The Blue Bridge in St James’s Park

It’s the platform for a trillion photos – to the west is Buckingham Palace, framed by trees, and look east to see Horseguards, the London Eye and the chateau-style roofline of Whitehall Court. Try to cross on a day when there is the Changing of the Guards and it seems like half of humanity is being funnelled through its narrow footway.

This is the ‘Blue Bridge’ that spans the lake in St James’s Park, a blandly functional crossing erected in 1957, made from two concrete beams, with railings painted a sky blue (hence, of course, the name). 

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Victoria’s Secret Garden – a hidden gem in Westminster

The long highway of Victoria Street has to be one of the most second rate walking routes in the whole of the city. There is Westminster Cathedral – John Francis Bentley’s glorious late 19th reimagining of the Byzantine Hagia Sophia – and the far off prospect of the Abbey, but generally the street is concrete and glass shop fronts and office receptions; there is little architectural merit and even less to inspire or uplift.

But as you pass Westminster City Hall dive off the main drag down a walkway called Seaforth Place and (after navigating a small access road) you alight upon The Onion Garden, one of the absolute ‘hidden gems’ of Westminster.

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Duck Island Cottage – Westminster’s Swiss Chalet

It’s somehow absolutely typical of london that some of the closest neighbours to George Gilbert Scott’s huge Italianate Foreign Office building is a pair of one-storey wooden swiss-style chalets – and I’d venture that these two star in more photos than their much grander neighbour.

This is the Birdkeeper’s – or Duck Island – Cottage, built in 1841 at the best of the Ornithological Society of London as a residence for a St James’s Park birdkeeper, with a clubroom for the Society making up the pair. The cottage is on the aforementioned Duck Island and it is linked to the clubroom by a covered bridge or loggia, although the channel that separated the ‘island’ from the rest of the park was filled in in the 1880s. The architect was John Burges Watson, who is not well-known. He designed St Mary’s church in Staines, St Mary Magdalene, South Holmwood, and won the competition for the new Kingston Bridge, although his plan was not used. 

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