Last weekend in London really felt like autumn, suddenly the sun wasn’t shining anymore, it got really windy and was noticeably colder. That of course didn’t stop us trying to visit Open House buildings around the area. Our friends Dave and Jenni (who writes this awesome blog about great outdoors) came to stay with us for a weekend and we really wanted to show them around real East London, which is such a contrast to their cabin in the woods just over 2 hours away from London.
Having discovered Open House last year for the first time, and written one of my first ever blog post about what it is and buildings we visited here – I was really excited for this year again. I had these big plans about all the places I have ALWAYS wanted to visit and share with friends in London.
However similarly to last year, but less successfully this time around, I just didn’t plan it well enough in advance.
I failed to remember that most properties such as Number 10 Downing Street, The Gherkin, or even ALL of the Crossrail stations, are now needed to be booked several weeks in advance as they are by an appointment only. But hey, now I know for next time. Put in a diary now – August 2017, book appointments for Open House.
This year we also really struggled to find properties by areas on the Open House site, there is just no way of seeing all properties on the map by post code instead of a list, which again made planning ahead really challenging. So we decided to play it by ear and oh what a mistake that was (more on that in 1 minute).
So our very relaxed plan was to spend the Saturday exploring Open House buildings around East London. There are quite a few unusual venues near our home to visit and finish our day in Hackney Wick’s breweries the Howling Hops and Crate. We would then spend Sunday in central London exploring more notable landmarks.
We started with Bow Church, where we managed to get our hands on the Open House programme. Given that the Open House site wasn’t even loading on Saturday, printed copy of all properties grouped by area was definitely the way forward. We quickly decided on the next building to visit – it was the very ‘glamorous’ Abbey Mills.
We knew that they were doing tours every hour so we timed it perfectly to arrive just before the hour. On arrival we found several other people waiting by the entrance all waiting for the tour too. It also turned out that tours were strictly by appointments only. We DIDN’T have one. So we were turned down from a tour of a pumping/sewage station.
We had to act quick and so planned a last minute walk to the next destination The Three Mills, whilst acquiring 4 more people from the queue. Whilst walking over we happened to chat to someone who has just came out from the tour at Abbey Mills who basically said it was AMAZING. Ha. Well he also said that he has been trying to visit for 3 years in a row to get an appointment and this was the first year he was successful. Ok now we didn’t feel so bad.
As we got to the House Mill the main building of the Three Mills, we really lucked out. First of all there was a tour, second of all you didn’t need an appointment, and the best news was that it was starting in 10 mins. #Winning. Finally.
Following the tour around the House Mill during where we learnt all about the process behind making the wheat and gun powder, and the history of the Mill it was finally time to visit the breweries and get that well deserved drink. So we took a very long walk via Olympic park and headed off to Hackney Wick, taking these shots along the way.
Following day on Sunday we just didn’t get enough time to visit more properties in Central London as other commitments (such as trip to Bordeans BBQ Smokehouse) were taking place. We tried visiting Nomura’s head office on Angel Lane , but misread the fact that it was open ONLY on Saturday. *sigh*
So my tips for next year or things to remember for planning for Open House:
- Decide on the day you wanted to visit Open House properties most. It is likely that doing both Saturday and Sunday in a row is a bit too much. Then also make sure to check the timings of when the properties are open on Open House website
- August (or month before it starts in your city) go on the Open House site and try to book appointments to buildings you always wanted to visit. Most of them will already be booked up, so doing this will help you determine which area of the city to concentrate first
- Once you are able to book your appointments look for other properties available in the area close by that don’t require appointment bookings
- Make sure to click through to the appointment system to book to take you to the appointment site. There are all different and this year were on the right hand side, in green colour and not very noticeable. I failed to do this when I checked the site back in August, as I thought the appointment system wasn’t ready yet. When I figured it out all appointments were obviously sold out.
All in all, Open House is such a great way to explore the city you love. it is certainly one of my favourite ways to spend the weekend, and even though this year we really didn’t succeed at visiting many places I am already looking forward to the next one. Albeit being a whole year away.