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.
I didn't write my 'weekend roundup' last week, so will make amends now, especially after we've had two nice and sunny weekends in a row. I met some lovely people this weekend, all keen to explore London, beginning on Saturday morning with Kristina and Barbara from Germany and Austria and Cheryl and her mum (or mom) Susan from Los Angeles. It was Susan's first time in London and in fact first trip out if the U.S. Here they are posing with one of London's iconic red telephone boxes, just off Fleet Street in the City of London. I hadn't noticed when I took the photo that someone has written 'The witch is dead' across the top of the phone box ... it was pointed out by Kristina I think, and must be a remnant from Margaret Thatcher's funeral last year, as the cortege made its way straight past there on its way to St Paul's cathedral.
The walk on Saturday afternoon had a distinct north American feel to it, with the exception of Kirsten & Stephen who were visiting from Scotland. Here they all are nearing the end of our wander outside The George Inn, just off Borough High Street in Southwark. Dating back to 1676, the George is the only galleried Inn left in London and is owned by the National Trust.
Sunday morning was a smallish group that aside from visitors from Canada and Denmark included three locals. We finished up in Spitalfields, where I took the below photo of the group as we walked down Wilkes Street, before finishing up outside Nicholas Hawksmoor's Christchurch.
Person who lived nearest to the walk start point - Rachael
Youngest - Bella
Most jet lagged - Larry & Shari
Most rhyming named couple - Larry & Shari
Best moustache - No winners
I met some lovely people last weekend on my regular guided walks around London and despite the mildly dismal weather, managed to do all three walks.
On Saturday morning Hilppa and Kari from Finland came along on the walk from Trafalgar Square to St Paul's. Here they are on Fleet Street outside the church of St Dunstan-in-the-West with its rather magnificent clock which dates back to 1671 and aside from having two giant figures (possibly Gog and Magog) who strike the hours and quarters with their clubs, also features in the courtyard, a statue of Elizabeth I carved in 1586, during the famous Queen's own life time.
In the afternoon, Dave and Christina, who came on one of my very first walks just over two years ago, returned to complete 'The Trilogy' and brought with them, Dave's parents, visiting for the weekend from Manchester. They were joined by Kristine, Mette and Trine from Denmark and off we went, leaving the City of London and headed over to Bankside on the south side of the Thames. Here they are just outside Shakespeare's Globe Theatre with the ever changing City skyline behind them. Dave's mum was particularly intrigued by Rafael Vinoly's building, 20 Fenchurch Street which previously garnered the nick name the 'walkie talkie' due to its rather top heavy appearance, and in the summer having gained headlines for scorching other buildings (and a car) got a new name ... the 'walkie scorchie'.
Not long after the photo was taken, the sky turned black and we got caught in a thunder storm, so were forced to take refuge from the torrential rain in The George Inn on Borough High Street. Still, there are far worse pubs to have to have a drink in.
I think that on Sunday it rained pretty much non stop for the entire walk. I was impressed that almost all of those who had booked actually turned up (as it was already raining before we started), but not only that, they stuck out the entire thing ... until the bitter rain drenched end. Aside from being a hardy bunch, they were also great fun to show around Shoreditch. Here they are just before exploring a rather quieter than usual Columbia Road Flower Market.
Special award for completing 'The Trilogy' - Dave and Christina
Wettest Walk - Sunday
Most (literally) amusing name - Joke (although she undoubtedly doesn't find it remotely funny)
Best moustache - No winners
Best unveiling of a high vis jacket - Ian
Best unpleasant weather endurance skills - Joke, Bruno, Angie, David, Fiona & Paul
Six people braved the cold December air to join me on my regular Saturday morning wander from Trafalgar Square to St. Paul's. Seeing as there were two Italians in the group (Annalisa & Miro) it seemed only right that I take a picture of them in Covent Garden, where the 17th Century diarist and ladies man Samuel Pepys watched the Italian puppeteer Pietro Gimonde perform what is now regarded as the first recorded performance of 'Punch and Judy'. It was the 9th May 1662 and every year, on or around this date, Punch and Judy puppeteers descend on Covent Carden in what has become the unofficial, official birthday of Mr Punch. Perhaps not surprisingly, there is a pub (hiding behind the Christmas tree in the photo) called the Punch and Judy.
So, here are the group, also including Helen, Gemma, Kirsty and another Helen. There was a double Italian-ness about it really, as the piazza, originally designed by Inigo Jones in the 1630's, was based apparently on a similar one he had seen in Livorno in northern Italy.
There was nothing particularly Italian about the afternoon walk, but I was joined by Lorrie from New York, who had come on the very kind recommendation of a friend of hers Mary (also from America) who had been on a walk with me back in the summer. Thanks Mary. Here is Lorrie outside The George Inn, just off Borough High Street. It was pretty dark by this point, but fortunately my photographer (who comes on most of the walks) had remembered to bring his studio style lights with him.
We managed to fit in quite a few bits n bobs including stopping off at the Rose Theatre (the first Elizabethan theatre on Bankside), the remains of which were uncovered in the 1980's and largely responsible for shaping the current Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Whilst there, we watched a fascinating video narrated by none other than Gandalf (Sir Ian Mckellen) who I discovered today, co-owns The Grapes pub in Limehouse, which is well worth a visit anyway if you happen to be in the area.
Most Physiotherapists in one group ... ever - Saturday morning
Most Italian - Annalisa & Miro (obviously)
Most last minute booking straight off the plane from the States - Lorrie
It was a lovely weekend for walking around London. Having said that, on Saturday morning, I didn't have a walk, so popped to the Household Cavalry Museum instead down at Horse Guards Parade on Whitehall. It just reopened on Saturday after a couple of months hiatus due to having the Olympic Beach Volley Ball on their doorstep.
It's a pretty small museum which tells you about the History of the Horse Guards from when they were first formed by Charles II. I thought the best bit about it, is that the museum is actually inside the old 18th Century stables. They've spilt the stables in half to accommodate the museum, and the guys, girls and horses that you see standing outside still use the other half. The partition wall is clear plastic so you can watch them going about their business. As I happened to be there on the hour when they changed I could watch them saddle up and get ready, and the ones that had been sat outside for an hour return. It felt like I wasn't supposed to be watching.
Anyway, I took this photo as I left of a guard (sans horse) having his photo taken by tourists.
In the afternoon I met Paul, Trish and Linda (who is the first person ever to just magically turn up without booking) near St Paul's. It was the Thames Festival this weekend, so it was pretty chocka around Bankside. There's also a 17th Century 'galleried' Inn down just off Borough High Street, which we usually take a look at on our way back towards London Bridge.
Paul actually grew up in London in the 1950's, so it was really nice to hear his perspective on how the area had changed since he was a boy, and how he remembered it.
Sunday, was the east end walk and included a couple of people who had been on one of my Saturday walks previously. Joantoni actually came on one of my first ever walks back in December last year, whilst Emanuela had come just a couple of weeks ago. Here they are outside Columbia Road Flower market.
Most unexpected walker - Linda
Tallest - Ben
Best Moustache - No winners
Most Spanish group - Sunday (Joantoni & Zara)
Most Italian - Emanuela
Chalker Photos from last weekend
Sue, who came on both the weekend walks very kindly sent me a few snaps, which I thought I'd post here. These first two are in St Dunstan-in-the-East, a Wren church that was largely obliterated during the Blitz of 1941, except for the steeple and a few walls. Rather than rebuilding or demolishing completely, it was decided to transform it in to a rather nice walled garden.
Marveling at the George Inn, as mentioned in a previous post.
Thanks to the efforts of Sam Wanamaker, we now have Shakespeare's Globe theatre in all its thatched glory.
A brilliant tourist photo outside St Paul's. Not our Chalkers unfortunately.
Columbia Road flower market on Sunday.
And finally, Sue spots that there's an apostrophe missing in the east end.
then and Now
Every self respecting literature student knows that Geoffrey 'Geoff' Chaucer's pilgrims began 'The Canterbury Tales' in 1386 from Copyprints Ltd Business Centre in Southwark. Well, sort of ... it was in fact The Tabard, an Inn, which, along with most of Southwark was burnt down in what became known as the Little Fire of London in the 1670's. Due to a sign makers' error, it was accidentally re-named The Talbot, after which the whole yard is still currently known and The Tabard/Talbot is now a site occupied by Copyprints Ltd Business Centre.
However, do not despair, because just next door, another pub burnt down in the same fire and was also rebuilt in 1676. It's called the George Inn, and thanks to the National Trust (who own it), most of it is still there. It's the only galleried coaching Inn left in London and if you come on the 'London in a nutshell' walk, we'll go and see it. Incidentally, for fans of Charles Dickens, it gets a mention in 'Little Dorrit'. I'm sure Dickens would have loved the new outside heaters.
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.