Tigger was able to leave work at midday today so I went down to meet her for lunch and a ramble. As usual, I started my journey at Angel tube station.
There are two escalators at this station and the photo show the top, longer one. At 90 feet long with 318 steps, it is the longest escalator on the London Underground.
I collected Tigger and we walked along Borough High Street towards London Bridge. As you can see, it was a very dull day, partly because of the mist that shrouded the tops of taller buildings while leaving the air clear at street level.
Currently the tallest building in the UK, The Shard is destined to become the tallest in Europe at a height of 306 metres. It is the latest in a set of monster – or perhaps monstrous – high-rise developments in the capital which block out the light and turn the streets into windy canyons. Because of its huge size (and it has reached only about 75% of its final height), The Shard is visible from all over the City and keeps appearing when you least expect. The planners are not doing Londoners any favours by allowing these “carbuncles” to be built. No doubt money talks, as usual.
We stopped for lunch at Cafe Riva which belongs to the pleasant London City Hotel next to Borough tube station. The cafe was quiet today and the Christmas decorations created a cheerful atmosphere.
After lunch, we went for a walk beside the Thames, and visited Hay’s Galleria, where, coming from the street, you are met by this strange conical Christmas tree. Previously known as Hay’s Wharf, the site has a history going back to the 1600s. It has been redeveloped as a shopping centre with restaurants.
The Shard is visible even here: you can see it through the semi-circular window at the rear of the Galleria.
On the Thames, near to Hay’s Galleria, is moored HMS Belfast, once a naval battle cruiser, now a floating museum that can be visited by the public. It seems very popular with tourists and visitors to London.
We continued walking along the Thames towards London Bridge (in the background in the photo). This mooring is one of the stops for the Thames Clipper service, broad-hulled catamarans than take you on sight-seeing tours of the Thames. We went on such a trip ourselves back in August (see Riding the Thames).
From here you have a view of some of the other landmarks on the skyline of the new London: St Mary Axe, commonly known as The Gherkin (near the centre of the picture) and the Heron Tower to its left with the top hidden in mist. The Heron Tower was the second tallest building in London, after Canary Wharf, but both have now been dwarfed by The Shard.
West of London Bridge, the bank of the Thames is not accessible and we had to cut inland, passing by Southwark Cathedral. The contrast between the brash modernism of the Shard and the Gothic style of the cathedral (finished sometime around the 14th century) speaks for itself.
Another famous ecclesiastical building – or rather, its ruin – is to be seen here. It is the remains of the 12th century palace of the Bishop of Winchester. The Bishop owned much of the land around here and imposed his own law upon it, including the “stews” (brothels) and the prison, remembered as “The Clink”. The innocent beauty of the great rose window stands in contrast to the open corruption of the Church.
Our path brought us at last to the ancient and justly celebrated Borough Market. Known throughout the world for the excellence of its wares, the market is patronized equally by famous chefs and by ordinary folk who care about their food.
A market has stood here, below London Bridge, since before the 12th century. Inevitably, many changes have occurred in that time and the market has been modernized. Changes have been forced upon it by the need to add extra lines to London Bridge station which has for many years been causing a bottleneck in services. Borough Market will no doubt survive the changes and continue its strong tradition.
Did you think we had finally escaped The Shard? The above photo shows that we had not. Here it is, its top shrouded in mist, but still looming over the market and the whole area. It sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb already but will do so even more once it attains its final height.
As for us, we thought it was time to take the bus back to the Angel for a relaxing evening at home!