Walking London’s side streets on a sunny autumn day.
In so many shapes and colours.
That day was better. Linden dust, cool breeze, skipped the news, went for a walk.
Mayor’s Cleaner Air for London program starts from one simple idea: the smallest changes in your daily routine can make a huge difference by creating incredible ripple effects. Like taking a short walk, instead of taking the car to covert the same distance.
There’s no hard to digest scientific information on the posters. Just common sense.
Try this on a sunny Sunday afternoon: walk on the south bank from Putney Bridge to Hammersmith Bridge. Start around 4 pm (in summer, 1 pm in winter) to make the most of the sun. And sunsets. At Hammersmith Bridge cross and stop at a river pub, get some more sun while hugging some zingy blonde ale. When appropriate to leave, bid goodbye and walk on the north bank back to Putney. The sun sets on your right side, and will warm your back. I’m not gonna tell you much about what you’ll see along this rather short but mighty walk. But yes, it’s a story with gardens, forests, new developments, old pubs, palaces, churches, swans, wild ducks, boats and strolling humans. Joy! I mean, enjoy!
2:30 pm. Off the bus with other 326 people. The elusive bus 344, direction Clapham Junction Station, would have broken the world record for “most people squeezed on a local bus heading for a derelict power station. On a Sunday.” If only Boris knew.
Potential visitors pour out from South, East, West and some unknown direction from behind a red soft ice cream van conveniently positioned on one side, facing North and the people coming out of the power station. They’re rushing towards the largest brick building in Europe. Iincluding the lady in the red hat, late 60s (early 70s?), who wanted to see Battersea Power Station all her life and kept asking at every stop “Is this the stop for the Battersea Power Station… is this the stop… is this….”. No. No. No. Sorry, yes.
Now, she could have simply stared out the window, not into the eyes of her bus-companions, and notice that any stop could be the stop for the station, because once you pass the steel and glass lego blocks of Vauxhall you can see it from pretty much every inch of the road. Even from the inside of an overcrowded bus.
2:45 pm. Our dreams are shattered. “The queue is too long… There’s no more time… Queue, but there’s no guarantee”. Where did I hear this before? No, honestly, where did I hear this before?
However, our taste-buds are very much alive. Luckily, the only thing still opened in the vicinity is the above mentioned ice cream van, spewing out fumes while mixing condensed milk with artificial soft aromas. The few visibly disappointed buy ice cream to divert their toddlers’ attention. It’s cheaper than Disneyland. Stop complaining.
The crowd moves in mysterious ways, but mainly towards West. Some stop to take a last peek through the cracks in the 8 feet tall hoardings. Banners advertising the new development are equally met with interest and flashy cameras. On the road to nowhere we lose some power station aficionados to the charms of the Cats and Dogs Home. Others keep moving towards the river to see with their own eyes the place where the crowds converge just to disappear inside the station.
We walk by new developments, soon to be the old developments, because Battersea Power Station will be the new development. We walk under bridges, past garbage bins and disgruntled visitors mumbling their discontent and going to see the left over open houses in the area.
“Where’s the Diamond House?
Let’s go to Chelsea.”
No overcrowded power stations there, just posh people and vintage mews. There must be some open houses. I need an open house. Now!
From Hammersmith Bridge walk upstream on the North bank to Barnes Bridge. Miles of blackberry bushes, pubs with a past, alluring riverbeds, tufted ducks, underwood, planes, moored boats and beagles bathing. On the South bank, walk past Mortlake Stag Brewery, and along the Kew Gardens. Incidentally posh or clammy, but mainly green and bucolic, 8 miles of pastoral joy worth finishing in style with chips and London Pride on Richmond Green, far from the maddening city.