Exploring South East London (in Three Hours)
Big news for me… come this Summer, the plan is to be a fully-fledged resident of London. No more country-bumpkin for me! I’m so excited – I’ve wanted to move to London (or back to Bath, whichever came first) for a while now, both for the lifestyle and the career move. And now at last I have the opportunity. With this in mind, I have been trawling the property websites in search of the ideal home. Luckily for me, a friend is already living in London and knows her stuff!
Another friend and I headed to the Big Smoke this past weekend for a visit with said London friend, and soon discovered that there is this leafy little haven in zone three, and it felt like it is just for us. South East London might not be the most fashionable of spots, but it has parks aplenty, and quiet terraced streets. Definitely my kind of London. It’s taken my heart, and it was very hard to leave on Sunday.
Saturday we decided to take a walk, so we could explore the area as much as get out and about, and so set off under 15°C of London sunshine for an adventure. Strolling across Blackheath, we bought ice creams and found our way through Greenwich Park (stopping for the obligatory London skyline picture). Greenwich Park, right next to the Maritime Museum, is also where you can stand with one foot in the East and one foot in the West at the Prime Meridian, but you do have to pay for the privilege… we just peered through the gates at the line instead!
From Greenwich Park, it’s a short walk to the Cutty Sark. The Cutty Sark is the last surviving “tea clipper” (a clipper ship that used to trade in tea – curiously enough), and you can traipse these over-a-century-old decks, but again, you pay for it, so instead we grabbed a picnic lunch and sat in the sun on the wide steps in front of the ship, watching the world go by. I love the Cutty Sark – it inspires all sorts of stories for me, and there’s something completely surreal but totally right about turning the corner and seeing a ship stretching up from concrete, complete with rigging singing in the breeze and gleaming black hull. It’s definitely worth a visit if you want to move away from the more traditional spots like the London Eye and Dungeons. Plus, there are a couple of pubs nearby that are lush. If you’re so inclined, why not nip in to the Trafalgar Tavern, an old stomping ground of Charles Dickens.
Although technically a tourist myself, I do often find myself getting highly impatient with most tourist people (it’s the dithering). But as busy as it was, I felt remarkably tolerant – the steps were littered with people soaking up the sun, with ice creams, or tin containers of takeaway and very little dithering unless it was sauntering. However, I couldn’t work out where these pulled pork sandwiches and chow meins were coming from until we went to Greenwich Market, and were confronted by row upon row of food stalls filled with sizzling, aromatic goodies (including plenty of duck, which would have looked highly appealing if I hadn’t just stuffed my face with Marks & Spencer salads).
The market itself was busy, so it took us a while to navigate around it, but it’s definitely worth a visit if not for the street food than purely for the variety of stalls – there was even a stall where you could “talk to a philosopher”! I think because of the sun, everyone had crept out of their hibernation holes to explore, which meant it really was packed in with a lot of people out for Saturday strolls as well. We took a break in a cute little vintage shop, but unless you really mean business, the market isn’t a place to really linger. Feeling like we had explored enough, we headed back.
Rather than walk all the way back, we jumped on the DLR and within the hour we had put our feet up with a good brew and had spaghetti Bolognese on the go. Now that’s what I call a good Saturday.
But not only that, it’s made that London move all the more real in my mind – I feel like I could really live in South East London, and still maintain a quality of life that I enjoy living out in the sticks. I wouldn’t be running with the deer so much, but perhaps the ducks in the pond in the park will entertain me. There’s so much to do and see (without even paying) and you don’t have to drive miles to do it. The local area we were in has its own Saturday market and direct links in to central London, cute Victorian terraces with porch front doors and gardens. Like I said – my own leafy little haven.
Are you a fan of London?
What do you recommend doing in the Big City?