Sunday, 31 March 2013

Urban Wandering: Tate Britain to Tate Modern

Normally I am forced to do my urban wandering alone, as it's usually after work, or during a lunch break. However yesterday I was delighted to be able to share this with my wife, as we made our way up to London for a day out, primarily to visit the Bigger Splash exhibition at the Tate Modern (hurry, it finishes on 1st April) but also, inevitably, to partake in a bit of a drift. Originally we had planned to travel up to London by train, but given that there were bank holiday works on the Reading to Paddington line, this would have meant taking the Reading to Waterloo line and doubling our journey time. So, somewhat reluctantly we drove up instead. The motorway was really bust up to Heathrow, but after that I don't think I've ever seen the London roads so empty during the day. We found a free parking space near the Tate Britain and started our wander from there toward the Tate Modern.

Typically we would crossed over to the south bank of the Thames and followed the river, but both having read and been recently inspired by Psychogeography and also Edgelands, we decided to navigate our way through the streets, almost as the core flies, towards the Shard, and from there make our way to the gallery. Not really having explored Lambeth before, this wander was of immediate interest. As with most of my recent wanders however, the weather was overcast, only allowing for the briefest of photo opportunities, and even then unfortunately they come across a bit dull and lack-lustre. The first photo is of a ghost sign on Borough High Street and reads, The Monster Ready Made and Bespoke Clothing Establishment on the left-hand side of the wall, and on the right-hand side reads Albion House Clothing Company, Branch Establishments, Paris Antwerp and Ghent. I assume this is an old sign, by the word "monster" makes me think that perhaps it's not as old as it initially suggests. Any thoughts anyone?

Ghost sign on Borough High Street, London SE1
Ghost sign on Borough High Street, London SE1

As we drifted along Borough High Street, our attention started to turn towards lunch. Desperate to avoid any of the branded coffee shops and restaurants, we instead ducked into Borough Market where there was so much good looking food on offer, we found it hard to make our minds up. Eventually we decided on a Cajun fish and prawn wrap, which we ate on the hoof as we strolled around the market.

Entrance to Borough Market, London SE1
Entrance to Borough Market, London SE1

I can't say I'm a regular visitor to Borough Market having only been there a few times, but I always find the architecture impressive.

Borough Market, London SE1
Borough Market, London SE1

With our bellies full, well not too full as we were already planning mid-afternoon tea and cake, and a dinner, we continued our walk towards the Tate Modern. Actually we ended up walking almost to Tower Bridge before we realised we had gone too far and had to back track slightly, but all was not in vein as I was rewarded with another (grey) photo opportunity, this time at the Hays Galleria.

Hays Galleria, London SE1
Hays Galleria, London SE1

By the time we arrived at the Tate Modern, we'd already walked a good few miles, so I was really hoping that the exhibition was firstly, captivating enough to take my mind off my aching back and legs, and secondly, not too busy. Glad to report it ticked both the boxes, with some great artwork by Jackson Pollock, David Hockney and plenty of others whose names escape me (although my wife was making notes).

Post gallery walking took us back across the river, and into a tea shop near Neal's Yard, where we treated ourselves to tea and cake, before heading off through the sleet, towards Soho and into Fitzrovia, where we sought refuge in a pub before venturing out to dinner in a Moroccan restaurant for the evening. All in all a great day out, and we returned home satisfied but exhausted.

    

Friday, 29 March 2013

Urban Wandering: King's Cross to Oxford Circus

My second urban wander of the week, my first being around Limehouse, took me from King's Cross to Oxford Circus. Admittedly the title does not sound that inspiring, but this was not a wander along the main roads, nor through the areas heaving with office workers, lunchtime shoppers and tourists. As soon as I had climbed the steps out of King's Cross tube station, I crossed the main road and made straight for the quieter streets, heading off in a south westerly direction. I had no real idea of where I was going today, but just decided to zig-zag my way towards somewhere I could catch a tube or bus back to the office. Initially this took me through quite a residential part of London, with a surprising number of green spaces. Pleasant though this was, it was not was I was really looking for, so I continued my diagonal wander until I found an intriguing series of mews and passageways. Being lunchtime however, and being in quite a busy area of London, many of these narrow passageways were filled with a constant stream of people so, feeling a little over conspicuous, I shied away from taking too many photos where there were people about. Those pictures I did take were of mews and passageways a little more off the beaten track, so unfortunately no pictures of Percy Passage this time. I opted instead to duck into Gower Mews, and after a few minutes waiting for the guy in the luminous jacket to get out of the shot, I eventually snapped this, unfortunately rather grey, picture.

Gower Mews, London WC1
Gower Mews, London WC1

Street sign, Gower Mews, London WC1
Street sign, Gower Mews, London WC1

Marylebone Passage, London W1
Marylebone Passage, London W1

For me Marylebone Passage was the highlight of today's Urban Wander, and in particular this ghost sign for a company called Pring and Rose, for Showcards, Ticket Writers and Printers.

Ghost sign for Pring and Rose, Showcards, Ticket Writers and Printers, Marylebone Passage, London W1
Ghost sign for Pring and Rose, Showcards, Ticket Writers and Printers, Marylebone Passage, London W1

Street sign, Marylebone Passage, London W1
Street sign, Marylebone Passage, London W1

So, here ends the second consecutive week where I managed two urban wanders. I'm on leave next week and although not going away anywhere, am hoping to still have the opportunity to find some space - whether urban, rural or coastal will depend on the weather. Stay tuned.

    

Thursday, 28 March 2013

An Urban Wander around Limehouse, London E14

At last, as sunny day. It’s cold, very cold, but I much prefer this to cold and wet. Catching the train into London this morning I couldn’t help noticing, and not for the first time, that there’s a train at almost exactly the same time as the London train, that goes to Devon. Also, and I don’t think I’d noticed this before, it’s actually called The Devon Express. It would have been a perfect day to hop over on to the other platform for a day out of the rat race.

However, the rat race seems to be unavoidable for now, but fortunately I managed a temporary escape from it this week at work, when once again I found myself with spare time before a meeting over in Docklands. I alighted the DLR at Limehouse and wandered through the streets to Canary Wharf, taking a slightly different route to the one I’d taken a few weeks before (see my previous Limehouse to Canary Wharf urban wander). Today's urban wander took me by past some older, more interesting buildings than the new ones on the riverside and in the docks.

This first picture is of an old wharf building, complete with the winch fittings that would have been used to haul goods up to the first and second floors and in through the doors.

Urban wandering - Limehouse Wharf, Narrow Street, London E14
Limehouse Wharf, Narrow Street, London E14

Urban Wandering - Narrow Street, Limehouse, London E14
Narrow Street, Limehouse, London E14

This third photo is probably my favourite of the batch, and the greyness of the sky is easily compensated by the vibrant blue of what I assume to be a former pub judging by its location, windows and signage.

Urban Wandering - Narrow Street, Limehouse, London E14
Former pub(?), Narrow Street, Limehouse, London E14

However, what caught my notice more than anything on the wander were a couple of sign posts pointing north away from Limehouse along the Limehouse Cut, which goes up to the Lea Valley. Obviously no time to explore this route today, but definitely one for another day, and a quick bit of internet research this morning has promoted this future trip quite high up the agenda.

In other news, I am still struggling through Iain Sinclair’s Lights Out for the Territory. If I’m honest I’m finding it a bit hit-and-miss, with some chapters being such hard-going that I lose track, whilst others I seem to breeze through. Maybe it’s just me and I’m reading at the wrong times of day when I'm easily distracted by other things.
    

And stay tuned folks, I actually managed two urban wanders again this week. The second one was from King's Cross to Oxford Circus, through mews and passageways.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Travelling by arm chair

Odd week this week. Unfortunately only the very smallest of opportunities to partake in any urban wandering, and that was after work, when it was dark, cold and wet. I has hoped the few days of milder weather we had a week or so back was a sign that spring was finally on its way, but we seem to be back into deepest winter again this week. These short wanders took me around the Paddington area and to some familiar mews, but I didn't hang around there too long as it was bitterly cold.

So, my entry today is more a series of observations that a write-up of an urban wander. Firstly I think I'm slowing down. What do I mean by this? Well, I've noticed that I no longer stand up before the train pulls into Paddington to make sure I get off first and beat the crowds, but instead I stay in my seat until almost everyone else has alighted, and then miss the crowds at the other end of the process. I can't say this is something I have made a conscious attempt to do, but just something that seems more aligned to my mindset these days.

On the rare occasions I stay over in London instead of making my way back to the countryside, I am always a bit concerned about whether I over-indulge in the hotel breakfasts. If I've been out for a meal the night before I generally don't need a cooked breakfast the morning after, but if it's there, all laid out neatly in front of me, I find it hard to resist. However, I do try and have some fruit and cereal to balance this off, so not feeling too guilty, and even less so when the two girls opposite me were having coke with their cooked breakfast. I Used to drink quite a lot of fizzy drinks as a kid, but haven't done so for years and years now, but even I am not sure I had coke for breakfast.

I'm up in London again next week, in a couple of different locations but am not sure that either the weather forecast, or my work schedule will allow me to wander very much. So much to do, so little time.

On a more positive note however, the inability to get out and about in the evenings has meant that I have managed to find time to catch up on some of the recorded TV programmes. In particular I'm working my way through the final episodes of Michael Portillo's Great British Railway Journeys series 3, as he continues to navigate his way around Britain using George Bradshaw's guide book. These short, episodes are just about enough to fill the odd half-hour between other activities, and as with many things these days provide me with more places to add to my "to visit" list. This week it's been the Scottish West Coast, so not something I could quite manage in a lunchtime or after work one evening. I've also been enjoying the BBC series, Heritage: the Battle for Britain's Past, which includes some incredible archive footage, and also some great moments of architectural sadness as witnessed by the demolition of so much Victorian architecture, all in the name of progress.

    

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Urban Wandering: Bermondsey to Borough

My second urban wander last week was from Bermondsey to Borough, when I was fortunate enough to be travelling back from docklands towards the city around 5pm, with time to spare to jump off the tube early and continue at least some of my journey on foot. I chose Bermondsey as I had a loose idea that I might find the road that featured in the BBC TV series/book The Secret History of Our Streets: London but as I'd not properly prepared for this I had no recollection of what it was called or where it was ... for future reference I it's Reverdy Road. Instead however I drifted westwards from Bermondsey tube station, in the vague direction of home, but with no real idea where I was going or what I planned to see. The first section of my walk was a fairly uninspiring trek down the busy Jamaica Road. The first point of interest which caught my eye was a brick wall which shielded the road from the river below. I crossed the road and peered over the wall, only to be disappointed to find a river inlet filled with rubbish. I guess, that part of any urban wander is the experience, no matter how good or bad, but I was simply not in the mood for this today. After this let-down, I headed in towards some of the quieter side streets and the surroundings and my mood picked up immensely.

Turning into Shad Thames I was immediately greeted with what, to me, seems like real docklands. The road curved around to reveal tall, renovated, brick warehouses, so unlike the modern glass buildings in Canary Wharf. I assume the metal walkways running between the buildings at the upper floor levels were originally used to move good around (another reason I need to visit the London Docklands Museum).


Shad Thames, London SE2
 Shad Thames, London SE2

Shad Thames, London SE2
 Shad Thames, London SE2

Many of the buildings have restuarants and bars on the ground floors. A few of the signs are overstated and garish, but mainly most seem to have been created in a low-key, tastful way, in keeping with the area

Shad Thames, London SE2
Shad Thames, London SE2

Shad Thames, London SE2

Shad Thames, London SE2
Shad Thames, London SE2

As I left Shad Thames and headed past Tower Bridge, London Brigde and into Borough, the evening had started to close in, and the laptop bag was weighing heaving on my increasingly achy back, so I didn't stop to take any photos of the second leg of my journey, but  as I often do, I have made a mental note to return on a warmer and sunnier day, and maybe get some shots of the many railway arches. And I have to disagree with Iain Sinclair here when he says in his Lights Out for the Territory something to the effect that urban wandering should take place on a grey and dreary day.

    

If you missed my first urban wander of the week, this can be found at Urban Wandering: Paddington to Lancaster Gate

Friday, 15 March 2013

Urban Wandering: Paddington to Lancaster Gate

Very pleased to have managed two urban wanderings this week. The first of which was on a bright(ish) but cold lunch time break around the Paddington and Lancaster Gate areas. Again this is somewhere I have walked through many times but I found some mews, alleyways and staircases that I'd not explored before. And surprisingly, I have more photographs to chose from than I can comfortably add into a single blog post, which recently has been unusual as I try to find the least grey shot from a dreary batch.

The first photo was taken in Fulton Mews, which until I'd explored it this week I thought it was a hammerhead cul-de-sac but to my pleasant surprise also contained a couple of more intimate side passages, one of which had a wooden bench, half in the sunlight, set against a backdrop of a white brick wall with a cut-out archway. I couldn't tell whether the archway was simply decorative or whether at one time it had been an actual arch leading through to more mews or possibly Quennsborough Passage which runs adjacent on the other side of the wall.

 Wooden bench in Fulton Mews, London W2
 Wooden bench in Fulton Mews, London W2

Elms Mews was another mews that I had not explored before. It lies just of the main Bayswater Road and leads off towards Craven Terrace. The mews itself was pleasant enough, but of more interest was this flight of steps and street lamp at the end.

Elms Mews, London W2
 Flight of steps in Elms Mews, London W2

The next three photos are of Lancaster Mews which was a real treat as I had no idea that this was in fact a quadrangle of mews. From the news entrance it simply looked like it went as far as the flats at the end and not further, but in fact it opened out revealing a further two picturesque mews. What was also pleasing about these mews was that they didn't have any cars insight to spoil my photos.

Lancaster Mews, London W2
Lancaster Mews, London W2

Lancaster Mews, London W2
Lancaster Mews, London W2

Lancaster Mews, London W2
Lancaster Mews, London W2

 My reward at the end of the lunch time wander was a ham and cheese roll, made up freshly in front of me, in the excellent Sheila's Café on the corner of Lancaster Mews. All too often I am pressed for time and simply go to one of the chain sandwich shops near the office, so this was a pleasant change.

    

For anyone interested to read more, my second urban wander of the week Bermondsey to Borough hasjust been posted.
 

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Rural cycling - Hampshire/Berkshire borders

The awful weather at the end of last week, plus the imminent nearing of the end of the financial year, meant that any plans for another Urban Wander last week were put on hold. Well, actually that's not strictly true as I did wander the streets of London after work, but it was wet and dark, so needless to say I have no pictures of that wander.

I did however force myself to get out on my mountain bike today, and despite the cold, damp and foggy start to the day I ended up having quite a satisfying 18 mile ride, and have hopefully burnt off some calories following last night's gastro-extravaganza at a friends house. As I mentioned though, the weather was not too great so I had pretty much given up hope of taking any photos, but a bit of brightness on the homeward leg allowed me to get this quick shot of the Hampshire-Berkshire boundary post. I was pleased that I didn't have any litter in this picture, which is sadly more than I can say for many of the lanes I cycled down, which were strewn with fast food wrappers, paper coffee cups, sandwich wrappers, crisp packets, and tin cans. To make matters worse, the hedge rows had been recently trimmed  and a lot of the litter was now shredded and sodden, making it a near impossible task for the parish litter wardens to clear it up.

County Boundary post between Hampshire and Berkshire
County Boundary post between Hampshire and Berkshire

Also this week, on the days I have taken the train into London, I have been wondering more and more what it would be like to travel the other way which would involve taking the train to Taunton instead of London. In recent times I think I've only been west on the line as far as Hungerford, although more years ago than I care to remember we travelled from Paddington to Castle Cary for the Glastonbury Festival, but I don't remember much about the journey.

In other news, as a self-confessed slow reader, I am still working my way through both Brendon Chase and Lights Out for the Territory, although have not found enough time to make a lot of progress this week.

    

Monday, 4 March 2013

Urban Wandering: a short stroll up the Grand Union Canal

With less than an hour to explore, I headed along a reasonably familiar path out of Paddington along through the Paddington Basin and along the Grand Union Canal towards Kensal Green. One day I need to make more of an effort to walk this route after work, as far as I can get in a one-way trip, before I need to return home or back to the city, but alas today it was just a short lunchtime stroll. Nevertheless, it was a pleasure to be out of the office and probably the mildest day of the year so far, so much so in fact that local authorities, local councils, or private landlords (whatever we call them these days) were cutting the grass outside one of the housing estates I walked past.

Road bridge over the Grand Union Canal just as it opens out into Paddington Basin
Road bridge over the Grand Union Canal just as it opens out into Paddington Basin

I quite like the contrast of the old and the new in this second picture. The modern graffiti on an old brick wall, the colourfully painted but doubtless old iron bridge, and the stray trees having taken root in the old brickwork of the bridge with the modern apartments in the background.

Road bridge between Paddington and Kensal Green
Road bridge between Paddington and Kensal Green

Like much of this canal, the section I walked could almost have been anywhere, and it's not until I started my return leg through the streets to force a change of scenery, that it became obvious I was in London.

In other news, I went on my first proper bike ride of 2013. It was only 22 miles but felt considerably longer, and my dodgy back has been feeling over-tight since. I'm hoping it's just caused by lack of exercise rather than anything more sinister and if the weather holds again this weekend then I'll make an effort to go out again. But of course, with the milder weather comes the gardening chores. Last year was such a disappointment in the garden and vegetable patch, so I am determined to make a better effort this year, with plans to completely rejuvenate one particular corner.

    
 
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