The anonymous author of the Portals of London blog offers a mix of fact and supernatural fiction with his surreal take on the city’s temporal anomalies. Here are some of his favourites.
The Portals of London blog sets out to catalogue the capital’s inter-dimensional gateways. This may sound strange, but the strangest thing is that nobody thought to do it before. Did no one notice that cycle couriers were exploiting a network of wormholes to jump around the city? How have reports of the strange and troubling nature of time at the Greenwich Meridian been kept so quiet?
One question raised frequently is: how much of the blog is real? When you’re dealing with the layers of myth and history in this endlessly reinvented city, reality can be hard to pin down. Those looking for answers could do worse than start in the following places.
Woolwich Foot Tunnel (above)
The Woolwich Foot Tunnel was opened in 1912. For almost a century it provided a perfectly trustworthy route (if a little daunting at night) from one side of the Thames to the other. At some point around the millennium, however, the tunnel developed a tendency towards temporal instability. Time slips and related anomalies, though infrequent, can be extreme. Do visit – but take an analogue watch.
The Quaerium (aka the Strand Roman Bath, above)
When the Romans built Londinium, they made sure it had everything a city should have. Temples, baths, an amphitheatre… and a gateway to other worlds known as The Quaerium. The exact site of The Quaerium is unknown, but some claim we should look no further than the ‘Roman Bath’ that can be seen down an alleyway off the Strand. If this is indeed the lost portal, we can confirm it is no longer functional.
A portal on the Pedway (above)
The Pedway Scheme was a post-war plan to link the buildings of the Square Mile with a futuristic network of elevated walkways. After-images of this lost dream are littered around the City; most notably, the Highwalks of the Barbican Centre. If you find yourself exploring the lonelier fragments, keep a close eye on your exit route – dead ends have a habit of surprising the unwary.
The Lost Wren Church
Every Londoner should visit the churches that Christopher Wren built after the Great Fire (St Paul’s Cathedral among them). Many sit within the footprints of their medieval predecessors, and countless wonders await within. But should you step through the doors of a strange, deserted church you haven’t noticed before, don’t linger in its dark nave. Turn around, and leave quickly. With luck, you’ll return to the same street you started on.
A ghost village on Walthamstow Marshes?
A daytime visit to Walthamstow Marshes can provide a pleasant break from the surrounding urban sprawl. But stay there till dusk, and you will notice a change in the air. Perhaps it’s just the buzz of a pylon or cows lowing in the darkening field. You will find yourself drawn towards the lights at the edge of the marshland. Be sure they’re the safe haven you think they are.
The Crystal Palace Park Headless Statues
Go there for the famous dinosaurs or the recently replanted maze. Go for the modernist sports centre. But if you find yourself walking the crumbling Victorian Italianate terraces, please don’t place a hand on the headless statues. Harrowing recent accounts suggest that one or more of them are operating as gateways to some very dark places indeed. Take your atmospheric photos from a safe distance.
Take note, people: this is not a user’s guide.
Join a storytelling exploration of the rifts and fractures of north-east London with Portals of London and Vanessa Woolf/London Dreamtime in Abney Park Cemetery this Saturday (June 23).
Want to be transported? Check out these 21 places in London that look nothing like London.
Walthamstow Marshes image Flickr/Michael Goldrie
Strand Roman Bath image Flickr/David Holt