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.
The funny thing about doing my regular weekend guided walks in London is that there's no knowing how much interest there'll be. Last weekend was a great example of this, as on Saturday morning I only had one person booked, but she decided not to come, as it was just her. On Saturday afternoon there were nine people, and on Sunday morning for the east London walk, there were seventeen, which I think was the biggest group of the year so far.
So, here are the Saturday afternoon group at Borough Market, which on Saturdays gets pretty busy with people descending on the 1000 year old food market, which began life on the old London Bridge and has occupied its current site since 1755.
The group on Sunday morning was a truly international affair, including people from Germany, New York, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Italy, South Africa, Boston and even the Lake District and Lichfield. Here they all are on Rivington Street in Shoreditch, which is festooned with artwork by street artists such as Ben Wilson, Banksy, Eine and Christiaan Nagel to name but a few.
However, there's far more to Shoreditch than just street art ... including Elizabethan theatre, Victorian power stations, Columbia Road flower market and of course the intriguing area of Spitalfields.
Talking of Spitalfields ... as I was ... I never actually did my weekend roundup from the previous week. The Sunday walk included Richard whose ancestors had all worked in Spitalfields market from the 1700's right up to his father, just a generation ago. He was able to add some fascinating insights to the walk.
The previous day, Saturday 15th Feb, I was joined by Annie & Peter who were back from Lancashire for their third walk with me, so was lovely to see them again. They were joined by Molly and Paul and I took the below photo just near Covent Garden. If you look closely at the street sign behind them, you might spot the work of French street artist Clet Abraham.
Special Award for completing 'The Trilogy' - Annie & Peter
Surname most likely to make you think of a device that generates an intense beam of monochromatic light by stimulated emission of photons from excited atoms or molecules - Laser (Jasmin)
Tallest - Rob
Best moustache - No winners
Song title for a name - Joeleen
As well as my regular weekend 'pay what you want' walks around London I do 'private walks' during the week (and sometimes on weekends too) which can pretty much entail going anywhere and doing anything. You'll see from the ones below that it's a real mix and very much depends on the people, their interests and what they'd like to see or hear about.
Below left is Margo, Linda, Maureen and Brenda in Arnold Circus, east London. Hiding amongst some telephone boxes are Jill and Jody from the States. They literally had 3 hours to kill, whilst on a layover en route to South Africa. They jumped on the tube at Heathrow, I met them in Green Park and we whizzed around Westminster taking in Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and wot not. It was their first time in London, so I think they figured that rather sitting in an airport for a few hours, they might as well try and explore a bit. We certainly did that. I deposited them back at a tube station, and they made it back to Heathrow in time to get their next flight.
I met Mitzie, Chip and Corey down at their hotel in Waterloo and headed up in to Westminster. You can see them in China Town in the West End. Below right is Craig and Teresa from Los Angeles who I met at their hotel in Smithfield. It's a fascinating area, and the meat market which has been in the area for over 800 years is still hanging on there, whilst Covent Garden, Billingsgate and Spitalfields have all left their central London homes for the outskirts. We made our way in to the City of London and you can see them standing inside the courtyard of the beautiful Apothecaries' Hall.
I met Aneil and his son one Friday morning by Monument, so we headed over London Bridge to Southwark. Borough Market food market is full swing on Fridays and they both stopped off to get some mussels I think ... or maybe it was oysters. Finally we have Larry, Sam and Ryann from New York in Westminster, between the Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, with Big Ben in the background.
So, if you fancy doing a private weekday walk around London, do let me know. I'm very happy to suggest possible itineraries, spend just a few hours exploring a particular area, or the whole day doing what I call an 'All Day London Extravaganza'.
On Saturday morning I had the pleasure of meeting Victor and Arancha from Spain. It turned out that after a few cancellations, it was just the two of them for the walk from Trafalgar Square to St Paul's cathedral. It was Victor's first ever visit to London so in a way was quite nice they got to have their own private tour. Here they are outside Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, having just passed by Dr Johnson's House.
In the afternoon, Viv, Sue and Karen came along for the St Paul's to Monument walk. I've mentioned a guy called Ben Wilson before, who paints on to discarded pieces of chewing gum and we found him on the Millennium Bridge, where he is currently painting a series of tiny previously masticated pictures. Funnily enough, I had spoken to him the previous day and he said that he has about 60 miniature works of art on the bridge at the moment. Here he is at work, and also a view of St Paul's cathedral with people walking across the bridge, painted on to a bit of squished chewing gum.
Having crossed the river, we then made our way along Bankside to Borough Market, where I took the below photo of Saturday afternoon's walkers.
For Sunday's east London walk there was a rather larger contingent, bolstered by a group of friends from Coventry, Flora and Andras from Hungary, Samantha from New York, and Erin and Susan from Australia. It was in fact, Erin's third walk with me, so she is a veritable Bowl Of Chalk veteran. Here they all are in Shoreditch, standing in front of street artist Eine's 'Scary' bridge on Rivington Street.
Most Spanish - Victor & Arancha
Best moustache - No winners
Smallest - Samantha
Most Londony - Viv & Sue
Most flowery name - Flora
Only two walks this weekend, as the people on Saturday morning failed to turn up. Instead, I visited the church of St Clement Danes on the Strand (amongst other things), which I shall undoubtedly write a brief doodah about at some point. So ... in the afternoon, I met Annie, Pete(r) and Jane who were spending a weekend in London, on a minor sojourn down from the north of England ... Lancashire I think.
They were reasonably familiar with London (Annie in fact knew loads of stuff), and had visited Borough Market before, so we just stopped off at the 'German Deli' so that Jane (who is half German) could stock up on some German-esque provisions.
On Sunday, we mixed things up a bit by not only starting at a different time, but in a completely different location. Saturday's walk can't have been too hideous, as Annie, Pete(r) and Jane all returned for a wander around east London, and joined a mighty group of seventeen people. Yes ... seventeen. It was a pretty international group consisting of people from France, Israel, Switzerland, Norway, Scotland, Northern Ireland and even Hackney.
Here they all are just near Shoreditch Station. You can see to the right of the picture, a small section of disused railway line. The current station opened as part of the Overground Line just a couple of years ago, but the original station (which that railway line belonged to), also called Shoreditch Station, opened in 1840, but the name changed to Bishopsgate Station a few years later, to encourage commuters working in the City to use the line. Bishopsgate of course, is the main road that slices straight through the financial centre of the City, down to London Bridge. Interestingly, to the left of the picture, you can see the Broadgate Tower, which was built right on the cusp of the City boundary. It's quite astonishing the stark contrast between the City on one side, with its tall, grand, modern architecture and buildings that ooze wealth ... and the distinct lack of any high rise buildings in Hackney, to the right.
Anyway ... a short while later, we came across a couple of reasonably new pieces of street art by Ben Wilson (I found one of them on a walk last week). I've mentioned Ben Wilson before, as he uses bits of discarded chewing gum as his canvas, quite often painting miniature scenes depicting the view from where the chewing gum was ... discarded. In this case, the chewing gum on the left shows a small street, just off Rivington Street and the back of Shoreditch Town Hall, whilst the one on the right is of the Artwords Bookshop, and people passing in front of it, just a bit further down.
That's pretty much it for this weekend.
The Double Whammy Award for doing two walks in one weekend on consecutive days - Annie, Pete(r) & Jane
Most French - Isabella & Marc
Best moustache - No winners
Best hat - Fiona
Name I couldn't pronounce - Asne (pronounced Ozna)
There's an area just south of Fleet Street known as Temple and comprises of two Inns of Court; Inner Temple and Middle Temple. During the week, the gates which lead down to the 12th century Temple Church and the maze of alleys buzzing with lawyers are open and you can just nip down and loose yourself amongst the streets and lanes. On weekends, as everyone has gone home, it's a bit trickier, but on Saturday morning, I was just mentioning this fact and a guy who happened to be passing said 'I have a key' and let us in ... which was nice of him. So, below is a photo of the group standing outside the round chapel to Temple Church.
On Saturday afternoons walk from St Paul's cathedral to Monument, we pass through Borough Market, which although now a busy food market (on Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays), has had its ups and downs in its 1000 year history. Paul and Elaine who joined us, actually used to live in the area 20 or so years ago when the market was on a down turn, and the area was used reasonably frequently for film locations. The buildings behind them were used the 'hideout' for two of the gangs in Guy Ritchie's 'Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels'.
On Sunday I squeezed in two walks. The first with Mehul & Neha from the States. They were staying by Leicester Square in London's West End, so we spent a few hours wandering around Westminster, which has a plethora of sights, all within walking distance. I haven't been around that area on a Sunday for ages, and although Westminster Abbey is closed to 'visitors' for services on Sundays, we were able to pop in and see the beautiful cloisters and the quite incredible 13th century Chapter House. Here they are next to one of the cloisters.
In the afternoon, I met Josh, Janet, Robin, Oci and Alexis to explore a quite different area, around Spitalfields and Shoreditch in east London. It gets pretty busy on Sundays with the various markets going on, and we also discovered that the local residents from Arnold Circus, England's first council estate were having a bit of a get together. Here they are on the steps leading up to the centre of Arnold Circus.
Most Brazilian - Daniel
Best hats - Josh & Robin
Most German - Anne
Best footballing injury - Brian
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.
Saturday was pretty incredibly cold. I was joined in the the morning by Robb and Evelina. Robb had actually come on the first ever Saturday walk I did, just over a year ago, so had come to complete the trilogy, whilst also looking to secure his third 'Best Moustache' Award, a post walk award he in fact instigated.
As it was the first day of Advent, we thought we'd take a look at the world's largest Lego Advent Calendar that had just arrived in Covent Garden Piazza. It's the work of a guy called Duncan Titmarsh (and others I'm sure) of 'Bright Bricks' who specialise in building stuff out of Lego (not surprisingly).
Made using 600,000 Lego bricks, it's a pretty impressive feat, and if you happen to be in the area at 4pm each day between now and Christmas, then you'll see them opening one of the doors to undoubtedly reveal a lego based surprise.
After the walk, I bumped in to a man with an Owl on Cheapside in the City of London. The owl was called Lunar, but forgot to ask the guy what his name was.
It was a real life owl, and as I took the photo, Lunar was busy eyeing up a small pug type dog, standing just out of shot with its owner. The man holding the owl was real too.
After the excitement of seeing a real life owl, I met Rick, Bryan, Ray, Ben, Fiona and Branwen for the walk from St Paul's to Monument. Here they are in Borough Market trying to stave off the bitter cold.
As you can perhaps see from the photo, Ray there on the right was destined to give Robb a run for his money for the 'Best Moustache Award'. Nice selection of hats too. Anyway, thanks to everyone who braved the cold to join me on Saturday.
Most Russian - Evelina
Best moustache - Ray (after a hotly contested public vote)
The 'Denise Rhodes Award' for the best Scarf - Robb
Wooliest green bobble hat - Bramwen
Most likely to be siblings 'cause they are - Rick & Fiona
On Saturday morning I had my second ever 'Hen Doo'. Due to logistical reasons, we did a different route from the usual Saturday morning walk and I met the ladies by Liverpool Street station for a walk around Spitalfields, Brick Lane and Shoreditch, an area positively oozing with history, character and street art.
I was very pleased that they turned out be a lovely, cordial, well behaved bunch (not what you hear about Hen parties), so thanks very much to Josephine, Karen, Gillian and co. Here they are in Corbett Place, nestling within the Old Truman Brewery, just off Brick Lane.
In the afternoon I did my usual St Paul's to Monument walk and had a really nice group of ten people, mainly hailing from NORTH America (Jen), so basically a mix of Canadians, Americans, a couple of New Zealanders thrown in for good measure and Chang from Taiwan ... oh, yes and Mandy from South Africa (although she didn't sound remotely South African). There was even one English guy.
Here they are in Borough Market, just to the south of London Bridge in the shadow of Southwark Cathedral.
It's quite strange, because I don't remember John there on the right, being quite that tall. Jeepers, he's turned in to a giant.
Sundays walk got rained off, so I went to the Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe instead. It's a tiny, slip of a museum inside the original engine house of Marc Brunel's '8th wonder of the world', the first ever tunnel in the world to go underneath a river, and the only project on which Marc and his son Isambard worked together.
Although it's pretty small (only costs £3) they organise lots of events and guided tours and Madame Bowl Of Chalk informs me that on selected days you can go down in to the tunnel shaft and former subterranean grand entrance hall.
Group most unlikely to say 'Neil', 'Wedding' or ' Dress' - Hen Party
Tallest - John (obviously)
Only one not to wear a coat - John
Best Moustache - No Winners
I managed to squeeze in four walks last weekend, but (as ever) forgot to take a picture of one of the groups, a lovely bunch of international liver specialists ... as you do. So, on Saturday morning Scott & Bailey, Tania & Chandra (who all stayed for the afternoon walk) were joined by Daniela. Here they are with Dr Johnson's House behind them, where the first definitive English dictionary was compiled in 1755.
We also managed to sneak in to the Inner & Middle Temple area which stretches from Fleet Street down to the Thames as we happened to be standing outside the gate just as someone went in. Very sneaky.
Daniela left us at St Paul's where the walk finishes, and after lunch the rest of us carried on over the Millennium Bridge to Bankside, and as Scott and Bailey had never visited Borough Market before, stopped for a quick look around before continuing back over London Bridge to the Monument. Here they are in Borough, and yes, it did rain quite a bit, so the umbrellas were pretty handy.
On Sunday, Bailey and Scott came back for more (these guys were unstoppable) and were joined by Marcia and Dui from Rio who had been forced to buy coats as they apparently don't need them in Brasil.
Girl with the most boy-like name - Bailey
Best Kevin Spacey impersonation - Scott
Best moustache - No Winners
Most collective knowledge of livers - Sunday afternoons group (no photo I'm afraid)
Most Brazilian - Marcia & Dui
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.