5. Hackney Henge (Nature’s Throne)
Now, here’s one that’ll take a bit of dedication to find. All tourists know about Stonehenge, right? Well meet East London’s equivalent – Hackney Henge, or as the locals call it ” ‘ackney ‘enge”. Its real name is Nature’s Throne and it’s a piece of artwork by Paula Haughney, made up of granite blocks that used to belong to an engine house. It’s a bizarre piece of art, but closer than Stonehenge.
Getting there still isn’t easy, though. It’s in a nature reserve called, unglamorously, “The Middlesex Filter Beds”, which is itself an offshoot of Hackney Marshes. The nearest tube is probably Leytonstone, which is quite some distance away, but there are rail stations closer (including the London Overground which is, confusingly part of the London Underground….but it’s overground). At least it’s on the edge of the marsh, so you don’t have to get your shoes too dirty…
4. Charlie Chaplin’s House
This one requires heading back to Kennington, South London although in reality it’s only a short hop on the tube from Central London. The famous actor and comedian Charlie Chaplin was born around here in 1889 and there are many blue plaques recognizing the places he lived. One house bearing a Chaplin plaque is in Methley St, which was a slum when he lived there but is now an upmarket terrace. It’s a good site to visit for classic film fans, and you can wander up to the Three Stags pub for a drink in “Chaplin’s Corner” afterwards.
3. Peace Pagoda, Battersea Park
Still in South London, we find this very lovely pagoda in the very lovely Battersea Park, next to the Thames. Constructed in 1985 by the Buddhist monk Reverend Gyoro Nagase, who spends his time there meditating and maintaining the pagoda. It’s a place of reflection and peace in a very busy city and is opposite the small but interesting children’s zoo.
2. Penguin Pool, London Zoo
On the theme of zoos, this is a bit of a curiosity in the middle of one of the most famous zoos in the world. Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s where the penguins live – oh no, they have their funky new home at penguin beach, a specially-designed habitat for them. This penguin pool lies empty, a classic piece of art deco architecture that took little heed of what animals actually need. Designed in 1934 by Berthold Lubetkin, it is architecturally significant as one of the first structures to use reinforced concrete but the unwielding surfaces were bad for the penguins’ feet and the decision was eventually taken to move them away. So, the pool remains empty as, being a Grade 1 listed building, it cannot be demolished or significantly changed. It just stands as a tribute to groundbreaking architecture.
1. Albert Memorial, Kensington Gardens
This was almost missed off the list for not being obscure enough (it’s hardly subtle), but its location at the south-west corner of Hyde Park means that this glorious monument is often missed by tourists. Opened by Queen Victoria in 1872 to commemorate her beloved Albert, this is an ornate and towering sight with Albert himself glowing gold inside. It’s just a majestic sight that takes on Nelson’s column for grandeur and wins, hands-down but even the “most extensive” bus tours chose to miss it out as they turn off towards Harrods. Go and have a look – you won’t be disappointed.