Sunday, 8 March 2009

Millennium Wheel to London Bridge - The South Bank

This pedestrian route is one of the most popular places in London to ‘stroll’. There are many places on interest along this route, some of them world famous. I will avoid writing about these and concentrate on some of the less celebrated places that I feel are as important and add to the vibrant atmosphere of the South Bank.

Walk east from the Millennium Wheel, keeping the River Thames to your left, away from County Hall, The Houses of Parliament and the huge Shell complex. Under Hungerford Bridge onto the South Bank Centre. Here you will find The Hayward Gallery, National Film Theatre, Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, an overabundance of skate boarders and many places to eat and drink. There is always something happening at the South Bank. Of particular interest is the South Bank Book Market, which is under Waterloo Bridge.

There is also a fine view of Victoria Embankment, on the north side of the Thames that includes Temple and the spires of Wren churches. Unfortunately it also includes many cranes as the numerous developments being built can give London the look and feel of a construction site. It can look as though London is not yet finished.

On past the National Theatre until you come to Gabriel’s Wharf and the Oxo Tower, which have both been successfully renovated by Coin Street Community Builders. The Oxo Tower takes its name from the glass windows in the tower. Designed in the 1920’s by architect Albert Moore, he designed the tower to incorporate the brand name 'Oxo' into the towers window to get around the ban on sky advertising.

Then you arrive at the Tate Modern, Millennium Bridge and the Globe, which are world renown and don’t need me to describe how spectacular they are. Sandwiched between the Globe Theatre and the monolithic Tate is a 17th century house named Cardinal’s Wharf. This was thought to be the lodgings of Sir Christopher Wren in 1670’s and 1680’s while supervising the building of St Paul’s Cathedral on the opposite side of the Thames. It is now thought to be the site of the long demolished Cardinal’s Hatte a well known brothel as the area was a notorious red light district. I assume that Wren, surrounded by bear and bull baiting pits, dingy taverns and gambling dens only had eyes for his masterpiece rising above the London sky line.

Continuing east you pass the Anchor pub, Vinopolis, the Clinic Street Prison Museum and a replica of the Golden Hinde. You will then be in sight of the glorious gothic masterpiece that is Southwark Cathedral dating back to 1106. Any other city in the world would not allow such a work of art to be squeezed between modern office blocks, a railway line and the Borough fruit and veg market. But maybe that’s what makes London so special. These things are to be discovered not promoted.

This brings you nicely to London Bridge Station and access to the underground system.

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