London Lockdown – Hushed Hibernation
Calm, gentle, deserted and stuck in a hushed state of hibernation, London during COVID-lockdown proves that every cloud has a silver lining.
So much so that for those of us lucky enough to live within walking distance of central London, the daily lockdown opportunities very much dove-tail in with Virginia Woolf’s (1882-1941) famous 1930 observation that “to walk alone in London is the greatest rest”.
Offering a yesteryear flashback to a similarly quite street life, I have been out snapping away with my camera. Enjoying empty roads dominated by congestion-free red double-deckers, a smattering of black cabs, free-wheeling cyclists, emergency service personnel and a sprinkling of other Londoners escaping home to stretch their legs.
As my photos show (all taken over the past week), when walking through the city’s streets and waterways even the most iconic of locations are surreally people-free and peaceful. A world away from the usual bustling crowds and traffic gridlock.
Travelling down from Regents Park, via Oxford Circus, Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, The Mall, Whitehall, Horse Guards, Downing Street to the Palace of Westminster, I was able to stand in the middle of roads and criss-cross between some of the world’s most iconic venues without a care in the world.
With the odd security person, policeman, pedestrian, drag queen, street-cleaner, and horse guard for company, my journey’s flow continued to take me across a peaceful Westminster Bridge, via the Millennium Wheel and a relatively busy Southbank to the Tate Modern, Borough Market, City Hall and Tower Bridge.
Walking through the financial areas of the City I was equally struck by how deserted the mid-week street-scenes were around the Bank of England, Fleet Street and St Paul’s Cathedral. Visiting St Paul’s at midday, the famous entrance square was empty. Which further gave me the unprecedented privilege of being the only visitor to enter Christopher Wren’s masterpiece for a period of masked private contemplation.
The pedestrian-only ‘Wobbly Bridge’ (Millennium Bridge) from St Paul’s to the Tate Modern, was equally deserted giving the impression of stepping across a private shiny fairy-tale flyover from north to south banks. Continuing eastwards along the Southbank to the bee-hive City Hall and Tower Bridge area, my stroll continued with mix of seagulls, the odd runner and rain clouds for company.
I wandered on to an equally tranquil Greenwich; I enjoyed a sunlit Cutty Sark, Pier area, Maritime Naval College and Royal Observatory. Which offered open views down across Greenwich Park along the Meridian Line (Longitude Zero) to the National Maritime Museum and modern Docklands developments beyond.
My advice, if you are a Londoner, seize this moment to escape for some lockdown exercise and explore your local street-scene. It is as breath-takingly bizarre as it is eerie.