St. Paul’s and Tower Bridge seen through a telescope from the Royal Observatory Greenwich

Posted by Colin

St. Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Bridge must be two of the most photographed landmarks in London. But chances are they haven’t been snapped like this before…

On Wednesday night I was leading a telescope viewing session at the Royal Observatory Greenwich as part of their annual Evening With The Stars season. At the start of the night our view of the Moon and Jupiter was obscured by cloud and so I turned the telescope’s attention to something a little more terrestrial: Central London.

If you’ve ever been up on Greenwich Hill you’ll know what a spectacular view of the Capital it provides. I was able to centre the telescope on the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is beautifully bracketed by Tower Bridge from the vantage point up on the hill.

Being such a cold night the view was pin sharp and I was able to stick my iPhone at the eye piece and capture this unique view of the two famous landmarks (click image for larger version).

You can spot the coat of arms of the City of London sitting on the gantry of the bridge on the far left of the picture. The glowing “ropes” are also clearly visible.

The telescope eyepiece with Wren’s St. Paul’s in view, and another of his creations in the background

It was even possible to see the flag of St. George fluttering atop the bridge (look closely, and perhaps zoom in and you’ll see it. It is a little dark due to being in shadow but you can definitely see the cross on the flag!) We could even tell the time by the cathedral clock.

Such a gorgeous view was particularly apt as the cathedral’s architect, Sir Christopher Wren, was also responsible for designing Flamsteed House – the Observatory’s flagship building.

So from a distance of 5 miles (as the crow flies) I was able to unite two of Wren’s most stunning creations. We got to see Jupiter and the Moon once the clouds had lifted, but sometimes London can be just as beautiful as the heavens.

Related Posts:

There is more than one St. Paul’s Cathedral in London…

A photo of London from space

The Shard, The Moon and Jupiter

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Eerie water at London Bridge Station

Aside

Posted by Colin

I have always been fascinated with humans’ ability to spot a face anywhere. We’ve been programmed by evolution to recognize facial features, but I didn’t expect one to be staring up at me from the pavement by London Bridge station on my way home last night.

This puddle, in the shape of a cartoon man’s head, has everything from a quiff of hair at the top to a chin at the bottom. He is furnished in between with an eyebrow jutting out, a long protruding nose and a Lesley Ash-esque trout pout. Or it could be a Charlie Chaplin Movember tribute.

Perhaps a silly thing to share, but it amused me!

The Garden Café

Posted by Ruth

Where: 5 Lambeth Palace Road, SE1
Cost: Under £10 per person
Website: www.gardenmuseum.org.uk
Twitter: @GardenMuseumLDN
Rating:

There are many unusual places to have lunch in London, but it’s not often you find yourself eating in a disused Church by the side of the river. This is the setting of the Garden Café in Lambeth, a simple vegetarian café, which is part of the Garden Museum.

The café offers a small daily-changing menu and is inspired by the vegetables grown in the garden adjourning the museum, and sourced where possible from local ingredients. The food is simple, but provides a refreshing lunch.

Dishes such as goats cheese and beetroot tart, and homemade soup are on offer, along with an array of tempting cakes. Some, which appear classic on first glance, actually include the humble vegetable (such as Butternut Squash cake) – not that uncommon nowadays, but still a nice reflection of the vegetarian emphasis.

Whilst we did not visit the Museum itself, it was apparent that this is a mecca for anyone with a passion for gardening. The museum houses artefacts and exhibitions about the history of the British garden.

It was set up in 1977 in the abandoned St Mary’s Church, as a tribute to John Tradescant (the first great Gardener in British history), who was buried in the church ceremony – hence the distinctive location.

Adjoining the cafe is small shop with a range of rare gardening books – a great place to pick up a gift for a green fingered friend.

Verdict:
Recommended if you’re looking for a cheap vegetarian lunch in an interesting location – but be warned, it’s absolutely freezing in the Church so wrap up warm!

In search of the cousin of the T.A.R.D.I.S.

Posted by Colin

Where: St. Martin’s Le Grand, EC2

As big Doctor Who fans it is disappointing that, apart from a replica outside Earl’s Court Tube Station, London is now devoid of any of the blue police boxes the like of which the 900 year old Gallifreyan uses in his travels around the universe.

In the 1950s there were almost 700 sprinkled across the city. By 1969 the Home Secretary (and future Prime Minister) James Callaghan ordered their removal as they were no longer useful.

However, those searching out blue phone boxes in the Capital will have some luck in the City of London, even if this particular breed doesn’t quite live up to the grandeur of the Mackenzie Trench-style.

Smaller and a brighter shade of blue, this cousin of the T.A.R.D.I.S. is no longer operational but it was once used by policemen to contact their nearest stations. They also acted as an emergency phone box for members of the public.

It is interesting to note that in older pictures of this particular box on St. Martin’s Le Grand it is painted the same colour as the T.A.R.D.I.S. style boxes. Was it changed due to the re-introduction of the popular BBC series in 2005? If you know, then let us know!

Champor Champor – Asian Fusion in London Bridge

Posted by Ruth

Where: Weston Street, London Bridge, SE1
Cost: Mains approx £15
Website: http://www.champor-champor.com/
Twitter: @ChamporChampor
Rating:

There are definite benefits to living in the shadow of the Shard, and many of those involve food. From the famous Borough Market to the lesser known Maltby Street traders, and the many Bermondsey Street bistros, there is much to tempt the avid foodie.

However, all this has an unfortunate impact on the purse strings – so we were pleased to learn that literally doors away from our flat is a highly regarded South-East Asian fusion restaurant, with a 2 for 1 Taste Card deal.

Champor Champor (loosely translated to ‘mix and match’) serves a selection of Thai-Malay dishes, some with a Western touch. Starters range from Thai lemongrass soup to goats cheese parcels.

Classic favourites such as beef rendang and green chicken curry are nestled together on the main-course menu with more unusual offerings, such as turmeric banana curry.

Often fusion food such as this can miss the mark – with none of the cuisines receiving the necessary culinary expertise required. Pleasingly, Champor Champor avoids this issue. The food is delicious, with flavours displaying a delicate touch, which reassuringly suggests that close attention has been paid to the dishes.

The décor – colourful, exotic and inviting, with an array of South-East Asian silks and trinkets – is enjoyable and unique, if a little on the cramped side of cosy.

Verdict:

With dishes delivering real depth of flavour, and unusual combinations to sample, Champor Champor is well worth a visit – but get a Taste London card first. Without one the menu is a little too expensive – and perhaps artificially high as a result of the deal.

The offices that were once a railway station for the dead

Posted by Colin

This beautiful building at 121 Westminster Bridge Road, close to Waterloo station, stands out a mile as it is surrounded by horrible, soulless office blocks. Its own façade had obviously been more carefully considered.

Its ornateness is due to the fact these offices were once home to the London terminus of the Necropolis Railway – a train line that used to ferry the Capital’s dead 30 miles out of town to Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey.

When opened in 1854, Brookwood was the largest cemetery in the world and took up the slack when London’s own cemeteries were full to bursting. Despite its distance, it was quicker to reach by train than some of London’s cemeteries were by horse and cart. Brookwood remains Britain’s largest cemetery today.

The building in this picture is actually the second London station built for the Necropolis Railway – the first was closed due to the expansion of Waterloo station. 121 Westminster Bridge Road was bought in 1899 for £5,500 and construction cost just under £45,000 (or around £3.5 million today). The building was designed by Cyril Bazett Tubbs and was specifically intended to be attractive rather than solemn – a fact that still marks it out today.

The railway carried on its duties until 1941 when a bomb caused damage to large parts of station – it was declared closed on 11 May 1941. Today the original stone carved words of “London Necropolis” are hidden and the building serves as the offices of Transmarine Shipping Agencies Limited.

And so the transportation of a very different kind of cargo is now co-ordinated from this beautiful building whose unique history lies hidden to the thousands who walk past it everyday.

A photo of London from space

Posted by Colin

OK so not strictly something to do in London, but simply breathtaking nonetheless. As a planetarium presenter at the Royal Observatory Greenwich I show thousands of people this picture every year and it never ceases to captivate both me and them.

Taken by European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers, whilst orbiting the Earth at 17,500 mph on the International Space Station, it shows our capital as an almost living organism.

The unmissable M25 motorway provides the skin around the outside with London’s major thoroughfares acting as arteries, transporting vital supplies around to keep the city ticking.

You can’t fail to spot Heathrow Airport on the far left, a place to feed the metropolitan animal with new visitors. From the East, the brightness of the lights intensifies as you snake around the ‘Eastenders’ river bend to reach the gleaming heart of London.

Whilst as an astronomer the lights reduce my view of the stars, it’s sometimes hard to argue with them when they show off my home so spectacularly to the rest of the universe.

[Click on image for a larger version]

Related Posts:

St. Paul’s and Tower Bridge seen through a telescope from the Royal Observatory Greenwich

The Shard, The Moon and Jupiter

Great coffee with an awesome view

Posted by Colin

Where: 2 Love Tea and Coffee House, Albert Embankment near Lambeth Bridge
Rating:

It is hard to say exactly when I fell in love with London but it was certainly long before I lived here. Growing up near Heathrow airport, the Big Smoke was an obvious choice for my parents when it came to finding stuff to do over school holidays.

My Dad used to be a policeman in London and would regail us with its secrets. For me nothing could beat standing in Trafalgar Square seeing all the wonderful buildings around me. It was during these visits that I also fell in love with Big Ben and whenever I see the clock (yes I know its really the bell!) I still get excited.

I was reminded of these trips when we took a stroll along the Albert Embankment last Sunday. The Houses of Parliament looked resplendant against the crisp, cloudless winter sky and with the low sun casting its orange light on the Palace of Westminster. On this walk we came across 2 Love Tea and Coffee House – a caravan style hot drinks bar with an impressive selection of coffee and loose leaf teas.

Being such a cold day we grabbed ourselves some coffee and took advantage of the riverside seating. Can there be a better view from a coffee place in London? If you think there is, let us know!

Verdict:

The coffee was absolutely delicious – so much better than you get in the all conquering coffee chains. It was also obvious that the barrista knew exactly what he was doing.

The view is spectacular and being a little further upstream than Westminster itself ensured relative peace and quiet away from mega tourist country.

A lovely place to chill out, read a book or meet a friend for a chat.

Solved: The Mystery of Satin Park and the Ginger Cat

Posted by Colin

There has been a lot of interest in a post we put up a few weeks back about Satin the Ginger Cat. Curious to find out who this famous feline was I have been trying to find out the story behind this little green area on Old Street in Islington.

I found some success with the kind people at the Wenlake Estate of which Satin Park is part. The official name of Satin Park is actually Anchor Yard, once home to the Anchor Tavern – an 18th century drinking den. However, the pub was demolished in the 19th century and a small area of grassland now sits where the beer once flowed.

Satin was a cat that had seemingly been abandoned and liked to spend her days in and out of the bushes of Anchor Yard and became somewhat of a local celebrity amongst the residents of the estate. Tragically, however, one day a dog from another estate was being walked through the area and attacked Satin causing fatal injuries. The residents were very upset and got together to mark the Queen of Anchor Yard.

So the mystery of Satin the Ginger Cat turns out to be a sad tale but one that can now be told. Googling Satin the Ginger Cat or even Satin Park returns very little information, save for a few Flickr photos of the plaque above. Hopefully now more people will know the story of this little enclave of EC1 that has captivated me ever since I discovered it almost three weeks ago.

Remembering The First Victim of the Railways

Posted by Colin

This is William Huskisson. This statue of him, which stands in Pimlico Gardens, on the North bank of the Thames, describes him simply as a “statesman”. Nothing else in the area eludes to anything else about him, save that he was born in 1770 and died in 1830. That death turns out to be a tale in itself.

Some research reveals Huskisson was an MP who made it to the Duke of Wellington’s cabinet but resigned from his post in 1828 after a disagreement over parliamentary reform, returning to his Liverpool constituency.

(As a personal aside: the row was centered on the constituency of East Retford – the area where Ruth grew up).

When Huskisson and Wellington were both attending the opening of the Liverpool to Manchester railway in 1830, Huskisson got off the train and headed for the Duke’s carriage in order to kiss and make up.

What Huskisson failed to notice was an oncoming train – none other than George Stephenson’s famous Rocket engine driven by the man himself. Huskisson noticed at the last minute and tried to scramble aboard Wellington’s train but the door swung open, preventing him climbing aboard. The train ran straight over his leg and dragged the MP all the way to Eccles. He was taken to hospital but died hours later.

Huskisson, then, is widely accepted as the first victim of the advent of the railways. A plaque, now at the National Railway Museum in York, says that the accident:

“DEPRIVED ENGLAND OF A ILLUSTRIOUS STATESMAN AND LIVERPOOL OF ITS MOST HONORED REPRESENTATIVE WHICH CHANGED A MOMENT OF THE NOBLEST EXULTATION AND TRIUMPH THAT SCIENCE AND GENIUS HAD EVER ACHIEVED INTO ONE OF DESOLATION AND MOURNING”

Huskisson’s widow, Emily, commissioned the statue for Custom House in Liverpool, but somehow it has ended up in SW1. With no plaque to explain his fate, it seems the story of this victim of science and progress will remain largely untold.