London Photo Essay

I was born in England but have lived in Edinburgh, Scotland for many years. Take a tour with me around some of the best known London sights. Discover parts of the UK capital that you might not know; and enjoy the architecture, the views and the detail of this fabulous city. It is my personal selection.

Trafalgar Square, Nelson's Column
Trafalgar Square, Nelson’s Column
Trafalgar Square with the fountains
Trafalgar Square with the fountains, London, England.
The Ritz hotal and a red London bus in the same shot.
The Ritz hotel and a red London bus in the same shot.

The Ritz, featured in the wonderful 1999 film Notting Hill.

The Connaught Hotel - only for the rich
The Connaught Hotel – only for the rich.
BT (formerly Post Office) Tower
BT (formerly Post Office) Tower, London.
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Typical London Pubs – purveyors of fine ale – Chiswick.
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The North Star, Ealing.
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Kew Garden Station pub, Tap on the Line.
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Kew Gardens, London.
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The amazing Marianne North Gallery,  Kew Gardens, London.
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Detail, Kew Gardens, London.

Do you like green spaces? Would you like to see more of London’s lush hidden corners?

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St Pancreas Parish Church and graveyard, London.

My blog link: Camley Street Natural Park, St Pancreas Parish Church and graveyard, and Goldington Crescent, Camden.

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Hammersmith Bridge, London, England.
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The iconic Tower Bridge, London, England.
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The Shard, near London Bridge.
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The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben (clock tower) from the train rolling over Hungerford Bridge.

 

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The O2 arena, London, England.
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The Emirates Airline gondolas / cable cars across the Thames, London.
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Atmospheric views from the Tate Modern Art Gallery: River Thames and St Paul’s Cathedral.
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Again, from the Tate: The Shard and East London skyscrapers.
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Through the new Tate Modern windows.
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The new Tate Modern and views outside.
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Barbara Hepworth’s Winged Figure on the side of the John Leiws Building, Oxford Street, London.
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Take a peaceful walk along the River Thames – Hammersmith to Chiswick for example.
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Mosque, Gunnersbury, London.
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The Geffrye Museum of the House currently closed for rennovation but the front garden is still open for picnics and games, London. Near Hoxton Tube.
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and gardens
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and more gardens.
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The newly rennovated Pitzhanger Manor, Ealing. Opening July 2018.
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The elegant St Pancreas Station – outside.
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and inside. (St Pancreas Station, London).
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The Ladies Toilets at Fenchurch Street Station, London. Using the Monopoly game as inspiration.
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Walk between Chiswick and Ealing in south east London via Gunnersbury Parkl and you will come across church. Tell me if you know the name as I have researched it and cannot find it out!
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Its graveyard.
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and contemplative garden.
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Hyde Park in winter. London.
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The Serpentine, Hyde Park, London.
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Spring daffodils – a classic feature of London’s parks – with the warm, red sandstone houses beside Hyde Park. 
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Selfridges, Oxford Street, London.
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John Nash’s Regency sweep of Oxford Street, City of Westminster, London.
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Institute of Directors building, Pall Mall, London.
The Union Jack flying
The Union Jack flying near the Royal Opera Arcade, Pall Mall, London.
St James Palace
St James Palace, London.
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The British Museum, Euston Road, London.
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Tile detail – typical of south east London residential accommodation.
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The Passmore Edwards Cottage Hospital, Acton, London.
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Sunset on the River Thams from Hammersmith Bridge, London.

Check out this lovely blog which is also about hidden gardens and churches of London.

and this one too. Some of London’s best secret gardens.

Always check out footways.london for pleasant paths to cross London, a network of quiet and interesting streets.

Downton and the New Forest

December 2017

I have written a before about Downton on the River Avon in Wiltshire, and the New Forest which is nearby. Here is a link to a map showing it outlined in red, and you can see that it crosses the three English counties of Wiltshire and Hampshire, very close to the Isle of Wight.

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The 3000 New Forest ponies roam wild but are owned by the Commoners.

I stayed with kind and hospitable relatives in the village of Downton. It used to have a tan yard and still boasts the remains of a Saxon Moot (Mote, or meeting place) with a rarely surviving amphitheatre.  If you read the rather amazing novel ‘Perfume’ by Patrick Süskind you will get a graphic account of the scent that must have pervaded the town where they tanned the leather in those days. It also has an impressive range of trees; mainly beech, yew and elm.

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Empress Matilda’s imperial seal. The inscription reads ‘Matilda Queen of the Romans’

Four Matildas and three Henrys – a little history

Situated on the edge of the New Forest (or Nova Foresta) it was William I, the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy and husband of Queen Mathilda (1032-1083 of Flanders) who created this 30 square miles of private hunting ground for their use in 1079.

‘William I was described as a tough, brave, inspirational and religious man. This invasion by the Normans changed much of the Anglo-Saxon way of life that was being established here. French became the language of the upper classes, cow meat became known as beef and swine became known as gammon; murder became a crime and slavery was abolished.’ from William the Conqueror and the New Forest

‘Empress Matilda’ was named Adelaide at birth in 1102. Daughter of Henry I and Matilda of Scotland, she was only aged 11 years when she was married to Henry of Germany, 20 years her senior. That was when she became Matilda. Her husband Henry was crowned Holy Roman Emperor which is why she became Empress Matilda. Made the first Queen of England by her dad but never officially known as that, she was nevertheless in charge of Normandy in Northern France and had claims to land and fortifications, namely Downton Castle.

Mother to Henry II of England by her second marriage to Henry of Anjou (at 15 years old he was 10 years her junior), she maintained her links with the church and the matter of pilgrimage by bringing the Hand of St James (titular head of the famous Camino de Santiago in Spain) back to England (now in Reading museum) and turned out to be great at supporting monasteries (eg Bordesley Cisercian Abbey, Worcestershire)

In the mid 12th century she was engaged in the civil war with Stephen her cousin, in and out of Oxford, incidentally married to another Matilda (of Boulogne), who then won Downton from her.

One of Empress Matilda’s good friends was Lanfranc, prior of her favourite religious house, the Abbey Bec-Hellouin in Normandy. He was her children’s tutor, and when she died (aged 65 years) she was originally buried there (later her bones were transferred to Rouen Cathedral where they remain).

 

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Grazing on the bracken and brambles.

Walk 1 featuring Eyeworth Pond

We began our first day’s walk at Telegraph Hill, the highest point of the New Forest and once the site of a beacon which was used ‘as a form of communication, in chains up and down the country to act as alarm systems in case the country was invaded. They were placed on elevated positions to make them easily visible for miles around.’ It was said ‘that in 1588 it took 12 hours for the news that the Spanish Armada had been sighted to travel from the south coast of England all the way to York.’ National Trust page.

There was ice in the puddles and streams, and wet squidge underfoot in places. Thankfully we were wrapped up warmly against the cold wind.

Sixty million years ago, I was told, this forest was a tropical sea and it sits today on a bed of chalk with flint, reminiscent of my native Kentish Downs and therefore hosting similar flora and fauna.

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A beautiful, twisting beech tree. Alien-slime-coloured moss seems to be creeping upwards and enveloping the smooth grey bark!

It was fascinating hearing anecdotes from my hosts for whom the forest was the site of family parties when the children were growing up. Like all good adventure tales there was the game of Cargoes where teams have camps on either side of the burn and are charged with routing the other’s territory.

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Frozen water and delicate foliage.

We sloshed our way across the landscape, past the Eyeworth pond to The Royal Oak in Fritham for a half of bitter and delicious lunch.

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Around the table stories were recounted, notably of the traditional Mummers Play (a medieval theatrical) which comes to this hostelry, ‘in which a champion is killed in a fight and is then brought to life by a doctor’. A scene was painted for me, of the play being performed with a glass of ale in one hand, and I could imagine it clearly in this traditional setting.

 

 

As a young teenager, I participated in a Mummers Play – back section of the dragon wearing swimming flippers and processing through the town. It was to celebrate the 300 year anniversary of our primary school, and resulted in terribly sore bits at the fronts of my ankles where I still have scars!

Walk 2, in which we came across Shetland ponies

On day two we visited the wonderfully named Godshill Pit, this time in Hampshire. It was misty and raining with, once again, ice in puddles and between blades of grass. Copper water bubbled over orange flints beside bronze bracken as we leapt soggy brooks and landed on springy peat turf. Aside from this, it really was very deeply squishy under foot!

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Down country roads we walked, pitted with puddles; past ancient cottages with mud walls, pigs in oval-roofed huts, alpaca in fields, a delightful Shetland pony (why are they always so delightful?), and many elegant horses attended by adoring women in wellies.

We drove back through Braemore (say Bremmer) with its quaint bridge over several waterways, its dairy, railway station, working blacksmith and post-office. It is an extremely pretty village built of local stone and I was starting to get used to the crowds of donkeys perched by the roadside, tearing off brambles and bracken from the banks. The pub was closed today so hot soup was most welcome on our return.

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Eyeworth Pond where ponies can be seen sipping at the water’s edge.

Thanks go to Angela for preparing special vegetarian food for me; to Mike for cleaning my walking shoes – twice; to both for showing me this wonderful part of the world and telling me stories about it.

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My Great Aunt Fay on her way to the Falkland Islands in 1931. She died aged 106 in 2017.

Downton Moot link and about the town

Queen Mathilda link

Empress Matilda timeline

Marjorie Morgan McCallum Chibnall OBE FBA was an English historian, medievalist and Latin translator. She wrote the first fully comprehensive biography of Matilda to be published in English in 1961.

Very interesting paper about Empress Matilda (A Study of Succession, Gender and Power in the 12th Century)

The seal above and some information was taken from the Reading Museum site

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New Forest ponies link

The Royal Oak pub link

Oxford, England

A photo essay: November 2017

Oxford is very crowded with students and tourists – the pavements are narrow so allow time to walk around the centre, but at every corner there is an architectural marvel. From the Colleges and their gardens, to the River Cherwell and its fascinating bridges, there is just so much to see.

Check out the expansive Port Meadow with its wonderful views; the cafes of the Cowley area; the Museum of Natural History on Parks Road (not shown here) for the inside decoration alone, never mind the collection (there are plenty of events for children); and the magnificent Blenheim Palace (very close to the city and easy to get to by bus) is an absolute must-see.

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The Radcliffe Camera, part of the Bodleian Museum.

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The Bridge of Sighs.

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View from Magdalen Bridge.

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Detail of the underneath of Magdalen Bridge.

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Oxford punts in winter.

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Wadham College gardens.

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Christchurch College.

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Hertford College.

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Entrance to the Bodleian Library.

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The famous spires of the Oxford colleges.

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Bicycles everywhere!

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Gardens, Christchurch College.

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Ashmolean Museum, exterior.

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The Ashmolean, interior.

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The sun shows up the glorious yellow stone towers.

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Cupid’s bottom – detail on ceiling of the Bodleian.

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Standing guard at the Bodleian.

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A typical street showing residential architecture.

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Broad Street.

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Beneath this garden lies a medieval cemetery. Located outside the Botanical Gardens.

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The rain shows up the black and white architecture to perfection.

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Wadham College courtyard at night.

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Wadham College – an inner courtyard.

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Astonishing gables.

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Cute cafe on St Clement’s St.

London and Paris – Green spaces

Camley Street Natural Park; St Pancreas Parish church and gardens; and Goldington Crescent Gardens, Camden London.

The entrance to Pitzhanger Manor (being restored – it opens in 2018) and an expansive patch of free – Pitzhanger Park, Ealing, London.

As I wander through European cities I find myself attracted time and again to the green spaces. Indeed, a few days ago, I traversed most of Paris from the Bois de Boulogne in the far east, to the Pont Bercy, and what a beautiful walk it was.

Bois de Boulogne
Bois de Boulogne
Bois de Boulogne
Pont Bercy, Paris

Today, I arrived off the Eurostar at St Pancreas London, weary in body and of spirit, but the sun shone, so I googled parks and gardens in the area. I made my way to the St Pancreas gardens, narrowly avoiding being run over by a London taxi due to the lack of pavement, and came across a community garden I had tried to enter twice before, Camley Street Natural Park – this time it was open.

A slice of sylvan pleasure between railway, canal, and high rise buildings, I discovered that this London Wildlife Trust-funded oasis is an ideal place to picnic. Flower beds are constructed from railway sleepers and hunks of stone and bordered pathways are lined with bark pieces.

There is an extensive pond with a green membrane pierced by rushes, and a wild flower meadow with rose bay willow herb. It constitutes a very brief, windy way to the other side if you use it, as many suit-clad workers obviously do, as a thoroughfare; but you may also make a circuit and take in the bug-finding, log-pile place; the ‘fairy glade’ (where if I was not mistaken a counselling session was happening); and pond-dipping where a quiet volunteer was carefully cleaning the sign.

There are rustic benches in private nooks, and, luckily, a few tables in the cafe clearing because it was so densely wooded that there was almost no sun there this September noon.

Bring your little ones and they will have hours of down-to-earth fun – inside if the weather is inclement (there is an activities room and exhibition with nests and pine cones) or out, learning about bats and birds, recycling and natural landscaping. I saw willow, birch, brambles and cherry, and there were tourists in the Visitor Centre being helped by the member of staff.

This old coal yard is located by the waterway which once transported the fuel to Yorkshire, where incidentally the next-door sliver of a bridge was formed before being placed in its current position in 2016. Unlike the uneven Park’s paths which absorb any sound (do not try with buggies, bikes nor suitcases), the bridge’s smooth surface resonates with and amplifies joggers’ footfall and cycle wheels.

Just down the road is the St Pancreas old church and gardens, today shining in the sunlight and showing off its higgledy-piggleddy stones, working mortuary, royal blue water fountain (at least I think that is what it is), and unusual monument “especially dedicated to the memory of those whose graves are now unseen or the records of whose names may be …(could not read this word) obliterated”.

They have done a great job of bringing interesting facts and people to our attention in the wee church: the relationship of Thomas Hardy to the ‘consecrated burial ground’, and memorials to Mary Wollenstonecraft, activist, and John Soane, architect of the Bank of England whose main residence is in the area and whose ‘country’ house in Ealing (Pitzhanger Manor, see above) I coincidentally visited last week.

Under the trees sit study groups, lunching pairs and individuals reading or on their phones. What a contrast with the welcome smell of warm wax which filled the holy interior. I enjoyed the plaque ‘in memory of my dear husband Earnest Wiggins d 1975’ before drifting into my third bout of 60 winks sitting on a proud wooden chair at the back listening to the ponderous ticking of an unseen clock.

Making my way towards Mornington Crescent tube station, with its faint hints of Mary Poppins and WW2 popular songs, I come across Goldington Crescent Gardens. In the Autumn sun, causing the fallen leaves to glow and throwing strong olive green and top-hat grey shadows on the grass, there is a public sculpture. It is in three parts: one resembles a silver pile of unmentionable; the second an ant eater with its snout in the ground; and the third is a mystery. The artwork stands out starkly beside the pink and red brick 1903 Goldington Buildings opposite, which edges elegantly wrap around whatever is in its heart. Interesting fact: in Vienna they have a word for these buildings which conceal a space behind the facade, which is ‘Hof’.

Goldington Crescent, London.
St Vincenz Hof, 18th century, Vienna, Austria
Behind St Pancreas station, London.
Love, Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris.
Beehives, Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris.

Always check out footways.london for pleasant paths to cross London, a network of quiet and interesting streets.

The New Forest, England

Autumn 2016

I am taking a break from my regular life in Edinburgh to discover what I want to do with myself and my future. I’m walking my way into my next half century.

Ken and I were wandering together years ago by a river in Cardiff and he was telling me how walking helps the brain settle, how it gets the creative juices flowing. Simply setting one foot in front of another helps the thoughts to move along, and gets you from one place to another.

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Downton, England.

Luckily I am healthy; my beautiful daughters can now manage brilliantly without me, and so with lots of support from family and friends I have taken time off to explore. I intend to spend time sitting, resting, listening, watching, meeting new people, speaking another language, and of course, walking.

 ‘Man’s real home is not a house, but the Road, and (that) life itself is a journey to be walked on foot.’ Bruce Chatwin ‘Songlines’

I started my Autumn walks in the New Forest with Angela – snake stories, practicing Spanish verbs, annual acorn-eating pigs, and some donkeys.

Our excuse was to take Polly, Christinas’s dog, out for exercise, and we roamed along grassy paths with the smell of Autumn all around us. We tried to avoid any wildlife that might readily be chased.

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Donkey foal.

As we roamed along valleys beside meandering streams, and the bracken seemed to turn browner by the minute, we got to know each other and Polly explored. Inevitably she discovered the donkeys which are free to roam as part of the peoples’ rights to graze their livestock, pick holly, and cut peat.

I recommend this gentle part of the world for walking. It will deepen your appreciation of your surroundings, and moving side-by-side with someone is perfect for meaningful exchanges. 

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Detail on thatched ridge (blurred from a distance).

This is part of a travel blog entitled Walking Without a Donkey, a nod to Travels with a donkey in the Cevennes by Robert Louis Stevenson written in 1879

In Praise of the Donkey

The New Forest Walking Festival is between 12 – 27 August 2019

See also Downton and the New Forest, walks and history