My wife, Susanne, is very fond of Pre-Raphaelite artwork so we decided to take a trip to Tate Britain (London), as they were hosting a special exhibition: "Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant Garde".
We took the usual train to Kings Cross and then caught the Tube to Pimlico, from where it is just a short walk towards the Thames and along the embankment to the gallery. As I have visited the Tate on many occasions I left Susanne to enjoy the exhibition and headed off up-river to Chelsea.
The main reason for my visit to Chelsea was to complete my collection of images of London Bridges, as up to this point I realised I have only taken views from Tower Bridge to Westminster. The stroll along the riverbank to Chelsea Embankment is very peaceful, compared to the hustle and bustle of Westminster. I was overtaken by several runners taking part in a charity event but did not quicken my own step, as the river views are very pleasurable.
Although Vauxhall Bridge is no real thing of beauty to drive across, from the side the steelwork is brightly painted and Alfred Drury and Frederick Pomeroy have adorned its piers with several larger-than-life bronze statues. There are 8 female figures (four on each side) representing the Arts and Sciences. Well worth a look if you have the time.
As I continued along the river I observed several small sailing boats from the Westminster Boating Base enjoying a morning sail downstream, only to be towed back up again later, due to the running tide. A little further along I was greeted by the forlorn image of Battersea Power Station, striking a daunting pose across the river. The nearby Chelsea Bridge was a little more interesting with its short suspension struts holding-up a steady stream of traffic crossing it.
At this point I was a spoilt for choice; whether to walk through Battersea Park on the far side or carry on along the Chelsea Embankment. So I decided to do both - walk through the park on the way down, cross over the Albert Bridge, and return via the Embankment. A wise decision as it turns out, as the trip through Battersea Park is most pleasant. The park's riverside path forms part of the National Thames Path Trail, which must be one of the most tranquil parts of the route as it passes through London.
This is the first time I have actually walked through this park (as far as I can remember) and was pleasantly surprised. The gardens are extremely well kept, with mature trees, shrubs and flower beds. There is plenty of interest to see, including a children's zoo, a rose garden with a pleasant little tea terrace and a small lake with playful fountains. Walking back out of the park I stood for a while to watch a small group practicing Tai Chi near to the Peace Pagoda, a very touching scene and certainly in keeping with the nature of these peaceful surroundings.
By far the most attractive bridge in this part of London is the old 'Albert Bridge' at the far end of the park. A genuine iron-built Victorian suspension bridge supported by ornate columns, with ribbons of steel splaying out to bear its weight. The bridge is an experience in itself to walk across as you can feel it bounce and sway from the passage of traffic across it. A notice on the entrance tollbooth announces that "All Troops Must Break Step When Marching Over This Bridge".
The Albert Bridge provides great photo opportunities, from all sides, with spectacular views up and down the Thames - the boats lining Cadogan Pier adding a special touch of interest.
After returning along the Chelsea Embankment back to the Tate, I joined Susanne for a picnic lunch on a bench overlooking Lambeth Bridge. Crossing over the bridge brought us to the 'Museum of Garden History'. This small museum is located in an old church surrounded by well-tended gardens. After walking through the gardens, trying to identify some of the more unusual plants, we took the Lambeth Road to the Imperial War Museum.
I have visited this interesting museum many many times in my childhood and have enjoyed every visit. Most of the old planes, tanks and missiles, in the main hall, have been there since my first visit in the 70s. However several of the other exhibition halls have change over the years. The Holocaust Exhibition provides a very sobering and poignant reminder of the horrors of WWII and took some time to navigate. Susanne very much enjoyed the 'People's War: Second World War Portraits', many painted and sketched by those involved in the conflict.
The museum is due to be totally renovated and updated in 2014.
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