Thursday, 27 May 2010

Box Hill, Surrey

I've been busy with exams at university, which has been monotonous and boring to say the least..! So I took a big break and went for a long ride on Duke with my sister and my parents (them on dad's motorbike) through parts of Berkshire and Surrey (mainly) on Tuesday, so this is one of the places we went - Box Hill in Surrey. Most of Box Hill is owned by the National Trust, and it forms part of the Surrey Hills, which are part of the North Downs - a ridge of chalk hills which stretch from the Surrey area to the White Cliffs of Dover.

This is the other (northern) side as seen along the "Zig-Zag" road that winds up the hill.

It's named Box Hill for the box trees which grow on it and was donated by Leopold Salomons of Norbury Park to the National Trust in 1914, and there is a memorial (in the first picture) which remembers him for this - the story that we were told, was that he was buried upright looking down, presumably so that he can forever enjoy the fine view that this hill offers. This is the southern facing view that the hill is famous for:

Here's be climbing a tree =P (I'm not sure if it's a box tree or otherwise..)

Summer's here, and it's a great place to go laze and relax. Make a visit if you can!

More information: National Trust website

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The River Thames at Richmond, London

Not only can you see deer in Richmond, but it's also a great place to spot the occasional heron, as in the picture below. Now, I have mixed views on feeding wildlife (pros: you get to see them closer, they don't get hungry. cons: they become used to human activity which may have further detrimental effects, but nonetheless you can always watch other people feed the geese, ducks, pigeons (I'm *not* a fan of pigeons) though.

Richmond Riverside is a great place to go for a stroll and there are a number of eateries/cafes in the area. Although there didn't seem to be much on the other side other than shops, Richmond Bridge is still quite a novelty to walk on. There are also boat trips (and boat hire too I think!) if you feel like something a little different.

In the picture below you can also see an island - which is the land with the willows on it that the boats are next to. There are quite a few islands dotted all along the Thames until a fair bit upstream (to name a few: Isleworth Ait, Chiswick Eyot, Eel Pie Island, Monkey Island etc). Quite a few of these and the banks have willows on them. These were grown for the basket trade for the London markets in the old days.

Get there: Richmond station, various buses from west/south-west London.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

The George Inn, Norton St Philip, nr. Bath

I while back, I was riding along and stumbled on this picturesque inn just south of Bath. 6 miles south of Bath lies the picturesque village of Norton St Philip in Somerset, but the gem in this village is the George Inn, which supposedly dates back to the 14th/15th century. I didn't go inside but it has a medieval courtyard inside, and period features in the rooms.

The inn was originally built to accommodate travelers and merchants for the wool trade fair which happened annually until 1902. The timber framed upper floors were added in the 15th century. It has been used as a location for a few films.

More information: The George Inn website and the Wikipedia article.

Get there: The village is just off the A36 south of Bath on the B3110/A366. Bus: 267 from Bath.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

A ride home from Kent

My sister is awesome. She takes pictures of me whilst I'm on my motorbike, which I often can't take myself for obvious reasons.

Here's a few shots (nothing particularly interesting) of a ride home from Kent, where we went to pick up a typewriter she won off eBay - which is what the big lump in the topbox at the back is.

Kent - the Garden of England!:

A102 in Greenwich. Canary Wharf/Isle of Dogs is in the distance whilst the O2/Millenium Dome is on the right.:

A102, coming up to the original Blackwall Tunnel - built by the London County Council between 1892 and 1897. This arch is one of the original gatehouses for the entrance of the tunnel. It's northern counterpart in Poplar was demolished in 1958 to make way for the newer tunnel. In a way, it's amazing how modern traffic still passes under this (I mention this, as Temple Bar was dismantled for traffic reasons). A second tunnel was built in the 1950's-60's for the increased traffic. The reason the original tunnel is so bendy was so that horses do not get shocked when they see sunlight after coming out at the other end. The second tunnel is a lot smoother as there was no need to cater for horses.:
And here we are, inside the tunnel (A102).:

We're now out of the Blackwall Tunnel, and on Aspen Way (A1261). This road cuts across the northern part of the peninsula that is the Isle of Dogs, and passing it just before the Limehouse Link. This road is one of the quicker ways to get into central from the East/South-East London (the other options being the A2 at certain hours, A11 and A13). On the left is Billingsgate market, which is where one can buy fish in wholesale I believe, and the towers that dominate the skyline of the Canary Wharf area. The tall tower on the left is 1 Churchill Place, which is the Barclays Headquarters and was designed by HOK International. The taller building on the right is 8 Canada Square, which is the headquarters of HSBC and was designed by Foster and Partners:

After the Limehouse Link and past the Tower of London, this next tunnel is the Upper Thames Street Tunnel. Once a dark and dingy tunnel, it has since been enhanced with stupidly bright lights between the lanes, making this a pretty cool tunnel. Unfortunately, this picture does the tunnel no justice:

That's it for today!

Sunday, 2 May 2010

See some deer in London!

London, as packed and crowded as some of you may think it is (I'm referring to those people who tell me they don't particularly like London because there's too many people) still has some nice spots to relax in. Aside from the obvious parks in central and the lesser known ones a little further from central, one of my favourites is definitely Richmond Park. Here you can find deer roaming freely, and just sitting there on the grass, not bothered by the traffic nearby.

By far, one of my favourite things to see in London - Deer!

Pictures courtesy of my sister.

Get there: Richmond (walk through the centre and up Richmond Hill), Mortlake (walk down Sheen Lane), Norbiton (Wolverton Avenue > Queens Road)

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Tate Modern/Bankside Power Station, London

Tate Modern is an art gallery with many pieces of modern art in the Bankside area of Southwark. However, the building that currently houses it has not always been an art gallery. It was originally built as Bankside Power Station and designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, who also designed the red telephone boxes and Battersea Power Station further upstream. Much of the interior has obviously been done up, although some of the beams and girders which support the building are still visible in parts of the building. Another feature added since it's conversion to an art gallery is the glass addition to the top of the building which I believe houses 1-2 floors.

The gallery itself is home to a large collection of modern art, with some exhibitions running for a limited time only. Now admittedly, my knowledge of modern art is lacking in some departments, since my interest of this period lies in modern architecture, though the both are naturally intertwinned. If you're unfamiliar with modern art, you'd fare well reading up a little before you go along to appreciate it - I was a little lost with my relatively basic knowledge! However, what I did see and understand I did enjoy! There's no shying away from saying that modern art isn't for everyone, but if this is your cup-of-tea, then the Tate Modern is definitely worth a visit! ...the building aside!

More information on the building can be found on Wikipedia and about the gallery on the Tate Modern website.

Get there: Free entry - £3 recommended. Southwark (LU), or Mansion House (LU) via a walk across the Millenium Bridge. Why not start your visit at Southwark (LU), visit the Tate Modern, and walk across the Thames on the Millenium Bridge and up Peters Hill to St. Pauls Cathedral and Temple Bar. Or alternatively, stay on the South Bank and walk east past the Globe and towards HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Three Mills, Bromley-by-Bow, London

Notice the new banner at the top? Many thanks-you's to my sister who worked on it! =)

In the East End of London, lies the picturesque "Three Mills". Formerly a tidal mill, the various buildings are used for education, business and as film studios. House Mill (the main building on the left) was built in 1776 whilst Clock Mill (the white clock-tower building) was completed in 1817. The waterwheels are no longer in operation but between the 7 wheels to power 14 pairs of millstones to grind barley and maize. The mills were also used to distill Gin at one point.

Get there: Bromley-by-Bow (LU) station.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Pitzhanger-Manor House & Gallery in Ealing, London

It's been a while since I wrote anything - I've been far, far too busy with work, and even busier with travelling and exploring the streets and roads of London recently. So for you today is some Travel-Log-Awesomeness for you today - this will be a joint entry with my sister's blog (she's working on her entry atm.). We visited Pitzmanor-Manor House in Ealing back in February, which is a long time ago, I know. The gallery section is used for art exhibitions (at the time of visiting, there was one on knitting/sewing) and the rest of the building is used for events such as weddings.

Pitzhanger-Manor House in Ealing is a building that has been altered a number of times since being built in the 17th century. It's most famous owner was Sir John Soane (1753-1837), an architect. He enrolled into the Royal Academy in 1771, and designed a triumphal bridge, which won him a gold medal and a travelling scholarship. He used this to travel to Italy, which impressed him greatly. Back in Britain, he bought Pitzhanger-Manor in 1800, and demolished and refuilt most of it (except the South Wing of the building). It was rebuilt into a country villa to entertain friends and clients.

The building today is made up of roughly 3 parts - the far left is the oldest surviving part of the house, designed by George Dance the Younger for Thomas Gurnell (who would become his father in law) in 1768. Soane was an apprentice of Dance, and he kept this part, the South Wing as he admired his work. The middle central bit was Soane's work, and the extension on the right is slightly newer and built in 1940 to replace an earlier extension designed by Ealing Council in 1901. Today, this room is now used as part of the gallery space.

After Soane, the grounds and house passed through a number of owners before being purchased by Sir Spencer Walpole. The grounds, as you see in the picture below, were converted into Walpole Park in 1901 when Ealing District Council acquired them. The house itself was converted into a library the following year. The library moved to the Ealing Broadway Shopping Centre not far away in 1984 and this house was restored and opened to the public.

The pretty staircase features a bust and other items of interest:

This is one of the most beautiful room I've seen around:

And it's very lush ceiling:

I didn't find the other rooms as pretty but were still interesting nonetheless. Worthy of noting is the ceiling feature in one of the rooms which I can only assume imitates what the Pantheon in Rome has - the hole in the top. The rooms also seem to have some kind of classical influence - i.e. the trellis and plant poking through it, and also the zig-zags in the room with the sky-view.

Get there: Ealing Broadway station, short 5-minute walk towards Walpole Park.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Staple Inn, High Holborn

Standing on High Holborn is this rather interesting old building - Staple Inn. It's a timber-framed building and built in 1585 and stands on High Holborn in the City of London. Although it survived the Great Fire of London (1666), it was damaged in WW2 but restored. Staple Inn is the last surviving Inn of Chancery. I am no law expert, but from what I understand, Chancery Inns were used by people who worked in the "field" of law.

Get there: Chancery Lane LU

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Happy 10,000 km, Duke!

A few weeks ago, Duke hit 10,000 km on the speedo.. (technically incorrect as this is a 2nd speedo as I ran him into a ginormous pothole in the countryside and we both went sliding. His forks were mangled and his speedo stopped working and I had to ride him back to Bristol for a replacement (they only had KM ones and not Mile ones) before repeating the first (of many) London trips.)

Duke is actually the second Duke -a bunch of no-lifes stole the old Duke, so this is the new Duke.

Anyways, I like Duke a lot, and will always speak fondly of him. Duke has changed my life (silly as it sounds!): I've been many a place with him, had a few accidents here and there, and I've been fortunate enough to visit many places as a result. He rarely fails to start (he struggles a bit when his heart is a bit cold) but he is cheap to maintain, easy to fix if anything goes wrong, and costs little to run! So here is my tribute: Long live Duke! Bring on the summer and those twistys!

Duke's stats:
Current Miles/KM: 10,808km+ (on this speedo)
Motorbike type: Learner/commuter
Engine: 125cc, I think it's air cooled and is CDI
Top speed: 55mph (passenger/fully loaded), 62mph (just me, down the motorway)
When he's happiest: In pretty countryside or after a wash!
When he's unhappiest: Me stressing him out through gaps in rush hour London traffic =(
His home is: the Cardiff Valleys
Furthest travelled: Harlow, Essex.
Special features: His big topbox, phone charger, halogen lamp (a luxury!), being Welsh =D

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Old London Underground map

Apologies for the suck-tastic picture (it was cold and I was miserable and my camera was feeling the same...) - Whilst walking along the Victoria Embankment, I came across this old LU map. Notice how it doesn't have some of the newer stuff on it (as well as the fact that it's in an older style, and more geographically correct), such as the fact that the Northern Line goes much further than in the map.

(Get there: Temple (LU))

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Carey Street motorcycle bays

I always smile a bit when I see innovative solutions for bikers in cities or means of parking for motorbikes - such as the parking bay on the right in this picture =)

(Carey Street, WC2)

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Faulkner's Alley

I love little alleys like this one with old buildings such as the one below which appears to be some kind of former warehouse and it's outdated light.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Greenwich Foot Tunnel

I hope you've all had a lovely Valentines and/or Chinese New Year! Mine was nothing interesting, doing a bit of cooking and a film but it was good! Dad's now out during the shop closure so it's all good, and today was spent at the library and learning the streets of the Capital on Duke.

I've got nothing better to post so this week's entry is on the Greenwich Foot Tunnel in London. Construction was started in 1899 and it was opened in 1902. It links the Isle of Dogs with Greenwich and replaced a previous ferry service. At the time the Isle of Dogs and surrounding area was occupied by shipyards and docks and it's purpose was for their workers to get across the Thames. (The old Chinatown was also in neighbouring Limehouse.)

So here we go - the Greenwich side is next to the Cutty Sark, a 19th century clipper (that's a ship, for you guys who have no idea what a 'clipper' is). It's currently all covered and fenced off as it was undergoing renovation work before an accidental fire burnt parts of it. Both sides have a building similar to the one pictured, with a spiral staircase and addition of a lift.

For safety reasons, there is no cycling.

And this is the other side - it sits in what is Island Gardens.

Looking back over the Thames to Greenwich, you can see the tunnel building as in the first of the pictures.

Getting there: Island Gardens (DLR)/Cutty Sark (DLR)

Thanks for reading, speak soon! =)

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Calne, and a bit of Wiltshire

These pictures are now a few weeks old, but I'll chuck them on here anyhow! There's a lot more to see considering Wiltshire is rather big and I always travel West to East (and vice versa) rather than North to South. I like Wiltshire though, because it's very, very country, compared to neighbouring Berkshire. That said, Wiltshire also has some of the worst roads (especially with new potholes on the usual roads that have opened up since the snow and ice!). Still, this is my bit of Wiltshire along the A4.

Took Duke out on another big outing, this time with a few pictures of Calne, which is probably one of my favourite Wiltshire towns (the other being Marlborough) and lies on the edge of the Marlborough Downs. Calne has quite a number of stone buildings and has a prosperous history. Historically it is known for rearing pigs (on their way from Ireland, through Bristol and onto Smithfield Market in London) and also cloth. It's quite pretty!

This little bit of street is called Market street - Calne was once a market town.

The main street, Curzon Street:

This is St Mary's church, built in the 15th century from donations from clothiers and wool merchants:

Many of the buildings were built with stone in a yellow colour such as these:

This is the, rather elegant, Town Hall:

..and right next to it is a river or a canal - I can't tell and the map isn't clear.

About 3 miles east of Calne is the village of Cherhill. Cherhill is known for it's White Horse - one of many across this region of the UK. It's not the oldest, and it's white colour is a result of the chalk which was restored in 2002 - I assume it was originally chalk before then. It was made in 1780, and although it has had an "eye" made from glass bottles which glistened in the sun on a few occasions, those have "disappeared" and is now made from stone and concrete. By now, the weather started getting a bit bad, it was getting dark and my phone's cradle setup was crackling due to the shaking from the handlebars.. so here is a MUCH better picture from a previous visit: (I don't know that guy on the motorbike, he just happened to be in it! =)

By now it's getting really bad for picture-taking, and we're now in the Marlborough Downs, but this is a building covered in vegetation with only the windows left uncovered in Beckhampton, another few miles further down.

Also in Beckhampton is one of the prettiest pubs I've seen - the Wagon and Horses. It gets it's name from being a coaching inn in the past for travellers stopping on journeys from London to Bath. Dickens travelled this way in 1835 and wrote: "It was a comfortable-looking place. There was a strong cheerful light in the bar-window" in the Pickwick Papers. I also have a much nicer and not-so-gloomy picture of the pub, from a previous trip that dad took of me and mum, so here it is!:

Last stop before it really got too dark to take pictures... this is Silbury Hill, an ancient man-made mound measuring 40 metres high. No one really knows what it was built for, but there is an overwhelming view of it as you come near from either direction of the A4. You can't help but wonder, "what an earth is that?" - I did! Not far from here is the village of Avebury, which has an ancient stone circle similar to Stonehenge, but on a much smaller scale. Perhaps I'll visit that in a month or two to get some nice pictures =)

... and that, is my bit of Wiltshire for this month!