London’s worst kept secret

One of my favourite London Buildings is the famous Post Office Tower, or BT Tower if you like.  It’s a iconic landmark, just around the corner from where work.  I often glance up at it from my office to see what is happening in the world.  From the dancing reindeer at Christmas, to the day it turned blue for Prince George’s birth.  Its  a happy London Landmark and was officially opened by the Prime Minster Howard Wilson on  this day in 1965.

But did you know it is also London’s worst kept secret? 

BT Tower skyline


Because up until just as recently as the 1990′s the Tower was classified as a State Secret and didn’t even appear on maps. Quite surprising for a building that until 1981 was London’s tallest, and can be seen from pretty much anywhere in the city. It’s a shame it’s no longer open to the public, it was closed off following bomb attacks in the 1980s.  But there are always rumours of it opening back up.  We live in hope.

bt tower up

Although you can’t get inside it is worth visiting, as it’s pretty impressive to see from directly under the Tower on Cleveland Street.  It has grade two listing, which protects the building and this includes it’s antenna’s which are now no longer in use.

 A few fun facts:

The tower is 191 m (including it antennas).

Its foundations are 53 metres deep.

Its other official opening was in 1966 by Billy Butlin and Tony Benn

Its high speed lift gets you to the top in just 30 seconds!

In 2012 a super megapixel camera was placed on the top of the tower to snap London.  You can explore the incredible images at  360gigapixels.com/london-320-gigapixel-panorama

Oxford Street’s Secret Garden

If you’ve been busy shopping, and fighting the crowds in Oxford Street, you might want to escape the craziness and find a quiet tranquil spot.

Well just two minutes off Oxford Street is the newly opened Brown Hart Gardens. Its easy to miss though because its not your normal city park.

Built on top of an old Victorian substation, overlooking the pretty Mayfair shops are the glamorously designed, and very spacious roof top gardens and cafe.

The substation itself is quite impressive, it resembles more of a mausoleum or temple than an electricity hub. If you’re lucky the grand green doors will be open and you can peer in at the Victorian tiling, and see the busy Crossrail contractors going in and out. (If the doors aren’t open you can peer through the sides, which is quite interesting – it almost resembles and abandoned railway station down there.)

Brown hart

Either side of the impressive temple entrance you’ll see the stairs that lead you up to the gardens.

Although the gardens are recently opened, they are not a new creation.  When the substation was originally built in 1905 the Duke of Westminster insisted that the land be returned to the local community in someway (quiet a modern idea) and so beautiful Italian gardens were built on top.  This existed until the 80s, then closed.  The gardens were re-established and re-opened in June.

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It’s worth a visit, and when you’re there make sure you take in the surroundings, this tiny tranquil off-shoot of Oxford Street, is surrounded by some of the most beautiful buildings.

You can’t miss:

- The Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral,built in 1890s by the famous Architect Alfred Waterhouse.

- The Stunning gothic Duke Street Mansions and surrounding Peasbody buildings. – the first ever housing association homes, built in the late 1800s in an attempt to alleviate the slum housing conditions in London.

Its a beautiful area, and it’s well worth stepping back from the Oxford Street crush and stepping back in time.

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Sunny Days in London

Summer is well and truly on its way, so grab your picnic and check out my guide to London’s best parks.

Regent’s Park
This beautiful park just a short walk from Oxford Street, was built for the Prince Regent in the early 1800s. Today it is still has a very royal feel to it, surrounded by the regents canals and plush regency mansions, its a beautiful respite from the busy city. Particularly make sure you wander through the Avenue Gardens which are very regal and will make you feel like a king.

regents park avenue

Regent’s Park is also the home to London Zoo. If you plan to visit the Zoo, which is the North of the Park, take the zoo canal ride from Little Venice.

Quirky Fact
Regents Park contains a secret garden, The Garden of St John’s Lodge just off the Inner Circle

Primrose Hill
Officially part of Regent’s Park, its so special I just had to add it on separately. This small hill at the very North of Regent’s Park offers the best views in London, and is a beautiful spot for a picnic or bit of sun worshiping. Head down the Hill to Regents Park Road (towards Camden) and enjoy some of Primrose Hill’s cool cafe’s and boutique stores.

Quirky Fact
Primrose Hill is home to numerous notable and famous residents, including Sienna Miller, Rachel Weisz, and Jeremy Clarkson.

Greenwich
Another of my all time favourites, and a great location for London views. You can easily make a day of a visit to Greenwich with it’s quaint market, beautiful Naval College grounds, and the famous Royal Observatory, all overlooking the Thames, and the crazy city CBD. If you don’t have the energy to climb the hill (which I wouldn’t recommend missing out on) it’s just as pleasant to chill out in the grounds of the Naval College overlooking the river.

Quirky Fact
The naval college was once the site of one of London’s most prestigious royal palaces and birth place of Henry VIII.

Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens
A classic must see, stretching all the way from Kensington to Marble Arch, it’s easy to forget your in the city in this beautiful extensive park, surrounded by some of London’s best landmarks including Kensington Palace the Royal Albert Hall, as well as the famous Princess Diana Memorial. The best way to see the extent of it is to jump on a Boris Bike and cycle the park.

Quirky Fact
The famous Marble Arch at the Oxford Street End of the Park was once Arch entrance to Buckingham Palace, but was deemed unsuitable for the royal residence and moved to park instead.

Hampstead Heath
The beautiful Hampstead Heath, is a great relaxing spot, on the side of the quaint Hampstead village, and another great spot for a London view, as the park is London’s highest point. It makes a great escape from the city. It also contains some great walks and there are out door pools as well as historic London houses, such as Ivenforth House, and Kenwood.

hampstead heath

Quirky Fact
For a spooky pint, head to the Spainards Inn, one of London’s most haunted pubs. Which is reputedly haunted by famous Highwayman Dick Turpin, among others.

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Best New View in Town

For the best new view in town head to One New Change, a brand new shopping centre, across the road from St Paul’s (and St Paul’s Station).

Just a snapshot of the great panoramic view

Just a snapshot of the great panoramic view

With shops on the first and second floor, its the 6th floor that provides a massive roof top terrace, and incredible views across to St Paul’s and out to the Thames, Tate Modern, The Shard, and as far as the London Eye and beyond. This one is a definite Must Do (even on a rainy day)

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One New Change
London EC4M 9AF
www.onenewchange.com