Why Walk?

I have been contacted by an Urban Studies student called George who has asked my opinion and thoughts on a number of issues around walking.

Now as a Blue Badge Guide, I guide on foot, on a coach, I lead tours of galleries and heritage sites, and walks all over London.

I enjoy all of it, but walking tours have a special place n my heart, and it was partly due to my long established habit of walking around London’s neighbourhoods that I trained as a guide in the first place.

George is particularly interested to know my thoughts in relation to one particular walk that I have developed: the Elephant and Castle.

As it happens, I shall be leading this walk on Saturday 2nd September at 2pm as part of this year’s Elefest.

The Elephant has changed enormously since since I first started to explore it nearly four decades ago when I moved into a flat nearby, just down the road in Walworth. I remember the feeling of surprise and shock to find prefab homes in the shadow of what must have been London’s most uninviting hotel, the London Park. Much later when I read of that building’s history I learned to respect it and even felt sorry when it was pulled down.

You see far more on two wheels than you do on four, but walking puts you in touch with your environment in a much more immediate way. Partly it’s to do with the speed. You notice the plants in people’s gardens, the style of curtains affected by people in different neighbourhoods, the potholes in the roads, the litter on the pavements; the new front door. You acquire a more intimate understanding than your wheeled peers.

The more you walk the same streets the more you learn their nuances. You see the subtle changes that come with the year’s seasons; the telltale signs of new investment; the pubs that have been turned into flats; the new market stall holders; the graffiti; the corner shops that close; the bars that open; the elderly person who suddenly is no longer about; the young boys doing wheelies on their bikes as they transition to adolescence. You are a witness. Continue reading

Pretty Chickens

Okay, it’s out of context and not appropriate to joy and jollity, but unfortunately I can’t think of a Shakespeare quotation about happy hens.

On Saturday afternoon I had a private walk booked. I knew nothing about the clients until a day or so in advance: a hen party.

So, if you were about to get married and decided that your hen party should be a guided walk, what would be the subject of that walk?

I put the question to my morning group who were coming on a tour of very lovely Kennington, my Princes and Paupers walk. Jack the Ripper? suggested one, which earned him a surprised stare from myself. Serial killing of women as entertainment always strikes me as macabre, doubly or quadruply so for a hen party. Continue reading

Next stop, Colchester

A novel might have taken me to Coventry, but by a strange symmetry it was after visiting Colchester I began reading a novel that mentions, even features, some of the places I saw in the original capital of Roman Britain.

I had unfortunately sprained my ankle just a few days beforehand, so my explorations were not quite as extensive as I should have liked. Still it gives me a good excuse to return.

I have visited many other parts of Essex, and even celebrated a birthday in and around Wivenhoe a few years ago when friends joined me for an easy eight mile walk which started, middled and ended at the pub.

Colchester boasts an impressive castle, a ruined abbey, and an astounding building that is home to the Museum of Modern Art.

Continue reading

The Walworth Walk

I’ll be leading the Walworth Old and New walk Saturday 3rd December, meeting outside Kennington tube station at 10.45am.

From the Saxons to the present day, Walworth has had many incarnations.



Famous as the birthplace of Charlie Chaplin, Walworth has belonged to a court jester, temporarily housed St Thomas’ Hospital, seen the first giraffes in a public collection in the United Kingdom, been the force behind achieving age related pensions, and has been mentioned in literature from Charles Dickens to Muriel Spark. Continue reading

Fire! London’s Burning!

It’s three hundred and fifty years since the City of London was devasted by a terrible fire, and there are any number of events commemorating the dreadful conflagration we know as the Great Fire of London.

You may already have been to the exhibition at the Museum of London. If not, make a date in your diary. It is well worth the visit. Continue reading

August Update

My, hasn’t the summer flown by!

I’ve had a holiday in Ireland, visiting family and catching up with friends.I was staying near the Sperrins, the lanscape dominated by Slieve Gallion which long ago I climbed during the hillwalking festival.

Slieve Gallion

Slieve Gallion

We went to the Titanic Exhibition which was excellent. I shall gladly go back and see it again.

Titanic exhibition

Titanic exhibition

Titanic

Titanic

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Hampton Court Palace and Gardens

The Hampton Court Flower Show is on this week. Alas, I do not have a ticket, but I shared the train there from waterloo with eager horticulturalists, and the return journey with same, only this time carrying an array of plants. The station was so busy they had laid on live music to entertain us.

There were of course also plants at the station, displayed in the wheelbarrows that over the past few years have become planters of choice for public spaces.

Wheelbarrow planter at the railway station

Wheelbarrow planter at the railway station

I don’t get to work at Hampton Court anywhere near as often as I should like. It’s a brilliant day out and there’s so much to do and to see. You can travel there by train, by boat, or a mixture of the two, and the setting, by the river, is to die for.

On the river

On the river


You can visit much of the surrounding gardens for free, and they are both formal and wonderful.
Wonderful formality

Wonderful formality


Heraldic spaces

Heraldic spaces


Continue reading

Hurrah for Harwich

Harwich was a delight. Our arrival teas, coffees and cake were taken in the Swan, the second oldest building in the town, complete with C15 wall painting and evidence of an active local crafts scene.

Wall painting

Wall painting

Knitting

Knitting

We were in Mayflower territory. Christopher Jones, captain of that ship lived in a house just a few doors down from the Swan.

Christopher Jones' House

Christopher Jones’ House

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The Week Ahead

Tomorrow I am to spend the day in Harwich in the company of the very wonderful Stephen Humphrey, who knows more about Southwark than anyone else alive, and is pretty damn hot on other places too. It’s the annual outing of the Southwark and Lambeth Archaeological Society, SLAS, of which I am not a member though I do occasionally attend their talks.

Last year we went to Winchester, the year before, Ramsgate. Stephen evidently believes a well fed audience is a happy audience, so there’ll be tea or coffee and cake when we arrive. At Ramsgate our morning refreshments were so extensive few of us had room for lunch. The weather forecast is mixed but the company should be good, and Stephen makes sure the coach in which we travel is a comfortable one.

Memorial Bench Winchester Castle

Memorial Bench Winchester Castle

The outing will mark the end of my few days break. Continue reading