Monday, 1 October 2012

Mayor of London Discovery Trails - Blue Route

Tower Bridge
After completing the Yellow Route of the Mascot Trails we still had enough time left to complete the last route as yet unexplored – the Blue Route.  This turned out to be possibly the longest route of all (although the official length was slightly less than the Red Route – didn’t seem like it!).  We headed down to London Bridge Station so that we could find the start of the route near to Tower Bridge.  This walk promised much as we would see the famous sights of Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, the Modern Tate, Millennium Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Monument and The Tower of London.

City Hall
The river looked at its very best as we found our way onto the riverside walk.  Because the start point wasn’t near a Tube Station we had to along to the start of the route just outside City Hall.  This is a curious looking building as it looks like a slinky toy that has been knocked over slightly.  The first mascot was just across the way from the building and was ‘Skyline Mandeville’; a celebration of the new-found confidence in the city that is causing the building of lots of new and distinctive looking high rise buildings.  This part of the riverfront was very busy, with many people drawn to the large screen that had been provided for the Paralympics.  Tower Bridge looked resplendent with the Paralympic Symbol, which had replaced the Olympic Rings the week before.

Skyline Wenlock
We headed upstream along the river front, soon coming to the next mascot which was Maritime Wenlock, positioned outside London Bridge City, where much of London’s cargo trade was once housed.  As with just about all the dockside stuff this has now been gentrified and turned into another use – in this case a very attractive looking and well appointed shopping arcade.  The star of this part of the riverbank is undoubtedly HMS Belfast though.  This veritable old warship looks better than ever, thanks to recent renovations.  I made a mental note to take a visit one day as this World War II veteran has a fascinating history.

Tower of London

At London Bridge our route departed from the riverbank for a short distance and we passed by one of the least known cathedrals in the UK let alone London, the rather attractive one at Southwark.  The contrast between this old church and the enormity of the recently opened Shard Building behind was quite amazing.  Surprisingly, although the church is very old (some say parts of it are 1000 years old), it did not become a Cathedral until 1905 when the diocese of Southwark was created.  We didn’t have time to go inside sadly, although I understand it has starred in a number of films over the years due to its interior beauty.  Outside the cathedral was the appropriately decorated Cathedral Wenlock.

HMS Belfast

We pushed on past a museum devoted to Prison Life (there seems to be a lot of interest in these dark subjects in London) and then a mock up of The Golden Hind, the flagship of Captain Drake, the first ship’s captain to successfully circumnavigate the globe (although Magellan’s crew had previously done it, the captain himself was killed on the way round).  By the ship was the next mascot, Pirate Wenlock.  Since many people think of Sir Francis Drake as little more than a pirate, this again was quite an appropriate choice.
Southwark Cathedral and The Shard

After passing the Golden Hind, the crowds dissipated for awhile as we headed under the railway bridge carrying tracks across to Cannon Street Station, the nearest to the Bank of England and something of a commuters hub that is a lot less busy at the weekend.  The old station is nothing like as grand as it used to be, with its former glass overall roof being replaced by more remunerative offices and shops on the upper stories.  Only the two towers that flanked the glass roof remain, standing out like beacons amidst rather more uninspiring architecture.  As this was a Friday the bridge was busy with trains, although the station itself is closed on most Sundays.  Having been under many threats of closure since the War it is perhaps gratifying that the station is here at all still.
Pirate Wenlock

Just the other side of the bridge and we passed by Rainbow Mandeville, a duplicate design to the Rainbow Wenlock in Regent’s Park, showing how the four nations of the UK were being brought together to help deliver the Games.  As we headed westward the crowds started again and we soon realised that we were approaching the Globe Theatre, the replica of the original Shakespeare Theatre that was burned down after a stage accident and then pulled down by the Puritans in 1644 following its rebuilding.  The new Globe Theatre is a short distance from the original as that site is now occupied by other listed buildings!
Cannon Street Station

Outside the Globe was a generic Mandeville, still attracting plenty of attention due to its location.  I did think it was a shame that it couldn’t have been one celebrating Shakespeare’s contribution to the capital.  Just along the way though was Arty Wenlock, at the base of the Millennium Bridge and outside the Tate Modern.  By now the crowds were huge and so we lingered only long enough to get a few pictures of the mascots before heading off across the bridge.  It was our first time on the Millennium Bridge, some 12 years after it first opened and 10 years after the changes that prevented the ‘wobble’ that people experienced as they crossed.  I am happy to report that there is no such wobble now, especially important considering the number of people using it that day.
The Globe

The view across to St Paul’s Cathedral is magnificent and despite the crowds we could see that the design to incorporate this view was really well done.  The views up and down the river were also very good, although we didn’t really have the opportunity to stop and admire due to the weight of foot traffic.
Arty Wenlock

The walk on the north side of the river had a rather different character as it led through the business districts of the City of London.  We passed by St Paul’s Mandeville and Mansion House before taking a loop around the eastern end of St Paul’s Cathedral.  Its dome looked absolutely magnificent in the late summer sunshine.

Millennium Bridge

Below the dome was Telephone Box Wenlock, celebrating the famous old design that has made these 20th century additions to the street landscape so popular.  As we paused to look another old symbol of London, the iconic and original Routemaster bus, now phased out except on a couple of heritage route, including this one.
St Paul's Cathedral

Across the road from St Paul’s in a little hidden corner of seating was Sonnet Wenlock.  Surely this one would have been better placed at The Globe?  By now we were starting to get mascot fatigue and were anxious to finish the trail.  Luckily the next three; City Gent, Giant and Sir were all close to each other – the last being in the courtyard of London’s Guildhall.  This fine old building was one of the few to have been spared during the Great Fire of London and dates from 1441.  It is still used as the ceremonial building for the City of London (not Greater London, of which the City) is only a small part.  Sir Wenlock was also unique in that it was the only one of the mascots not to show the one-eye trademark.  ‘Sir’ had a helmet to complement his suit of armour!

Passing Routemaster
Having ticked off a few in quick succession it was a fair distance to the next mascot stationed at the foot of the Monument.  On the way we passed the ‘Old Lady of Threadneedle Street’ as the Bank of England is sometimes called.  We also passed by some of the most impressive looking Victorian buildings of commerce that surround the Bank.  The feeling of establishment was all around us, but a different atmosphere to that we experienced around Westminster.

Telephone Box Wenlock
The Monument is one of my favourite places in London.  Sadly the old stone column, which was erected in memory of the Great Fire of London in 1666, is now completely surrounded by tall buildings and seems a little lost.  It must have been hugely impressive when it was first erected and even now the view from the top is quite startling, once you have your breath back from climbing the 311 steps that is!  The mascot equally celebrates the Great Fire in which most of London was destroyed but at remarkably small human cost (only six deaths were recorded).  The London that emerged from the ashes was brighter and better, with a street plan that has largely survived to the present day.

London Guildhall
Having found the Monument Wenlock it was a fair trek to the last two, Ravens and Beefeater.  These are probably the most famous residents of the Tower of London; both guarding the old fortress and prison in their own ways.  The mascots drew a lot of attention unsurprisingly, as they were stationed along the perimeter wall of one of the most famous tourist attractions in London.  Strangely though the mascots were reversed from the suggested locations on the map – not sure why.  It did mean though that ‘Beefeater’, which was probably the more attractive of the two had Tower Bridge as its backdrop.
Sir Wenlock

So ended our tours of all the six mascot trails, or ‘Discovery Strolls’ as they were officially called.  We spotted 82 mascots altogether and walked 23km officially across the six trails.  It was a remarkable way of seeing London and while I didn’t think much of the mascots initially I have to say that done up in their various guises I did warm to them.  Possibly it was the brightly coloured artwork that I liked far more than the mascots themselves.  

The Monument
I understand that since the close of the Paralympics’ Games all the mascots have been taken away, but the routes are still worth following, for they will give you a great sense of our Capital City.  The mascots themselves have been auctioned off to raise money for charity, many of them raising five figure sums.  We have to make do with pictures of each one as a reminder of our remarkable summer.  Following the end of this walk we headed off to the Olympic Stadium for a well-deserved sit down and watched the remarkable Paralympics’ athletes put in some great work during an entertaining evening of sport.

Beefeater Mandeville


  1. A nice write up of an area I am very familiar with. For the best part of 9 years I worked in an office in Hays Galleria, formerly Hays Wharf (the building behind HMS Belfast) and almost every day (summer or winter and even in snow on a couple of occasions) I would go for a walk at lunch time to get out of the office. I would normally go along the riverside past City Hall to Tower Bridge, over Tower Bridge then back west along the north side of the river, cross London Bridge and then back along the south bank river path. In fact when I started there the area of City Hall was just a big hole in the ground so I could see Tower Bridge from the office, but with the construction of City Hall and associated "More London" development we lost the view.

    Sometimes I would go west instead along the south bank as far as the Millenium Bridge then cross to the north side of the river and back to and across London Bridge. It was fascinating to watch this area changing, something which has very much continued with the building of the shard. I am very familiar with the pubs in that area too :-)

  2. Thanks very much Jon. I too worked in London in the 1990s, for the London Borough of Southwark. I am amazed at how much change there has been in the city since then. I'm afraid that London didn't really suit me so I didn't stay long. In the meantime I had rather fallen out of love with the place, but I'm pleased to say this all changed with the Olympics. Taking the time to do these trails made me realise what a great place it is for looking around. Strange to think that I have the mascots to thanks for this!


  3. Hi Paul

    Although not being a fan of cities I must say that I have enjoyed your 6 posts on the discovery trails.

    The last time I visited London was the week after the 1966 England world cup win. That visit included a walk around the pitch at Wembley Stadium.

    There's certainly some impressive buildings in London and you must now possess the inner city 'knowledge'.


    1. Crikey Bill - that is a very long time! It must have been amazing to have been in London at that time - I'll bet there was a real sense of euphoria? It must have been difficult to imagine then that we would never win again (and who knows - we still might not).

      I'm glad you have enjoyed this series - I still have one more trip to write up and another with an Olympic theme although somewhere completely different!

      More to be revealed in the next few days


    2. Paul, at the time my friends and I were football mad (well we still are) and having watched the final on TV it was fascinating to see the arena in which it all took place.

      Although the goal posts had been taken down, one crossbar still had the ball mark from Geoff Hurst's controversial goal on it.

      We had a free untroubled walk around the stadium, even up to the royal box.

      I know you are a Brighton fan from your tweets, so you can appreciate what a tour of Wembley meant at that time.

      I doubt if we will ever win the world cup again, certainly not until the FA realise it all starts at grass roots and that's where the money should be spent.


    3. I think that was definitely a 'in the old days' moment! I have been following Brighton for 33 years, since going to my first match in 1979. Football has changed out of all recognition since then, sometimes in good ways and sometimes bad. But then I guess that is just a reflection on life in general?