Sunday, 9 September 2012

Sunday Morning Contrasts

A walk from Canary Wharf to Monument..........

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Today was a complete stunner and billed as the last day of summer. This great spell of weather which has seen almost a week of blue skies has lead nicely into the final day of the Paralympics and a great couple of months of Olympic fever.

Canary Wharf tube station
Canary Wharf tube station
Canary Wharf to Monument starts at the heart of Britain's largest financial and professional services district and is situated on the Isle of Dogs. Around 50,000 people show up here each day and travel from many parts of London and beyond. Barclays, HSBC, RBS, News International, Reuters, Credit Suisse, Bank of America , Morgan Stanley, JP  Morgan and a huge many more have their European headquarters here.

Escalator at Canary Wharf tube station
Escalator at Canary Wharf tube station
I met my friend Laura at 9.30 outside the tube station and gave her a quick 20 minute tour of the area. She had never had the privilege of being on the ground in this mecca of big business so we took a walk along North Colonnade. 

Although the feeling of scale, steel, glass and quietness of this sleeping monster is sometimes overwhelming it's the cleanliness of the area is something that does strike you. (Clean desk, dirty mind?) We were both taken back with the number of tours taking place which were on the back of the Olympics I guess. And after a stroll, and an attempt to count the floors on Canary Wharf itself,  we descended into the underground shopping mall for a quick look and picked up a coffee before starting off on our expedition to Monument.    

JP Morgan
Canary Wharf

When heading away from the main throng of the area the scenery changes quickly once you pass Westferry Circus. We were on the Thames path now and passed the Canary Wharf water bus stop where a boat had just arrived. Not many passengers on board which is at the end of the line. 

The Thames was at low tide at this time of day which allowed us to get down to a small beach just pass the water bus stop. The mini beach available when the tide's out was littered with small clumps of seaweed, the odd bit of driftwood and lots of pebbles. Lots of chalk too and we agreed it possibly came from Dover with the tide.   

Chalk on the banks of the Thames river

 We entered the Limehouse basin area which was the busiest part of the canal system in London at one stage. This was due to the connection with the Lee River which allowed goods and produce to make it's way down from Hertfordshire and a link to the Regents Canal provided a delivery route through London. These days it's awash with new apartments, developments of apartments converted from older buildings, warehouses, boat life and the odd good pub. 

Limehouse Marina
We turned off Narrow Street shortly after The Grapes (famed great pub for good beer and great fish menu) and circled around Limehouse Marina. The water was so calm it offered an almost perfect reflection with modern apartments and barges offering any photographer a dream day out. So calm and easy, this place was made for a Sunday stroll.

We returned to Narrow Street and continued again along the Thames Path passing development after development leaving the Isle of Dogs further behind. We headed in the direction of the newly built Shard 
away in the distance.

View back towards Canary Wharf
The plan was to end at Monument so we, reluctantly, headed off the Thames path and inland into Shadwell and onto Cable street for a more direct path to our end point. Again the feel changes very quickly as we step into inner city east end London. Social housing and east end communities live here sandwiched between the city and young professional area we just stepped away from.

Cable Street

By no means the tourist trail of the Olympics this long straight road toward Tower Hill has a vibrant community with family life visible along the way. Older couples and younger families out and about following their weekend routine. 

Face railing Project
Royal Mint Street

As we continued onto Royal Mint Street the housing faces warehouses and the tube track of the DLR and District line separated by some wasteland fenced off by an iron gate that dawns dozens faces of local people built into it. Faces of individuals and groups of people (maybe families) run the complete length right up to the end of the street.  
Face railing Project
Royal Mint Street
A fitting community feel for sure of this good half an hour stretch of road. Later I researched this and found that it was part of a regeneration project called the Face railing project which was funded by city banks and in conjunction with the London Housing Foundation. It allowed local artists the opportunity to give something back to where they live.The inititive reminded me of the ‘Life Span’ project which serves as a perimeter fence for the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. Funded by artists Bruce Williams and Avril WilsonWe ended up at the end of this stretch of Royal Mint Street and crossed over toward Tower Hill.

Royal Mint Street
Again the change was quick with the unmistakeable purple and pink of London 2012 and crowds of people.
Wheelchair marathon
Tower Hill
The wheelchair marathon was in progress so we stopped for a while to catch the race. This part of the route was at the furtherest turning point from the start where the racers follow a hairpin bend and return back to complete each lap. The location and atmosphere was quite special with every competitor getting huge applause and they passed by. They had to be admired not only for the endurance but also the endurance of the heat, sun and lack of shade. Team GB's David Weir went on to win gold but they all deserved credit in the conditions as the sun was at it's highest spot and you could feel it for sure.
Wheelchair marathon
Tower Hill

We were getting close to Monument at this stage, headed around the cordoned off sections around Tower hill and headed up Trinity Court toward Frenchurch street station. Along the way I mentioned my purchase of that station once when playing Monopoly as a kid and got a look that put me in my place. Once passed the steel structure of Lloyds

Leadenhall Market
insurance we entered the ever pleasant Leadenhall Market. Popular with film crews at weekends, bankers during the week and an any-day destination for tourists this Victorian gem is a perfect stopping off point. The original market was destroyed during the Great Fire of London in 1666 and made way for what you see now. 
The Lamb Tavern, situated at market's centre is a popular and well respected pub for it's ale and food, had the bulk of the visitors sitting around it's standing barrels which double up as tables. Throughout this cross shaped market it's lined with eateries and curiosity/souvenir/collector shops along with the odd upmarket suit shop. It's a treat for sure and easy on the eye.

Monument to the Great Fire of London
We didn't stop though as we'd been on foot for over 3 hours at this stage and wanted to reach our planned end. We exited and got onto Gracechurch street which had barriers running along it's length and in the process of been dismantled. The marathon was over at this stage and stewards were clearing up the scene. Spectators and police, stewards and Olympics volunteers dispersing, the area still with that great atmosphere we'd enjoyed today and over the past 2 months.

We headed south along the street and finally found our end point. A welcome rest in a shady window sill on Fish Street was the order of the day. The Monument to the Great Fire of London commemorates the Great Fire of London on 1666. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, it's height equal to the distance from where the fire first started.

We didn't have a deep interest in the history at that stage, only our promised prize at the end. After a hike longer than first thought, we sat and enjoyed our agreed iced-creams and bottle of water and reflected on a wonderful walk on a beautiful day.

I have learned and re-learned a couple of things from this day's walk. One, it's much more difficult to walk for 3+ hours in heat and in blue skies than you first imagine; to the athletes in the wheelchair marathon I salute you wholeheartedly. And two, when writing a blog for an outing like this you end up passing a never ending amount of points of interest, end up with dozens of photos, and choosing which to include and what to blog about is a tough task. 

We hugged, parted and promised to ascend the Monument for another energetic day........

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