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

Walking the Elephant Saturday 22nd March

All being well, I shall be leading Terra Incognita this Saturday morning at 10.45. It’s a walk around the Elephant and Castle that I devised some years ago. Uou may drive through th Elephant and shudder, but there is far more to it than meets the eye. The Heygate state, now being demolished has probably had more media exposure in the last few months than in the rest of its comparatively short life. Love it or hate it, Strata can be seen from across London. Away from the roundabouts, things are quieter; neighbourly. And as for Latin London, the Elephant is its heart.

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Round About the Box

Next Saturday I shall be one of four people telling alternative histories and stories about the Faraday Memorial at the Elephant and Castle with artist Mark Wayman. You may know the thing I’m talking about, the Grade II listed 1959 silver box that houses a London Underground substation.
I was sent a flyer about it by email today.

Fort da Solus

Fort da Solus

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Regenerating the Elephant

We were so lucky with the weather for the Elephant and Castle walk yesterday. And I was lucky to have such a nice group of people for the walk. Thanks everyone who came along.
It’ll be on again later in the year, see https://londonbyguide.wordpress.com/dates-for-your-diary/ for details.
As some of you know, the Elephant is undergoing regeneration. It is actually the biggest urban regeneration project ever in Europe. Initially Norman Foster was involved. There were plans for low rise terraces, art galleries, piazzas (I call them squares, but there you go), an amphitheatre. All the pictures of the plans showed people sitting outside in sunny weather. Winter was to be banished from the Elephant and Castle for ever. Then the recession struck, and the budget was scaled dowm. The big name architects who promised high quality, imaginative buildings dropped out of sight. Instead we got Strata, aka the Electric Razor, which opened in April 2010 and received the Carbuncle Award later that year.

Strata

Strata

Just up the road the Shard was built.
Shard

Shard

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Terra Incognita aka The Elephant and Castle Walk

Next Saturday afternoon I’ll be Walking the Elephant. It’s a public walk so anyone can join me for a couple of hours in one of London’s most derided neighbourhoods.
If all you know of the Elephant and Castle is a dodgy explanation of how it got its name, or the view of the roundabouts from the top deck of the 53 bus, this walk will surprise you. I promise.
Victoran Grim

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