Tag Archives: London

A Wander Around Lumiere London

This past weekend London played host to its first Lumiere festival, a series of light installations placed around the capital. If you were reluctant to face the crowds, here’s a selection of a few of the installations we managed to get a peek of over the weekend. Continue reading

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BUPA 10000 London Review

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This past weekend my friend Anya and I decided to spend our bank holiday Monday running the BUPA 10k for Save the Children instead of sleeping in, having a BBQ and knocking back a few drinks. While you might doubt our decision-making, the BUPA 10000 turned out to be a great event filled with a fun atmosphere, a beautiful route past London’s great architecture and lots of entertainment for runners and spectators alike.

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If You Do One Thing in London This Month…visit Kew Gardens.

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For Londoners, Kew Gardens is what Stonehenge is to the rest of England – an iconic site representative of the area that all residents should visit at some point, but just the right distance away that it is practically the definition of the phrase ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Every Summer Solstice (or in Kew’s case, Christmas) everyone is reminded of their self-made promise to visit sometime along with some minor investigations of prices and travel, before it is pushed right back to its old place on the ‘Things to Do When I have Spare Time’ list, between cleaning out your wardrobe and updating your driver’s license address.

This is all a great shame, as Kew Gardens is a treasure trove of follies, interactive learning and exciting diversions that caters to even the most biophobic of visitors, and the arrival of spring in March can only improve things.

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#Take12Trips Challenge, Trip One: Broadway, the Cotswolds

 

When it came to choosing a destination for my first #Take12Trips challenge, the choice was easy.

Only 1 1/2 hours on the train from London, with beautiful scenery, food and cozy pubs to escape the torrential rain, what better choice than the Cotswolds to celebrate the Valentine’s weekend?

The village of Broadway in particular, with its busy (for the Cotswolds, anyway) high street, central location to popular walks and cultural centres, not to mention great choice of pubs,  was the winner and so it was on Friday afternoon we giddily left work early and trundled through the countryside from Paddington.

Despite there being only one main street, we managed to get lost soon after our arrival in Broadway, which didn’t bode well for the rest of the weekend. Fear not, as a hard slog up Fish Hill soon brought us to our accommodation, the Farncombe Conference Centre.

Situated on its own 400-acre estate, the Farncombe offers rustic-styled accommodation at decent rates. However, it’s the estate’s panoramic views of the Cotswolds countryside and Broadway village that’s the clincher.

 

Farncombe Estate

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See?

Our day began with a four-mile circular hike to Broadway Tower, a Victorian folly created by Capability Brown and a favourite of artists such as William Morris and Rosetti. With the night’s rain suitably muddying our trousers and boots, we doggedly followed the slippery trail up to Broadway Tower.

The muddy ground didn’t stop others either, as some of the Tower’s locals ventured out from their huddle to meet us.

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After veering slightly off the trail, we discovered a deer enclosure nearby, and spent several long minutes quietly creeping up to the fence for a peek.Our efforts were eventually rewarded though, as we spied a group of them gathered under the tree before they sped off upon sight of us. My piece of advice for seeing them? Keep your eyes peeled and your footsteps soft, as the deer sightings are a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment!

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Further down the trail is a paddock of horses, which were earnestly chowing down on their breakfast and only paid us the slightest bit of attention in hopes of more delicacies. Now, I was never the kind of girl growing up that desperately wanted a horse, but these little ol’ guys were so sweet and friendly I couldn’t resist stopping to pet and feed them.

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Wandering down the trail, we came across an endless series of gurgling brooks, melodically flowing streams and quaint manor houses and cottages that are iconic to the Cotswolds.

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Arriving at the end of the walk, Broadway High Street, we quickly scouted for a lunch stop and settled for Tisane’s Tea Room. With cosy nooks to take the weight off your feet, roughly 342342541 varieties of tea, and friendly staff, we quickly tucked into hearty portions of beans-on-toast and quiche, finishing just in time for the afternoon’s main event.

 

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The rugby.

Watching England beat Italy was only improved by our surroundings in the Crown and Trumpet pub, a quirky and fun-loving establishment that was voted CAMRA’s Pub of the Year in 2012. With its good selection of beers, ales and ciders, friendly staff, and their own pub-cat, it is the type of place that makes you yearn for somewhere like it closer to home.

After getting ourselves in a suitably jolly state for woodland ramblings, we continued to explore the surrounding Broadway countryside, eventually stopping on the hillside to admire the view.

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London Walks: Boxhill

Box Hill is undoubtedly one of the easiest countryside areas for Londoners to escape to for a good day’s hike. Owned and managed by the National Trust, the area has a good selection of trails, panoramic views of the South Downs and enough follies to keep the walk interesting if woodland scenery is not necessarily your thing. Not to mention, it is only half an hour’s train ride from London Bridge.

However, Box Hill can be a little tricky to find if you don’t drive. When disembarking from Boxhill & Westhumble station, go past the School for Church Organists and head towards the T junction. Taking the subway to the other side of the road that is located on the left, follow the signs towards the car park for the National Trust Boxhill car park.

  It’ll soon become apparent that Boxhill is a fun hike as soon as you reach the start of the trail: STEPPING STONES!   Obviously it took a loooong time for the novelty to even slightly wear off….

 

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Enjoy hopping around on the stones for as long as you can though, as the trail right after the stones is steep and winding.

 

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However it is all worth it once you reach the top, with views stretching for 25 miles across the South Downs at the Salomon Memorial. Dedicated to the city financier Leopold Salomon who bought 230 acres of Box Hill and donated it to the National Trust in 1914, today Box Hill is known as a place of inspiration for British writers, as well as a few eccentric characters.

Purchase any snacks or drinks here, but be prepared to queue – Boxhill, and in particular the National Trust cafe, is a popular rest spot.

 

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Follow the trail towards Broadwood’s Tower, stopping to take a gander at the tree-stump Stonehenge on the left and the various wildflowers and butterflies that inhabit the area.   The word ‘tower’ might be stretching things a bit when describing Broadwood. Back in the day, when ruined castle remains and prehistoric monuments were the latest fashion trends, rich Victorians with time on their hands would build what are called ‘follies’, or faux-historical buildings and ruins with no real purpose other than to sit there and look pretty and entertain guests on walks around the rich Victorian’s property.   Luckily nature stepped in and made Broadwood folly even more impressive.

 

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After reaching the summit of a vast number of steps up the Mickleham Downs, take a lunch stop in the absurdly picturesque village of Mickleham. Complete with an ancient church, quaint pub and homes with lots of character, not to mention a private school that could easily pass for Hogwarts, this area is ideal for a pub lunch or picnic before attacking another steep section of the trail (keep an eye out for the ponies!).

 

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The narrow path of overhanging branches and haphazard tree roots might make you feel like you’ve walked off the path, but continue onwards and you’ll suddenly walk onto a wide open plain. The Mickleham Gallops is home to a Bronze Age hoard and barrow, and an old Roman road nearby. It is also home to enormous oak trees.

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Continue following the path towards Headley Heath, where there are more achingly-cute English homes than Pinterest can take.

The path eventually arrives full circle back to Salomon’s Memorial. Before heading back towards the car park and stepping stones however (tempting, I know) walk to the right of the National Trust cafe and there visitors can see one of the more truly bizarre sites in the UK.

 

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One of 13 forts to line the North Downs, the Box Hill Fort was originally built in 1889 as a ‘mobilisation centre’ as a part of the London Defence Scheme. With the threat of continental invasion fresh in the minds of Victorian military strategists, the scheme was created to defend London as the last great bastion of the British Empire. Box Hill Fort however never saw battle, and today it is mainly used as an elaborate house for bats.

For more information and trail directions, please download this map here.

 

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If You Do One Thing in London This Month….

 

……visit Richard Mosse’s The Enclave.

 

Struck by the complete lack of evidence of the ongoing civil war in Congo on the country landscape, Richard Mosse went about capturing unique footage of rebel enclaves and sites of human rights violation in a way that highlights the human realism of the situation without losing any of Congo’s natural beauty. The result is a combination of photographs and a multi-channel video installation that is both haunting and beautiful.

Shot using an extinct type of 16mm film once used by the military to identify camouflaged installations from the air, the pink hue in the images gives the media a beautiful yet chilling mood. The videos were shot on Steadicam in one long continuous take, and echoing surround sound, which forces the viewer to look at the ongoing conflict as though they were actually there.

The exhibition is only showing from April 4-26, 2014, at the Vinyl Factory Space at the Brewer Street Car Park. Opening Times: Tuesday to Saturday, 11:30am – 5:30pm.

For more information and a preview of the exhibition, please click here.

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If You Do One Thing in London This Month….

 

….visit Leighton House

East meets west London in the most unlikely of places – an English aristocrat’s home.

Compared to other English aristocratic homes, decorated with portraits of the owners forefathers or art relics from the Classical world, a quick look around Lord Leighton’s and it is fair to say he was a bit of an eccentric in his day. An artist by profession, Lord Francis Leighton held a fascination with the Middle East and its artwork. So much so in fact, that he had the hall in the ground floor of his studio house converted into an opulent Arab Hall, reminiscent of the mosques and grand houses he visited on his travels. All of the materials used for the construction of the Arab Hall were sourced from the Middle East or made by the top masters of that particular craft in Leighton’s day.

 

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Of course, the rest of the house deserves a long look around as well; each room has been painstakingly restored to its’s original state as Lord Leighton left it. Featuring a mixture of his own work and friends including William Morris and Millais, the layout offers an insight into the mind and artistic talent of Lord Leighton.

For more information about Leighton House, please follow this link here.

Photo credits: europanostra / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

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If You Do One Thing in London this Month…

…….take a trip down to Little Venice.

While the name evokes visions of Italian villas, gondolas and expansive squares teeming with pigeons, London’s own tongue-in-cheek nickname of its waterways possesses a more quaint atmosphere. Lining either side of the Regent’s Canal and Grand Union waters are barges that simultaneously exist as people’s homes as well as restaurants, coffee shops, book stores, a puppet show theatre and more. The area evokes a bohemian, ‘rough and ready’ atmosphere with the jumble of bicycles, grand pianos, potted plants and other paraphernalia that sit in a big jumble on the deck of the barges, that gives the area its own unique identity outside of Paddington’s well-to-do, corporate office landscape.

Head to Little Venice for a leisurely weekend stroll to work off a hangover or enjoy a sunny day at a slow pace; make sure you stop for a reviving cup of coffee at one of the area’s numerous watering holes.

Photo credit: uncoolbob / Foter / CC BY-NC

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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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