Saturday, February 27, 2016

Secret London: Whispers of the Walbrook

One of the few reminders of the Walbrook
The book "London's Lost Rivers" by Tom Bolton says this is a 'river walk without the river'. They could not be more true. I completed this less than 2 mile run on the way to work this week, but it was a bit harder to navigate just due to the tall buildings and GPS getting confused.

The Walbrook cuts through the original Roman city and runs between Cornhill and Ludgate. It formed the eastern boundary of the Roman Londinium, and was completely covered up by 1463.

I do not recommend doing this run during the morning weekday, its probably best done a weekend. Any joy gotten from this walk was diminished quickly by battling the morning rush hour.

Once again, you can find the route here and below are more fun facts and photos!

Enroute to Broadgate
Looking up at Poultry
  • Shoreditch was the original theaterland of London. One of the theaters was built for Shakespeare's Company, the Chamberlain's Men. It was up and moved to Southwark and renamed to The Globe in 1598.
  • Broadgate sits on what was once a bubonic plague pit, and once when digging up the site found six bodies per cubic metre
  • The architect who won the bid to design the interior of Cannon Street Station did so by bribing a British Rail official

    The final destination of the Walbrook

Monday, February 22, 2016

Secret London: Better than Effra

Hang out with me long enough and you will find out I love be underground in London. We very rarely stop to think about the subterranean London beneath our feet. Not just the tube, there are countless other tunnels and chambers itching to be discovered (well some maybe not). In fact, one of our 'coffee table' books is Subterranean London.

One aspect that has always intrigued me are the hidden rivers of London. There are quite a few, but only a handful really stand out. Most know of the Fleet, but there are actually 8 majors ones? These rivers fed into the Thames and shaped London into what it is today. And what happened to them? Built over and diverted into sewers most of them- so very little can now be found of them above ground. However, if you know where to look, you can see traces of these beauties.

I have already run the Wandle River, probably the most visually prominent of the rivers, so I want to cover the other seven:
  • Westbourne
  • Fleet
  • Neckinger
  • Effra
  • Tyburn
  • Wallbrook
  • Earl's Sluice/River Peck
I used the book, "Londons Lost Rivers" by Tom Bolton as my guide, and if you are more a walker I suggest you take a copy and go try these yourself. I used the directions to create a GPX route of the route and then using the DwMap application, synced the route to my Garmin. Goodbye staring at the phone looking to see where I made a wrong turn!

Here are my adventures from the Effra River, which started in Westow Park near Crystal Palace.  I wont provide all the interesting tidbits from the book, I will leave that to you to learn and discover!
  • Norwood (the area where the source of the river starts) is derived from Great North Wood, an area that once covered south London 
  • West Norwood Cemetery is one of the Magnificent Seven and is the final resting place of Hiram Maxim, inventor of the machine gun
  • Electric Avenue in Brixton was the first streets in the country to receive electric lights
  • The Oval was shaped that way due to the the meandering of the Effra
Start: Westow Park
End: Vauxhall Bridge

Home of the 1948 Olympic Velodrome
Bel Air Park: Where you can kinda
see the Effra

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Trading Running Shoes for Hiking Boots: Taking a Few Days Off

Sometimes it's hard to stop doing something you quite enjoy. I have been having a 'niggle' (that is the technical term) in my legs for a few days now when running. I kept thinking to myself 'it will go away' and kept going on my training. However, the niggle was not going away... then this past weekend happened.

I have had this weekend planned for a few months now. A trip to Norfolk for a bit of RnR with Mr. Moose. There would be walks, there would hopefully be some cool stuff to see, and there would no running. It could not have come at a better time, as this was my excuse to not run for a couple of days.

If you live in London (heck even if you don't), I highly recommend taking a trip out to the countryside to recharge. I am not talking Lake District distances, we limit ourselves to a 2-hour driving/train radius. That puts you almost as far west as the Bournemouth, as far east as Kent, South to Brighton and North to most of Norfolk.

Some places that I have been and can recommend are provided below. Do not worry, there are plenty of other activities to do, you will not even miss your running shoes (ok well maybe a little bit)

Watch Your Step! Checking out Orford Ness in Suffolk
  • New Forest: A cyclists dream. Also a ton of walks. Ponies everywhere. Country pubs. 
  • Whitstable: Walks along the beach. Ice cream. A brewery
  • Hastings: Nice walks nearby and also very close to Bodiam Castle for all you castle nuts. Bring your camera!
  • "Isle of Thanet": It's pretty much the eastern most area of Kent. There is a 32 mile Viking Trail bike trail you can do. Include stops for ice cream. 
  • Suffolk: The one place in England where I have found butter tarts. Also, if you like your military history Orford Ness is amazing
  • Norfolk: More cycling here. Walks a plenty. We did the Great Eastern Pingo Trail, which was a wonderful walk to do on a winter's day. Thetford forest has a GoApe and of course you have The Broads
Wherever you go, bring a sense of adventure. There are so many amazing places in the UK to visit, some are literally at your doorstep!

I wish this was my doorstep.. Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Mind the Gap: Running the Circle Line

Having lived in London for a few years, it's always great to reground yourself in the City. To visually go through its many parts, finding new spots to check back at later, marvel at its beauty, and even get frustrated with it. This pretty much sums up my 15 mile run of the Circle Line.

This idea is not my own, it is the master child of Annie Ross, founder of eXerk, a London based 'challenge' where Annie did 52 adventures in 52 weeks last year. You can read up on her Circle Line adventures here. (so nice, she did it twice).

If you want the GPS route I took, you can download it here. I figured I would show off all my photos of the 27 stations and while doing so, provide useless pub trivia facts about each! Most are from Wikipedia with the quote from Great Portland Street from "London Underground Facts" by Stephen Halliday.

Tower Hill Station

This station sits atop the old Tower Hill Station, which closed in 1884.

Replaced the station called Mark Lane, which was a bit further west

Close to Tower of London and Tower Bridge, my favourite thing in London.

This station completed the "Circle Line" to be the 'circle' we know

Monument Station 

Linked to Bank Station, making it easily one of the most frustrating underground stations. In fact, the Bank/Monument station combo was voted the "Most Disliked" station in 2013!

It opened in 1884.

Originally called "Eastcheap" station

Cannon Street Station

The original structure opened in 1866, which looked a bit like what Charing Cross looks like. All that remains are the two red brick towers.

The name does not come from military cannons at all. The street was originally called 'Candelwrichstrete Street' (1190... NBD) and after several hundred years evolved into Cannon Street. 

Mansion House Station

Opened July 1871

Closest Circle Line tube to St. Pauls 

Blackfriar's Station

Technically across the street, but this pub is so fantastic it deserves a photo

The only station to have entrances on both sides of the Thames

The exit point for Fleet River into the Thames is on the north side under the Bridge 

Temple Station

Used to be called 'The Temple' but the article was dropped

There are little temples on the base of the columns in the station

Favourite station of Aussies due to its proximity to Walkabout

 Embankment Station

Closest to my favourite wine bar in the city, Gordon's

Opened in May 1870

At Embankment Gardens right next door you can see how far the river originally went to. The Embankment itself was created as a result of the new sever system being built to fight cholera. 

Westminster Station

One the of the first confusing tube stations for me. I also got pick-pocketed here once. 

Was one of the deepest excavations in London, going as far down as 39-meters. In doing so, they did some clever sh*t to protect Queen Elizabeth Tower. I suggest you read about it here. Its much easier than me trying to explain it!

Victoria Station

UK's second busiest terminus after Waterloo. Definitely has the most depressing coach station

Sloane Square

The river Westbourne can be seen going through the station in a large pipe suspended from girders. If you can't work around it....

Opened December 1868

In 1960,  Peter Llewelyn Davies, one of the inspirations for the male characters in Peter Pan, committed suicide here. 

 South Kensington 

Closest station to the Natural History, V&A, and Science Museum

Opened in 1868

The passageway the connects the station to the museum used to cost one penny to use. Who says we are spending more money nowadays?!

During WWI was used to store art from the V&A as well a china from Buckingham Palace.

Gloucester Road

Opened in 1868

Originally opened as 'Brompton Station', it was renamed in 1907.

The building for this and South Kensington was designed by Leslie Green, hence the same ox-blood red glazed terracotta on both.

High Street Kensington

Was getting sick of dodging Ferraris and Range Rovers

Wikipedia had nothing of interest really, so I will say there is quite a large Whole Foods nearby which has a Bone Daddies in it.

Notting Hill Gate Station

Opened in 1868

On the boundary of Zones 1 and 2

There used to be a "Notting Hill" Station, which caused some confusion, this was later changed to Ladbroke Grove.

Close to Portobello Road, meaning very close to Electric Cinema and Diner... highly recommend!

Bayswater Station

Closest station to London's only year round indoor ice rink

Opened in October 1868

Building this station resulted in the 'fake' houses on Leinster Gardens. They have facades looking like houses but in reality cover up the station/tracks. People who watch Sherlock may recall this plays a key scene in Series 3...

Paddington Station

Opened as Paddington (Bishops Road) in 1863.

Yes it's true Paddington Bear was named after the station.

Engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Yes the guy who built the Thames Tunnel in Rotherhithe and the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Part of the original Underground stations opened in 1863

Edgeware Road Station

Only 150 meters away from Paddington Station

Part of the worlds first underground railway when it opened in 1863

There is a separate station (also called Edgeware Road) that serves just the Bakerloo line. Oh, and then there is Edgeware which is the Northern Line. Brilliant work lads.

It was at this point I was getting tired.  Around 10.5 miles.

Baker Street Station

Served by 5 different lines, and like Edgeware Road one of the original stations opened in 1863.

Two bombs were discovered and diffused here in 1970. No one was injured.

Obviously close to 22 1/2 Baker Street

Close to one of my favourite green spaces in London- Regent's Park

Great Portland Street Station

Opened as part of the Original Underground in 1863 under the name 'Portland Road'

Marks the border between Marylebone and Fitzrovia

Before electrifying the lines, people complained about smoke in the tunnels. These people were assured by the Manager of the railway that the smoke was good, with GPS "being used as a sanatorium for for men who had been afflicted with asthma and bronchial complaints".

Euston Square Station

One station I did not know existed, I thought they meant Euston. Colour me embarrassed!

Opened in 1863 under the name "Gower Street" and changed to its present day title in 1909

Close to the Wellcome Collection, a free museum I highly recommend

Kings Cross Station

Definitely one of my favourite buildings architecturally

They thought about making an airport above Kings Cross Station

Opened in 1863

Biggest interchange on the London Underground, with 6 different lines on 4 tracks!

Farringdon Station

The terminus of the original London Underground opened in 1863

It was moved to its present location to help move animals on their way to nearby Smithfield Market

When it was moved it was originally renamed to Farringdon & High Holborn. You can still see this on the one side.

Seems like it will be a big deal when Crossrail is complete.


At this point I wanted out. 14 miles.

Opened in 1865

Originally called Aldersgate Street

Probably one of the bleakest looking entrances I saw that day

Moorgate Station

Opened in 1865

Site of the Moorgate London Tube Crash in 1975, the worst accident in the history of the London Underground during peacetime (43 people killed)

Does not look like this during the week

Liverpool Street Station

Another architectural gem

Opened in 1874 for the underground and was called Bishopsgate. Was renamed to its present name in 1909.

The train station itself was targeted during WWI and in one daylight raid 162 people were killed

3rd busiest railway station in the UK

Aldgate Station

Did not care as I just wanted the pain to stop.

Opened in 1876

There used to be a food truck which sold jellied eels near the station

DONE! Back at Tower Hill!

Total Distance: 15.75 miles (includes run from flat to start)

Total Time Running: 2 hours 28 minutes

Average Pace: 9:25/mi

How Did I Feel: Not so great. I was not even looking at my watch but something just switches off at mile 13 which makes my legs feel like lead

How Did I Recuperate: Coconut water + pomegranate juice... fantastic

How I Felt About the Route: I enjoyed it, but kept getting annoyed about passing all the green spots! Start early to avoid people

Well thats it folks! I leave you with my last view of the run. Will you be joining the CircleLineRunClub soon? :)