Dave Sergeant

This is one of the walks from Andrew Duncan's Favourite London Walks and follows the path of the former Fleet River in London from Kings Cross to Blackfriars. The Fleet although once a major river in the capital has been buried underground since the 18th century, having become more or less a sewer. I passed its source by the lakes on Hampstead Heath while walking the Green London Way, but even up there it is underground. The first of two London walks I am doing to take advantage of the special fares for seniors at South Western Railways on offer in October.

So out of the tube at Kings Cross, down a couple of narrow lanes, and into Kings Cross Road. Here we follow the route of the Thameslink railway which uses the Fleet valley as it's route. A little further on I passed the site of the old Bagnigge Wells, now remembered by a plaque on the wall of one of the houses. Bagnigge House was associated with Nell Gwynn, mistress of Charles II.

Turning off King's Cross Road the route passes Mount Pleasant sorting office, now a huge building site for new flats, and the Postal Museum opposite. This whole area is in development. Then under a bridge carrying Roseberry Avenue over the river valley. Coming into Farringdon Lane is the City Pride pub, and it is suggested you can hear the Fleet running below at one of the gutters. Next to this is the site of Clerk's Well at Well Court. Plaques through the window tell the story (not easy to photograph) and an exhibition may be viewed by appointment.

The route continues into Saffron Hill, with steep steps at the end out of the valley, past Farringdon Station and down to Smithfield Market, itself being redeveloped at the moment. Blood and entrails from live animals was one of the sources of the pollution in the old river. Then Holborn Viaduct across the valley, I climbed the stairs for the good views down.

Below the viaduct Farringdon Street and then New Bridge follow the route of the river past Ludgate Circus. This was one of the first parts of the river to be covered, starting in the 1730s. The river joins the Thames in a drain outlet right under Blackfriars Bridge and this can be seen at low tide. But at the moment because of construction work for the Thames Tideway sewer this whole area and the suggested subway access is closed off to the public. I tried the other side of the bridge. it would be the other side of the big barrier they have put there.

After a nice lunch in the Anchor near London Bridge I had a wander round through Borough Market which was a hive of activity and past the Shard, where for a little money I could have gone up to the viewing gallery, but did not. A pleasant if rather tiring day up town.

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