Last week marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War and you'll find that some of London's most iconic landmarks, as well as museums, churches and organisations are all remembering 'The Glorious Dead' as is inscribed on the Cenotaph in Whitehall.
If you visit the Tower of London in the next couple of months you can watch volunteers placing red ceramic poppies in to the dry moat that surrounds the historic building. In case you're unaware, the poppy was one of the only plants to grow on the battlefields of northern France and Flanders after the ground had been ravaged by conflict. In those fields, unimaginable numbers of soldiers lay buried beneath where the poppies grew after the war had ended, and are still found by farmers to this day. The red poppy has become a memorial symbol to the fallen. The incredibly powerful and poignant installation at the Tower of London is called 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red', created by ceramic artist Paul Cumming and stage designer Tom Piper.
I took some photos last week of the work in progress, but by the time the whole piece is finished in November, 888,246 poppies will have been added; each one representing a British or Colonial soldier who died during the First World War. It will be quite a sight. Each ceramic poppy can be purchased for £25, the proceeds of which will be spread amongst the six service charities.
St Paul's cathedral, another of London's famous landmarks has chosen to mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War in a very different way. On display, in the cathedral until 2018, mirroring the duration of the Great War, is an altar frontal. Many of the men who returned from the battlefields, did so with terrible wounds and afflictions; scarred by the experiences in the trenches. One of the many forms of rehabilitation was embroidery, as it involved a steady hand and concentration which men suffering from 'shell shock' invariably lacked. 138 men from the UK, Australia, South Africa and Canada who were recovering in a number of different hospitals all contributed small sections of embroidery to form what became the St Paul's cathedral altar frontal. 'Lest We Forget', the title given to the display can be seen at the cathedral over the next four years, and on the St Paul's cathedral website, you can find information about each of the remarkable men that contributed.
Also, having been closed for most of the year, the Imperial War Museum in south London has just reopened along with their new First World War galleries, telling the story of the war through the lives of those that experienced it, both on the front line and at home, so if you are visiting and have an interest in this particular period of history, you should perhaps add it to your itinerary.
In case you are unaware, aside from my regular 'pay what you want' weekend guided walks in London, I also do 'private walks' during the week for families, couples, individuals or work outings. They're all different, and all tailored to whatever each particular group is interested in. I do a lot of walks for people on holiday (or vacation if you're American) taking in many of London's well known sights, or sometimes people are keen to explore somewhere a bit more off the beaten path. Here are some of these walks that I did in July.
I began the month doing a walk with Pam and her son from the States, who were joined by a couple of friends visiting from Cambridge. You can see them siting on one of the fountains in Trafalgar Square. I met Bruce & Sue from Australia at their hotel in Bethnal Green and we explored around east London. They're standing in front of a piece of street art by fellow Australian, Jimmy C. A guy called Kit, who came on one of my walks ages ago, contacted me about doing a walk for him and his colleagues, so I met them at their office and we did around the surrounding area, which was basically Fleet Street. Finally, I met Vibudh who was on a stop over at Heathrow airport en route from Canada where he lives to visit family in India. He's standing in front of Canada Gate outside Buckingham Palace.
Top left is Joe and his family outside St James's Palace, followed by Carlos and his family, who like Vibudh had a few hours to spare at Heathrow. They got the tube in to central London and we did a quick whizz around the sights of Westminster. Here they are with two of London's iconic structures; the red telephone box and Big Ben. Tara, John & Isabella can be seen just outside St James's Palace and finally, Andrea and her two kids in front of the 'Women of World War II memorial on Whitehall.
Top left, we have Anne and her family in Covent Garden and then Valerie and family with the Tate Modern in the background. Bottom left is Margaret and her family in Whitehall Gardens and finally Pawnee & Brad standing outside their hotel, the Courthouse in Soho, which as the name suggests, did used to be a court house and was where Oscar took the Marquess of Queensbury to court on criminal libel charges in 1895, and in more recent history saw Mick Jagger and Keith Richards fined for drugs charges. Another iconic 60s musician, John Lennon was taken to court there for exhibiting apparently risque images at a London art gallery.
Top left we have Jules, Marcia and their grand daughter outside Buckingham Palace and Mike & Gina and their two sons next to the Jewel Tower in Westminster. I did a walk around east London with two brothers Tom & Ted and finally, a Westminster based walk with New Zealander's Sue & Gavin. Sue's parents met working in Bomber Command during World War II, so I took the photo of them in front of the Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park.
So, to conclude July's walks, I did an east London walk with Scott, Arlene and Hannah who are standing in Spitalfields with Hawksmoor's Christchurch in Spitalfields in the distance. Next up is Lisa and family in St James's Park. Bottom left is a whole bunch of people from CAFOD. It's the second summer in a row I've done a walk with them, and this year we split the day up in to two sections, exploring around the City of London in the morning and east London in the afternoon. They're standing in front of 30 St Mary Axe, otherwise known as 'The Gherkin'. Last Thursday I did a walk with Alexis & Adam, visiting from the States for a wedding. I took their photo on the Southbank, shortly before they went on the London Eye.
So, there you have it. There's still plenty of availability in August and September, so if you're visiting London and would like me to show you around, then please get in touch.
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.