by Sarah Blinco | Mar 18, 2016 | Expats explore London, Travel blogger destinations, Travel guides, United Kingdom
I enjoyed some time off from my day-job yesterday and remembered the merits of working for myself. That is, the freedom to wander and work from wherever I please. On on this particular day that took me on one of the best of London secret walks, along the Thames path around Bermondsey. Lovely!
Not that I didn’t miss my work friends, on the contrary, they don’t realise how much I value them. As any independent contractor will verify, working on your own all the time can be a lonely business.
I’ve never had the chance to really indulge in this kind of down-time in London though. Usually if I had time off it was because I was chasing employment or contracts, and I never allowed myself to chill out and explore!
But with a pay-cheque coming in, this time I was happy to indulge in the surprises of London’s beautiful old back streets without any worries.
London secret walks – Rotherhithe to Tower Bridge
Yesterday was a crisp winter/spring cross-over day, where the sun was shining brightly.
It was chilly but divine; ideal for taking a stroll along one of the best London secret walks.
Charles Dickens describes such a day perfectly in Great Expectations:
“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”
What I wanted to share with you, is my favourite thing to do in London when I have a spare bit of sunlight – the Thames path walk around Bermondsey.
London secret walks – the Thames path
This section of the Thames path walk weaves its way around the back streets of zone one (the city), along the water and into central London where Tower Bridge dominates the landscape, as it has done for around 130 years.
Our friends Barry and Paulo introduced us to this vibrant area and secret London walk.
Many of the great London secret walks can be had around Bermondsey, Southwark, from London Bridge, around Southbank and across Tower Bridge to the extraordinary Tower of London or lovely St Katharine Docks.
I recently worked out that my favourite wander of them all is accessible via the London Overground (train) from where I jump on at Dalston Junction.
It’s just a 12 minute ride up the line to Rotherhithe. From here, you are only a fifteen to twenty minute walk away from Tower Bridge, but a world of magical experience from the tourist grind.
London secret walks, my route along the Thames path
Start at Rotherhithe
Head to the Overground (orange line) station of Rotherhithe in East London.
No, I still can’t pronounce it, but it’s now one of my free-time go-to destinations.
Turn left out of the station, and then left again immediately at the first street, Railway Avenue (next to the station).
It’s just a short walk to the end of this street, where you’ll end up right on the Thames, and on the doorstep of the fascinating Brunel Museum.
Last summer when we passed by here, the tunnel was open underground and we crawled down a man-hole to below the street where there was a fab light-show art installation being exhibited!
Walk along the riverside – just head towards the bridge!
My Google map above might help you out (start at the blue star and follow the red markers into the city).
Essentially you can explore what is called ‘The Thames Path’ which travels past some terrific old buildings.
This includes what I understand is the oldest pub on the Thames, the Mayflower. Apparently, to avoid paying mooring taxes, Captain Christopher Jones tied his ship up alongside this pub and people boarded here before the Mayflower sailed to Plymouth to pick up the remaining passengers and then continued on its historic voyage to America in 1620.
There’s always been surprisingly few people down this part of the world when we’ve dropped by. We’ve taken many visiting friends on this walk because it’s historical and pretty.
Serenity in central London
Who would have thought you could experience such nostalgia in a peaceful setting in central London?
This was the first chance I had to walk it on my own, and as haunting church bells rang out from St Mary’s, I couldn’t help but think about about all the lives that had passed here before me.
Perhaps if I close my eyes I could be transported to any space in time when this place was bustling with trade, markets, sailors, religious folk mingling on the church’s steps, and kids in newsboy caps and scruffy neck-scarfs running barefoot in the street. Just imagine what it might have been like…
Water laps against the old buildings, crows cry out and seagulls squawk, but the sound of tourist chatter is nil.
Every now and then the warehouse conversions open up to vast and amazing viewing spaces, like the spot just past a pub by the name of Angel, which is opposite ruins of King Edward’s manor.
Here you can gaze up and down the Thames, with all of London’s famous landmarks in sight.
It’s breath-taking whether the sun is out or not (though it can be windy and a bit chilly on a cloudy day).
You can’t really get lost at this point, because while there’s construction going on, you just need to walk adjacent to the water. Follow the Thames Path signs towards Butlers Wharf; there’s an underpass where eventually you will find more people congregating around Tower Bridge.
I like to stop and people-watch from a perch at All Bar One (free WiFi and yummy tapas here too). But you can easily continue meandering along to the bridge and then across towards the Tower of London.
The experience is ‘secret London’ at its best, and I feel so privileged and grateful to have the chance to get to know this energising old city intimately.
Do you have a favourite walk in London? Please do share in the comments so we and other readers can check it out!
Quieter walk along the other way from Rotherhithe
PS if you want to take a look at this area but would prefer to hang out in a quieter spot rather than walking towards the city, we discovered a lovely large and comfortable pub that’s about a five minute walk from Rotherhithe station. Turn left and go directly down Salter Road until you come to the Thameside YHA.
Across the road from there, positioned on a nice patch of land by the water is The Salt Quay, a good place to eat, chat, blog and soak up some atmosphere. We had a good old gossip with Jordan Lea and Rachael at this very place last summer.
Find out more about London’s Thames path on TFL’s website here.
by Sarah Blinco | Aug 6, 2014 | Expat living in London, Expat working in London, Expats explore London, Travel blogger destinations
I tell everyone I meet how amazing it is to be back in London. I’m so grateful, and I think I’m being rewarded for a positive attitude because it’s been sunny! And hot! Although I could do with it being a few degrees cooler (don’t tell the locals I said that though, they’ll not be pleased with me). Have I mentioned lately that I just love it here?!
It’s been a jam-packed first week in London as we hunted for accommodation – a task we commenced the morning we stepped off the plane at Heathrow. We’ve been blessed in that we have two beautiful friends, Barry and Paulo, who invited us to stay with them in SE1, not too far from Tower Bridge. This enabled us to not have to worry about expensive hotel fees while house hunting, and we’re so thankful to them for sharing their space with us. We met Barry and Paulo on the Mediterranean cruise we did back in January of 2013 and have been friends ever since, although this was an opportunity to get to know each other much better, and let me tell you, they are two of the nicest people you could ever know. I’m not even saying it because they read this space, in fact, they’ll probably never see this post, but still, we are lucky. They even got us into a new show, The Honourable Woman, which we’ll continue to stream on BBC’s catch-up viewer online.
We explored trendy Bermondsey – an area new to Cooper who took to sampling a Guinness in every pub we encountered (he’s on holidays, after all); and indulged at Brick Lane Coffee along this same strip which offers a funky, arty-type atmosphere, nice coffee and fast free WiFi. Another business of note which we found here is Holly & Lil, Handmade in England – a boutique pet store with gorgeous wares and cute dogs hanging out inside for good measure.
We also sampled our way through Borough Market – tip: find the vegetarian Indian curry stand – best curries I’ve had in a looooong time. Delic!!
As Tower Bridge, Tower of London and St Katherine Docks are within a short walk from this area too, we explored across the Thames to where, this very week, moving tributes commemorating the beginning of World War 1 – The Great War – have commenced.
On Tuesday, Barry, Paulo, Cooper and I wandered across for dinner at The Dickens Inn, a divine pub situated along St Katherine Way, a bit of a local secret, even though it’s only a few steps beyond the Tower of London and the bridge. The reason for our journey in this direction though, aside from dinner, is that we wanted to see what’s being called an “evolving installation” by artist, Paul Cummins, and award-winning stage designer, Tom Piper, surrounding the famous Tower of London. Called Bloodswept Lands and Seas of Red, the installation is, in fact, thousands of ceramic red poppies which by 11 November 2014, will be “planted” around the Tower of London, and will number 888, 246 representing all British military lost during the war. The poppies – each uniquely hand-crafted – will be sold off in November and monies raised will be shared between the UK’s six key service charities. –Read more here.
Tip: Head into the area late afternoon so you can view it all as the sun goes down and then prettily lit up into the evening.
Night fell around 9pm, and the sound of canon fire from outside the Tower of London rung through the air. As we walked across the bridge we could see smoke billowing out from around the river front – a surreal experience in 2014! We then noticed a tower of blue light beaming into the night sky in the distance. We’ve since discovered it originates from Victoria Tower Gardens, and is another of the city’s commemorative nods to The Great War. On closer inspection, the light – called “Spectra”, by Japanese sound and light artist, Ryoji Ikeda, is a square of black matting on which 49 powerful spotlights are beamed upwards into eternity.
Background story and image source: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/aug/05/ryoji-ikeda-spectra-first-world-war-artangel
The light was actually launched on the evening of the fourth, when the city plunged into darkness as a mark of respect commemorating the beginning of a terrible and tragic time for families of the period. It will be visible for seven evenings from sun down, and I hope it reminds everyone of how lucky we are 100 years on. “Spectra” is visible for miles across the city, and indeed we can see it from our new place in Dalston, east London.
Spectra and London Eye visible from Dalston – evening view across the East by Sarah Blinco.
All in all it’s been a memorable and wonderful first week back. We’ve now secured a place to live and are gradually catching up with friends. Here are some of our discoveries, August 1 to 7, 2014:
Best free WiFi:
Costa coffee, Shepherd’s Bush
Westfield Shopping Centre, Shepherd’s Bush
Brick Lane Coffee, Bermondsey
Le Ziz Restaurant & Lounge Bar, Dalston Junction
Cafe Route, Dalston Junction
Brick Lane Coffee, Bermondsey
The random little stand on platform 2 at Highbury & Islington train station
Lime Orange, Victoria (Korean cuisine)
Le Ziz, Dalston Junction (Turkish)
Dalston Eastern Curve Garden
by Sarah Blinco | Jul 14, 2011 | Expats explore London, Travel blogger destinations
I’ve always been drawn to water – it is peaceful and therapeutic – so unsurprisingly, when I have a ‘free’ day I attempt to find activities by my nearest body of agua. In this case, I’m quite fortunate to be close to the beautiful old Thames, so taking advantage of a ray of summer sun today, I jumped on a bus headed for London Bridge. Usually I would simply take the overground to Canada Water and then the Tube two stops to London Bridge, but if I have time I like to take the bus here because it allows me to enjoy all the streets and views of the city that the Underground journey does not.
London Bridge is a delightful place to alight because while it is hectic with contemporary traffic of all kinds (people, cars, buses, trains, bikes etc.) it still maintains a feeling of the old world, like Dickens’ London you read about as a child, and I love that the precinct offers paths to old pubs, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, The London Dungeon and many other ‘creepy old sites’, as I like to refer to them. My day from London Bridge station then really consisted of me following tourists around!
I briefly took respite from the London Bridge noise by stepping inside peaceful Southwark Cathedral (the oldest cathedral church building in London), lit a candle and wished for a nice future. Back out into the bustling busy world of Borough Market, I followed the helpful signs towards the river. Obligatory frappacino in hand, I walked along the Thames between London Bridge station and Tower Bridge (pictured below), wandering by the HMS Belfast docked in the river, and then happened across an interesting international photo exhibition on display as part of The City of London Festival.
Today I also incidentally entered into a 1-minute game of soccer (football, in these parts) which was progressing in my path (it would be rude to not kick the ball being that it was passed to me!), walked to the top of Tower Bridge to check out the terrific ‘London in Black and White‘ exhibition (on until September 30 2011, for those interested), snapped a couple’s picture by the river, and waited 15-minutes before I could get my own clear shot of the Tower (minus city cruise boats in the foreground).
I stopped for a while to watch the peaceful body of water ebb and flow, and I attempted to record the scene in my mind. I recall children shrieking, dolled-up tourist photographing themselves in front of The Tower of London, and the hum of construction in the distance across the river as ever more buildings are erected. It was a nice day to play a lone explorer, being reminded of all the cool sites on my doorstep at home in London.