Monday, 27 July 2015

Below Smithfield Market - More of Crossrail at Farringdon

You will have most probably already ready my first blog about my visit last Monday, 20th July, but there was oh so much more to show and tell!

The project manager took us wherever we wanted to go and the tour would not have been complete without seeking out the underground Victorian tunnels, especially those that were used to bring the meat to Smithfield market by rail.  They will come into use again once Crossrail is up and running as shunting areas for South West trains and various other railway related works.

As we left behind us the shuttering, blasting, spraying and sheeting of the modern engineering practice, you immediately were drawn to the extraordinary skill of the brickwork of the old tunnels. They are immense, long, deep and the vaulted ceilings are a wonder. The tracks are still underneath just covered up with aggregate and chalk for the time being to protect them from the current comings and goings of machinery.  Part of the tunnels, under Smithfield Market will be the power house for London Underground, cables and technical stuff being re-routed and made tidy as part of a Crossrail agreement.

Also a northern section of Smithfield Marked is currently propped up by squat black boxes the size of a catering tin of tomatoes! See picture below. Closely monitored, I can assure you, and sight to behold and wonder at. All movement in all parts of the excavation and building works are closely monitored by prisims attached to walls and checked with clever technology, so the minutest movement can be discerned.

Walking through the tunnels to the end we come out to see the rear of the new Farringdon Station, with the Tube line running along to our right behind Cowcross Street.

Narrower tunnels on the right side once used as office
and for storage by the Shunting Manager, space to make
a brew!
Under a bridge - name now obscured by graffiti

How to hold up a large building! Floating Smithfield Market
Example of the clever device that is holding up the foundations of Smithfield Market. 

Great brickwork - all of one piece.
Looking back to Barbican Station across the Farringdon site.

Looking down the Victorian tunnel to our exit point.

The cut-out oblong square in the roof is where the carcasses were hauled up to the meat market.

Coming up to the Snow Hill Curve that feeds to the left, we are going for the right.
At one time, long ago, connected to the Post Office stop.
A decorated Victorian post not sure if it's an air shaft or a lamp post of sorts?

Trains coming and going from Barbican Station

Looking towards the new station at Farringdon.

The colour orange!

Great shafts used for boring holes horizontally which are then filled with cement.
These go for many metres in a 'sun ray' pattern in all directions. They are and used to stablilise the ground
around the tunnel site and fan out for many metres.

Underground lines leading to Barbican Station, behind Cowcross Street.
Special thanks to the Project Manager and Crossrail staff who made this a very special tour!
A job well done and on time. Looking forward to seeing the completed project in 2018.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Going underground with Crossrail - 20th July 2015

Visit to Farringdon Crossrail

Farringdon Crossrail Site 26th November 2014

By special invitation to tour the development of the Crossrail hub at Farringdon was a wonderful surprise and I could not sleep the night before with the excitement and anticipation of this visit.

There were only six of us who were met by the Project Manager at the turnstile to the Charterhouse Entrance of the site. We had a stringent Health & Safety talk prior to donning our PPE, trousers, jackets, boots, hard hats, glasses and gloves, thankfully orange is my favourite colour!  Health & Safety and protection throughout the site for everyone is a super high priority, you are aware of this wherever you go. Warnings, signs, briefings at various levels as to what was going on, whistles blowing, watch our for red lights monitoring air quality control. This is not the kind of building site I played on when I was a kid!

For all this the vast hole created to get the Tunnel Boring Machines (TBM) in was now fast being covered over and filled in with structures to house escalators, lifts, plants, concourses, exits and entrances, service tunnels, all now taking shape, since the TBMs fell silent.

There were four on site, two are infilled with concrete, one with a time capsule, and both buried on site. One was named Ada after Ada Lovelace, under Charterhouse Square, and the other Phyllis (after Pearsall) under Lindsey Street. The two remaining Elisabeth and Victoria, are being dismantled by the same teams that put them together at the start of this mammoth tunnelling task in this section of Crossrail. Short film here made after our visit!,660078

Spraying concrete in the lower escalator shaft.

This is the beginning of the end for this site, an odd thing to say when completion is not due until 2018, but looking at the bigger picture, the major work is done and believe it or not, the idea whole idea of  Crossrail began circa 1945!

Farringdon site November 2014

Farringdon July 2015
The white tubes are acting as supports they will be removed

Shuttering going up for the concrete wall - the escaltor pit is behind it

The mesh screen in the background is concealing the Underground Line from Barbican

Above ground level with Long Lane in the distance

Up against the site off Long Lane.
They have moved out temporarily whilst building works going on!

Escaltor shaft in awkward place therefore dug out by diggers and then concrete
sprayed via a splended machine directed by man in 'spacesuit' 

Esclator shaft

Concrete buttresses to base of concrete walls.
The stabilisers across top of photo will be removed eventually.

One of the tunnels awiting waterproof lining and final layer of concrete finish

Going deeper, if the beacon goes red we have to leave fast as air quailty compromised.

Final level, as deep as we go.

Elizabeth the TBM her work is done. Looks epic and most spectacular in size and form.

Endless air tunnels, funnels and equipment

Victoria TBM being dismantled. All her innards removed and the frame then
moved along and hoisted out (I think?)
The TBM are taken apart by the men who built them - specialists.

A large chunck of Victoria - the whole machine is recycled.
Too heavy to take a momento.

Fascinated by this huge pulsating vacuum that keeps air flowing.

The orange waterproof liner, which includes in the black strips pipes to allow grouting to be
poured in at a later stage if cracks or damage appears - forward thinking.
Tunnels guaranteed 120 years but will last much longer.

A finished main tunnel to the right, the left is a service tunnel.

The east-west breakthrough stretching from Paddington in the west to Woolwich in the east is complete to achieve this it required:

  • 8 tunnel boring machines
  • 7 million tonnes of excavated earth
  • 250,000 concrete segments
  • 3 years of underground construction
  • 42 kilometres of running tunnels
  • 98% excavated earth has been beneficially reused at sites across South East
  • Tunnelling works accompanied by one of the largest archaeological programmes in the UK

Read more about Farringdon Crossrail at

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

The Road to Runnymede - Magna Carta 800

All these walks are FREE provided by the City of London Corporation

Wednesday 29th July 2015
Friday 14th August 2015
Wednesday 2nd September 2015

Meet : Blackfriars Station North Side
Ends: Guildhall Art Gallery, Gresham Street
Duration: 2 hours

The walk outlines the events that lead to the Barons turning against their King, who had proved less than able to retain his territories in France and was taxing the country to debt. King John's reluctance to parly with his Barons led to the meeting at Running Meadows where he was left in no doubt that he had to seal the document which became the Magna Carta the alternative - Civil War!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

RHS Hampton Court Flower Show - Press Day - 29th June 2015

Where do I begin? Firstly, it was the luck of the draw that as Friends of City Garden's volunteers, Vicky and I received a Press Pass to review this auspicious day. Secondly, we were blessed with a glorious sunny day with a temperature that was manageable, although by the end of the day watering all plots was a priority.

I will start with gardens that are relevant to the City of London, our first path led us to a garden designed and created by Nigel Dunnett, who has recently completed the wonderous Beech Gardens at the Barbican.  A garden created for the BBC Community Gardeners' Question Time Front Gardens in conjunction with the Landscape Agency. We managed to speak to Nigel towards the end of the afternoon and mentioned how much we appreciated the City 'roof top' garden.

Can you spot the purple Angelica?

There was also a Magna Carta 800 Garden created and designed for Amnesty International by Frederic Whyte. The garden celebrates the history of human rights and marks 800 years since the sealing of the Magna Carta.   The garden layout is inspired by the Medieval Period. The tree at the heart of the garden represents the Amkerwycke Yew under which the Magna Carta was agreed in 1215 at Runnymede.  The waterways represent the 'bubble' of free speech. 

On arrival at Hampton Court Station we were very lucky to get a lift to the site in a TukTuk promoting the World Vision Garden bright orange and pink. We were a little disappointed that it was not waiting for us on the return trip to the station at the end of the day, when we really needed it!
A great crew and a beautiful garden, using orange rods and reflective copper boxes filled with Gerberas. 

John Warland also returns designing The World Vision Garden, with translucent orange rods representing rice paddy fields, and dark water cutting through, illustrating the fear of hunger that vulnerable children in Cambodia live with. Quoted from


You can never get enough of an English garden, and these days they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, contemporary and abstract. Each year the gardens move more and more towards biodiversity, reverting back to wildlife planting mixed with conventional borders but with a twist. 

Usually involving some extraordinary colour. Squires Garden Centres (of Twickenham) excelled in my view.  The Urban Garden designed and planted by Ian Hammond.  The feature plants included:
Achillea 'Cloth of Gold'. Agapanthus 'Big Blue', and outstanding Hydrangea macrophylla 'Zorro', surrounding a 'meadow mat' of wildflowers called 'Lure' - glorious!  

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Zorro'

Further temptation is offered by the wonderful display of plants to purchase! 

Achillea 'Cloth of Gold'

Next time we will bring a trolley!

There are always celebrities at this event, but it is a question of who is who?  We recognised a few and we feel this also may put us in a certain age group!  We spotted Maureen Lipman and friend also admiring the Squires Garden. 

Not wishing to intrude we got a lovely back view - yellow jacket!

Right next door we spyed a particular TV gardening favourite being intereviewed and later filmed, the wonderful Monty Don, in his 'gardening' jacket and hat. Pictures taken in the Garden of Paradise for the Turkish Tourist Board.

There are always many lovely stands and opportunities to purchase things for the garden, from tools to gadgets, trowels to garden fashion statements, silver baubles and sculptures and much more.  

Author and friend captured in silver baubles!
I am always on the look out for something innovative, and spotted AIR-POT near the Allium Restaurnt. A small stand selling a big idea.  They have actually been in business over 20 years, and may not be known to the average gardener. The container is a clever design to stop root circling, the pot guides each root to a hole in the fabric, where increased air in the compost dehydrates the tip. This prunes it causing lateral branching all the way up the stem. Process is repeated so a dense mass of fibrous roots is developed encouraging healthier plants.  From an Basil to an Oak Tree can be planted and grown this way. We have the pictures to prove it!

The Floral Marquee is a 'must see' and I must say what a pleasure to enjoy this space without coming up against hordes of people! We also found 'Heligan - Lost & Found' celebrating 25 years of its discovery, a beautiful stand showing lovely photographs of its reclamation over the years. 

Here are some of the sights to behold within the cornucopia of colour and scent.

 J's Garden Antiques had some incredible containers, the one you see may have been for tin or lead smelting. It was sold almost immediately.  A lovely couple and well worth visiting then in Worcestershire.

On arrival we met Jonathan Hill of Rolawn - we loved the rolling hillocks of lawn creating a very tempting slope for a bit of roly poly down into the dip! Famed for once providing the tennis lawns for Wimbledon, now supply the turf for the public areas and much more worldwide. An interesting history, sadly not on their web site.

(c) Rolawn 
Garden furniture abounds at the show, we particularly liked The patina of the weathered pieces turned to a beautiful silver colour, just had to be stroked and admired.

We also took shelter for a while in garden building by Browns. Beautifully finished inside and out, the epitiome of garden living, a garden studio or as a 'she' shed, which is apparently the latest thing. 

Also a special thanks to the RHS stand which displayed some of the detailed and colourful sketches, drawings and prints in the archive collection house at Vincent Square, London.  The collection is apparently available to view by appointment. 

A motif used much by Sir Christopher Wren at St Paul's Cathedral
and elsewhere in the City of London

The RHS Hampton Court Flower Show is not just about us grown ups and our addicition to anything to do with gardens, but also for the kids.  There were a lot of schools on their annual visit and they were having a great time. As the gardens began to need constant watering it was a special treat for the children to get as wet as possible amongst spray, the gardeners were most obliging!


A wonderful day out and hope you enjoyed this short review, we took hundreds of pictures, but you know they really do not do it justice. If you can go along and see for yourself.  I will certainly be booking a ticket for next year.