Canals and Cafes, Parks and (Very Nice) People

…. aka a very fine way to spend a sunny Saturday morning and early afternoon, as the photos attest.

Up early, Phil and I set off to walk to the Counter Cafe by way of Regents Canal and the Hertford Union Canal.

Acton's Lock No 7, Regents Canal
Acton’s Lock No 7, Regents Canal

A mite chilly to begin with, but once the sun built up a bit of oomph in the clear blue skies the day warmed up, and by the time we got to the Counter Cafe we opted to sit outside on their floating deck, admiring the reworking of the Olympic Stadium on the other side of the Lee Navigation. Yippee!

Russell and Arthur joined us, and we tucked into good coffee and even better breakfasts. Not the cheapest, but veeeery tasty.

Breakfasts at the Counter Cafe
Breakfasts at the Counter Cafe

A stroll around the recently opened Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park followed, in the company of Matt Sheret. Lots of wild flower planting and new trees surround the scaled back sports arenas, repurposed Olympic buildings and new Park accoutrements including a climbing wall, fountains and playground. It’s weird to see large new roads routing through the middle of spaces I last visited on foot during the Olympics – although that was almost 2 years ago. A nice (nostalgic? practical?) touch to name the new bus stops after nearby Olympic landmarks.

Commemorating the British Olympic Teams Medal Tally, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Commemorating the British Olympic Teams Medal Tally, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

With the lure of ‘tea’, Matt led the way out of the Park to The Hackney Pearl where another excellent Americano each ensued, accompanied by Blueberry Yoghurt Loaf (me) and Baked Cheesecake (Phil).

Coffees and cake, The Hackney Pearl
Coffees and cake at The Hackney Pearl

Going our separate ways, Phil and I headed home via Victoria Park – lovely on an early summer’s day, the big open spaces contrasting with the crowds at Broadway Market and London Fields – then returning to our eastern edge of The City by way of Columbia Road and the hipster backstreets of Shoreditch.

Pavement Poetry on the South Bank

I regularly walk along the South Bank in the early morning, jostling with the joggers training for the marathon and construction workers on their way to Sea Containers House.

As well as appreciating that sunrise seems to be getting earlier in giant strides at this time of year [early March, when I took the photos], I also spotted four paving slabs with poetry carved into them on the riverside walkway. Three are by the Royal Festival Hall, the fourth is the other side of Hungerford Bridge up towards the London Eye.

I’ve not been able to find anything out about their origins – given how cracked they are, I’d say they’ve been there for some time – so if you do know, please do leave a comment under one of my photos.

Here are the pavement poems:

Pavement poetry, South Bank: A Woman of Fashion 1777 - Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Must though in justice,
Declare that the grass,
Which worn by our feet,
Is diminish’d apace,
In a little time more will
Be brown and as flat
As the sand of Vauxhall,
Or as Ranelagh mat.

From A Woman of Fashion 1777
Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Pavement poetry, South Bank: Remembrance of Collins - William Wordsworth

Glide gently, thus forever glide,
O Thames! That other bards may see
As lovely visions by thy side
As now, fair river! Come to me.
O, glide, fair stream! Forever so
Thy quiet soul on all bestowing,
Till all our minds forever flow
As thy deep waters now are flowing.

William Wordsworth
Remembrance of Collins

Pavement poetry, South Bank: A London Fog 1822 - Henry Luttrell

First, at the dawn of lingering day,
It rises of an ashy grey;
Then deepening with a sordid stain
Of yellow, like a lion’s mane.

From A London Fog 1822
Letters to Julia
Henry Luttrell

Pavement poetry, South Bank: The Waste Land - T. S. Eliot

The river sweats
Oil and tar
The barges drift
With the turning tide
Red sails
To leeward, swing on the heavy spar.
The barges wash
Drifting logs
Down Greenwich reach
Past the Isle of Dogs.

From The Waste Land. T. S. Eliot.

02 April 2014 Update

A friend writes,

Mary, just saw your post on Sparkly about the poetry slabs on the South Bank. They have been there since the early 80’s and I think there used to be more. The GLC (where I worked in the early 80’s) put them up I think as a step towards brightening up the South Bank which was a bit down at heel then. I often used to see them but had not realised they had survived.

17 October 2014 Update

LM got in touch by email to say,

I just happened across your blog post from march this year about the poem paving slabs along the south bank. The reason I was searching information about them was because me and my mum were walking down there recently, we spotted them and she remembered that her dad had been a part of the team at the GLC who chose the poems in the 80’s. He loved poems and would recite these off by heart – it was a real passion of his. I would love to find out if someone has a comprehensive list of the original poems that were put there, but as the post mentions, that information may be lost.
I would also like to thank you as we had only found 3 of the paving slabs, so its lovely to find the missing one! The TS Eliot was one of granddad’s favourites I am told, and that’s the one that was missing. Thank you in advance for any help! It really is amazing who you can find on the internet.

18 February 2016 Update

J J Fielding contacted me on Twitter to let me know about this:

Sat 5 Mar 2016-Thu 28 Apr 2016
The Poetry Library

Accompany Poetry Librarian Chris McCabe as he leads a tour exploring the centuries of poetic activity in this area of London.

…. including these pavement poems!

Details and booking available on the South Bank Centre website.

Canal walks and the Counter Cafe

To make the most of our current phase of early bird waking up, Phil and I decided that Today Was A Day To Get Out and About and to walk some of the East End’s Canals.

Taking the number 8 bus from St Paul’s we headed east. Half an hour later, we alighted at Parnell Road/Old Ford Road, crossed the footbridge over the Blackwall Tunnel Approach road and on through the industrial estates of Fish Island – home to Percy Dalton’s Famous Peanut Company’s former factory and evangelical church hallls. Our destination, Roach Road and the lovely Counter Cafe.

Ensconced upstairs in splendid isolation we had a view out over the Lee Navigation, with narrowboats moored and joggers jogging on the far bank. Just the other side of the high wire fence that still surrounds the Olympic Park, diggers and construction vans whizzed hither and thither – although quite what they were doing was a mystery.

Turkish eggs, a full English and two cups of coffee later we headed back out, crossing the Hertford Union Canal where it meets the Lee just north of Old Ford Lock. Turning left, we walked the length of the towpath. Hackney’s Victoria Park is on your right for a chunk of the route, while on the other side of the canal, there are houses, factory-warehouses and, increasingly, des res apartment blocks.

Reaching the junction with Regent’s Canal, we decided against turning left (which would have taken us to Limehouse – we’re saving that route for a day when we can walk back along the northside of the Thames), and instead continued westerly until the towpath ran out at Islington Tunnel. So, after a mooch around Angel, we headed back home; the next stretch of the Regent’s Canal to be done another day.

09:55 Kensington Olympia to Moorgate

On 13 and 20 January 2013, London Underground are running heritage steam trains and carriages along sections of the Hammersmith & City / Metropolitan line.

Phil and I went to catch the first run as it passed through Barbican station en route to journey’s end at Moorgate.

The 09:55 Kensington Olympia to Moorgate was a steam-hauled staff-only service comprising newly restored ‘Metropolitan 1’, Metropolitan Railway ‘Jubilee’ carriage No. 353 (built 1892, restored) plus the Chesham set of coaches (on loan from the Bluebell Railway), with Metropolitan Railway electric locomotive No. 12 ‘Sarah Siddons’ bringing up the rear.

The train passed through Barbican underground station a few minutes earlier than the advertised time (10:29). Fortunately for those of us on platform 2, there was no westbound service in the station at the time.

09:55 Kensington Olympia to Moorgate (steam hauled - staff trip): Metropolitan Locomotive No. 1 draws into Barbican platform 1
Metropolitan Locomotive No. 1 passes alongside Barbican platform 1

A snippet of history, courtesy of the London Transport Museum’s coverage of the 150th Anniversary of the London Underground:

“On 9 January 1863 the world’s first underground train pulled out of Paddington station to make the first passenger journey – 3½-miles under the streets of London from Paddington to Farringdon and into the record books.”

Ian Visits has Best places to photograph London Underground’s heritage steam train trips.

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, with Rachel

Rachel treated me to Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, to celebrate my birthday in style (albeit 8 months after the event – it gets very booked up!).

We feasted, elegantly, on an array of very fine finger sandwiches, served on a three tier stand together with freshly baked scones with strawberry preserve and clotted Devonshire cream and a selection of afternoon tea cakes and pastries.

Loose leaf tea (we went for Darjeeling First Flush), and a glass of champagne to celebrate.

Plus a birthday cake, complete with candle and applause.


Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, with Rachel: sugar and tongs, clotted cream and strawberry jam
Sugar and tongs, clotted cream and strawberry jam