Keeping It Local:

Some businesses and even some private homes have already been decked with fairy lights, trees and tinsel, but next weekend, the first in December marks the kick-off for festive fun and retail.

If, like me, your idea of hell is a crowded shopping centre or overheated department store there are artists’ studios in both Camberwell, SE5, and Walworth, SE17, open next weekend. And I’m sorry to tell you you’ve missed it, but today there was a sale of locally produced honey at Lettsom Gardens with the best lucky dip ever – everyone was a winner.

Back to next weekend. On Saturday I’m leading a guided walk around Walworth, my home patch.

The walk begins outside Kennington tube at 10.45, and ends outside opposite the Open Studios outside a café where dogs are welcome. It costs just £10pp and there’s no need to book in advance. Continue reading

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Walworth Walk, Weather and Open Studios

On Saturday I am leading my bi-annual walk around Walworth, finishing at the Artists Open Studios at Pullens’ Yards.

Walworth Walk

Walworth Walk

Just in case you can’t read the details on the picture, The walk starts outside Kennington tube station at 10.45am, and costs £10, or £8 for over 65s and full-time card-carrying students.

I’ll have some leaflets about the Open Studios with me too. There’s lots going on.

Open Studios June 2016

Open Studios June 2016

The week’s weather forecast shows an up and down graph; some sunny basking days; some summer storms; some cloud; humidity.

Today we’ve had all of the above already, and it’s not yet three in the afternoon. Continue reading

We Meet Again

Quite often I see familiar faces on my tours; people who have booked me before and then come back for more, and people who join the public tours I do for London Walks.

And then there are the people who work at the places where I guide; the lovely marshalls at Westminster Abbey, the watermen whose knowledge of the river is encyclopaedic who captain the boats for City Cruises, the Visitor Assistants at the place of Westminster, the helpful Big Issue seller at St Paul’s tube station. You get the picture.

Last autumn, the British Museum decided that groups must henceforth enter via the back door on Montague Place. I regretted the change in meeting point this necessitated. We used to meet outside Holborn tube, and if early I would nip round to the Rosewood Hotel to admire their displays, and if lucky, see Pearl, the resident dog.

Nowadays we meet outside Russell Square tube station.

Russell Square tube station

Russell Square tube station

Last week, everyone who wanted to join me for a tour of the BM offered me a twenty pound note. My change ran out in an instant. I walked over to the stall opposite the tube station entrance and asked the proprietor if he could give me some change.

The proprietor

The proprietor

“Of course,” he said. Then he added, “I know you from somewhere, but I don’t know where.” He didn’t look familiar, and my guess was he had seen me successive weeks meeting a group. “No,” he said, “I’ve seen you before.”

I was doubtful, but we began that narrowing of places and neighbourhoods where our paths might have crossed. Then he mentioned Walworth.

“I live there,” I said. His eyes widened and he explained that his family had run stalls on nearby East Lane market for years. The penny dropped. He was Barry, who I first knew when he was a teenager. I bought my fruit from the stall his brother and father ran, my cheese and eggs from his mother Josie and his sister-in-law Pauline. The fruit was the best on East Lane. Long before Borough Market became a foodie Mecca, Josie was supplying us with all sorts of delights, including Cornish Yarg, perfect Red Leicester and a wonderful soft blue cheese whose name I forget.

Happy days.

Now here was Barry again. Grown up, with his own stall selling fruit and fruit based drinks in a new location.

Naturally we swapped news, and I got up to speed with what has happened to the various members of his family.

So if you happen to be passing Russell Square tube and want a drink or just a piece of fruit, check out Barry’s stall. And if you remember, say I sent you.

Barry

Barry

Flaming June

Nearly half way through the year already. Where does it go?

London is welcoming eager visitors, and I and my colleagues are busy busy busy.

I seem to have a lot of private groups over the next few weeks, but I do have some tours anyone can join.

Top of the list, 1st June. Meet at 10.30 by the Tower Hill Tram ready to take the boat to travel to Greenwich the royal way – by river.

Next, 6th June. Maybe you have read Sarah Waters The Paying Guests, shortlisted for this year’s Bailey Prize set in leafy Denmark Hill and Camberwell, just a step from central London, and a welcome breath of fresh air at any time of year, especially summer. We meet outside Denmark Hill overground station.

8th June I’m back in central London with two classic tours. For Westminster Abbey meet outside Exit 4 Westminster tube at 10.45, and for the British Museum I’ll be witing for you on Kingsway outside Holborn tube at 2.15.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

9th June, we can head out of town for an Explorer Day to Salisbury and Stonehenge. We’ll be away all day. Obviously this costs a bit more, but a very reasonable £77 which covers travel, entrance fees and tours. There is an excellent new exhibition about Magna carta at Salisbury cathedral.Meet at Waterloo Railway Station opposite platform 16 outside the main ticket office at 8.45. Continue reading

Not One, But THREE Public Walks This Weekend!

I don’t know, you’ll think I’m spoiling you; three public walks in two days? Let’s hit the pavements. Bring the Ferrero Rocher if you like.

First up is the Walworth Walk on Saturday morning, exploring a part of Londfon that has remained remarkably undiscovered despite its central location. We meet outside Kennington tube for 10.45 and finish at some lovely artists studios which are open this weekend. There’s an attendant café, so you can lunch and mooch.

Or maybe you’ll want to leap on the number 40 bus to join me for The Old City walk at Tower Hill for 2pm.

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Pullens Yards Open Studios

My Walworth Walk ends at the artists’ studios at Pullen’s Yards and usually coincides their twicely yearly sales when they open to the public.
There’s a real buzz this December, and you have one more day to enjoy the studios.
Here are some of my personal highlights.

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The Walworth Walk: Countdown to Christmas

My countdown to Christmas begins next Saturday 7th December with the Walworth Walk which ends at some artists’ studios, open for the weekend.
En route from Kennington tube we’ll see the City Farm; the site of the Surrey Zoological Gardens;the birthplace of the Surrey County Cricket Club; a celebrated Soane church; one of London’s oldest markets; and much more.

Why fight your way through the crowds in the West End when you can do your shopping in such convivial surroundings, stopping for coffee or food at the Electric Elephant Café, or sipping a pint at the nearby Beehive?

At the artists’ studios, described as ‘seriously hip’ by the Times. You’ll be spoiled for choice. Whether your tastes run to handcrafted jewelry by leading silversmith Carol Mather, delicate ceramics by Barbara Wakefield or Kate Scott, paintings, photographs, bespoke bikes, rugs from handspun wool, or a host of other delights, you’ll find them here.

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M&S Walworth Road Centenary Event

Although I am deeply disappointed that manager Malcolm will not be donning a winged collar and dressing as the first manager of the Walworth Road branch of Marks and Spencer did a hundred years ago, and equally disappointed that the rest of the staff will not be wearing 1913 uniforms either, I have been assured that there will be photographs and artefacts so that by the end of Saturday we shall be able to picture more clearly how the shop and its staff would have looked.

Not so long ago, the shopfront had a makeover to come in line with other branches up and down the country.

M&S Walworth

M&S Walworth

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Clubland

Not far from where I live is Clubland. No, I don’t mean the Ministry of Sound, but that is pretty close by too.

Clubland

Clubland

Walworth Methodist Church

Walworth Methodist Church


Maybe the historians among you are already making connections. The church is where William Booth used to worship when he was working in a pawnbrokers on the Walworth Road. The same William Booth who founded the Salvation Army, and whose memorial College is in neighbouring Camberwell.
Or maybe you know that Clubland is where Michael Caine, who lived round the corner in Urlwin Road, first discovered his love of acting.
I used to walk past Clubland twice daily on the way to and from work. I heard about Jimmy Butterworth, the diminuitive minister who was pioneer in youth work, how he raised funds for the building which opened in August 1939, only to see it flattened in the Second World War. Diminuitive and indefatigable. He went Stateside on a fundraising mission, brought home the goods and got the place rebuilt.
“You should go inside,” someone told me more than thirty years ago, “there are plaques to all the stars who donated; Bob Hope, people like that.”
I didn’t go in. I wondered, looked at the outside, let the years pass.
Then two weeks ago I had ten minutes to kill while my car was being washed. I walked into the building. I wanted to ask someone if I could look around. There was no one there.
Unsure if I would be challenged, I walked through the foyer and saw a courtyard. I pushed the door and went through.

Continue reading