canary wharf // inside a concrete jungle

Canary Wharf is quite a funny area of London. In the eighties it was essentially an abandoned dockyard, yet today it is home to one of the most important financial centres of Europe, if not the world! It’s the textbook example of ‘regeneration’.

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View of Canary Wharf from Greenwich.

I work quite close to it, but I don’t go in very often. Although I’ve never been to New York, Canary Wharf is what I imagine Manhattan looks like. Everything in Canary Wharf is very Fancy and New™. The Canary Wharf underground station looks like a spaceship, with all of its glass panels and long strip lighting. So much like one in fact, that it is featured as such for a small moment in the Rouge One film.

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In this station at rush hour you can view a spectacular case of British queuing at its finest. 

I’ll be honest, I prefer the main City of London, with its mish-mash of old and new architecture and ancient streets. Still, they certainly knew how to impress with their massive towers here. I see them every day, but I’m still in awe. It’s crazy to believe none of it existed a mere 40 years ago!

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Obviously if you aren’t a Londoner this will not be relevant to you at all, but we’re getting a brand new underground railway running straight through the heart of the city, named ‘Crossrail’. I won’t bore anyone with the details, but it’s pretty exciting, and more transport links are definitely needed! It’s not due to open for another year or so, but we already are reaping the benefits in many ways, namely the new Canary Wharf station, otherwise known as ‘Crossrail Place’. It’s not a functioning station yet, but there is a choice roof garden!

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The Garden is located directly on top of the prime meridian stemming from the nearby Greenwich, which in layman’s terms, is the line that divides the world into the eastern and western hemispheres. This directly influences the garden’s design, which intends to play into this division, and is split into two sides; east and west, both showcasing the best of the exotic plants from their respective hemispheres.

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The juxtaposition of the towering glass and steel monoliths and the messy greenery of the garden pack quite a punch. I couldn’t help but feel a little excited at spotting some fauna from my very own New Zealand featuring in the Western side! A slice of nature and bit of nostalgia in surrounded by the tallest towers in the country, what more could you ask for?

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hampstead hill gardens

The Hampstead Hill Gardens quite easily make my short list of London attractions. Hardly anyone seems to even know about it, and that’s all part of its charm. When you first enter the sanctuary with flowers and vines twisting over marble pillars you could be forgiven for thinking that you’ve stumbled into an enchanted garden from a fairytale.

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SEE WHAT I MEAN ABOUT A SECRET GARDEN?

IMG_1413There’s hardly ever anyone around, and the gardens are big enough that if there are people, you don’t really overlap with them. It’s like a secret! I’m almost reluctant to tell people about it sometimes, because I feel like it should stay hidden! It’s close proximity to Hampstead Heath (it’s just across the road) just tops it off.DSC_0120

The gardens are the public part of a large estate, which is still inhabited today. They date back to the early 1900s, where they were a prime location for evening strolls and showing off to others at Edwardian garden parties. The most interesting thing about these gardens though, is that back when they were constructing them, due to the time period they obviously had no large trucks or heavy machinery to transport the dirt for landscaping, which made things difficult. However, conveniently enough, the Northern line tube extension was underway very close by. They needed somewhere to put all of that dirt from the tunnelling, and guess what it was used for! The contractors were so desperate to get rid of the dirt that they actually paid the the garden builders to take in the dirt. Public transport really shaped this city, even in the most unlikely of ways!IMG_1345

When I purchased my first DSLR I knew this was the place to practice my photography, which is why the photos in this article are so much better than all of my other ones! Honestly, this place is ridiculously photogenic. There’s an endless array of interesting angles, shadows and perspectives to play around with, it’s such fun!DSC_0154DSC_0119

However, it’s otherwise high rating is let down by it being a bit of a walk from the station. Sure, you could take the bus directly there, but that’s such a hassle. I jest. It’s actually a very pleasant and quiet ride/walk through the leafy suburbs/forests of north London, and it’s well worth the extra effort! You can either walk/ride the bus through the leafy and village-like suburbs of north London from Hampstead station, or take the overground to Hampstead Heath and take a lovely stroll through the park of the same name.

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The contrast in colours is beautiful here.
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The view over the trees.

Final rating: 8.5/10

Nearest station: Hampstead (Northern Line) – Zone 2

Thanks to the historical background from: https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/green-spaces/hampstead-heath/heritage/Pages/the-pergola.aspx

abney park cemetery

Just a few minutes off the busy Stoke Newington High Street, you will find yourself in the cavernous Abney Park Cemetery. Melancholy is the word that immediately springs to mind when you walk in here. You can’t help but feel like you’ve stepped into a storybook. This is one of my favourite places to visit when I want to just think in silence.

Every time I’ve visited I’ve been pretty much the only one there, so it’s actually quite eerie in a way. Abney Park has a timeless feel to it; save for the occasional plane flying overhead you could be just about anywhere, or anytime. I don’t know, maybe I’m just being a romantic, but you can’t help but feel that you’re the first person to discover this place.

This cemetery was built during the industrial revolution to deal with the quickly rising city population, but after it reached capacity it was left completely untouched. Decades of neglect have resulted in today’s cemetery/nature reserve, which is totally overgrown with greenery. Branches and leaves snake over the tombstones and many have disappeared into the undergrowth completely. It’s got quite a fascinating history actually, but I won’t get into it here, it’ll take too long! I highly recommend looking it up though.

It’s not too far out, with a location on the edge of Zone 2, and it’s only a short walk from Stoke Newington station. If you don’t have an connection to this particular Overground line you can change at Hackney Central or Seven Sisters, so it’s quite well connected. The rest of Stoke Newington is a quite nice area as well, with a rather village-like atmosphere despite its its close proximity to the A10.

Final rating: 8/10

Nearest Station: Stoke Newington (overground). Zone 2

Limehouse Basin

After admiring the view of the Limehouse Basin and its pretty canalboats for months after passing over it on the DLR, I finally decided to get off a few stops early and check it out. I’ve on occasion cycled through this area on my way to work as well, and it was just as enjoyable this way. I will maintain, aside from the Embankment cycle route which will always take the crown (it’s very hard to compete with the Houses of Parliament), this is my favourite route to cycle in the city. The lovely new East-West cycle superhighway runs right through this area, and it’s fully segregated from the road with separate traffic lights, etc just for cyclists.

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Viewing the basin from on board the DLR.

Bikes can move through congested areas much quicker than cars can, so it’s a smooth, uninterrupted journey. It’s so easy and effortless, that sometimes I can even pretend I’m in the Netherlands or something. Props to TFL for creating this route!

When you approach the Limehouse basin, you get the combined view of the impressive towers of Canary Wharf blocking out the sun, and the peaceful narrowboats in the foreground. Even just being a pedestrian is very nice, as it’s a very peaceful area.IMG_9833

It couldn’t be closer to the DLR station(s), and once you leave the stop you’ll find yourself free to wander the perimeter of the basin and admire the colourful boats. There’s some spots where you can look out onto the Thames as well, and take in the quieter side of the iconic river.

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The bank of the Thames.

This area has a very local feel to it, as unless they’re passing through on their bicycles, it’s mostly just residents enjoying the waterfront. I currently work near Canary Wharf, so sometimes I’ll go for a little walk around here before I start work which is really lovely. Personally I like to walk around to the other side where there is a small adjoining park called Ropemakers Fields, and from there on it’s only a 7 or so minute walk to the next station along, Westferry where I can continue my journey.

A spot of calm off Commercial Road, very well linked with the DLR running parallel to it, or a 15 minute cycle from Tower Hill.

Final rating: 7/10

Nearest Station: Limehouse (DLR, National Rail). Zone 2.

Lloyd Park

I’ll be honest, I mostly came down here because I wanted to ride the mythical London tram system. And that I did. It was a just like a train, except we got caught in traffic jams. Very exciting. There was a stop (or is it station?) right outside the park as well, conveniently enough. The park was lovely too, so it was two birds with one stone! If you don’t take that tram though, it’s a relatively straightforward 20 minute walk from the Croydon centre.

There was this fairground thing when I went, but I’m more of a nature gal’ so I kind of just ignored it and went straight into the woody growth behind it. There was quite a big field which would be useful for a casual game of football I imagine, but there were also quite a lot of wild grasslands that gave you that countryside feel.

It was a bit hilly by London’s standard’s, which means there were mild inclines that made me embarrassingly out of breath. That being said, at this point you’re basically in Surrey anyway so a bit of rolling landscapes is understandable.

It was a lovely park, but probably not worth making the trek all of the way from North London if you aren’t local to the area (unless you, like me, are a fan of the Croydon trams). Of course, if you’re anywhere near South East London and you want a countryside escape that’s not actually in the countryside, it’s a great spot to visit! I didn’t get all of the way in, but it seemed quite big, with plenty of parts to explore.

Final rating: 6.5/10

Nearest station: Lloyd Park, London Trams, or East Croydon, National Rail

Clapham Common

This park was so much bigger than I initially thought it was! At first I just saw a lovely, but not particularly noteworthy green space. It seemed a bit smaller than I was expecting, but lo and behold, I changed direction and crossed a corner, and all of a sudden it was huge! It had all of the usual features of a park, except it was all relatively  spread out because the park was so big. There were children playing football in the fields, and I walked past a lovely pond where some people were fishing. There was a bandstand which was really lovely too, you don’t see too many of these around nowadays!

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I saw lots of people using this park as a cyclist through-fare on their way home from work too, which I always love seeing! It just goes to show how London is becoming greener every day.

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London cyclists in the park.

There’s quite a few busy roads criss-crossing through the park which you have no choice but to cross, which unfortunately can ruin the vibe of the otherwise peaceful urban stroll. Ah well, you can’t have everything! Luckily enough, the park is big enough so that once you’re away from the roads you can forget about them. It’s insanely well-linked transport-wise too, with the northern line serving stations at both the north and south ends of the park. There are plenty of normal shops, pubs and cute cafes at either end as well which can provide a great introduction back into the city life once you’re done!

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Worth mentioning that the tube station here is one of two on the entire tube network that has these tiny island platforms. Presumably they don’t have the space to widen the tunnels, so you’re left with these questionably small platforms…

Mind the gap!

Final rating: 7/10

Nearest Station: Clapham Common (Northern Line). Zone 2.

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Pretty reflections in the water!

Stanmore Country Park

My series will begin with Stanmore Country Park. To many, Stanmore is only known as the place where Jubilee line terminates. However, it is so much more than that!

Walking there from the station, you can’t help but feel like you’ve already left London. Detached houses, wide roads, people driving everywhere? Is this really the city I’m so familiar with? But it is. The walk from the station is barely a few minutes at most, and during that time you can pretend you live in an alternate universe where you’ve actually escaped the money-grabbing jaws of London. Despite this, you’re actually only in Zone 5.

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Is this really London?

When you first enter heading from the station, you’ll find yourself in a woody area, full of a winding maze of paths disappearing into the undergrowth. This is where just exploring the area is the best way to see it, there are plenty of peaceful clearings, meadows, and even cows grazing in a field if you’re there at the right times!

IMG_9925I was very pleasantly surprised when I emerged into this lovely grassland area at the top, and then I turned around and got a smashing view of the city! I was lucky enough to have visited on a clear day, so I could see as far as the radio mast at Crystal Palace, over 20km away. If you are in a rush, basically head uphill in any direction from the entrance of the park and you’ll be there.

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The resolution isn’t great, but you get the idea!

Forests, quaint clearings, meadows, it’s got all of the makings of a great park. It’s close proximity to the Jubilee Line (arguably one of the more pleasant deep-level tube lines too) and lack of people give Stanmore Country Park a final rating of…

Final rating: 8/10

Nearest station: Stanmore (Jubilee Line). Zone 5