Category Archives: London Wanderings

If You Do One Thing in London This Month…

 

….visit the Barbican Conservatory

 

The best way to describe the Barbican is a labyrinth; an 80s maze of Brutalist architecture where hidden around corners and wrong turns is art and displays that, although you might not have expected them, will be a welcome and enjoyable surprise.

The Barbican Conservatory is just one of these surprises, albeit a rather large and more permanent one. As the second largest conservatory in London, the Conservatory is home to more than 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees, along with a myriad of birds, amphibians and fish.

 

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The harsh architecture is softened by the overgrowth of flowering vines and tree branches reaching up towards the sunlight, giving the place an air of abandonment and quietude that is scarce elsewhere in London.

Wherever you look however, oversized, exotic flowers bursting in full bloom can be seen; it is almost enough to make you forget you are in London, and instead wandering through a tropical forest on an island, before the pitter patter of rain brings you back to reality.

 

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One of the highlights of the collection include the Conservatory’s cacti garden, which houses a mixture of the usual household fauna combined with the more frankly bizarre types covered in dense cobwebs or erratically shaped , like these:

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At the end, pay a visit to the aviary where you can easily while away half an hour watching the finches flitter back and forth and the Japanese quails burrow little holes.

 

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The Conservatory is only open on select dates with free entry, so make sure you check ahead of time on their website here to avoid disappointment.

If the Conservatory isn’t enough for you, pay a quick visit outside to look at the expansive fountains located out the back of the Barbican. You might get a few looks yourself:

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If You Do One Thing in London This Month….

…discover its Cold War history.

Traditionally, media representations of the Cold War primarily feature the USA and Russia, while London’s role in this historic period is generally a muted affair. With this route from Walk magazine however, authentic places of espionage and torture during the period, along with a brief explanation of the people and  places involved at the time, are marked all over London, just waiting to be explored.

The route starts in Notting Hill, and swerves up and down west London’s most opulent neighbourhoods, dodging into churches and the capital’s famous landmarks, where quiet corners and nooks contain a surprising history. Best of all, the walk is free, with the only prerequisite being walkers must register an account with Walk magazine before they can fully access the walk.

To register for free on Walk magazine, and download the walk, follow this link here.

 

 

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If You Do One Thing in London This Month….

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pay Greenwich Market a visit.

 

The bigger markets in Borough and Covent Garden might boast big name brands in the foodie world and stands teeming with hawkers, but head to the smaller Greenwich market from Tuesday to Sunday to find food from around the world at relatively cheap prices, chat with artists, designers, and craftsmen about their products and listen to live music without jostling through crowds.

Housed between the quaint Admiral Hardy and Coach & Horses pubs, the Greenwich Market is open from 10:00AM till 5:30PM, with people gathering early on the weekend to grab sandwiches overflowing with chorizo sausage or grab some of the freshly baked bread and pastries. The market is a particularly good spot for shopping for vintage finds and local fashion designers, and for people that suffer from food allergies.

http://www.shopgreenwich.co.uk/news/forthcoming-events

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If you do One Thing in London This Month….

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…..visit the Royal Naval College in Greenwich.

 

 

 

Christopher Wren dome

Even if you haven’t been there, chances are you have seen the Old Royal Naval College. The backdrop for Hollywood blockbusters like Pirates of the Caribbean and Les Miserables, this sprawling complex’s old columns and stately colonnades makes it an ideal choice for historic settings. However the site is more than just a background for films, as it has enjoyed a rich and varied history dating back to 1420 that includes royalty, sailors, and even women fighters during WWII.

On the original grounds where the Old Royal Naval College sits today, King Henry VII built his Greenwich Palace, to compete in grandeur against the palace of Spain and France and to partake in his love of jousting. By the mid-17th century the palace was rarely frequented by the royal family and it fell into disrepair.

In 1694 the site was allocated as the Royal Hospital of Seamen, and architects like Sir Christopher Wren, Hawksmoor, and James ‘Athenian’ Stuart returned the area to its former glory. Much of what visitors see today are these remains. As the number of Pensioners declined, the hospital closed in 1869, and then reopened in 1873 to allow for the expansion of the Royal Naval College in Portsmouth. Students were taught all aspects of naval science, and in 1939 women were admitted into the college for the first time for personnel training under the Women’s Royal Naval Service.

Today the buildings are used between the University of Greenwich, the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and the Greenwich Foundation. However its main attractions, the painted hall ceilings, Sir Christopher Wren’s domes, the chapel, and archaeological artefacts from Greenwich Palace are available to see for free to the public, as is the the aimless wandering between the mazes of columns. The best time to visit is in the spring and summer, when visitors can clearly hear students of the school practising their instruments as they explore the buildings.

For more information, please visit http://www.ornc.org/ or to book a guided tour.

 

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If You Do One Thing in London This Month…

 

…..visit the quirky Brunswick Cafe.

 

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Nestled between Vauxhall’s grey Brutalist-styled towers sits the Brunswick House Cafe: a Georgian mansion that sticks out against the concrete landscape of this area of London. However it’s not only this restaurant’s classic architecture that draws the eye, but its paraphernalia of signs, garden decorations, plants and antiques that plaster the outside walls. Even if you do not step inside the Brunswick, just exploring the outside is worth a stop.

If you do manage to grab a table inside, its interiors are just as eclectic as its gardens. Bric-a-brac and salvaged antiques dangle and perch all around the restaurant, which is well-known amongst the Vauxhall locals for its coffee and cocktails. Grab a chair, sit back with a drink, and make your eyes water at the pricetag of some of the antiques!

 

For more information, visit the Brunswick Cafe’s website.

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If you do one thing in London this month…

…visit the blue trees of Festival Gardens (St. Paul’s Cathedral)

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the charity Trees for Cities, Australian artist Konstantin Dimopoulos has painted the trees of Festival Gardens, neighbouring St. Paul’s Cathedral, an electric shade of blue. The hue is intended to highlight the importance and beauty of trees in London’s urban environment, by turning the tree into a surreal work of art.*

blue tree Festival Gardens

 

 

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The idea has certainly been successful; take a wander on a day with pleasant weather and the small gardens will be heaving with throngs of people taking pictures and warily touching the trees. While you’re there, take the time to have a picnic and enjoy the gardens. Originally the site of the Old Change, a street dating from 1923 which collapsed from a bombing raid in WWII, it was transformed into the gardens seen today by Sir Albert Richardson for the 1951 Festival of Britain. On a hot day dip your feet into the cool fountain, and don’t forget to take a moment to appreciate the statue by George Ehrlich, ‘The Young Lovers’.  If you have the time to spare, take a wander around the gardens of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which in the current hot spell London is experiencing, is blooming with roses.

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For those that like their city wanderings with a view, take the lift to the rooftop terrace of the nearby shopping centre One New Change, where visitors are rewarded with panoramic views of London’s biggest attractions. Entrance is free, but the viewing is particularly pleasant with a cold drink in hand.

 

One New Change

 

Entrance to both attractions is free; for more information about the blue trees, visit: http://www.colf.org/whats-on/713-the-blue-trees-do-not-publish

For directions and information to One New Change, visit: http://www.onenewchange.com/11the-roof-terrace.aspx

*Tree-huggers don’t need to fret, as Dimopoulos used a biologically-safe, water-based colourant that doesn’t harm people, animals or trees.

 

One New Change St. Pauls

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If you do one thing in London this month….

 

…join in the community spirit at the Southbank Centre

 

With London’s sprawling expanse of apartment blocks and office buildings, you’d be forgiven for thinking the concept of community was foreign amongst the locals. However the Southbank Centre’s Festival of Neighbourhood has transformed one of the capital’s iconic cultural centres into an amalgamation of relaxing gardens, children’s entertainment areas, vegetable patches, and colourful artwork.

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Throughout the summer family and friends are welcome to relax in one of the many secret garden patches hidden amongst Southbank’s nooks and crannies, or hunt for murals and sculptures dotted around the centre. Large-scale allotments have also been placed around the walkways, growing vegetables and herbs that are used in the South Bank’s main restaurant. Farmer’s markets, Pop-up cafes and bars have also sprung up around the Southbank, allowing Londoners and visitors alike to relax in one of the gardens or enjoy the view of the Thames. A series of events celebrating literature, music, and comedy are organised to coincide with the Festival of Neighbourhood too, with the calendar and tickets available here.

The event runs until the 8th of September. For more information, take a look at the Festival of Neighbourhood page here, and take a look at some photos from the event below.

 

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Kids igloos- Festival of Neighbourhood, Southbank Centre

 

 

South Bank Centre murals Festival of Neighbourhood

 

 

Herb Greenhouse South Bank Centre Festival of Neighbourhood

 

 

Ant sculpture South Bank Centre Festival of Neighbourhood

 

 

Wheelbarrow Garden Festival of Neighbourhood South Bank Centre

 

 

Festival of Neighbourhood South Bank Centre vegetable garden

 

 

Wahaca mural Festival of Neighbourhood South Bank Centre

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