Monday, April 29, 2024

Walking with Keilyn: Brunel Museum to Rotherhithe... and beyond

Keilyn at the Brunel Museum
Keilyn ready to visit the Brunel Museum.

Saturday April 27, 2024.

Another Saturday saw Keilyn and I take another trip to London. Specifically to visit the Brunel Museum, but then to explore the area.

Our trip began the same way as usual; Metropolitan line to Finchley Road and then on to Bermondsey.

Our first stop, on reaching Bermondsey, was to grab a coffee and hot chocolate, which we purchased from the Servewell Cafe, before continuing along Jamaica Road to Southwark Park. The forecast said that rain was due at around 14:00, so we decided to visit Southwark Park before it began.

Keilyn in the bandstand
Keilyn at the Southwark Park Bandstand.

We visited the bandstand, before passing the bowling green, crossing Carriage Drive, where we discovered the Caryatids of Rotherhithe Old Town Hall. 

The Caryatids of Rotherhithe Old Town Hall
The Caryatids of Rotherhithe Old Town Hall.

From here we entered the Ada Salter Garden and then made our way around Southwark Boating Lake, before heading back towards Jamaica Road and King's Stairs Gardens.

Southwark Park Boating Lake
Southwark Park Boating Lake.

From here it was a short walk along Saint Marychurch Street to the Brunel Museum, passing the historic Mayflower pub along the way.

Brunel Museum Plaque
Brunel's Engine House plaque.

To our surprise the Brunel Museum was deserted, so we had the entire place to ourselves for our entire visit. After purchasing our tickets, Keilyn was issued with a clipboard with two sheets of questions about the museum and the history of the Thames Tunnel, called 'The Brunel Detective Trail'.

Thames Tunnel Shaft
Keilyn 50-feet down the Thames Tunnel Shaft.

Our first stop was to the Thames Tunnel shaft, from where the tunnel's construction began. After being ushered in to this cavernous shaft, with its bare brick and smoke-coated walls, we were left to explore on our own. At the bottom of the shaft Keilyn and I took a seat and watched a 4-minute video, that was set on a continuous loop, that explained the reasoning, construction and effect the Thames Tunnel had on London and the world. As we watched the video we could hear, and feel the London Overground (The Windrush line, from Autumn 2024) rumbling past beneath our feet.

Brunel Museum
Some of the artefacts on display.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Ornamental Canal

Ornamental Canal, Wapping
Looking along the Ornamental Canal towards The Shard.

Just to the east of St Katherine Docks and Marina you will find Hermitage Basin, a small oasis amid a now residential area. This basin is all that is left of the London Docks, which were filled in for redevelopment in around 1983.

Ornamental Canal, Wapping
The old walls of the London Docks.

To keep the history of the London Docks alive a canal was designed, that would link Hermitage Basin to Shadwell Basin. This canal was not designed for river traffic and so was built as an ornamental reminder of bygone times.

Ornamental Canal, Wapping
Not navigable, but full of wildlife. 

The former dock walls were used as features along the Ornamental Canal, which would pass alongside Tobacco Dock, the only warehouses to survive the redevelopment, as it made its way in a north-easterly direction towards Shadwell Basin.

Tobacco Dock and ships
The Tobacco Dock warehouses were built in 1812.

As the canal nears Shadwell Basin it passes beneath Wapping Woods, so the towpath leads you up through this wonderful little park, before rejoining the canal near Shadwell Basin.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Warships on the River Thames

HMS Belfast
HMS Belfast, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge (2018).

Over the centuries the River Thames has seen many ships cruise her waters. Some of these ships were built in Deptford, or one of the other shipyards along her banks, while other ships were broken up on the banks of the River Thames, when they were decommissioned. 

Since the end of World War II, with the creation of NATO, ships from various navies from a myriad of NATO powers have visited London, often mooring at Greenwich or Canary Wharf docks, while others go upstream and moor next to HMS Belfast (C35).

Below are just a few of the Naval ships that have visited the River Thames.

HMS Belfast and HNLMS Luymes
HNLMS Luymes alongside HMS Belfast (2019).

HNLMS Luymes (A803) is a hydrographic survey vessel of the Royal Netherlands Navy.

HMS Belfast from The Shard
HMS Belfast from The Shard (2019).

HMS Belfast played a major role in the sinking of the German Ship, Scharnhorst, in 1943, before taking part in the D-Day landings in 1944, where she was one of the first ships to open fire. Her guns were so powerful that, when fired, they cracked the toilet bowls onboard.

HNoMS Nordkapp alongside HMS Belfast
HNoMS Nordkapp alongside HMS Belfast (2023).


The HNoMS Nordkapp (A531) serves as the flagship of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One.

HMS Illustrious at Greenwich
HMS Illustrious at Greenwich, with the Cutty Sark in the background (2013).

The Royal Navy Invincible-class aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious (R06) on a visit to Greenwich, in 2013. She was commissioned in 1982 and was decommissioned in 2014. She was intended to become a museum, much like HMS Belfast, but all the bids fell through as the upkeep of the 22,000-ton ship was not feasible, and so was sold for scrap in 2016.

HMS Illustrious at Greenwich
HMS Illustrious at Greenwich (2013).

HMS Illustrious at Greenwich
HMS Illustrious at Greenwich (2013).

HMS Blyth
HMS Blyth cruising down the River Thames (2013).

HMS Blyth (M111) is a Sandown-class minehunter, launched in 2000 and decommissioned in 2021.

HNoMS Nordkapp alongside HMS Belfast
HNoMS Nordkapp alongside HMS Belfast (2023).

German frigate Mecklenburg-Vorpommern alongside HMS Belfast
German frigate Mecklenburg-Vorpommern alongside HMS Belfast (2012).

 Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is a Brandenburg-class frigate of the German Navy. She was commissioned in 1996. As of January 2018, the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has sailed 29,000 nautical miles and rescued 700 people during various assignments.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

'Light Tunnel'

The Light Tunnel at King's Cross
King's Cross Light Tunnel.

I had heard, and seen images, of the Light Tunnel at King's Cross station, but had yet to see it.

Considering its location, linking King's Cross with St Pancras International stations it also guides visitors towards Granary Square and the markets, restaurants and shops near Coal Drops Yard, it wasn't the easiest thing to find. 
I entered it by using the entrance from King's Boulevard, which, I think, is a better way to first experience the light installation.

Light Tunnel at King's Cross
Colour-changing LED screens.

Using the King's Boulevard entrance to the King's Cross underground station really sets the mood for what you are going to see.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Ready Money Drinking Fountain

Ready Money Drinking Fountain
The Ready Money drinking fountain, also known as the Parsee Fountain.

If you walk along the main Broad Walk, of Regent's Park, you will come across this beautiful drinking fountain, which is situated close to the highest point of the park.

Sir Cowasjee Jehangir, whose nickname was 'Ready Money', a wealthy Parsee from Bombay (now Mumbai), was a well respected philanthropist, funding asylums, colleges and hospitals, in India. He gave the fountain to the British nation as a 'thank you' for the protection his countrymen received by the British, in India.

It was built in 1869 and cost £1,400. It is made from 10 tonnes of Sicilian white marble and 4 tonnes of Scottish pink and grey granite. It was designed by Robert Kierle and constructed by the sculptor Henry Ross.

There are carved busts, in the gables, of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and Cowasji Jehangir, with the the fourth gable containing a clock.

Below each of the four basins are small apertures which allowed dogs to drink at the fountain, too.

It became Grade II listed in 1970 and was fully restored, thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, between 1999-2000.

Between 2016-2017 further restoration work was carried out.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Walking with Keilyn: Gunnersbury Park & Museum

The lawns at Gunnersbury Park
The view from the mansion.

Friday April 12, 2024.

As it was the last day of the Easter holidays, and my last day of annual leave, Keilyn and I decided to take a trip to London, but chose an area that neither of us had visited before. 

Our journey began as usual with us catching a Metropolitan line train to Northwick Park, where we waited for just a few minutes for an Uxbridge bound train, which we took to Rayners Lane, where we took a Piccadilly line train to Acton Town. Keilyn was super excited, as she had never been on the Piccadilly line before. Arriving at Acton Town we walked the ten minutes to the grounds of Gunnersbury Park & Museum.

Gunnersbury Park & Museum map
A map of Gunnersbury Park.

We entered the mansion and found ourselves at the shop/reception, where we were given a guide map and shown the best route to take. As the museum is free I made a donation, which, after our visit, I could easily have doubled. Our first stop was to the toilets, which were used by the Rothschild's as a 'Strong Room' before being converted, and then we were off to the Butler's Pantry, where the 'Object Detectives' interactive event was being held. We were joined by four other children and their families and then the event began.

The three organisers began by explaining that we would be shown five items and we were to work out what they were, how old they were, what they were made of, etc.. 
  • The first item was a scallop shell with a (replica) hard mixture on its surface, along with what looked like dried grass. 
  • The second items were a piece of broken green-tinted glass and a small green-tinted glass bottle, which we had to wear white gloves to handle.
  • The third items were white cloth hoods.
  • The fourth item was a copper with a hinged lid, which was attached to a long wooden handle.
  • The fifth item was a canvas and metal contraption, with a clear plastic 'window' and a hard plastic downpipe coming from its left side.
Answers at the bottom of the page.

Once we had deduced the what, where, why, who, when and how for each of the items, with Keilyn working out most of them, we made our way off to the next part of the mansion.

Our next stop was Servants' Hall, which was where the indoor servants ate their meals. The servants used this room for recreational activities, too. Now it is home to the 'Toys and Games' gallery, although many of the original features of the room still survive to this day, including the fireplace.

Servants' Hall
Servants' Hall fireplace.

Dalek Toys
Toy Daleks.

The next stop on our tour was to the Victorian kitchens that include a pastry room, scullery, chef's room and butchery. These rooms were particularly impressive and Keilyn was constantly asking questions of the volunteer, which showed her interest in the place.

Victorian Kitchen
The Victorian Kitchen.

From here we headed to the Rothschild Rooms that include the Dining Room and the Long Gallery, both of which have amazing views out across the lawns, across one of the ponds and the surrounding grounds. 

The Long Gallery and Dining Room
The Long Gallery looking towards the Dining Room.

Then we headed to the third of the Rothschild rooms, the Drawing Room, where an exhibition of prosthetic design for television and film was on display. It was in this room that we first noticed the sign "PLEASE TOUCH". We would soon realise that nearly everything we would see could be interacted with, unless specifically stated, which makes a change from most museums and stately homes that we have visited.

The Drawing Room
A moulded alien face... and Keilyn.

Our next visit was to the 'People and Place' gallery, which delves into the local history of Ealing and Hounslow. A fascinating collection of artefacts were on display charting the entire history of the area.

Historic finds
Prehistoric finds.

Ancient coins
Ancient coins.

We then headed up the grand staircase, where we entered the 'Leisure' gallery, where film, sports, television, theatre and musical traditions , from the local communities, were all on display. This included the rich film studio and BBC history of the area, and how Ealing and Hounslow became known around the globe.

Marvin the Paranoid Android
Marvin the Paranoid Android.

Passport to Pimlico poster
Passport to Pimlico poster.

Movie posters
Now Showing.

From here we headed to the 'Home' gallery, where there was an exhibition BBC Television VFX, with countless models and props from Doctor Who, The Tripods, Star Cops and Blake's 7, to name but a few. 

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Model Railway at King's Cross station 'Family Lounge'

'Mallard' model in the family lounge
A model of the 'Mallard' steam locomotive.

Recently I have been using King's Cross station a lot more, as I have been travelling to Peterborough to see friends. Or, waiting there for friends to arrive. Either way I have been visiting around King's Cross station more than usual. 

Of course, there is the architecture of the station, but I have found the family room to be a quiet place to relax, while waiting for trains to arrive or depart.

Detailed model buildings
Some of the detailed model buildings.

The family lounge has seating, a soft play area for the little ones, comfy seats, table top games and screens, showing what it is like to drive the LNER Azuma train, and display cabinets with models of the 'Flying Scotsman' steam locomotive.

But its main attraction has to be the giant Hornby model railway, that takes centre stage of the lounge. With its intricate detailing, different models of the LNER fleet, plus models of the 'Mallard' and 'Flying Scotsman'.

Monday, April 08, 2024

Walking with friends: Canary Wharf to Mudchute... and beyond

Morrissey Girls and Alfie
Erin, Keilyn and Alfie, ready for London.

Saturday April 6, 2024.

With Emma having gone away for the weekend, with her friend, and Gary staying with us, along with his son, Alfie, we decided to take Alfie on his first trip to London.

With lunches packed we set off for the short walk to Watford Metropolitan station, where we caught a train to Finchley Road and then a Jubilee line train to Canary Wharf. Alfie fell asleep as we left Watford and didn't wake until we reached Canary Wharf station. As the train pulled in to Finchley Road Keilyn showed off her 'Mind the Gap' t-shirt to the driver, making him chuckle. 

Leaving Canary Wharf station we took the obligatory photo of everyone in Richard Hudson's 'Tear', which everyone should do when visiting the area.

Reflected in a tear

Mudchute Park and Farm is just a short twenty minute walk from Canary Wharf station, which allowed us to take plenty of photos of the buildings, docks. boats and more.

Canary Wharf South Dock

Dog Stars

A quick stop at Asda, to get drinks, use the facilities and for Keilyn to have her photo taken with a postbox.

Keilyn with a postbox

Crossing the Asda car park brought us to the entrance to Mudchute Park and Farm, just as lunchtime approached, so we sat and had something to eat, before taking Alfie to see the animals. Donkeys, peacocks, rabbits, goats, pigs, chickens, sheep and much more were in the various fields, paddocks, pens and stables.

Erin, Keilyn, Gary and Alfie with an ack-ack gun

Alfie and a ram

Thursday, April 04, 2024

'Blow Up' Bridge

The 'Blow Up' Bridge from the west
Approaching the 'Blow Up' Bridge, from the west.

I have walked Regent's Canal on many an occasion, passing beneath bridges and through tunnels, but one bridge stands out from the rest. Not because it is ornate or is the oldest, but because it had to be replaced after it was blown up, by accident.

The barge 'Tilbury' was one of six barges being pulled along Regent's Canal by a steam tug, destined for the Midlands. Its cargo contained coffee, nuts, barrels of petroleum and about five tons of gunpowder. It is believed that one of the people onboard 'Tilbury' struck a match, just before 05:00 on the morning of Friday October 2, 1874, just as they were passing below the Georgian Macclesfield Bridge.

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Walking with friends: King's Cross to Camden... and beyond

Canalside Green Steps
Canalside Green Steps.

Monday April 1, 2024.

As it was Easter Bank Holiday Monday, my friend Steve and I decided to take a trip to London, specifically to visit the regenerated King's Cross area and then to see where our feet led us.

Our journey began from from Watford Metropolitan station straight to King's Cross, taking less than an hour.

Exiting King's Cross station we headed into St Pancras International, so that I could point out the free jukebox and the model of 'HMS Alice Liddell' to Steve, who had never seen them before. This took us out onto Battle Bridge Place, where children and families were enjoying the IFO (Bird Cage), and we took a left up King's Boulevard towards Regent's Canal and Granary Square.

The first coffee van that we stopped at was having an issue with their machine, so we crossed to Granary Square, where we discovered 'Matchado'. This was a revelation as this little van, near Granary Square, is London's first Matcha specialist café, specialising in Japanese Matcha and hand-crafted special Matcha sweets. Steve opted for a latte, while I had a Sencha green tea. Both were excellent.

Matchado kiosk
London's first Matcha specialist café.

From here we began our wander by heading to Coal Drops Yards, then Stable Street, which was full of food, clothing and jewellery stalls, before turning west to see Gasholder Park. 

Gasholders Park
Gasholder Park.

Then we headed through Lewis Cubitt Square and Lewis Cubitt Park, before heading down York Way, so that I could see the old York Road underground station. This station opened in 1906 and was closed in 1932.

York Road disused underground station
York Road station (disused).

We then turned down Handyside Street and into the Granary Square building. The architecture of this building, including its interior, is something to behold. These Victorians warehouses and ancillary buildings were obviously built to last and I am glad that the regeneration of the area has saved as many of these buildings as possible.

Granary Square building interior
Inside the Granary Square building.

After this we found ourselves in a wonderful canopied area full of market stalls.

Canopy Market
Canopy Market, where there is something for everyone.

After a good peruse of the stalls, where artists, jewellers, seamstresses and more were displayed their wares, we decided it was time for a spot of lunch. And there was much to choose from. Rice dishes, oysters, burgers, Thai noodles, Indian dishes, pastries and so much more. In the end we decided to try 'The Frenchie', who was selling duck burgers.

The Frenchie Duck Burgers
We did duck ourselves.