613 by Peter Hills and Robert Bell, two Elizabethan seafarers, to teach the sons of local sailors. You can see two children wearing their bluecoat uniform above the doorway. Free schools are seen as a rather modern phenomenon, but in a time when universal access to education was not an expectation, the money gifted for children’s schooling would have been a precious gift indeed.

The next surprise along the way was The Brunel Museum. Obviously with my Cornish heritage I have a fairly good knowledge of things Brunel – or so I thought. This is actually connected to Marc Brunel, father of the possibly more famous Isambard. He built the first tunnel under the Thames, an endeavour that took from 1805 to 1841. The tunnel is in use today but not as a foot tunnel as he envisaged. Nearby is the partner ventilation shaft to the one I saw at Shadwell, keeping the Rotherhithe road tunnel aired.

It was getting rather hot by now so the next stop along the way was the rather splendid Cafe at Surrey Docks City Farm. As a former Southwark teacher I’ve probably brought hundreds of children here for educational trips over the years but as a consequence, I don’t think I’ve ever had the time to sit and enjoy their cafe! The farm was full of squealing children and baby animals and it’s great to see that it is thriving despite the times of austerity we live in.

The farm is on the East side of the peninsular and from here you cross over from Southwark into Lewisham. This part of the docks was severely bombed during  WW2, but also played a major part in building the “Mulberry Harbours” used in the D-Day Landings, named after Mulberry Quay. Many of the docks were named for their role in seafaring life. The Greenland Dock, Ordnance Wharf, Canada Wharf and Columbia Wharf all give you a clue as to where their ships were destined.

Deptford Strand Pepys Estate

Passing through The Pepys Estate, the path turns into Deptford Strand, where a gated set of steps stand rather forlornly, heading down into the mud and debris of the foreshore. However, they once marked the site of the Tudor docks of Deptford, and are where Sir Francis Drake, newly returned from his circumnavigation of the world on the Golden Hinde, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth 1st.

Much of the Deptford section of the Thames Path is inland, so I was mostly weaving through the back streets until I passed into Royal Greenwich onto the Thames riverbank again and the Cutty Sark hoved into sight. First though I had to walk past the rather bizarre statue of Peter the Great.

Between 1697 and 1698 Czar Peter 1st of Russia came to Deptford for four months to study shipbuilding. The statue shows Peter the Great with his court dwarf and his favourite travelling chair. A large group of Russian tourists were busy placing flowers at his feet, so clearly Peter is still an important figure for many.

Arriving at Greenwich

Greenwich was busy with a Bank Holiday/school half term air so I didn’t linger long. The sky had also turned from glorious sunshine to a rather ominous grey; It was time for home after a day of local history and some great cups of tea along the way.

Tower Bridge to Greenwich: Approx 6.5 miles/10.5 kilometres

©Chez l’abeille  2017


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The streets of London: Ghost Signs #3. Bermondsey and Borough

This post is a bit of a mash-up really. It combines two of my favourite things here at Chez L’abeille: walking around London and spotting ghost signs.

What, I hear you ask, actually IS a ghost sign? Well let me tell you. According to Mr Ghost Signs himself, Sam Roberts, it is a “painted sign, fading on walls.” Should you wish to read Sam’s academic research and argument for this definition look here. I’m happy to accept the word of someone who has done an immense amount of research and what’s more is very happy to walk you round and show you. I’ve followed Sam and his work on ghost signs for quite a while, more recently on twitter and through contributions to an earlier crowd sourced flickr album, where ghost sign hunters around the planet shared their passion. He also leads walks in London so a few weeks ago I signed up to follow him in real life and headed over to Bermondsey Street to meet up outside No 55.

Chadwick Road ghost signI’ve actually got a couple of ghost signs near me. The best one is the marvellous Cutts and Co. Printing Office sign on the corner of Chadwick Road, but there’s also a completely washed out expanse of white paint high up on another wall in Bellenden Road. I’d not given this one much attention but after spending a few hours walking around Borough and Bermondsey with Sam I’d learned a thing or two. This seemingly pointless expanse of whitewash has scalloped corners. This means it was once a sign! There’s nothing left but white paint so I can go no further with it but wherever you look around London those fading painted signs are lurking, sometimes where you least expect them.

It was a pretty grim day with a cold easterly wind so walking was quite a good idea and stopping for a long time was freezing which meant our small band of hunters went a quite a pace. Having spent years working in and around the Borough I thought I knew most of the signs, but it turned out there were some surprises in store. I’m not sure how I ever missed the Bermondsey Wire Works but there it was, as big as a Victorian warehouse facade!

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The Streets of London: Here’s looking at you

So. It was a sunny Sunday after a rather grim Saturday. What to do with a day with no prior engagements?

Inspired by recent postings by Inspiring City, I decided to go for a street art focused wander along Brick Lane towards Hoxton, armed with a digital camera and the trusty Pentax.

Having used up my camera battery and an entire roll of Ilford film which is now waiting to be processed, I discovered that most of the images I photographed today were faces. Large faces, small faces, skeletal faces and famous faces.

Here’s looking at you.

 

©Chez l’abeille  2016


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The Streets of London: The Parkland Walk

Somewhere in my Cornish childhood, I remember wandering and playing in a beech wood. Beech masts crunched underfoot, cool green moss covered the ancient tree trunks and sunlight dappled the woodland floor. Arching ferns and spikey bracken made hiding places for insects, small creatures and me. It was the epitome of woods: a magical, mystical, special place to be.

The Spriggon on the Parkland Walk

The Spriggon on the Parkland Walk

Surprisingly, even in the middle of this mad metropolis there are woodland places where we can escape from London life. Secret ways and hidden woods are there for the finding if you know where to look.

One such place, The Parkland Walk started out as a Victorian railway line. Now it is an urban woodland walk that goes from Finsbury Park, taking in Queen’s Wood and Highgate Wood as you slowly ascend to the dizzy heights of Alexandra Palace Park.

On a brisk wintery Sunday afternoon a friend and I joined a group of ramblers, The Capital Walkers. Our meeting point was amongst the mayhem of the Arsenal vs. Burnley FC FA Cup match day so Finsbury Park Station was awash with hopeful Arsenal fans, all heading to the match. Heading off in the opposite direction through the banter and banners we managed to make our way into the calm space of Finsbury Park itself.

It was a spectacularly muddy pathway out of Finsbury Park and onto the Parkland walk proper, so there was quite a bit of tiptoing, splashing and sidestepping as the rather large group manoeuvred itself around the deeper puddles. As the path widened we gradually settled into a comfortable formation and strode purposefully off towards Ally Pally. Continue reading


One of the magnificent seven…

There is a place nearby which I often retreat to, where you can wander in peace and tranquilty. In its heydey Nunhead Cemetery was one of the magnificent seven, the huge cemeteries that ringed London. As the population exploded in the first half of the 19th century the problem of burying the dead became ever more acute. On a recent guided walk of Nunhead, our guide talked about entrepreneurial types who rented backyards where they would stack up leaking coffins for a fee. As a result, in 1832, permissions for the establishment of private cemetaries outside of London was granted and All Saints’ Cemetery, Nunhead was consecrated in 1840.

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In which I pop over to Paris: friends, food and pharmacies.

For quite a few years I have visited various parts of France with my old friends Mardi and Neil. This year due to various house purchasing shenanigans on their part and writing courses on mine, we have been a bit tight for free time but we finally managed to organise a fun and food filled weekend get together in Paris. Pourquoi Pas?

Friday: I arrived earlier than the others so took advantage of the time and had a walk around the quartier of Montparnasse. Then we regrouped and headed out to Frenchie wine bar in the 2nd, where we got in first, ate our way through most of the menu and were decreed “cool” by our lovely waiter! A full review of the evening was written up here, complete with the pictures of what we ate! Definitely worth a drool over. Curiously it was rammed with English speaking patrons but I guess most of the locals were en congé”. It is August in Paris after all!

Saturday: We strolled out on a rather cool morning after a heavy night’s rain and headed to the Hilton where a display of models “en Lego” was on offer. It also meant we got to use the Hilton toilets as well. Continue reading