Walking fast, faces pass and I’ve found one!
Walking around downtown London can be quite the adventure. But sometimes it’s nice to have something to look forward to at the end of your stroll. You might have heard of Geocaching, but maybe you’re looking for something a bit more relaxed. Sometimes the thrill of finding a new location is all that you want. In that case, you should check out Waymarking, Geocaching’s cool cousin.
What is Waymarking?
Waymarking is a way of categorizing different things and the places they live in. It’s also a cheap pastime that can take you to places all over London that you might not otherwise come across. It’s also a great way to learn about London’s history, as most of the Waymarks I came across were related to a heritage site. We all know that the best way to spend your lunch break is by hunting for heritage, and there’s enough Waymarks around downtown London to entertain you for a while.
Waymark #1: Some watchful gargoyles
You’ve probably walked past St. Peter’s a few times on your way to Victoria Park. But have you ever noticed the gargoyles that hang from the walls? Gargoyles were historically used as a kind of gutter system or waterspout. They made sure that water wouldn’t damage the stones and mortar of the building. They also look creepy as heck, which is supposed to ward away evil spirits.
But, the gargoyles at St Peter’s don’t have spouts, and they’re not too scary looking. If anything, they look quite shocked that you’re looking at them! But rest assured, they’re hard at work keeping ghosts away. Although they might just be a bit frightened of the human heads that share their walls.
Bishop Walsh and Bishop Cody hang around the front entrance as a thanks for all the effort they put into creating and maintaining the church.
The gargoyles are fantastically gothic, but you might be surprised at the variety of waymarks…
Waymark #2: An outdoor stairway
Yup, that’s right. A staircase. To be fair, this is one of the prettier outdoor staircases in London, and it leads to a pretty significant bridge. Blackfriars Bridge was the first iron bridge to cross the Thames River all the way back in 1875. It’s closed to road traffic now, but you’re still able to walk across the bridge on foot. The stairway links the Ridout Street bridge to Central Street, just a hop and a skip away from Richmond Row. It’s a shortcut I never would have found without Waymarking.
Each Waymark category has a subcommittee to decide whether a new Waymark will be approved or not. It’s quite interesting that someone is passionate enough about outdoor stairways to meticulously analyze the makeup and debate over whether a set of stairs is worthy enough to join.
Stairs might be exciting, but there are some more obscure objects out there…
Waymark #3: A highway benchmark
I’ll be honest – I had the most fun finding this Waymark. It felt the most like a treasure hunt and gave me a bit of a puzzle as to what it was used for. This Waymark is holed up in the side of the curb over top of the Wellington Road train overpass.
Ontario Highway Benchmarks are a useful tool for surveying the land. The nail and line allow for an easy check of an area’s altitude, which can then be used for mapping.
Benchmarks are cool, but maybe you want something a bit bigger…
Waymark #4: A mysterious chimney sweep
The Marienbad Restaurant has been around for over 40 years, but the building has been around since the mid 1800s. It was home to the London Free Press for a time and was later home to a farming newspaper called the Farmer’s Advocate. It’s a registered heritage building and has been well preserved over the years.
This Waymark brings your attention to the roof of the building, where a stout little man sits atop the chimney.
Across the street, you’ll find…
Waymark #5: A historic substation
Sometimes the most interesting buildings are the ones that you’ve passed by day after day but never paid attention to. I’ve walked past this Carling Street building many times before, but never looked too closely at it. Little did I know, it’s not a building at all. It’s an electrical substation.
This building serves the same purpose as those big metal fields of piercing towers and electrical wires. The only difference is that it fits the architectural style of downtown London. The fourth substation was built by London Hydro in 1924 (they love creative building names).
As with the stairs, there’s a whole category for finding and documenting these buildings all over the world. There’s a group of people somewhere in the world that are constantly hunting down new ones and preserving their history.
I need (to find) them, and I miss them!
Go out and find some Waymarks! This is only a small collection of Waymarks in London, Ontario. Enter your workplace postal code into the Waymark search bar and try to find some others near you. You won’t have to walk a thousand miles to find them.
Cover photo by Thomas Sayers.