What was supposed to be (2)

Continuing where we left off..

When last you saw me I had bedded down for the night and it is now Friday morning. All around me is solitude. The world has come to an end? nope. It is just the coronavirus lockdown. Anyway, I am now continuing with my virtual trip around London that would have happened if a pandemic hadn’t broken out.  Theoretically either on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday I would have managed to get my passport renewed and had some time to kill. Theoretically I would have either gone to the renewal office in Whitehall or had the whole day to spare. 

I did not have hard and fast plans for my 2nd free day, and my trip to Nunhead was really inter-changeable. I did however have another cemetery on my list to visit and it is an interesting one that I picked up on in 2013 and which I always wanted to return to. Between when I was there in 2013 and now the status quo has changed and I would possibly be able to get to see behind the walls of Crossbones Graveyard.   

In 2013 I had wanted to join in an evening vigil that was to take place on the 23rd of March but came down with a chest infection on the day before. I left London at the end of March so my 2nd visit never happened. Between then and now Crossbones has gained a website and it is possible to visit the site on most weekdays between 12 and 2, assuming that there are wardens to open the gates. I do not know what drew me to this site, there was just something strange about it. 

Crossbones was on my list of places to visit on this trip but alas things have gone wobbly yet again.

There were a few other choices open to me if I had free time. I could have visited any of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries in London, or taken in a museum or three, maybe even taken in a show or a gallery? I was considering taking a boat trip down the Thames to the Thames Barrier, but that was based on when trips were available and where they left from. 

“The Thames Barrier is a movable barrier system that is designed to prevent the floodplain of most of Greater London from being flooded by exceptionally high tides and storm surges moving up from the North Sea. It has been operational since 1982. When needed, it is closed (raised) during high tide; at low tide it can be opened to restore the river’s flow towards the sea. Built approximately 3 km (1.9 mi) due east of the Isle of Dogs, its northern bank is in Silvertown in the London Borough of Newham and its southern bank is in the New Charlton area of the Royal Borough of Greenwich.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thames_Barrier) 

The image above is by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC BY-SA 3.0 dated 6 February 2010 and is an 11 segment panoramic view. 

The last time I was on a boat trip on the Thames was way back in 2008 when I was in London on a business trip. I really wanted to do it again one day but never got down to it so maybe this was the opportunity? The images below are from 2008, and as you can see the weather was grey and gloomy.

As for museums, I would not mind paying a visit to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich again. I was not too enthralled by it last time I was there but there are a few things that I would like to relook. 

And being in Greenwich means that I will also be in spitting distance of the Cutty Sark although I would not do a repeat visit to her although would like to get some new images of her. 

Close to the ship is another remnant that I would like to experience:

This is the entrance to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel that links the south bank of the river with Millwall (London Borough of Tower Hamlets) on the north.  I have never ventured into the Isle of Dogs/Canary Wharf area before so this is one possible way of doing it. I could have taken the Docklands Light Rail too, but the idea of walking under the Thames is very tempting. 

The modern buildings above are part of the Isle Of Dogs developments and that is yuppie and banker clone territory. Wind back towards the 30’s and 40’s that was dockland, and ships abounded. I would really like to see what is left of the docks although may get turned away as I am not a yuppie. 

Talking about tunnels, I recently discovered another interesting artefact in London that I never really took notice of before. 

This seemingly innocuous building was part of the London Hydraulic Power Company and is the entrance to the long defunct Tower Subway. The other end was situated on Vine Street on the South Bank of the Thames.  The 410 m tunnel circular tunnel was dug through the London clay using a cast iron shield, and a 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge railway installed  in the tunnel and from August 1870 a cable-hauled wooden carriage conveyed passengers from one end to the other.  Unfortunately this was uneconomic and the company went bankrupt by the end of the year. The tunnel was then converted to pedestrian use and one million people a year crossed under the river, paying a toll of a halfpenny. In 1897 it was sold to the London Hydraulic Power Company and closed in 1898 following the opening of Tower Bridge. Today the tunnel is used for water mains.

The structure is close to The Tower of London and while searching for the pic I came across my images from December 2014 when I went there to see the “Blood Lands and Seas of Red” installation. It was really unforgettable and when completed would have completely surrounded the Tower of London. 

Just across the road at Trinity Square is another symbolic display of red, although it is not related to either of the World Wars. 

I suspect that I would invariably gravitate towards the Thames as the day wore on, or even better headed to Hyde Park or Kensington Gardens, The latter is close to three of my favourite museums: The London Science Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum and The Natural History Museum.  I have dealt with all three before and they are amazing places. 

Victoria and Albert Museum entrance
London Science Museum
Natural History Museum

The three are also reasonably close to Paddington Station so I am not too far from the hotel in case I decide to limp home dejectedly after 3 days walking and rubber-necking. Actually Kensington Gardens is quite a nice area to stroll through, you can admire the Albert Memorial

Or have a look at Kensington Palace

Admittedly places like that do not really interest me, although I am sure my brother would love to see inside. I have also seen Buckingham Palace from the outside so I am 2 up on him already. 

Now that I think of it, St James’s Park is not a bad place to spend some time either. Apart from the Palace it is a nice open space to unwind in. I also need to get photographs of the South African Royal Artillery Memorial.  Unfortunately it is very difficult to photograph without having somebody else in the picture.  This image was taken in 2008 and when I was there in 2013 those 2 were still there! 

With a bit of navigation you can exit St James’s Park and head into Green Park where the wonderful Bomber Command Memorial is. I photographed it in 2013 and it was a beautiful Memorial. 

and it is not too far from the Commonwealth Memorial Gates.  I really need to do more photography around the gates though, last time around it was perfunctory work and I missed quite a few things that I needed to see. 

On the right hand back of the image above you can see the really splendid Wellington’s Arch and the area around may be seen on the map below.

For a small fee you can go to the top of the Arch and see all of the War Memorials spread around you. I won’t go into detail of them but most are listed on my War Memorials in London page on a@s. And with a bit more road crossing you can then enter Hyde Park and cut across it to one last place that I would like to take in, although there is no guarantee I will be able to get it right and may have to arrange it first. The Hyde Park’s Pet Cemetery is behind Victoria Gate Lodge, adjoining Bayswater Road (Google Earth  51.511840° -0.172403°). Last time I was here I tried to have a look at it but there were construction works in the area and I could not really get to investigate it properly. This time around who knows? It is not open to the general public, although, a special one-hour viewing can be arranged by contacting The Royal Parks. The cost is £60.00 for up to six people. Unfortunately at that price I may give it a miss. I did manage some pics through the fence in 2017 but they don’t really show anything.

I remember looking for the cemetery in 2013 and not finding it, but then I was looking in the wrong place.  Hyde Park was a pretty stark and friendless place when I was there, so maybe I will take a better look at it if I have the time. 

The Memorial in the bottom right pane is the Cavalry Memorial and I did not really photograph it too well, intending to get back later but I never did so will try remedy that this time around. Hyde Park is a big space and there is a lot to see and a lot of ground to cover. Let us hope I manage to hold out and get back to my hotel for some supper and rest

However, with or without my renewal completed I would have to return to Tewkesbury on Saturday morning. Either via Evesham or Worcester. I think I will probably use the former as I can get some shopping done in Evesham at the same time. After all, I still have to get to work on the Monday. However, I created this virtual trip on the day when I was supposed to be in London. Instead we are all having to deal with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and at this moment in time I have no idea when the renewal will play out and I will be able to relook the destinations I have marked in this post. All I can do is hope that we all get through this as soon as possible and that life can return to something resembling normal again.

DRW © 2020. Created 27/03/2020

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

This morning I headed into London with the express purpose of viewing the “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” installation at the Tower of London. Time is drawing near when the weather will close up, the rail tickets will become expensive, and the 11th of November is upon us. Of course this was only one of three destinations that I had in mind for my day out, but more about those later.
The moat of the Tower is currently being filled with 888246 ceramic poppies, each representing a British Military fatality during World War 1.  That is a lot of poppies, and seeing the real thing is overwhelming.
I realised that there were a lot of people there when our queue to get off the underground platform at Tower Hill ground to a halt. There were people everywhere, and I suspect that many, like myself, were really shocked at the sheer size of the red patch that is seemingly flowing out from an opening in the battlements into the moat. 
But once you step back and look along the length of the moat you suddenly get a sense of scale of the size of the project, and the numbers of casualties that are being commemorated. 
Each poppy is hand placed, and the installation is scheduled to be completed by November 11, I do not know how many have been placed already, but there are still two months to go and the moat is a very large area. Looking at the numbers, they have to place over 9000 poppies a day which means there are roughly 100000 in place already. 

It is really breathtaking to see,  as numbers lost in warfare goes 800000 is not a lot, but when you see all of these poppies you need to consider that for every poppy there was a mother and father, possibly siblings, wives, children and loved ones. Each poppy connected a family to a person, and those family members are sometimes unaware that they have somebody in their past that is represented by one of these ceramic flowers. 
The work is the brainchild of Paul Cummins, who has really made a monument that just says so much, and which is going to be unbelievable when it is completed.
I do not know if I will see it again, but I do think that this is one of the most effective memorials I have seen for those who never came home. 
More information about the installation and the charities that will be benefiting from the sale of the poppies is available on the The Tower of London Remembers Website
© DRW 2014-2018. Images recreated 19/04/2016

UK Trip August 2008: London

Continuing where we left off….

Having arrived in London safely, we caught a black cab to our hotel which was situated next to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. 

I was impressed! although I was not as impressed with the hotel inspite of its location.  Our itinerary was not really tied to anything, although the company had provided us with a voucher to go on the Thames River cruise as well as an open top bus ride. My itinerary really boiled down to HMS Belfast, Southwark and that was it! But, I had to make allowances for my work colleague, so we hopped a boat to take us down to where we needed to get a boat to bring us back to where we started from. 
I was also interested in things that float on the Thames, and there are quite a few apart from HMS Belfast. For starters there was the Queen Mary (no longer in London)


HMS President

and of course Wellington.

We took a stroll along the embankment too, and I found quite a few interesting memorials along the way, including the RAF and Battle of Britain Monument and the National Submarine War Memorial
We also saw Cleopatra’s Needle which was being refurbished. 
And of course the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.
These were places that I had read about when I was young and now they were slap bang in front of me. It was a very strange feeling indeed. In 2013 I revisited most of these sites and saw them in a whole new light. (I have also used the original images in this blogpost rather than 2013 images).
The London Eye was tempting though, and I went to find out how you got a ticket, but there was a queue to get into the queue to buy a ticket so I gave it a miss! 
This part of the touristy thang completed we made our way back to the hotel. The weather so far had been lousy for photography, but it slowly started to improve once we started threading our way back. We walked along the river and crossed each bridge as we encountered them. It added more miles but gave us a great view along the way. 
My end destination was Southwark. I really wanted to see the area where my grandmother had grown up and much to my surprise the street still existed, and the address was still current, although the house was long gone. 
We also detoured past Southwark Cathedral, and I regretted not having a better look at it at the time, I did a blogpost about my 2013 visit to the Cathedral though, and saw what I wanted to. 
And then I was at HMS Belfast, and a ship I was hell bent on seeing! 
I did a complete blogpost on her and there are a lot of images taken on board during this trip and on my 2013 visit. By the time I was finished with her I was finished and I headed back to the hotel via Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.
Pausing to have a look at the machinery used to raise the bridge. 
And while the Tower of London was amazing to see from a historical aspect I think I will always remember it from the Blood Swept lands and Seas of Red display that I saw in Nov 2014.
At some point my partner and I also saw a structure that we could not quite identify, but I would solve that in 2013 too.
The next day we hit the open bus tour, although I had already been out before breakfast taking a look at St Katherine’s Dock and the Merchant Navy Memorial at Tower Hill.
We bailed out at Trafalgar Square and walked around admiring this very historic place where so much has happened over the years.
and of course finding South Africa House was a nice surprise for my companion who had no idea it existed.  
and we just had to go through Picadilly Circus too
 and bailed out close by and spent some time browsing a music shop.  
Then it was time to return to our hotel and make preparations to get to our next destination which was High Wycombe. 
We bid London a sad farewell and I personally knew that I had to return here one day. In fact there were tentative plans for a return in 2012, but the collapse of our jobs flushed those plans down the loo. Fortunately I spent a month in London in 2013, so was able to experience much more of the capital, but that is another story altogether.
High Wycombe was tiring, I really wanted to get back to South Africa, and we were situated in an industrial area, away from anything worth seeing. The only thing that I did do is photograph my first cemetery in the UK, and even that one was disappointing. 
Then it was time for Spinach for breakfast as we boarded “Tinker Belle” for our flight back to South Africa.  
It actually felt good to be home, I was bushed. 
It had been a fascinating trip, mainly because of the short period in London. As for what I learnt? strangely enough quite a lot, although it was really wasted when the company chose to flush all the knowledge down the toilet. I would return to the UK in 2013, and that is where the majority of the blogposts now originate from.  This was just a very short glimpse at an experience that I never really forgot. Thanks Ryan and Gayle for the opportunity. 
Random Images: London and High Wycombe

DRW © 2008-2019. Images recreated 06/03/2016