My wife, Gaynor, and I have always enjoyed walking around London. In fact, it’s one of the joys of living in a big city; there’s always something that you haven’t previously noticed just around the corner. So it was that, in 2017, we were walking along Marylebone High Street, when we decided that a little alleyway looked inviting. The alley led into a little square and, although we didn’t realise it at the time https://hiddenwithinplainview.co.uk/ was born. So, from now on, instead of just deciding on the day, we would actually plan our walks. A short trip to Stanfords in Covent Garden led to the purchase of a map and a couple of books on London walks and, equipped with our cameras, comfortable, waterproof boots, jacket and a rucksack, we were ready.
Given that we didn’t want to use the car (something that would necessitate any walk being circular), live near the canal and like the thought of walking towards, rather than away from, home, we decided to start with the Lea Valley Walk. 25 kilometres, spread over four weekends. So, that’s why, on 16 April 2017, we found ourselves at the old Gunpowder Mills near Waltham Abbey. From then on, we spend one day each weekend, walking along the River Lea and the canal from there to the River Thames. With a break for the pandemic, it’s what we’ve been doing ever since, as can be seen on that map we bought. From something pristine, it’s now covered in black marker pen showing where we’ve been and, lately, also in red marker pen to show where we still need to go. If memory serves me well, we’ve only been disappointed once and that was only for part of a walk, where the Thames Path was diverted, past an expensive housing estate.
Our journey so far has taken us from the aforementioned Waltham Abbey in the north through to Hackney Marshes and Three Mills (where Masterchef was filmed) in the east. Then on to New Cross and Dulwich Village in the south along the river to Richmond, Brentford and Hanwell Lock in the west. We’ve also done the Magificent Seven Cemeteries and more. From two people, one who had been a keen photographer for years and the other more of a novice, it’s the former who now takes a back seat as the “spotter” and the latter who photographs thing of interest.
In the process, Gaynor has become a great recorder of, among other things, ghost signs, but will also have other things that are her favourites. Mine, however, are those which most reflect the name of her website, things we found that were completely unexpected, like the site of the first Texan Embassy in London just off the Haymarket. Some of these are shown in the accompanying photos including Primrose Gardens in Belsize Park, a hidden cottage between a dual carriageway, railway line and the canal in east London, local authority housing in Alexander Road, an amazing mural in Brixton, a pair of cottages on Heath Street, Hampstead, the complete other world that is Dungeness and Arts and Crafts houses in New Cross. When we get back, Gaynor downloads the photos and researches places and items of interest which are then written up in her blog.
We may have done a lot but there is still much to do and, hopefully, with the easing of the pandemic, we can continue. So, check out the website and, if you know of places that we haven’t yet discovered, please let us know. Better still, give it a try yourself and find your own things that are “hidden in plain view”. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.