7 March 2012

Battersea Park and Beyond

I had walked briskly through Battersea Park a couple of times previously and then a theatre date locally allowed me the time to explore it more fully in a race against the quickly fading sun.

It still retains the traditional promenades from a long-bygone age, one circles the park and another cuts through the middle.

The south-west corner likes to think that it is wild with unkempt trees scattered around irregular ponds. This is not quite Richmond Park but this is Zone 2 so it will do.

On the centre on the north side is my favourite section that is as eccentric and whimsical as Portmeirion.

The Tea Terrace is outrageous in scale, shape and colour attracting your attention from some distance. It is impossible to resist its siren call and it rewards you well with its exquisite design.

The same attention to detail is given to the railings that guards the grass and flower beds nearby.

The bright pink is as unsubtle as the brash orange, especially when contracted against the green grass behind it.

The pink would be enough of a delight by itself and the uneven heights of the railings and their ball tops only make things better.

All this tomfoolery is to prepare you for the Fountain Lake, sadly without working fountains today. Instead the lack of moving water creates an eerie stillness and reflects the park back at you.

Again the attention to detail matters here and the little islands decked out in Manchester City colours are just gorgeous.

A little boulevard takes you from the lake to the river. Along the way there are some silly (in a nice way) boxes with flame designs on the sides and balls on the top.

But the seats are even more interesting.

The asymmetric curved back is cute and so is the one arm rest.

I am a big fan of benches but there are generally too few of them and too many chunky wooden ones. Other parks and open spaces can learn from what Battersea has done here in combining practicality with beauty.

Hitting the tow path brings you to the park's most famous feature, the Peace Pagoda.

Completed in 1985, permission to build it was the last legislative act of the Greater London Council. One of the many things Londoners can thank Ken Livingstone for.

It's not very large but it is pretty and it is, as it's name suggested, peaceful. Even the river flowing gently past respects its purpose.

Walking upstream the next monument is rather more flamboyant.

Albert Bridge, little more than a hundred years old, the bridge has had a chequered history that leaves it too narrow for easy passage, with disused toll booths (a timely reminder that it had to be taken in to public ownership when the private business failed) and with warning signs to trooping soldiers to break step or risk breaking the bridge.

The fairground colours and lights are a more recent addition and are there to make the bridge more visible at night. I'm not sure that they had to go quite as far as that though. Still, it's pretty enough so I am not complaining.

Continuing upstream the river bends slowly round to the left and reveals some of its history as it does so.

There are so many flash apartments and offices along the river that it is easy to forget that it was a working river until not that long ago and some of the commercial legacy is still there on more remote stretches, i.e. away from tube stations.

I am sure that developers have their greedy eyes on these sights but I am glad that they have been frustrated so far.

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