Explore London 2 – February to May 2023

By | May 29, 2023

A recap of visits made from February to April, followed by a larger report on May’s ‘Westminster Wander’. Thanks to Maggie Reeve for the photos.

February – Apsley House and Wellington Arch

On a chilly and rainy day in February London Explorers Group 2 visited Apsley House and Wellington Arch, which is very handy from the 702 bus stop at Hyde Park – a good plan in the bad weather. Our guide in Apsley House was extremely knowledgeable and was enthusiastic about the very many paintings and furniture in the house.

We then moved across the road to Wellington Arch, where the guide was humorous and luckily for us, spoke loudly enough above the roar of the traffic below. The views from the Arch are very different, as you can look towards Buckingham Palace –although of course it is well screened with the trees.

March – Sky Gardens and the Bank of England Museum

In March the London Explorers Group 2 visited two very different aspects of the City – the new and the very historic. Firstly we visited Sky Gardens on Fenchurch Street, with far reaching views over the city, river and into the distance – on a good day you can see the Wembley Arch to the west and past Canary Wharf to the east.

Some of the group weren’t sure about the height, but all were amazed by how much you can see. Lunch up on the 35th floor, is not to be missed!

We then went on to our visit at the Bank of England Museum, which was far more interesting than we’d all anticipated. The guide was informative and despite the opportunity to steal a gold bar, we all found it just isn’t possible! This area of London is again very historic with nearby Leadenhall Market being redeveloped, but still so much to see on the walk to/from Liverpool Street Station – the opening of the Elizabeth Line has made this area of London much easier to visit.

April – St. James area

In April London Explorers Group 2 made two visits to the St James’ area of London, as it proved a popular choice for many of the group – far too many to manage on one walk! This is a small but very interesting area of London, packed with history it seems on every street, corner and square. The walk passed by London’s smallest public square, which used to be where duels were held and nearby is London’s oldest wine importer…. not sure if the two are related in any way. We could also make purchases from London’s oldest cheese shop, nearby to St James’s Square around whose gardens are various blue plaques and also, sadly, the statue to Yvonne Fletcher, the young Police Constable. The buildings around the Square also include Chatham House and whilst we all know the Chatham House rules, I suspect few of us knew where the House was.

The groups enjoyed lunch either in the local pub or the food market which is between Jermyn Street and Piccadilly. Our walk had started nearby Burlington Arcade (newly carpeted ready for the King’s Coronation) and ended with a look around Fortnum & Mason’s, which is always interesting.

May – Westminster Wander

Our group were lucky to enjoy a wander around the Westminster area on a day when the sun shone and the crowds weren’t too busy, despite it starting from Parliament Square where every tourist wants to photograph the Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben).

Above photos – Bridge, Parliament Square, Supreme Court exterior and café.

We started our walk from Waterloo Bridge and then made our way into The Supreme Court on the far side of Parliament Square. Despite the security on the way in, this is a great place for refreshments, as the café is open to the public, but isn’t well known.

From there we passed the Abbey, the Jewel Tower, the gardens alongside the river (which include public sculptures and a fountain) and made our way to Tate Britain in time for lunch. The area between the two is full of historic interest, quite often overlooked by the tourists flocking around the Abbey and Houses of Parliament.

After lunch, the group took a slow route back past the so called “upside down Church”, St John’s Smith’s Square. This square is surrounded by plenty of Georgian architecture and also street signs pointing the way to air raid shelters, left from WW2.

Above is St John’s – now a concert venue.

Above Georgian house with interesting notice, Westminster Abbey and St Margaret’s Church.

We finished our walk by passing by Westminster School via Dean’s Yard and then returning to the Abbey. The last stop on our walk was St Margaret’s Church, another often overlooked gem built in the late 1400’s and which is the official church for the House of Commons. It has been used for many society weddings and Sir Winston Churchill is one of those married here.

Our next planned walk, in June 2023, is to Marble Hill House, Richmond – we’re hoping the weather will be as kind!