On the 12th and 13th of November, the Year 13 Geographers travelled to London as part of our ‘Changing Places’ and ‘Contemporary Urban Environments’ modules. We left from King’s Lynn railway station and travelled to King’s Cross where we then travelled by Tube to Stratford. We walked through the Carpenters Estate which is one of our case studies; it was very striking seeing the old, run down residential estate next to newly renovated tower blocks which clearly demonstrated the regeneration and gentrification of the area. We then reached the Olympic Park which was extremely impressive and provided a stark contrast to the Carpenters estate - it was hard to believe that two areas which are so completely different can be only a matter of metres away from each other, emphasising the huge inequalities within London. After exploring areas of the Olympic site we took time to walk around a temporary art installation called the ‘Shrouds of the Somme’ which commemorated the men whose bodies were never found during the Battle of the Somme in WW1. Although this wasn’t directly related to our Geography course it was a very moving experience, as the visual representation really gave you a sense of the immense loss and sacrifice which occurred during the war. We then went up the ArcelorMittal Orbit tower which is 114.4m tall and provides an amazing view of the city; we were blessed with clear skies and were able to see the City of London skyline (including the Shard), Canary Wharf and the O2 among many other sites. After taking photos of the view (many, many, many photos in Mr Bye’s case) the majority of us braved the 40 second long corkscrew slide down to the bottom. We then walked back through the Olympic park towards Westfield Shopping Centre, having to run the last part due to being caught out by a sudden torrential downpour. Westfield is the largest shopping centre in Europe and houses over 250 shops, drawing in shoppers from all over the world. Walking around the centre demonstrated the important role of large transnational companies and brands and the effect of globalisation on Britain’s economy (as well as a great opportunity to do some shopping!). In the evening we travelled by bus to the National Theatre where we watched the new musical Hades Town which is based on a Greek tragedy. Despite some prior reservations we all thoroughly enjoyed the performance and it even linked into our Geography course, dealing with issues of immigration, inequality and social exclusion
The next day we travelled to Canary Wharf and were amazed at the immense height of the skyscrapers. What we noticed was the constant regeneration which is occurring in London; everywhere we went there were cranes and building work going on, both in Canary Wharf and the Olympic Park where we read about future development planned for the area. We then travelled by the Docklands Light Railway to the historic area of Greenwich. The beautiful old buildings of the Naval College highlighted the contrasting architecture in the city. We then walked up the hill to the Royal Observatory where we had a fantastic view overlooking Canary Wharf with the Naval College in the foreground. This highlighted how London’s economy has changed, from shipping and maritime industries (the Naval College) to financial and service industries (Canary Wharf). Mrs Hirst also showed us an old photo taken of the same view in the 1980s when building work on the skyscrapers had only just begun, showing how the area has undergone a huge transformation in a short time span. We also stood on the Meridian line which separates the East from the West and marks 0° longitude (I think it’s safe to say Mr Bye was far more excited about this than the rest of us). Before travelling back home to King’s Lynn we went to Borough Market where many of us tried food from all over the world, demonstrating London’s multicultural community.
Overall it was a great experience, especially for those of us who had never visited London before. As well as having a great time we also gained a better understanding of the processes of urbanisation, gentrification and regeneration, and a better sense of the differences between Stratford and our local area.