London Surprises

Surprise #1 - sunshine, warmth and a host of golden daffodils at the Tower of London

We've just got back from a few days 'in the big smoke' celebrating those special days I mentioned in I Love March.

We'd organised plenty of eye popping activities such as celebratory feasting, seeing War Horse at the theatre, Gravity at the IMAX and exploring Tower Bridge. The burst of good weather meant we ate outdoors on our wedding anniversary - quite a contrast to the hot water bottles we found in the vintage transport on our wedding day.

We confined ourselves mainly to a broad area around our hotel and so found plenty to surprise us as well as our anticipated treats. The riches of Spitalfields and the areas around Liverpool Street* and Aldgate stations were three such discoveries, though blog exploration of these is more suited to Sign of the Times.

* = which also had resonance for our celebrations as we departed from there on the boat train to Harwich for our honeymoon.

Surprise #2 - Christ Church Greyfriars - a rose garden in the heart of The City

A few discoveries stand out from a garden blogging perspective - a couple of tiny gardens and a pop-up one to contrast with our walk through Hyde Park on the way back to Paddington station and home.

Wren's church remains - now Grade I Listed
& host to residents plus a dental practice
The area around St Paul's cathedral was devastated in the Blitz of 1940. Consequently, it's been the scene of much development with the high-rise buildings of many finance companies arising phoenix-like to engulf the cathedral once more.

The offices of Merrill Lynch along Newgate Street mask a hidden gem. The remains of one of Wren's bombed-out churches - Christ Church Greyfriars - was left and the original footprint of the building used subsequently as the layout for a rose garden. The huge pillars in the photo mark the location of those originally in the church and play host to roses, clematis and secreted bird boxes.

Our visit marked the promise of all this to come, but the emerging fresh growth and bare soil was still a welcome contrast to the surrounding concrete and bustle. The planting was revamped in 2011, with the garden receiving bronze (2012) and silver (2013) awards in the Small Public Square category of the London Garden Squares Competition. Here's to gold in 2014.

Surprise #3 - The quirkiness that is Postman's Park

A stone's throw away from Christ Church Greyfriars is Postman's Park. Again it's surrounded by offices as denotes our presence in The City, but again it provides an oasis of calm. Planting such as tree ferns - seen in the distance in the above photo - plus a banana visually demonstrate London's heat island effect.

This garden is hidden away but we had a map to find it - well, 2 actually as it appears on both of the  architecture and film location self-guided walks available. The park's name originates from its usage by the staff working at the old central general post office (GPO) nearby.

There's also a link with surprise #2 as the graveyard of Christ Church Greyfriars was relocated to St Botolph's Aldersgate - which forms a boundary helping to hide away the Park - after the Park opened in 1880.

My abiding memory of the 2004 film Closer is a rather quirky loggia decorated with tiles and it turns out that Postmark's Park was the location used. The loggia dates from 1899 [1900 in the online references seen - Ed] and shelters G F Watts's Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice.

Each decorated tile in the memorial describes the untimely, yet brave deaths of those who died whilst saving others. It's all rather theatrical and in a style evocative of the music hall that only the late Victorians/ Edwardians could muster.

The memorial  is Grade II listed - as a curiosity rather than of architectural merit

The memorial is incomplete and that's because G F Watts died in 1904 and his wife lost interest in completing the task. It means that most of the commemorations date from the late 1800s and early 1900s. There is just one exception - dated 2007 - and it transpires that the Diocese of London is again considering incidents worthy of marking in this way.

Surprise #4 - the Georgeobelisk, a pop-up park at the British Library
It seems I'm destined to find pop-up parks whilst I'm on holiday. Unlike Dublin's Granby Park, which I loved, I felt more ho-hum about the Georgeobelisk. Perhaps it was because we made the discovery at the end of a very tiring day, when the weather had turned dull and cold; or maybe it was because we discovered it on its penultimate day, when it was feeling a bit tired. Who knows?

The Georgeobelisk was designed to complement the library's Georgians Revealed: Life, Style and the Making of Modern Britain exhibition. It was playful and kitsch, but I found it hard to warm to the idea. If we'd had time to see the exhibition and the context in which the design was made, I might have changed my mind.

However, despite being Mrs Grumpy, I did enjoy this piece of whimsy inside the Georgeobelisk

Despite that one blip of an afternoon, we were blessed with warm spring sunshine during the rest of our stay in London. So what better way to round things off than to take the Tube to Green Park, then stroll through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens for a couple of hours before catching the train home from Paddington station?

Our final discovery - the restored 'The Arch' by Henry Moore in Kensington Gardens


  1. The weather was glorious the past few days, the timing was perfect especially for the both of you. Great to hear you guys had a fabulous time! Happy Anniversary to the both of you :)

  2. Hear, hear. it was just amazing in London this weekend. My goddaughter got married - who'd have thought it, sunshine on the Idea of March, flowers galore, no coats!

  3. An enjoyable post, interesting photos and informative links. Flighty xx

  4. What a lovely trip, and Happy Anniversary. We've got the Watts gallery down in our neck of the woods - must add to my education with a visit to the Park.

  5. Sounds as if you really enjoyed the celebrations VP and the sunshine must have been the icing on the cake. If my memory serves me right wasn't it one of those anniversaries ending in an 0? Stumbling on peaceful tiny gardens in the middle of cities is always quite special.

  6. PS I must still be half asleep as I forgot to wish you and NAH a most Happy Anniversary and many more to come! xxx

  7. Wonderful, it sounds like you had an amazing time. I like to find the parks and green oases when I visit a city too. Wishing you both a very happy anniversary. CJ xx

  8. I've seen the Georgeobelisk twice now, and the 'accompanying' exhibition. But the connection between the two has passed me by completely. I think what really jars are the waving grasses. Could someone explain how these are related to the Georgian period? I kept feeling there was something I was missing. Perhaps it was just too clever by half.

  9. Hi everyone - thanks for your good wishes :-)


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