Wherever you live in London, take the time to examine your bollards. These ubiquitous chunks of metal come in near infinite variety, and often hold local secrets. Here we round up seven of our favourite examples — we'd like to hear about yours in the comments.
1. The police bollard of Belgravia
This mighty truncheon of a bollard should really stand outside 999 Letsby Avenue. As no such address exists, it has instead been placed in Gerald Road, Belgravia before a building that was once a police station.
2. The emotive bollards of Southwark
Montague Close, round the back of Southwark Cathedral, is home to London's most-defaced bollards. Some bright spark designed the box-shaped barriers to have a pair of reflector eyes. This presents a tempting canvas for any passing miscreant with a marker pen. Many's the time we've diverted our walking route just to see what new emotions are displayed on the bollards.
3. The mystery bollards of King's Cross
Bollards have one main purpose — to stop vehicles striking things that they shouldn't. So what, in the devil's diabolical dustcart, is the point of this fellow? The smooth, black bollard protrudes proudly from the lawn of Regent Square, King's Cross, like it owns the place. It is protecting nothing, and stands within a fenced-off enclosure that no vehicle would ever trouble. Further pointless bollards can be found in nearby streets. Turns out this is all a subtle art project by Judith Dean, dating back to 1999.
4. The celebrity bollards of Peckham
Well-to-do Bellenden Road has its own suite of street furniture, designed by superstar sculptor Antony Gormley. His rusty posts come in four different flavours, one of which — we imagine — is purposefully and wilfully shaped like a bell-end. The crop above were photographed on East Dulwich Road, where you can also spy these purple-twisty confections designed by Zandra Rhodes.
5. The playful bollard of Chelsea
Bollards have a secondary purpose, which is to pose as suitable obstacles for leapfrogging children. The tradition is immortalised just off the King's Road with this playful sculpture, known as Two Pupils, by Allister Bowtell. It recalls the Duke of York's Military School, which once stood nearby. Of course, were you to try any such high-jinx today, you'd probably get a telling off from one of the security guards who patrol the area.
6. Something old...
The first metal bollards were simply upturned cannon planted in the ground. A few original examples can still be found around London. Perhaps the most weather-beaten is this curious specimen, which lurks round the back of St Helen's Church in the Square Mile, close to the Gherkin.
7. March of the bollards
The increased terror threat of recent years has seen the rapid deployment of bollards around sensitive buildings. Many of London's big office blocks are contained within a perimeter of steel uprights. Sometimes the effect is almost comical, as here on Shoe Lane — a street that gets very little traffic but is nevertheless guarded by a clone army of bollards. Now there's a leapfrogger's dream.
Please do share your own personal favourites in the comments below.