London Walks Podcast - 2015

London walks podcast started early in 2006. The unique proposition was to record walks in London live. Initially this involved clipping a pair of microphones onto my lapel, and describing the walk in real time as my words and the soundscape were captured on minidisc. The transcribing and editing process was timeconsuming, and so later on I changed to recording direct to a Roland MP3 recorder. Each walk took a lot of planning and execution, and was distributed by means of a podcast accompanied by notes, a map, and full directions to reach the start.

Many people appreciated the freedom from tedious walking groups, maps and guidebooks. All you need is an iPod, or any MP3 player with headphones. To my surprise, people downloading the walks were not confined to tourists or those planning a trip to the capital. There were also schools in China and India, who used the walks as teaching aids. There were elderly folk in the USA who could no longer travel abroad, and listened to the sound file as a 'virtual' trip. There were disabled people who could not travel at all. And many, many others - for example, a soldier in the US military who listened from his tank in Iraq.

The portfolio ended with 65 walks in all. More than 1 million downloads.

I can no longer keep the walks up-to-date, having moved into the country away from London. However I retain all the sound files and instructions. When they were live as podcasts, every walk was free. The bandwidth was considerable, and so I can no longer offer them for download. However, if you are keen to have one walk I can email it to you if you let me know which. Alternatively I can post you a disk of all the walks for $25 anywhere in the world. Payment can be made to my PayPal account quoting "London walks" and giving your full name and address for the disk.

Best wishes, and many thanks for all your support over the past 6 years.

The Reverend Robert Wright

22 August 2011

Deptford - A Bobby's Beat in 1899

Deptford Market

Lower your eyebrows O ye of little faith. A walk through Deptford? Surely not, I hear you say. Scoff not - this will prove to be one of the most fascinating walks so far, whether you walk the walk, listen to it, or follow it on Google Streetview as I know lots of you do. So, suspend your unbelief and follow me through Deptford. Or - follow Sergeant Vanstone as he walks his beat on 25th and 26th July in the year 1899. Yes - this is an actual walk and we follow much of the route he took.

Sergeant Vanstone was not alone. The beautiful manuscript notebook I am following was not written by this particular Bobby. It was written by Charles Booth, who accompanied him. Booth was engaged in surveying the streets of the East End. His maps coloured each side of the streets using a colour key intended to signify levels of affluence and deprivation. Yellow for walthy. Red for well-to-do. Shades of pink, violet and purple for Comfortable, Poor & Comfortable (Mixed) and Poor. Deep blue meant Very Poor. One category remained.

In the late 19th century, poverty was seen not as an unfortunate condition which was remediable and resolvable, but as the fault of individuals. Shockingly, the remaining black colour was reserved for what Booth describes as Semi-Criminal. A terrible indictment, you may think, and I agree. The silver lining though came from the fact these maps changed the attitude of late Victorian London. Afterwards there was more talk of social deprivation and poor wages and less of criminality.

Nevertheless, looking back at the descriptions of the neighbourhoods Booth and Vanstone passed through, and comparing what we see today is a salutary exercise and a fascinating one from both the historical and social perspective. Oh yes, and you can toss in industrial archaeology, the development of trade, and so on and so forth.

I'm not saying that Deptford is pretty, quaint, or picturesque. It's clean, peaceful, and most definitely up-and-coming, at least where the old houses remain. True, many of the old streets have disappeared and been replaced by fairly low-rise housing estates, most looking quite reasonable. The second world war determined the wholesale clearance, not housing policy. The neighbourhoods, like much of London, are pleasingly multi-ethnic and multi-faith. Lots of Chinese and South-East Asia shops in the High Street add to the cultural mix and providing wonderful food and shopping.

Take this walk on a Wednesday, Friday or Saturday if you love mooching round the Markets. The market area is just near the railway station. This is the start and end of the walk. From Central London, you can take a train from Cannon St (walk out of the District & Circle Underground, and turn right and right again to enter the mainline railway terminus) or London Bridge (from the Underground platforms, follow 'British Rail' signs). Trains are frequent. You alight after one or two stops. You can use your Travelcard or Oyster, but remember to touch the Reader as you leave Deptford station.

Thanks and appreciation go to the London School of Economics who have put Booth's work online for us to read. Look for Booth B368 from the LSE pages if you want to see the original notebook scanned.

16 May 2011

Abbey Road

Kensington Palace

I'm glad I thought of this walk. We start at Warwick Avenue Underground Station (Zone 2 on the Bakerloo Line - just one stop north of Paddington) and finish on the Circle & District Line platform of Baker Street, the worl'd first underground railway opened in 1863. Baker Street is also on the Metropolitan, Bakerloo, Jubilee and Hammersmith & City lines.

The walking is easy. There are lovely houses and interesting places to see. Most of the route is free of the noisiest traffic. Like the walk to Campden Lock, we start by the cab shelter by St Saviour's Church where there is also a Boris Bikes stand, and walk down Warwick Avenue to the Grand Union Canal at Little Venice. I describe the history of Maida Vale and St John's Wood as we walk beside the canal towards a tunnel under Aberdeen Place.

Where the Campden Lock walk continues along the towpath towards London Zoo, this time we turn left and walk up Lisson grove to Lord's Cricket Ground. Here a guided tour of the home of cricket is recommended. For details of availability, click here. Continuing up Grove End Road brings us to Abbey Road with its famous EMI recording studios and the pedestrian crossing made famous by the Beatles on their 1969 album cover. The EMI studio was the first custom designed recording studio complex built anywhere in the world. Artists associated with the studios include Edward Elgar (Land of Hope & Glory 1931), Yehudi Menhuin, Thomas Beecham, Janet Baker, Glen Miller, Cliff Richard, Max Bygraves, George Formby as well as the Beatles themselves. In recent times, the Abbey Road studios were responsible for recording music used in the films Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter.

At Abbey Road we pause to look at the graffiti left by Beatles fans from all over the world on the walls and gates of the studios.

There is an opportunity for some snacks, coffee, or drinks in St John's Wood High Street. The shops are elegant and upmarket. This shopping street is an unexpected and welcome haven of calm after the frenetic northbound A41. After some refreshment here, we enter the old burial ground of St John's Wood Church, now a park, but originally the final resting place of more than 50,000 souls. Some of the ancient headstones remain in a wildlife garden. Leaving the church, we cross the busy roundabout and enter Regent's Park beside the London Central Mosque. From Hanover Gate, we walk alonside the boating lakes, past the fantastic Nash terraces including the London Business School and exit into Baker Street by way of Clarence Gate.

Where else but 221B Baker Street would one look for the fictional rooms where Holmes and Dr Watson lived. Nowadays the shop is a museum. Tat for the tourists, of course, but fans of Conan Doyle will not want to miss it.

The platforms of Baker Street Circle & District Line are the end point of the walk. Here one can see the brass plate recording the first steam trains running from Paddington undersround, and see the original brick vents where smoke escaped. The railway with its open trucks must have been a wonder to behold, as well as very unpleasant to ride in.

A fascinating and lovely walk. Lots to see. Lots to do. A pleasant stroll of some 3 miles. I hope you enjoy it.

7 March 2011

London on less than $2 a Day

Kensington Palace

Londoners call the Transport for London Barclays Cycle Hire scheme Boris Bikes after Mayor Boris Johnson.

Started in July 2010, Londoners could rent sturdy bicycles from around 400 docking stations scattered around the central zone. Once registered, you paid £3 for a plastic dongle which would release bicycles from their stands and automatically charge an access fee of £1 for the 24 hour period. Payment could alternatively be for 7 days (£5) or the whole year (£45).

Now in 2011 casual use of Boris Bikes is possible using your credit card, either online or at the terminal beside each docking station. The price is the same (except that you do not have to pay for a dongle) and once your have chosen the appropriate access fee you are issued with a 5-digit number to release your bicycle.

After cycling to your destination, dock your bicycle firmly and await the green light which indicates your bicycle has been properly docked and the charging period has finished.

The secret is to cycle for no more than 29 minutes. if your journey is longer, simply dock your bicycle and take another one from a nearby docking station. For this, you put the same credit card in ther terminal and receive another 5-digit number which will release another bicycle.

11 January 2011

 Follow the Roman City Wall Part 2

Looking towards St Pauls CathedralWe pick up the London Wall walk again at the Museum of London.

If you are continuing the route from Part 1 you will be at this point. If you are just doing this part of the walk, then you should start from St Paul's Underground station (Central Line, zone 1) and take Exit 2 then walk up St Martin's Le Grand to the Museum.

This concluding part of the London Wall walk starts with a visit to the Roman Londinium galleries in the museum, where you can see houses, shops, pavements and other reconstructions of life at the time the Roman wall was built. At the east end of the gallery is a long, inclined glass wall which overlooks the city wall. From here you can look down over the bastion which we saw from ground level in Part 1.

The remainder of the walk is about an hour in total, so much shorter than the walk so far. There is a long section of the wall nearby in Noble Street with its own observation walkway, glass panels, and descriptive boards. Noble Street leads down to the junction with Gresham Street and the church of St Anne and St Agnes. Crossing St Martins Le Grand once again, we enter Postmans Park where the wall by G F Watts commemorating ordinary people who sacrificed their lives to save others provides a poignant and fascinating record of individual bravery.

The site of Newgate which was demolished in 1777 is the next point of call, near the Central Criminal Court in Old Bailey. Remains of the wall can be seen on application to Security in the Merrill Lynch offices office hours - call 020 7995 9770 - but sadly the portion in the basement of the Central Criminal Court cannot be viewed by the public.

The foundations of the Roman wall have been discovered incorporated into the western wall of St Martin's Church Ludgate. This is another Wren church with interior by Grinling Gibbons. Opposite is a nostalgic old sweet shop and an alleyway off Pilgrim Street.

From here, we make our way parallel to new Bridge Street. This marks the line of the Fleet River, and we know the wall was diverted to run along the bank of the river when the Dominican Black Friars build their house on the site of the previous line of the Wall running down to the River Thames at present day Blackfriars.

You can finish the walk at Blackfriars Station, or walk west along the embankment for 5 minutes to Temple (District and Circle lines - zone 1).

19 October 2010

Follow the Roman City Wall Part 1

Museum of LondonFrom about 120 AD the Romans enclosed the capital city of Roman Britain, Londinium with a wall. No one know why. The wall was not necessarily built for protection at that time. Archaeologists have speculated that the objective might be to restrict access in and out of the city, enabling the Roman rulers and their successors to collect taxes. Another possibility is that the wall might have been constructed to impress, but floating more than a million Kentish ragstones up the Medway and along the Thames, each weighing as much as 500kg, might be stretching the prestige explanation a bit too far.

Whatever the explanation, the wall was built. It was 2 miles long, stretching from the Tower of London by the River Thames in the South-East towards the North and then West to join up with an existing Roman fort just South of present-day Barbican. From there, the wall ran to the South-West, finishing at Blackfriars. The original Roman wall was characterised by ragstones interspersed with lines of terracotta roof tiles for strength, and diamond pattern bricks for decoration. The wall was extended upwards and strengthened in the mediaeval period when London was inhabited once again, and used as a defence throughout the middle ages.

Gates were built at strategic points, and the names such as Bishopsgate, Aldgate, Aldersgate, Moorgate survive as road names to this day. Much of the wall has disappeared from sight. Either it was subsumed into houses, churches, and storerooms, or demolished when traffic volumes grew, or the stones were taken away and used to construct houses by local people. Much of this happened since the 1760's and a portion of the wall near the Museum of London was used as a Victorian warehouse which was not discovered until the blitz of the 1940's revealed the original line of the wall in the rubble of bomb sites and destruction.

The Museum of London designed a Wall Walk many years ago, and erected ceramic information boards at strategic points. Sadly, many of them have now disappeared with building works. The IRA bomb of 1993 destroyed one. Parts of the wall were incorporated into modern office blocks, and other bits are very hard to find. You cannot therefore follow the walk as designed any more, but I have based this podcast on it. Having said that, all I have done is follow the line of the wall from Tower Hill to the Museum of London, but the commentary includes quotations from the original Museum of London text which can still be found on their web site even if much of it is hidden or has disappeared from the streets.

This walk takes only 3 or 4 hours, but has taken me the best part of 3 days to design and research. I had to ferret out a big section of the wall that had been built into the basement of a conference centre. there are no signs, but the staff are happy to show you on request, even if you have to know it is there. The West Gate of the Roman fort is now in a locked room beside a car park. It is accessible on one day a month, and guided tours are offered by Museum staff, Again, you have to know it is there.

So all in all, this walk was a labour of love, and took far longer to do than any of my other walks. It is in two parts. This is part one, from Tower Hill Underground (Circle and District zone 1) to the Museum of London (St Paul's central Line zone 1). I hope to finish off the walk from the Museum down to Blackfriars when I get my breath back.

It's a wonderful walk. There are many places where large, high sections of the wall are visible for free. The trouble is, you have to find them or know where they are. I tell you, and as far as I know there are no other up-to-date guides anywhere or my life would have been easier. It's a shame such an important historical site is now so poorly documented. If nothing else, I have made the whole length easier to find, more fun to follow, and the whole experience more interesting.

4 August 2010

Olympic Park - London 2012

Regeneration in East London on Lee NavigationBy popular demand from our Facebook group members, today's walk looks at the development of the Olympic Park being built to house the Olympic Games in 2012.

The name of the games might be London 2012, but the 'name of the game' is regeneration. Regeneration of this brownfield part of East London which has cast eyes in the direction of Canary Wharf to the South and the City to the West, but had not itself benefited from investment despite the death of its traditional industries and means of employment. Awarding the Olympic Games for the third time to London has changed all that. regeneration was probably the biggest plus point that swung the Games in our direction, but not only will we see this neglected part of London transformed and many houses built for local people, but also the local community and sports bodies will have the use of the wonderful facilities currently under construction for years after the Olympic gates have closed and the medals awarded.

It's not a pretty walk, but an interesting one. We start at Clapton mainline station (Zones 1 and 2). Take the Central Line to Liverpool Street then change to the mainline train. Clapton is 10 minutes (3 stops) on the line to Chingford. Most of the way, we follow the Lea Valley Walk and the Capital Ring, but there are lots of cyclists all along the way (part of the walk is a national cycleway) so you could cycle the entire walk if you preferred. Most of the way we follow the Lee Navigation - the difference in spelling is confusing I know.

There is industrial archaeology aplenty. The Middlesex Filter Beds were construction in the 1850's to clean the water fed to East London following the horrific cholera outbreak of 1849. It is now a nature reserve. Hackney Marshes are a haven for footballers - here there are 88 full-size pitches - the most in one place anywhere in the world.

At Old Ford Lock, the keeper's cottage has been transformed into a luxury dwelling with garden and swimming pool. It was used as the studios of the Big Breakfast TV programme until 2002 and now sits in the shadow of the enormous Olympic Stadium. After passing the Hertford Union Canal arm - at only 1 mile long it is the shortest canal in the UK but strategic as it connected the Lee Navigation to the Regent Canal and saved a long detour around the Isle of Dogs. We then pass the large redbrick building that was the Bryant & May match works. After passing the busy Bow roundabout near Bow Church - cockneys are born in the sound of its bells and Dick Whittington was called back to become Lord Mayor by their peals when he was ascending Archway on his way North.

Three Mills is the fascinating surprise at the end of the walk. Do the walk on a Sunday and you can tour House Mill - one of the Grade 1 listed historic industrial buildings. The complex is the largest tidal mill left in Britain. During the week there is a small cafe if you need some refreshment - not a big selection of food but enough for a cup of tea and a snack.

The walk finishes nearby at Bromley-by-Bow Underground (Zone 2 on the Hammersmith & City and the Upminster branch of the District Line). Two stops to Mile End where you can take the Central Line from the same platform.

All-in-all a fascinating walk - some 3 1/2 miles in all. Lots to see and do, and great glimpses of the Olympic Park - but not the prettiest walk in the portfolio.

7 June 2010

A Riverside Walk past London's Historic Docks and Quays

James Walker designer of Greenland Dock and Tower BridgeThe new London Overground service started on 23 May 2010 in East London. All the trains are smart, new air-conditioned stock with plenty of room. The track looks new and the stations are magnificent. I have been waiting to do a walk through Rotherhithe and all along the river around Surrey Docks and Quays until the new line is open, making it easy to reach the walk using the Jubilee Line and changing onto the Overground at Canada Water. London Overground is fully integrated with all other transport services. Just use your Oyster pay-as-you-go or buy a Travelcard including Zones 1 and 2.

This is a quiet walk with wonderful river views throughout, hardly any traffic noise, fascinating history, and wonderful places for refreshments. You should allow 2-3 hours in all. Start at Surrey Quays and walk past the shopping centre to a red swing bridge where you descend steps and walk around Greenland Dock. Much of the regeneration of London Docks since the 1970's has been residential, and from this point on you can walk right past houses, apartments and other properties with amazing views over the Thames towards Canary Wharf. Greenland Dock was once one of the largest docks in the world: a long time ago it served the whaling industry, but later timber was unloaded from Scandinavia.

From here, we pick up the Thames Path and walk parallel to Rotherhithe St which skirts the path right around the peninsula. Sights along the way include Nelson House, an old fire station, wharves and docks, and constantly changing river views. At the Pump House Educational Museum you can see exhibits of Rotherhithe's heritage housed in the 1929 pumphouse building that enclosed steam engines designed to stabilise the water level in the Surrey Docks.

From here, it's a long walk past Globe Wharf and King & Queen Wharf with views across to Wapping and the Prospect of Whitby. Eventually you reach the large red tilting bridge alongside the Old Salt Quay public house where you can stop for a drink or have a meal overlooking the City of London across the Thames. It's then a short stroll to historic Rotherhithe and the end of our walk. Don't miss the Brunel Pumping Station - the museum costs £2 (concessions £1) and describes how the Thames Tunnel was constructed by hand from the year 1825 by Sir Marc Isambard Brunel with cooperation from his young son Isambard Kingdom Brunel. A small museum only worth visiting if you are interested in how these early engineers worked. Do not confuse with the Rotherhithe Tunnel which runs under your feet. You can see the round shafts both sides of the river.

Then you can walk along to the Mayflower pub which serves cream teas on its jetty by the river. nearby is St Mary's Church which is a must-see. Their web site says: "The present parish church, replacing a 12th century building, was completed in 1716. Designed by John James, an associate of Sir Christopher Wren, it has a homely grandeur with deep roots in the maritime history of Britain. The links with the 'Mayflower', with the Pilgrim Fathers, and with Prince Lee Boo of Pelau, are particularly treasured."

Finally, we pass the old free school with its facade including a boy and girl student in historical dress, and the Sands Studio where my absolute favourite film Little Dorrit was made. It runs for 6 hours and is available on DVD. The walk finishes nearby at Rotherhithe.

14 April 2010

The Borough - Secret Southwark Part II

Charlie ChaplainPart I of the walk finished either at London Bridge or at Borough Underground stations. From there, we travel one or two stops to the south. From Borough, take the Northern Line one stop to Elephant & Castle. From London Bridge take the Bakerloo two stops to its destination. Elephant & caste is in zones 1 and 2.

Elephant & Castle is rarely visited by tourists. Indeed most Londoners are only familiar with the two roundabouts forming a major junction for routes to the south, south-east and south-west. The area surrounding the shopping centre is blighted by traffic, but you don't have to walk far to reach quiet neighbourhoods. The Victorian housing has been modernised to a high standard. More recently the 1960's housing developments have been improved and high quality offices and residential accommodation added to the stock. A redevelopment is planned for completion in the next few years.

It's interesting to walk around the market and its surroundings. This is a multi cultural, multi-ethnic community. We visit two little-known gems. One is the Cinema Museum where we are fortunate enough to have a short guided tour by one of the Directors Martin Humphries and meet its founder Ronald Grant. The museum is well worth the trip, whether or not you are interested in movies and film. It is open by appointment to individuals and groups, so do call ahead or e-mail for a booking. The telephone number is +44 (0)20 7840 2200 or e-mail from this link.

I have included the interview in the walk soundfile for those who are not able to take the walk just now. My thanks to Martin for taking the time to describe his favourites from the museum for us.

The other visit is to the Cuming museum. Hardly big enough to be called a museum, still there is one room full of eclectic and downright wacky items from the 700 remaining items out of more than 10,000 amassed by the Cumings. behind the museum are two changing exhibitions about Southwark.

This is an extension to the first part of the walk. I would not recommend it as a walk in its own right, unless your passion is for cinema. Seeing another part of London makes the short trip from London bridge worthwhile in its own right, but the addition of the two museums adds greatly to the pleasure.

The extension starts and ends at Elephant & Castle (zones 1 and 2) within easy reach of Central London by Northern Line (Bank branch) and Bakerloo.

7 April 2010

The Borough - Secret Southwark Part I

Southwark CathedralThis is the start of a two part walk through The Borough - a Londoner's familiar name for Bankside and Southwark on the South Bank of the Thames.

The walk will continue from Elephant & Castle where Part II can be reached from Borough or London Bridge Underground stations. This part starts at Waterloo - a large Underground station in Zone 1 on the Bakerloo, Jubilee, Northern (Charing Cross branch) and Waterloo and City lines. Exit from the station via the South Bank signs.

The walks takes us to the secret and little known places in The Borough. Feliks Topolski's Century is an exhibition of his work covering most of the 20th century. The murals are housed in the Hungerford Arches right under the mainline railway. Details from the exhibition web site. A little further on we enter the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank. Here we wander round the public spaces open during the day, and visit the little known Saison Poetry Library. Poetry can be borrowed free from their collection of over 95,000 works.

Next we have to work hard to find the BFI. Full instructions are given to reach it - a gem inside and like the RFH newly refurbished. There is a wonderful cafe, and themed public spaces - but we have come to visit the BFI Mediatheque. Here you can have your own personal viewing screen and access the digital archives of the BFI covering more than 230,000 films and 650,000 TV programmes. very comfortable - all you do is sign in and get a number for free use of a screen for up to 2 hours.

Further along the Thames Path is the Tate Modern, where we enter the turbine hall in the converted old Bankside Power Station. Just past Shakespeare's Globe, we find the Ferryman's Seat in the walk beyond the Pizza Express. From here we turn south away from the River and find one of the saddest sights in London. Hardly known to anyone, but remembered by a certain class of Londoner judging by the flower-covered gates, 15,000 single women are buried in the Crossbones Graveyard under what is now used by London Underground to store vehicles. We hear all about the Bishop of Winchester who for 500 years had the right to house prostitutes in the Liberty of Southwark. Inns, theatres, brothels - all these characterise The Borough which has a seedier and more notorious past than any other part of the capital.

Two authors then dominate our walk. Charles Dickens was familiar with the area. His own father was incarcerated in the Marshalsea - a debtor's prison where inmates were left for years to look after themselves, and only released when their debts were fully paid. Only one wall remains near the wonderful church of St George the Martyr. The roads all around are reminiscent of Little Dorrit set in the Marshalsea and in the church were Arthur Clenham and Little Dorrit were eventually married, and where Little Dorrit herself slept in a small vestry when locked out of the prison overnight.

Finally the other author is Geoffrey Chaucer, whose Canterbury pilgrims started from The Tabard inn. None of the large number of ancient inns remains, but the names are recalled in various alleys and cul de sacs off Borough High St. The George is a notable exception. It is London's only remaining galleried inn, and is owned by the National Trust whilst still operating as a public house and restaurant.

Part I of the walk finishes either at nearby London Bridge or at Borough Underground stations - from where we finish our walk, or travel to Elephant & Castle for Part II.

15 March 2010

Transport in London - a New Update

Kew Gardens

Getting to, from and around London

Every now and then, there are changes in public transport that warrant a news podcast to bring you up to date on ticketing, Oyster cards and how to buy them from abroad, getting to and from London's 5 airports and so on.

There are now more than 60 live walks available for free download. On the show notes page here at you will find links to some of the web pages I mentioned in the recording.

So far the podcast has achieved over 740,000 downloads covering between 60 and 65 walks. This is more than most books of London walks published. Remember all the London walks are recorded live, so they are not only suitable for use on your iPod or MP3 device, but if you can no longer travel, if you want a 'virtual' walk in London, or even if you are learning English you will find a use for the episodes. Some people follow them on Google Maps - and you can click on the icon to the right and find the start point of each walk located for handy reference.

Our Facebook page has been relaunched. You are encouraged to rejoin by clicking on the Facebook link on the right. This is now a private group not visible to non-members, and each application is authorised so please be patient. Here you can share tips and information with others, post comments, make suggestions, and generally share whatever you think might be useful in the future.

In today's News and Transport episode, some of the links mentioned include:

Visit London for up to date information on transport, shows, museums and attractions.

Transport for London for maps, journey planner, ticketing, prices, and everything to do with public transport in London.

Buy Oyster cards from abroad This covers 63 countries, and you can receive your card 7 - 12 days after placing your order. Finally, I go into great detail with advice on how to get to and from London's 5 airports. You can hear my top tips - not all of which everyone might agree with, but which are personal recommendations from someone born, bred, and living in Central London who uses public transport all the time.

Thank you for continuing to support this project, which continues to flourish. I look forward to you accompanying me on the next London walk.


3 March 2010

Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens

A Riverside Walk from Chiswick to Kew Gardens

This walk is in three distinct parts.

We leave Gunnersbury Underground and Overground Station (District Line Zone 3) and walk through the pleasant streets of Chiswick. There are two main barriers to cross. One is the Great West Road, a busy road leading to the M4 and the West. We cross it near the Chiswick Roundabout at a pedestrian underpass. The other barrier is the main railway line which we can cross by footbridge. From here, there are a couple of narrow alleyways leading down to the Thames Path.

The second part of the walk begins at Strand-on-the-Green. We reach the River Thames down a short path beside a couple of ancient pubs, where food is served and you can enjoy local Fuller's ales. Strand-on-the-Green is fascinating and a most attractive street of houses fronting onto the path beside the river. They are used to occasional flooding - the doors are high up or protected by large steel doors. Some have ladders to windows, others look decidedly nautical, still others are just plain strange. This has got to be one of London's most interesting and attractive thoroughfares.

At Kew Bridge, we pause to see the Kew Bridge Steam Museum. Check their web site for opening days - the old steam pumping works and its engines can only be seen for a few days each month throughout the year. From Kew Bridge, we cross from Middlesex into Surrey and walk around Kew Green. This leads us eventually to the main gates of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and the third part of our walk. Kew is the mother of all botanic gardens. or the grand daddy of them all. It's simply stunning. 300 acres of planting, with climate controlled sections of the Princess of Wales Conservatory, the huge Victorian Palm House, the Evolution, Pagoda and many more.

It's expensive but worth every penny. Walk around the gardens and into the various exhibits and buildings before leaving through the Victoria Gate. From this point, it's a short walk to the charming shops and railway station of Kew Gardens (District Line Zone 3).

13 January 2010

A Chronicle of Fire and Pestilence - Samuel Pepys

St Pauls

Samuel Pepys

The famous diary of Samuel Pepys was started 350 years ago this month and continued until May 1669. It was a personal, family diary but as Pepys worked for the King it contained momentous national events such as the restoration of the monarchy, the coronation of Charles II, the plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of London in 1666. Pepys recorded everything - his neighbour's sewage and his ineffectual groping of young women he met in church.

This walk covers the area destroyed by the Great Fire from Seething Lane near the Tower of London where Pepys lived and worked to St Dunstan's in the West which survived the conflagration by just a few yards. Pepys himself would probably have followed a similar route - the road pattern stayed much the same as it had been after the rebuilding.

Sir Christopher Wren figures prominently in the walk. An astronomer by profession, he designed a great number of City churches. His masterpiece, St Paul's Cathedral is the fourth cathedral dedicated to St Paul to be built on the site which itself can be dated back to Roman times. Leadenhall Market was also a structure founded on an old Roman forum. So there's a great deal of history along the way.

Here's an excerpt from Pepys' diary as the Great Fire took hold:

Sunday 2 September 1666

(Lord’s day). Some of our mayds sitting up late last night to get things ready against our feast to-day, Jane called us up about three in the morning, to tell us of a great fire they saw in the City. So I rose and slipped on my nightgowne, and went to her window, and thought it to be on the backside of Marke-lane at the farthest; but, being unused to such fires as followed, I thought it far enough off; and so went to bed again and to sleep. About seven rose again to dress myself, and there looked out at the window, and saw the fire not so much as it was and further off. So to my closett to set things to rights after yesterday’s cleaning. By and by Jane comes and tells me that she hears that above 300 houses have been burned down to-night by the fire we saw, and that it is now burning down all Fish-street, by London Bridge. So I made myself ready presently, and walked to the Tower, and there got up upon one of the high places, Sir J. Robinson’s little son going up with me; and there I did see the houses at that end of the bridge all on fire, and an infinite great fire on this and the other side the end of the bridge; which, among other people, did trouble me for poor little Michell and our Sarah on the bridge. So down, with my heart full of trouble, to the Lieutenant of the Tower, who tells me that it begun this morning in the King’s baker’s house in Pudding-lane, and that it hath burned St. Magnus’s Church and most part of Fish-street already. So I down to the water-side, and there got a boat and through bridge, and there saw a lamentable fire. Poor Michell’s house, as far as the Old Swan, already burned that way, and the fire running further, that in a very little time it got as far as the Steeleyard, while I was there. Everybody endeavouring to remove their goods, and flinging into the river or bringing them into lighters that layoff; poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats, or clambering from one pair of stairs by the water-side to another.

The major points of interest along the way are:

Leadenhall Market

St Mary at Hill Church

The Monument

St Mary Abchurch

St Stephen Walbrook

St Paul's Cathedral

Temple Church

The walk starts at Tower Hill and ends at temple. Both are in the Central zone District & Circle.

GPX file for your GPS

21 October 2009

A Trollope Walk

Anthony Trollope

Anthony Trollope

Born 1815 at 6 Keppel St, Campden Town near British Museum WC1. IN 1882 when staying at 14 Suffolk St SW1 quarrelled so violently with group of noisy street musicians that he had a stroke and died a few days later in Welbeck St (near Portman Sq). So very much a Londoner.
Became one of the most successful, prolific and respected English novelists of the Victorian era.
His first major success came with The Warden (1855) — the first of six novels set in the fictional county of "Barsetshire" (often collectively referred to as the Chronicles of Barsetshire), usually dealing with the clergy. The comic masterpiece Barchester Towers (1857) has probably become the best-known of these.
Trollope's other major series, the Palliser novels, concerned itself with politics, with the wealthy, industrious Plantagenet Palliser and his delightfully spontaneous, even richer wife Lady Glencora usually featuring prominently. He also wrote penetrating novels on political, social, gender issues, and conflicts of his day.
Trollope's popularity and critical success diminished in his later years, but he continued to write prolifically, and some of his later novels have acquired a good reputation. In particular, critics generally acknowledge the sweeping satire The Way We Live Now (1875) as his masterpiece. In all, Trollope wrote forty-seven novels, as well as dozens of short stories and a few books on travel.
Anthony Trollope died in London in 1882. His grave stands in Kensal Green Cemetery, near that of his contemporary Wilkie Collins.

References to Trollope and his works in this walk

Marylebone Rd

    Location of realities Institute in Is He Popenjoy?

Luxborough St (Northumberland St)

    Home of Meager family – Yosef Meager (Revd Joseph Emelius) lodged here after separation from Lizzie Eustace Phineas Redux

    Trollope lodged here as junior clerk in GPO

Baker St

    The Rowleys stayed at Greggs Hotel in He Knew He Was Right

    Home of Mr and Mrs Low Phineas Redux

    Mr Slope’s church before he was Bishop Proudie’s chaplain Barchester Towers
    “He had been a sizar at Cambridge, and had there conducted himself at any rate successfully, for in due process of time he was an MA, having university pupils under his care. From thence he was transferred to London, and became preacher at a new district church built on the confines of Baker Street. He was in this position when congenial ideas on religious subjects recommended him to Mrs Proudie, and the intercourse had become close and confidential.”

York St

    Trollope lives at 20 1838-40 after AT’s father died

Wyndham St

    Lady Anna and her mother lived here before their right to the title had been established in Lady Anna

Bryanston Sq

    AT’s sister Cecilia married to John Tilley in church here

Montagu Sq

    No 39 plaque AT lived here 1876-80

Portman Sq

    London home of earl of Brentford, father of Lady Laura Standish Phineas Finn

    De Courcey’s London house Small House at Allington

    Greshams town house Dr Thorne

Orchard St

    Phineas Finn first spotted garrotters Phineas Finn

Park St

    Phineas saved Mr Kennedy from garrotters

Green St

    Mildmays London house Phineas Finn

    Mr and Mrs Harold Smith at Park Lane end Small House at Allington

    Frank Houston’s aunt Rosina Houston Ayala’s Angel

Brook St

    London home of Marchesa Baldoni – here Ayala Dormer met Col. Stubbs

    Boncassons had house here The Duke’s Children

    Home of Lady Linlithgow Eustace Diamonds

Hanover Sq

    George Vavasour speculated on murder of his grandfather Can you forgive her?

    Burgo Fitzgerald was kind to a prostitute here in spite of his own terrible problems ibid

Great Marlborough St

    Phineas lodged in house or Mr & Mrs Bunce Phineas Finn & Redux

    George Vavasour’s attorney Mr Scruby has office here Can you forgive her?

Conduit St

    Tailor Neefit’s shop Ralph the Heir
    “Mr Neefit was a breeches-maker in Conduit St, of such repute that no hunting man could be said to go decently into the hunting field unless decorated by a garment made in Mr Neefit’s establishment. His manipulation of leather was something marvellous, and in his latter years he had added to his original art – an art which had been perfect rather than comprehensive – an exquisite skill in cords, buckskins and the like.... Mr Neefit had actually lived over the shop in Conduit St but was now the proud possessor of a villa residence in Hendon, two miles out in the country beyond Swiss Cottage.”

Bond St

    Ralph the Heir has rooms Ralph the Heir

    Booby & Moggs boot makers ibid

    Harter & Benjamin jewellers The Eustace Diamonds

Bruton St

    Town house of Sir Harry Hotspur Sir Harry Hotspur of Humblethwaite

    Longstaffes lived here The Way we Live Now Chapter XIII
    This conversation took place in the drawing-room of the Longestaffes' family town-house in Bruton Street. It was not by any means a charming house, having but few of those luxuries and elegancies which have been added of late years to newly-built London residences. It was gloomy and inconvenient, with large drawing-rooms, bad bedrooms, and very little accommodation for servants. But it was the old family town-house, having been inhabited by three or four generations of Longestaffes, and did not savour of that radical newness which prevails, and which was peculiarly distasteful to Mr Longestaffe. Queen's Gate and the quarters around were, according to Mr Longestaffe, devoted to opulent tradesmen. Even Belgrave Square, though its aristocratic properties must be admitted, still smelt of the mortar. Many of those living there and thereabouts had never possessed in their families real family town-houses. The old streets lying between Piccadilly and Oxford Street, one or two well-known localities to the south and north of these boundaries, were the proper sites for these habitations. When Lady Pomona, instigated by some friend of high rank but questionable taste, had once suggested a change to Eaton Square, Mr Longestaffe had at once snubbed his wife. If Bruton Street wasn't good enough for her and the girls then they might remain at Caversham. The threat of remaining at Caversham had been often made, for Mr Longestaffe, proud as he was of his town-house, was, from year to year, very anxious to save the expense of the annual migration. The girls' dresses and the girls' horses, his wife's carriage and his own brougham, his dull London dinner-parties, and the one ball which it was always necessary that Lady Pomona should give, made him look forward to the end of July, with more dread than to any other period. It was then that he began to know what that year's season would cost him. But he had never yet been able to keep his family in the country during the entire year. The girls, who as yet knew nothing of the Continent beyond Paris, had signified their willingness to be taken about Germany and Italy for twelve months, but had shown by every means in their power that they would mutiny against any intention on their father's part to keep them at Caversham during the London season.

    Lady Lufton’s town house Framley Parsonage

    Bishop Proudie’s London house Barchester Towers

Berkeley Sq

    Lady Baldock lived here Phineas Finn

    Sir Hugh Clavering’s town house The Claverings

    The Houghton residence in Is he Popenjoy?

    Lord Nidderdale lived here at house of his father Marquis of Auld Reekie The Way we live now

Hill St

    Universe Club may have been here, west of Chesterfield Hill. Phineas Finn quarrelled with Mr Bonteen shortly before he was murdered Phineas Redux

Curzon St

    Louis Trevelyan’s home He knew he was right
    “As it was time for him to have his leave of absence, he and sundry of the girls went to England with Mr Trevelyan, and the marriage was celebrated in London by the Rev Oliphant Outhouse of St Diddulph in the East who had married Rowley’s sister. Then a small house was taken and furnished in Curzon St Mayfair, and the Rowleys went back to their seat of government leaving Nora, the second girl, in charge of her elder sister.... For nearly two years this little household in Curzon St went on well, or if anything was the matter no one outside was made aware of it. And there was a baby, a boy, a young Louis, and a baby in such a household is apt to make things go on sweetly.”

Half Moon St

    Lizzie Eustace lodged here after being turned out by Mrs Bonteen when her supposed husband had been found to be Mr Bonteen’s murdered Phineas Redux

Clarges St

    Lord Fawn took this route from the Universe Club to Piccadilly and then to his lodgings in Victoria St.  At the N end of Clarges St he saw someone hurrying by whom he later thought to be Phineas Finn. Phineas Finn

    Lady Ongar desired to stay here after Lord Ongar’s death in Florence The Claverings chapter 5
    Harry said nothing, but went on reading. "I shall only want two sitting-rooms and two bedrooms--one for myself and one for Clara--and should like to have them somewhere near Piccadilly--in Clarges street, or about there. You can write me a line, or send me a message to the Hotel Bristol, at Paris. If anything fails, so that I should not hear, I shall go to the Palace Hotel; and, in that case, should telegraph for rooms from Paris."

Bolton St

    Lady Ongar’s lodgings The Claverings

Hay Hill

    Passage opposite bottom of Hay Hill was where Mr Bonteen’s body found Phineas Redux

St James’s St

    George Hotspur’s lodgings Sir Harry Hotspur of Humblethwaite

    Mr Monk lived here Phineas Finn

    Lord Chilton dines at Mooney’s Restaurant Phineas Redux

    The Bear Garden is near here The Way we live now; The Duke’s Children

Carlton Gardens

    Altringham House, home of Earl of Altringham Sir Harry Hotspur of Humblethwaite

Carlton House Terrace

    Town house of Duke of Omnium The Prime Minister [Phineas Redux Carlton Gardens]

Suffolk St

    John Grey’s lodgings, where George Vavasour tried to kill him Can you forgive her?

    No 14 – Gardants Hotel – AT stayed here in his later years

    Eleanor Arabin and Johnny Eames stayed at a quiet hotel near here on their way back from the continent Last Chronicle of Barset

    Dean Lovelace stayed here Is He Popenjoy?
    This was not in itself satisfactory; but such as it was, it did for a time make Lord George believe that Popenjoy was Popenjoy. It was certainly true of him that he wished Popenjoy to be Popenjoy. No personal longing for the title or property made him in his heart disloyal to his brother or his family. And then the trouble and expense and anxieties of such a contest were so terrible to his imagination, that he rejoiced when he thought that they might be avoided. But there was the Dean. The Dean must be satisfied as well as he, and he felt that the Dean would not be satisfied. According to agreement he sent a copy of his brother's letter down to the Dean, and added the assurance of his own belief that the marriage had been a marriage, that the heir was an heir, and that further steps would be useless. It need hardly be said that the Dean was not satisfied. Before dinner on the following day the Dean was in Minister Court. "Oh, papa," exclaimed Mary, "I am so glad to see you." Could it be anything about Captain De Baron that had brought him up? If so, of course she would tell him everything. "What brought you up so suddenly? Why didn't you write? George is at the club, I suppose." George was really in Berkeley Square at that moment. "Oh, yes; he will be home to dinner. Is there anything wrong at Manor Cross, papa?" Her father was so pleasant in his manner to her, that she perceived at once that he had not come up in reference to Captain De Baron. No complaint of her behaviour on that score had as yet reached him. "Where's your portmanteau, papa?" "I've got a bed at the hotel in Suffolk Street. I shall only be here one night, or at the most two; and as I had to come suddenly I wouldn't trouble you." "Oh, papa, that's very bad of you."

Paul Montague had lodgings here The Way we live now


30 September 2009

The Lore and the Profits - a stroll through Covent Garden

Sicilian AveA bonus walk lasting about an hour. It's for when you have time for a stroll and find yourself in the vicinity of Holborn or Covent Garden.

We start at Holborn Underground on the Central and Piccadilly Lines in Zone 1. After acending the long escalator, go straight through the barriers out to Kingsway. Turn right and cross over High Holborn to see the 1950's tram underpass which unaccountably remains in Southampton Row. Then cross over and take a seat in the Sicilian Ave precinct (pictured) whilst I tell you all about Holborn and Covent Garden.

There's lots of history on this walk, but nothing heavy. Just snippets about the origins of the present look and feel of the place mainly dating back to the 1600's. After the chat we continue down Kingsway and turn right into Great Queen St, names after James I's queen, Anne of Denmark. You can visit the enormous imposing Freemasons' Hall where there are public exhibitions associated with the Masons. You can also see the site where the Football Association was founded and where they argued about the rules. Plus ca change.

Drury Lane signals the start of Theatreland and then Covent Garden. The highly fashionable houses of the early 1600's gave way to rowdy, brawling and seedy streets as the aristocrats moved West.

Bow Street is the heart of the walk. Here we see the old Bow Street Magistrates Court, recently closed. Here the Bow Street Runners, forebears of every police force in the world took over from the early volunteer 'thief takers.' Here a blind magistrate claimed to be able to distinguish up to 3,000 different miscreants by the sound of their voices alone. Here Oscar Wilde was arraigned for gross indecency, and an 89 year old Bertrand Russel with other supporters of CND was bound over to keep the peace in the 1960's. Fascinating history.

Then the highlight of the stroll if you are lucky - a visit to the Royal Opera House and the old Floral Hall. A refurbished gem of a place not to be missed. Try and get there between 10am and 3pm Monday - Saturday to gain admittance. The Paul Hamlyn Hall as it is know known (that's corporate sponsorship for you) is a must-see.

Finally you can cross the Covent Garden Piazza with its street entertainers, market stalls, eating places and other attractions to St Paul's Church. The walk finishes with a stroll along Floral Street and its shishi fashion shops and tiny alleys and courtyards. From Long Acre you can either brave the deep lifts down to Covent Garden Underground (Piccadilly Line Zone 1) or spend a few minutes retracing your steps back to Holborn.

4 August 2009

The Tide Race - Hammersmith to Barnes

Duke's MeadowAnother classy riverside walk which covers part of the Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race course but in the reverse direction. The walk starts at Hammersmith Underground (District & Circle Lines) or Hammersmith (Hammersmith & City Line). You can also reach the start point in the Broadway shopping centre on any bus passing through or terminating at Hammersmith Bus Station which is located over the Underground. The start is in Zone 1 but we end our walk at Barnes Bridge in Zone 3 so a Zone 1 - 3 Travelcard is advisable.

Aiming for the church beside Hammersmith Broadway, we walk down Queen Caroline St towards the river Thames and the Riverside Studios. The Broadway is a busy roundabout under the flyover taking traffic to the West and South West so please pay careful attention to the instructions, and DO NOT cross anywhere other than using the pedestrian crossings or the underpass.

Very shortly the busy bustle of Hammersmith Broadway fades away, and we can sit on a bench by the river adjacent to the iconic Hammersmith Bridge, the first suspension bridge across the Thames. The way is easy to find, as the Thames Path is clearly marked so you should have no difficulty ober the 2 1/2 miles or so, and there is little if any traffic throughout.

There are many fine pubs along the first section, and you will hear me talk about one Fuller's ale I try at the Dove. The walk passes the Fuller's Brewery. We also pass many boat houses belonging to the various clubs dedicated to skulling or sailing.

Kelmscott House is interesting because it was the London home of William Morris. If you want to visit the William Morris Society, you should take the walk on a Thursday or Saturday afternoon (open 2 - 5 pm). The adjacent coach house is the site of the very first telegraph. Sir Francis Ronalds managed to pass an electrical current through 8 miles of cable encased in glass tubing. The British Admiralty were unimpressed and did not pursue the idea.

You can read more about Fuller's ales by clicking on the Fuller's home page.

The walk uses the Thames Path, various quiet riverside roads, and two extensive open parks. There are wonderful (and expensive) house much of the way, and continuous views of the river except where private gardens give glimpses through railing beside Chiswick Eyot. Eventually we arrive at the Bandstand and climb the steps to the pedestrian walkway leading over Barnes Bridge. This crosses the river straight onto Platform 1 with 4 trains an hour to Clapham Junction and Waterloo.

22 June 2009

The 9 Bridges Walk

BrixtonIs this the last audio London Walk? If so, I have saved one of the very best for last. The starting point is the Tower of London. You can reach it on the District & Circle to Tower Hill (zone 1) or the Docklands Light Railway to Tower Gateway. The walk is about 3.7 miles. The finishing point is by the tower of Big Ben opposite Westminster Underground on the Jubilee Line (zone 1).

What is so good about this walk? Firstly, the views. Spectacular throughout its length. From the Tower of London we use the riverside on the north side of the Thames to look back at Tower Bridge. Click here for bridge opening times - if you can arrange clear weather and start your walk as the bascules lift you will enjoy this walk all the more.

The second bridge we hear about is London Bridge. The original was sold to the US. The third is Cannon Street where we pass underneath the railway terminus. Next we cross the river by Southwark Bridge and pass Shakespeare's Globe and the Tate Modern. Opposite the old bankside Power Station is the Millennium Bridge that oscillated when first opened, and was closed for almost 2 years for dampening. It is known affectionately to Londoners as the Wobbly Bridge, but at night as the Blade of Light.

On the north bank we pass under Blackfriars railway and road bridges before crossing back to the South Bank as far as the National Theatre. Waterloo Bridge offers some of the best views of London in both directions and is not to be missed. After passing through Victoria Embankment Gardens with its armillory sphere dedicated to Richard D'Oyly Carte and the strange bust of Sir Srthur Sullivan with a semi naked woman attempting to climb up it, we reach Hungerford Bridge. Once the ugliest of all bridges, two spectacular walkways have been constructed on either side. They are now called the Golden Jubilee bridges. We cross over the river once again and continue past the London Eye and the London Aquarium.

Our last bridge is Westminster where the walk finishes.

20 May 2009


BrixtonThis walk starts near Brixton Underground (Victoria Line Zone 2). It is part of a walk originally suggested to me by Lambeth Council. brixton is at the heart of Lambeth. Here is the famous Brixton Market with its Afro Caribbean flavour, its eating places and food from many parts of the world, and its unique and noisy cosmopolitan atmosphere.

At the start of the walk is the Ritzy Cinema, the Tate Library named after the sugar magnate of Tate & Lyle fame, Lambeth Town Hall, the famous Fridge music venue, St Matthew's Church, one of 4 built in the 'Waterloo' style, the extraordinary Budd Monument (pictured with Lambeth Town Hall in nthe background) and much more.

The Sharpeville Monument commemorates lives lost at the 1960 massacre in South Africa.

Hear the soundscape as I walk you throught the market area. Admire the Walton Lodge Sanitary Steam Laundry, founded in 1880 and still going strong. nearby admire a plaque dedicated to the life of a totter and squatter who totted and squatted between 1979 and 1989. Apparently, so it says, he was 'much loved.'

Walk along Railton Road, the front line of the Brixton riots of 1981 when 145 buildings were burnt and many vehicles destroyed. I tell you all about the history of that troubled time in London's race relations, now mercifully past as you can see from the new buildings and regeneration going on all over the area.

We then pass into a gem of a park. Brockwell Park was originally the grounds of a great mansion, bought by the London County Council for the use of the local community as a green space in 1891. As we walk down towards the amazing renovated Lido we hear about the history of brixton, its multi ethnic flavour, its immigrants from the Caribbean from 1948 on, and its present day character.

In the Park is a gem. Lambeth's best kept secret - the Walled Garden. Little Ben is a clock that had to be wound once a week, and was the gift of the local MP for Norwood. A previous member of parliament had a heart attack and died during the opening of the park in 1892.

The walk ends at Herne Hill main line station, which is one stop south from Brixton on the line that runs into Victoria or Blackfriars. Zone 1/2 Travelcards are valid on mainline trains, and there is a frequent and reliable service into central London from this point. Alternatively you can walk back to Brixton along Railton Road, making the walk a circular one.

14 April 2009

Royal and Aristocratic Soho

I Love Soho (TM)This is the second Soho walk I have done. The first walk proved to be the most popular of all the London walks in terms of the number of downloads. This walk follows a different route, and focuses on the history of this cosmopolitan area rather than its present day appearance. Surprisingly there is a great deal of history as you will discover, starting with the laying out of the various streets in the 17th and 18th centuries to the events of more modern times.

The starting point is Tottenham Court Road Underground station (Zone 1 - Central and Northern lines). We leave by exit 1, turn right into Oxford Street and then right down Charing Cross Road beside Centre Point. From this noisy and busy intersection we quickly leave the bustle and reach the relative calm of Soho Square. So-ho! was a hunting cry - Soho Fields became the northern part of a royal park extending up from Whitehall Palace and the king's royal mews on the site of the present Trafalgar Square.

Soho is a cosmopolitan mix of restaurants, pubs, food outlets, offices and sex shops cheek by jowl. The highlight of this walk is Chinatown in Gerrard Street and the surrounding area. The history of this area is similar to many other streets: the substantial houses built here between 1670 and 1685 boasted as one occupier no less than the 1st Duke of Devonshire. By the mid 18th century these had given way to coffee houses and taverns. At number 44 - currently my favourite Chinese supermarket the Loon Fung - John Dryden resided in 1687. From the 1950's a Chinese settlement grew up, and now the ceremonial gateways at each end of the street are recognition of the status of the Chinese community in this area.

The other highlight of this walk is Theatreland. We weave through the area around Shaftesbury Avenue where so many theatres are located, including the famous Palace on Cambridge Circus, home of a number of long-running musicals.

After leaving Theatreland, we walk up Wardour St, known for its film companies, restaurants and clubs. We then cross busy Oxford Street into the garment and soft furnishings area around Berners Street and finish our walk down Tottenham Court Road again to Goodge Street Underground (Northern Line Zone 1).

17 February 2009

Westminster to Victoria

Tower of Big BenThis fascinating glimpse of the seat of government and the church starts at the foot of the tower of Big Ben as the clock chimes the hour. To get here, take the Jubilee Line to Westminster (Zone 1) and cross the road as you exit the Underground station.

We start with a history of Westminster Palace and Westminster Hall, and then walk south down Parliament Square with the Houses of Parliament on our left hand side. Opposite is the small church of St Margaret's which sits incongruously in the shadow of Westminster Abbey. The Jewel Tower dates back to the 14th Century and can be visited. Continuing down Millbank past Old Palace Yard we turn into Smith Square with its concert hall in the former church building and continue into the dvision bell area with predominantly 18th century terraced houses, much sought after by politicians.

In Cowley St we admire the headquarters of the Liberal Democrats then into Dean's Yard. This is a wonderful space flanked by buildings of various ages. On the East is Westminster School whose premises can be traced to the 11th Century in part. We leave Dean's Yard into The Sanctuary by the West end of Westminster Abbey. From there, we cross to the Methodist Central Hall and stroll along the wonderful Queen Anne's Gate.

This ancient close with Cockpit Steps at one end and Broadway at the other leads out by 55 Broadway, art deco offices of London Underground built over St James Park tube, then New Scotland Yard belonging to the Metropolitan Police. Crossing busy Victoria St we walk down the street market in Strutton Ground and then cross Greycoat Place leading to Vincent Square where there are flower shows in the Old and New Horticultural Halls belonging to the Royal Horticultural Society.

Crossing Rochester Row by the old almshouses near St Stephen's CHurch, we enter Westminster Cathedral, seat of the Roman Catholic archbishop. As we enter to admire the 100 different types and colours of marble decorating the interior of this red brick building, there is a mass taking place and we can hear the sermon in the background.

The walk ends at Victoria Station (Zone 1) Victoria Line, District, Circle, and Mainline railways and buses to various parts of London.

13 January 2009


London's smallest squareWalking through London is a delight at any time. Combine a stroll with some of the capital's finest buildings, most fashionable shops, grand facades, processional routes, history, royalty and life and you have a winner every time. This walk should only take about an hour. It starts at Trafalgar Square and finishes at Piccadilly Circus not far away.

You can reach Trafalgar Square by taking the Bakerloo or Northern Lines to Charing Cross. Take the exit marked Trafalgar Square and start by Nelson's Column. The walk begins by crossing to Admiralty Arch and strolling down The Mall to the Duke of Your's Steps on the right. From this point we enter St James's. We pass London's great clubs such as the Reform. We see some of the best Nash architecture, like the two magnificent Carlton House terraces.

We pass down Pall Mall to St James's Palace, built out of red brick by Henry VIII and home of the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. In St James's St we admire some of London's finest and most venerable shops, such as Berry Bros and Rudd, Lock's Hatters and Lobb - all survivors of the 18th century. Beside Berry Bros is an archway leading to London's smallest square, pictured on the right. A little gem, sel;dom found by the tourists passing by the Palace.

A much more grand and bigger square is St James's, home of courtiers and prime ministers. From this point we walk up to Jermyn St where well heeled men can equip themselves with clothing and accessories at suitably elevated prices. You can also enjoy being pampered with one of the world's most expensive shaves.

The walk finally passes along Piccadilly, named after a brand of stiff collar worn at court, and sold by a certain tailor who made a fortune out of the fashion, as well as having the entire street named after his collars. We finish amidst the bright lights and bustle of Piccadilly Circus where you can take the Piccadilly Line or Bakerloo Line (zone 1) to your starting point.


11 November 2008

From a Prince to a King - Beckton to Woolwich along the River Thames

University of East LondonWalking through Docklands in the East of London might not be everyone's idea of a grand day out. Regeneration is all around, and even some parts that have been redeveloped are not attractive. I am including this walk because it traverses an important part of London. One cannot appreciate the development of the capital without appreciating that London Docks which was the powerhouse of the capital's trade until the 1960's has changed completely. There are flats - many much more affordable than in other parts of London. There is business - especially the financial district of Canary Wharf. There is a small airport. Shops. Manufacturing. In fact, pretty much everything except docks. The dockland names live on though: they are either marinas or DLR stations.

The walk starts at Prince Regent. You can reach this station in Zone 3 by taking the Jubilee Line from central London (Bond Street or Westminster for example) and changing to the Docklands Light Railway at Canning Town. Remember to touch your Oyster card on the Reader as you descend the steps at Prince Regent. From the DLR we walk through Beckton Park to Gallions via Cyprus and the Docklands Campus of the University of East London. Here there is a choice of route, either along the lonely river path and across the locks at Gallions Reach, or across the bridge to King George V. hereafter the walk continues along the Thames to finish at the Woolwich Free Ferry.

The walk is 3 miles in length, but you can add an extra half mile by crossing the river to Woolwich. There are two means of doing so - either the free ferry or the Woolwich Foot Tunnel, opened in 1912 (note: there are steps at each end). Alternatively, having admired the sight of the Thames Barrier in the distance, you can take a bus from the bus station, or walk for 6 minutes to the King George V DLR station.

This walk is part of the Capital Ring. You can download a map of all 15 walks in the Capital Ring and full instructions.

This episode of the London walks podcast is sponsored by GoToMyPC. Click here to access your PC from anywhere. Try it FREE for 30 days.


14 October 2008


Liverpool St National Rail StationThis walk starts only a few minutes from where I live, and should be easy to finish in 1 hour 15 minutes. It starts at Queensway Underground (Central Line Zone 1) and finishes beside Harrods where you can take the Piccadilly Line from Knightsbridge Station.

Queensway was a fashionable shopping district in the Edwardian era. Whiteleys department store was the largest shop. It was built in 1867 and received Queen Victoria's royal warrant in 1896. The present building dates from 1911. It ceased trading as a department store and was empty for some years before being redeveloped as an upscale shopping centre.

After crossing Bayswater Road, the walk crosses Kensington Gardens by way of Broad Walk. There are lovely views to the East. Near Kensington Palace is the Round Pond, where we veer off diagonally towards the Rose Walk and the Albert Memorial. Recently refurbished at a cost of £11.2 million, the memorial is one of the most important Victorian constructions in the UK. Albert the Prince Consort sits larger than life covered in gold under a gothic soaring canopy topped by an ornate gold cross. Friezes around the memorial celebrate continents and countries, poets, painters, scientists, architects, musicians and sculpters.

The walk continues through South Kensington, passing Imperial College London, the V&A, Science Museum and Natural History Museum. These free museums are the legacy of the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Turning left on Cromwell Road, we then pass Brompton Oratory which is the second Roman Catholic church in London after Westminster Cathedral. It was built in 1884 and sits cheek by jowl alongside the UK's most successful evangelical Anglican church - Holy Trinity Brompton ("HTB"). HTB is the home of the Alpha Course.

From HTB's quiet churchyard, the rest of the walk passes charming mews, garden squares, and roads which all delight the eye and are relatively free of traffic noise. Suddenly we emerge on Knightbridge near Harrods department store, the largest in the world. Harrods was originally a small shop in the East End, which moved to Brompton to take advantage of the Great Exhibition trade. It was burnt to the ground in 1883, but the replacement building was even more impressive and featured an early moving staircase. Intrepid ladies were offered brandy when the alighted, the experience was so novel and scary.

Just beside Harrods in Hans Crescent are the new escalators leading down to the Piccadilly Line.

This episode of the London walks podcast is sponsored by GoToMyPC. Click here to access your PC from anywhere. Try it FREE for 30 days.


24 September 2008

London's Transport

Liverpool St National Rail StationIt is almost 2 years now since I recorded two episodes of the London walks podcast. One episode gave advice on how to get to and from London's airports. The other concerned how to get around London by public transport. These episodes are now out of date, and so the time has come to record them once again. This time I am putting all the information in one place, and in only 40 minutes offering a lot of information in one place, from a local as it were to someone who may be unfamiliar with the transport system in this greatest of capital cities.

At the outset, I must make it clear I am giving you my personal recommendations. You may find some aspects conflict with what you have been told or with what you have read elsewhere. Listeners who live in London may disagree with me, but I offer you my advice based on what I do myself, with no axe to grind and nothing to gain from what I suggest you do.

The podcast is in 3 parts. Firstly I talk about London's airports. Secondly I mention the trains to and from continental Europe. Thirdly I discuss ticketing systems in London, and advise what are the best choices in our integrated transport whether you are staying one day, one week, one month or even longer.

London has 5 airports. London City in Docklands is the smallest and is mainly used for business travel. It is easily and quickly accessible from central London via the Underground and the Dockland Light Railway (DLR). Listeners from abroad to the London walks Podcast are more likely to arrive at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted or Luton. These are all large airports, ranging from 20 - 40 miles from the City. All are easy to reach by public transport, and I advise on the choices and the tickets to buy.

My top tips are:

1. It is easier and maybe even quicker to use the Underground rather than the Heathrow Express, when you take into account the time taken getting to and from Paddington, buying a separate ticket, and waiting up to 15 minutes for the next train. This advice is particularly relevant now that Terminal % has opened if your plane arrives and departs from Terminal 4 which is no longer directly served by the Heathrow Express Train. The Underground is also much cheaper, costing less than a fifth of the total price for most journeys.

2. If you have 2 or more in your party, consider taking a taxi. The total price might be as much as £45 - £50 but divided between as many as 5 passengers a cab is affordable. You also get to hear the political views of your friendly and garrulous cab driver. She or he will have done The Knowledge - a fearsome test taking more than 2 years study. Once qualified, cab drivers will know hundreds of routes by heart, most streets in Greater London, and all the places on those routes. The cabs are clean, undamaged and tightly controlled by the quaintly named Public Carriage Office. A great way to travel.

3. I do not recommend the Gatwick Express. It is expensive (costing up to £17.90) and no longer more modern, more comfortable, or even very much quicker than alternative trains. Look for the Southern train which is clean, modern and comfortable. It stops once or twice, adding a few minutes on to the journey but costs half the price.

4. Luton and Stansted are easy to reach by train. Luton is cheaper by far, but both take around the same journey time. Travellers on a budget can save huge amounts by taking the Easybus, which costs as little as £2.

5. It is no longer sensible to fly from London to most places in nearer continental Europe. The Eurostar is very fast indeed - you can spend 10 hours in Paris on a day trip and pay a good price for your ticket if you plan ahead. My top tip is to look at a wonderful personal web site by The Man in Seat 61. This is a comprehensive guide to getting around Europe by train. Please consider making a donation towards his work (after you have donated to London walks using the Pay Pal button at

6. It makes no sense to use cash on London's transport. Paying cash is prohibitively expensive by design. If you are staying one day, buy a paper Travelcard. If you are staying longer, get a pay-as-you-go Oystercard. You can buy one with a £3 deposit when you arrive, or get a visitor Oystercard for £2 from some travel agents worldwide which can be charged with cash and used from Heathrow right off the plane.


Transport for London - start here

What is Oyster?

Buying Oyster cards from overseas agents

Oyster ticket stops

How to use Oyster cards for visitors to London

Stansted Express

Gatwick by Southern Railway

About London's airports from BAA the current operator

Ordering transportation tickets from USA

National Express Dot2Dot transfers to Heathrow



20 August 2008


Liverpool St National Rail StationSpitalfields does not sound an attractive place, but the area East of the City takes its name from, a priory hospital known as St Mary's Spital founded in the late 12 th Century. Most of the area was built after the great fire of London in 1666 after the plague the previous year caused such devastation to the local population who were traders and market stall holders.

Nowadays Brick Lane is a centre of Bangladeshi culture beloved of Londoners for the hundreds of restaurants that line the street on both sides. Banglatown is the most recent incarnation of a neighbourhood that welcomed successive waves of immigrants. First it was the Huguenots fleeing religious persecution in continental Europe. They brought with them sklills in weaving, especially silk yarns. Their beautiful houses adorn Fournier St, Princelet St and Wilkes St. Our walk passes along all three of these lovely roads.

After the Huguenots came Irish weavers and Askenazy Jews. The Mosque in Brick Lane was originally a Huguenot chapel, but saw use for the Methodists, as an outreach to the Jews, and then a Synagogue.

Other sights along the walk are the churches of St Botolph - two of them dedicated to the same saint - and the famous Christ Church Spitalfields. Petticoat Lane Market occupies the streets around Wentworth St and Petticoat Lane itself (best visited during the week or on Sundays) and Old Spitalfields Market - now a trendy retail and catering venue off Bishopsgate.

The walk ends at Liverpool St Underground, after passing through Exchange Square and looking down over the mainline railway station below.

22 July 2008

Doing the Lambeth Walk

Lambeth"The Lambeth Walk" is a song from the 1937 musical Me and My Girl (with book and lyrics by Douglas Furber and L. Arthur Rose and music by Noel Gay). The cockney lyrics are simple:

Any time you're Lambeth Way
Any evening, any day
You'll find us all
Doing the Lambeth Walk. Oi!

Every little Lambeth pal
With her little Lambeth pal
You'll find 'em all
Doing the Lambeth Walk. Oi!

Lambeth is the area south of the River Thames around Waterloo Station where we start our walk. Waterloo is on the Northern, Bakerloo, Waterloo & City, and Jubilee lines as well as being a mainline station in zone 1. Exit the Underground from the Jubilee Line and turn into Waterloo Road towards the Old Vic Theatre. Turn into Lower Marsh and continue until you come to Archbishop's Park at the rear of Lambeth Palace, official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

After walking through the park we come to the redundant church of St Mary at Lambeth, home of the Tradescant Trust and the Museum of Garden History. From here we walk along the Albert Embankment by the River Thames with wonderful views of the North bank including the Houses of Parliament. We pass St Thomas's Hospital and Medical School named after the English martyr St Thomas a Becket, County Hall and the London Aquarium, the London Eye and the lion which used to stand by Hungerford Bridge before the demolition of the Lion Brewery.

Just before the Royal Festival Hall we cross one of the Golden Jubilee foot bridges and the walk ends at Embankment (District & Circle lines) or Charing Cross (Bakerloo and Northern lines) both in Zone 1.

20 June 2008

Crime & Punishment

Fleet PrisonRobbery, murder, prostitution, fraud, bankruptcy - it's all here in this walk. Once again we return to the Fleet River, all but invisible today but an erstwhile open sewer flowing through the most desperate neighbourhoods of London.

The walk starts at Blackfriars Underground (Circle & District and Overground zone 1) and ends at Farringdon (Metropolitan, Circle, Hammersmith & City and Overground zone 1). There is not much left to see of the places described, so you will have to use your imagination. Some aspects of the walk are lurid and unsavoury, so my advice is that the sound file should be heard by over 15's unless you have listened to the walk in advance. The walk is best enjoyed on a weekday, as it passes through part of the Inner Temple and the route chosen might not be open during the weekend.

We kick off with the unsolved mystery of Roberto Calvi who was found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge, weighed down and with his pockets full of money. The route takes us through the site of the former Fleet Prison and the former Bridewell royal palace and prison where convicted prostitutes were publicly flogged to entertain the curious and encourage other offenders to cease and desist from their ways. Many of the prostitutes plied their trades in the prisons themselves, encouraged by the warders and governor who made a tidy sum out of the business.

Lawyers did their business in one of the inns of court (see my Legal London walk) and on this route they jostled and fought with the criminal fraternity in the Whitefriars/Alsatia area outside their gates. An early example of physicians curing themselves, or perhaps not.

We cross Holborn Viaduct and get a fine view over London towards the River Thames before descending into Shoe Lane, another notorious place where respectable people would not be seen dead, or if they were they might if you see what I mean. Here cutpurses would routinely relieve them of their money and maybe sell their cash back to them shortly afterwards. Here also was Mother Clap's Molly House, a male brothel.

Rest assured the locality is far more respectable nowadays, and the site of Farringdon - terminus of the world's first underground railway hoves into view up Greville St where the walk endes. Little more than a stroll really, and as I say it's not the most attractive part of London but stuffed full of history, much of it of the worst kind.


21 May 2008

The Tower and St Katharine's Dock

This walk can take 90 minutes or all day if you want to visit the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge Experience. It is a circular stroll from Tower Hill Underground on the Circle & District Lines, Zone 1.

What makes this walk special are the stunning views across the River Thames. Moving from one vantage point to another, the eye is filled with wonder as vistas open up at every turn.

Starting at Tower Hill, we walk under the road and admire the colourful enamel panels depicting the history of the Tower of London, some of it tragic and gory, little of it glorious.

Continuing around the Tower in a circuit down to the river, we pass the Traitors' Gate and Dead Men's Hole. From here we pass from the bustle of a prime tourist site to the relative quiet and calm of St Katharine's Dock. Refurbished after its original purpose was superseded, the basins now host a mixture of traditional sailing vessels and expensive motor boats, moored alongside fashionable bars, restaurants, shops, apartments and penthouses.

There is an opportunity to continue walking the Thames Path to Shadwell and Canary Wharf, but we return past the Tower Hotel to cross the river by Tower Bridge towards the Engine Room, where we descend the steps and walk along Shad Thames as far as the Design Museum.

Here we stop and admire what is arguably the best view of Tower Bridge, the Gherkin, Tower 42, the Tower of London and City Hall in a broad sweep with Dixie paddle steamers in the foreground.

Unusually the bridge opened twice during the time I was recording the walk, but if you want to see the bascules raise you can consult the daily schedule for opening times.

Files for your GPS: GPX

27 April 2008


Cannizaro House WimbledonA circular walk from Wimbledon Underground and Mainline Station, Zone 3. The best way of reaching the start is by taking the District Line to Wimbledon from Central London, or by changing to the District Line Wimbledon Branch at Earl's Court. The walk is 3.8 miles long.

This is a charming, picturesque, historical and interesting walk on high ground through Wimbledon Village and around the Common. There is also a chance to visit the Wimbledon All-England Club, home of the most famous lawn tennis tournament in the world.

We first climb Wimbledon Hill from the railway station, and pause at St Mary's Church. This is the fourth place of worship on this site extending back more than 1,000 years. The present church was opened in 1843. It was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott. In the chancel are wonderful mediaeval painted beams and a memorial to Sir Joseph Bazalgette, the engineer of London's sewerage system. His mausoleum is in the church yard.

We then pass through Wimbledon Village and then along the south side of the Common with its large Georgian houses. After taking some refreshment at one of the many charming pubs around the Common and walking into the Crooked Billet, we walk up the west side where the houses are even bigger and grander. The largest is Cannizaro House (pictured) which is now a hotel. The grounds are owned by the London Borough of Merton and can be visited. Here you will find over 400 species of trees and shrubs. The collection of rhododendrons and azaleas is said to be one of the finest anywhere in England.

From a little enclave of houses built on the Common and a preparatory school associated with William Wilberforce who owned a house nearby before starting his campaign to abolish slavery, there is the chance to take a diversion to look at an iron age hill fort or the Wimbledon Windmill Museum. There are also many other rides and walks throughout the Common.

Finally the walk returns to the starting point across the Common and down several tiny alley ways, crossing the line of a prehistoric path and back to the new town centre.

Files for your GPS: GPX

4 April 2008

Alleys and courtyards of the mediaeval City

Temple BarA circular walk from St Paul's Underground, Central Line zone 1.

History lovers and those who are fond of spooky alleyways and secret spaces in the mediaeval City of London will love this walk. It covers the same territory as the City walk west of St Paul's a couple of years ago, but there are only two places we visit again so this is genuinely a new delight. Mind you, it will be essential for you to have your wits about you when you do this walk - we dive in and out of tiny entrances almost invisible to tourists, and walk through part of the City you would never find without a guide.

During the walk, we see a memorial to ordinary folk who gave their lives to save others and who would be forgotten except for the good offices of the symbolist painter G F Watts. We walk underneath the Old Bailey and visit St Sepulchre where there is a stained glass window dedicated to musicians and especially the father of the Proms Sir Henry Wood. His ashes are interred in the floor. In the same church is the bell tolled the night before executions in Newgate Prison and a poem exhorting the condemned souls to repent.

After walking through run down and abandoned parts of the old Smithfield Market ripe for redevelopment, we walk into a private road of elegant houses that is technically in Cambridgeshire. Half way up the road is St Ethelreda's Roman Catholic Church and through a hidden gap the most out-of-the-way pub in the whole of London. This is the spookiest part of the entire walk and full of atmosphere.

We then pass through the old Barnard's Inn, once part of the Court of Chancery but now the home of Gresham College where free lectures are given to all comers. We revisit Gough Square where Dr Johnson's cat Hodge is set in bronze on a copy of the famous Dictionary with an opened oyster. Finally we return to St Paul's and Paternoster Square after standing right under the site of the spire which once was the centre of the Blackfriars monastery church and we see the preserved crypt of Whitefriars behind glass in the basement of the Freshfields law office building.

Files for your GPS: GPX

11 March 2008

Playing in the Strand - London's Theatreland

Aldwych TheatreThis is more of stroll through part of London's extensive Theatreland. It lasts just over 80 minutes and starts in Trafalgar Square (Charing Cross Underground - Zone 1 - Bakerloo and Northern Lines) Take the exit from the subway marked 'Trafalgar Square' and walk to the base of the Nelson Column facing towards the Tower of Big Ben.

After an extensive description of Trafalgar Square and the Nelson Column, we walk aroud the square and look at the grand buildings, including Admiralty Arch, Canada House, National Gallery, St Martin-in-the-Fields and South Africa House.

The walk then continues down to the River Thames and the Playhouse Theatre. From here, depending on the visibility and the weather, there is a choice of crossing and re-crossing the river by way of the Golden Jubilee bridges, from which there are unrivalled views of the London skyline in both directions, or walking under the Arches to Embankment Underground and thence back to Charing Cross station forecourt - the centre of London as measured from mileposts and mapping.

Most of Little Adelphi is covered on my Covent Garden walk, but we do walk along John Adam Street and look at the lovely buildings in the streets, including the home of Samuel Pepys near the old Watergate, and the Royal Society of Arts. Returning to The Strand, we admire the glass fronted Coutts Bank with its revolving full-size tree and haunted banking hall.

From this point on, it's all about the theatre. We pass the Adelphi with its fantastic Art Deco facade. Nearby is the Vaudeville. By Carting Lane we visit the old Coal Hole Tavern, once the haunt of Thames barge coal heavers. Then we enter Savoy Court with its world famous luxury hotel (now being refurbished) and the Savoy Theatre, originally showcase of the Gilbert & Sullivan operettas.

After that, we pass the Strand Palace Hotel, the Lyceum Theatre, Drury Lane, the Aldwych Theatre (pictured above) and Bush House, home of the BBC World Service.

The walk ends with a choice. You can either walk up Kingsway to Holborn Underground (Central Line Zone 1) or end at Covent Garden Piazza just off to the left up Drury Lane. The Covent Garden Underground station is on the Piccadilly Line, and is near all the attractions of Covent Garden, including the Royal Opera House and the newly refurbished London Transport Museum.

Files for your GPS: GPX CSV

11 February 2008


St Mary's Church IslingtonThis is a most enjoyable walk through Islington, starting at Angel Underground (Zone 1 - Northern Line, Bank Branch) and ending at Highbury & Islington (Zone 2 - Victoria Line and Overground).

The first part of the walk passes through the antiques market area along Camden Passage. The middle section follows the line of the New River - neither new nor a river. This man-made watercourse took fresh water from Hertfordshire to New River Head. Little of the river is visible nowadays, but the route is clearly visible and there is a charming garden were we walk alongside the water by formal gardens near Canonbury Grove. The last part of the walk passes Canonbury Tower and House. The Tower was built in the early years of the 16th century as a manor house on the site of an Augustinian Priory owned by the canons of St Bartholomew's in Clerkenwell (which we pass on the Well, Well, Well... walk).

The walk should take about an hour, and includes references to such people as Charles Lamb, Sir John Spencer, Evelyn Waugh and George Orwell. Upper Street is also the site of a restaurant in which Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are said to have discussed the timing of the transfer of the leadership of the Labour Party, and hence the office of Prime Minister.

Most of the route is quiet and free of heavy traffic. The houses are predominately 18th century terraced properties, and the area is well known not only as a smart and expensive place to live, but where the left wing intelligentsia of the capital prefer to hang out. It also reminds me of the British Monopoly board - the Angel Islington is a modestly priced light blue property on which it is much more affordable to build hotels than on places further from 'Go.'

I recommend this short walk as a very interesting way to spend an hour - more of a stroll really, past charming houses and lovely residential locales.

13 January 2008


The Flask HampsteadA lovely historic walk through the tiny roads, alleyways, and steps around the centre of Hampstead. Hampstead is about 4 miles north of the centre of London. It is easily reached from stations like Tottenham Court Road, Euston, or Embankment by taking the Edgware branch of the Northern Line. The station is in Zones 2/3.

Turning left outside the Underground station, we have only a few paces to walk on the busy Hampstead High Street before we turn into Flask Walk. The first portion of the stroll is through the area that sprung up around the spa. The water from the chalybeate spring contained dissolved iron and was considered health promoting. The practice died out in the late 19th century, but there are pubs, street names such as Well Walk, and many other associations with this period of Hampstead's history.

More importantly even today Hampstead is more likely to be associated with the rich, the famous, intellectuals, artists, and writers. The list of literati and gliterati is a long one, including nowadays stars of film and TV, but in the past such names as John Galsworthy who wrote The Forsyte Saga here, three generations of the du Mauriers, the painter John Constable, poet John Keats and many many more.

The walk passes through the French and Dutch influenced houses around the William IV public house, and enters Hampstead's parish church dedicated to St John. This is a 1745 gem - a galleried interior of wood painted in two shades of grey with a beautiful plasterwork ceiling. Definitely a must-see, and in the two adjacent burial grounds there are so many famous people that the church offers a tomb walk leaflet to guide visitors around the church yard.

There are wonderful views over London, and we reach a high point of 440 ft above sea level near the Jack Straw public house. The best is kept for last, as we wind our way down a steep hill and enter a tiny enclave of small houses beside a narrow street with another wonderful view to east and west. This leads to steps that conveniently descend to the Underground station where the walk ends.

This is a lovely urban stroll through one of London's most fashionable historic places. There are some steep hills, narrow uneven streets, cars and vans labouring up the inclines, and expensive eating places and watering holes. But for free entertainment and learning about the past, it is a great walk and one especially suitable for families.

17 December 2007

Hampton Court

Hampton Court PalaceThis walk starts at the Thamesside village of Hampton. You can reach Hampton by train from London (Waterloo) or by the District Line to Wimbledon and change to a train to Hampton. The station is in Zone 6 - so you can buy a Zones 1 - 6 off-peak Travelcard.

Leaving the station from the South-West train, exit towards the shops and turn left along the High Street. Continue down to the River Thames and the church of St Mary, which is said to be haunted by Mistress Penn who was a nurse to Edward VI the only son of Henry VIII. Nearby there are two houses which belonged to the actor David Garrick and his eponymous nephew. Opposite Garrick's Villa is a temple which is connected to the house by a tunnel under the road, and housed a statue of William Shakespeare.

Shortly we leave the busy traffic and enter Bushey Deer Park where one should avoid approaching the deer that roam free, especially in May - July and September - October. We walk through the lovely water garden that is little known and generally very quiet, and leave the garden by a gate leading towards the Diana Fountain. This whole area was designed by Sir Christopher Wren who was employed to remodel the Tudor palace of Hampton Court.

After leaving the park we enter the formal grounds of the palace through the Lion Gate. We then walk through the gardens and around the outside of the house, admiring the wonderful facades and marveling at the fact that here we have two entirely separate ages of architecture - Tudor and Baroque. It all happened by accident, but it works well nonetheless. After walking through the gardens, there is a chance to enter the palace.

The walk ends nearby just across the bridge over the Thames at the station of Hampton Court. This is also in Zone 6 and trains run to Wimbledon and into London every 30 minutes. Lunch can be taken in Hampton Court before boarding the train, and I give a recommendation for Cottage Pie in one of the town public houses.

27 November 2007


Boys from Harrow SchoolThis is a lovely walk through the charming village of Harrow-on-the-Hill, home of the famous Harrow School and much more. Although Harrow is some way from the centre of London, it is easy to reach.

The best way is to buy an off-peak Travelcard covering zones 1 - 6. Take the Jubilee Line northbound to Finchley Road. Here cross the same platform and take a Metropolitan Line to Harrow-on-the-Hill. The quickest is a fast Amersham service, but any Metropolitan Line train will do: the Metropolitan Line takes the same route as the Jubilee Line, but bypasses most of the stations where Jubilee Line trains stop.

On reaching Harrow-on-the-Hill, climb the stairs from the platform and turn left. Exit the station through the south exit leading to Lowlands Road.

This is a short walk of less than 2 miles. It's more of a stroll but there are some hills to climb and descend at the end. You are rewarded with fine views over London to the north east and the west.

Harrow-on-the-Hill is all about Harrow School - second only to Eton College in prestige amongst English public schools. It was founded in the late 16th/early 17th century. The school does not provide all the history on this walk however. We pass the site of the first fatal motor vehicle accident which occurred in 1899. We see where King Charles I watered his horses at a well, and wistfully looked back over London before riding north to surrender himself to the Scottish army. We enter the lovely old church of St Mary. Originally consecrated in the 11th century by St Anselm, the present building has some wonderful effigies, 14th and 15th century brasses, and is the burial place of the founder of Harrow School John Lyon and his wife.

Somewhere in the grounds of the church, Lord Byron's daughter Allegra is buried. All that remains is a commemorative stone by the main doorway, but nearby is a plaque by the Peachy gravestone where the young Byron as a schoolboy spent hours under the trees, gazing into the distance, and developing his muse.

7 November 2007

Well, Well, Well!

BridewellWhy Well, Well, Well? Well! - because we pass a number of places where there were wells and spas. In fact, at the Clerk's Well you can see the original well behind glass. The parish of Clerkenwell was named after this source of water, which later became a pump to service the neighbourhood with clean, fresh supplies from a nearby spring. Unfortunately this tap became polluted and had to be shut down, possibly from the nearby Smithfield Meat Market. Another well is Brideswell towards the end of the walk and Bagnigge Wells comes between King's Cross and Farringdon. So - well, well, well it is.

This walk is not the most beautiful I have done, but has a great deal of historical interest. We start at King's Cross (Victoria, Northern, Piccadilly, Hammersmith & City, Circle, Metropolitan Underground lines, mainline railways, Thameslink Zone 1) and finish at Blackfriars (Circle, District, Riverboats mainline railways Zone 1).

The route follows the line of the old Fleet River, now underground. For some of the way we also follow the line of the railway tracks as far as Farringdon. We pass the big London sorting office at Mount Pleasant belonging to Royal Mail. Near the Clerk's Well we pass Clerkenwell Green and the Parish Church. This is a handy detour especially if you are hungry. The church and green is on another of my walks through Clerkenwell and the Smithfield Market. We pass over lands once the property of the Bishop of Ely, and under Holdborn Viaduct where you can climb the steps to the road over and admire the view.

Another stunning view is from the dip where Farringdon St intersects with Fleet St and Ludgate Hill. The Wren cathedral of St Paul's is visible here and earlier on in the walk, and you can also walk up Ludgate Hill and visit the tiny Wren Church of St Martin's. On the right is Fleet St once associated with the British newspaper industry and journalism.

We now pass St Bride's Church and learn about the Bridewell Palace. The walk finishes at Blackfriars near the 1931 Unilever Building, on the noisy Riverside Walk beside Blackfriars bridge, with fantastic views across the Thames as far as the London Eye and Westminster.

11 October 2007


HighgateHighgate lies between Haringey, Camden and Islington. It is one of London's more expensive and fashionable neighbourhoods. It has an active conservation society, and has much to conserve.

Highgate Hill is one of the highest points in London, and the view from the beautiful Holly Lodge Estate is stunning. There are associations with Charles Dickens: his father and mother took the family here to escape their creditors, and Charles modelled Mr Jingle in Pickwick Papers on one of its well-known residents.

The walk is a hilly one. It starts from Highgate Underground on the High Barnet branch of the Northern Line in Zone 3. You can use the Journey Planner at the London walks home page to work out a route using public transport.

The highlights are Hampstead Heath, a wonderfully quiet location where traffic is inaudible, the hills are more reminiscent of the countryside, and people fish for carp in the lakes. We pass through the quaint streets and houses of Georgian Highgate. Highgate School, founded in 1565 is on the route. We see houses where Dickens, J B Priestley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and others lived. In Highgate Cemetery Karl Marx, George Eliot, Michael Faraday, Ralph Richardson and many others were buried.

The walk is full of history and wonderful sights and a view over London unrivalled anywhere in and around the capital. There are churches, lovely pubs where you can sit out and enjoy a snack and a beer, a pub-theatre, manicured estates, grand houses, lovely parks, and the site where Dick Whittington 'turned again' with his cat when the sound of Bow bells called him back to become Lord Major of London. Or may have - as the tale is a 14th century fiction.

The walk finishes at Archway, one stop down the Northern Line in zones 2 and 3. This is a fairly strenuous walk, highly enjoyable, fairly short, and one of London's best strolls. Don't miss it. You can get to Highgate easily in just a few minutes from Tottenham Court Road, Euston or King's Cross.

22 September 2007


Docklands pubHow can you possibly beat a walk along the Thames on a fine day? Shadwell (the name probably came from Shite-well or Shit-well) might be an unauspicious start, but in a few paces from the Docklands Light Railway or East London Line Zone 2 you come across the fabulous Nicholas Hawksmoor church of St George's with its 160 ft (49m) tower. Dickens described its 'Romish' practices in the mid 19th century as 'miserable fancy dressing pantomime posturing.'

Dickens features again and again on this wonderful walk. The Mystery of Edwin Drood with its opium dens, The Uncommercial Traveller, and Our Mutual Friend are all references on this walk.

Tobacco Dock is sadly no longer the vibrant retail development it was, but you can still walk though it and see the statue to the bengal tiger and the young boy rescued from its jaws. You can see the two full size pirate ships, and admire the fantastic brick built construction (Grade 2 listed by English Heritage).

After strolling through an area where there was a notorious workhouse, we arrive at Wapping station. From this point, the walk continues along the Thames Path affording unrivalled views of the Thames and Canary Wharf in the distance.

Joined by one of my listeners, Kim from new Jersey on this walk, we take a break in the Prospect of Whitby public house with its full length pewter-topped bar, wood posts made from the masts of ships, hangman's noose dangling over the river, and several fine draught ales I tell the tale of the Hanging Judge Jeffreys as we quaff our beer on a bench in the open air beside the river near the old parish boundary wall. Wonderful.

There are more pubs along the way after crossing Limehouse Basin including The Grapes as well as a fine restaurant bar The Narrow (chef Gordon Ramsay). FInally we leave the Thames-side to admire another Nicholas Hawksmoor church of St Anne's with its high clock faces and strange pyramid in the graveyard originally intended to top the tower.

The walk ends at the DLR station of Limehouse (Zone 2) from where it is only a few minutes ride back to Bank or Monument (Central, Northern, District & Circle Lines Zone 1).

27 August 2007


MaryleboneMarylebone is the area north of Oxford Street. It was originally the closest village to central London until developed in the 18th and 19th centuries for housing by two landlords. Now Marylebone is a mixture of housing, offices and retail.

The Marylebone walk starts at Marble Arch Underground station (Central Line Zone 1) and finishes at Baker Street (Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City, Circle, Bakerloo, Jubilee lines Zone 1).

We walk through a number of squares and along Upper Berkeley Street to the Wallace Collection. We then pass near the Wigmore Hall, one of London's best small concert venues and down the gem of a shopping and eating street called St Christopher's Place before emerging briefly into Oxford Street, the busiest but by no means the best shopping street in the West End. Turning up Vere Street past Maroush V, a good lunch stop, we come to the home of the LICC at St Peter's Church, built in 1724.

We then walk along New Cavendish Street through the medical area before turning up Marylebone High Street. This is a 'must see' when visiting London - not only for the shops, restaurants and general atmosphere, but also because Charles Wesley (1707 - 1788) writer of more than 150 hymns and leader of the Methodist movement is buried near St Marylebone's Church.

The final part takes us along the busy Marylebone Road past Madame Tussauds to the Tube at its junction with Baker Street.

10 August 2007

Bayswater (East)

BayswaterThis is the second part of our Bayswater walk. The first part to the west started at Notting Hill Gate Underground (Central, Circle & District Lines Zone 1/2) and finished at Lancaster Gate (Central Line Zone 1). We now continue from Lancaster Gate, and finish at Marble Arch (Central Line Zone 1).

Our first port of call is the lovely church of St James the Less in Sussex Gardens. The list of Vicars of Paddington posted on the wall goes back to the 14th Century, and our stroll through Bayswater starts inside the church which has been extensively refurbished.

Bayswater is a series of interlocking squares. We continue through Sussex Square through a small charming mews into Gloucester Square. from here we can see the church of St John the Evangelist in Hyde Park Square. We meet the clergy as we enter this church, and hear about Horseman's Sunday when the Vicar annually greets his congregation from horseback, and more than 100 other steeds follow his lead around the roads locally.

In Albion Street we pass a house once owned by the last Rajah of Sarawak, and then the home of William Makepeace Thackeray. After passing along Connaught Street - in Edwardian and Victorian times a fashionable shopping destination - we finish at the site of the Tyburn Gallows and enter the Tyburn Convent where sisters still pray for the souls of the 105 Catholic martyrs who lost their lives. The site of the Tyburn tree now stands on a roundabout by Marble Arch. It is named after the river Tyburn which now flows underground.

From here it will be possible to continue this walk through Marylebone, ending at Baker Street, Madame Tussauds and the literary site of Sherlock Holmes' apartment.

25 July 2007

Campden Hill

Campden HillThis is a circular walk through Campden Hill in Kensington starting at Notting Hill Gate Underground (Circle, District and Central Lines Zones 1 and 2). Leave the Underground through exit A and go straight ahead until you turn left into Campden Hill Square. The walk takes us up one side of the square, across the top and down the other side to Holland Park Avenue. This is a lovely sloping square developed over many years around private communal gardens. There were a number of interesting residents including Siegfried Sassoon. We look at their houses and hear a little of their history.

The walk continues along the edge of Holland Park away from traffic, and crosses beside the Open Air Theatre before emerging into Melbury Road. This is a fascinating part of town best known as an artists' colony. The land was acquired from Lady Holland on a 99-year lease when debts forced her to sell. Huge houses were erected with large north-facing windows where artists and sculptors painted and modelled the rich and famous, becoming even more rich and famous themselves in the process. Holman Hunt was one of the most notable residents. His wife continued to visit St Paul's Cathedral after he died to gaze at The Light of the World. Lord Leighton's house is open as a museum.

We then walk by the southernmost gate of Holland Park into Kensington High Street and into the Phillimore Estate. Linley Sambourne House can be visited - a perfectly Victorian town house. Open March - December. Visiting times click here. From here we walk up and down several streets in Campden Hill, stopping at places of interest, some literary, some musical.

The walk finishes in Kensington Church St by a house where Musio Clementi once lived. From this point it is a short stroll back to Notting Hill Gate and the Underground.

10 May 2007

Bergen, Norway

This is an indulgence I hope you will forgive. Do not worry. I have not run out of ideas for London walks yet. This one seemed too good to miss. Does it qualify as a 'London Walk?' Of course not, but on the other hand Bergen is only 90 minutes direct flight from London (Stansted) and the budget airline Norwegian charges very little for a ticket. If you can stand the slooooow check in and the resultant queues that is...

So how come Bergen? Well, Vicky and I were stranded there for a few days waiting for a Hurtigruten passage up the coast of Norway. Don't ask - we reserved a cabin on a ship called the Polarlys, but Hurtigruten called to say it had been overbooked. They offered us a suite on a much bigger vessel called Finnmarken, which developed a fault in its forward thrusters and was taken out of service for repairs at Stavangar. By then the Polarlys was full and we watched it sail out of Bergen with our cabin filled by someone else. Later in the week, we left on a much older vessel called Lyngen. See my photo galley for images of the trip above the Arctic Circle to North Cape and Kirkenes near the border with Russia. See also my description of the voyage.

Anyway, the upshot was we spent 5 days in Bergen, so became experts on the sights. It's a fine place. Friendly. Everyone speaks good English. Expensive, like all of Norway. Can be wet - it rains 220 days in the year. But when we were there, the weather was good. So join Vicky and me on a lovely walk round this fine town and enjoy the sights and sounds with us. Who knows, you might just be inspired to visit Bergen for yourself and do the walk. We have done all the hard work for you.

25 May 2007

Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk (West)

Kensington PalaceI find it sad that there is so little publicity for the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk. If you try searching for a map of the walk on the Net, you will not find one. I even went into the information desk at Marble Arch and asked for one. The woman on duty who was a member of the Friends of Kensington Gardens handed me a map, which I later found to show the cycle route around Hyde Park but no sign of the walk.

The walk is about 8 miles long. It is described as a 'lopsided figure-of-eight.' The pivotal point is Hyde Park Corner. Imagine two zeros which touch there, forming the figure 8 turned through 90 degrees - the symbol for infinity 8 - where the left hand extent is Kensington Palace and the right hand the most easterly point in St James Park and the crossing point Hyde Park Corner.

Here are the maps in PDF for you to download if you wish:

Kensington Gardens
Hyde Park

The idea of the walk was originally to join up places with associations for Diana, but I think this objective was not well met and all we have is a very good walk covering four royal parks - Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park, and St James Park. Undoubtedly Kensington Palace is important - after all, that was where Diana lived with her sons. She was often seen by locals being driven in and out of the palace, but less often spotted incognito on one of her breakout shopping trips in disguise. It was from Kensington Palace that I witnessed the funeral cortege as it was prepared in the early morning and later wound its way along South Carriage Drive. My thoughts of that fateful time are documented within hours of the funeral itself on my web site, which received several hundred hits as one of the first sites on the Net where photographs were published.

I met Diana on a few occasions when I shadowed her during shopping expeditions to Peter Jones, where I was merchandise manager in the 1980's. That was before her marriage, when she was able to come accompanied by one detective, before she was hounded by the paparazzi, and before everything changed in London after the bomb at Harrods.

This is half of the Diana walk - actually parts 1 and 4. I have done because the walk is a long one and would take several hours to complete. Part 1 is from Kensington Palace to Hyde Park Corner. Part 4 follows immediately, and covers the return section to Kensington to complete the western part of the loop. This circular walk is 5 miles long, all wheelchair accessible, completely flat, and with good toilet and refreshment facilities throughout.

Parts 2 and 3 will be a separate walk to follow - from Hyde Park Corner through Green Park and St James Park and back. You can skip to the eastern part at Hyde Park Corner, and then return to where you left this walk if you want to do the whole in one day.

This walk starts and finishes at High Street Kensington Underground (Circle & District Lines Zone 1) but passes Lancaster Gate (Central Line) and Hyde Park Corner (Piccadilly Line).

18 June 2007

Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk (East)

The brass and silver studs in the ground mark the walkThis is the second the third parts of the 4 part walk. We start at Hyde Park Corner (Piccadilly Line Zone 1) and cross through the Wellington Arch to stand by the Mogul-style Memorial Gate at the top of Constitution Hill. This gate, opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 2002, commemorates the soldiers from the Indian Sub Continent and from Africa and the Caribbean who served in war.

Ignore the signpost - it points in the wrong direction and follow my instructions through The Green Park and down to Buckingham Palace. From there we walk down The Mall past St James Palace and Clarence House before walking around St James Park.

There is an opportunity to visit the Churchill Museum and the Cabinet War Rooms before continuing around the lake back to Buckingham Palace. Here we can visit the Royal Mews or admire the Queen's Gallery, or maybe see the Changing of the Guard (daily at 11.30am).

The walk finishes at Hyde Park Corner, where it continues back to Kensington Palace.

Here are the maps in PDF for you to download if you wish:

The Green Park
St James Park

This part of the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk starts and finishes at Hyde Park Corner Underground (Piccadilly Line Zone 1). There are also several bus routes that converge on Hyde Park Corner - check the Transport for London journey planner for details.

21 April 2007

Bayswater West

Whiteleys Department StoreBayswater lies north of the Bayswater Road between Notting Hill to the west, and Mayfair to the east. To the south are Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. Bayswater is more mixed than Kensington - not as chic and certainly not so well cared for. There are more multi-occupancy dwellings, small hotels, rooming houses, and large properties both in need of renovation as well as undergoing improvement. The sound of building works echoes through Bayswater even more than in neighbouring boroughs.

The size of the properties, the width of the roads, the feeling of space, and the grand if somewhat rundown squares characterises Bayswater. The triangle of Lancaster Gate, Westbourne Street and Sussex Gardens forms a natural division between West and East Bayswater, and so I have split the walk in two. This first part is the westernmost section, running from Notting Hill Gate passing Queensway and finishing at Lancaster Gate. In a later podcast I will walk from Lancaster Gate to Marble Arch, forming the eastern section of the Bayswater walk.

Notting Hill Gate is on the Central, Circle and District Lines in Zone 1. Leaving the Underground, we walk along Notting Gate and Bayswater Road, turning left at St Petersburgh Place where there is a large synagogue with a prominent rose window (1877 - 79) nearly opposite St Matthews Church (1882). Try and get to the church as the carillon clock chimes the hour.

Just round the corner is the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Moscow Road (1877 - 82). The walk continues through grand squares, emerging in the corridor of Westbourne Road full of the smells of restaurants and food shops from all over the world. The old Queens Cinema with its Egyptian facade closed in the 1980's and was for a long time occupied by TGI Fridays. This has not ceased trading and the cinema is once again empty, lending a forlorn appearance to the junction with Queensway. The shopping centre formed from the old Whiteleys Department Store still looks good, and we walk through the centre from north to south. Here you can cut the walk short at either Bayswater or Queensway Underground Stations - actually very close together, despite what you might conclude by looking at the iconic London Underground map.

We then continue along Leinster Place and Leinster Gardens past 1960's public housing and finish this section of the walk at Lancaster Gate (Central Line Zone 1).


1 April 2007


London's Oldest Church, St Bartholomew the GreatThis walk starts at Angel Underground station on the Bank branch of the Northern Line in Zone 1. Angel can be reached by taking the Central Line and changing at Bank.

Clerkenwell is a former monastic settlement. The land was originally donated to the Order of St John of Jerusalem in 1140. Clerkenwell is a mixed area where ancient buildings, Georgian houses, and loft apartments occupied by media professionals jostle together with wine bars, office blocks, converted warehouses and workshops.

The area is full of history. Once a den of thieves, robbers and pickpockets, with the highest murder rate in London during the 19th century, it is now firmly on the road to 'gentrification' albeit that the mixed character of the streets will never have the cohesion and grace of Kensington, Belgravia, Mayfair or Chelsea.

The Northernmost part of the walk passes the New River and reservoirs used to supply London from Hertfordshire. We then pass Sadler's Wells Theatre before passing Spa Fields where a riot of parliamentary reformers took place in 1816.

In the fascinating church of St James we see the memorials to the martyrs burned at the stake in Smithfield between 1400 and 1558. After that, we enter on Priory lands just past Clerkenwell Green. We see the headquarters of the Order of St John. The St John's Gate Museum is free, and there are guided tours of the Priory Church and the area.

The walk continues through the Smithfield Meat Market to St Bartholomew's Hospital. The gem of this walk is the oldest church in London, St Bartholomew the Great. Don't miss this - if it's not open, go back there when it is.

Finally we walk round Charterhouse Square, and finish at Barbican Underground (Zone 1 on the Hammersmith & City and Circle Lines).


9 March 2007


A walk from Lancaster Gate Underground (zone 1) or Paddington across Hyde Park to the Lanesborough Hotel, then through Belgravia and Chelsea to finish at Sloane Square Underground (zone 1). Lancaster Gate is on the Central Line. Sloane Square Underground is on the District & Circle Lines.

This walk follows part of the course of the Westbourne River. Starting at Lancaster Gate we cross Bayswater Road and immediately enter the park by the Italianate gardens with five fountains and a 1730's dam and pump house.

Continuing alongside the Long Water we enjoy wonderful views of the lake, the parkland and the sights of London in the distance. At this point, the Westbourne River flows in a conduit beneath the left bank of the lake, which joins the Serpentine. We continue alongside the boating lake with its solar shuttle launch powered by the sun and numerous pedaloes and rowing craft.

At the Dell Cafe we can stop for refreshments and continue towards Rotten Row and South Carriage Drive to the pedestrian crossing opposite the Lanesborough Hotel. This hotel is one of the most expensive in London, and was formerly St George's Hospital. Knightsbridge is named after a bridge which crossed the Westbourne River at this point. After crossing the busy road beside the famed horse-crossing, we skirt the hotel and turn away from Hyde Park Corner, returning to Wilton Place and the quaint mews streets around Kinnerton Street. Here we can see a number of small cul-de-sacs that used to lead to the Westbourne River.

In Motcomb Street, the Pantechnicon stands opposite the new Waitrose Belgravia supermarket. Pantechnicon (or all-arts in Greek) was the name for a 1830's bazaar, which later became a fire-proof furniture repository - hence the old name for a furniture removal van. The so-called fireproof warehouse burnt down in 1874, despite the fact it stands immediately over the course of the Westbourne River.

One gem remains until last - the 'cathedral of the Arts & Crafts Movement' - Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Street (pictured above). It's not a cathedral but a magnificent church, although by a quirk of clergy it does have its own bishop. The church is well worth a visit in its own right, and the building is open throughout the day.

One surprise remains - the final view of the Westbourne River - in Sloane Square Underground Station.


15 February 2007

Regents Park

Chester TerraceA walk from Chalk Farm Underground over Primrose Hill through regents Park to Great Portland St. or Regents Park Underground stations.

For this walk, take a sandwich and a drink, and enjoy a picnic at the top of Primrose Hill sitting on a bench overlooking a panorama of London below, as I describe the character of the area and the sights from this point, which is only rivaled by Greenwich Royal Observatory as a classic view of the capital.

From Primrose Hill we walk down to Prince Albert Road and cross the Outer Circle into regents Park near the London Zoo.

Regents Park is full of history, and is one of London's premier and best maintained open spaces. The development was originally sponsored by the Prince Regent (later George IV) who owned the land. It was intended this royal park should extend to St James's.

John Nash planned the construction of 56 grand houses, but only 8 were built within the park itself around 1827. All round the perimeter are Nash terraces however - and the photo shows Chester Terrace to the South-East with enormous arches at either end of the street.

Within the park itself, we admire a gothic drinking fountain, a large lake populated by birds and used for boating during the warmer months, the London Mosque, a bandstand where 7 soldiers were killed by terrorist action in 1982, an open-air theatre, Queen Mary's formal gardens, and many other fascinating sights.

This is a longer walk - it may take up to 2 hours in all, depending on the number of stops. It is well worth it, both for the exercise as well as for the history, the wonderful Nash architecture, and the sheer variety of things to see and do. There are excellent facilities such as cafes and toilets throughout the park, and a short cut down Broad Walk which varies the length of the walk if you are short of time.

Chalk Farm Underground is in Zone 2. Take the Northern Line from Tottenham Court Road on the Edgware or Colindale branch. The walk ends at Great Portland Street (Zone 1) on the District & Circle Lines or Regents Park (Zone 1) on the Bakerloo Line.


21 January 2007

Covent Garden

Covent GardenCovent Garden fits snugly between the City of London on the east and the West End north of the Strand.

It is on the one hand a fashionable and vibrant quarter of London and on the other hand a busy tourist area centred on the piazza - a converted fruit and vegetable market dating back to the early part of the 19th Century and beyond.

The walk starts in Trafalgar Square beside Nelson's Column, an icon of London and a place of demonstrations and celebration. Trafalgar Square can be reached from Charing Cross Underground (zone 1 - Bakerloo and Northern Line). There are many exits from this station, so follow any sign to Trafalgar Square and head for Nelson's Column.

From there, we pass beside the world famous church of St Martin in the Fields, known as much nowadays for its work with the dispossessed, addicted and homeless as for its music. We pass Charing Cross mainline station before descending towards the embankment where there is the only surviving Watergate.

After the Royal Society of Arts, we walk behind the old Shell-Mex building to the rear of the Savoy Hotel. Opposite the main entrance can be found some charming gardens full of interesting monuments, including Richard D'Oyly Carte and Sir Arthur Sullivan who, with librettist W S Gilbert collaborated on the Savoy operettas which were first performed in the Savoy Theatre beside the hotel.

After visiting the Savoy Chapel we cross the Strand and walk past theatres up Wellington Street to the Royal Opera House. Here I highly recommend visiting the superb Floral Hall - either for lunch, or even better buy an affordable ticket for the opera or ballet.

Sadly a few days after the recording was made, it was decided to close the Theatre Museum which belonged to the V&A, but the London Transport Museum has been completely refurbished and modernised. It is due to re-open shortly. This is in the Covent Garden piazza where you can also have a snack, look at craft shops, participate in street performance and arts, visit the church of St Paul, and walk around the wonderful variety of shops.

The walk ends at Covent Garden Underground (Piccadilly Line zone 1)


28 December 2006


Kensington is my home, and so it is surprising I have not done a Kensington walk before now.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea stretches from the River Thames in the South to Notting Hill and North Kensington in the North. It is a large area.

The part we are walking through is the wealthiest. Even the smallest houses, of which there are very few, now cost in excess of £1million (currently US $1.93 million).

The walk starts at High Street Kensington Underground station, which is on the Circle and District lines (zone 1). There are also many buses which serve this premier shopping area.

We start by walking east, and turning down Derry Street, named after one of the partners in the Derry & Toms department store that once occupied the site. Its successor Barkers of Kensington has just closed down. The building is partly occupied by one of London's evening newspapers, and the store will become an organic food shop. There is a wonderful roof garden which you can visit. It belongs to Sir Richard Branson's Virgin. For opening hours and contact details, visit the Roof Gardens web site. There are three themed gardens covering 1.5 acres 100 ft above street level.

During the walk we wander through two of Kensington's oldest squares dating from the mid 17th century and beyond.

There is a wealth of interest in this walk, which takes less than an hour. At the end, you have the option of shopping in High Street Kensington, visiting Holland Park, or eating at one of Kensington's restaurants or cafes.

30 November 2006

Westminster to Buckingham Palace through St James's

A short walk of less than 50 minutes from Big Ben through St James's to Buckingham Palace.

Start at Westminster Underground (Circle, District and Jubilee Lines Zone 1). From Parliament Square, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey we walk up Whitehall past the Cenotaph, Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence. The route then crosses Horse Guards Parade to The Mall with views either side towards Admiralty Arch and Trafalgar Square in one direction and Buckingham Palace in the other.

After walking up Duke of York steps we enter the fascinating area of St James's. Jermyn Street with its hand made shoes, bespoke tailoring, and other delightful shops is a street in which you are bound to linger. If you have not visited the church of St James Piccadilly on another of my walks, you can do so here.

We then walk down St James's Street to St James's Palace where we hear a guardsman pacing up and down, standing to attention, presenting arms and standing easy. Finally we pass Stable Yard and enter Green Park beside the quaintly named Milkmaid's Passage. Buckingham Palace then comes into view.

The walks ends at this point, but there are instructions to reach either Hyde Park Corner or Victoria Underground stations, both convenient points to catch the Tube.

This walk is a little gem. There is so much to see and do in such a short space of time. There are no points in the sound file where I pause the recording, so the actual length on your iPod is all the time you will need to complete the walk.

Welcome to all the new listeners who have joined us during the past month, when London walks has been promoted on the Podcast home page of iTunes. I would especially like to welcome undergraduate and in-service teachers in Hangzhou China who are listening to these walks as a way of getting to know London, its sights and sounds, and the spoken language.

15 November 2006

Riverside Walk - Barnes to Putney

The Thames riverside is London's undervalued playground, and walks alongside the river do not get much better than this. We start at Barnes Bridge, and before you say that it is hard to get to this part of London, think again. There is a railway station right beside the bridge, and you can reach it in only 23 minutes from London Waterloo. There are 7 trains per hour. The station is in Zone 3, so if you travel after 9.30am a Zones 1 - 4 One Day Travelcard is a very affordable choice indeed, and you have the freedom of travel by bus, train, Tube and Tram in these zones for the rest of the day.

Even better, why not take a Tube to Hammersmith. From there frequent buses 209 or 419 will take you to Barnes Bridge in 10 - 20 minutes. Just wait until you see the river after the last stop in Barnes, and press the bell to alight at Barnes Bridge. Buses run every 3 minutes, and the bus station is above the Underground up the escalators. The buses depart from bus stop C and you can wait in the warm and dry, or visit the shopping mall and have a coffee before you leave. Simple.

The walk from Barnes is easy and flat. You can download my instructions and photographs with GPS tracking from our sponsor Walking World (small charge payable) or just follow along using the audio on your iPod or MP3 player as usual.

The Boat Race course is actually 4.5 miles, so we do not follow the entire loop of the river, but walk up Barnes High Street past the pond to St Mary's Church. From there we pass the famed Wetland Centre and return to the river bank via Queen Elizabeth Walk. If you have time, why not include a visit to the Wetland Centre? Here are the details from their web site:

Opening times
Open 7 days a week, except 25 December 9.30am to 6.00pm (last admission 5pm) Summer.
9.30am to 5.00pm (last admission 4pm) Winter.

Late night opening every Thursday from 25 May until 21 September. Half price admission from 6pm, last entry 8pm. WWT members can bring two guests for free.

Christmas opening times
Early Closing on 24th December (last admissions 2pm). Closed 25th Dec only, otherwise centre open as normal throughout the Christmas and New Year period including 1st January.

Admission Prices from April 1st 2006
Adult £7.25
Concessions (Senior Citizens, students, unemployed, people with disabilities) £6.00, Child £4.50,
Family Ticket £18.50.
Group Admission Prices available upon request.

Facilities The London Wetland Centre is a beautiful wildlife reserve visitor attraction just minutes from central London. More than 43hectares of wetland habitats have been created attracting thousands of wild birds from around the globe.
In addition to the diverse and beautiful wildlife there are many other interesting areas to explore, including World Wetlands with wetland habitats and wildfowl from around the world. You can also discover why wetlands are essential for life in our thatched Wetland Living, Lodge and Pond Zone exhibits.
The London Wetland Centre features accessible paths throughout the visitor centre and reserve (see Accessibility below), a wonderful lakeside café and restaurant, a heated glass viewing observatory (for those who don't fancy sitting in our more traditional bird hides), a children's interactive discovery centre, gift shop and specialist in focus binocular shop.

Wildlife The London Wetland Centre is the best urban location in Europe to watch wildlife - designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to its diverse range of breeding wetland birds and winter flocks of Shoveler and Gadwall duck. In addition to attracting more than 180 wild bird species each year (including regular rarities such as Bittern, Cetti's Warbler, Peregrine Falcon and a breeding colony of Sand Martins), the reserve is a safe haven for 8 species of bat, 7 species of reptile and amphibian (including Slow-worm and Common Lizard) and more than half of all the UK's dragonfly and damselfly species.

After returning to the river, we pass Fulham Football Ground on the opposite bank, then pass a number of school and college boat houses before reaching St Mary's Church by Putney Bridge. Here is 1647 the Putney Debates were held by the New Model Army. The radical concept of 'one man one vote' was discussed, but the fledgling democratic proposal was crushed two years later by Oliver Cromwell.

The final portion of this walk takes us through the newly refurbished Fulham Palace. For hundreds of years, these palatial grounds were the summer residence of the bishops of London, until in the 1970's the land was leased to the local authority by the Church Commissioners. There is a botanic garden and a museum in the Palace.

Finally, we pass through the old pottery making district (there is still an old 'bottle kiln' belonging to Fulham Pottery beside the road) before we finish the walk at Putney Bridge Underground. Putney Bridge (Zone 2) is on the District Line from where there are frequent trains to Earls Court and the City of London, or via Kensington and Paddington to Edgware Road.

31 October 2006

Legal London - Temples, Courts, and The Da Vinci Code

A walk around London's Inns of Court, starting at Chancery Lane (Central Line Zone 1)

As you exit the Underground, you are immediately entranced by the ancient timbered building in High Holborn.

We leave the traffic noise behind us and hundreds of years of history by walking through Staple Inn towards the Patent Office and London Silver Vaults.

The walk passes through London's four Inns of Court. It is advisable to take this walk during the midweek when the Inns are accessible.

Lincoln's Inn comes first, then we pass down alongside the Royal Courts of Justice before crossing Fleet Street into the Middle Temple. Here we visit the Temple Church which has become associated with Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code novel.

Next comes the Inner Temple before we turn north again and pass the church of St Clement Danes.

The Old Curiosity Shop is in Portsmouth Street, after which we walk round Lincoln's Inn Fields.

Gray's Inn is last, and we return to the starting point in Chancery Lane.

This is a lovely walk, full of history, mostly free of traffic, with lots to see and hear.

This episode of the London walks podcast is dedicated to my father, Joseph Wright OBE Barrister of the Middle Temple (1917 - 2002)



A walk around London's most expensive district, from Piccadilly Circus Underground (Zone 1)

Starting at Piccadilly Circus Underground (Zone 1 - Piccadilly and Bakerloo Lines) we proceed west past St James's Church and the smart shops along the way.

Crossing the road we enter Burlington House, the Royal Academy of Arts. After this, there are two lovely arcades - Burlington and Royal Arcade.

Mayfair is an interesting historical locality. It's not quiet, and there is a lot of traffic so we pause the commentary is certain points to allow you to explore.

The walk will take longer than the 74 minutes running time, probably around 2 hours depending on how long you spend in the many cafes and bars.

The walk continues through the fascinating Shepherd Market to Berkeley Square and Grosvenor Square, home of the US Embassy.

We return to Piccadilly by way of St George's Church Hanover Square, and the bespoke tailoring area Savile Row.

18 September 2006

Regents Canal - Little Venice to Camden Market

A walk along the Regents Canal from Warwick Road Underground (Zone 2).

Most of this walk is along the towpath beside the Regents Canal.  We start in the neighbourhood known as Little Venice. Here the Grand Union Canal which enters the River Thames at Brentford joins the regents Canal, built in the 18th Century to link London with the manufacturing town of Birmingham. A later extension was built around 1812 from Paddington to the London Docks through Regents Park and around North London. Little Venice forms the junction of these canals, and almost the entire walk uses the towpath alongside the water.

We start by walking over the Maida Hill tunnel before descending to the canal side. All along Blomfield Road, there are longboats moored, some available for hire for functions, others converted into restaurants. Later on, most of the boats are residential. All are painted in bright colours, and many have attractive gardens on board.

After passing Lord's Cricket Ground and the London Mosque, the canal starts to skirt the northern side of fashionable Regents Park. The most stunning and imposing houses can be seen beside the canal. At Macclesfield Bridge we pause to see the deeply grooved iron columns which were rotated when 'Blow Up Bridge' as it became known was rebuilt after a barge laden with dynamite exploded under it one night in 1874.

The walk then takes us through London Zoo, where we can see African Hunting Dogs and Warthogs in their enclosure by the canal. Exotic birds are also to be seen in the Snowden Aviary.

After Cumberland Basin with its Chinese restaurant moored by the bank, the canal diverts north. A gate leads into the famous Camden Market - a busy, noisy eclectic part of the capital full of craft shops, food stalls, punk clothing and much much more.

The walk ends at Camden Town Underground station, just down Camden High Street. The station is on the Northern Line in Zone 2. There are also buses into Central London at this point.


Tue 29 August 2006

Kensal Green - The Victorian Way of Death

A walk through Kensal Green Cemetery from Kensal Green Underground (Zone 2).

We are privileged today to be able to offer you a fully guided walk through one of the great Victorian cemeteries of London - Kensal Green. Our guide is the historian and literary expert, Henry Vivian Neale.

Henry has a fascination for cemeteries all round the world, but has an unrivalled knowledge of Kensal Green. He is head guide for the Friends of Kensal Green and one of the trustees. He is also an expert on Victorian literature.

It is a joy to walk round this amazing place with Henry. Not only does he seem to know a great deal about every monument, mausoleum and grave, but he has a story to tell about every individual and family buried there. Many of the stories are very funny indeed.

Meet the cross-dressing doctor - a woman who dressed as a man all her life in order to enter a profession otherwise denied to a person of her gender. Hear about the man who made a fortune as a circus entertainer who could re-enact scenes from history whilst simultaneously riding on 6 horses. Laugh at the man who pushed a wheelbarrow across a tightrope strung over the Grand Canyon. Marvel at the mausoleums of the aristocracy and royalty.

At the same time, many of the stories are tragic and poignant. Every piece of marble, every granite ledger, every obelisk tells its own story of loss.

During this walk, we gain entry to the Grade 1 listed Anglican Chapel, and the catacombs. In this spooky subterranean world Henry describes how the innovative mechanised black catafalque worked, and talks about how bodies are still interred in the catacombs to this very day.

This is the most interesting walk so far. Don't miss it. You can easily reach Kensal Green on the Bakerloo Line, just a few stops north of Paddington. You can also take the 52 bus from Victoria Station, Hyde Park Corner, Kensington, or Notting Hill, alighting at the junction of Ladbroke Grove and the Harrow Road. The Cemetery is 8 minutes walk from the 52 bus stop (turn right and walk west up the Harrow Road to the Top Gate) or 2 minutes from Kensal Green Underground (turn left then immediately left up Harrow Road to the Top gate on your left)

I am sure you will enjoy this walk.


Wed, 9 August 2006

Soho - Sex, Chinatown, Theatreland

A walk through Soho from Goodge Street to Trafalgar Square.

Goodge Street is on the Northern Line (zone 1) and is one stop north of Tottenham Court Road (Central Line) on the Edgware branch.

Today's walk starts in Tottenham Court Road near the famous Heal's department store, on the borders of Fitzrovia and Soho. The name 'Soho' comes from a hunting cry. It harks back to the days when this area consisted of open fields over which the king would ride to hounds.

First occupied by the aristocracy and then by immigrants from Europe and later from the far East, the district retains its ethnic charm with food and drink available from all around the world.

Chinatown is a particular favourite of mine - in Gerard Street we pass literally dozens of restaurants and supermarkets specialising in Chinese food. The Loon Fung supermarket is one I use on a regular basis.

Soho has two famous squares - Soho Square and Golden Square (a corruption of the word 'gelding' rather than the colour gold.)

During our walk, we pass some gems like the Pollock's Toy Museum and Shop. We see a traditional Fruit 'n Veg market. We discover how a local physician Sir John Snow discovered the source of a cholera outbreak that killed 10,000 people, until he traced the infection to one water pump and removed its handle. We pass through Theatreland and Leicester Square, plus Wardour Street and Dean Street, home of cinema production companies big and small.

After spending time in Chinatown, we see the wonderful Royal Opera Arcade, an early shopping mall designed by Nash and finally Trafalgar Square.

The walk ends at Charing Cross Underground (Northern and Bakerloo Lines zone 1).


Thu, 20 July 2006


A walk round Chelsea starting and ending at Sloane Square.

We start by walking along the King's Road past the John Lewis department store known as Peter Jones. This shop is the favourite shopping venue for young Chelsea women (once known as Sloane Rangers) the aristocracy and member of the Royal Family.

From the King's Road we walk through the Royal Hospital, founded in 1862 by Charles II and still the home for the red and blue coated Chelsea Pensioners. You won't find many tourists in its grounds because there is a large guarded security gate, but I show you how to walk in as you have the right of entry. In fact, you will hear me visit the chapel and even pass through the dining room where the men are having lunch.
From here, we walk through the Chelsea Flower Show grounds onto the Embankment where there are views across the River Thames to Battersea and the Buddhist Peace Pagoda built in 1985.

The walk then takes us through the historic district of Old Chelsea. Here we can visit Thomas Carlyle's house, and see the site of the palace owned by Sir Thomas More and Chelsea Manor House built by Henry VIII in 1536. We also pass by Chelsea Old Church and hear how this area was famous for making porcelain until 1784.
The walk then continues along the King's Road, well-known in the 1960's with Carnaby Street as the source of all those wacky military-style fashions and mini-skirts before finishing at Sloane Square, home of the Royal Court Theatre which staged the first production of Osborne's Look Back in Anger in 1956.
Sloane Square Underground is on the District and Circle Lines, Zone 1.

Books referred to in this podcast:
London: A Pilgrimage by Blanchard Jerrold and Gustave Dore with introduction by Peter Ackroyd (Anthem Press ISBN: 1 84331 193 3)
London's Underworld by Thomas Holmes with an introduction by Iain Sinclair (Anthem Press: ISBN 1 84331 219 0)

Thu, 22 June 2006

Bloomsbury and Charles Dickens

A walk round Bloomsbury starting at Tottenham Court Road Underground station (zone 1).

The area from Tottenham Court Road to Holborn is known as Bloomsbury. We start by walking up Tottenham Court Road and turn right into Great Russell Street.

Bedford Square is the most complete Georgian Square in Bloomsbury. We admire the bizarre church of St George, with its pyramidical steeple topped by a statue of George I dressed in a toga.

The walk continues through the British Museum with its amazing new glass roofed Great Court (pictured) and into the old Reading Room. We pass through Senate House  (University of London) towards Tavistock Square and Russell Square.

The medical area of Queen Square and Great Ormond Street come next, leading to Doughty Street and the Dickens House Museum. This is one of many associations with Charles Dickens and his contemporary novelist Anthony Trollope throughout the walk.

We finish at Russell Square Underground (zone 1).

Sun, 28 May 2006


Taking the Docklands Light Railway to Greenwich is an experience in itself. The DLR travels overground through  London's regenerated Docklands, and gives panoramic views of Canary Wharf. The stations have evocative names, like Mudchute, Custom House and Gallions Reach. You can almost smell the tar and hear the boards creak. Plus the trains are driverless, so if you fancy the experience of taking the controls as the trains dive into tunnels and carve their stately progress in and out of cityscapes more reminiscent of Dallas than London, grab the front seats before someone else does.

Our walk starts at Island Gardens (Zone 2). Take the DLR from Bank (Central Line) and when you alight, cross the road and enter the Gardens from where there is a view over the river to the old Royal Naval College. Then cross under the Thames through the Victorian pedestrian tunnel. Scary or what? Not really - there is a lift at both ends (currently the North side lift is closed) and the only peril is avoiding the speeding illegal cyclists.

The steps or lift on the south side emerge into the magnificent view of Cutty Sark. You can visit this clipper, then walk along the river in front of the old Naval College, now home to Greenwich University and the Trinity College of Music.

Turning inland, we enter the park, and climb to the Royal Observatory. Like most of the attractions in Greenwich entrance is free. Don't miss the collection of wooden clocks. These were the first seagoing chronometers accurate enough to solve the problem of calculating longitude. Their invention saved literally thousands of lives.

After seeing all the other buildings in the park, descend to the town centre. Don't miss the Market, which operates on Saturdays but is worth a visit for its shops and quirky signs at other times too. Then there is St Alphege Church and a number of interesting craft, antique, book, and bric a brac shops.

Finally there is the wonderful Goddards pie and mash shop. Order pie with mash and liquor if you dare, and eat on scrubbed board tables with the locals. Wash it down with a bottle of warm beer. Try Bishops Finger.

The walk ends at Cutty Sark DLR (Zone 2).

A great walk. Enjoy it! Take your GPS along if you have one, and check its accuracy as you stand astride the east and west hemispheres.

Sun, 14 May 2006

South Kensington - Albert, Victoria and the museums

The mid Victorian era was a time of keen interest in industry, inventions, science, the arts, music, poetry, commerce and manufacture. Great Britain not only held sway over a third of the world, but let the way in innovation.

The young Queen Victoria fell deeply in love with the German Prince Albert. She relied on his advice and guidance in everything, and never recovered from his untimely death from Typhoid in 1861.

The Prince Consort had a vision for Brompton Fields in South Kensington. He planned a grand avenue. There would be a museum of the arts and sciences, a huge National Gallery, museums of trade, industry and inventions. Learned societies. A concert hall.

The Victoria & Albert Museum was the only building erected in his lifetime, but although what we see now is rather different from what Albert had in mind, we owe the rich heritage of culture to his memory.

Today's walk starts at the Albert Memorial. Take the Underground to High St Kensington (Circle and District Lines Zone 1). Turn right outside the station and walk 0.6 miles along Kensington Gore. You can avoid the noise of the traffic by crossing the road and walking through the Flower Walk in Kensington Gardens.

Walk with me as I describe the Albert Memorial, Royal Albert Hall, Imperial College, Royal College of Art, Royal College of Music, Royal College of Organists, Royal Geographical Society, National Sound Archive and much more.

Links: Science Museum Geological Museum Victoria & Albert Museum

We finish at South Kensington Underground (Circle and District Lines Zone 1).

Sat, 29 April 2006

Let the train take the strain - Mainline Railways

Travelling by Mainline Railways.

Let's suppose you want to visit Bath, Windsor or Hampton Court. Or perhaps you'd like to see York, or Durham? Edinburgh or Liverpool? Why confine yourself to London or rent a car, when Britain's trains are there to take the strain?

They may not be the most modern in Europe, with the exception of the magnificent, fast and comfortable Eurostar from London to Paris, Brussels, Lille and the continental rail network - but standards are improving all the time. All of the suburban trains have been replaced with new rolling stock, and travelling in the South East is now a reliable, clean and comfortable experience. Plus you can use your Oyster or travelcard right out to Zone 6.

Further afield, you will have to take a mainline train - but as I show on this 'walk' it's not hard. Today we take the high speed train to Reading, where we can see this redbrick town 38 miles West of London with its association with Oscar Wilde. On the way, we pass the connection from Slough to Windsor, and the destination of our service is Bath Spa and Bristol.

The journey starts at Paddington Station with its magnificent roof built by the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806 - 1859) The bicententenary of his birth occurred in April 2006. His Great Western Railway is a wonder of engineering, and Paddington is a good place to start. We gasp at the sheer scale of the station as we emerge from the District & Circle Line, or Bakerloo (all Zone 1)

I then take you through how to buy a ticket - you can wait in a queue with me and hear as I make my purchase from the clerk. Then we find our train, and travel to Reading. After a short pause we return to London again.

The same process applies to all mainline railway journeys:

Check your train times and fares with the Network Rail Journey Planner Then travel to the appropriate mainline station and buy your ticket from an automatic machine or the Ticket Office. There are different tickets for some train companies like the Gatwick and Heathrow Expresses, and a variety of fares, so check with the Journey Planner for the cheapest fare. See my Getting to and from London's Airports podcast for the airport trains.

Air fares in Europe and especially the UK are often more affordable for longer journeys, so if you plan to visit Glasgow or Edinburgh, check with the budget airlines before deciding to take the train. Most of all, enjoy the rich heritage and variety of the United Kingdom during your visit!

Wed, 19 April 2006

City Livery Companies - Monument to St Paul's via Bank of England

A walk from The Monument via Old Jewry and the City Livery Companies back via the Bank of England to St Paul's Cathedral.

This is Part 2 of a circular walk from St Paul's Underground (Zone 1 - Central Line)

We start at Monument on the Circle and District Lines Zone 1 but you can also start at Bank (Central Line Zone 1) and walk down King William Street or use the underground subway and escalators.

Our walk takes us from Monument, near the spot where the Great Fire of London broke out in 1666. You can climb the Monument for panoramic views of London. Not as high as the Eye, but heavy on history.

The Great Fire destroyed so much of our heritage and this column topped by a basket of golden flames was erected in sad memory of the event.

We continue past St Mary at Hill church, and under Fenchurch Street mainline station. The remainder of the walk takes us in and out of tiny alley ways.

We see the site of London's first synagogue.

We visit Bevis Marks, London's oldest synagogue and home of the Spanish and Portuguese congregations.

After that, we see many of the old City Livery companies. This is truly 'Secret London' - hard to find, but with my help you will see parts of the City no one else will find.

The Leathersellers Hall. The Drapers Hall. The Carpenters Hall. The Grocers Hall. The Mercers Hall. Finally The Saddlers Hall. Parts of the walk traverse land owned by the Grocers and Drapers, but we are permitted by ancient right to walk past their ornamental gates.

A fascinating insight into the City of London! Don't miss it. You can take either of these walks without doing both, or complete a circular walk from Monument to Monument or St Paul's to St Paul's.


Sun, 9 April 2006

God and Mammon - the City from St Paul's to The Monument

Part 1 of a walk from St Paul's through the City of London to Monument.

Part 2 will return via Old Jewry and the City Livery Companies back via the Bank of England to St Paul's Cathedral.

We start at St Paul's Underground on the Central Line Zone 1. Our walk takes us down Cheapside to the church of St Mary-le-Bow (pictured). Those born within the sound of Bow bells are the true Cockneys.

Next we pass between the church of St Stephen Walbrook and the Mansion House. Both these two churches provide a rich soundscape as we enter.

In Bow church we hear a French Horn with Piano preparing for a concert. In St Stephen's we hear the organ.

From this point, we enter secret London. Without this guide you would be most likely to get hopelessly lost in the narrow alleys and passages which criss cross this part of the financial district.

The next two churches are St Mary Abchurch and St Clement's.

Our walk finishes at The Monument, near the site of the outbreak of the Great Fire of London which destroyed so much of our heritage in 1666.

Monument Underground is on the District & Circle Lines but is joined to Bank and the DLR. From here, you can continue the walk back to St Paul's.

Thu, 30 March 2006

Tower of London to St Paul's by the Thames

More than enough history for anyone on a short riverside walk.

We start at Tower Hill Underground station, on the Circle and District lines and the DLR (Docklands Light Railway). Tower Hill is also close to Fenchurch Street mainline station - Zone 1. Just outside the station is a place with a huge sundial and wonderful views of the Tower of London and the buildings old and new alongside the River Thames.

Crossing under the road we approach the Tower, then walk left and cross Tower Bridge. Check the Tower Bridge website for details of the exhibition and opening times. This website also tells you when the bridge will lift to allow ships into the Pool of London, so you can time your walk and watch the bascules opening.

Our walk continues along the south bank past HMS Belfast - a 2nd World War gunship now open as a museum. We then pass through Hays Galleria converted from an old wharf and pass the London Dungeon and the Britain at War Experience. Mediaeval Horror in the Capital! Great for kids, but very busy so book ahead if you want to be horrified.

We then pass by Southwark Cathedral and the Golden Hinde in St Mary Overie dock. Another horror is the Clink, one of London's oldest prisons and open to visitors. Finally we pass Shakespeare's Globe, a must-see both as a tour but also because you will never see authentic Shakespeare anywhere else - buy a groundling ticket if you can stand throughout a performance, and become part of the action. We cross the river by the Tate Modern - an art gallery converted from the old Bankside Power Station - using the Millennium Bridge. Wobbly it was when it was opened, but now sadly stable. Still, it has great views of the River Thames.

Just at the end of the bridge is the fabulous Salvation Army International Headquarters - check out the restaurant and cafe in the lower ground level for some good value snacks in an environment that could not be further from a soup kitchen.

Our walk ends by St Paul's Cathedral. St Paul's is on the Central Line.

Sat, 18 March 2006

City of London - West of St Paul's Cathedral

This walk starts from St Paul's Underground Station on the Central Line Zone 1. The Central Line is one of the most useful, joining West and East London in one long continuous fast route.

Leaving the Tube, we pass Sir Christopher Wren's masterpiece, St Paul's Cathedral. This domed building is the cathedral church of the Anglican diocese of London. It has recently been cleaned and restored, and is now looking at its best. St Paul's has memories for me - I was ordained here in the year 2003.

Passing through the newly rebuilt Paternoster Square our walk takes us past Stationers Hall and up the Old Bailey, home of London's Central Criminal Courts. We then turn along Holborn Viaduct and descend to the road below. Farringdon Street marks the course of the old Fleet River below.

We pass through fascinating parts of the old City and into Gough Square where Dr Johnson's house is preserved. Writer of the famous Dictionary you can even see a bronze of his pet cat in the tiny square opposite Johnson's house.

Thence we enter Fleet Street, erstwhile base of many national newspapers until the showdown between printing trades unions and proprietors such as Rupert Murdoch, and the death of hot metal with the rise of direct input into publishing programs on computer. Most of the newspapers moved to the East End and vacated Fleet Street for good.

We leave Fleet Street by St Bride's Church, pass the Black friar, Apothecaries Hall and the church of St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe. This part of London is rich in history. I try and give a flavour of its origins during the walk.

Finally we return to St Paul's Cathedral via Queen Victoria Street and the ancient College of Arms. This time we pass to the East of St Paul's and return to our starting point at St Paul's Underground.

Mon, 6 March 2006

Getting to and from London's Airports

London has several airports. Most international travellers will arrive at either Heathrow or Gatwick, but there are several others. Heathrow is the largest, and is located about 25 minutes to the West of London. Gatwick is almost as big. It is further away from the capital, but can be reached in around 30 minutes by train. Gatwick is in the countryside to the South of London.

In this podcast, I describe the various ways of getting to and from Heathrow and Gatwick. What are the choices? How long does it take? How easy is it? What are the best tickets to buy?

I also tell you what you won't find in most guide books. How do the locals travel to and from the airports. What are the tips and tricks only the locals know. What is the up-to-date effect on travel of the construction of Terminal 5 at Heathrow? How will the changes to the Gatwick express affect travel to and from the South, and how do most Londoners save almost half the price of the Gatwick Express ticket, avoid the crowds and arrive only 5 minutes after those who have paid full price?

I then describe how to get to the other airports, used by the low-cost budget airlines. Whilst in London, you can nip over to Paris, Brussels, or Lille for example and spend all day there for less than $100 US. But for a very much lower price, you could have lunch in Rome, or Barcelona, or many other places in continental Europe. To do this, you will need to be able to know how to find the cheapest tickets, and get to and from the lesser-known airports. Just like the locals do.

Fri, 24 February 2006

Hyde Park Corner to Kensington

London's greatest walk - part 3.

All these three walks are good in their own right, and each is different. This final part goes from Hyde Park Corner to Kensington High Street. We start at Hyde Park Corner Underground (Piccadilly Line Zone 1) and look at the Wellington Arch.

This is situated in the middle of one of London's busiest roundabouts, where you can also see memorials to those who lost their lives from the Australian and New Zealand forces in both world wars, and the memorial to the Royal Artillery Regiment.

Leaving the noise of the traffic behind, we enter the park and walk beside Rotten Row and the rose gardens, after admiring a naughty statue erected by Victorian ladies and a new gate in memory of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

We then walk beside the Serpentine, where I am mobbed by birds. Next comes the Lido where every day of the year hardy folk swim in the lake. beyond is the new Diana fountain and the Serpentine Gallery.

We then glimpse the Albert Memorial, the Royal Albert Hall and the Round Pond before arriving at Kensington Palace, previously home of Princess Diana of Wales.

Finally we pass behind St Mary Abbots church and finish our walk at Kensington High Street Underground (District and Circle Lines - Zone 1)

So there we have it. Three wonderful walks. A combined length of 5.75 miles. Great variety with lots to see throughout its length. Most of the walks are away from the traffic. I hope you enjoyed London's Greatest Walk - in my humble opinion, of course.

Mon, 13 February 2006

St James's - Westminster to Hyde Park

London's greatest walk - part 2.

We start near Big Ben, leaving Westminster Underground (Jubilee, Circle and District lines - zone 1) via exit 4. As we look towards Parliament Square, we hear Big Ben strike 11 o'clock on a bright, sunny but cold day. Our walk starts at the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey and Parliament Square and proceeds down Whitehall towards the Cenotaph. From here you can go a little further and see Downing Street.

After going down between the Foreign Office and the Treasury, we pass the Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum and into St James's Park. Then up Cockpit steps into a little known Queen Anne street, where almost every house is connected with politicians in the past, such as Lord Palmerston and Viscount Grey.

Back then into St James's and across the water where we get a fine view of Buckingham Palace to the West and the London Eye to the East, framing government buildings like a giant halo.

We then pass St James's Palace and Clarence House before entering Green Park. Here we see the memorial to the Canadian dead from the world wars, and then a new gate opened in 2002 and dedicated to those who lost their lives fighting in both world wars from the Indian sub-continent, Nepal, and the Caribbean.

We end at Hyde Park Corner, crossing to the Wellington Arch and Hyde Park Corner Underground (Piccadilly Line zone 1) on what must be one of the only horse-crossings to be found anywhere in the world.

Mon, 6 February 2006

South Bank - London Bridge to Westminster

London's greatest walk - part 1.

This is the first of three walks, each of about an hour. The first walk starts at London Bridge Underground, zone 1, on the Northern and Jubilee Lines. Exit the station at the Tooley Street - Duke Street Hill exit. Cross the road by the pedestrian crossing to the art deco St Olaf's House and turn left towards Southwark Cathedral. The Southwark web site has a great deal of information about the building and its association with Shakespeare. We pause in the cathedral for a few minutes before joining the River Thames walkway past Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.

The walk continues along the south bank past Bankside Gallery, Tate Modern, Doggett's Coat and Badge pub and several others with historical associations, to the South Bank arts centre - the Royal National Theatre, National Film Theatre, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Hayward Gallery and the Royal Festival Hall.

We get a good view of St Paul's Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge - known as the Wobbly Bridge by Londoners because of the 'lozenge-style oscillation' which forced its closure for damping soon after it was built. We go under several other landmark bridges and hear about their origins. We see Blackfriars, King's College London, the Inns of Court especially Middle and Inner Temples with the Temple Church and its link with Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code.

Then there is Somerset House, Savoy Hotel, Ministry of Defence and the Victoria Embankment.

The walk continues past County Hall and the London Eye to Westminster Bridge, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Scotland Yard.

This part of the walk ends at Westminster Underground station on the Jubilee Line - a station of truly cathedral proportions, which is worth a visit in its own right.

Tue, 31 January 2006

A Walk Underground

The weather is still cold and windy here in London. Too windy for a long walk, but bright and sunny. When the wind drops, I shall record my favourite walk - the best walk in London.

If you have limited time, or if you do nothing else during your visit, take this walk. It is 5.75 miles, from Kensington to Southwark or London Bridge, via Kensington Palace, Hyde Park, Green Park, St James's, Westminster and the South Bank.

In the meantime, following up on last week's visitor's guide to getting around London by public transport, here's a walk Underground.

We travel on the London Underground along the Central Line from Notting Hill Gate to Bond Street.

We change at Bond Street onto the Jubilee Line, London's newest, with its amazing award-winning architecture and comfortable trains.

See the live departure boards for the Jubilee Line.

We alight at London Bridge near Southwark Cathedral and the River Thames.

Fri, 27 January 2006

Getting around London by public transport

Getting around London

London is a big place and has a wonderful transport system, but it's the victim of its own success. It can be crowded, and there are parts which have suffered from underinvestment over the years, but most of it is good and generally very safe.

As a visitor, I will assume you will not be using a car. Parking is expensive (around $4 US per hour in the central area) and the congestion charge is $14 US per day which must be paid when you drive in the inner part of central London.

So the choice comes down to taxi, bus, Underground (known as the Tube by Londoners), train, and of course foot. When Londoners talk about trains, they generally mean suburban routes, or the 'Overground.' There are many different train companies, but the differences need not concern you if you only want to travel in the Greater London area.

National Rail is the name of the long-distance trains. They leave from the same termini such as Paddington, King's Cross, Euston and so on, but I won't be covering them in this podcast.

London is divided into zones. You can see the concentric zones by consulting the London Connections map. Heathrow airport is in zone 6, which is the outermost zone in the London area. Gatwick airport is outside the London zoned area. If you want to travel within zone 1, life is easy. If you want to travel within zones 1 - 6, life is also easy because you can use almost all forms of public transport on the same ticket, but you do need to know which zone your destination is in, if you are to pay the correct price.

The London Journey Planner comes in handy here. Just type in your departure and arrival points, and it will calculate the best route for you.

How then do you decide which form of transport is best?

For short journeys, you should walk. London is a great place for wandering about. You see more that way. The ancient road pattern and lack of any logical grid means you should buy a map, and most Londoners use the A-Z (pronounced A-to-Zed). You can buy a small book in any bookshop or stationer, or pretty much anywhere else too.

For slightly longer trips, the choice is between taxi, bus and Tube.

Taxis are expensive but reliable and clean. You may prefer to use them at night, or in bad weather. Drivers know every street in London - they take a test called 'The Knowledge' which generally involves more than 2 years practical study. You can see trainee drivers on small motorcycles with clipboards mounted on the handlebars, as they learn the routes by heart. Generally the more people travelling together, the more affordable the taxi will be. Cab drivers are closely regulated by the Metropolitan Police Carriage Office. Fares are clearly displayed along with the licence, and the meter shows the price. It is customary to add a 10% tip. Sometimes cab drivers will offer to take you to Heathrow airport for a fixed price, but bartering is not otherwise expected, and you just pay when is on the meter. All taxis are capable of transporting a wheelchair, and you should find drivers friendly and helpful. Some places in London are not well served by the Tube - Chelsea is one example - and here a taxi might be a better alternative than any other form of public transport. To 'hail' a taxi, wait on a busy street and put your arm out when you see a cab with its yellow light illuminated.

The choice between bus and Tube generally comes down to the route, and perhaps the time of year. Tube is easier for most visitors. Work out your route, change where necessary, and you should arrive at your chosen destination. Buses are frequent and better in hot weather as the Tube lacks air conditioning, but finding the stop and working out your route can be daunting. If you know the bus number and do not need to change buses to reach your destination, I recommend using the bus for shorter journeys of 20 minutes or so. Buses are much cheaper for single journeys than Tubes, and you can buy an all-day pass from ticket machines at central area bus stops for a very low price.

You should normally ensure you have a ticket before boarding a bus, but drivers will accept fares in coinage if there is no machine by the stop. Most people use Oyster cards in London, but visitors will find Travelcards more convenient for stays of a week or less. You buy your Travelcard at Underground stations. The fares leaflet looks daunting and is, but all you need concern yourself with is the zone and the time. For example, a one-day Travelcard for zone 1 costs £6.20 but if you buy it after 9.30 am the price is only £4.90. This covers travel on buses and Tubes in the whole of zone 1. At the other end of the scale, a card for zones 1 - 6 costs £12.40 peak and £6.30 off-peak. be careful not to buy a zones 2-6 card, because you are likely to pass through zone 1 on your travels, and so a card including zone 1 is essential. When your Travelcard includes the outer zones 2-6, all trains are included in the price. This means you can take a suburban train to the outer limits of the zone of your card's validity.

For example, if you arrive at Heathrow, purchase a zones 1-6 Travelcard at the airport and you have the freedom of London for the duration of your card. Note: the Underground station serving Terminal 4 is closed whilst Terminal 5 is under construction - if you travel into London (Paddington) on the Heathrow Express, this is not included in the Travelcard system and your ticket must be bought separately.

Your Travelcard should be placed face up (magnetic strip downwards) on the right side of a Tube gate which shows a green entry arrow. Exit gates have a large red cross on the right. Don't forget to remove your ticket from the slot in the top of the gate - the gate will not open until you do so. This goes for the expensive single-journey tickets too - but these are now so pricey that you are unlikely to want to pay £3 for one journey unless you have to.

Once through the gates, just follow signs to the line you want - the different directions will be market westbound, eastbound, northbound and southbound. Some of these are not entirely clear, especially on the Circle Line, so memorising the name of the station at the end of the lines will help. On the platform, look for the large maps on the other side of the track. This shows the Tube stops. The next 3 trains are shown on a dot matrix sign, with the intervals in minutes before the train is due.

Buses are easier, and now many stops have ticket machines and dot matrix displays. The times are not as accurate as the Tube because of the heavy traffic in central London. If you have a Travelcard, just show it to the driver as you enter the front door of the bus and alight from the centre doors at your destination. White bus stops are 'compulsory' and red bus stops 'on request.' That is the theory, but in practice it is best to put your arm out when your bus appears to indicate to the driver to pick you up. When you want to alight, push the bell located on most upright bars. The illuminated sign by the driver will say 'Stopping' to indicate to the hard of hearing that a request to stop has been given.

You enter a bus through the front doors and exit through the rear doors. All public transport is non-smoking. The upper deck of buses offers a panoramic view of the streets as you travel to your destination.

Finally a few tips from experience. Follow 'Tube etiquette'. You must stand on the right of the escalators to allow people to pass on the left. Stand back behind the yellow line on Tube platforms - they can be crowded. Stand aside to allow passengers to alight from the trains before you enter. The seats nearest the doors are marked with orange signs to indicate they are for use by less-abled passengers.

Most bus routes are high frequency, but you can check the timetable and destinations by consulting the notices on bus stops. There are a few of the old Routemaster buses left on the streets of London, but only on 'heritage' routes: the Routemaster was withdrawn from regular service at the end of 2005.

Wed, 25 January 2006

Notting Hill and Portobello

This walk starts at Holland Park station on the Central Line (Zone 2) or Notting Hill Gate on the Central, Circle and District lines (Zones 1 and 2). We visit many different parts of elegant Notting Hill.

It was not always so: we see London's squalid past - the Piggeries with it's slums occupied by animals and people, and vast areas of stinking slurry - also the clay pits known as the Potteries. We even find an old bottle kiln remaining hidden near Pottery Lane.

The church of St James Norlands is on the route, whose architect lived locally. The architect's son was watch and clockmaker to His Majesty. Next we climb to the top of Ladbroke Grove and the church of St John the Evangelist, built in 1845 on the site of the grandstand of the Hippodrome race course. You can still see the size and shape of the horse track from the modern day road pattern.

At Clarendon Cross we see more lovely shops, including the Temple Gallery selling beautiful old icons.

After St Peter's Church the famous Portobello Road market. We walk the length of Portobello Road, with its antique shops and affordable bric a brac in the south, to the local market from fruit and vegetables, meat, fish and household goods in the north, and see the location of the movie Notting Hill starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant.

At the historic Electric Cinema you can watch eclectic films from the comfort of an armchair.

The walk finishes at Westbourne Park Underground station, or a 328 or 31 bus back to Notting Hill Gate.

This is a wonderfully varied walk, lasting just over an hour. The MP3 file runs for 53 minutes with pauses - but you will want to stop it and look around at all there is to see in this wonderful part of London. Some of the places are rarely visited by tourists, so download to your iPod and I'll accompany you around an area I know well.

Wed, 25 January 2006

Holland Park - A walk through the Park

Take a short walk with me to see the hidden gem which is Holland Park. This park is mainly frequented by the locals, and for good reason. Other London parks are wide open spaces. Holland Park is different. It is wooded, with paths and a variety of different types of space.

See the Kyoto Japanese Garden. Exhibition spaces in the Orangery and the Ice House. A top-class restaurant called the Belvedere. Holland House and the Youth Hostel. Open air opera.

We also visit Melbury Road - an artists colony in Victorian times and home to the Leighton House museum.

This walk should take less than one hour. There are no lengthy pauses on the sound file, when you switch off your MP3 player and explore on your own. The only part is where there is an option to enter a museum. Other than that, you can comfortably complete the walk in the time stated.

It's also an easy walk, mostly away from roads and traffic, with interesting things to admire all along the way.