Postmans’ Park: A Mindful Walk
On Saturday last I met a very sweet young American woman who was stuck unexpectedly in London for a day as her flight home had seen delayed until the evening. She seemed quite frantic, hair flying and somewhat out of breath. “This isn’t St Paul’s Cathedral is it?” she said, nodding her head in the direction of a garden where a fraction of ancient church remained, valiantly standing after centuries of erosion and blitz damage. “No”, I smiled and pointed towards the dome which was just behind where she was standing. It’s just over there”. She hurriedly explained that she had already ‘done’ Buckingham Palace, Harrods, Marble Arch, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey that day and she was confident she still had time to do St Paul’s, Tate Modern and the Tower of London.
Completely dizzy at the thought of all of this, I managed to squeak that as she was headed over that way, she might also like to look at the poppies at the tower. “Puppies?” she exclaimed “In a tower?”. The poor woman looked horrified, almost as horrified as I was at her schedule. We sorted out the misunderstanding with much bonhomie and giggles about the Queen’s Corgis and off she whirled in a flurry of coat and hair in the direction of St Paul’s, hopefully delighted at the thought of a breakneck-paced afternoon ahead of her.
At this point, all I wanted was to sit down in a darkened room with a cool, damp flannel on my forehead at the thought of such a carry on. However instead, with the thought of poppies, memorial and commemoration very much on my mind, I wandered off towards one of my favourite peaceful spots in the City to sit down and catch my breath: Postman’s Park, with its entrances on St Martin’s Le Grand and Little Britain. Its just a few moments away from St Paul’s Cathedral and right in the hubbub of the financial quarter, in fact a stone’s throw from the Stock Exchange. But what a peaceful spot and how perfect an antidote to the overwhelming thought of trying to do three days of sightseeing in one.
Postman’s Park opened in 1880, made up from bits of land from adjoining churchyards. In 1887 a wall of plaques was begun; to remember people who died saving others. Years ago the park would have been full of postmen from London’s biggest post office in St Martins Le Grand eating their sandwiches and chatting about misplaced parcels. Now the Posties are gone but the plaques remain under a beautiful canopy. They recall Londoners who died saving people from fire, drowning, trains, ice, falling and many other fates.
As you’ll be getting to know, I love a bit of art on my peaceful urban walks and this calm and beautiful spot with its benches, fountain and palm trees truly delivers. Not only is the memorial the concept of painter and sculptor, George Frederic Watts but the truly gorgeous Royal Doulton tiles that make up the plaques were designed by the Pre-Raphaelite artist William de Morgan.
Everything I needed at that moment was here for me in this urban oasis. Peace, plants, somewhere to sit and breathe fresh air and a luscious work of art. After a 15 minute meditative sit down, I realised that there was just one thing missing to make this the perfect spot for urban peace. I didn’t have a cup of tea in my hand. But this presented no problem at all. Just a hop and skip back towards St Paul’s and into the splendid New Change shopping centre to Bea’s of Bloomsbury’s terrific tearoom with its quality range of tea and a treasure trove of dreamy cheesecakes, velvety chocolate cakes and more kinds of cupcakes than you can shake a stick at. What a shame I’m gluten-free. But I can dream, can’t I?