Out and About in London during the Summer

We asked staff at CityLibrary about their favourite London places and things to do in summer and, despite the recent weather, they mostly like to be outside, listing a number of favourite spots.

Although, of course, we feel you should take a break and get and about to see these places when in London, a number can also be visited in a virtual manner via CityLibrary’s collections – so click those links to find out more!

Ice cone magnifier

Pretty Places and Views

A clear favourite place to go is Hampstead Heath with two librarians mentioning how close it feels to being in the countryside.  Other highlights on the heath include Kenwood House, swimming in the lidos and ponds and the view from Parliament Hill.  Although a bit depressing as I recall it, the film Scenes of a Sexual Nature was shot on Hampstead Heath and is a good way to visit it in the sun when it isn’t actually sunny for reals.

Speaking of views, Catherine picked out the view from Shooter’s Hill for its “great views of the City” that provide “inspiration that anything is possible in this great City.”

Providing another beautiful view across London, and looking back south toward Shooter’s Hill and Crystal Palace (and not far from Hampstead Heath) is Alexandra Palace, where Lynn likes to take a “jaunty bus ride” in order to view “beautiful flowers and plants” as well as enjoy its tea shop.

Perambulating and Promenading

Another theme was walking in London, with the South Bank of the Thames a popular place to visit.  It’s an area that provides a lot, with Alex saying, “There’s always something going on for free. You can sit inside or outside the Festival Hall. Browse book stalls, have a drink, walk along the river;” while Lyn picked out its “History, street performers, shops, pubs and a good breeze from the river” making it worth a visit; and Samantha addded that it’s a “lovely place to while away time – there’s usually something on… there’s the Tate Modern, lots of nice places to eat, food stalls… you can take a boat trip, [and] plenty of things to see and people to watch, [with] lots of lovely bars to break up your work in.”

A further, anonymous, walk lover shared their love of meandering alongside the Regent’s Canal and even gave this suggested walk:

“Start your walk by Goldbourne Road (at the better end of Portobello Market – good for North African food and vintage shopping).

“Walk down the canal through Little Venice and peer at the house boats and the million pound mansions.

“Carry on your walk east past Regent’s Park, through the zoo to Camden Town for a spot of people watching. Then carry on to King’s Cross, Islington and Hackney‘s vibrant Broadway Market.

“If you still have fuel in your legs continue east past Victoria Park then Mile End Park, avoiding speedy cyclists, then end up in historical Wapping where you can go to an old river side pub before limping home. Nice day out.”

Inside and Outside

London Zoo in Regent’s Park got a mention there and is another favourite place for Samantha who, “really, really, really like[s] chilling out in the giraffe house.  They’re very peaceful animals.  But also the zoo funds animal conservation work around the world and is a wonderful place to spend a day off. Also penguins.”

Other enjoyable outside activities mentioned were reading in the park, cricket on the lawn, barbecues and garden parties, visiting Hyde Park and riding in Swan boats.

It wasn’t all about being outside, though.  Galleries on the South Bank have already been mentioned, as were The Barbican and the British Museum.  Alongside the cinema, these are great places to escape the rain and provide a good tip for students in London through the winter.

And, finally…

Finally, and perhaps controversially, London is not for all.  One Librarian stated that they like to get out of London during the summer.

But to where?  Well, our next CityLibrary Summer post will let you know where us CityLibrary people like to go to on holiday.

Until then, look out for us with a book and a flask of tea underneath the bandstand.

Photo of Abu Simbel temple

One of the many unique pieces the City archive holds is a photographic print of the Abu Simbel temple in Egypt. Taken by A Barton Kent, it was donated to the Northampton Institute Camera club.

Abu Simbel Photo
A photo of Abu Simbel dated from c. 1920s

The photo shows an image of the Abu Simbel Great Temple. The Great Temple was dedicated in 1244 BCE by Ramesses II. The two statues here are both of Ramases II. They measure 67 feet.  It is a very grand temple in the Egyptian style, with four colossal statues of the pharaoh. The temple is dedicated to Ptah, Re-Horakthy and Amun. The temple may have been built to celebrate Ramesses II’s success in the battle of Kadesh against the Hittites. This battle was indecisive and both powers signed a peace treaty to conclude hostilities, a copy of which can be found on the walls of the UN Headquarters in New York. This temple is also very close to other temples including the Isis temple at Philae, which is notable for containing the very last hieroglyphics in use in Egypt (dated to 440s CE).

This image now preserves a lost world. The temple which survived from ancient times was moved in 1967 as part of the Aswan High Dam engineering project. The dam project was a major initiative for the government of General Nasser. The temple is in the south of Egypt, although the photo identifies the region as Nubia.  Nubia was the historic name for what was the region around the southern border of Egypt. In 1956 a large part of the region called Nubia formed the independent country of Sudan, following a referendum. In 2011 South Sudan became an independent country.

So much history reverberates in this object.

Photography became a very popular hobby in the first half of the twentieth century with the advent of the Kodak box camera. It was a very cheap camera and made photography more accessible. It is possible that several members of the photography club used these cameras and a darkroom on campus. The photographer of this print was likely a professional. He may have been invited to the Northampton Institute to talk on photography.

Travel to Egypt from Europe (and vice versa) was relatively common, but only for wealthy individuals. The interest in Egypt was likely piqued by the dramatic discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. The sensational news reports ignited a trend in Egyptian style objects, films and furnishings around the world. The first mummy film dates from this period.

If you are inspired to find out more about Egypt, you don’t have far to go. Islington has many notable Egyptian style buildings. The old Carlton Cinema on Essex Road and the old Carreras Cigarette Factory are both stunning examples of Egyptian-revival architecture on our doorstep. Richmond Avenue, once home to City alumnus Tony Blair, is notable for its Sphinxes and even the Mount Pleasant sorting office shows more than a passing resemblance to an Egyptian temple. You can also head to the British Museum and Petrie Museum for more information.