Royal London exerts a certain pull and many visitors to the capital have Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace high on their lists of things to see. Others head out to Hampton Court, the sumptuous palace created by Thomas Wolsey and expanded by Henry VIII. Then there’s Greenwich where just one wall remains of the palace where Henry VIII was born. In Bermondsey you can see the site of Edward III’s manor house uncovered by archaeologists.
Fewer visitors make the trip out to Eltham Palace, SE9, and that’s a shame because it is a wonderful place, managed today by English Heritage, the same organisation that manages Stonehenge.
I was there last week on a thrillingly cold day where fortunately the sun put in an appearance by late morning. It’s an easy trip by public transport, take the train from Charing Cross or London Bridge and you’ll be there in a trice. Alternatively, don your walking boots and follow the Green Chain Walk or the Capital Ring.
How can I walk there?
These panels at the ticket office and visitor centre, where there’s also a shop and a café, helpfully give the site’s history.
There should really be another panel explaining how English Heritage manages the site now. Continue reading
Some months ago I picked up a copy of Time Out, the now free listings magazine. Flipping through the pages, I found these startling words by James Manning:
“Most London walking tours suck. You’d be hard pressed to find many that stray off well-trodden patches such as the West End, Camden Town and Brick Lane, or any that show a new side of the city to people who live there.”
I can only assume James has been looking in the wrong places. I lead walks all over London, places not mentioned in the guide books, places in south London North Londoners have probably never visited, and it’s local people who tend to be the most surprised at what is on their doorstep. Here’s a little taste of things you might see or hear about on my tours.
As I’ve said before, being a guide is a licence to be nosy, and going on a guided walk is a licence to stop and stare. Apparently James doesn’t want to feel like a tourist, and mysteriously thinks no one else wants to feel like one either. There are so many things in this short piece that feel off key. You can read it all here if you want to see what I mean.
Tourist is not a pejorative term, being a tourist is enjoyable. It’s about visiting places and finding out about them, seeing the things everyone has heard of and seeing out the hidden corners, the unexpected, the everyday and the surprising – which can sometimes be the same thing. At its best, being a tourist is about finding wonder in places both familiar and foreign. Continue reading
Being a professional Tourist Guide is a licence to be nosy. A licence to stop and stare. We are in storytellers; not tellers of untruths, but tellers of tales of real people, real places and real objects. I’m a trained journalist as well as a Tourist Guide, so it’s second nature to look at something and wonder what the story is behind it.
At the weekend I made a long overdue visit to West Norwood Cemetery, one of the original Magnificent Seven, nothing to do with Clint Eastwood et al, but seven large private cemeteries in London established in the 19th century to alleviate overcrowding in existing parish burial grounds.
West Norwood Cemetary
I visited on a whim, so didn’t have any information with me, nothing about the famous and infamous dead or where their graves were, but with forty acres to explore on a bright cold morning I was happy to wander. Up by the crematorium and chapel I recognised this name, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
If you have ever done my guided tour of the Elephant and Castle, you’ll have heard me talk about Spurgeon, the baptist preacher who took London by storm when he was still in his 20s. Somewhat inappropriately he was often referred to as the Pope of Newington Butts, his influence was so strong. His sermons were translated into several languages, published and widely read, and the Metropolitan Tabernacle that was his church is still at the heart of the Elephant, though damaged by bombing in the Second World War. Haddon died in Menton, France while on holiday, but his body was brought back to London where 60,000 people filed past his casket in the Tabernacle. He was buried at Norwood Cemetery on February 11 1892. Continue reading