London Asunder: Six Tales of Urban Infiltration

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Of all the cities in which I’ve had the pleasure to trespass, infiltrate and explore, London remains one of the most challenging; and yet, its heightened security systems – its cameras and guards – combined with a wealth of iconic monuments, both historic and contemporary, serve to make the British capital an incredibly rewarding target for urban infiltration.

This post represents just a few days spent in London; a collection of vignettes illustrating a sample of the city’s hidden wonders. The focus here is on infrastructure: spaces that lie both above and below the city streets, regions which are either deemed off-limits, or in some cases, exist wholly unknown to the population.

In keeping with my usual philosophy on the subject, all of these sites were accessed without resorting to forced entry… and, as it turned out, occasionally using nothing more sinister than a word or a silly hat.

 

Cable Run

For the first of these expeditions, I met with Keïteï outside a tube station near the Thames bank. She had brought another friend with her, illustrator and photographer Rob MacIver, who was similarly keen to get out and see the city from some new angles.

Introductions out of the way, we made our way along the waterfront until we reached a heavy wooden door set into the stonework. A flock of tourists lingered nearby, eagerly snapping photographs of the river and the bright city lights reflected therein.

London Asunder 1-DR

“Give it a minute,” said Keïteï, waiting as the last of them drifted past and out of sight. We paused, sat on a stone step and made conversation until the last of them was gone – upon which point she moved swiftly to the door, turning its heavy handle. It swung open immediately, revealing a dark and musty space inside the embankment itself.

“This one’s been open for weeks,” she told us, a faint note of surprise in her voice. “I can’t believe they still haven’t gotten around to locking it.”

The three of us stepped quickly through the door, closing it behind us. It was surreal – here we were in central London, beneath the towering forms of Big Ben on one side, the London Eye on the other; stepping through a secret door, a door passed each day by thousands of tourists and yet noticed by not one of them. It had a ring of the fantastical about it.

We flicked on our torches to reveal a small, stone chamber, from which a rusted ladder descended to reach the unseen depths beneath. We clambered down in single file, perhaps a distance of 20 feet, before reconnecting with solid ground once more.

Ahead of us, a narrow tube disappeared into the distance; dim electric lights set into the ceiling at regular intervals revealing a mass of snaking cables, stray wires and heavy, metal gas pipes.

London Asunder 3-DR

London is a complex and many-layered hive. Beneath its city streets lay sewers and drains, the underground train network and the new bore of the Crossrail project; deep level storage and former air raid shelters; and, perforating the spaces in between like a nest of drunken termites, mile upon mile of cable runs like this one.

Many of these tunnels were constructed in Victorian times – red brick passages that follow the path of streets and avenues, or cross deep beneath the Thames, linking one bank to the other. Now largely repurposed, the ancient arteries of London town have been clogged with broadband Internet cables, with fibre optics and telephone exchanges, conduits for gas and electricity.

We walked on into the dusty darkness, beneath surface shafts that rang with disembodied voices, with the metallic clang of footsteps high above.

A little further along, we passed a sign on the wall that read ‘Horse Guards Avenue’. The name was familiar – and then it clicked. I realised we were somewhere beneath Whitehall, and the Ministry of Defence building. Not immediately beneath, I hasten to add… but nevertheless I felt a thrill at the notion of following this secret route through the heart of the capital, beneath its monuments and security institutions; a hidden reflection of the iconic riverside walk above.

It reminded me of a story I’d once heard from another London explorer.

London Asunder 2-DR

This city is riddled with subterranean rivers, and there is one whose path flows directly beneath the grounds of Buckingham Palace. As the story goes, this friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend had been walking the course of that river when he decided to pop up and take a look at the surface. He’d lifted a drain lid, heaving it open from beneath, only to find himself face-to-face with the muzzle of an assault rifle; as it transpired he had emerged, quite by accident, within the palace grounds.

Back beneath the embankment, we dared not lift the lids above us. The tunnels echoed with the sounds of human traffic at street level, while we, like rats, made our way silently along the riverbank beneath them, never more than a few feet away.

We walked for perhaps half an hour through the dank and dusty brickwork, occasionally hopping over the loose cables which trailed like severed nerves from wall-mounted synapses. The tunnel gave no sign of ending: it simply burrowed on ahead, a purgatory of iron, brick and plastic tubes. In time the novelty was beginning to wear thin, and we decided to return to our point of entry.

Peeking through the grating set into the wood, we waited for a gang of tourists to pass by – before bursting out of the wall of the embankment, stepping from the impossible and the unknown, over the threshold into mundane reality.

London Asunder 4-DR

It was a mild evening and after our foray into the tunnels, Keïteï, Rob and myself – still high on secret geography – took a leisurely stroll along the side of the Thames. Not far on, we stopped to pay tribute to the Father of London Below: Sir Joseph Bazalgette.

The much overlooked memorial gazes out from the shadow of the Golden Jubilee Bridges, bearing witness to the man who designed this very embankment. In the second half of the 19th century, Bazalgette served as chief engineer to London’s Metropolitan Board of Works; and in that time, he battled the ‘Great Stink’ of 1858 – and the cholera epidemic that followed in its wake – with the design of London’s complex network of sewers.

Bazalgette oversaw the construction of almost 1,200 miles of underground passages beneath the capital; a colossal undertaking which transformed the River Thames from an a open sewer, to the proud waterway we know today. Meanwhile, his subterranean legacy lives on in the form of the Fleet, the Effra, the Tyburn, the many ‘secret rivers’ that exist beneath London’s crust. We paid our respects to the King of the London Underworld, before moving off in search of our next target.

Crow’s Nest

We arrived at one of the city’s most iconic monuments: the Cathedral Church of St Paul the Apostle, in all its baroque glory. It was not the cathedral itself we planned to infiltrate though, but rather, our destination lay just across the road. Beside the St. Paul’s Underground station, a building site rose to stand in silence above the bustling street; out of its midst meanwhile, a crane reared up and above us, the furthest end of its arm disappearing into the darkness of night.

London Asunder 5-DR

We waited for a gap in the traffic, for the milling crowds to clear, before gaining access to the construction site; where we ducked beneath the temporary wooden barrier, jumped a turnstile and stepped into the unfinished shell of a building.

Lights had been left burning around the site to illuminate dusty, concrete floors beneath a bare metal framework and discarded tools. We took the stairs, climbing six or so floors in a creaking scaffold cage. Through the thin fabric sheets that hung around the structure, we could see the bright lights of traffic, hear the passing pedestrians down below. For all the noise our progress was making – groaning metal, footsteps on hard wooden planks – I kept expecting someone to hear us, to look up; but they never did.

As we reached the top of the unfinished building, we cut across to the crane; a vast red tower rising up out of a well at the heart of the construction. Hopping across the gap, from concrete to girders, we ducked inside the frame and kept on climbing – this time hand-over-hand as we made our way up a series of ladders attached to the inside of the shaft.

Eventually we reached the top; clambering past the winch mechanism to pass through a metal hatch, and emerge, at last, onto a small metal platform high above the city. We were eye level with the dome of St Paul’s, and from here the cathedral felt close enough to reach out and touch. Above us meanwhile, the crane’s jib extended up and away at a 45-degree angle to the crow’s nest above. There was a small ladder attached to the top of the arm, and my gaze lingered on those narrow rungs with a mixture of terror and curiosity.

London Asunder 6-DR

It was my first crane climb, and I found myself looking down to street level – painfully aware of how conspicuous we must have appeared, three dark figures clinging to a red frame, high above the streets and visible for miles in all directions.

“Don’t worry about it,“ Keïteï said. “Nobody ever looks up.” A police car drove past, late night drinkers ambled about in the street below. Across the road, the Underground station had just closed up for the night and a gaggle of track workers – dressed in matching high-visibility jackets – stood outside on the street, smoking cigarettes and waiting for lifts.

It was absolutely true. Though we could have been – should have been – visible to the dozens of people currently sharing this particular stretch of central London, not one of them bothered to raise their eyes above head level. Up here in the ether, clinging to the cold scaffold high above them, we may as well have been invisible.

Even the sounds of traffic were muted from such a height, the constant hum of the capital drowned out by a mournful wind. We couldn’t have been closer to the city, lit by its glow, hemmed in by its steel and concrete monuments; and yet, I felt displaced somehow. As if the world about us had been placed on pause, a distant diorama taking place behind thick glass.

London Asunder 7-DR

I tried the door of the cab, and found it unlocked… swinging open to reveal a battered chair surrounded by buttons, levers and lights. The temptation was impossible to resist.

Sat in the operator’s throne, I gazed out at the London skyline. St Paul’s rose dramatically at my right hand, while immediately ahead, the Heron Tower, the Gherkin, the Leadenhall Building, pierced the horizon like a mismatched set of neon teeth. Suddenly, I felt an appreciation for London that I hadn’t known before. From this height, everything just made sense… I saw shapes, themes, laid out by 17th century hands – and then echoed, mirrored, strangely complemented by the design of 21st century skyscrapers.

London Asunder 9As I got up to leave the operator’s cab, squeezing back around the bucket chair to the door, I accidentally knocked my foot against a lever… and to my horror, a motor somewhere beneath me began to hum. I glanced across at the dome of the cathedral, at the extended arm of the crane that balanced dangerously nearby, and I wondered exactly what the penalty would be for demolishing a 300-year-old national treasure. But then, just as suddenly, the humming ceased (although it was a little longer still, before my heart rate returned to normal).

Before we left, I found myself once again eyeing the crow’s nest up above.

“It’s the fear that’ll get you,” Keïteï had told me; and she was right. The ladder which stretched up the topside of the jib was not a difficult climb, by any means: solid metal rungs, an easy angle. Had it been at ground level, I might have walked it… balancing on my toes, hopping from rung to rung. Place that same structure a dozen storeys up in the air, however, and the fear of falling transformed it into something else altogether.

I have no fear of heights, but I’m terrified of falling. For me, it’s about control – and a large part of that is the ability to control my own responses. To overcome the fear.

Nothing to fear but fear itself, I thought, and I resolved to make the climb.

The ladder itself was reassuringly sturdy. It was clean, smooth and secure, the red paint fresh and even, without rust or dents. I took my time, climbing slowly up the narrow arm towards a smaller platform at its highest point. I scrambled over a loose cable, which lay entwined across the rungs; a startled pigeon flapped into life somewhere beneath me, but I didn’t flinch. To the exclusion of all else, I focussed on the climb – one rung after another, never once looking down, never giving power to the fear.

London Asunder 8-DR

Pulling myself slowly from the top of the ladder onto a narrow steel pulpit, I gazed out at the city around me… the city beneath me. By now I was well over 100 metres high, nothing but rivets and thin plate metal between myself and the road below. Outside St Paul’s station, the same group of track workers scattered the pavement like paint specks. Looking back down the jib I saw my friends; themselves now reduced to tiny figurines in the darkness. A wind came up, my fragile platform swayed, and suddenly I saw the height for what it was. For just a moment I came very close to panicking.

I managed to fight it, though – I took a deep breath, and forced myself to stop admiring the view. I grounded myself once more in solid steel and sound engineering, my climbing gloves squeaking on the ladder as I began the slow descent.

Trespass in Plain Sight

It is not unusual for urban explorers to kit themselves out with trade tools in order to access off-limits areas. Sometimes it’s a skeleton key, other times a handle for lifting heavy manhole covers. In Moscow, I’ve even seen explorers use crowbars, angle grinders and battering rams to get to places where they’re not supposed to be.

On this occasion however, just a few nights after the crane climb, we used nothing more than a well-deployed disguise.

London Asunder 10-DR

I was meeting with an urban explorer who went by the online handle of BauhausGirl; we’d previously toured a few sites together in Bulgaria, and now that I was in England she’d offered to show me some hidden treasures in her home city. Once again, we’d be heading underground – but this time there was no hope of being discreet. Rather, the plan was to hide in plain sight as we attempted the most conspicuous infiltration I’ve ever been a part of.

I met with BG and her friend – a Manchester-based explorer going by the nickname ‘Fudge’ – outside an Underground station in the city centre. BG arrived by car, already high on energy drinks and cursing the awful London traffic. She offered us both beers, pulling them from a plastic bag on the passenger seat.

“The lid was still open last night,” she told us, referring to our selected point of entry. “I just hope they haven’t realised yet.”

We parked on a quiet backstreet, where BG popped the boot open and started dishing out our uniforms. She passed me a hard white hat, and a luminous orange waistcoat with the words ‘Fire Steward’ plastered across the back in bold white lettering.

“You can hide that with your backpack,” she suggested as I eyed the title on the vest with suspicion. “Just make sure you look confident.”

London Asunder 13-DR

Confidence was the last thing I felt, as I stood there in the street pulling on an oversized, neon jacket. Up until this point, most of my experience of urban infiltration had involved skulking in the shadows; doing my best impersonation of a ninja as I attempted to evade cameras, dogs or security guards. It felt counterintuitive to be stood in plain sight, donning a uniform designed for heightened visibility.

Within minutes however, I was already discovering the startling effect of such a get-up.

This being a Saturday night in the heart of London, the city’s populace were out in force; turning a corner onto a main pedestrian street, we were suddenly plunged into a sea of high heels and Ben Sherman shirts, girls in eye liner and cocktail dresses, men in hip tweed suits. As we shuffled through the throng in the livery of lowly street workers, not one of them could meet our gaze.

I became aware of a real and poignant class divide, a social bubble that separated us from London’s young and fashionable socialites. It was as if we were simply invisible; as if no one could bring themselves to form any kind of connection with us menial workers, as if merely acknowledging our presence would somehow cast a dirty stain across their evening’s frivolities.

And it was a good thing, too – for despite our outfits, the three of us couldn’t have looked any less convincing as maintenance workers.

London Asunder 15-DR

We reached our entry point at last, a metal hatch set into the pavement at a busy intersection. Crowds of people stood around – and on top of – the panel, waiting for the crossing lights or spilling out of the crowded coffee shop behind. I found myself feeling insanely nervous, and deeply uncomfortable about what we were about to attempt.

BauhausGirl plunged straight into the fray, however: pushing bodies aside, and clearing a space around the hatch with as much authority as a petit woman in a poorly-fitted hard hat could muster. Luckily for us, the entrance had indeed been left unlocked. Myself and Fudge helped as BG heaved up a corner of the metal panel, then pulled aside the heavy grill that lay beneath.

“Unbelievable!” boomed the African-flavoured voice of a drunken passer-by, who had stopped to watch the drama unfolding at his feet. Most of the others around us were simply making space however, curving their paths to avoid us without so much as acknowledging the disruption. A police car drove by, but didn’t even slow its pace.

Hatch open, we plunged headlong into the dark chasm beneath, shimmying down the ladder as fast as we could manage. I was the last one in, and as I fumbled with the lid I realised it was stuck upright.

London Asunder 11-DR

“Unbelievable!” the man exclaimed once more, swaying on the spot, as I hopped down into the darkness to fetch help. BG was already rummaging through her bag for a torch, when I caught up to tell her the top was still open.

“Shit,” she muttered, before springing back up the ladder to play with the catch. The mechanism obeyed her at last, letting in just one more unbelievable before it closed on us with a resounding clang.

We waited a moment, a moment more, in silence. The voices above continued their self-involved babble, as people came and went, laughing, bickering, drifting off to be drowned by the low-level hum of traffic. Within minutes our disruption had been forgotten altogether.

While the cable run I visited with Keïteï and Rob had been smooth, round, and straight as an arrow, the network we now stood in was a maze; a grid of passages and open spaces, some curved, others square, with walkways and ladders that veered upwards to the surface, or down to access lower levels beneath us.

BG had been before, and she led the way – her luminous orange jacket floating up ahead on the brink of darkness.

London Asunder 14-DR

And that was the way of things, for the next few hours. We drank beers as we wandered through the subterranean labyrinth, never more than a few feet from the sounds of a Saturday night up above. Occasionally we’d pass beneath a manhole cover in the road; the tunnels would boom with a resounding double-clunk whenever a car passed over, and eventually that sound became a comfort. It marked time like a grandfather clock, in this twilight world that was otherwise detached altogether from the reality we had come from.

By the time we left the burrow, the same way we came in, the street had grown much quieter. It was some time in the early hours of the morning when we finally heaved the lid open, stumbling one and then another into the streetlight. Cars passed us by without slowing, and only one solitary drunk – staggering as he made his way back home – turned to regard the three unlikely maintenance workers crawling out of an invisible portal from nowhere. He watched us wide-eyed at first, until I glanced back and he shied away from my gaze, returning to the unfinished drink in his hand.

London Asunder 16-DR

London Asunder 12-DR

Behind us, the staff in the coffee shop were closing for the night. One of them looked up from wiping a table, and watched us intently while we closed the lid, dusted ourselves off. She knew. It was painfully clear that she could see straight through our disguise, as if it took the eyes of one worker to recognise the lie told by another – and yet, she didn’t say a word as we turned to go, melting back into the city streets we’d come from.

Battersea Tunnels

On a tip-off from BauhausGirl, Fudge and myself finished the night with another attempt at subterranean infiltration.

I had heard of the Battersea Steam Tunnels before; a series of deep conduits which pass beneath the Thames, once used to pump hot steam from Battersea Power Station to the council estates on the opposite bank. Some have even claimed that these tunnels still provide back-door access to the abandoned power station itself, though reports would suggest that any surface access on the Battersea side, has long-since been sealed off.

London Asunder 17

Getting inside these conduits, nevertheless, was far easier – and yet more unpleasant – than I’d anticipated.

We circled the fence for a while, until we spotted a section where the railings had been damaged. A missing spike atop the barrier left just enough space for a foothold, and we waited until the traffic had cleared before making a break for it. A short scramble, a swift vault later, and Fudge and myself were ducking down inside the enclosure, hiding from the road as we ran towards our entry point: an inconspicuous gutter, into which we rolled sideways before dropping down to a lower level.

The bricks here were old, ruddy red and powdered white with dust and webs. From the opening we crawled forward into a small, square space, where the passage was funnelled into a narrow shaft.

I went in first – more of a wriggle than a crawl, with barely enough space to move my arms. Instead I was forced to keep them by my sides, moving like a caterpillar while using my compressed shoulders, my elbows and knees, to push myself along the restrictive passage. There was no space to carry my camera beside me, and so instead I hooked the bag around one foot to drag it behind.

“What’s it like in there?” I heard Fudge calling, from somewhere behind me in the tight darkness.

“Umph,” I said, spitting out a mouthful of dust. “It’s… it’s okay,” I lied.

This is really not okay, I was thinking to myself, while imagining just how difficult it would be for rescuers to pull me out should I get stuck.

At that rate I covered twenty feet in almost as many minutes, until, reaching the far end at last, I ran up against the bars of a ladder. Here the shaft opened onto a much more spacious tunnel below, which would take us deep down beneath the river. A ladder had been bolted against the opening from the inside, however; and I could get no further from here without squeezing between its rungs, to fall headfirst out of the shaft and onto the damp floor of the main passage.

I tried putting my head through first… which worked just fine, until I reached my shoulders. Twisting this way and that, my chest was simply too broad to fit through the narrow space between the bars. Backing up, I tried again; this time extending my arms ahead of me, trying to bend them through with my shoulders at an angle, in the hope of forming some obscure shape that could pass unhindered through the tightly confined space. For a moment, I found myself remembering a circus contortionist I had seen as a child, who’d been able to fit his whole body through a tennis racquet.

“I… I’m not coming in,” said Fudge’s muffled voice behind me. He was still at the entrance, presumably eyeing the tiny opening with growing horror. “Sorry,” he explained, “but I’m just not comfortable with this.”

Those words hit me as a wave of relief; by that point I was grateful for any excuse to turn back.

“I’m happy to wait here,” Fudge went on. “You can go on ahead, if–“

“No, no, no,” I insisted. “I’m coming out.”

There was no space to turn around by now, which meant crawling back in reverse. It took me what seemed like forever, pushing an inch at a time with my elbows, even using my toes to find leverage against the brickwork. By the time I’d wriggled back out I had dust in my eyes, cobwebs in my mouth, and my clothes were ripped and dishevelled to expose bloody knees and elbows.

Fudge took one look at the state of me, and smiled.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “Let’s get out of here.”

Boiler Room

The following night, I met up with an old friend. We had last seen each other in Thailand, where we’d passed many a happy evening antagonising the patrons – and proprietors – of some of Bangkok’s seediest establishments. For the sake of this story, I’m going to call him ‘Mr Farang’.

We spent the night in London’s West End, where we became so lost in catching up that by the time we left our venue of choice, dawn was creeping up over the horizon. We had two options at this stage; go home to sleep, or head into town and cause some mischief. Naturally, we chose the latter.

Five minutes later, we walked by a restaurant where a team of deliverymen were hauling cages off the back end of a truck. A staff member, clipboard tucked beneath the arm of his meticulously ironed shirt, ducked back inside the building as we passed… leaving the door unlocked behind him.

We approached without caution, trying hard not to look like we were trying hard not to look suspicious. Suddenly the door swung open in front of our faces, and, stepping out, another deliveryman turned to give us a long look.

“You going in?” he asked, holding the door open for us.

“Yes…?” we nodded, hesitantly, and that was it – suddenly we were inside.

We followed the staff corridor all the way to the back of the building, striding confidently into the unknown depths. There were cases of stock around us, sacks full of staff uniforms, noticeboards hanging heavy with memos and quarterly reports. The setting was so domestic, so familiar to anyone with experience of the hospitality trade, that it was easy to imagine – and thereby exude – a false sense of belonging.

London Asunder 18-DR

At the end of the corridor, a small stepladder disappeared up to higher level. There were pipes visible, industrial debris, and so we swung a hard right to climb up and into the restaurant’s boiler room. Here, a framed print-out on the wall mapped a valve chart. As I ran my eyes over the row upon row of coloured buttons, the lights, the canisters of compressed gas and the low-hanging pipes and cables overhead, I found myself wondering what would happen if I tampered with the controls… turned one of those archaic taps, or hit that big red button.

I controlled my curiosity; we were guests here after all, and I had no intention of inconveniencing the careless souls who had invited us inside.

Turning back, we tried another route; following a corridor then marching boldly through a pair of double doors, only to find ourselves stood in the restaurant proper – where five startled faces suddenly looked up at us in unison. Around the table were seated two deliverymen, two regular staff members and their supervisor, all bleary-eyed and huddled over hot coffees.

The clock was yet to hit seven, and luckily for us not one of them seemed to be fully awake. In a manoeuvre I can only describe as a small feat of genius, Mr Farang seized upon their confusion; compounding it further with a simple, yet impeccably timed question.

“Can I have a sandwich?” he asked.

“Um,” said one of the staff, and then, with some effort, “we’re not supposed to be open yet.”

The exchange was clearly more than any of them were ready for.

“How,” the manager began, slowly stirring himself back towards the duties of leadership.

“Don’t worry,” I finished for him. “We’ll show ourselves out.”

Penthouse

Not far from that restaurant, Mr Farang and myself tried our luck at another establishment; this time, marching through the doors of an exclusive hotel in Mayfair. Guests were congregating on the stairs inside, pooling in the foyer, a slow, drowsy stream that dripped silently from the upper levels, and down into the breakfast hall.

London Asunder 19-DR

We dodged through the crowd, reaching the back of the foyer and pushing through a swing door marked: ‘Staff Only’. Here we managed to cover the length of a hall – past stacks of plates and lightbulbs, between cleaning supplies and mountains of crisp, starched shirts – before we were apprehended.

“Can I help you?” the girl asked.

In such a situation those four words – even spoken with the purest of intentions – can often spell disaster. Rather than accept defeat however, we pounced upon the note of uncertainty in her voice.

“I don’t know,” said Mr Farang quickly, “can you? Where’s Henrietta? We’re going to be late, thanks to you.”

I followed his lead, glancing at an imaginary wristwatch and cursing loudly. The poor girl broke immediately.

“I’m sorry,” she blubbed, “it’s my first day. But if you explain what the problem is, maybe I can help…?”

“It’s fine,” I said, “we’ll find it ourselves.”

London Asunder 22-DR

I felt a little guilty as we swung about, and stormed back into the foyer leaving the baffled trainee stood blinking in our wake. We crossed to the other side of the building this time, flitting through the guests to hop swiftly into a waiting elevator. I hit the button for the top floor.

The corridor above was empty, save for a solitary cleaner who pushed her trolley slowly from one penthouse suite to another. The rooms here were vast, lavish apartments branching out from an immaculate corridor of velvet and marble.

“As you were,” muttered Mr Farang, when we sauntered past the cleaner.

Reaching the far end we tried a grand-looking door, and it swung open as if on greased hinges; revealing an extravagant Georgian drawing room, decorated in dark shades of green, with high-backed chairs positioned around an ornate chintz fireplace. The adjacent room held a long oak table laid for dinner. Spaces had been set out for twenty-odd guests, replete with china, silverware and elegantly folded napkins.

London Asunder 20-DR

Farang and I passed around the table to the back of the room, brushing beneath a pair of heavy velvet drapes to find twin doors that opened out onto a balcony.

Here a fountain bubbled gaily above the surrounding rooftops, filling a basin adorned with cherubim and dolphins. A reclining nude figure enjoyed pride of place, attended by an amorous waterfowl; most likely it was a reference to Greek mythology… the Aetolian princess Leda, seduced by Zeus in the form of a swan.

From here London lay at our feet, stealing fitful sleep in the last hours of dawn. The Shard, the Gherkin, the London Eye and Saint Paul’s – monuments lined the horizon from end to end, iconic shapes that rose like toys from the smoky grey skyline.

London Asunder 21-DR

Over the past few nights I had seen these sites from angles unimagined; from above, below, and sometimes from within the very framework of the city. How satisfying then, to finish like this: a step aside from the action and a chance to take in the whole panorama at once, with a private penthouse view.

It had been a good week, all things considered.

London Asunder 23-DR

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Post a comment

  1. Excellent blog, really detailed and the photo’s are all beautiful. I hope you don’t mind me sharing this with the members on WouldLoveToGo.com

    • Thanks a lot Amy, I’m glad you enjoyed it! Feel free to share away – I’m not familiar with that platform, but just so long as you’re able to stick a link in there pointing back here, that’s absolutely fine.

  2. You did a great job including many details, congratulations!

  3. I only wish i started reading this site earlier great finds

  4. The cable runs look amazing, I’d be tempted to walk all night. A really great article, well written and a pleasure to read. Thanks! 🙂

    • Thanks a lot, glad you enjoyed it. Bit of a different style to what I’d usually write, but I wanted to focus on sharing some fun anecdotes here. And yes, I’d still love to know what lies at the end of that cable run… it’d be really interesting to see how far it leads!

  5. Great post as usual! Really fascinating how those doors were left unlocked in central London.

    Andrea

    • I know, right? That particular location felt less like trespassing, and more a case of highlighting a very dangerous oversight on behalf of the council. Carelessness costs lives!

  6. I rode the bus past Battersea Power Station for the four days I was in London a couple of years ago. I didn’t go in though, just drooled over it from a distance.

    BauhausGirl took me to an abandoned morgue whilst I was over there. She’s pretty rad.

    • It really is a phenomenal piece of architecture, definitely one of my favourite structures in all of London.

      Abandoned morgue, you say? I might need to have a word about that with our mutual friend…

  7. Apologies for being away from your blog for a while, life has been somewhat complicated.
    Nice to see the quality is as high as ever, great piece.

    • Welcome back, Dale. Thanks for your kind words – this is probably the longest post I’ve written on the blog so far, but it was a lot of fun to put together!

See all 18 comments on “London Asunder: Six Tales of Urban Infiltration”

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