Thursday, July 9, 2015

Brunel and Clerkenwell

6 July 2015

On our first full day in London we decided to do two of the London Walks which we found to be excellent on our last visit. Our first walk was Mayflower to Brunel's London. This highlight of this tour was to be allowed inside "the 8th wonder of the world" which was described as "an underground cathedral" - the Grand Entrace to Brunel's tunnel under the Thames But more of that later.

First was a quick walk to the banks of the Thames. It was low tide, so we could see the "beach" and old timbers that would have been covered at high tide. In one direction the view stretched up past Tower Bridge, and in the other down towards (but not quite as far as) Greenwich. 

Next stop was to look at some statues made in honour of local man Dr Salter and his family, and then the remains of a Manor House that had been built for Edward III.  After that was another stopping point by the river. Up until that point we had been only in Bermondsey, but then we ventured into Rotherhithe. There we saw the Mayflower Pub, which claims to be the oldest pub on the Thames. It was from here in 1620 that the ship of the same name sailed down to Southampton to collect the people destined to become known to history as the Pilgrim Fathers.  I assume there must have been Pilgrim Mothers, too, but history only talks of the Pilgrim Fathers.

Then it was off to see the entrance hall to Brunel's tunnel - the highlight of the tour.  Well, that was the theory. The advertising online had shown a picture (see below) that showed sweeping staircases and gentile people, with the tunnel(s) coming off this entrance hall.

The reality was quite different.  We were in a blocked off entrance shaft, that looked tired and grubby. It was very disappointing. And apart from saying that Henry, the son of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was one of the architects/engineers responsible for the design and building of Tower Bridge, this is the only time the Brunels were mentioned.

This guide also went over time, meaning that we couldn't get to the 2pm walk we wanted to do if we wanted to eat anything for lunch. We decided to have a very quick lunch in the Mayflower and then get a taxi to a walk that started at 2.30.  Andy asked the pub to call us a taxi, but he told them we wanted to go to Tower Hill, which is where the earlier walk had started.  We were told the taxi would be 5 minutes, but it took 20, and when it turned up it was a mini-cab.  We told the driver we wanted to go to St Paul's Cathedral, not Tower Hill, and he had no idea where it was - he just kept asking us to give him the postcode.  Luckily we had smart phones so could quickly look it up.  Surprisingly we made it just as the 2.30 walk was starting.  This walk was London's Secret Village.  The village in question is Clerkenwell, but before we got there we looked around St Bartholomew's Hospital, Smithfield, Charterhouse square and St John's Gate.  Then we were into Clerkenwell, which surrounds Clerkenwell Green.  Except it isn't green.  And there is no sign of the well that used to be there and gave the area its name.  

Florin Court - "home" to
Hercule Poirot

Clerkenwell School

Smithfield Market

St John's Gate

I have to say Clerkenwell itself was pretty ordinary, but some of the places we saw before we got there were very interesting.

That night we decided we were too tired to go to the theatre, so had a relaxed dinner and an early night.

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