Find your feet

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

It’s ground to a halt. If you’re above ground and in a car, Lon­don—quite apart from the saga of Uber and black cabs—isn’t mov­ing. there’s the con­ges­tion of pol­lut­ing traffic of which you, dear driver, are a part. Road­works make it worse. the great­est bug­bear is Boris John­son’s cy­cle su­per high­ways, still un­der con­struc­tion. Given how tight road space is, they do seem to be ex­trav­a­gant— they’re per­ma­nently ded­i­cated to cy­clists, not only dur­ing rush hour (as in other cy­cle-friendly cities).

At week­ends, you may find your­self stranded on the wrong side of the river by the in­creas­ing num­ber of sport­ing events for which roads are closed. Once you’ve reached your des­ti­na­tion, you’re un­likely to find a park­ing space. the in­ter­nal-com­bus­tion engine has had its day as far as cities are con­cerned.

For­tu­nately, we have an al­ter­na­tive: our feet. With traffic at a stand­still, more peo­ple are dis­cov­er­ing what a pleas­ant city Lon­don is to walk in. It’s not as com­pact as Paris, but there are more green spa­ces. How­ever, put aside the health ben­e­fits for a mo­ment: walk­ing en­ables us to use our eyes. the sky­line might in­creas­ingly com­prise high-rise tow­ers, but the cap­i­tal is rich in com­mem­o­ra­tive stat­ues. they’re of all kinds and dates—states­men, sol­diers, monarchs, Peter Pan, the Camel Corps and Achilles— and the Lon­don so­ci­ety’s app (stat­uefindr) can help you to learn more.

How­ever, Lon­don isn’t only Wil­liam III in st James’s square or Monty out­side the Min­istry of Defence. It’s a city that, in its own quiet way, de­lights in dec­o­ra­tion, from tem­ple Bar (re-erected in Pater­nos­ter square) to the York Water­gate. Queen Anne never built the col­umn that would have borne her fig­ure out­side st Mary-le-strand; it would have marked the boundary be­tween West­min­ster and the City of Lon­don, yet the Vic­to­rian dragon, bear­ing the City’s coat of arms, is a splen­did crea­ture and some of its close re­la­tions can be seen in our quiz (page 120).

Look up! A car­avel weath­er­vane is turn­ing over 2, tem­ple Place, once the Astor Es­tate of­fice. Jus­tice weighs her golden scales above the Old Bai­ley—she was one of the im­pe­rial flour­ishes brought to us by the Ed­war­dian age. these were also the ter­ra­cotta years, made glo­ri­ous by C. Fitzroy Doll’s Ho­tel Rus­sell in Rus­sell square. the New sculp­ture gave us Al­fred Gil­bert’s shaftes­bury Me­mo­rial Foun­tain on Pic­cadilly Cir­cus and the Arts-andCrafts move­ment the jolly Black­friar pub —which re­minds us of an­other boon of not driv­ing. Cheers!

‘More peo­ple are dis­cov­er­ing what a pleas­ant city Lon­don is to walk in

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