Over a wall is a river foreshore busy with gulls and expectant cormorants – right in the heart of London.
How one obscure Bristol back-alley runs through two millennia of history: from Romano-British settlements, to Friars, burial grounds, muggers and rudely uprooted Walnut trees.
Squashed gothic churches, beheaded saints, mysterious alleyways and a preponderance of dustbins.
It doesn’t take much to make a familiar place unfamiliar. A change in the weather – rain, bright sunshine, or more dramatically, snowfall or fog can all do it. Smells too – who hasn’t found themselves aware of sniffing more consciously than normal when drains are blocked, or there’s a whiff of barbecue, bonfire or worse in the air?
And then of course there are a place’s distinctive sounds.
I recently went in search for an ‘anonymous suburb’.
This is what I discovered.
In 1837 London was growing rapidly and expanding at the edges. The city had an urgent need for space and not just for its living – the metropolitan dead also needed somewhere else to go…
Brandon Hill aside, other hills in the city have their own distinctive charm and grace, such as Park Street, while a few are simply bastards.
One of these is the short and abrupt St Michael’s Hill, stretching from Upper Maudlin Street to Cotham. The lower slopes are dotted with attractive iron street furniture, step-work and historic buildings – including the pretty Colston Alms Houses – but don’t let these architectural gewgaws deceive you – it’s a brute.