Sunday London Ride: Street Furniture edition - May 2021
From our Sussex correspondent, Nigel.
Well, that was fun; an amazing cornucopia of esoterica.
It started with my ride to the station to take the first train from rural Sussex to London Bridge. Due to Network Rail's 'improvements', trains into Victoria were being diverted every May weekend. This resulted in a Time Trial sprint from London Bridge, an enforced detour onto Cannon Street, down and along the Embankment, up Northumberland Avenue, across Trafalgar Square into The Mall and then Constitution Hill - a distance of about 6 km - to be achieved in 7 minutes, if I was to be on time. Obviously impossible, even if my name was Mark Cavendish. Approximately 100m from Wellington Arch, I spotted the lead police horse crossing the Duke of Wellington roundabout, in front of the Horse Guards in full regalia. Good timing, as this was one traffic light I could legitimately ignore as the Guards and I crossed the road in opposite directions. Ross, our esteemed leader, was aware of my tight schedule and was pleased I arrived at the Royal Artillery Memorial with 2 minutes to spare before departure.
We set off through Hyde Park, south into Belgravia and shortly arrived at Gerald Street. Where a Police Station once existed. And where the first public rendition of 'Onward Christian Soldiers' by Sir Arthur Sullivan was performed. And where there is now a blue 'police' bollard. More bollards appeared later, including an old French cannon, inserted upside down. Keeping with a law enforcement theme, by Guildhall off Gresham Street, is a police post, coloured bright pastel blue. Unlike the dark navy blue of a police box or uniform.
Later, parallel to Fleet Street, four phone boxes in a row, standing like sentries on duty. Two original K2's and two smaller K6's. These were painted red, as you would expect, as is London's oldest remaining hexagonal Victorian post box - a later version with the traditional horizontal slot, as opposed to the original vertical slatted box - unlike the replica green box we spotted subsequently.
And on Lothbury, in a corner at the rear of the Bank of England, a urine deflector. Yes, indeed.
And perhaps even more unexpectedly, on Great James Street, we met George. George is a South American Harris Hawk who, under guidance from his handler, was deterring gulls from settling in the neighbourhood.
The ride officially finished at the molto bene café at Russell Square. A most entertaining and educational ride. Thanks to Ross and all the friendly participants.
'Look up'! This direction is often given to see otherwise unseen items in the city. Two such objects pointed out were a Fire Insurance sign and an early street name sign from 1727, cast from plaster. Equally, the opposite is true - 'Look down'! - to discover wooden paving blocks (as a stone cobble substitute), London Hydraulic Pump covers and Coal Hole covers, some embossed with their foundry's unique design. Iron railings displayed pineapples and torch snuffers. Apparent ubiquitous lamp posts were revealed to be a KGB drop box or a burner to rid Bazalgette's underground pipework of methane gas.
Photo courtesy of Natalya Mara