Just posting a rare photo post to the blog following a lovely summer sky in London last night. After spending Saturday outside in the park with friends, we were a bit disappointed by the frequent cloud cover throughout the day. Of course, clouds and sunshine usually means for gorgeous sunsets so we were rewarded later on. Here’s a view from Tower Bridge looking east down the River Thames featuring silhouettes of various London landmarks, such as the BT Tower, St Paul’s Cathedral and Cannon Street station.
Nautical, but nice! Get up close with the yachts and crew ahead of the Clipper round the world yacht race
It’s nearly time for one of the toughest contests of the year – the famous Clipper round-the-world yacht race. And with the big event kicking off in London this Sunday, what better way to celebrate than with a week of nautical fun at St Katharine Docks. The Clipper race features crews of amateur sailors from 40 nationalities racing under the command of professionals.
Ahead of the Clipper launch, the race village will be open for a week (22 – 29 August). Visitors will chance to visit some of the 70ft racing yachts taking part in the Clipper race on the daily free boat tours. There will also be free model yacht racing and Q&A sessions with the crew. From 27 – 29 August there will be paddle boarding sessions, featuring free 30 minute tasters at 11am and 11.45am, following by afternoon classes and yoga paddle boarding (£25 per hour). African drummers, Chinese Lion Dancers and more will be providing the entertainment.
On 30 August, the fleet of 12 yachts will take part in the departure ceremony before parading out of the Docks through Tower Bridge to commence their 40,000 mile trip. At 1pm, the teams will appear on stage for the official departure ceremony, before the fleet departs St Katharine Docks at 2.15pm. At 3.30pm the fleet parades through Tower Bridge into the Upper Pool, before it parades back through Tower Bridge down river at 4pm.
- The race village will be open from 22-29 August, before the race starts on 30 August 2015. Takes place at St Katharine Docks, 50 St. Katharine’s Way, Tower Bridge, E1W 1LA. Nearest station: Tower Hill or Tower Gateway (DLR). For more information, visit the St Katharine Docks website.
For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.
If told to envisage running through lavender fields, you’d probably expect to be in Provence, France, right? Well, visitors to and residents of London can enjoy their own floral fantasy just outside the capital. Located in Banstead, Surrey – just on the border of London and just 5 miles away from Croydon – is an idyllic piece of countryside – Mayfield Lavender Farm.
From the end of May until mid-September, the family-run organic farm opens its 25 acres to the public. As well as the fields of lavender to roam about in, there’s also a café and shop selling lavender products. With the weather soaring to 30C today, I decided to head down to the farm with my friend and godson to check it out. The first thing which hit us when we stepped out of the car was the gorgeous smell of lavender. Rows upon rows of lavender can be seen heading off on to the horizon. With the end of the lavender season only a few weeks away, some of the lavender plants had been harvested a bit more so we walked up and over the hill to see the fuller, bushier lavender, which created the better photo moments. Being a Saturday, the farm was very busy with quite a few young tourists brandishing selfie sticks creating their Insta-moments. With the cooling summer breeze and the smell of lavender, we found it incredibly relaxing strolling through the field.
Following our roaming around, we took shade in the on-site café, which is very reasonably priced. Lavender is an ingredient on many of their menu items, including fairy cakes, ice cream and lemonade. I enjoyed a scone, ice cream and lemonade, which were all delicious. The shop next door also sells lavender plants, bouquets, toiletries, oils and other products made from the plant.
- Mayfield Lavender Farm, Croydon Lane, Banstead, Surrey, SM7 3BE. To get there on public transport, you can get a train to East Croydon, Purley or Banstead and then get 166 bus to the farm. Open from late May until mid September. Entrance: £1 per person. Their nursery and shop in Epsom is open all year round. For more information, visit the Mayfield Lavender website.
For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.
With water taps now in every home and bottled waters on sale everywhere, there isn’t such a high demand for public drinking fountains these days. While public fountains are still found to be popular in places such as parks, leisure centres and museums, ones outside on the street… not so much.
Although these days we expect drinking fountains to be free and clean, back in the first half of the 19th century, it wasn’t so simple. Private companies had a monopoly on water so there wasn’t much regulation on quality, often providing contaminated water to the public. As a result, many people used to drink beer, which was considered a safer alternative to water. It was thanks to the work of physician John Snow (1813-1858), who traced the beginning of a cholera outbreak to a water pump in Soho, that authorities began to prioritise water quality. Following the passing of the Metropolitan Commission of Sewers Act 1848, it was made compulsory that water had to be filtrated. In 1859, MP Samuel Gurney (1816-1882) and barrister Edward Thomas Wakefield (1821-1896) joined forces to set up the Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association, with the aim to provide free drinking water to the public. This later changed its name to Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association in 1867, to also include cattle troughs.
The first public drinking fountain was built into the railings of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate Church on Holborn Hill. It opened in April 1859 and was funded by Gurney. The fountain is made of marble and stone, with two cups on chains to drink out of. It features three inscriptions, the top reading: ‘The gift of Sam Gurney MP 1859’. The bottom reminds users to ‘replace the cup’, while inside under where the water used to flow reads: ‘The first Metropolitan drinking fountain erected on Holborn Hill 1859 and removed when the Viaduct was constructed in 1867.’ Just eight years later after being installed, the fountain was relocated while the Holburn Viaduct was built, before finally being reinstated in its original setting in 1913.
The fountain was incredibly popular with 7,000 people using it daily – which I’m sure caused quite a queue of thirsty Londoners! As a result, the society built 85 more fountains around the city over the next six years. Public drinking fountains were heavily supported by the church and Temperance movement, and as a result many were situated near churches and opposite public houses. Now, the fountain still exists, but the water appears to have been turned off.
- The drinking fountain is set in the southern gates around St Sepulchre’s Church on the eastern end of Holborn Viaduct (near the junction with Giltspur Street), City of London, EC1A 2DQ. Nearest station: City Thameslink, St Paul’s or Farringdon.
To read about the Buxton Memorial Fountain in Westminster, click here.
For more of Metro Girl’s history posts, click here.
With the advent of September, it means another British summer is drawing to a close. So why not say goodbye to our favourite season at JJ’s Soulshack End Of Summer Festival. For one night only, the festival will be offering live music, circus entertainment, food, drinks and market stalls across two rooms. The event takes place at the Islington Metal Works, a historic venue built in the late 19th century, which was originally used to store horses that pulled London’s trams. During the festival, the venue will place host to a live music room, a magical secret garden and an indoor courtyard complete with a tube carriage cocktail bar and BBQ.
Now in their 6th year of live events, JJ’s Soulshack is run by talented sisters Jessica and Juliette Ashby. Jessica is a circus performer, while Juliette is a singer/songwriter. JJ’s Soulshack originally started out as a musical showcase for both unsigned and signed artists. It’s played host to performers such as double platinum selling soul artist/writer Jon B and Grammy nominated Glenn Lewis as well as Kwabs, Michael Kiwanuka, Laura White, Ade Omotayo and Daniel Walker.
So far on the bill for the festival, there will be entertainment from Jack Tyson Charles, Juliette Ashby, Amie Jean, Teresa Callan, Jessica Ashby (aka Miss CiCi Steele) and more TBA. Among the market stalls will be Love YaaYaa (unique fashion accessories handmade in the UK and Ghana) and Sun & Moon Holistic (reflexology, holistic facials & homemade products).
- JJ’s SoulShack End of Summer Festival takes place on Sunday 13 September 2015 from 5-11pm. The Islington Metal Works, 7 Torrens Street, Islington, EC1V 1NQ. Nearest station: Angel. Over 18s only. General admission tickets include entrance, 1 drink and 1 BBQ meal (veggie options available) for £20. For tickets, visit Billetto. For more information, check out JJ’s Soulshack’s Facebook page or visit their official website.
For a guide to what else is on in London, click here.
With its skyscraper offices and busy professionals, Canary Wharf is usually associated with work. However, this September, the area is getting a huge injection of fun in the form of a 11 day festival in The Spiegeltent. Pitching up at Canary Square Park, The Spiegeltent will host comedy, music, dance, cabaret, acrobatics, theatre for both adults and families.
Opening the festival is award-winning Las Vegas veteran Peggy Sued with a variety night, featuring Pete Firman, Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer, Rod Laver, Felipe Reyes and burlesque bombshell Sophia St Villier. There’ll be the unique blend of circus swing and burlesque folk of Gabby Young + Other Animals plus the Nest Collective House Ceilidh Band.
One of the Spiegeltent’s biggest acts will be Scotland’s internationally acclaimed and award-winning ‘half-man-half-Xbox’ Daniel Sloss, brining his Edinburgh Festival hit show Dark.
On 15 September, Alex Horne and The Horne Section will be getting the crowd laughing with their new barnstorming mix of stand-up and music. Turning circus on its head will be the Aircraft Circus presenting Boudoir Circus, a dark and sexy soiree with acrobatics and dance.
As well as performances, there will be workshops too so you can acquire new skills and entertain the children. Learn to dance with the London Academy Of Dance, create your own scrapbook with Shimelle and ice gingerbreads to perfection with Serena Montesissa. The kids will be able to burn off some energy at the Big Fish Little Fish and their Family Rave. Or get the children into comedy early at Comedy Club 4 Kids, with stand-up and sketch from Luke Toulson, Bec Hill and Howard Read. Other family entertainment includes musical workshops by Boppin Bunnies, Bach to Baby and Theatre of Widdershins performing their musical puppetry show The Elves and The Shoemaker.
Other acts performing over the festival include improvisation comedy champions BattleActs!, psychic siblings Twins Macabre, BBC Folk Club winners The Nest Collective, Nepalese band Night and impressionist, art-folk ensemble Firefly Burning.
During the festival, there will a bar providing refreshments while the many restaurants and bars of Canary Wharf will be moments away should you wish to eat.
- The Spiegeltent will run at Canary Wharf from 10-20 September 2015. The tent will be pitched at Canada Square Park, Canary Wharf, E14 5AH. Nearest station: Canary Wharf. Ticket prices range from free to £16 depending on event. For most tickets, visit SeeTickets, or for Daniel Sloss tickets, visit LiveNation.
For a guide to what else is on in London in August, click here.
Like many, I had long wished to see the Northern Lights. After doing some research into the European options, I decided Iceland was a more affordable option with the lights easily accessible from the capital Reykjavík. Experts recommend November to February as being the best time to see the Northern Lights so I booked a mid-week three night break in early November. We booked flights with Easyjet for £170 return, including baggage in the hold as we knew our bulky winter wear would take up too much room in a carry-on. One thing to consider is there can be a lot of wind and rain in Iceland, so waterproof clothes are recommended in the winter. I usually wear jeans when I go to winter destinations, however with the temperatures hovering around zero degrees Celsius during our visit, if I got my jeans wet, they just wouldn’t dry. Umbrellas are pretty pointless too due to the wind so I highly recommend bringing a good waterproof coat and trousers.
Reykjavík is quite a small city so easy to navigate without a car. However if you’re going further afield, we found renting a car was much better value and gave us the freedom to see the Golden Circle in our own time compared to the coach trips on their organised schedules. However, admittedly if the weather was heavy snow, we would have plumped for the coach option due to our lack of confidence of driving in bad weather.
We booked three nights at the Best Western Reykjavík, a three-star hotel located in a residential area just 10 minutes walk from the city centre. Our room was a decent size with ensuite bathroom and essential central heating with a good breakfast included. They had a brilliant information stand with lots of leaflets of attractions and discount vouchers, which we ended up using on some attractions and dinners.
Of course, one of Iceland’s main attractions is seeing the Northern Lights. There’s many different tour companies offering a variety of tours – some are a short drive for Reykjavík, while others do overnights and long-distance locations. The closer you are to Reykjavík can make it harder to see them due to light pollution. Many tour companies offer to bring you back a second night for free if there are no lights on the night you booked. We booked our tour for the night we arrived, which meant we had our subsequent nights of our short trip available to see them should we miss them at first.
Thanks to the Great Fire of London and the Blitz, there aren’t many buildings left in the City of London dating back to before the mid 17th century. However, thanks to a stroke of luck – namely a Georgian Londoner who cared little for Tudor architecture – one historic piece of London dating back to the 13th and 16th century still survives today.
Situated on West Smithfield, a stone’s thrown from the historic St Bart’s Hospital, is the St Bartholomew’s Gatehouse. Sandwiched between a French restaurant and a red brick Georgian-style structure, the narrow gatehouse comprises of a 13th century arch, topped by a two-storey, 16th century Tudor building. The name St Bartholomew’s comes from the nearby church St Bartholomew-The-Great, which was formerly an Augustinian Priory, founded by Rahere (d.1134) in 1123 (Rahere is buried in the church). When King Henry VIII (1491-1547) ordered the dissolution of the monasteries, a lot of St Bartholomew’s was demolished in 1539, including the nave, although the Norman crossing and choir still remain today. The original Priory church measured a whopping 300 feet by 86 feet.
Also surviving is part of the west doorway into the southern aisle of the church, an archway dating back to the 13th century. Following the dissolution, Sir Richard Rich, 1st Baron Rich (1496/7-1567) bought the church and surrounding land in 1546/47, sub-dividing it for housing. In 1595, a Tudor, timber-framed building was added by William or Philip Scudamore. The simple, narrow structure features two-storeys with a small attic above. Under the first floor window is a coat of arms. In between the two windows on the second floor is a statue of St Bartholomew, one of the 12 Apostles, who the Priory and adjoining hospital were named after.
Miraculously, the gatehouse managed to survive the Great Fire of London in 1666 due to the protection of the priory walls. The fire actually ended just a three-minute walk away on Giltspur Street and is commemorated by the Golden Boy of Pye Corner. At some point in the 18th century, whoever owned the gatehouse didn’t care much for its ‘old-fashioned’, Tudor façade so it was given a Georgian makeover and was used as a shop for two centuries.
Finally, in 1916, it was the destructive act of war that ended up uncovering the building’s original design. A nearby German Zeppelin bomb raid caused damage to the Georgian shop front, revealing the Tudor origins underneath and exposing more of the 13th century stonework from the original nave. Following the end of World War I, it was fully restored by 1932 and is now Grade-II listed. If you walk through the arch and turn right to see the doorway leading into the building, you will see ‘1240’ and ‘1932’ inscribed in the stonework – commemorating the year of the arch’s construction and restoration. The interior of the building includes bolection panelling from around 1700, with original panelling dating back to 1595 in the attic. When the building was restored in the 1930s, it was dedicated the memory of architect Sir Aston Webb (1849-1930), his brother Edward Alfred Webb (former churchwarden of St Bart’s) and Frederick L Dove, ‘who worked together on the restoration of the fabric of the church for over forty years’. A plaque to mark their work and the Webbs’ coat of arms has been erected within the gate.
Today, the gatehouse is a private building, but served as the rectory for the church for many years. Between 1948 and 1979, the then-rector’s wife Phyllis Wallbank MBE (b.1918) set up and ran the Gatehouse School, an independent Montessori school. Obviously due to the size, the building couldn’t educate too many students and it eventually moved to a larger site in Bethnal Green, East London, in the 1970s. Today, the surviving church of St Bartholomew-The-Great is the oldest Parish church in London.
- St Bartholomew’s Gatehouse, West Smithfield, Smithfield, EC1A. Nearest station: Barbican or Farringdon. The Gatehouse is not open to the public, but can be admired from the outside. For more information about St Bartholomew-The-Great church, visit their official website.
For more of Metro Girl’s history blog posts, click here.
To read about the nearby 41-42 Cloth Fair, a 16th century London home, click here.
Backyard Cinema Film Festival @ Camden Market: Watch classic, new and indie films in alfresco surroundings
Returning to Camden Market this summer is the brilliant pop-up film club Backyard Cinema. Having already checked out their screening of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet earlier this year with a live choir, I was looking forward to their next alfresco venture.
For six weeks, Backyard Cinema are hosting not one, but two pop-up movie theatres on two nearby sites in Camden Market. The main stage in Camden Lock Place will be screening new and classic mainstream movies, while the intimate Cuban Screen will feature indie flicks, documentaries and foreign language movies.
Last week, I was invited to the launch of BC’s season at Camden with a screening of this year’s blockbuster Kingsmen: The Secret Service. There’s different ticket packages available, but we had the ‘Full Monty’ (£29), which included the screening, a drink and a burger. Screening only tickets – including seating – start from £14 (Cuban screen)/£16.50 (main stage) .
Accompanying all screenings over the festival, are food/drink stands and trucks, including Brooklyn Brewery, Honest Burgers, The Craft Cocktail Co and Chin Chin Labs Ice Cream. The cinema opened two hours ahead of the screening so we were able to chow down on the delicious burger and fries (with rosemary salt… gorgeous!) from Honest Burgers. We also enjoyed some Moscow Mule cocktails from the Craft Cocktail Co which were lovely and refreshing.
The screening couldn’t start until the sun went down so we headed to our seats shortly before. There’s a choice of deckchairs or beanbag loungers – we opted for the latter which were incredibly comfortable. As the night in question was a bit chilly, the usherettes brought out some blankets for us so I was incredibly cosy curled up on my bean bag watching the film. The movie was an action comedy, starring Colin Firth, Sir Michael Caine and newcomer Taron Egerton (my new celebrity crush now actually…), who managed to look incredibly dapper while kicking some major bad guy butts! A really funny film.
Overall, the whole evening was really enjoyable. Although the drizzle during our dinner threatened to ruin the evening, it fortunately stopped in time for the screening. The Backyard crew also have waterproof ponchos available if you’re unprepared. The food, drink, seating, staff and film were all great. I recommend getting down there this summer, as I certainly hope to be making a return visit. With screenings of films including Birdman, The Goonies, Pride, The Babadook, Empire Records, Dirty Dancing, It Follows, Mad Man and Northern Soul, there’s something for everyone.
- The Backyard Cinema Film Festival runs in Camden Market until 4 September 2015. Screenings take place in Camden Lock Place and The Cuban bar’s courtyard, Camden, NW1. Nearest station: Camden Town or Chalk Farm. Tickets start from £14 at the Cuban screen and £16.50 at the main screen. For more information and booking, visit the Backyard Cinema website.
For a guide to what else is on in London in August, click here.
For a guide to open air cinemas in London this summer, click here.
Being the heart of tourist season, shopping on Oxford Street and Regent Street can be rather stressful at this time of year (or any time!). So next time you need a spot of retail therapy, consider heading to the Newburgh Quarter. Located just to the east of Carnaby Street, the Newburgh Quarter offers a more relaxed pace, with a diverse range of boutiques, independent shops, bars and restaurants.
On Saturday 8 August 2015, the shops and restaurants of the Newburgh Quarter will be taking part in a one day special event – The Refinery, featuring offers, freebies, workshops, live music and art and more. Creatives and fashion fans will certainly find plenty of occupy them.
Among the activities are:
· Denim Masterclass at Levi’s Vintage Store
· Denim customisation workshops at Evisu
· Clay workshops and Piñata making class at Lazy Oaf
· BBQ Grill Masterclasses at Kua ‘Aina
· Learn the art of the perfect espresso with all day demos at Department of Coffee and Social Affairs
· Gin tasting at Cubitts
· Shave and finish at Gentlemen’s Barber Pankhurst London
· How to apply lashes and create the perfect brow at Lash Perfect Lash Bar
· Master the art of the bow tie at Peckham Rye
· Live screen printing at new store Supremebeing
· Trend talks with famed tailor Mark Powell
There’ll be the chance to pose in Lomography’s instant photobooth, listen to acoustic music at Laurel Wreath by Fred Perry, enjoy a free craft ale at the White Horse pub (by registering online), as well as entertainment from spoken-word artists, brass bands and acoustic musicians.
- The Refinery takes place in the Newburgh Quarter (surrounded by Foubert’s Place, Marshall Street and Ganton Street), Soho, W1 on Saturday 8 August 2015 between 12-5pm. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus or Oxford Circus. For more information, visit the Carnaby Street website.
For a guide to what else is on in London in August, click here.