Where is it?
Old Kent Road, the first stop on the Monopoly board and the cheapest property is in south east London, and cuts diagonally from Southwark (just south of Tower Bridge) in a straight line of just over two miles to New Cross.
It is also the only square on the London Monopoly board south of the river Thames.
What’s the story?
As the name suggests, the Old Kent Road was an ancient road used by the Romans and formed part of the famous Watling Street which ran from Dover to Holyhead. Geoffrey Chaucer’s pilgrims travelled down the road on their way to Canterbury in ‘The Canterbury Tales’, written in the late 14th century.
This once rural thoroughfare, was by the late 19th and early 20th century a mix of housing and industry, including gas works. Much of the surrounding area was heavily bombed during WWII and the old terraces were replaced with high rise council estates and new industrial developments.
How do I get there?
I live not far from Old Kent Road, so can safely say, that as a tourist it’s reasonably unlikely you’d be wanting to go there. However, the nearest stations are Elephant and Castle to the west and New Cross Gate to the east. Having said that, there’s loads of developments afoot and a couple of new stations will be popping up along the road as part of the Bakerloo Line extension which will run to Lewisham. So you never know, in twenty or thirty years, maybe it will be a tourist destination.
What’s it like now?
A not particularly pleasant road, choked with traffic and lined with high rise flats, big stores and depots.
Where would I stay?
You’re probably better off staying around London Bridge, although if you’re into Air BnB’s and fancy staying somewhere less central, then Peckham is a vibrant area, just south of Old Kent Road.
What’s of interest?
On the Old Kent Road itself …not much. South London does actually boast the greenest space of anywhere in London and there are lovely places to visit, but in keeping with the Monopoly board theme, you could wander around Burgess Park. Seeing as this is the only spot included on the board south of the river, I’ll mention a few places around London Bridge for starters.
Bankside and Borough
A big draw is the famous food market, Borough Market, which has also doubled up as film locations for the Bridget Jones films and Harry Potter. Southwark cathedral is a wonderful cathedral that often gets usurped by St Paul’s cathedral and Westminster Abbey. You’ve got the Golden Hinde; a replica of Francis Drake’s ship that circumnavigated the world in 1577, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern. You should also definitely stop off for a drink at the George Inn, the only surviving galleried coaching inn in London, which dates back to 1676. If you’re interested in medical history, then the Old Operating Theatre is a must. I do lots of tours around this area, so can show you around, should you so wish.
If you’re interested in military history then you should definitely visit the Imperial War Museum.
In recent years, Bermondsey Street (in between London Bridge and Tower Bridge) has become trendified beyond recognition with a host of restaurants, gastro pubs and coffee shops. For a cultural hit you’ve got the White Cube Gallery and the Fashion and Textile museum and whilst you’re there I highly recommend popping in to Peter Leyton: London Glassblowing and watching some expert glassblowers in action. For foodies, you should definitely seek out Maltby Street Market.
Down by the river you can visit the HMS Belfast, a WWII war ship used during D-Day in 1944 or if you have kids and fancy some theatre, then I can highly recommend, the Unicorn Theatre which just does shows for kids.
The River Thames
I realise that people visiting London for a short period are unlikely to do this, but I always recommend a wander along the river Thames. You can uncover so much. I should know, I’ve walked the entire length of it. Tower Bridge is one of the most iconic sights in London, but many people don’t realise that the entire structure is a museum. From there you can walk through Shad Thames; 19th century warehouses turned in to apartments. You’ll pass the Brunel Museum which housed the Engine Room for Marc Isambard Brunel’s Thames Tunnel, finished in 1843, the first tunnel to be built beneath a navigable river and the historic area of Rotherhithe which is lovely and of particular interest to Americans with a connection to the Mayflower as it collected 65 people from here. The pub of the same name is lovely and well worth a visit.
Further to the east is Greenwich, which you can get to by boat from central London if you’d rather not take the train. It’s a lovely area which includes the Cutty Sark, the Old Royal Naval College and its Painted Hall, the Maritime Museum, the Royal Observatory, the Fan Museum, Greenwich Park and loads of other things.
And finally, if for whatever reason you are actually looking for Old Kent Road, do say 'THE Old Kent Road' making sure you use the prefix 'the'. No one in London calls it 'Old Kent Road'.
PLEASE NOTE - There are obviously far more places of interest in south London including museums and galleries, but as Old Kent Road is literally the only road in the whole of south London included on the Monopoly board, it's a bit limiting, so have stuck to more instantly tourist friendly suggestions.
Also in the series:
#00 - An introduction
Since I began Bowl Of Chalk London walking tours five and a half years ago I have continued to offer three set walks each weekend which operate on a 'pay what you want' basis. Each walk generally lasts about 2.5 / 3 hours. They are as follows:
Saturday morning - Trafalgar Square to St Paul's cathedral.
This walk begins in the tourist hot spot of Trafalgar Square, taking in the square itself, Nelson's Column and the National Gallery building. Although we don't venture around the 'sights' of Westminster, Big Ben is visible at the bottom of Whitehall. After visiting the statue of Charles I next to the official centre of London, we have of late, passed Benjamin Franklin's House, threaded our way through Victoria Embankment Gardens and up in to the bustling Covent Garden and St Paul's, the Actors' church. From here we make our way around Aldwych, passing the church of St Clement Danes and the Royal Courts of Justice, in to the City of London via Fleet Street. We usually veer off through the maze of alleyways that brings us to Dr Johnson's House, the famous statue of his beloved cat, Hodge and past the famous Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub. Back on Fleet Street, we pass the church of St Bride's, and up towards St Paul's cathedral.
Saturday Afternoon - St Paul's to Monument (via Bankside & Borough)
This walk begins by St Paul's cathedral, through the churchyard and on to the Millennium Bridge, taking us over the River Thames towards the Tate Modern on the south side. Here we pass by Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, the site of the original Elizabethan Theatre which opened on Bankside in 1599, and along to the usually heaving Borough Market. We usually pop in to the 17th century George Inn on Borough High Street before heading up on to London Bridge, which offers a great view of the iconic Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and the H.M.S Belfast before finishing at the Monument, commemorating the Great Fire of London, 1666.
Sunday - East London
The Sunday walk is very street art heavy, but does include historical elements. We often begin near Old Street, including Bunhill Fields Cemetery, where the likes of Daniel Defoe, William Blake and John Bunyan are buried. We pass the Wesleyan Chapel on City Road before heading in towards Shoreditch, which although is now a plethora of cafes, boutique shops and clubs, was in the 19th century, the centre of London's furniture trade. We usually stop off at Arnold Circus, the UK's first ever council estate, then bypassing the incredibly busy Brick Lane make our way towards Spitalfields with its fascinating Huguenot, Jewish and Bangladeshi heritage. Obviously the street art changes pretty regularly, but I tend (as with all my tours) to talk about things that interest me, and street art is no different. I'll undoubtedly point out and talk about Banksy, Ben Wilson (the chewing gum man), Christiaan Nagel, Bambi, Roa, Jimmy C and Thierry Noir ... amongst others.
If you're in London one weekend and think that one of these walks might appeal (or fit in with your schedule) then please send me a message via the contact form. You won't actually know where we're meeting until I send you all the details confirming the walk and how many places you'd like to book. I do this so I can keep an eye on numbers. Please don't try just turning up. You'll see from the photos that it could be just you, two people, four, eight or more. Unless someone books loads of people at once, it probably won't be that big a group.
Please check the dates on the website homepage to make sure the walk you'd like to join is running, as although it is pretty continuous, there are occasional changes.
May is almost upon us, so I thought I'd share with you a few of the Private weekday walks I've done for people in April, all very different, but equally enjoyable.
East London walk
First up is father and son duo, Paul and Sam who came on an exploration of east London. Paul was pretty familiar with London (they live near Basingstoke), so wanted to see an area he hadn't visited. It's true, Shoreditch, Hoxton, Spitalfields and Old Street isn't necessarily on every tourists 'must see' list of things to do on their visit to London, but it's brimming with history, fascinating characters and a healthy dose of street art which for me is now as much a part of the fabric of the area as anything else. Here they are standing in front of street artist Eine's 'Scary' bridge on Rivington Street.
All Day London Extravaganza
I met Lindsay and her mum at their hotel in St James's, Piccadilly and we set off through the sleet and the snow for what I call an 'all day extravaganza'. I started by introducing them to the area around their hotel which is full of shops that have for centuries provided all sorts of goods to the Royal family, including Fortum and Mason, Lock & Co, Paxton & Whitfield and Floris to name but a few, then passed by Buckingham Palace on a way to Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. During the day, and despite the weather they saw loads of London, and we even took the underground, popping out by the Tower of London and worked our way back through the City to finish at St Paul's cathedral. Here they are outside the Houses of Parliament.
City of London - Churches
One rather wet Friday morning I did a special City of London churches walk for Peter and his family. As the City and its churches were rebuilt after the 'great' fire of 1666, it made sense to me to start at Monument, where the fire began. The first church to burn down, St Margaret on Fish Street Hill is now where the Monument stands, so the first church we visited was St Magnus Martyr and I think in one morning, we managed to visit or pass by ten churches, which wasn't bad for one morning, including All Hallows by the Tower, Samuel Pepys church, St Olave's and St Stephen Walbrook. Here they are standing in the ruins of St Dunstan in the east.
The City, Bankside & Southwark
On a slightly more clement day, I met a group which included a tiny three month old baby and a dog called Hendricks by St Paul's cathedral, starting at Temple Bar gate and took them over to Bankside, home of Elizabethan theatre, where the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre currently stands and explored the area just south of London Bridge. Here they all are outside Borough Market.
East London - Evening post-work wander
Last Friday, Andrew who had come on one of my Saturday morning walks had asked if I'd do a walk around east London for him and his colleagues. We obviously made sure there was a pub stop and I deposited them back at Spitalfields in time for dinner. Here they are standing in front of Australian street artist Jimmy C's portrait of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, which arrived in good time for last years Olympics.
If you are interested in booking a 'Private Walk' around London, whether it be just for you, your family or with colleagues, then please let me know via the Contact Form and we'll see what we can do.
On Saturday morning I met Kate and Dave for the walk from Trafalgar Square to St Paul's. It was actually Kate's second walk with me, having already been on the east end walk. As they were both Optometrists, I was keen to take them to see the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers, who reside within Apothecaries' Hall, but unfortunately it was closed. However, we did manage to nip in to Inner and Middle Temple to see the amazing 12th Century Temple Church.
In the afternoon, I met Jay and Angel (Angelique) who came for a wander from St Paul's to the Monument. Here they are outside the Anchor Pub on Bankside. They've currently got some measurements on the floor showing you the distances jumped by both the Olympic and Paralympic Long Jump record holders, so it's quite fun watching people trying to see how far they can jump. You can also see the Shard rising up in the background.
On Sunday I met Anne Marie and Vincent, who had come to have a look around the east end from Germany, via France. Here they are standing in front of one of street artist Eine's shop front letters. You'll see these everywhere around Shoreditch, Hoxton and Old street.
Thanks to everyone who came on walks last weekend.
Most Australian - Dave
Most Mauritian - Angel
Best Moustache - No Winners
Most Multi Lingual - Anne Marie & Vincent
Repeat Offender - Kate
Weekend Roundup - 21st/22nd April '12
I'm being particularly quick out of the blocks this weekend, rounding up the two London walks that took place, and the weekend hasn't even finished yet. There's not even a marathon runner in sight.
St Paul's to Monument
For Saturday afternoon's walk I was joined by a group of five people near to St Paul's cathedral. As it had rained on and off (more on than off) for the whole week, I had braced myself for a similar fate this weekend, but by a stroke of luck, we were blessed with sunshine and only a smattering of clouds on both walks.
Incase you are unaware, the Saturday afternoon walk takes in the area around St Paul's, a quick stroll over the Millennium Bridge to Bankside, then a stop off at Borough Market, followed by a mooch around Southwark before heading back over London Bridge to finish at the Monument. Here are Genia, Janki, Tamsin and Duncan standing beside the Thames, between the Tate Modern (currently showing the Damien Hirst retrospective) and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, with Christopher Wren's masterpiece, St Paul's cathedral in the background.
But you said there were five in the group? I hear you say. Indeed I did. There was also Rowan, but he decided he'd rather not be in the photo, which is fair enough. I don't much like being in photos myself.
I should also mention that over the next six weeks, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre have organised an incredibly ambitious and exciting event, whereby all thirty seven of Shakespeare's known plays are being staged in thirty seven different languages by theatre companies from all over the globe ... literally. Not surprisingly they have called this international Shakespeare extravaganza Globe To Globe. Two of the organisers have even come on a Bowl Of Chalk walk with me in recent months, and although they haven't asked me to mention it (they seem to be marketing it quite well themselves) I'd heartily recommend checking it out.
My neck of the woods - Sunday east end wander
Sunday morning was another sunny window in an otherwise predominantly grey week, and I was joined by a suitably robust group of nine people ready to explore the east end, including Della and Elise who had come on the Saturday afternoon walk the previous week. The following photo might not excite too many people, but a few weeks ago, I discovered that in 'my neck of the woods' there lies what is apparently the only stretch of a wood paved street in London. It looks like this.
I know it's not the most exciting photo I've ever taken, but wooden paving was the work of those industrious Victorians, as it dampened the sound of metal rimmed wheels that normally clattered over cobble stones. It's easy to forget just how noisy they would have been.
Anyway, enough about wooden streets. Here are Sunday's group in Hoxton Square. They were a pretty international bunch, hailing from America, Australia, Serbia and two people who were so well travelled they couldn't quite remember where they were from, although Tamara said that if pushed, she'd say Denmark. There were a couple of English people as well, just for good measure.
I hope I have everyone's name correct, but from left to right, they are Elise, Anja, Della, Gary, Tamara, Regina, Melinda, Amy and Ed. A few of the group took the opportunity to buy some flowers from Columbia Road Flower Market, which let's face it, is quite a good place to buy flowers, and then we wandered past the top end of Brick Lane, eventually ending up in the heart of Spitalfields.
Thanks to everyone who joined me this weekend for the walks. I really enjoyed it.
Oldest friend from home - Duncan (came down from Cambridge - thanks Dunc)
Repeat Offenders - Della and Elise
Longest hysterical laughing fit - Tamsin
Best moustache - No winners
Most prolonged hat wearers - Ed and Gary (joint winners)
Most digital savvy walk digitiser using digital technology - Tamara
Most Serbian - Anja
Most strikingly similar coats in both style and colour - Genia and Janki
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.