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Archive for January, 2011

Further exploration of historic London

Walking the London Wall – Cripplegate to Blackfriars

The remains of the west gate of the Roman Fort

The remains of the west gate of the Roman Fort, in an underground car park below London Wall

The second part of my walk, in which I continue to follow the line of London’s Roman and mediaeval Wall, finding monumental stone towers amongst the modernity of the Barbican, and discovering impressive and well-preserved subterranean remains of a Roman Fort and Amphitheatre, both astonishingly rediscovered after centuries of burial. Then past landmarks synonymous with London’s criminal past, before twisting and turning through narrow lanes and alleys to meet the Thames at Blackfriars.

Part 1 of this walk, from Tower Hill to Cripplegate, including travel information, can be found here

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Tracing the boundary of historic London in search of a dirty Roman ruin (no, not Silvio Berlusconi)

Walking the London Wall – Tower Hill to Cripplegate

London Wall at St Alphege

Salters' Hall Garden and a section of London Wall: originally Roman, but incorporated into the 11th Century church of St Alphege, and with 15th Century brick battlements.

I recently attended a tour at the Museum Of London, of which more later, which (together with my recent visit to Reculver) inspired me to try and trace the line of the Wall that originally surrounded the City of London to see what remains. Roman in origin, the Wall has seen a swelling City burst its bounds over the following centuries and has at various times and in diverse places been altered, added to and obliterated. Yet, despite the phenomenal change the City has seen in the two thousand years since Roman invaders first settled there, some surprisingly large chunks of the Wall still remain, in wonderful juxtaposition to the modern office blocks. And its legacy can also be seen in any A to Z, in many of the street names and landmarks so familiar to modern Londoners, many of whom are likely to be entirely unaware of the history beneath their feet, or, as I discovered, tucked away around a corner or down an obscure sidestreet.

By and large, I followed the Museum’s ‘London Wall Walk’, originally devised in 1984 and marked with plaques along the route, some of which are in poor repair or have been removed as the City has rebuilt itself. The booklet that accompanied the Walk is out of print, but can be downloaded in sections from the Museum’s website; I’ve merged the separate sections into one handy pdf file which you can download here.

Start: Tower Hill Station TQ335807

Finish: Blackfriars Station TQ317808

Length: 1¾ miles; allow plenty of time for exploring

How to get there: Plenty of options! Tower Hill is on the Circle and District Lines and is also within a few minutes walk of Tower Gateway (Docklands Light Railway) and Fenchurch Street (National Rail, served by c2c). Currently, Blackfriars is a little more complicated in that the Underground station is closed while the National Rail station (served by First Capital Connect) is open on weekdays only while extensive engineering works are carried out as part of the Thameslink Programme. However, nearby alternatives are available – City Thameslink (National Rail) and Mansion House (Circle/District Lines) amongst others – and this being London there are plenty of buses serving both start and finish.

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Walk London - Winter WandersAs Winter follows Autumn, so Walk London’s Winter Wanders follow their Autumn Ambles, which I mentioned last year. Held this year on the weekend of Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th January, the programme is as comprehensive and diverse as that last Autumn, and, having enjoyed a selection last time round (including a ghost walk and a tour of underground London, albeit above ground – no, seriously, it makes sense if you were there), I’m looking forward to this.

Full details of all the walks, including tours of historic and literary London, riverside rambles along the Thames Path, walks to the Olympic site, and, further out, sections of the London Loop, Green Chain and Capital Ring are available on the Walk London website.

Now, which to choose……….?

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Along the wild & windy north Kent coast

Herne Bay to Birchington-on-Sea, Kent

The towers at Reculver

The towers of the church of St Mary the Virgin at Reculver

The day after completing Stage 1 of the London Loop, I headed further east beyond the Thames estuary into Kent proper for a stroll along the coast, following, as I had before, the Saxon Shore Way. ‘Bracing’ is, I think, the usual term for such an expedition, as there was a bitterly cold biting wind whipping up the sea into white-crested waves. But then the main reason for my visit was to explore Reculver, somewhere enigmatically isolated; the tempestuous weather could only add to the atmosphere.

Start: Herne Bay Station TR171674

Finish: Birchington-on-Sea Station TR297694

Length: 10¾ miles/4½ hours

How to get there: Start and finish are both served by Southeastern services from London Victoria to Ramsgate via the Medway Towns, an hour and a half or so from London. It’s also possible to travel from St Pancras International on the whizzy High Speed train, changing at Faversham, but the journey time is roughly the same.

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Open marshland and riverside walking in south-east London along the courses of not 1, not 2 but 3 rivers*

*comes with free scrapyards

London Loop Stage 1: Erith to Bexley

Looking eastwards along the Thames at the mouth of the Darent

Looking eastwards along the Thames at the mouth of the Darent; in the distance, the towers of the Dartford Crossing

About 18 months ago, I joined a group of friends on a walk from Bexley to Petts Wood, following the River Cray in the south-east London suburbs; at the time I was vaguely aware that this was part of a route that circumnavigates the capital. In this way, what began as a pleasant Sunday afternoon walk has now evolved, as detailed previously, into an attempt to complete the entire London Loop in a clockwise direction, of which about a third is now complete. But for the challenge to be fully met, I needed to head back to the start of the Loop and fill in some gaps. Thus it was that I took advantage of a sunny yet cold wintery day and headed for the south bank of the Thames in north Kent to walk the very first stage from Erith to Bexley. One adjective to describe this stage: industrial. Much of it concerned with dealing with the crap that people throw away. Even some parts of the route that felt ‘wild’ could not evade the detritus of modern man, ever-present either visibly or lurking beneath the surface. To be fair though, the route also includes attractive stretches following the courses of 3 separate rivers, in wide-open marshland and along backwaters, through parks and woodland. But, as I’ve mentioned before, that’s part of the attraction of the Loop: it’s London in its entirety, warts and all.

Start: Erith Station TQ511781

Finish: Bexley Station TQ493734

Length: 8½ miles/4 hours

How to get there: Both start and finish are in Travelcard Zone 6 and are on routes served by Southeastern, about half an hour from Charing Cross, Waterloo East or London Bridge.

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