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London Geography

Greater London was established in 1965 as an administrative unit covering the London metropolis. It was not defined as a county but had a two-tier structure, with the lower tier being the London boroughs. Following the abolition of the Greater London Council (GLC) in 1986 the boroughs became single-tier authorities, but Greater London was still widely recognised, especially for statistical and mapping purposes. In 2000 however a two-tier structure was re-established when the new Greater London Authority adopted responsibility for a range of citywide policy areas.

The 1580 sq km of Greater London lie in the south-east of England on the River Thames, which rises in the Cotswolds and flows eastwards through Oxford, Maidenhead and Windsor before reaching London. It is a clay and gravel-lined tidal river with its estuary some 80km to the east on the North Sea.

London is currently divided into 33 widely differing boroughs (13 of them in central London), which are run by local councils with significant autonomy. Two traditional 'cities', Westminster and the City of London, technically make up London. The 'one square mile' (about 2.7 sq km) of the City of London at the heart of the conurbation is known simply as 'the City'. Boroughs are subdivided into districts, which generally tally with the first group of letters and numbers of the postcode.
London active map

Districts and postcodes often appear on street signs and are quoted when giving directions; this is vital since names are fre­quently duplicated or cross through a number of different districts. To further confuse visitors, many streets change name (Holland Park Ave becomes Notting Hill Gate, which turns into Bayswater Rd before becoming Oxford St) or duck and weave like the country lanes they once were. Street numbering can also be bewildering: in big streets the numbers on opposite sides can be way out of kilter - 315 might be opposite 520 - or go up one side and down the other.
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