Monday, 29 July 2013

Up the Shard and down to Borough Market

St Dunstan in East green space - on the left - you can just spy the tower

Railway intersections and mini trains racing back and forth

No 1 Poultry with Bloomberg HQ site with cranes

Last Friday was great fun!  I received as a gift a trip to enjoy the view from the Shard. I would never have paid to go, so this was a real treat.

Booked for 14.00 arrived early and was allowed through security, then had my photograph taken, which you can purchase on your way out if you like it, I did'nt bother.

The journey up the first part is under a minute and I just loved the LCD displays on the roof of the lift, many famous ceilings of royal palaces and churches. It was soft and speedy with only a minimal of ear popping. Staff courteous and helpful. Then guided in to the second lift to take us up to the viewing platforms, again kaliedescopic LCD action of leaves and clouds. Really loved that.

Barbican Towers : Cromwell, Lauderdale & Shakespeare

I had chosen a lovely sunny day with only a little cloud, I entered the first viewing area hearing people muttering landmarks and kids shouting that they could not see them. All in all a bit hectic, but it is the start of the school holidays and most people and kids were happy to make a place for you against the glass.

Whoosh and a whoop of delight, a window cleaner abseiled passed us so fast we were'nt sure what we had seen!  All looked down in amazement, I'm sure he is hired just to do that all day, but it is thrilling and wondered if I could get a piggy back to the bar round the other side?

Had a picture taken with St Paul's in the background. Also managed to spot the green oasis of St Dunstan in the East behind Billingsgate. You really can see how curvy the River Thames is from this height, surprisingly so, even if we do know the outline from logos and such. There were a lot of clever folk up there that day who knew boroughs and buildings beyond, below and all points of the compass. I stuck with the City highlights and the London Eye.  Enjoyed watching the trains coming and going from Cannon Street and moving like little bright worms along the tracks.

Did not stay long, but had hoped you could access a bar or restaurant, but no, you have go all the way down again. Then you have to go round and down to station level to get to the entrance, lost the will and decided to go and check out Borough Market instead.

You meet the aromas before you even get there, all that roasting and cooking going on. Would have loved a Bratwurst with Sauerkraut but the only took cash, I'm a bit like royalty now, don't carry (have) cash!  Explored the ready meals stalls and this reminded me again of this is how people have eaten for thousands of years. Admired the mussels being shucked, gazed in awe at the fish display and just loved the artistic layout of the vegetables. Tasted cheese from France, then on to mozarella and parma ham, and salami, tiny scraps of deliciousness.

Ended up having a large spritzer and salted almonds at a restaurant I cannot remember the name of but did make a note of several other eateries that I want to visit very soon, especially one serving fish and chips, plus an oyster bar.

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Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Spectacular - Cart Marking Ceremony - Wednesday 17th July - 10am

A wonderful parade of vehicles, enjoyed it all very much even though it just got hotter and hotter!

See the Album of the parade here:

London Taxi Cab 1938
London Taxi Cab 1938 (Photo credit: IanVisits)

The City of London is well known for its ceremonial processions and quaint traditions, but the cart marking ceremony is one of the most spectacular.

The Worshipful Company of Carmen gather once a year to furnish the vehicles presented with a new 'carr number', to be branded, or marked, with a red-hot iron, on a wooden plate, with the year letter and the number, as a reminder of centuries of service to the City and to maintain their ancient tradition. All manner of vehicles will be present.

The Guild of Carmen have been in exisitence since 1277. As time went by cartage was getting expensive and sewage (particularly) was uncollected due to high fees and the City needed the assistance of the carmen so. Interesting how a 'great stink' mobilises folk.

An agreement was reached between the company of carters and the City granted licence (1577) to each cart for  a reasonable price to be maintained for work within the City. The carters were also provided with stands or 'carrooms' - read taxi ranks or similar - where they could ply their trade.  The carters of wood were also granted licences.

As with all things regulated the carmen fell out with City and sought the protection (in return for donations of fees) of Christ's Hospital, who arranged for a charter to be granted on several occasions to circumvent restrictions imposed by the Common Council. Eventually it was agreed that all licensed vehicles should be marked with City's arms on the shafts and numbered on a brass plate.

Thus the Hallkeepr of the Worshipful Company of Carmen is empowered to license and mark carrs and carts to stand and ply for hire in the City's streets. The owner must be a freeman of the City and member of the Fellowship of Carmen and each vehicle to be brought to the Guildhall once a year to be marked.

The ceremony continues and we will witness the 'marking of carrs' on Wednesday, there will be a number of vehicles of all types and eras, and there is one 'standing' left in the City which is specified each year by the Carmen and police.

To coincide with the ceremony there will be a tour of the Great Hall of the Guildhall and a visit to the Guildhall Gallery, including the Roman Amphitheatre at 1pm. Bookings accepted below.
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Friday, 12 July 2013

'Walbrook where art thou?' Evening Walks August/September

Walbrook where art thou?
Meet at Moorgate Underground Station (Brittanic House exit)
Ends: Millienium Bridge (this may vary)
Duration: 1.5 hours
In search of the one of the lost rivers of London. Learn how the Roman's adapted it. How it's course dictated the footprint of the streets we walk today. Why three livery companies shared its banks? Discover the harbour and enjoy the finds of the archaeological dig at Bucklersbury.
Walbrook springs eternal ...
Photo: Steve Duncan

Locate the end of it's journey to the Thames and decide for yourself whether it is lost or just hiding.  Bookings can be made through

Evening Walk Dates

Thursday, 15th August  -

Thursday, 5th September -

Monday, 8 July 2013

Gardening in the Square Mile

Guildhall Library Talk 4th July 2013

I attended an excellent talk by Louisa Allen the Manager of the Corporation of Londons parks and spaces. Louisa and her team of 27 gardeners have to deal with a huge remit.  Not only are they responsible for the 200 green areas in the Square Mile but they also take care of Bunhill Fields (Islington)  which is just outside boundary of the City walls.

The area they manage consists of 47 gardens, 43 churchyards and 110 Beds it amounts to some 20 hectares and includes the Barbican.

Mostly deemed to be Pocket Parks the logistics of gardening within them is challenging, small areas in a busy city which has 3 million tourists per annum, plus some 8000 residents and 300,000 workers coming into the area each day is no easy task.

The areas for which the City of London is also responsible includes Epping Forest, Burnham Beeches, Hampstead Heath and Manor Park Cemetary all funded by City Cash this is money gained through interest on investments of over 800 years!  The City fund, as it is called is, money raised by poll tax and business tax and this is used to pay for the green areas within the Square Mile.

English: Greenery in the City. Not a person in...
Finsbury Circus - pre Crossrail
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The gardeners are all qualified through the RHS or with NVQs and have to be trained in all manner of things, not only Health & Safety, but also using heavy goods vehicles, cranes, site management in awkward places as well as grounds maintenance. Plus as unofficial tourist information!  They also have to deal with anti- social behaviour and the Homeless (assisting where they can by alterting the social services).

Special project work is usually achieved by applying for external funding and Section 106 important to improve local schemes whereby developers are obligated to improve the landscaping and pedestrian areas around their new buildings/schemes. For example when Crossrail have completed their work at Finsbury Circus they will restore the garden. Also Network Rail have improved the Thames Path link to Embankment as part of the Blackfriars Bridge redevelopment.

Recent projects completed include :
Queens Diamond jubilee Garden formerly known as Coach Park
o   895 tons of soil brought in
o   828 buxus
o   New type of grass - hardier

Funded by Section 106 by New Change development

Also the new installation by Konstantin Dimpoulos Blue Trees in celebration of 20 years of the Trees for Cities organisation.

St Pancras Church site-  Pancras Lane off Queen Street
A beautiful design by Studio Weave which includes pew benches decorated in Romanesque church carvings, sad site a year or two ago, now a very special secluded spot for people to enjoy.

Tree planting - green corridors. Did you know it costs £400 to dig a trial pit for a tree, this is to ensure that no vital services are hit, some lie very close to surface. The trees selected are Liquidambar orientalis (north side) and Alnus x spatheii (south side), chosen as one prefers the sunny side of the street and the other shade. The City is moving away from Plain trees as there is a disease currently rife among them causing them to die off. The new plan is to plant new types of trees to increase the variety, so not all is lost when disease hits.

Cheapside towards Bank

Blackfriars pub garden has also recently been renovated as it was looking rather tired and in need of restoration.

Bio diversity is also high on the list and Tower Hill gardens and playground have ensured safety for children from pollution high hedges, and habitat birds and bats. The City has moved away from
traditional schemes (renovation of Christchurch Greyfriars Rose Garden) to more sustainable planting.

You may have noticed that at Bunhill Fields the grass has been left to grow higher but dont think it is being neglected, it will still receive a trim now and again. A so public aware not left to its own devices. A new woodland meadow has also been planted.
 - ponds have to be cleaned out by hand

Volunteers are welcome and  the community is also involved, including the corporate side, banks and businesses often create teams to assist the gardeners on a volunteer and team building basis.  Schools and special groups are also invited to take part. Last year just under 2000 hours of labour was given free for which the department is grateful.

Also watering is kept to a minimum by using irrigation systems.

There is a considerable amount of bee keeping too, on the roofs of the city, in fact there are now too many bees! They need an acre in which to roam, they are thriving but as there are no records of hives it is difficult to manage and control.

The talk was followed by a presentation and exhibition of photographs by Niki Gorick who has been following the gardening team over the last couple of years.

All the photographs are candid not posed, in black and white. It is a fascinating insight into the logistics and challenging work they do. The photographs also show the scale of some the work undertaken. Highly recommend her book Where Soil meets City The Gardeners Who Transform The Square Mile available from the Guildhall Library or on online.

The next City gardens walk by Miss B takes place on 21st July - book in below:

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Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Feasting & Fasting launched and the week to come ....

Medieval oven 1370-1400
Medieval oven 1370-1400 (Photo credit: Vrangtante Brun)
The Feast & Fasting walk was launched in glorious sunshine, with a small group of very keen walkers, plus a fellow guide, always a bit daunting!

In theory the subject of the walk is a great idea, but I realised midway last week that I may have bitten off more than I could chew (excuse the pun, they may be a few more)! It's a huge subject and each item on  the 'shopping' list of subjects could become a walk of its own, sugar certainly, and milk, and the story of  bread and so on. Then to weave the story through the timeline to make sense to the listener; plus the vocabulary as it changed through time proved to be very intereseting too, as did the origins of sayings, like 'a baker's dozen'. Good grounds for discussion and kept everyone as keen as mustard.

Also describing the Humoural dietic theories in such a way that people would understand what I was going on about, and the importance to the culinary art of the period.  In the end I surcumbed to reading some of the examples from a card, as I fell at the first 'degree', nevermind the 'second and third'! Here is an example:

VI. Cabbage (Caules Onati)
Nature: Warm in the first degree, dry in the second.
Optimum: The fresh and fleshy ones.
Usefulness: They remove obstructions.
Dangers: They are bad for the intestines.
Neutralization of the Dangers: With much oil.

There are huge books dictating what was good or bad for your health from the kitchen, some of these old ideas are still with us today, passed down through generations, never quite knowing the reasons behind for it.

View the entire Tacuinum Sanitatis here   Warning: you can spend a lot of time looking through these beautiful medieval drawings.

The walk was long and it needs cropping, but we all enjoyed ourselves and the use of 'quote card' (against my own City of London Guide principles) was a great help to conjour up the details of feasts, quantities and statistics which I would never have remembered in 2000 years!

We were certainly hungry by the end of the walk and repaired to a local hostelry for roast beef and ale to discuss the merits of the walk and many other things.

Like a good stew, wine or ale, this walk can only get better with slow cooking, fermenting and gentle brewing - the ingredients are right, just needs cooking a tad longer.

The next walk take place on the 27th July, booking now

Now for a change of scenery, this Sunday I will be take you for a walk to, through, around and by the beautiful gardens and green spots of the City of London. A botanical feast for the eye this time. 

Christchurch Greyfriars

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