Wednesday : Walking with Des to see Some Oligarchs…..

There’s been a lot of public transport this week, this is just a short bus journey into Heathrow T3 that was free until last year and the annoying end to the free transport zone. Unfortunately, despite it being a short walk, the Heathrow authorities have shut the pedestrian and cyclist tunnel so people have to pay to be dropped off and have to pay to use public transport. They’ve been lucky to get away with that as there’s no need to limit pedestrians and cyclists, not just passengers, but also staff members.

The highlight of my day was Des leading us on a walk around London, focusing on the oligarchs of London, with some palaces and parks to add to the mix. When I arrived, expecting a seven mile walk, Des (who is one of the best walk leaders I know) admitted it might be a little more. Using my experience at knowing when someone secretly knows it’s ten, I ignored Des suggesting it might be nine miles. I knew it would be ten miles….. It was also a well attended walk, there must have been fifty people at the start, not that this phased Des. I have to add that Des offers excellent tips on local facilities, I never knew about the M&S toilets at High Street Kensington underground station and by chance that’s where I met him (not by prior arrangement).

I think this is wisteria, but I’m not a gardener. We then walked down Kensington Palace Gardens, with more information about the history of this street at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kensington_Palace_Gardens, also known as Billionaires Row. Photos are in theory banned (although I’m not sure that’s really ever enforced), so I won’t put the ones I took on here, but it’s notable for this walk for being where Roman Abramovich has one of his properties. I was at the back of the group gossiping about something so didn’t get to spend much time looking at the mansion, as someone came out and warned us (or the people at the front of the group) to move away. The street itself is very sensitive due to the number of embassies located down it, but pedestrians aren’t usually stopped and the police didn’t interfere with Des, although I’m not sure that I’d dare stop him either. I wouldn’t advise driving down here though, although I doubt anyone would get far given the armed police officers at either end.

This building has been subject to a series of attacks over recent weeks and they’ve now fenced a section off and provided a permanent police presence.

For anyone who hasn’t guessed, it’s the Russian Embassy.

I haven’t seen this before, it’s Brompton Road underground station, in use between 1906 and 1934. It’s relevant to this walk because it’s owned by Dmytro Firtash, who paid £53 million for the property in 2013. Nothing has been done internally since the purchase, so this is yet another building sitting unused in the centre of the city.

Relevant to the palaces part of the walk, this sign is self-explanatory, marking the location on Cheyne Walk where one of King Henry VIII’s houses once stood.

This is the property on Belgrave Square owned by Oleg Deripaska that was squatted in a few weeks ago (although he issued a statement saying this was a disgraceful allegation, this £50 million mansion was owned by other members of his family) who is now subject to sanctions following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As can be seen, it’s all securely barricaded up now and I imagine the police would have been here quickly if we had lingered for long.

The end of the walk at Victoria Underground station, and we had walked ten miles. I didn’t say anything. Because, it was time to pop to the pub, with Des choosing the Cask & Glass and I was very pleased he checked that this was acceptable to me. I can be a little picky….

Not our group, but this is how busy the pub was by the time we left. We were fortunate to have been able to get a table inside, they were hard to come by and the pub is claimed by some to be the smallest in London. Formerly known as the Duke of Cambridge in 1962, it once only sold beer in half pints, which is very apt as that’s how I usually drink it. The service was more efficient than personal, but the pub was busy and I imagine the staff were just trying to be quick as possible to get customers away from the small bar. The beers were unexceptional but well-kept, with a couple of Shepherd Neame cask and keg options which were perfectly satisfactory to mark our bravery on the long walk. I’d have to add that the company on the walk was marvellous, some really interesting people came along (and to the pub), so everything seemed to go quickly, despite the extra distance that I didn’t mention…..

Well, that’s not ideal. They’ve fenced off the area under the sign, although it was probably easier to get someone up a ladder to fix it. But these things are no doubt quite complex to arrange in the modern world.

I got the bus to Paddington railway station, before getting the Crossrail train over to Hayes & Harlington railway station.

And a quick stop in the Botwell Inn with their keenly priced food.

And then a bus back to the hotel, excited as I was travelling overseas once again the next day from Heathrow T3, my favourite terminal.