Not to worry though as that won't stop me from walking! We'd been invited to the fireworks display at Battersea Park, and given it was an ok day weather-wise (cold but bright) we decided to walk there. Ok, ok, so actually I decided we would walk there and The Boy went along with it, but still!
The route - overview
From where we are in Hackney to Battersea is about 7 miles. Going at the pace I normally walk to work I could do this in about 1 hour 40 I reckon. However, we were going for a slightly more leisurely pace and allowed ourselves over 2 hours to get there.
From Hackney to Liverpool Street isn't particularly riveting - you just have to walk straight down Kingsland Road, through Shoreditch, but once you get into the city the sights become a lot more inspiring. We then headed for the river and followed the Thames Path round to Battersea.
I walk down the Kingsland Road every day as part of my walk to work. It's easy, having done it so many times not to really notice any sights of note on it. However, having thought about it there are a few things worth mentioning.
Not long after hitting the Kingsland Road you cross Regents Canal which heads off to Islington in one direction and Victoria Park in the other. When I go running, I often hit the canal towpath, and in general it's a nice route to wander along when you get the chance.
Just after the canal is a mosque on the left and then St Leonard's hospital on the right, which apparently was originally the infirmary for the St Leonard Shoreditch Workhouse. Carry on a bit further and on the left you'll come across the Geffrye Museum of the Home, which I'm ashamed to admit I haven't been in yet, despite living in the vicinity for over two years. I will definitely have to go in one of these days!
Heading further south, there's a little pocket of Vietnam in Shoreditch, where every single buliding is either a Vietnamese restaurant or supermarket - highly recommended for excellent Vietnamese food - and then you are on into Shoreditch proper.
After traversing the crowds of look-at-me-aren't-I-so-trendy-and-different hipsters in Shoreditch, we headed into the city.
The area around Liverpool Street station is dominated by towering new buildings of shiny glass and steel. On a sunny day they do have their own unique beauty, and it's hard not to be impressed by their soaring presence.
On this occasion, we cut through the station so that The Boy (who was a bit hungover after work drinks on the Friday night) could pick up an Upper Crust baguette. After this slight diversion we exited Liverpool Street onto Old Broad Street and continued south, crossing over London Wall.
On the right, just past one of the many Tesco Express stores on this route (exciting, I know) is the entrance to Austin Friars. This is where Thomas Cromwell, advisor to King Henry VIII lived, though I believe the original buildings he inhabited no longer stand.
We headed off down Queen Victoria street and then left down a pedestrianised cut through onto Queen Street and down to Southwark Bridge.
One of my favourite places to walk in London is along the Thames. Crossing any of its many bridges affords you fantastic views across the City. From Southwark Bridge we could see Tower Bridge, the Shard and Canary Wharf off to the east, while west is the Tate Modern, St Paul's and the Millennium Bridge spanning the space between them.
One thing I had forgotten, however, was that unlike at the times I walk to and from work, at the weekend the South Bank is invariably crawling with people. For me this is always somewhat frustrating as encountering people walking at snail's pace is pretty much inavoidable. I've already talked about my frustrations with this here, so I won't go on about it again, but it did hamper our progress.
Nevertheless, you can't help but feel at the centre of everything walking along the stretch of river between Southwark Bridge and the Houses of Parliament. First we passed the reconstructed Globe Theatre, then the Tate Modern, Millennium Bridge and St Paul's Cathedral across the river.
Then it's on past Blackfriars Bridge, the Oxo Tower and Gabriel's Wharf (home to Gourmet Pizza Company and lots of lovely little shops), until you reach Waterloo Bridge, the Royal Festival Hall and the South Bank proper. Lots of restaurants (of which Ping Pong is a personal favourite) and cafes, and (as there was on this walk) quite often food festivals. Yesterday's one was the Tea and Coffee festival - very random!
By this point we'd been going for about an hour and a half and we were both looking forward to getting away from the crowds. I knew that point was nearly in sight. We had to fight our way past the London Eye - with amazing views across to the Houses of Parliament - and under Westminster Bridge. Immediately on the other side it was like a different place altogether. Far fewer people and room to breathe again.
We pushed on along the river towards Vauxhall, passing Lambeth Palace on the left and then eventually, just before Vauxhall Bridge, the MI6 building (as blown up in the latest Bond film).
By this point, further down the river, Battersea Power Station was clearly visible and we knew that the end of the walk was in sight. It wasn't completely dark, but twilight was certainly upon us and both of us were looking forward to getting inside and warming up a bit before going to see the fireworks. Plus, despite my listing of my city walking essentials, which The Boy is well aware of, he wore his less supportive trainers and his feet were suffering so it was a good thing we were reaching the finish line.
The final stretch from Vauxhall round to Battersea led us away from the river and along the road again, walking through an area full of building work that felt rather desolate. It was a relief to reach the more cheerful area around Battersea Park station and veer off towards our final destination.
Even without them though, seeing family and friends and having a bit of a party was a fun thing to find at the end of the walk and I felt less guilty about having a nice slice of birthday cake, knowing I'd walked 7 miles.
So here's to London walks - invariably interesting, and while perhaps not quite the same beauty as to be found in the countryside, there are still some lovely sights to be seen.