Gardens in the City – Healthy Ride Report
Bruce Lynn | On July 17, 2017
Detailed report below from Ride Leader Werner on a successful “+” ride on July 15th 2017. Werner has included quite a bit of detail as riders were interested to learn about the gardens and related sites visited.
A long and hard ride may not be welcome on the Saturday after the Dunwich Dynamo so the topic of today’s shortish +-ride was a tour of parks, gardens and cemeteries in the City which may easily get overlooked or missed but are wonderful places to enjoy when being in the area and having a bit of spare time. So a kind of tasting menu suggesting locations for riders to try and maybe enjoy fully at some other time.
Some forecast had threatened rain but 23 of us (another one joined a bit later) set off from Canada Water in dry conditions with a hint of sunshine. Later there was a vague feeling of moisture in the air but nothing getting close to annoying and it would be hypocritical to visit gardens and not allow them a bit of water.
Of course, as it was advertised as a City Gardens tour we started with ones in Southwark. The Brunel Museum’s garden on top of the shaft is not that visible from a bike but the beautifully restored Red Cross Garden in Redcross Way is more obvious. We didn’t have to rely on a quick look to get a positive impression, a lady passing saw us and mentioned that she is one of the lucky residents of the almshouses built by Octavia Hill.
Then over Southwark Bridge into the city proper, onto the cycle superhighway and into Temple Avenue, a turn which can be a challenge at weekday peak times when you cross the continuous stream of cyclists along the embankment. Inner Temple Gardens always looks gorgeous although we missed one species today, the pin-striped, gowned and wigged lawyer.
A slow exit through the secret door from Middle Temple Lane into Fleet Street and almost immediately out again via Bolt Court riding over a plaque commemorating The Sun’s existence in Fleet Street. Surprising that the plaque shows a headline “King Elvis Dead”, not everybody is convinced but it was actually true. Talking of hacks, it always puts a smile on people’s face when they pass the statue of Hodge, Dr Johnson’s “domestick animal that catches mice, commonly reckoned by naturalists the lowest order of the leonine species”. Let’s hope he didn’t turn in his grave when he heard the Living Wall in New Street Square called a “garden”; it’s not a “piece of ground” but vertical although it may be considered “particularly delightful” and thus meet the second definition in his dictionary.
A loop around the nice garden in Charterhouse Square with its 14th century plague pit underneath and appreciation by the riders of the garden but less for the grade-II listed and unmissable feature in the square, the “extremely rare survival of a mid-Victorian road surface in a London square”. Nobody asked for a refund despite the two deceptions (the square is not in the city and it’s not a square) so we continued around the section unsuitable for vegetarians and looked towards the Smithfield Rotunda instead, a space the City has improved.
Cutting through the fringes of St Bart’s to avoid the A40 into Postman’s Park next to the former location of the GPO (obviously) for the first walking stage. Not because of gradients but because the sign said so. Visiting the Watts’s Memorial of Heroic Self Sacrifice on a bike ride may not have been a brilliant idea, the risk assessment for the ride didn’t cover the “if I throw myself in front of a bus to save the other riders I may get one of these lovely tiles” scenario aired by at least one rider.
Past some Roman remains in Noble Street and via Wood Street to cross London Wall for a lap around the garden in Monkwell Square and a view of Barber-Surgeon’s Hall. A Saturday, so no special “pay to have a tooth removed and get a free haircut” offers.
A bit of Quietway 11 and a moment of confusion which way the coffee was but after that had been resolved only Fortune Street Park stood between us and Look Mum No Hands, today’s main attraction for several riders.
Refreshed and caffeinated we left Old Street for a quieter St Luke’s Garden and a resting place, the statistically significant Bunhill Fields. As an early cemetery favoured by noncomformists it has some famous graves, among them Thomas Bayes and Daniel Defoe. Fortunately nobody started to sing “And did those wheels in ancient times …” (William Blake, who wrote Jerusalem, is buried in Bunhill Fields), so we got back on our Chariots of Fire
CS1 didn’t impress us (even the initial CS7 had a lot of money spent on some blue paint), missed a view of one of the City’s bowling greens as Crossrail has taken over Finsbury Circle and meandered to St Mary Aldermanbury Garden, where two of Shakespeare’s fellow actors are remembered. John Hemmings and Henry Condell were crucial to get the First Folio’s printed. They were buried in the church although the remains of the church (rebuilt by Wren after the Great Fire and hit by bombs in the Blitz) emigrated to Fulton, Missouri in 1966 were they serve as a Churchill memorial.
Two options to get back to the river from the Guildhall; the chance to make a joke by going through the adjacent Russia Row and Trump Street lost against two more gardens (Cannon St Gardens and Festival Gardens) and ancient Watling St. Quiet and hardly known crossings took us over Cannon St and Queen Victoria St and back to the Embankment and the cycle superhighway, which we followed with a brief detour via College St and Whittington Gardens, up to Tower Hill and Trinity Square Gardens.
St Olave’s Church (Pepys’s church and Dickens’s St Ghastly Grim) was a nice excuse to tunnel through the unexpected and always surprising St Katharine’s Row to Fenchurch St. Via the Monument onto London Bridge and the usual route along the river with a second opportunity to enjoy a resurfaced Chambers St.
Going past the Brunel shaft tied it all (almost) together, Isambard Kingdom Brunel married the daughter of the Charterhouse organist. The Pilgrims’ Progress (John Bunyan is also buried in Bunhill Fields) ended a few minutes too early but no complaints about not getting the full value of time and distance.
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