Whether it’s because I love going on boat trips or not I don’t know, but I always urge people not to leave London without seeing the city from the river.
Plenty of boats from different companies run regular trips down to Greenwich, which is not only a fantastic trip, but also a great destination. The journey down takes just over an hour, but I recommend that you allow a full day if you can – preferably a sunny one.
Your boat will start from Westminster Pier underneath Westminster Bridge and travel down past the Victoria Embankment on your port (left) side and the South Bank on the starboard (right) side. Now, before you think I’m being clever (which I’m definitely not) coming out with all theses nautical phrases I’m just trying to get you in the mood for Greenwich because this is where the National Maritime Museum and Old Royal Naval College is located.
Until the first Westminster Bridge was built, there were only two bridges crossing the Thames in London – the old London Bridge and the new Putney Bridge, and to cross the river from Westminster to Lambeth you had to either pay the ferryman to take you across, or wait for low tide when it could be forded.
When the first bridge was proposed, the ferrymen got the idea blocked, but when they were paid off and enough lottery tickets were sold, the Swiss engineer Charles Labelye, was able to start work on the new river crossing.
Construction started in 1739 and finished in 1750 but unfortunately it didn’t last as long as it was hoped for and a hundred years later a new bridge was deemed necessary.
I’ve often been past this church but it’s never been open, and so when I heard the bells chiming out one Sunday morning I thought that I’d take the opportunity to have a quick look around before the service started.
The bells were ringing out “Oranges and Lemons say the bells of St Clements” – although St Clement Eastcheap also has a claim to be the church referred to in the well known nursery rhyme.
The first church here did have a connection to Denmark, when Danish settlers married English women in the 9th century and dedicated their church to St Clement.
It was re-built twice before the Great Fire of London, but although the church was spared, it had fallen into a poor state of repair and Sir Christopher Wren was asked to re-design it. It was built between 1680 and 1682 with a spire being added in 1719 by James Gibb.
Don’t ask me why, but I’ve always been intrigued by what goes on in the ‘corridors of power‘.
What do those ‘Mandarins of Whitehall’ actually do?, and is our destiny really at the mercy of those men in grey suits?
A few years ago I was looking down on those bastions of government control from the London Eye and they looked even more mysterious somehow, so when the opportunity to visit the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) arose during London’s Open House Weekend, I was determined not to miss it.
Obviously I wasn’t the only person curious to see what it was like inside because there was a huge queue to get in, largely because of the security checks that were taking place due to recent terrorist activity in London and elsewhere.
Being of an inquisitive disposition (some might prefer to call it nosey), I couldn’t resist the temptation to enter the doors of The Supreme Court in Parliament Squareto see what goes on in there.
One of the good things about living in a free and democratic country is that any member of the public can enter a courtroom to witness the proceedings, and so after passing through security checks I made my way up to Court No 1 to listen to a case about which the highest court in the land was sitting in judgement.
The UK Supreme Court was only created in 2009 believe it or not. Before that a committee in the House of Lords was responsible for passing judgement.
If somebody was to ask me to stick my neck out and choose one landmark that should not be missed on a visit to London, I think I would have to say Westminster Abbey.
Although I’m not a religious person, I do enjoy visiting some of our magnificent ecclesiastical buildings, and they don’t come much more magnificent than Westminster Abbey – but that’s only half the story.
The history of the Abbey also covers a lot of British history, and for somebody like me who enjoys delving into the past, this building has it all, but before I expand on what’s here I think it’s probably best to get the unpalatable stuff out of the way first, so here goes :-
There are any number of places where a visitor can start a tour of Westminster, but I’ve chosen Parliament Square, not least because of its proximity to two of London’s most famous landmarks – the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.
To visit both landmarks will involve some planning and a considerable amount of time to do them justice, but visit them you must (check out my page on Visiting the Houses of Parliament).
The location of Parliament Square is busy with traffic as well as an obvious magnet for tourists, and if that doesn’t make it busy enough, it’s also a magnet for demonstrators who come here to protest outside parliament about anything and everything.
Old Sarum probably won’t be the first place visitors will come to see on their first visit to Salisbury, but it should be the first place to know about, because without Old Sarum there would be no Salisbury.
On a hilltop overlooking the valley where present day Salisbury lies are the remains of Sarum, or Old Sarum as it is now called.
This previous Iron Age hill fort, just a couple of miles north of the city centre, passed through the hands of the Romans, Saxons, and Vikings, before finally falling to William the Conqueror.
William built a Motte and Bailey castle inside the existing fort, probably around 1069-70, and the importance of the site was strengthened even more by the construction of a cathedral which was consecrated on 5th April 1092.
As was often the case during medieval times, the powers that be and the clergy didn’t always meet eye to eye and the decision was made to relocate the cathedral down to the valley below where it still stands.
People often mention how clear the light is in West Cornwall, and I would be the first to agree that there’s a clarity here that isn’t found everywhere.
This attracted artists from far and wide, and the St. Ives colony became so well known that it became a magnet for even more artists.
I would argue though that artists came here not just for the quality of light, but also for the quality of life as well, and one of those artists was Barbara Hepworth, a sculptor, who was born in Wakefield in 1903.