Exploring north west London

By | Category: Travel destinations
view of Lord's in front of the press box

Lord’s, the home of cricket. Image © MCC

London is a treasure trove of things to see and do. Without going too far afield it’s worth discovering some its lesser-known places.

St. John’s Wood was once part of the Great Forest of Middlesex, a name derived from its mediaeval owners, the Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. The area is particularly well known for Lord’s Cricket Ground, the home of Middlesex Country Cricket Club and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). The grounds, the biggest in the UK has seating for 28,000 people, is only used between April and September. I joined one of their guided tours where we were shown virtually everything there was to see including the Grade II listed Pavilion, the player’s dressing rooms, and the glass fronted sputnik style media centre. The museum is filled with cricket memorabilia including the original Ashes Urn and the Wisden Trophy.

Abbey Rd London crossing - without the Beatles

the zebra crossing at Abbey Road

St John’s Wood is also famous for the Abbey Road Studios where the Beatles recorded their Abbey Road album. The nearby zebra crossing where the Beatles album cover was shot is a photo opportunity. Visitors stop the traffic to have their photo taken crossing the road. Although the studios are not open to the general public, a souvenir shop has opened next door.

Just to the north east of St John’s Wood lies Primrose Hill, parkland where those walking to the top of the hill 78m can have a panoramic view of London. A favourite pastime is guessing the buildings on the skyline. Fortunately there are also plaques pinpointing what can be seen. When the sun shines, the hill is a favourite for people to come and picnic, and it is likely that someone will bring along a musical instrument. The streets around Primrose Hill have a village atmosphere with lots of independent shops. The upmarket area attracts a lot of famous people. Alan Bennett was inspired to write his play The Lady in the Van, later made into a film, when Miss Shepherd parked her van in his driveway for many years. The Greenberry, a smart dog-friendly eatery is where the locals come at all times of the day for a light lunch or brunch. Preferable to book .

puppets at the Puppet Barge Theatre

watching a performance on the Puppet Theatre Barge

Little Venice, part of the Regent’s Canal, an area named by the poet Robert Browning flows under the Edgware Road to where it joins the Union Canal at Browning’s Pool. The roads on either side of the canal are tree lined, with elegant dwellings and always a pleasure to walk along. The canal itself has brightly coloured barges moored along its route. From October at the start of the half term school holidays, the Puppet Theatre Barge has its base opposite 35 Blomfield Road. The barge has been converted into a theatre with central heating, and seating for 55. The shows, for both children and adults use marionettes, long string puppets with the operators hidden from the audience. Performances, which last just over an hour, begin in the same way as an ordinary theatre with the lights dimming, and the stage then becoming alive. During August and September the barge is moored at Richmond.

Little Venice

Westbourne Terrace Road Bridge takes you to the other side of the canal where on the corner is the very unassuming dog-friendly Bridge House pub. One of the few places in Central London where you can still find a Sunday roast on the menu. On the first floor is the Canal Café Theatre where there is an ever-changing theatrical programme. This doubles with their well established News Review on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings where with song, sketches and gags the actors swiftly change characters in a tirade of political satire interspersed with current topics.

On the canal the Waterside Café on a barge is open all year round, with tables and chairs on the water’s edge, somewhere to stop for coffee and cake.

dinasaur model at London Zoo

an unusual creature at the zoo!

Just past the café is the queue for the London Waterbus Company, one of several companies offering narrow boat rides down the canal, a leisurely way to get to London Zoo and Camden Market, famous for its markets crammed with vintage clothes, craft, food and souvenir stalls.  Anyone wanting to visit the zoo can buy their entry ticket on the barge and be dropped off, bypassing the queues at the main gate. During the summer holidays, barges go backwards and forwards on a daily basis reverting to the weekends from mid September.

if you like animals whatever your age ZSL London Zoo has over 17,000 animals and it is very easy to spend a whole day there without seeing everything. For those who don’t approve of caging animals, it is worth knowing that the zoo is not just an attraction but is also involved in research and education. Activities for visitors include daily demonstrations, talks and feeds. This summer until September 3, there is a new exhibition of life-size moving dinosaurs where visitors can take a trip back to the Mesozoic era, about 65 million years ago. On select Saturdays in August and September there are ‘sleep-overs’ where children can spend a night in the zoo with a private tour in the morning.

a performance at the Open Air Theatre

Jesus Christ Superstar at the Open Air Theatre

The zoo on the perimeter of the 410-acre Regent’s Park has an inner and out circle which can be quite confusing. The park is named after the Prince Regent, who later became King George IV. Hidden away in the centre by the Rose Gardens is Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, a must-visit experience if the weather is fine. A bonus this summer is the staging of the award winning musical Jesus Christ Superstar, which opens on Aug 11 and runs through to Sep 16. Performances start at 7.45pm with the gates opening at 6.15pm allowing visitors to enjoy a meal or barbeque on the lawn within the complex before the play begins. Food options range from a cheapie barbeque to a sit down meal and certainly for me is very much part of the experience. On Thursdays and Saturdays there are also matinees at 14.15 with the gates opening at 13.15.

Just as not all the most enjoyable theatre is in the West End, that is equally so for its attractions. A trip to St John’s Wood, Little Venice and Regent’s Park, all within a mile or so of the centre, will show another side of London that you might not have realised existed.

For more on Natasha’s trip to London Zoo, click here or go to bit.ly/2f7HKWT



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