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 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 - 28th/29th April '12
If you weren't already aware, the predominant theme of this weekend's London walks is rain. Paul who came on the east end walk this morning, described it as 'London rain', the kind of relentless grey drizzle that seems to have no beginning and no end until you can't actually quite remember a time when it wasn't constantly raining. This morning however saw a mild fluctuation in this constant wetness with some really quite forceful gusts of wind and moments of much heavier rain. Therefore I would like to congratulate everyone who turned out this weekend despite the ongoing showers, and would like to add, that I'm slightly miffed to note that as I write this, it has stopped raining.
I tried to take photos of the groups in brief moments of 'un-rain'.
Trafalgar Square to St Paul's
So, here are the group from Saturday morning, shortly after we met near to Trafalgar Square. It was a pretty international weekend walker wise and this group featuring Alina, Michaela, Roberta, Zuzanna and Briana came from Austria, Russia, Poland and the U.S.A.
Behind them, you can see the National Gallery which began in 1824 with just 38 paintings, housed in a town house in Mayfair. The current building was finished in 1838 and the collection now consists of over 2,300 works of art. It's well worth a visit and as the collection belongs to the public of the United Kingdom, it's FREE.
St Paul's to the Monument
In the afternoon there were nine brave souls, who when they booked the walk, possibly envisaged wandering around Borough market and Southwark bathed in glorious sunshine. Well, eight of them did, as Liam actually contacted me on Saturday morning to see if he could come, so he knew exactly what he was letting himself in for. There was a large Chilean contingent on Saturday afternoon so I added to my limited multi lingual capabilities and can now say 'Hombre Verdi' which is 'green man' in Spanish. However, I do realise that it might not open too many doors for me if I ever find myself in Spain ... or Chile for that matter.
Maria, Emma and Becky were all born and bred Londoners, and with Liam from Northern Ireland it was a heady mix. Standing in front of St Paul's cathedral you can also see Dominique, Rodrigo, Ximena, Patricia and Javier.
My neck of the woods - east end walk
Today's walk around London's east end was a bit of a wash out, with just three people deciding to venture out in the cold, wind and the wet. However, I'd like to think that up until the point where we were all freezing cold, soaked to the bone and lost the will to live ... we had fun. Didn't we? Even if Ruth, Paul and Andrea didn't ... I think I did. Fortunately they came armed with suitably cheery dispositions. Also, it was quite handy because we were only a small group and Paul had a really big umbrella, which isn't a euphemism, he did. You can see it here.
You see ... it's pretty big. Anyway ... they're standing in front of one of street artist Roa's large scale animals. I posted a thing on facebook at the beginning of last week to say that Roa had literally just put the finishing touches to a brand new addition in his menagerie of animals in east London with a giant hedgehog. It looks like this:
So there we have it. Another weekend, another trio of walks around London and once again I've been fortunate enough to meet some lovely people, who I hopefully might see again on another walk one day ... perhaps when the weather's a bit better.
Most inappropriate footwear - Maria (brand new white pumps - only £2.50 though)
Most Chilean group - Saturday afternoon
Biggest umbrella - Paul
Best moustache - No winners
Most last minute booking - Liam
Most Austrian - Michaela & Roberta
Most giggly group of international friends - Alina, Zuzanna & Briana
Most Columbian - Andrea
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.