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.
Libby, who came on the first 'My neck of the Woods' Sunday east end walk of 2013, sent me a few photos she took along the way, so I thought I'd share them here. This was the whole group at the end of the walk, by Nicholas Hawksmoor's Christchurch in Spitalfields.
So, the first one, is a rare photo of ... me, perusing one of street artist Ben Wilson's tiny bits of chewing gum art, which as it might suggest, are tiny paintings on bits of chewing gum, stuck to the pavement.
This next one was taken in Bunhill Fields Cemetery, with the buildings of the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) in the background. Despite being right on the cusp of the City, there's 6 acres of open space behind there, which once (as you might have guessed) was an artillery ground back when people were still using bows and arrows, but is now more commonly used as a cricket pitch. The HAC also have the distinction of being the oldest Regiment in the British Army.
The photo below shows an old bank, which a few years ago was a bar / gig venue / art space and much more, partly set up by Bill Drummond of KLF fame, called The Foundry. It's since been closed down and is awaiting development ... no doubt in to a swanky hotel. You can see work by street artists Cityzen Kane, Roa, Eine and Phlegm.
The next photo I really like, and if I had my arty farty hat on might feel inclined to say that it's a wonderful juxtaposition between the block of flats in the background and Sweet Toof and co's sideways clown in the foreground.
Onwards to Columbia Road Flower Market, where of course you are guaranteed to find another strange juxtaposition, which is rather burly Essex blokes shouting about how cheap their pansies are.
And ... if you look carefully, delicate little paper cut outs and their respective shadows painted on to the pavement, the work of Mexican artist Pablo Delgado.
Although pretty newish, that particular one is already quite weathered. It originally depicted a lamp post, from which the light is falling.
So, last but not least, Lucy and Jamie who accompanied Libby on the walk and although Jamie started empty handed, acquired a small olive tree along the way ... as you do.
So thanks very much to Libby for sending her photos. It's always great to see what people have snapped along the way.
I was incredibly impressed that people actually bothered or were able to turn up this weekend, what with all the snow and general coldness. Top marks for effort everyone.
On Saturday morning, I met Mackenzie, Wendy, Erica and April for the walk from Trafalgar Square to St Paul's. Just to give you an idea of the temperature, or lack of it, the fountains in Trafalgar Square looked like this:
Here are the group, standing in front of the statue of George Washington, which is situated outside the National Gallery (the building you can see above). Seeing as they were a group of American's, and George Washington was the first President of the United States, it seemed an appropriate place to take the photo.
There's a nice little story about that statue, which is that Washington apparently said that he never wanted to set foot in London again, so when the statue was given as a gift in 1921 by the people of Virginia, they sent over a load of American soil with it to be laid underneath, so that he never would. A bit cheeky perhaps.
On Sunday it snowed non stop for the entire My neck of the Woods walk, but Zuzana, Guglielmo and Mary still valiantly turned up to wander around the east end, Mary (from the USA) incidentally, was on her second Bowl Of Chalk, after coming on one last year. It was my first ever walk in the snow, so was interesting to see how everything looked under a blanket of white. Here they are at Arnold Circus, the first council estate in England, completed in 1896 and featured not long ago, in a BBC2 series called The Secret History of Our Streets.
Here are a few other snowy scenes we saw along the way.
Not surprisingly, Columbia Road Flower Market was pretty sparse but it at least meant that Mary and the other two were able to have a good look around the many independent shops that line the road and are pretty much only open on Sundays. Incidentally, the pub you can see there in the photo, The Royal Oak has featured in a few TV shows and films, including 'Goodnight Sweetheart' (with Nicholas Lyndhurst, best know for playing Rodney Trotter in 'Only Fools and Horses') and Guy Ritchie's 'Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels'.
Many of the houses in the area of Spitalfields where I took the above photo were built in the early 1700's to house the influx of French Huguenots who had settled in the area in the 17th Century. Also, whilst I'm thinking about it, there's a great blog called 'Spitalfields Life' written by The Gentle Author who has set himself (or herself?) the challenge of writing 10,000 stories about the area, the fascinating characters that live there, shops, customs, history and much more. The project should be completed in the year 2037, but one volume has already been published as a book. It's well worth having a read if you are of even a mildly curious disposition.
Most Italian - Guglielmo
Most likely to be celebrating her 40th birthday - Wendy
Best moustache - No winners
Best named person to meet in Old Street - Mary Young
Most bobbly hat - Zuzana
weekend roundup - 18th/19th feb '12
Saturday - Trafalgar Square to St Paul's
There were two walks this weekend, kicking off in central London on Saturday morning with Severine, Christine and Georges. Discussing the battle of Trafalgar, beneath Nelson's Column seemed as good a place as any to begin a tour with an entirely French group. However, they didn't seem to hold it against me and we wound our way up through Covent Garden and popped in to the Royal Opera House, which had played host to the BAFTA Awards the previous weekend. We didn't spot any celebrities in there on Saturday, although the balcony does give a pretty good view down on what Inigo Jones had originally built as an open Italian style Piazza.
A short while later we stopped in Twinings, who after over 300 years and ten generations are still selling tea from the same premises, begun in 1706 when Thomas Twining hankered for something other than ale, gin or coffee to drink. At the back of the narrow shop, there is a small kitchen complete with a sink, kettle, mini fridge and and vast array of teas for people to try for free ... so we did.
The guy you can see on the left was on hand to discuss the finer points of tea blending, and although I rather predictably opted for an English Breakfast, I'm pleased to report that the other three were rather more adventurous in their tea choices.
After our tea break, we managed to sneak in to the area that houses two of England's four ancient Inns of Court (Inner and Middle Temple) and of course the medieval Temple Church built by the Knights Templar in the late 12th Century and finished up, just as the rain began to fall, in the cosy bowels of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese with a drinkie poops.
Sunday - My neck of the woods
There were seven people and a whippet called Reggie for Sunday's east end walk, and as it was pretty nippy and Reggie was feeling the cold, one of the group fashioned a rather natty outfit for him out of a scarf. The group also featured Denise who was experiencing her second Bowl Of Chalk walk. Here they are in Bunhill Fields Cemetery.
Pretty much straight after I took this photo, we headed over to the Wesleyan Chapel (open to the public) which has been presiding over the area since 1778, includes the home of John Wesley (open to the public) the father of Methodism, has a nice little museum (open to the public), some amazing toilets (open to the public) and was where Margaret Thatcher, (recently portrayed by Meryl Streep) got married to name but a few things. In fact, we didn't actually enter the chapel as they have a service on Sunday (open to the public), but were standing in the car park (open to the public) and I had just been encouraging the group to come back another day and sample and learn about all these things when a lady came out of the church and basically told us to leave because we were standing on private property. She made it quite clear that we weren't welcome. This is a great shame as I've met some lovely, helpful people there who have been more than happy to provide me with information so as I might inform people who come on walks. However, this is the last time I will mention the Wesleyan Chapel ever again. Anyway, it would appear that it is no longer open to the public.
Aside from that rather strange encounter, it was a really great group and although a bit chilly, was lovely and sunny. With Yasmin, a Hackney resident, Annette who runs a great B&B in Hackney, Hannah (also a Hackney-ite), Virginia, who although Canadian, informed us that her mother grew up in Hoxton, Denise with her Kray story and Carole who was more than familiar with the area ... it really was a 'My neck of the woods' walk. I feel I should also mention Keith, just incase he feels left out.
Most French group - Severine, Christine & Georges (Sat)
Most doglike - Reggie
Best moustache - No winner
Most Canadian - Keith & Virginia
Most seasoned Chalker - Denise
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.