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
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
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.
It snowed for most of the walk on Saturday morning, so as you can imagine, was pretty cold. Still, five people ventured out with me for the walk from Trafalgar Square to St Paul's, including Keith (from Canada) who came on the east London walk a year ago. He was joined by Natasha and Cerys and also Thomas and Charlyne from France.
They're standing in a little courtyard just off Carter Lane called Wardrobe Place. As you might be able to see from the plaque behind them, it was the site of something called the King's Wardrobe which was destroyed during the Great Fire of London in 1666. The Wardrobe, originally housed within the Tower of London was where (as the name might suggest) King's kept their clothes, and also armour and treasure. It was moved in 1311 by Edward II to Lombard Street, then later to the site where the group are standing, by Edward III. It's currently a quiet little space populated by a few trees, offices, a hotel and enclosed largely by 18th century houses. If you have ever read any of Samuel Pepys' diary, the name might sound familiar, as 'The Wardrobe' was the generic name given to the surrounding area and one he mentioned quite frequently.
As I mentioned, Keith came on the east London walk previously. One of the first things he said when he met me on Saturday morning was 'I don't suppose we'll see quite so much street art today'. He was quite correct in this assumption, but at the end of the walk, as we were standing outside St Paul's cathedral, I noticed two pieces of painted chewing gum on the floor, that unless I'm mistaken, look suspiciously like the work of Ben Wilson (who I've mentioned before). He's a prolific street artist, who (if you hadn't already guessed) uses pieces of discarded chewing gum as his canvas. The ones we saw outside St Paul's cathedral looked like this:
Sunday was a nice compact group of Vix, Matt, Mary and Helen for the wander around the east end. Here they are at Columbia Road Flower Market, where I seem to quite often take group photos.
After the walk (again, bitterly cold) I noticed that Eine has re-painted his two well known pieces on Ebor Street. In fact, they were so well known, I'd wager that people just call it the 'Anti & Pro' street (I know I do), as it was emblazoned with the words ANTI and PRO. It now looks like this:
He kept one of the 'PRO's' which were on the Tea Building, so it now says PRO TAGONISTS.
Most French - Thomas & Charlyne
Most Canadian - Keith
Most Welsh - Cerys
Best moustache - No Winners
Most likely to have eaten Kendal Mint Cake - Helen
On my Saturday morning walk from Trafalgar Square to St Paul's, I've often mentioned the Hawks employed by Westminster Council to deter the pesky pigeons, which until a few years ago numbered in their thousands ... probably tens of thousands, mainly on the square itself. I'd never seen this particular form of pest control in action, then, on my way to meet Dan, Liz and Josh who came on Saturday morning's walk, I bumped in to 'Chengeta' and his handler. They looked very much like this:
Quite an impressive specimen, I think you'll agree, and the Hawk looked pretty cool too. The handler told me that he was from Zimbabwe, and in the Shona language of Zimbabwe, Chengeta means 'to take care of', so basically Chengeta the Hawk is taking care of the pigeons in Trafalgar Square. He said I could also call him Harry if I wanted (which I figured the other handlers probably do), and although Harry the Hawk has a nice ring to it, I quite like Chengeta.
The walk on Saturday basically involved lounging around drinking coffee or sitting in a pub, punctuated by a brief stroll through Covent Garden and Fleet Street. Here are the group in the Charles Dickens Coffee House, situated on the ground floor of a building in which Dickens himself had an office and produced a literary magazine entitled 'All The Year Round'.
'All The Year Round' was founded and edited by Dickens and published between 1859 - 1895, and as well as being a platform for many other writers, Dickens used it to serialise his own novels including 'A Tale of Two Cities' and 'Great Expectations'. Also, thanks to Dan for the coffee and chocolatey treats.
Sunday's 'My neck of the woods' east end walk saw the return of Maria and Emma who came on a Saturday afternoon walk in April last year. They were accompanied by Rosalia, Steve and Conor, and also John, Ryan and Anna all joining a walk for the first time. Here they are outside one of street artist Eine's shop shutters.
Shortly after we'd stopped off at Columbia Road Flower Market, I noticed a piece by French street artist C215. His real name is Christian Guémy and works primarily using stencils, similar to Banksy and a host of other artists. The 'C' stands for Christian, and the 215 part of his name was apparently the number of the hotel room he was staying in when he decided that painting portraits of beggars, refugees, orphans and animals on streets all over the world, was to become his vocation.
Funnily enough, ages ago, I took the below photo of another of C215's cats, which was on the side of a bin just behind Leonard Street. I noticed not long ago that the bin has since disappeared. The work of a collector perhaps?
Most appropriate shoes (for a change) - Maria
Most likely to have played a gig in every venue in Shoreditch - John
Tallest - Ryan
Best moustache - No winners
Most beardy - Josh
Most rural - Dan & Liz
Most New Zealand-ish - Anna
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.
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
All three London walks took place this weekend, albeit with varying amounts of people, beginning with just one person, Luciana from Argentina, who came on the Trafalgar Square to St Paul's walk on Saturday morning. Here she is outside Twinings Tea Shop, where we stopped for a cuppa.
Twinings have been operating from the same premises on the Strand since 1706, when Thomas Twining opened Britain's first tea room. Twinings also hold the distinction of holding a Royal Warrant (which you can see just above the door), which basically means they provide tea for HRH Queen Elizabeth II, and also lay claim to having the world's oldest continually used logo.
Next up was the St Paul's to the Monument walk and I was joined by two young French men, Anthony and Mickael spending a year over here to improve their English. It seems to have worked, as their English was 'Superbon, fantastique et tres, tres, tres bien'. Here they are (and me actually for once) standing beneath the Monument, a monument (not surprisingly) to the Great Fire of London. If you come on one of my walks, I'll probably talk about this particular fire quite a bit. It happened in 1666 and in just four days burnt down most of the City of London. The idea is that the Monument stands 202 feet tall, exactly 202 feet to the west of what at the time of the fire was a bakery on the now infamous Pudding Lane, where the fire started.
Today was the east London 'my neck of the woods' walk and I was joined by Maddi and Kim from Australia, Mike, Susan, Kahlee and John from the USA and Brynn from Stoke. The Sunday walk is a mixture of history and street art, and right at the beginning, noticed that Street artist Eine's CHANGE mural on Old Street is in the process of being ... well ... changed. I haven't been able to confirm it, but it looks like Eine himself is doing it. It seems to be half finished and still masking tape all over it. It currently looks like this ...
Here are the group standing outside the Foxtons Estate Agents on Curtain Road. You may wonder why I chose to take a photo of them there, but back in 1577 a building was built on that very site, and was the first in London to be devoted to the performance of plays. It was called The Theatre and was run by a group called the Lord Chamberlain's Men. They moved The Theatre in 1598 over the Thames to Bankside and re-opened it the following year re-naming it 'The Globe'. The Lord Chamberlain's Men employed a young man who arrived in Shoreditch from Straford-Upon-Avon as an actor and playwright. You might have heard of him. He was called William Shakespeare.
So, there we have it. Another weekend of walks. Thanks as ever to everyone who came and made it so enjoyable.
Most Australian - Maddi & Kim
Best Moustache - Mike
The only English person all weekend - Brynn
Looking after English peoples kids award - Luciana, Anthony & Mickael
Most American - Everyone else (inc. Mike)
weekend Roundup - Sun 11th March '12
Well, it's another demi roundup today, as I have only the east London Sunday walk to report on so will be reasonably brief, but what a glorious springy day it was. After five people dropped out, I was left with the select, but very pleasant group of Eleanor, Florian, Alison, Matt and Patricia.
We did a mildly different route from previous Sundays, and walking down a road I'd never been down before certainly paid off, as we discovered one of French street artist 'Invaders' space Invaders that I'd never actually seen before. You can see it in the photo below, along with Sunday's Chalkers.
This photo was obviously not remotely posed, and Eleanor on the left was not at all embarrassed about being in it. Honest.
Then literally minutes later, we stumbled across a brand new Sweet Toof mural on Ravenscroft Street, that he only painted last week. It's pretty big actually, and his trade mark teeth and gums are surrounding a shop doorway. It would appear to be a scary clown-esque character.
Anyway ... then after a stop at Columbia Road flower market, we passed the new Eine mural on Great Eastern Street. Eine's letters feature quite a lot on Sundays walk, but that's because he's been so prolific around the area. Last week he painted some words for Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity, to highlight a charity art auction they organised called 'Up My Street'. It also included an exhibition at the Coningsby Gallery in central London and 40 artists including the likes of Antony Gormley, the Chapman Brothers and Grayson Perry donated work. Here's a photo of his mural. It reads 'Home Sweet Home Less'.
So ... all that remains is for me to thank Sundays intrepid east end explorers for coming along and of course ....
Most French - Florian
Most English sounding surname for someone not from England - Patricia English
Actually, most English - Eleanor
Best Moustache - No winners
Most diligent note taker - Alison
Most American person called Matt - Matt
Weekend Roundup - 14th & 15th Jan '12
The first London walks of 2012 took place this weekend under a clear, crisp and bright wintery sky ... except when it got dark on Saturday. It was still clear and crisp, but less bright.
Saturday 14th Jan
In the end it kicked off with Saturday afternoons walk and after meeting the group of intrepid Chalkers, had a minor mooch around the streets that surround St Paul's cathedral before heading over the wobbly bridge to Bankside.
We paid an impromptu visit to the Rose Theatre, or at least its watery remains, as it was the first Elizabethan theatre, built in 1587 and after the foundations were re-discovered in 1989 now resides in the bowels of the office building that was built over the top. However, we had an equally impromptu mini talk from a lady who worked there, and next time you're down on Bankside, spare a thought for the Rose, to which the recreated Globe owes a huge debt.
Anyway, here are Saturday's Bowl Of Chalkers in Borough Market. See how much fun they're having. They've even got a coffee. It just blows me away each time I see it.
Here they are exploring a quiet enclave of of Guy's Hospital.
Sunday 15th Jan
On my way to meet Sunday's Chalkers for their east London walk I spied a new piece by street artist Xylo which has popped up by Old Street roundabout next to the City Road Turnpike plaque. Xylo is more than a one trick wonder, but these little golden frogs are sprinkled all over London and apparently represent the 'global crisis of mass species extinction'.
It was another clement, but chilly day and despite Old Street underground station and most of the Northern Line being closed, I was impressed with the tenacity of the group to valiantly find their way to the starting point.
Here they are outside the Geffrye Museum, which if you haven't been is one of the many gems to be discovered in the Shoreditch area. It is a museum dedicated to how Londoners have lived from 1600 to the present day, housed within a beautiful building that was itself built in 1714.
Laure seemed to be quite taken with the tiny figures created by street artist Pablo Delgado, like this one just near to Columbia Road flower market.
As were the whole group for that matter, even when standing on a street almost completely covered by street artist Eine.
That photo wasn't remotely staged by the way. After this, we headed to Spitalfields where the east London walk drew to a close outside the Ten Bells, a pub whose walls, if they could speak might reveal the true identity of Jack The Ripper. Obviously they can't speak, so I don't know why I mentioned it. Sorry, I was having a moment.
Most Canadian - Amy & Whitney (although Amy was pseudo Canadian, so I guess Whitney has the edge)
Most French - Laure
Most medically qualified group - Saturday afternoon
Most multi lingual - Dan
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.