An afternoon stroll

Friday 01 August 2014 – London.

With all my holidaying and travelling around, plus a bout of pre-holidaying laziness I seem to have gotten a bit ‘soft’ round the middle. In effort to reduce some of the softness and prepare myself for getting back into running again I have decided to fill some of my days with a good long walk. If I think the walk is interesting enough I will chuck the camera in my bag and take some photos on the way.

Today I had planned to meet my mate John for coffee near his office in Canary Wharf at 10:00 and then meet El at South Kensington station at 6:00 so we could see the Travel Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Royal Geographic Society. This left me with a decent sized gap in the middle of the day with not much to do so I decided to save money and wasted travel time and take a very slow walk between the two. With the best will in the world even I could not walk that slowly, so to get some practise at carrying a pack as I am thinking of an overnight walk sometime soon, I threw my laptop and a change of clothes in a day bag. I hoped to take some time and stop in a cafe somewhere and actually doing some of the photo editing and blog writing I had been procrastinating on. For good measure I tossed the book I am reading about walking around Britain in as well – just in case I need to procrastinate further. It was a warm day, humid with mostly clear skies, but with a forecast of heavy rain ahead, so I was quite prepared for all contingencies: water, bandana – and a rain coat.

For a bit of fun I put my Garmin GPS watch on and recorded the walk, stopping the clock for any long breaks. I was also quite keen to see what sort of pace I maintain on a fast casual walk – if I do decide to do something a bit longer – at least I know how long to allow for it! It was good to know that I kept a fairly consistent 6km an hour pace for the whole 18kms – which is pretty much what I thought it would be.

I left Canary Wharf just after 11am and intended to follow the Thames Path to Tower Bridge.

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The tide was most of the way and one of the things that really intrigues me about the Thames, and something I will look into, is the amount of old wharf and bridge pilings that are just sitting there, sticking out of the low tide mud. How long have they been there and what were they ? This area of London has historically been very shipping orientated and am I sure there are some interesting histories peaking out of the riverbed.

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A lot of the buildings on both sides of the Thames are old warehouses and I really like the way this old crane structure has been used as stairs for these converted flats. I would love an apartment anywhere along here !

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The Thames Path is not that easy to follow, on either side of the river to be fair. It is adequately sign posted in some places, though I highly suspect some of the residents who share some land with the path have removed signs to prevent us great unwashed from walking past their windows.

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The path meanders in and out from the river side as old warehouses and wharfs butt up against the river.

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In one case the path just led to a completely closed off section as new homes (for the rich I suspect) are being built. This was a bit frustrating as it meant having to back track a couple of hundred metres and walk down the road.

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Though Wapping High Street is not a bad street to walk down these days. Since the great press migration to Wapping in the 1980s I have always though the area would be full of massive warehouses and sheds full of large printing presses – very much like where I last worked, but the main thoroughfare and local side streets are very nice. And of course the great press migration from Wapping is now over with the last of the big papers moving out again.

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The river side walk is interesting with a few things to look at on the way.

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I arrived in St Katherines Docks after an hour or so of walking. I am not a huge fan of the area as it is very touristy and there is not a heck of a lot to see if you do not like yachts – much as I don’t mind being on a boat, I am not one to spend loads of time admiring them, unlike bicycles. The docks area has a mix of nice old buildings.

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And some things that should be immediately destroyed and the person who gave permission to build them sent to the gulags.

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The docks area are next to the Tower of London and this was my next stop, I love the Tower at the best of times, symbol as it may be of kings and queens and power and abuse of power, it is a stunning building. However, today I was here to see the early phases of a massive World War 1 memorial project art installation named ‘Bloodswept lands and seas of red. Planting of large ceramic poppies commenced on the 100th anniversary of the start of the war at the end of July 1914, at the end of the project on November 2014 888, 246 poppies will have been planted, one for each British fatality in the war. That number is just so large, I cannot imagine what the moat of the tower will look like. As I write this there a number of small wars going on in the world, Syria, Gaza and Iraq being just the ones on the news – seems we have not learned anything – ever.

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From the Tower I walked down under London Bridge along Upper and Lower Thames and crossed the river on Blackfriars Bridge.
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My next stop was another art work that is part of the WW1 remembrance project. HMS President was built during the first world war as an anti-submarine vessel and has been moored on the Thames since 1922. It has been repainted in a stylised ‘Dazzle camouflage’ by the artist Tobias Rehberger. Dazzle camouflage was used during WW1 to make it hard for enemy submarines to calculate the course of a vessel by breaking up its normal lines. I really liked it.

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As I was walking up towards the Southbank I realised I have walked past the book and map sellers under Waterloo Bridge dozens of times and have never ever taken a photo – so I did…

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They are expensive, but I like the idea and have seen similar on the banks of the Seine in Paris as well. My next stop was the back of the South Bank centre, there was some new street art painted there as part of the Southbank’s ‘love’ themed summer festival. New works by Ewe Linak,

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And the ever present Lost Souls Crew, though there was a large van parked in front of their’s.
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I stopped for some well earned lunch of a vegeball burger at the food stalls behind the Southbank, the burger was great.

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It was really hot out there and there was not a lot of places to sit in the shade so after eating I walked back to the river side, where the fountain was the most popular I have ever seen it. With school holidays on there are loads of families out and about along this part of the Thames today, nice to see kids enjoying some free fun !

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After a coffee at the Southbank I crossed back over Waterloo Bridge to the north side of the Thames and walked up through Soho to pick the brilliant free monthly music magazine ‘Loud and quiet’ from one of the lovely little record shops on Berwick St. With a couple of hours left to kill before meeting El I stopped for a cold drink in a cafe, got the laptop out and wrote most of the first day in Copenhagen blog. It is something I should do more of, get away from internet access and use the computer for something productive.

It was such a nice day that I decided to wait for El in Hyde Park, I power walked through the human mess that is Oxford St and into a large oasis of calm and peace. The Serpentine was fairly busy with most of the boats out on the lake.

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I wanted to check out the recently re-opened Serpentine Gallery but you needed a ticket to get in to the exhibition that was on today.

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So I went into the recently opened 2014 pavilion, by artist Smiljan Radic – now known as the space ship and bought a coffee. I wandered down to the bottom end of the park, found a nice bank to sit on, got out my book,

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and it poured with rain. I drank my coffee under a tree and after a very short downpour walked down to the V and A museum where, after getting changed, I waited for El over a glass of sauv and a bag of crisps. As I sat there in the cool shade under a blue sky, gazing out across the pond in the square in the the museum it was hard to believe that not fifteen minutes earlier people were running from the rain.

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One of the many many things I love about London is these small oasis of calm in the middle of busy public spaces, somewhere quiet and sheltered where you can buy a nice coffee or a glass of wine and relax surrounded by lovely old buildings. The best thing is they always seem so deserted.

El arrived soon after I did and we walked to the Royal Geographic Society building back up Exhibition Drive towards Hyde Park. The Travel Photographer of the Year exhibition is on and as we both really enjoyed it last year I bought tickets to a private viewing so we could walk around in relative peace. It was a fabulous exhibition, I am so envious of some of the skills that these photographers have and there are some magical images, it finishes on the 17 August. Naturally it rained again, but just a light shower…

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And that was it for the day, it was a good day out, I enjoyed the walk, as always, and saw a little bit of London I have not seen before.

I took this picture the day before from a friends balcony and thought it was worth sharing.

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Wannabe writer and photographer. Interested in travel and place. From Auckland, New Zealand.

3 thoughts on “An afternoon stroll”

  1. Good stuff, Phil…. Weirdly enough, Kath and I walked from Edgware Road station to my new school in Limehouse on the same day as your walk! We followed the Thames Path along the north side of the river from Embankment to Limehouse, rather than fight through the Southbank crowds. As always, when I go along the river, I too, find the constant, and generally totally unnecessary, interruptions to the Thames Path incredibly annoying. Even where land is privately owned, surely it wouldn’t be beyond Boris’, admittedly limited abilities, to build some suspended walkways along the river’s edge at these points to keep the path going….

    1. Thanks Steve, funnily enough I was thinking of contacting you this morning, wondering if the mighty ‘Stones had kicked off their season yet and when you were starting the new job. 1 all draw, not a bad result for the first game in the new league….

      There are plenty of suspended walkways on the canals so yes agree some of the Thames would be good, it would make a nice walk a great walk!

      email coming your way…

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