London Walk: Gloucester Road to Camden Road
Start: Gloucester Road Tube
Finish: Camden Road Overground
Length: 18 km / 11 miles
Weather: Fine, bright day
This walk is based on Walk 25, Mind, body, spirit, soul, by Dan Fielder from the Time Out Book of London Walks Volume 1. I did a few variations, not least starting at Gloucester Road tube Station instead of Kensington High Street. This was due to my journey to get there being delayed due to rail replacement bus services running instead of the London Overground. The buses only ran every half hour instead and I arrived at the stop having just missed the bus.
Walk along Cromwell Road passing both Baden Powell House and the Natural History Museum.
The Institute Francais on Queensbury Place. A stunning art deco building displaying its fine brickwork and stained glass windows. I especially liked the olive branch, cockerel, serpent and owl. It was built by the architect Patrice Bonnet.
You pass another fine example art deco building architecture: Michelin House or Bibendum on the junction of Fulham Road, Brompton Road Sloane, Avenue and Pelham Street. It was the first UK HQ for Michelin Tyres. In 1985 Michelin moved out of the building and it was bought by Sir Terence Conran and Paul Hamlyn.
The Brompton Oratory allegedly has links to the secret services and the KGB. Apparently, until recently, this was &where spies would meet to pass on their information.
The first mecca for map-lovers, although the type they sell are probably very old and very expensive - this is Beauchamp Place after all. Not the type of maps you want to take on a walk in the Chilterns or on the South Downs!
Attractive red-brick, Victorian architecture on Pont Street.
Major building works is being carried out in front of Victoria Station. Cranes galore.
Another SIS (Secret Intelligence Services) link. The book The Greatest Traitor (about George Blake) says his first job was working for SIS at 54 Broadway. The building below has the numbers 60 and 40 on it but none of the in between numbers, so I never did discover where no. 54 was/is.
From St. James's through the park, swarming with foreign tourists, past the ICA and up to Waterloo Place. Walk over Carlton House Place – another connection with George Blake & SIS. In a building on this road was where Blake was first 'questioned' about his treachery.
In St. James's Square you pass a memorial to WPC Yvonne Fletcher who was there shot during the 1984 Libyan Embassy siege.
Opposite is the building where the fatal shot was fired from.
I took a slight detour to see Gerard Street and it's decorations for the Chinese New Year.
Ah, the second map-mecca of the route. If you love maps guide books, charts etc, then Stanfords Map & Travel Bookshop is a must. It is spread over three floors so probably best saved for a separate trip. Realising I was probably only halfway around my walk, I resisted all temptation of crossing Stanford's threshold.
I haven't poked my head into Neal's Yard for years, so this is one temptation I couldn't resist. I was pleasantly surprised that it hadn't changed and that it hadn't gone all high street-corporate. However, I was sad to see Rough Trade Records no longer occupying the basement below Slam City.
Time for a latte and a sit down in a cafe on Endell Street.
A long trek around Holborn, Bloomsbury and the back of Euston Station. I was not familiar with any of these streets. Note: on Drummond Street there are a number of Indian restaurants that offer 'eat as much as you can' style buffets. They all looked very appealing but I pressed on with the walk.
I can see BT tower from the end of my road, but obviously not as close-up as this.
I haven't really done Regent's Park and can't remember the last time I visited it. it was very busy and very soggy.
At the other side of Regent's Park you catch a glimpse of London Zoo and the Regent's Canal. The towpath was very busy which was a sign of things to come.
Ho-hum - Primrose Hill. I've visited Primrose Hill a couple of times before. Never has it been as busy as this. I was seriously considering bypassing the top due to all the people up there, but then thought better of it and joined the crowds. I've never really 'got' Primrose Hill: it's not much of a hill and there is a better view from Parliament Hill and probably several other 'hills' in London.
A blue plaque for Dylan Thomas on Delancey Street.
I enjoyed a pint of Sambrook's Wandle and Dark Star Original at the Prince Albert on Royal College Street, Camden.