diamond geezer

 Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Pedway aficionados rejoice. The City of London has a new set of elevated walkways, now open to explore.

The latest pedways can be found around London Wall, leading off from the southern edge of the Barbican. They're part of a new business complex called London Wall Place, whose developers were obliged to add pedways as part of the planning process, replacing connections severed when the previous concrete podium was demolished. [map]

The new pedways aren't concrete, they're brushed metal, with timber-panelled sides and smart wooden handrails to add a touch of class. If it's Brutalism you seek, look elsewhere. But the overall effect is highly appealing, especially the sexy wiggle one of the highwalks makes to nudge round the remains of a gutted church.

All this means it's once again possible to walk from the Barbican towards the back of the Guildhall at first floor level. The pedway exits an original concrete portal on the Barbican's Andrewes Highwalk, closed since 2013, and ducks underneath the cantilevered deck of one of the new office blocks. It then heads across London Wall, on a jaunty diagonal, to link up with the original Bassishaw Highwalk, which once again has a reason to exist rather than festering as a dead end terrace.

Along this central spine are two elevated three-way junctions, one less orthogonal than the other. The arm branching off here heads towards the other London Wall Place building, then on to a fresh connection above Wood Street. One stretch of railings has been embedded with blocks of soil, from which sprouts a living wall with occasional floral infill, a bit artificial but worth a try.

This western arm is the one with the sexy wiggle, a streamlined meander to avoid the stonework of St Alphege's Church. Down below are the remnants of its tower, the remainder demolished after being damaged by air raids in two World Wars. Recently the ruins have been transformed into an attractive low-level seating area, all blocks and paving, which also offers the opportunity to peer through an arch into an original tiny spiral staircase.

Things to spot up on the pedway include a plaque for the Jubilee Walkway, embedded in the previous highwalk in 1977, and also several skateboard-shaped benches. These medial seats look perfect for bedding down on for the night, so I'm assuming can't yet have all their attachments in place. And yes, this 21st century pedway does indeed include a lift for those unable to tackle steps, although at present it looks a few weeks off being operational.

It's well worth following the central staircase down to explore the environs of Salters Hall, the very modern headquarters of a medieval Livery Company. Two glittering gates stand before the entrance, in front of which is an extra-deep sunken garden whose plants haven't yet properly sprung forth. Workmen are also putting the finishing touches to a water feature at the rear, some kind of trickling trough, as confirmation that the City still has money to burn.

More impressive is Salters' Garden, a revamp of the previous garden in the former churchyard, laid out with square plots, shrubbery and benches, plus triangular trellises as yet unsmothered by green spring shoots. And to one side is a substantial portion of London's city wall, its bricks not the original Roman construction but a rebuild from the time of the Wars of the Roses. As sandwich-munching spots go, it's a winner.

Which leaves the other arm of the upper pedway to explore, branching off to the east along, and above, the length of Fore Street. It's not as scenic, but it does stretch a fair way, and will stretch even further once building is complete. For now descent is via steps, or would-be-lift, along what feels like the most traditionally pedway-style section. The gateline-free Fore Street entrance to Moorgate station lies below the eventual exit.

It's good to see the renaissance of the City's highwalks, once again separating pedestrians from traffic via an evocative elevated maze. Should you have a spare lunchbreak you could pop down for a look around, although St Alphege's Highwalk isn't really a visitor destination in its own right. Its real success is as infrastructure not architecture, remaking connections previously lost, via walkways in the sky.

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