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

Stephen Humphrey

Stephen Humphrey, who was for many years archivist in the London Borough of Southwark, has died.

As a local historian and ambassador for Southwark’s many textured history, Stephen had no rival. He was immensely knowledgeable, immensely generous with that knowledge, and always a fascinating conversationalist.

I met Stephen some thirty years ago when one of my aunts wanted to research the family tree. Our path very quickly took us to the Local Studies Library in Borough High Street, where Stephen offered advice and showed us how to search the archives.

When I became a Blue Badge Tourist Guide our paths continued to cross, and I came to know him better. I appreciated more his understated style and enjoyed his seemingly endless stock of stories. He continued to give me the benefit of his professional advice, as he did so many others.

The hole he leaves in Southwark’s fabric is enormous. He was a gentleman and a scholar; an unassuming figure who supported and helped many many individuals and groups in the area.

I am very proud to have known Stephen. I shall miss both his erudition and his gentle humour. My life was richer for knowing him.

A book of condolence is available to sign at the John Harvard Library in Borough High Street should you wish to leave a message.

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

Don’t Miss This – A Midsummer Night’s Dream Live -Streamed!

Were you lucky enough, as I was, to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the New Globe Theatre on Bankside this year? the Bollywood influenced one?

Oh man, it was fabulous. I don’t want to make you jealous, but if you didn’t get to see it you missed out bg time. Tomorrow night it has its last performance, but the great news is that the BBC is going to be live streaming the production. Which means that wherever you are you can see it. Cool or what? and the answer isn’t ‘what’. 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

Continue reading

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