If you’ve read my article about how the Victoria Embankment came about, you may like to know a bit more about some of the points of interest that can be seen along here.
The Embankment runs for about a mile and a half between Westminster Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge on the north side of the river and I’m going to describe the route starting from the Westminster end.
If you start out underneath the statue of Boudicca and stay on the same side of the road, then the river and Westminster Pier will be on your right. Boats depart regularly from Westminster Pier to Greenwich, but unless you intend doing the boat trip, your eyes will be more focused on what’s on the other side of the river. It’s impossible to miss the London Eye or even the former County Hall, but don’t forget to look out for what’s on the Westminster side as well.
New Scotland Yard is across the road, as is Whitehall Gardens, the first of a series of gardens that stretch along the embankment and collectively known as the Victoria Embankment Gardens.
Back on the riverside, there’s a unique memorial to the Battle of Britain, with another memorial to the RAF a bit further along. It should be remembered that Whitehall, including the Ministry of Defence opposite, backs on to the embankment, which is why the area has so many statues of past military figures and memorials to different parts of the armed forces.
Approaching the Hungerford and Golden Jubilee Bridges you’ll see two boats moored up – the Tattershall Castle and the Hispaniola, both of which can provide food and drink should you need a break. If you just fancy a quick cuppa though you could pop across to the Cabbie’s shelter instead and find a bench in the gardens. It may not be as glamorous, but it’s definitely cheaper.
Before you walk under the bridges make sure that you pay homage at the memorial to Sir Joseph Bazalgette, the creator of the Victoria Embankment. Bazalgette was also involved with the construction of the underground railway beneath the road, and when you arrive on the other side of the bridges you’ll come to Embankment station. The line was originally built for the Metropolitan and District Railway but the company no longer exists: The route still does though and is now part of the District and Circle Lines.
About half way between here and Waterloo Bridge is Cleopatra’s Needle, which is a genuine obelisk and which I shall be writing about in a separate article. From here, the view across the river is towards the South Bank Centre, which is a complex of art venues including the Royal Festival Hall and the National Theatre.
As you walk under Waterloo Bridge you’ll see another cultural venue on the left in the form of Somerset House. It has an interesting history and has been put to various uses over the years. At present the large neo classical building is used for different types of artistic organisations and includes the Courtauld Gallery, but one of the most popular features is the central courtyard which has a variety of special events going on throughout the year.
Back on this side of the road is something for anyone who likes useless information. If you took a look at my article about Charing Cross, you will realise that it’s recognised as the centre of London and where all measurements to the capital are taken from, but next to a bench just along here is the true geographical centre of London – but even that’s disputed.
What can’t be disputed though is that at Middle Temple Gardens is the boundary between Westminster and the City of London. You’ll notice a couple of dragon boundary markers which you should make a special note of because these are the original statues that once adorned the Coal Exchange on Lower Thames St, and which is yet another topic that I will be writing more about in the not too distant future.
We’re now approaching Blackfriars Bridge and the end of the Victoria Embankment. There’ll be things I’ve missed out purposely, and no doubt some accidentally, but I hope it gives a taste of what there is to see. It’s not compulsory to walk the whole length in one go of course, and in many ways it’s best to do it in stages, and it doesn’t matter which way round you do it.