Thursday, January 7, 2010

01 walking to the River

01 Welcome

Another New Years resolution crawls out of the muck and mire of modern life.

sitting in front of my keyboard, I try to fool myself onto a dry bench in Trafalgar Square, gazing across the landscape at Canada House, thinking it must be really cold there, in Canada, in January.

Not a bad day here in London though.

Its a good day to walk along the river, So off I go, down Northumberland Ave.

There is really nothing special about Northumberland Ave. It divides the massive marble monuments of Whitehall, from the mosiac of development on historic lands of ancient riverfront estates. At the end if the road is the river, framed by the Victorian masterpiece that is the 'Embankment'.

The Embankment may be London's greatest engineering marvel,

So very pedestrian in these days of Twits and Tweets, the mammoth project of JosephBazalgette, ( ), transformed the city like no other effort. There is a monument to the man at the end of Northumberland Avenue, at the edge of the embankment, overlooking the river, (this requires crossing the busy road known as 'Victoria Embankment'). The Embankment helped control the rivers currents, sewage and disease, helped reclaim hundreds of worthless acres on both sides of the river, and gave roadbeds for the newly conceived underground railway, not to mention utility conduits for an ever increasing technologically advancing people.

From here, above the river's King's Reach, the vistas are remarkable, with the flourishing and ever heightening horizon of the city to the left, (downstream), the towers of Westminster to the right, and the most significant object of London's twenty first Century skyline across the way on the reclaimed land of Lambeth.

From here there are three simple choices. Today, we turn right and walk along the Thames Path towards Westminster. Others options are to take the shortcut across the river on Hungerford Bridge, (to take a ride on the London Eye), or go east, towards the City.

Following the desire drawing people towards Big Ben, walk upstream. From here, one is tempted into Whitehall Gardens (which requires the crossing of Victoria Embankment again).

Here the secluded benches astride pleasant gardens, enhanced by monuments to historic people make for a very good rest and recharging spot.

As we continue along the waterfront, time and again, we are offered monuments and statues that help tell the story of London, England and Empire. The most note worthy for those fond of history are Queen Mary' Steps, located on the northeast corner of the MOD building south of Horse Guards Ave. This very odd visual, of steps descending from a solid wall, into a ditch, must prompt curious questions from those unfamiliar, but there is more to understand here than any other garden in London. Here stood the riverside access to Whitehall Palace, and the steps, (the only other significant relic from the palace beside Banqueting House on Whitehall), dating back over 400 years. It offers some perspective to the landscape that existed before the embankment was constructed. Back then, the riverbank was muck and mire as the tidal effect of the Thames gave daily rise and fall of water levels. Anxious to lure Queen Mary II, (and her husband William of Orange), to England to stabilize the Protestant efforts in England, Parliament did not hesitate to invest in improvements to Royal property. Centuries of decay and debris had buried the steps from sight and memory, but development of the MOD building on the eve of WWII rediscovered them, along with Henry VIII's wine cellar (not accessible to the public), and they have been saved for posterity.

Cross back to the pedestrian walk closest to the river and pass the monument to the RAF (crowned with a golden eagle ), and discover the spectacular new Monument to the Battle of Britain located in the middle of the walkway, beyond Richmond Terrace.

Take some time and have a good look, and consider that this city was spared from total destruction by relatively few people.

It is time for me to close out, but I hope to finish this article soon.

Before I go..

I should mention that the Embankment walk continues to Bridge Street where Big Ben hangs out, (i St Stephen's Tower).


enroute to the bridge, one passes Westminster Pier, where riverboats take people on very nice cruises, most pleasant in the summertime.

Also, where the steps rise from the Embankment to Bridge Street, notice the sculpture of Boadicea, prehistoric England's great heroine.

here is a website that offers good information about the art and arcitecture of the Embankmet and London;

Thank you Bob Speel

Some other helpful websites;

LTF local area maps

Spider maps

Trafalgar Square -

Westminster -

Monument to the Battle of Britain

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