If you haven’t made a trip to the newly developed area around Kings Cross station, you should try to. It’s on the London map in a big way. It has been redeveloped (of course by influential architects, developers and businesses) with a conscience. It’s also now the home to the good and the great (and the slightly eccentric) with Central St Martins being based there as well as Google HQ, The Guardian, The House of Illustration, Kings Place, a few narrow boats, some noisy wet kids, and of course a few start up/graphic design style companies dotted around. Due to it’s grandeur, I have to share a little of it’s history with you…
Kings Cross was a location that may have been the site of the legendary battle between Queen Boudicca and Roman invaders. FYI, The story goes that the final resting place of Boudicca, the warrior queen of the Iceni, is under Platform nine at King’s Cross Station.
Great Northern Railway
It’s urban development really made a mark in 1849 when the Great Northern Railway (GNR) purchased land for the station to the south of the canal and land to the north for its goods station and steam locomotive depot. This move ensured it was naturally linked to the industrial cities in the North of England by rail, as Kings Cross station (as we know it) was officially opened in 1852. For all of you who were day dreaming in your history O’level (surely no one reading this has ever passed a GCSE?!), this area is a solid example of how London changed during the industrial revolution – right?! So after the havoc of wartime and the Nationalisation of 1948, the transport of freight by rail suffered a speedy decline.
Channel Tunnel Rail Link
Now I’m going to fast forward to the C21st! In July 2001, construction work started on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and the restoration and extension of St Pancras Station. Since then, the area around King’s Cross has seen an investment of over £2.5 billion on transport infrastructure.
St Pancras International Terminus
In 2007 the new St Pancras International terminus opened. The Midland Hotel was restored and reopened as St Pancras Renaissance. The area has also seen an incredible flow of investment into world-class buildings such as the Francis Crick Institute and King’s Place (Cultural and Arts venue). These changes have acted as a catalyst for further development and have helped change perceptions of King’s Cross.
Kings Cross Now
The area is vibrant, full of wildly dressed art students, local families, bearded boys on bicycles and still quite a lot of builders as construction of the area is ongoing. Here is a pick of the 5 best things you can do, at pretty much any time of year. Let me know how you get on, and dont forget a change of trousers for the little ones with you, I bet you a fiver that you cant stop them running in and out of the fountains, and loving every minute.
1. Run in the Fountains at Granary Square
As you can tell, my #busstopkids (see my instagram) and their adorable friends totally love this past time. I think the pictures say it all, so I’ll let you experience the rest for yourself when you go.
2. Swim in the Kings Cross Outdoor Swimming Pond Club
So far we have only had time to swim in this outdoor natural bathing pond once, but we will be back, even if it makes us grab some wetsuits, and have flasks of hot chocolate on stand by to fend off the hypo-thermia when we get out! Now we mention it, we are quite proud that we have swum in the UK’s first ever man-made fresh water public bathing pond. You cant tell from the photos, it’s 40 metres long, and entirely chemical free. Which is why it feels like you are swimming in a big bath, surrounded by sweet flowers, without the duck poo and beer cans when you usually go wild-city swimming!
The water is purified through a natural, closed-loop process process using wetland and submerged water plants to filter the water and keep it clear. The pond is surrounded by wild flowers and grasses that change with the season.
What’s more the pond is open Monday-Friday from 6am-dusk, and Saturday-Sunday from 8am-dusk, BUT you have to purchase tickets for designated sessions throughout the day. Prices range from £3.50 to £6.50 for peak swims and non-swimmers will be able to visit the pond at a discounted rate.
3. Eat and Drink in the SKIP GARDEN
It’s properly lovely. Home grown food, made with love and attention. The staff are gorgeous, so is the coffee, it has to be worth a visit. It’s also 10x better than the places on the high street, as this garden supports local kids, retired gardeners, wannabe architects and lots and lots of insects.
More action from the skip garden…
4. Join in with a Kings Cross event, like The Classic Car Boot Sale
This weekend will see at least 100 classic and historical vehicles cruising into King’s Cross for a Classic Car Boot sale, curated by Hemingway Design. It will be a weekend humming with vintage attitude, and all about having a cup of tea, a dance and looking very tidy. We went to the same car boot sale at the QE2 park last year, and totally loved it, so I can recommend you swing by, and check out the gingham action.
Founded by our very own Roald Dahl loving ‘Sir Quentin Blake’, the House of Illustration is the UK’s only public gallery dedicated solely to illustration. It is the place to see, learn about and enjoy illustration in all its forms; from advertisements to animation, picture books to political cartoons and scientific drawings to fashion design. Check the latest exhibitions and events here.
Naturally the team promote new illustration talent, and commission new work. They also have an interesting illustrator-led educational events program. There are talks, drawing classes, publishing events and weekend family fun. Kids just get illustration in a way that they don’t necessarily get other forms of Art, so grace the house with your presence – if even to see the beautiful book shop.
5.5. EAT loads and feel good about it
You can choose from trendy brunch king ‘Caravan’, or the tres healthy The Grain Store, Indian ‘Dishoom’, Oz Breakfast giants, Granger & Co, Vinoteca or have cocktails in the Great Northern Hotel by St Pancras.
THERE’S MORE STUFF GOING ON ….
Fancy relaxing at the end of a busy day and meeting new people while helping to build the garden of a thousand hands?
Come to the Skip Garden on Wednesday evenings from 5pm – 7.30pm for a Twilight Gardening session. You will work alongside the Global Generations gardeners who love to share their knowledge on growing food in the middle of the city.
Each session ends with a beautiful home-cooked meal prepared with love by the Skip Garden Kitchen team.
Twilight Gardening sessions take place on fortnightly on Wednesday evenings in the Skip Garden.
To book your space email firstname.lastname@example.org
Designed in 1852 by Lewis Cubitt, the architect of King’s Cross station, the Granary once stored wheat for London’s bakers. The building has been gloriously restored by Stanton Williams Architects and overlooks the fountains of Granary Square. The college boasts glittering alumni including fashion designers Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen, singer Jarvis Cocker, painter Lucian Freud and sculptor Antony Gormley. The campus at King’s Cross opened in 2011, welcoming 5,000 students and staff
The knowledgable team at the King’s Cross Visitor Centre will be pleased to give you a free guided tour around the public areas of the development. You’ll learn about the industrial heritage of the area and hear how the development will unfold over the coming years.
King’s Cross Visitor Centre \ 11 Stable Street London N1C 4AB T: 020 3479 1795
KX Bootcamp is a High Intensity Interval Training session based outdoors. The workout is designed to provide a high calorie burn using a variety of different equipment. At Bootcamp, you will be encouraged to test your body and push your limits, but always within your ability levels. The variety of Bootcamp allows you to experience a new challenging session every time – be prepared to flip tyres, throw medicine balls, swing kettle bells and battle with the ropes!
Sessions times are as follows: Tuesdays 6pm – 7pm Advanced & Thursdays 6pm – 7pm Beginners & Saturdays 10am – 11am Mixed Ability