Walking the Old East London Line From Shoreditch to Rotherhithe

This morning, Pete from The Londoneer and I joined Ian from Randomly London to walk the Old East London line. Ian is taking on the Tube in order to raise £16,013 for Bowel Cancer UK – 16,013 being the number of people who died from bowel cancers in the UK in 2010.  As you might know, my father is a bowel cancer survivor, so this is a cause very close to my heart.

We met bright and early this morning at Shoreditch High Street and it was very, very cold. It was even snowing at one point! We walked from Shoreditch through Whitechapel to Wapping and over Tower Bridge. We then walked back through Shad Thames to Rotherhithe where we stopped for coffee at a lovely little coffee shop opposite St Mary’s Church. After just over 3 hours of walking and 5.4 miles (8.7km), I decided to leave Pete and Ian there as their next destination was New Cross which was still another hour away.

Do visit Ian’s blog to learn more about his challenge or you can sponsor him at his Just Giving page. In the meantime, join me on my very long and very cold walk along the old East London Line.

The Raven of ShoreditchThe Raven of Shoreditch

Amazonian Warriors in ShoreditchAmazonian Warriors Shoreditch

The Old Shoreditch Underground StationThe Old Shoreditch Underground Station

Bom K and Liliwenn mural Hanbury StreetBom K and Liliwenn Mural, Hanbury Street

Angel in WhitechapelThe Angel of Whitechapel

Working Lads Institute WhitechapelWorking Lads Institute, Whitechapel

Phoenix WharfPhoenix Wharf, Wapping

At the Riverfront WappingRiverfront, Wapping

Eduardo Paolozzi's Head of Invention, Shad ThamesEduardo Paolozzi's Head of Invention, Shad Thames

St Saviour's Dock, Shad Thames St Saviour's Dock, Shad Thames

The Mayflower, RotherhitheThe Mayflower, Rotherhithe

St Mary RotherhitheSt Mary Rotherhithe

Photo Essay: Jazz and Protest in Newtown, Johannesburg

Walking in Newtown

When you take photographs, there is the story you think you want to tell and then there is the real story, the one that pushes its way through your subconscious, into your photographs and demands to be told.

When I visited Newtown in Johannesburg, I thought I was going to tell you about the area where I spent countless weekends as a teenager, browsing the market, absorbing the counterculture or escaping the sun in the Market Theatre bar, sipping red wine from ornate, pewter goblets.

Newtown was one of the first areas of Johannesburg to decline and I was going to tell you about the recent efforts at regeneration in the area, about how it has gone from being a no-go zone to the cultural centre of Johannesburg. 

But when I looked through my photos, I realised that there was so much here that would not make sense unless you knew a little bit about the history of Newtown, about why there is a saxophonist in the top photograph above and how music and protest are integral to the history of Newtown and the struggle against Apartheid.

The history of Johannesburg began with the discovery of gold in 1886. By the end of the 19th century, Burghersdorp had become a multi-cultural, multi-racial residential area and home to almost 7,000 people. In October 1904, the area was decimated by a fire and it is largely believed that it was the fire brigade who set the fire, supposedly to control an outbreak of the plague. It was the first forced removal of the Apartheid era and thousands of individuals were then moved to racially segregated areas. In the meantime, Burghersdorp was renamed Newtown and the area went on to become an important milling and commercial centre.

Indian Fruit Market, Newtown

In 1976, beloved South African thespians Barney Simon and Mannie Manim constructed the Market Theatre out of Johannesburg’s Indian Fruit Market which was built in 1913.  In the dark days of censorship and propaganda, the Market Theatre became the “Theatre of the Struggle” and many important anti-Apartheid plays premiered here.

The Market Theatre, Johannesburg

If you walk a short distance from the Market Theatre, you’ll discover the Sophiatown Bar Lounge. It is named after Sophiatown which, like Burghersdorp, was a multi-racial, multi-cultural township. In the early days of repression and poverty under Apartheid, jazz, culture, arts, dancing, boxing and dance halls exploded in Sophiatown.

Sophiatown Bar Lounge, Newtown

Sophiatown was the black cultural centre of Johannesburg. Deemed a threat to neighbouring white neighbourhoods, the inhabitants of Sophiatown were forcibly removed to racially segregated townships on 9 February 1955 and the township was razed to the ground. The Apartheid regime thought they could so easily destroy a culture but in the end, they ignited a fire and the legacy of Sophiatown lives on.

Jazz Pioneers, Newtown

Just around the corner from Sophiatown Bar Lounge, there is a mural showing some of South Africa’s most important artists, musicians and personalities: Henry Nxumalo, Noria Mabasa, Gwigwi Mrwebi, Gerard Sekoto, Miriam Makeba, Barney Simon, Dolly Rathebe, Margaret Mcingana, Ntemi Piliso and Simon ‘Mahlathini’ Nkabinde.

The Old Kippies, Johannesburg

One of the best known jazz personalities was the sad man of jazz himself, Kippie Moeketsi.  A saxophonist and jazz musician, Kippie played with the likes of Miriam Makeba, Abdullah Ibrahim, Hugh Masekela and Jonas Gwangwa. He was known for his sad demeanour and descended to destitution and alcoholism before his death in 1983.

In 1986, the famous Kippies jazz nightclub was built in a pastiche of a 1913 Edwardian toilet just next to the Market Theatre.  Kippies rose to become the most important jazz club in Johannesburg and it occupied that position until it closed in 2005 due to severe structural problems. As you can see from the photo above, the building has since been restored but sadly, Kippies remains closed.

Wanted Kippie

The story doesn’t end there of course.  In 1994, the Bassline club opened up in Melville, Johannesburg and it became a rising star of local jazz in its own right.  In 2003 the Bassline closed in Melville and moved across town to a much larger venue in Newtown in 2004.

A bronze statue of the late queen of Afropop Brenda Fassie stands outside the Bassline, featuring Brenda in her typical performing pose.  The area comes alive at night with jazz bands playing into the early hours of morning.

Bassline, Johannesburg

Even in the light of day this place is never silent. If you listen carefully, you can hear the whispers of penny whistles and the strains of saxophones as they carry on the wind, a legacy of jazz, protest and the spirit of Burghersdorp, Sophiatown and all the other South African communities that they tried so hard to destroy.

Yes, this is definitely the story that I wanted to tell.

Featured Photo: Whitehall Court

Royal Horseguards Hotel

Whitehall Court is one of my favourite buildings in London, in fact, it might be one of my favourite buildings in the world.  I love the whimsical, gothic spires and I love the fact that it was once home to George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells. I work in the building where J.M. Barrie was living when he wrote Peter Pan but as a lifelong fan of The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine, I’d have to say that working in this building might trump that.

I plan on taking many more photos of this building this year to show you just how pretty it is.

Buxton Memorial and Victoria Tower

Buxton Memorial FountainBuxton Memorial Fountain

My favourite moments in London are those that transform so easily from interest to wonder. A week ago, I decided to walk from Victoria Station to Charing Cross. Instead of taking my usual route via Buckingham Palace and The Mall, I walked via Lambeth Bridge and soon found myself in Victoria Tower Gardens.  This is the tiny garden tucked between the Thames, Millbank Tower and the Houses of Parliament. 

I was certainly intrigued by the ornate Victorian structure in the garden but fascinated to learn that this was a memorial commemorating the emancipation of slaves in the British Empire in 1834. I have a keen interest in both historical and modern-day slavery and was very interested to discover this.

Victoria TowerVictoria Tower

It was a beautiful, sunny day in London, as it often is in the winter months just before the temperature drops and snow arrives. Sure enough, we had snow (as light as it was) on Monday.

I was at the south-west end of the Palace of Westminster which is home to the Houses of Parliament and I was quite taken by the beautiful and imposing tower looming over the gardens. Well, it wasn’t really doing any such thing on this bright, crisp morning but I’m sure it must on stormy nights!

Victoria Tower, Houses of ParliamentVictoria Tower, Palace of Westminster

Once I took this photo, I took a look at my map and was a little confused at first because it said that I was at the Victoria Tower. Not knowing what that was, I looked around once or twice to see if I could spot any other tower. I was approached by one of the Houses of Parliament security personnel and as you might imagine, that is a slightly daunting experience!

“Can I help you with something”, he asked, naturally trying to ascertain whether I really was a hapless tourist or something else entirely. I pointed up to the tower and hurriedly asked what it was and I’m eternally grateful that he didn’t answer that it was a tower, which I’m sure his London wit was aching to do. Indeed, he was nothing but polite and professional and answered that it was the Victoria Tower. “Thank you so much”, I gushed, in my best impersonation of a non-threatening, hapless tourist, “that’s exactly what I was looking for”.

So this is the Victoria Tower, south-west tip of the Palace of Westminster and home to the Parliamentary Archives. At 98.5 metres high, it is taller than Big Ben (formally known as Elizabeth Tower).

Houses of ParliamentOld Palace Yard, Palace of Westminster

I decided not to linger and continued on my walk. (Just as well because as you might notice by the time on Big Ben below, I was going to be late to work, again). I did stop briefly to marvel at the architectural wonder that is the Palace of Westminster. How exquisite and ornate is that? How intricate the detail that went into every arch, curve, line, alcove, window, spire and corner! The photo above was taken in the part of the Palace known as Old Palace Yard.

Big Ben, Houses of ParliamentWestminster Hall, Palace of Westminster 

Old Palace refers to the old Palace of Westminster that was destroyed in a fire in 1834. Westminster Hall was one of the only parts of the original palace that survived and that was only due to extensive fire fighting efforts and a change in direction of the wind.

Like I said, by the time I took this photo, I was definitely going to be late for work as I was almost a mile away and even I can’t walk that in ten minutes.  That didn’t stop me from stealing a photo of the beautiful Whitehall Court, of course, which I will show you on Monday.

Close Encounters at the Lion Park, Johannesburg

Giraffe, Lion Park Johannesburg

Update May 2014: I did enjoy my visit to the Lion Park in Johannesburg and will leave this post up but my opinion of this establishment and the Rhino and Lion Reserve has since changed. I have come to understand the plight of captive bred lions, how lionnesses are subjected to the traumatic, forced removal of their cubs and how lions bred in these parks eventually land up being victims of canned hunting.

If this concerns you as it has me, then please consider not frequenting these parks.

Sometimes I amuse myself. When I was planning our trip to Johannesburg, I thought that I would skip the Lion Park, as we’ve visited that and the Lion and Rhino Park before.  We were considering visiting the elephant sanctuary in Hartebeespoort Dam but they charge R450 (£30) each  for a child’s ride on an elephant, in addition to an exorbitant entrance fee.  The idea was to spend quality time around animals with our nieces but not to put pressure on the adults during an expensive time of year.

In the end, it was an easy decision.  I love the Lion Park because of their important conservation work and the incredible achievements they have made in breeding rare white lions.  Most importantly, both children and adults get a chance to get really close to lion cubs, giraffes and other wildlife in a fun, educational setting. 

We arrived early in the morning and booked a Guided Day Game Drive.  These drives are not cheap either but for the entrance fee of R225 (£16) for adults and R140 (£10) for children, you get access to the Cub World and a 1 hour game drive with a brilliant guide.

Defiant Lion Cub, Lion Park Johannesburg

While we were waiting for our allotted time on our game drive, we spent some time in the cub enclosure and it was incredible. I feel so inspired and alive after spending time with these animals and I love their quirky personalities.

The little cub above was not having a good day.  He was hot and bothered and had snarled at me when I extended my hand toward him.  I was really scared (honestly, I was!) but I absolutely understood, it was over 30°c that day.

Lion Cub, Lion Park JohannesburgPretty Lion Cub, Lion Park Johannesburg

These two cubs were a little bit more relaxed but they were also lazing in the shade, away from the harsh glare of the sun.  Aren’t they pretty?

Looking up, Giraffe, Lion Park Johannesburg

I’ve been fortunate in my life and have had lots of encounters with lion cubs but this was the first time I came this close to giraffes.  They are just the funniest creatures! They seem more interactive than horses but I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that we were there purely for their amusement. And giraffe feed, of course. 

Giraffe up close, Lion Park JohannesburgPulling faces, Giraffe, Lion Park Johannesburg

Pulling tongues, Giraffe, Lion Park JohannesburgSo there, Giraffe, Lion Park Johannesburg

Giraffes have the stickiest tongues ever.  Seriously, I appreciate my dogs now.

Blue sky and giraffe, Lion Park Johannesburg

Did I mention that it was a gorgeous, sunny day?

Walking underneath giraffes was a bit strange because they tower over you.  I was immediately reminded of scenes in Jurassic Park when the dinosaurs towered over the humans.

Prettiest Gemsbok, Lion Park Johannesburg

It was soon time for our game drive.  I didn’t take too many photos during the drive because it was difficult to do so out of the truck and I was also preventing my little nieces from popping their arms out of the open windows.  The first part of the drive is through the open plains area where you can see Springbok, Wildebeest, Blesboks, Zebra and my absolute favourites, Gemboks. 

You then drive into the enclosures where lions, cheetahs and wild dogs are keep (well apart from each other, I might add!)

Sleeping Lioness, Lion Park Johannesburg

The Lion Park offers night drives which are definitely recommended as you tend to see a lot of sleeping lions when you visit during the day.  You can also self drive through the park in your own car and that is also recommended as you can get truly close encounters with full grown lions then (as you can see in my previous post). On this occasion, however, this was the best decision as the guide was funny, knowledgeable and brilliant and the children loved it.

White Lioness, Lion Park Johannesburg

The Pride of Africa.

White Lion Cub, Lion Park Johannesburg

And an even prouder lion cub.

Loving Couple, Lion Park Johannesburg

You generally see one male lion living with a pride of lionesses and cub and it is no surprise that you see far more lionesses than lions.  I quite liked this loving couple.

Lioness at Waterhole, Lion Park Johannesburg

This was the closest we came to the pride when a lioness came to drink water right beside our truck.  Look at that stunning muscle tone and shiny coat.  The lions are really well cared for at the Lion Park. 

Lion in tree, Lion Park Johannesburg

We were really amused to spot this lioness in a tree.  Lions are not the greatest tree climbers and it is usually leopards that will climb into trees and even drag their prey into trees to eat.  This lioness was very irritated and was getting quite vocal in her displeasure.  Did I mention that it was hot?

Cheetahs, Lion Park Johannesburg

On our way out of the park, we almost missed this lazy pair of cheetahs.  Cheetahs are really beautiful and the most tameable of all the big cats.  Unfortunately, that does not mean you can keep one as a pet, even if the ancient Egyptians thought that was a good idea.  Click to read about my last encounter with a cheetah (and lion cubs!) here.

I would absolutely recommend the Lion Park, especially if you are mixed group with adults and children.  Me? I’m counting the days until I go again and I won’t try to convince myself otherwise again.

The Lion Park, Johannesburg
Corner Malibongwe Drive & R114 Road,
South Africa
Tel +27 (87) 150 0100 / + 27 (11) 691 9905 -11
Cell +27 (76) 187 3883 / +27 (82) 382 4473
Email info@lionpark.com