Archive for ‘south London’

May 3, 2015

May Day in Greenwich

On Friday, I donned my flowery skirt and went down to Greenwich to enjoy some May Day celebrations.

I met up with a friend at Surrey Quays station, and we got the bus to Greenwich. I spotted this lovely bird mural on the way to the bus stop, does anyone know who painted it?

mural in Surrey Quays // a raised bridge

While we were on the bus, we had to stop for the road over Deptford Creek to raise, which was a surprise to me as I had no idea the road did that!

Once we were in Greenwich we took a wander through the Old Royal Naval College. Sounds from a music class spilled from an open window, and we stopped to admire the spectacle of the Painted Hall.

Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich

We wandered along towards the old Edwardian power station down by the river, past the Trinity Hospital Almshouses, and around the old wall with the story embedded into it. (We were curious about the purpose of that little hexagonal tower at the back of the power station, with the little windows at the top, any ideas what it was for?).

Greenwich Power Station

At the Star & Garter we stopped for a drink, and waited for the revellers from the Jack in the Green parade. It’s one of the few unspoiled pubs in that area, with wooden beams, a dartboard, racing on the telly and a brassy blonde barmaid who calls you “luv”. Just my kind of pub.

Jack in the Green at the Star & Garter

Jack in the Green at the Star & Garter

When the parade arrived we went outside where one of the revellers was telling a tall tale of the Leviathan which seemed to involve a lot of roaring. We hung around enjoying the sunshine and admiring the costumes, before setting off along our way again.

spring flowers and bright colours

We wandered towards Greenwich Park, where we stopped to admire the view from quiet One Tree Hill where we were more-or-less alone, and again outside the Observatory, which of course was full of tourists. We relaxed for a while inside the tiny Observatory Gardens, which always feels surprisingly secluded, despite being so close to where so many tourists congregate (and long may it stay that way!)

around Greenwich Park

We heard the drums from the Jack in the Green parade as we headed down through the park and side streets towards the Richard I pub, another stop on the parade route.

wisteria galore

We stopped here for a drink and some (overpriced) chips, and bitched about the refurbishment of what was formerly just a nice boozer rather than a posh gastropub with shabby chic pretensions.

Jack in the Green at the Richard I

By the time we’d finished our drinks, it was getting towards evening, so we walked over to Greenwich Station and headed homewards.

You can learn more about the Jack in the Green May Day traditions here and check out the Company of the Green Man‘s picture archive here.

October 22, 2014

larking on the foreshore

I have always loved being by the river in London. There’s something special about a tidal river, especially one that smells of the sea right in the middle of a big city, the sea that’s almost 50 miles away. It smells of adventure and history and the most mundane moments of being human. It’s constantly changing, with the ebb and flow of the tide, and the ebb and flow of the skyline surrounding it, as buildings go up and come down and are replaced by new buildings that go up and come down, it’s no wonder that I’ve found myself continually drawn to its edges.

Last week, I found myself by the Thames again. I had actually planned to see an exhibition at the Tate Modern (the membership a friend gave me last year runs out in a few weeks oh noes I will miss having that), but as the tide was low I decided I’d have a little browse along the foreshore and do some beachcombing. (A lot of people refer to beachcombing along the Thames as “mudlarking” but technically it’s only mudlarking if you are actually digging in the mud, which you need to have a licence to do. Anything else is beachcombing, although the foreshore isn’t strictly a beach, but calling it “foreshore-combing” is too pedantic even for me.)

A couple of minutes on the foreshore in front of the Tate, and I’d already spotted some old clay pipe pieces. These date from the 1700s up until the 1880s, when cigarettes became more popular. Parts of the broken pipe-stems are really common, the pipe-bowls less so, especially intact bowls — so I was quite lucky with that one!

beachcombing on the Thames foreshore
clay pipes, toy dinosaurs, snail shells and mussel shells, spotted on the foreshore in front of the Tate Modern

There’s always interesting flotsam if you look. I like to spot interesting rocks and stones (everybody needs a rock). The egg-like one pictured below resembles one of the ceramic “river eggs” that an artist put into the Thames in 2012 (there’s a picture here for you to compare), but it was actually flint (one side had chipped off). The other one was a nodule of tar I think, but with something of a different texture that has sort of woven itself in. Surprisingly lightweight, but hefty enough to be an interesting paperweight!

beachcombing on the Thames foreshore

beachcombing on the Thames foreshore
A piece of flint that looks like a Picasso dove, and a shell face that’s yawning or screaming — and another piece of pipe-stem.

beachcombing on the Thames foreshore
a piece of flint that looks like a sugar mouse with the tail end bitten off, and a piece of a pocket watch — one side says “watch makers and jewellers” and the other side says “Fehrenbach Bros Strood & Chatham”.

I met some proper mudlarkers in front of the OXO Tower, who were very friendly so we had a nice chat before I wended on my way. One of them dug up the top of a watch-fob while I was there. The fun thing about finding stuff like that these days is it’s so much easier to research — a quick google shows that the Fehrenbachs were quite a famous German clock-making family, with shops all over the place, including Scotland and Manchester. When WW2 came, they changed their name to Fernbank and continued to make clocks and watches, but they also made bullets (for the British side).

The tide didn’t seem to move while I was down on the foreshore, but when any big boats came past they quicky caused a swell. Luckily I happened to be standing on a big rock when this one happened — but then again jumping to avoid getting your feet wet is part of the joy of being by a tidal river. That rather phallic-looking thing is an animal bone of some sort, they’re quite common to find. And that skirt is a new-old find of mine, I actually bought it back in the 90s (!) but it’s been lurking in my fabric stash for years. A little while ago I altered it to make the waist smaller and now it hangs better so I’ve worn it quite a few times lately.

Thames tidal gif

I didn’t have enough energy to wend my way back to the Tate for the exhibition, but I did end up collecting some nice bits and pieces, including about 40 pieces of pipe-stems (I don’t usually collect them, but this time I decided I would!), and some pretty sherds of broken crockery (I recently learned that “sherds” is the name for bits of broken crockery, “shards” just applies to broken glass). I always have a soft spot for those little fragments of pretty plates just for themselves (I find them all over Hampstead Heath, too), but I recently discovered that a lot of the pieces I’ve found over the years are probably a couple of hundred years older than I assumed they were. It’s funny how rubbish that’s three hundred years old somehow becomes special to people, even though it’s still just rubbish. But the rocks and broken plates on the foreshore will always be special to me.

October 14, 2014

a ride on the Woolwich ferry

Last month my mum and me enjoyed a quintessential part of London’s history, and went on the Woolwich ferry. I meant to write about it sooner, but I forgot about it (oops) until I spotted a lovely Betty Swanwick poster on Quad Royal yesterday, and read this post on Londonist about the proposed Silvertown tunnel today, and then I remembered again.

We actually went to Greenwich for the Tall Ships Festival, but the riverfront was really crowded and we couldn’t really see much of the boats (and there weren’t that many to see right there). Instead of fighting through the exhausting crowds, we decided to visit the Queen’s House, have lunch in Greenwich Park and then go on to Woolwich to see the boats there.

The Queen’s House is actually one of my favourite free museums in London, never very crowded and always full of amazing art. The current exhibitions, The Art & Science of Exploration and War Artists At Sea are both recommended (and on until next year), but the permanent collection is wonderful, anyway. It’s a beautiful building, too, not just because of its famous Tulip staircase, but because it’s all so well-proportioned (we were impressed to notice how the edge of the upper balcony overlooking the Great Hall is perfectly aligned with the edges of the doorways).

In Woolwich, there were lots more boats, but it was less crowded and there were less tourists, more locals. We had as much fun people-watching as we did boat-watching, and decided that as we were there we’d go home via the Woolwich ferry.

Woolwich isn’t a part of London I have much reason to visit (although it has a very interesting history) and I’m not a driver so I don’t have much of an opinion on the new tunnel, but I’ve always loved the ferry. Or rather, I’ve always loved the idea of it, because — never really having had a reason to travel from one side of Woolwich to the other — I’ve only ever been on the ferry once before, but it’s kind of fun to do. I think it would be a sad thing if the ferry disappeared completely — I’ve always felt there ought to be more boats going across the Thames, not just up and down (the only other one I know about is Hammerton’s ferry near Richmond, which has also been on my list of things to do for ages).

The ride itself doesn’t take very long — less than 10 minutes, but as I said, it’s kind of fun to do.

waiting for the Woolwich Ferry, watching a tall ship go through the Thames Barrier
Waiting for the Woolwich Ferry, watching a tall ship go through the Thames Barrier — you can just see it in the middle, near the Canary Wharf skyline. The cranes and chimneys on the right belong to the Tate & Lyle sugar refinery in Silvertown, which used to be the largest sugar refinery in the world. It has an interesting history that you can read about here.

waiting for the Woolwich Ferry

boarding the Woolwich Ferry

aboard the Woolwich Ferry

aboard the Woolwich Ferry
Below decks there’s not much view of the river but then you find nice old stuff like this. Well, I like it!

aboard the Woolwich Ferry
There’s a tiny outside platform above these steps that everybody crams onto so that they can see the river.

aboard the Woolwich Ferry
I think they added the bunting for the Tall Ships Festival but they should keep it always! Bunting on boats is so jolly.

aboard the Woolwich Ferry
Looking back towards south Woolwich

exiting the Woolwich Ferry

north entrance to Woolwich foot tunnel
Entrance to Woolwich foot tunnel, which goes under the river where the ferry goes over it. That bus to Stratford takes the same amount of time as the DLR, but it’s less faff (I love the DLR though).

In a city that was built around a river, it’s always puzzled me how little access people really have to being on that river, without spending lots of money. The Woolwich free ferry remains one of the last few ways to do so that isn’t privatised and doesn’t cost lots of money. I hope it manages to stay that way.

September 25, 2014

tea at the Regency

Regency Cafe, Pimlico

Regency Cafe, Pimlico

Regency Cafe, Pimlico

Regency Cafe, Pimlico

Regency Cafe, Pimlico

Today I’m visiting Tate Britain, with plans to go to the Regency Cafe afterwards, so I thought I’d post these pics from when I popped in for a cuppa a few months ago, because it’s such a great little place. I always worry it’s going to be gone the next time I walk past, but fortunately its popularity doesn’t seem to wane (you might recognise it as a location in several films), and they don’t mess about with the authentic vintage decor and design (unlike Bar Bruno in Soho, which has been destroyed now, sadly.)

Lift up your mugs of tea! Long may the Regency reign!