Saturday, March 01, 2008

Vauxhall Thames Path and House

The Victoria line tube at Vauxhall takes forever to access from
from London SWTrains overground station. Also during the interminable
climb down steps and escalators to the tube, the ears are assailed by incessant
tannoy announcements and canned classical music so I invariably walk
across Vauxhall Bridge and on to the day job office.

Over the years the walk has improved. On the SouthEast side a derelict bulding site
was developed into the new MI5/MI6 HQ. On the SW side the huge dust bowl of a coach
and lorry park, was then developed into modern flats. The architecture
of both developments is not pleasing to the eye (mine anyway) but at
least the area is crisper and cleaner to stroll through. A new bus
station with what appears to be a rocket launcher for a roof
replaced some of the hideous roads in the centre of Vauxhall
Cross. A while later and the creation of new bus lanes had the
unintended effect of moving most of the rush of cars and vans
away from the W.side pavement thus making the bridge a tiny bit less
of a hassle to walk across.

The main improvements took place on
the North side however. Gradually housing developments
mostly quite good, replaced derelict wharfs and storehouses on the NW side
and a new Thameside footpath was created. For the last few years
this path though very attractive, has been frustratingly short with
the result that people on the N side walking west,
have been decanted back to the very busy, congestion
charge exempt embankment after a scenic
couple of hundred yards walk. During those years a stand alone building
was being constructed adjacent to the river just past yet
another nice-ish new development of riverside flats.

The function of the stand alone building is shrouded
in mystery. No nameplates or identifying signs of any kind are
to be found on it. Any embassy or company using it
for an HQ would doubtless be keen to show off their presence
with brass plates or flags. Any normal UK government
department or police or QUANGO would do the same. Yet
there are none of those trappings nor any sale boards etc.
Instead the site is surrounded by high brick walls and CCTV
cameras abound as well. The building does not seem to house

For years then I had assumed that the Thames path's westward
direction at that point would remain curtailed. However
a few days ago without any fanfare, I found one lunchtime, the usually
heavily barred gate at the Pimlico Gardens end open.
Walking back along the path eastwards for the first time,
it became apparent that the
length of the path accessible to the public had just about
been doubled in size enabling the whole of the Embankment's
traffic at that area to be avoided by pedestrians.

The stand alone building is as mysterious
and as well protected from the riverside
however as from the road. There appears to be a single occupancy
of some kind and although I'd
hesitate to say "fortified", one would need to be pretty
determined to break in.

To be able to walk Thameside virtually from Vauxhall in the S to Pimlico
Gardens in the N, is one of those changes which almost
imperceptibly, improves the quality of everyday life - just a little.

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