Sunday, 16 September 2012

Mayor of London Discovery Trails - Pink Route

Tourist Wenlock
After the success of our trip along the Green Route of the London Mayor Discovery Trails a couple of weeks earlier we decided that we would have a stand alone trip to London and try some of the other routes.  We started with the shortest trail, the Pink Route, which took us around a loop including famous sights such as Covent Garden, the Embankment, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square and Chinatown.

Covent Garden Flags

We started our trail in the Market Hall of Covent Garden.  This is always a favourite haunt of ours when we come to London.  Although I cannot profess to be a keen shopper, even I am interested in the shops here as it is possible to find things that you wouldn’t otherwise see anywhere.  I even profess to finding things I never knew I needed!  The market was, as usual, buzzing with people looking around the market stalls and enjoying the street entertainment.  Most attention was on a magician and these types of act do seem to be particularly popular on the street.
Michael Faraday

Inside the hall the most delicious smells were wafting past our noses as the food vendors vied for our business.  Despite the aromas of German sausages, paella and deep fried delicacies we stayed strong and began our mission to find the 13 mascots on this particular route.  Lunch would have to wait, at least until we had made some progress as after all, it was still only 11am!

Somerset House

We didn’t have to venture far to find the first two mascots (see the entry for the Green Route for a full explanation of what they are and why they are here).  We had one of each mascot in the Market Hall at each end of the building.  Mandeville was a flower seller (which used to proliferate here, but which seem to be fewer in number these days), while Wenlock was painted up as a tourist (which seem to have increased in  number).

Somerset House Mandeville

Our route took us east of the Market Hall towards the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane and we passed the third mascot, which was equally appropriate for the area – the busker.  By now my girls had got themselves into posing mode already and their favourite game was to try and emulate the pose of the mascot statues.  Despite the limited number of poses this would be a game they never tired of!

Cleopatra's Needle Wenlock

As well as the busker statue the show at the Theatre Royal caught their eye as it was Shrek The Musical.  I am sure at some stage we might have to go an watch it, as both girls are big fans of Shrek.  I was rather more interested in the building, although compared to some of the theatres around this was rather a plain looking building.  Further down the road on the edge of Aldwych, the Novello Theatre (showing the Abba Musical Mamma Mia) was a much more elaborate looking building.  In both cases though, the buildings were far more ornate than any current one would be.  It made me speculate about the approximate time that we lost this decorativeness from our architecture.  Personally I blame World War I – architecture has never really been the same since.

Embankment Wenlock

Our next Wenlock was the standard mascot – no extra decoration.  The kids didn't seem to mind - they still posed by it.  We walked down Aldwych and crossed the road when we reached The Strand, heading down towards the Embankment.  

Patriotic Flower Basket

The next mascot was by Somerset House, an old Georgian building that has had a multitude of uses over the years but which now hosts the science stuff.  Outside was a statue of Michael Faraday, gleaming in the sunshine.  My older daughter was thrilled to be photographed by him – she is a big science fan despite her tender years.  I’m not sure she knew who Michael Faraday was, but she definitely knew he was important otherwise why would he have a statue there?

Novel Wenlock

Outside Somerset House was the very pink Somerset House Wenlock.  He was particularly striking in the sunshine, although ominously overhead a very large black cloud came across and blocked further sunshine for the next half an hour or so.  It was a shame for the next part of our walk was through the unsung and yet lovely gardens of Victoria Embankment.  This is a green space I had never previously been to but was pleasantly surprised by the wonderfully cheerful planting (yellow and red/white/blue seemed to be popular colour schemes) and the range of statues of predominantly famous Victorians.  I guess many of them were the celebrities of their day and included Robert Raice (founder of Sunday Schools), Robert Burns and Sir Wilfred Lawson (prominent politician).

London Coliseum

At the far end of the gardens we passed a big area of deckchairs, laid out we assumed for some future show rather than for musical chairs, and a couple of pin pong tables that were well used (perhaps this will be part of the legacy of the Olympics?).  From the relative calm of the garden we were plunged into the more frenetic environment of the street running down the side of Charing Cross Station.  This too seemed to be something of a hotbed of eating establishments and many were already doing a brisk trade despite the early hour.  I guess that the proximity of Charing Cross station helps in that regard.

Medal Tree at Leicester Square

We passed by the front of the station (said to be the very centre of London) and crossed to St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, so called because it was once literally in the fields, between what was once the twin cities of London and Westminster.  It is hard to imagine there being any green space in this part of London now, so built up is it.  At the back of the church was Novel Wenlock and round to the front was Trafalgar Square Wenlock, although this was actually sited in a secluded corner of the famous Square.

Filmstar Wenlock

Our onward route took us past the National Gallery and into Leicester Square.  I hadn’t really appreciated how close to Trafalgar Square it really was before – it’s amazing how little you can appreciate the layout of a city when you travel underneath it by Tube.  Perhaps this was the best part about walking the trails – putting the city into context.

London Hippodrome

Leicester Square seemed to have medals growing from the trees – rather an interesting art installation but perhaps the nearest that us mere mortals will ever get to being able to obtain an Olympic medal!  We passed the huge and imposing Odeon Cinema and found the colourful and popular Filmstar Wenlock, a nod to the film industry that has viewing headquarters here. 

Spotlight Mandeville

By now, we had worked up something of an appetite and took a relaxed and lengthy lunch break.  On resumption of our walk we passed by the Hippodrome and Haymarket, finding the Spotlight Mandeville lurking behind another theatre.  It was perhaps the hardest one to find on the whole route. 

Chinatown Mandeville

The route continued up through the streets to the west of Covent Garden and skirted Chinatown, where we would find a Mandeville done up in the blue associated with Chinese pottery.  It was perhaps one of the classiest designs on the route.  Finally we made our way back towards Covent Garden and found the last Wenlock (Performer) just along from the Underground Station.  All along the way we looked in some of the windows of shops selling delicious chocolates and cakes.  Although tempting, it was a bit hot for such delicacies and we sadly left them in the windows for others to purchase.

Seven Dials

This was a good appetiser for the day.  Only modest in length (2.6km), the walk actually seemed an awful lot longer such was the amount packed into the route.  We completed quickly and still with lots of energy in the tank for the next route, starting nearby at Picadilly Circus.  For a full view of all the pictures on the route please take a look at my Flickr set at Pink Trail Set

Performer Wenlock


  1. Hi Paul

    I have to agree with you on architecture, they certainly don't construct buildings like they did in the late 19th century and the early 20th century.

    The modern glass edifaces have no character whatsoever.


    1. Thanks Bill,
      I am astonished at the amount of building in London right now though. Not sure if is the Olympic effect but there seem to be bigger and bolder buildings going in all the time. The Shard is quite amazing. You'll see more when I get around to writing up more of the walks