Sunday, 8 February 2015

Paddington and Bus Trails – Around the River

With only just over an hour of daylight remaining I had little hope of completing any more trails for the Year of the Bus or Paddington and so I concentrated my time on combining the two in the City of London to see how many more I could find.  As a result I got to cover much of the ground from earlier mascot explorations in 2012, taking in such sights as The Monument, St Paul’s Cathedral, The Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern among other sights.

George Peabody
I started my walk at Moorgate station, which was in a bit of a mess on account of the Crossrail project which was well and truly underway.  This new railway line will link the east and the west of the Capital for the first time and provide direct access for rail passengers from Essex to Heathrow.  It is a hugely ambitious and expensive project but will significantly increase transport choices for millions of people.  For me though it rather limited my choice of how to get out of the station and without realising it I found myself in a project that was perhaps as ambitious in its scope 30+ years ago – the Barbican Estate.  This large housing estate was built in the early 1980s and must have seemed quite radical in its day.  Now it looks rather dated but in a good way – I rather like the old place.  It’s got the air of university campus about it.

I extracted myself from the estate and headed down towards the Bank of England.  The streets were strangely quiet compared with the hullabaloo of the shopping areas out west and this heightened my awareness of lots of police being about in the area.  As I got closer to the area around Bank the numbers increased substantially and I felt slightly uncomfortable about the numbers I started seeing.  By the Bank itself there were vanloads of police officers about and I wondered whether there was either going to be a heist or that they were worried about bankers stealing money following high spirited Christmas parties.  Whatever the reason I never quite got to the bottom of it.  I did spot a Paddington and the ‘All Aboard the Number 11’ in this area though before moving on.

London Wall
I decided that I would follow a route that enabled me to see ‘Push Once’ outside the Guildhall and then a further Paddington by the Museum of London.  The first I saw but sadly I could not find the second and ended up having to give up on it.  This diversion cost me time but it did enable me to see a rather sad church spire that had been divorced from the rest of its church by a Luftwaffe bomb in World War II.  Now it stood out on its own in a sea of modern buildings looking rather forlorn.

St Paul's Sunset
Of even greater antiquity were the remains of the London Wall.  This once encircled the city on three sides (the fourth side was protected by the river) but now only fragments remain.  The best preserved section is surely the one that passes close by the Museum of London and shows how the whole would once have looked.  For me it was the first time I had seen it – yet another little corner of London spotted as a result of mascot trails.  While I enjoy the artwork of the mascots I do like to see the underbelly of the city through which I am walking too – the trails make a great opportunity in which to do this.

Punk'd Bus
Feeling a bit annoyed that I had missed one of the mascots I headed down towards St Paul’s Cathedral.  As I reached the north end of the Cathedral a massive queue was forming outside.  I imagined that this was for a carol concert as most of the people queuing were dressed up in their best clothes.  I was rather glad that I wasn’t standing around on such a cold day and kept moving, heading around to the front of the Cathedral.  I caught sight of Bear in the Wood and the Punk’d bus but missed another bus that was in the area after a bit of searching.  By now I was getting weary and didn’t want to expend more time than I needed to finding mascots that weren’t very obvious.  Besides I was rather more taken with the way that the sun was now lighting up St Paul’s Cathedral and the famous dome than I was with searching out mascots.

Failing Light Over the Thames
I continued over the Millennium Bridge, now thankfully cured of its wobbles. The sky over the city was becoming quite dramatic as the sun started to sink lower in the sky and I knew that realistically I wasn’t going to finish this trail.  I crossed quickly to the other side of the river and was dumped into the middle of a German-style Christmas market full of the smells of frying wurst, candy floss and roasting chestnuts.  In my rather hungry state this was a little bit torturous but managed to find the Brollybus and Fragile Paddington.

By now time and light were running out fast and so I rushed along the riverside by the Globe Theatre and along by the Golden Hind finding Shakesbear and three more buses along the way.  By now it was getting pretty dark and I had to bail from the route rather earlier than I wanted to.  In all I probably only saw 2/3 of the mascots of this trail and sadly I had run out of time for another visit.  Overall though for a day’s visit I think I did pretty well, seeing more than 40 mascots in total and a good chunk of London as well.  I am guessing that 2015 will see lots more opportunities for mascot spotting and maybe a visit to a new city to spot them?

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