Tired of London, Tired of Life - One thing a day to do in London

A website about things to do in London

31 March 2011

Meet the birds of Round Pond

Round Pond, in Kensington Gardens, is a seven acre pond, created between 1726 and 1735 as part of new designs for the gardens by Henry Wise and Charles Bridgeman which saw it placed at the heart of several formal tree-lined avenues.


By Victorian times, it had become a popular spot for sailing model boats, and remains a popular spot for this today, but it is also known for the variety of wildfowl it attracts.

According to the fantastically detailed 'Birding Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens' blog, Mute Swans, Egyptian Geese, and Mandarin Ducks, Tufted Ducks, Egyptian Geese and various types of Gull have all been spotted in the pond over the last month or so, whilst your author understands that life below water includes three-spined sticklebacks, roach, gudgeon and eels.

For more information, see http://hpkg.blogspot.com/

^Picture © Tony Austin used under Creative Commons^

30 March 2011

Find the Cádiz Memorial

In the South Eastern Corner of Horseguards Parade, the Cádiz Memorial commemorates the success of forces led by Wellington in defeating French forces near the Spanish city of Salamanca, and lifting the siege of Cádiz in 1812.


Consisting of a large French mortar 'cast for the destruction of that great port, and abandoned by the beseigers on their retreat', mounted on the back of a winged iron dragon. It was given by the Spanish to the Prince Regent, and mounted on a base constructed at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich in 1814.

For more on the memorials of Horse Guards, see http://www.secret-london.co.uk/Horseguards.html

29 March 2011

Walk among the ruins of Lesnes Abbey

Your author has been accused of becoming rather South-East-London-centric of late, but he has just moved house, so he hopes readers will humour him. Normal service will be resumed shortly, but until then let's examine another gem in an the area, for in parkland below Abbey Wood lie the ruins of Lesnes Abbey.


Founded by Richard de Luci in 1178, and visited by Edward I, Lesnes Abbey was noted for its involvement in the Peasants' Revolt, when the abbot was forced to swear an oath of support to the rebels, and also for the Abbot's involvement in draining nearby marshland.

By the 1520s, however, the Abbey was dissolved as part of Henry VIII's wider plans, and later fell into disrepair. It was only in the 20th Century that it came to be of local importance once again, with Woolwich & District Antiquarian Society excavating, and the land ownership passing to London County Council around 1930.

Today, it is part of a larger park with the wood behind offering an idea of how the site might have looked to the monks. For more, see http://www.bexley.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=3907

28 March 2011

See inside Watt's Workshop

In tribute to the great man whose works helped to kick-start the Industrial Revolution, the Science Museum has recreated James Watt's legendary attic workshop in a new exhibition on the ground floor.


It's an excellent opportunity to metaphorically get inside the mind of Watt and see what made him tick, from the meals he had left outside his workshop heating on the stove, to the 8,430 objects he kept there, which helped to inform him about the way the world worked.

The workshop was left after Watt died in 1819, and locked with its contents untouched. It remained largely this way until 1924, when the decision was made to pack up the complete workshop and its contents and take them to the Science Museum for safekeeping.

The exhibition is free, and is very interesting. It's just a shame that the curved glass - which allows visitors to walk inside the workshop - is so reflective and makes it quite hard to look closely at the many fascinating objects.

For more information, see http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/visitmuseum/galleries/watts_workshop.aspx

^Picture provided by the Science Museum^

27 March 2011

Take a foreshore walk with the Thames Explorer Trust

Your author has always been a fan of wanders on the Thames Foreshore, when the tide is right, and even took his parents down for a look yesterday, but often it can be frustrating looking at things you know are probably significant, but having no guide to tell you what's what.


The good news is that someone has already thought of this, and this afternoon the Thames Explorer Trust take walkers on one of their regular foreshore walks, beginning from the North end of the Millennium Bridge at around 2.30pm.

It's a good idea to book, and take wellies or walking boots, and tickets cost £8, but with the promise of a walk in the footsteps of the Victorian street children, who scraped a living ‘mudlarking’, it sounds worth the money.

There are also other regular walks in different parts of London. For more information, see http://www.thames-explorer.org.uk/adult/foreshore-walks

26 March 2011

Watch the Boat Race

There's only one big ticket event in London this afternoon, with the 157th Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge Universities kicking off at 5pm. They'll be rowing roughly four miles 374 yards, for no particular reason other than they quite like both winning stuff, and their university.


The series has taken place since 12th March 1829, when Cambridge sent a challenge out to the Oxford boys to see who was best at rowing. It's been going more-or-less ever since, and Cambridge go into the 157th event with a series lead of 80 races to 75, so it's still pretty close. No one is quite sure where if and when it will end.

Those who join the 250,000 spectators along the banks of the Thames between Putney and Mortlake should expect to hear plenty of plummy voices and braying laughter, for this is not a working class event. Nevertheless, it's reasonably fun, and with exam season coming up these Oxbridge types won't be allowed to leave the library much at the moment, so you have to let them have their fun when they can.

For more, see http://www.theboatrace.org

^Picture © Magnus D used under Creative Commons^

25 March 2011

Admire Westminster Cathedral

When most people think of a Cathedral in Westminster, they go straight for Westminster Abbey, but there's another one. This one is for those nice Catholics, and it's free to have a look inside.


Built on a site acquired by the Catholic Church in 1884, it was designed to reflect the Byzantine style of early Christianity by Victorian architect John Francis Bentley. The first stone was laid in 1895, and work completed eight years later. It was formally consecrated in 1910 and as such celebrated a centenary last year.

Much of the art inside was added later, and as Bentley died before the Cathedral was opened it was up to future artists and architects to ensure these fitted with the rest of the Cathedral.

The Cathedral is the largest Roman Catholic church in England and the seat of the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Archbishop Vincent Nichols.

For more information, see http://www.westminstercathedral.org.uk/

^Picture © Catholic Westminster used under Creative Commons^

24 March 2011

Take in the view from One Tree Hill

One Tree Hill, in South London, is a park which as the name suggests, is atop a pretty little hill, overlooking Peckham and South London, which has led a varied life, and was famously once a picnic spot for Elizabeth I.


The hill stands five miles south of London Bridge, largely wooded in an area which would have once formed part of the famous Great North Wood, and offering views out from strategically placed holes in the canopy towards Central London.

The hill is, apparently famous for attracting artists to paint its scenes, but its strategic position also attracted the Honorable East India Company, who used it as one of a chain of semaphore stations during the Napoleonic Wars, in order to signal vessels in the English Channel from Central London. It was also used as a gun emplacement During the First World War.

For more on the hill, visit http://www.onetreehill.org.uk/

23 March 2011

Visit the Wandle Industrial Museum

Based in a small hut beside Vestry Hall, on the Cricket Green in Mitcham, South London, the Wandle Industrial Museum is a small museum examining industry along the River Wandle which was, we are told, once the most industrialised river in Europe.


It sounds like a worthy little museum, examining the history of the mills along the Wandle - from trout fishing to firework production - and offering occasional displays of block printing. It is soon to move to larger premises at Ravensbury Mill on Morden Road, which should offer plenty of room for expansion.

When your author popped by at the weekend it was sadly closed, for its eccentric opening hours mean visitors are only welcome on Wednesdays from 1 - 4pm and on the first Sunday of the month from 2 - 5pm. Entrance is 50p, or for children & senior citizens, who presumably cannot afford such high living, a reduced price of 20p is offered.

For more information, see http://wandle.org/

22 March 2011

Eat at Fatboys Diner

At Trinity Buoy Wharf, deep in the Docklands, is Fatboy's Diner, London's own American diner, seemingly built in 1941 in New Jersey, USA, and imported to the UK at some point, possibly via Liverpool Street.


It's website boasts that it is 'ideally located against the backdrop of London's only Lighthouse, and the Millennium Dome accross the Thames' and your author thinks that is stretching it a bit. Ideally located for the handful of people who work at Trinity Buoy Wharf perhaps, but realistically about half an hour on the DLR for most people, then a ten minute walk.

Nevertheless, it's a beautiful spot when you get here, specialising in burgers, breakfasts and milkshakes. For more information, visit the website at http://www.fatboysdinerlondon.com/

21 March 2011

See a play at the Noël Coward Theatre

Previously known as the New Theatre and the Albery Theatre, and originally opened in March 1903, the Noël Coward Theatre, on St Martin's Lane, is a Grade II Listed building, with seats for 872.


Designed by architect William Sprague, who is responsible for a number of other theatres including the Aldwych and the Gielgud, the interior was, we are told, designed in the Louis XVI style with use of white and gold.

Now owned by Delfont Mackintosh, who undertook refurbishments in 2005, the theatre features three licensed bars - the Stalls Bar, Lionel's Bar and the Oliver Bar. For more information, see http://www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk/Theatres/noel_coward.php

20 March 2011

Walk in South Norwood Country Park

It was once part of the Great North Wood and since then it has been a sewage farm, farmland, allotments, and a refuse dump, but now the South Norwood Country Park is a fantastic 125 acre park for the use of the local community, and those like your author who are happy to travel to the latter pages of the A to Z to visit it.


Complete with a wild flower meadow, a wetland reserve and lake, a childrens playground and even an interesting visitors centre, the park is now designated a Local Nature Reserve and attracts over 100 different species of bird each year.

From the top of the viewing mound at the Southern End of the park, you can enjoy views to the Docklands sky scrapers, the Crystal Palace Transmitter, and across South London. Trams drift quietly by, and the high-rise buildings of central Croydon, so beloved by Nicholas Sarkozy, also loom large, shimmering in the distance on a clear day.

When your author was there yesterday, some optimistic souls were trying to fly a kite, which was a little hopeful, but it would be a lovely spot for kite flying if there were any wind.

For more on South Norwood Country Park, click here.

19 March 2011

Welcome HMS Bulwark

As highlighted by Ianvisits, who is always fantastic at spotting these things, the HMS Bulwark, a 176 metre, 21,500 tonne Albion-class landing platform dock amphibious assault warship, is in Greenwich this week.


The ship is one of our largest and most technologically advanced amphibious assault and command and control ships - whatever that means - and is here to show us all how brilliant it is, and to host important visitors. Sadly however, readers, we are not important enough, and will have to gaze upon it from the banks of the Thames.

Still, it's nice to see these things, and hopefully the crew will get a bit of shore leave whilst they're here. For more information, visit the Royal Navy Website.

^Picture © mashleymorgan used under Creative Commons^

18 March 2011

Drink at the Duke of Sussex, Waterloo

Notable for its distinctive Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co exterior, the Duke of Sussex, in Waterloo, is a nice pub which attracts a range of after-workers and locals with its relaxed and friendly atmosphere.


When your author visited last night, as he often does on a Thursday, there was a choice of tables, and the pool table was free, despite this being a thoroughly Central London pub, a stones throw from a huge railway station, on St Patrick's Day. That is its beauty.

Amongst some staff from Christian Aid, across the road, the pub is known affectionately as "the old man's", because it lacks the try-hard atmosphere of other local pubs. For here, rather than cocktails and loud music, there are ales, walls adorned with pictures of the neighbourhood in days gone by, and postcard scenes of long-dead locals on coach trips to the seaside. Your author likes it that way.

Whilst it was nothing gastronomic, and its readiness is announced with a 'ping', there was also cheap food available from Tracey's Kitchen, in the back bar. For more on the Duke of Sussex, see http://www.fancyapint.com/pubs/pub1231.php

^Picture © Kake Pugh used under Creative Commons^

17 March 2011

Book a ticket to the Troxy

Situated on Commercial Road, in the heart of East London, the Troxy is a former cinema which is now a fantastic venue for a diverse range of events, and some fantastic gigs. It attracts some brilliant bands, and has witnessed some great shows, and if that's not your sort of thing, Gary Numan's on in a couple of weeks.


Between 1933, when the first film shown was "King Kong", and 1960, when it closed with "The Siege of Sidney Street", the cinema had a capacity of over 3,000 people. It subsequently became a venue for Royal Opera House rehearsals, and then a Mecca Bingo, closing in 2005.

Since being acquired by its current agents, it has been converted into, in your author's opinion, one of the better venues in London to watch live music, with restoration of some of the original bits adding a great atmosphere, and sound quality holding up well.

When your author last visited, it was to see a left-wing singer-songwriter who kept banging on about the unions - in between trying to flog teatowels - but when he was singing it was very pleasant. That said, it's not all pop music, and tonight sees - bizarrely - a boxing match between Oxford and Cambridge, so it's probably best to just keep an eye on the what's on section, and see if anything pops up you fancy seeing.

For more on all things Troxy, visit http://www.troxy.co.uk/

^Picture © Jim Linwood used under Creative Commons^

16 March 2011

Visit the Savoy Chapel

Also known as the Queen's Chapel of the Savoy, the Savoy Chapel is situated behind the Savoy Hotel and is the only remaining piece of Henry VII's hospital for homeless people, founded in 1512.


Owned by the Queen through the Duchy of Lancaster, one of the vast land estates still personal possessions of members of the monarchy, the chapel is a free church and does not fall within the jurisdiction of any bishop.

The church gets its name from an original which was part of John of Gaunt's medieval Savoy Palace, on the same site, and was burned down in the Peasants Revolt of 1381. For more information, see the Duchy website.

15 March 2011

Step inside Faraday's shed

A few steps away from the entrance to the Experimental Lighthouse - the home of the world's longest piece of music, Longplayer - at Trinity Buoy Wharf, is a small shed bearing the name 'The Faraday Effect'.


Designed by Ana Ospina and Fourth Wall Creations, the shed bills itself as one of London's smallest museums and is a tribute to the life and times of Michael Faraday.

It was at Trinity Buoy Wharf that Faraday conducted many experiments on lighthouse apparatus, using a second experimental lighthouse, built for the scientist and demolished in the 1920's.

For more information, visit http://www.thegreenwichphantom.co.uk/2009/10/michael-faradays-shed/

14 March 2011

Walk by the Quaggy floodplain in Sutcliffe Park

An awful lot is written about London's Lost Rivers, so it's great when even part of one is brought back to the surface, or out of narrow pipes and culverts. And that's what happened to the part of the River Quaggy that runs through Sutcliffe Park, in Eltham in South East London in June 2003, when work to restore the river and its flood plain began.


Completed in July 2004, after five years of campaigning by Quaggy Waterways Action Group, and eight years of plans and work by the Environment Agency, the plan was to generate a flood plain to prevent flooding of nearby homes, and that is what has been created.

When your author visited yesterday, it all seemed to be in working order - despite a traffic cone floating in the middle - and it was helping young and old people to learn about how rivers work, which is very commendable.

Whilst the Quaggy Waterways Action Group's plan to make the River Quaggy the first fully restored urban river in the world is still a long way off, they've certainly done a good job here. For more information, see http://www.qwag.org.uk/quaggy/flood.php

13 March 2011

Visit the Thames Barrier Flood Awareness Exhibition

Last Thursday, as part of the nationwide flood preparation day called Exercise Watermark, the Thames Barrier held a flood awareness day, where the monthly Barrier test closure was combined with an exhibition on flooding.


The exhibitions, with staffed displays on flooding, maintenance and reliability, and how to take action and plan for the future, run until today, and members of the public are invited along to the Thames Barrier Learning Centre, to talk to staff and learn about more about Exercise Watermark, the largest peacetime exercise to happen in the UK.

For more, see http://www.exercisewatermark.co.uk/en/events/thames-barrier-public-event-(3).aspx

12 March 2011

Walk through Paternoster Square

In the shadow of St Paul's Cathedral, Paternoster Square is actually a very modern development, completed in 2003 on a site that had previously been home to a deeply unpopular 1960s construction designed by William Holford.


The new square houses office blocks, shops, cafes and bars using diverse materials including brick, Portland stone, York stone, granite, bronze, marble and slate. A little artistic flair is also added in the form of a 23m tall column, known as the Paternoster Square Column, topped off with a gold covered flaming urn, and also the sculpture pictured of a Shepherd and Sheep, designed by Dame Elisabeth Frink, originally added in 1975 to commemorate the sheep once driven through the area, one of the few parts to have survived from the earlier development.

For more background on Paternoster Square, see http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2003/nov/03/architecture.regeneration

11 March 2011

See Queen Elizabeth's Oak

The remains of Queen Elizabeth's Oak lie in the heart of Greenwich Park. Probably planted around the 12th century, this great old tree has an interesting history and legend has it that Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn danced around it, while the young prince Elizabeth looked on.


It has always been a key part of the park, and a plaque beneath it records that it may have once been used as a lock up for those who broke park rules. It probably died in the 19th century but remained supported by ivy until 1991, when it collapsed.

The association of the site with royal oaks was, however, maintained, when a new oak was planted beside it by Prince Phillip in 1992. For more information, see the excellent Greenwich Phantom.

10 March 2011

Eat at the 1901 Restaurant

Your author has written before about his trip to the former Great Eastern Hotel in Liverpool Street, now known as Andaz, at the invitation of the managers. Whilst parts of the hotel are a little too modernised for his liking, the 1901 Restaurant, within the Hotel, was a particular historical highlight.


Opened in its current incarnation in October 2010, the restaurant sits beneath a huge stained-glass dome, and its Grade-II listed interior dates back to 1901, giving the space its name. The food and drink all looked excellent, and whilst in this area of town you are likely to pay handsomely for this sort of experience, a two course lunch is available at £19, and an afternoon tea at £18, making it cheaper than many contemporaries in the West End.

It's admittedly still expensive, and your author still isn't sure why an historic railway hotel needs this kind of facelift, but there was something about the atmosphere, and the live violinist who was playing, which made it worthwhile. That, and they gave him free port.

For more, try here, or visit the official website at http://www.andazdining.com/1901/1901.asp

9 March 2011

Find your nearest toilet

Your author doesn't usually talk about online things, but the new website from Ian Mansfield, the creator of Ianvisits, is so in tune with the ethos of this site, it is definitely worth a mention. For Ian has mapped all London's public toilets, in an easily accessible guide.


There are, we are told, over 800 public toilets within the M25 and Ian has located all the ones he can find and pinpointed them on a map which can be used on your computer or on a mobile phone, to ensure you're never caught short again.

The map includes both public toilets, and shops and cafes taking part in a Community Toilet Scheme, and they are searchable by price and opening times, though unfortunately you can't filter out cottaging or tramps shaving and washing their socks in the sink.

For more, see http://www.toiletmap.co.uk/

8 March 2011

Cash in at London's oldest pawnbrokers

Attenborough Jewellers claims to be London's oldest pawnbrokers, with shops in Islington and Bethnal Green having opened in 1835 and 1892 respectively.


They are a fairly traditional business, specialising in good service, and running a pawnbroking outfit side by side with retail of secondhand jewellery and watches from their traditional shops from 9.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Saturday.

They also offer an instore jewelery workshop with a qualified goldsmith, and, of course, are more than happy to give you cash for any old gold you might have hanging around. For more information and contact details, click here.

7 March 2011

Find the LSE Penguin

The London School of Economics has been in the news for all the wrong reasons over the past couple of weeks, so it's important to remember that it really is just a university like any other, full of lefty students, silliness and bizarre obsessions.


The LSE penguin is a perfect example. The penguin statue, originally donated by Louis Odette, the philanthropist and former LSE student, with other animal statues, stands on the pavement in Portugal Street, in the heart of the School's campus just off the Aldwych, and the students have embraced it as their unofficial mascot for years now.

However, disaster struck when the statue was stolen in 2009, leading to gifts of flowers, poems, tins of sardines and Penguin biscuits at the site, presumably to encourage the Penguin to return, and an inevitable Facebook campaign to find the missing sculpture.

Eventually, the decision was taken to replace the penguin with a heavier, less steal-able model, which was installed in November 2009, and remains to this day. For more information, click here.

^Picture © RachScottHalls used under Creative Commons^

6 March 2011

Step inside the Greenwich Camera Obscura

There are only a couple more days to visit the Greenwich Royal Observatory for free, and it contains a number of interesting features apart from the magic line. One which was particularly popular when your author took a wander around yesterday was the Camera Obscura, at the Northern end of the site.


This is London's only public Camera Obscura, and though it was only installed in 1994, it is the latest in a line of such devices at the Observatory. Using a lens and rotating mirror to project a real-time image of the outside world, it presents a panorama of one of London's most celebrated views, showing Greenwich, the Thames, the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Naval College.

The Observatory is open daily, but your author recommends that readers make their visit today or tomorrow, as the £10 fine for being interested in science comes into force on Tuesday. For more information, see http://www.nmm.ac.uk/visit/exhibitions/on-display/the-camera-obscura

5 March 2011

See Jacob Epstein's sculptures on Zimbabwe House

Now the centre of running peaceful protests between Zimbabweans in Britain and the Mugabe Regime, Zimbabwe House, on the Strand, was not always connected to the African country. Previously it was the Headquarters of the British Medical Association, before it was acquired by the Government of what was then Rhodesia in 1935.


The building's facade has been a cause of controversy for over a hundred years, since the installation of eighteen large naked figures designed by Jacob Epstein in 1905. If you look high up on the walls of the building, you should be able to make out the remains of these statues of nude men and women, symbolising the ages of man.

They were deeply contentious at the time, thought to be too graphic, and when the Government of Rhodesia took over the building and a piece of masonry fell off one of the statues, they used the opportunity to destroy the statues by chiseling away extremities and leaving them literally defaced.

Like probably most readers, your author considers this to be a shame, but the Government of Rhodesia weren't exactly known for their enlightened attitudes. For more click here or to see some of the sculptures closer up, click here.

4 March 2011

Visit St Lawrence Jewry

Latterly one of Wren's churches, St Lawrence Jewry was originally built in the 12th Century, and got its interesting name as it was close to the Medieval Jewish Ghetto, centred two streets to the East on what is now Old Jewry until their expulsion by Edward I.


Like a lot of City churches, not only was it destroyed in the Great Fire of London, it also suffered damage during the Second World War. It wasn't until 1957 that it was fully restored, in a way sympathetic to Wren's original design, probably because it had been designated a Grade I listed structure in 1950.

It's a pretty little church, right outside the Guildhall, and another interesting feature is the attractive little pond garden in front of the church, although this is probably best seen in summer.

Alongside morning prayers and other services, St Lawrence Jewry also hosts frequent piano and organ recitals. For more information, see http://www.stlawrencejewry.org.uk/

3 March 2011

Watch theatre at the Southwark Playhouse

Established in the 1990s in a disused workshop in Southwark by Juliet Alderdice, Tom Wilson & Mehmet Ergen, today the Southwark Playhouse Theatre Company aims to provide accessible theatre, creating opportunities for emerging theatre types and people in the local community to get involved.


Working from the vaults beneath London Bridge Station, they remain true to those aims, claiming to work with over 5,000 school pupils a year, offering free performances and teaching. They also run a youth-led theatre company for local people between the ages of 16-25, to introduce them to theatre, and inspire them to consider a career in the arts.

Most of all, however, they provide a full theatre programme showcasing up and coming talent, and often reinterpreting classic plays and contemporary plays. For more information, see http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/

2 March 2011

Search for the Skylon

Your author really hasn't talked enough about the new galleries at the Museum of London, and if you still haven't visited, you really should. For where else could you find a scale model of the Skylon, the iconic tower built on the South Bank to celebrate the Festival of Britain in 1951.


Rumour has it that the sculpture, which once stood 90 metres high in the space around what is now Jubilee Gardens near the London Eye, followed the trend for tearing down artistic treasures and throwing them into the River Lea, in a fit of post-war austerity.

Regardless, the Skylon is no longer with us, and whilst Wikipedia fiends claim that there are plans to search the River for it later in the year, if you want to get a sense of what it was like, you will have to visit the Museum of London and see a model of it, or a few bits and bobs which have been retained.

For more on the history of the Skylon, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skylon_(tower)

1 March 2011

Gaze up at the Duke of York Column

Central London's other column may not be as famous as the one that stands in Trafalgar Square, but it is just as imposing, standing over 120 feet tall and topped off by a bronze statue of the Duke which itself is 14 feet in height.


However, surprisingly few Londoners seem to know where to find the Duke of York Column, which has towered above Carlton Gardens beside the Royal Society, surveying the Mall and St James' Park, since 1833.

Many might even question who he was, although they will almost all know a rhyme about this 'Grand Old Duke Of York, who had 10,000 men'. So, next time you are in the area, take a look up at the statue of Prince Frederick, Duke of York, hero of the French Revolutionary Wars, and remember his story.

For more information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_of_York_Column