Monday : Royal Air Force Church, the Regent Canal and Goodbye to Bev and Steve

After a night in the quiet, but not entirely clean, YHA at Earl’s Court, it was time to return to see the delightful Bev and Steve in the city centre. The sky was noticeably less blue than it had been on the previous couple of days, but it wasn’t raining.

The quiet looking underground station of Earl’s Court on a Monday morning, although the trains were packed going into the city centre. The days of getting a seat on rush hour trains into the city centre are probably now at an end again.

I took the opportunity to pop into St Clement Danes Church on the Strand, which I’ve walked by on many occasions but never managed to go in. It was consecrated in 1958 to make it the official Royal Air Force church which acts as a permanent commemoration of members of the RAF who have died in service. It is also known for being the church mentioned in the nursery rhyme, namely:

“Oranges and lemons

Say the bells of St. Clements”

It’s a spacious church and there were no other visitors when I was there, but the organist came along to practice which added some extra atmosphere to the whole arrangement. There are 150,000 names in the various Books of Remembrance which are located in cabinets around the church, a reminder of the sacrifice made by so many people.

The building is Grade I listed and has been here since the medieval period in some form, but it was mostly destroyed during the Great Fire of London and was rebuilt under the supervision of Christopher Wren. Some of the west tower had survived and that was incorporated into the building, which had the spire added in 1719. It was badly damaged during the Second World War and left in ruins before it was repaired and restored in the 1950s by WAS Lloyd.

There’s a little museum of RAF related items at the rear of the church.

After a little sit down in Pret to catch up on work, I then walked for 45 minutes to meet up with Bev and Steve at the Three Johns pub in Islington. It’s a grand interior and they’ve apparently just refurbished upstairs, with the environment being comfortable and the staff member friendly. The beer selection wasn’t ideally curated, a strong focus on IPAs and no dark options at all, but it’s better than the average pub. I was tempted by a pizza and would have probably had one if the beer choice had been a little more decadent.

The Two Tribes from Dream Factory which was an entirely acceptable keg beer, but nothing with any particular resonance for me.

We didn’t go in here as we’d just left a pub and needed to start walking, but it looked an interesting one and I liked the history board on the side of the building. It’s now a Nicholson’s pub and until 1838 this was the site of a private residence which had fields to the back of it. It was rebuilt and opened as the York Hotel in 1851 and has been trading since. The pub is also located opposite the Royal Agricultural Hall, which is where the first Crufts dog show was held, modernised and now called the Business Design Centre.

With that we dropped down onto the canal path.

The Regent Canal was constructed between 1812 and 1816, cutting across the north of London and allowing cargo to be transported to the Thames.

There are plenty of quirky items along the route of the canal, including this rather pretty fish.

The entire canal is accessible and the locks are all in working order. It all looked a bit mechanical and like heavy engineering to me, but I’m always intrigued when people are using them.

A waterways holiday, although probably not along the Thames, has appealed to me, but it’s an expensive way to spend the week and I’d need someone good at engineering to assist me. I’ll have to take my friend Liam, he’d be able to manage the locks whilst I supervise the arrangements from the control room on the boat.

Bev thought this looked like someone she knew. I didn’t say anything.

Plodding along, Bev taking photos and proudly telling us that she had a phone connection.

The gas terminals at King’s Cross have been turned into residential properties at Gasholder Park, and they’re incredible structures which are just ready to be transformed into something else. Personally, I think the decision to remove the Victorian one in Norwich was a mistake, but I expect the city council wanted another car park.

The dating app for sporting or ugly people, depending on which version you choose to read.

I hadn’t realised that Victoria Park even existed, which is quite an omission now that I’ve discovered how important it is. But, every day is a learning day and all that. It was opened in 1845 and is the most visited green space in London, with nearly ten million visits every year.

The Dogs of Alcibiades (well, one of them in this photo) which have been guarding the Bonner Gate entrance to the park since 1912, although they’ve recently been repaired and restored since their snouts fell off.

Art. I have no idea what to comment beyond that.

Votes for women. We walked for around five miles or so (Bev and Steve walked further) and the canal is simply a well used resource and that’s marvellous to see. Not just the waterway itself, although that was a busy community of its own with permanent residents and visitors to the area using the moorings. But also the commuters getting to and from work, the children coming back from school, the walkers, the runners and locals all using the towpath. It meant that the canal felt safe and there was an energetic feel to it, as well as it being an interesting walk through an old part of London.

We agreed that if Bev got a boat, it’d be like this one. Resilient, can repel attacks and would be useful to barge anything else out of the way.

We debated that some of the properties were built near to the water line, but then again, we realised that they couldn’t really flood as the water would just cascade down the locks. It’d be an interesting place to live, there’s always some activity going on along the river.

The chimney in the background is a ventilation shaft for a sewer which is running underneath.

And into Limehouse Basin, with that bridge carrying the DLR line into Bank and Tower Gateway. This dock was used until the Second World War, but it became redundant in the decades after that and was then turned into a posh marina.

To celebrate the completion of our fourth walk of the weekend, we went to the Craft Beer Co at Limehouse, a pub that I’ve been to before and enjoyed. Steve took some time working out how to get in, but we managed to gain entry in the end, timing it just right so that we entered just as the pub opened for business.

The staff member was resolving some dispense issues, but the welcome was friendly and engaging. The sausage and mustard crisps were delicious, made by the Two Farmers company. I’ve just realised that I’ve put my beers onto the wrong Craft Beer Co in London, so that’s annoyed me as I like things to be vaguely accurate. Anyway, I had the Letter 23 from Pomona Island and the Upside Down from Yonder Brewing, both excellent sours. There was a decadent stout on that looked very exciting, but it was £8 for a third and I thought that could wait for another time.

And then they were off on the DLR, the end of their weekend adventure. I’m pleased to report that Steve and Bev both got back to Norwich safely a few hours later, with Bev being delighted that she had phone signal and Steve and I relieved to hear the end of it.

My adventure, which sometimes feels permanent, involved getting an underground train to Hangar Lane.

And then a lovely walk along the side of the road, which I think is the North Circular, to get to Travelodge.

I’m not entirely sure what Travelodge were expecting me to be doing in this hotel room, but it was spacious and clean. It backed onto the lifts which I thought might be annoying, but it didn’t transpire to be a problem. This hotel seems to be used nearly entirely by tradespeople, travelling reps and the like, there was no evidence of any tourists to the city although it is quite a way out. It’s a large hotel and although it was cheap for the night of my stay (which is why I was there) the mid-week prices can be relatively expensive.

The member at reception was keen to assist when I asked for extra milks and decaff coffees, so that was handy.

It’s always a little sad to see everyone depart after a successful group trip, but we all agreed that Zizzisgateweekend as we called it was a great success and we all had a marvellous time. Steve did very well with his organising and I look forwards to the next little gathering of this type.