Just a quick little roundup today. It rained pretty much non stop during the east end walk on Sunday. On top of that it was also pretty incredibly cold, grey and miserable, so I'd like to say a massive thank you to Jay, Christine, Ashley, Adam and Dina for not only turning up (there was also major tube disruptions) but sticking around right until the bitter, cold end.
Here they are in a random, non descript car park. You see, it was so cold and wet, that I didn't put too much thought in to framing a wonderful, picturesque photo. However, if you look carefully, you might might notice one of street artist Roa's large black and white animals just behind Adam's head.
However, not sticking to the same route does has its advantages, as we stumbled across a couple of other bits of street art just near Hoxton Square. This one by Stik (no pun intended), who I've mentioned on multiple occasions.
And another one of Christiaan Nagel's ubiquitous mushrooms.
Most energetic - Dina (walked all the way from St James's, before we started the walk)
Most Irish - Christine
Most male - Adam
Best moustache - No winners
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.
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
weekend roundup - 25th/26th Feb '12
Trafalgar Square to St Paul's
It was a a hive of activity around Trafalgar Square on Saturday morning, as the Faberge Big Egg Hunt had just kicked off, with Londoners trying to locate the 200 plus giant decorated eggs that have been secreted around the city offering the chance to win a £100,000 jewel encrusted egg. Unfortunately for Katrine and James, there wasn't quite such a prize for joining me on a London walk. However, I was intrigued to see the new sculpture that had been unveiled just two days earlier on the forever mildly redundant Fourth Plinth. The latest temporary offering is by the sculpting duo of Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset and is called 'Powerless Structures, Fig 101'. It depicts a boy on a rocking horse and I think the idea is that unlike the other equestrian statues that celebrate past war heroes, it's supposed to celebrate the expectation of the future.
As you can see from the photo, it was a gloriously sunny day, ideal for exploring London. This is Katrine and James outside St Bride's church, which we passed after stopping at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese for a drink.
St Paul's to Monument
In the afternoon I met Vicki, Lucy and Helen-Marie. Just before we headed over the Millennium Bridge, I took a photo of them standing outside the City of London School, which boasts a rather enviable location between St Paul's cathedral and the Thames. If you look closely, you'll notice that the President of the United States, Barack Obama is standing behind them. For those of you that follow my exploits with unflinching interest, you'll be aware that I'm still awaiting a reply from Prime Minister David Cameron, whom I invited on a Bowl Of Chalk. Mr Obama was keen to join us for the rest of the walk, but was very understanding when I informed him that a prior booking was essential.
My neck of the woods
Despite a plethora of cancellations for Sunday's walk, there were still five explorers eager to uncover bits of the east end. None of them had visited Columbia Road flower market before and came armed with a healthy interest in street art. They were a pretty international bunch and my marketing team were delighted to hear that word of Bowl Of Chalk has reached Spain, with Juan and Antonio over on a weekend break. Otiena had arrived from Canada on Friday and already managed to pack more in to two days than most Londoners do in two months. Here they all are, including Lisa and Kara, standing in front of one of Roa's giant animals.
Best hat - Otiena
Best beard - Juan and Antonio (joint winners)
Most Spanish - Juan and Antonio (joint winners)
Most Norwegian - Katrine
Most happy sitting in a pub - Vicki, Lucy & Helen Marie
Best moustache - No winner
Most Canadian group - Sunday (Kara, Lisa & Otiena)
Thanks to everyone who came on walks last weekend. The next Bowl Of Chalk walks take place on the weekend of the 10th/11th March.
Weekend Roundup - 29th Jan '12
It's more of a demi roundup this week featuring Sundays walk, which after a couple of people didn't turn up, included Sandra, Caroline and Charles, who undeterred by the cold, joined me on a wander around 'My neck of the woods'.
Here they are in front of Roa's twelve foot rabbit on Hackney Road. There are quite a few works by the Belgian street artist in the area, who specialises in painting large scale black and white animals, so I wasn't suggesting that this particular rabbit has twelve feet, but was alluding to its size.
The rabbit has had a lucky escape, as a couple of years ago, Hackney Council wanted to paint over it. Apparently it was 'a blight on the environment', but thanks to a campaign spearheaded by the Premises music studios and cafe on whose wall the giant rabbit is daubed, in one week, 2000 local residents signed a petition demanding that the rabbit be allowed to stay and for once the voice of the people was heard. Incidentally, aside from playing host to anyone who's anyone in the music scene, the Premises studio also generates their own electricity from solar panels on the roof, where they also have their own hive and bee colony ... so maybe they make their own honey as well.
And keeping on a large scale street art theme, here are Sundays intrepid explorers standing in front of one of Sweet Toof's large sets of gnashers, which are situated just off Brick Lane.
Sweet Toof has created a niche for himself by painting teeth and gums all over east London. As it goes, I think I prefer Roa's animals.
Thanks to Sandra, Caroline and Charles for coming along.
weekend roundup - 10th/11th dec
On Saturday I was joined by Gaby and Erica, and after meeting at The Monument, quickly decanted to a nearby coffee place, where I was able to bore them with historical type stuff relating to the area and London Bridge from the warmth that being inside often brings.
They wanted to have a mooch round Borough Market. I took this photo whilst they were mooching.
In the background you can see Southwark Cathedral. I have a copy of brilliant panorama of London, Bankside and the Thames by Nicholas John Visscher. He made it in 1616, which incidentally was the same year that William Shakespeare died. That same church (didn't become a cathedral until 1905) is in that picture. Also, Edmund, Shakespeare's younger brother is buried there. I love the fact that it's still presiding over things.
Also, just a bit further along, next to the Wobbly Bridge is a house that people say that Christopher Wren lived in whilst watching St Paul's being built. There is a plaque on the house which says exactly the same thing. He didn't, the house wasn't built then. However, I've just started reading a book called 'The House by the Thames' by Gillian Tindall, which is all about that house through hundreds of years of history, or more to the point she uses it as a way of discussing the area. So far, so fascinating.
Here are Saturday's Chalkers, and from the photo, you could be forgiven for thinking it was the height of summer, and not a cold December morning.
We finished up in Ye Old Cheshire Cheese for a drinkie poops. It's the new pub on the site, built in 1667. The previous one burnt down in some kind of fire apparently.
Sunday. Yes, Sunday. 'My neck of the woods'. A few people dropped out, but despite the prevailing greyness and coldness of the day, we carried on, and I have to say, was rather enjoyable.
It was a Sunday, and on Sundays, the Methodists at the Wesleyan Chapel near Old Street hold a service, so I would like to thank them for not only welcoming us in, despite not wishing to attend the aforementioned service, but actively encouraging us to go and see their toilets. They're very proud of their toilets at the Wesleyan Chapel, and so they should be. They're original Crappers. Thomas Crapper is often accredited with inventing the flushing toilet, but it would seem, that particular accolade goes to a guy called John Harrington way back in 1596. Either way, Crapper did much for the modern day toilet and its flushing system, the Wesleyan Chapel have original Crappers and we went and saw them.
I also like the instructions written for Victorians, unsure of how a Crapper might work; 'PULL AND LET GO.'
The thing with the east end, it's a real hotch-potch, so you see Crappers, like you've just seen, plague burial grounds, Shakespeare's stomping ground and giant animals ...
... just one of the many pieces of street art that are all over the area. This particular creature was done by Peter Roa, who also painted the crane, which Kalpana (previous Chalker) took a picture of on Brick Lane last week. Anyway ... we then went and had a cuppa at I made it for you, which is a great little tea shop place that's opened up on Pitfield Street (which you can see in my last blog 'Shoreditch/Hoxton then & now') and wandered around the area, which I have to say has far more secrets than people give it credit for, until we stopped at The Water Poet, a pub named after an Elizabethan waterman called John Taylor. C'est tout.
Weekend Round up - 3rd & 4th Dec
The current walks are a bit of a work in progress, trying different things, getting feedback from chalkers, trying to figure out what works and what doesn't and so on. Robb who came on the first 'London in a nutshell' walk suggested trying it backwards. Not literally walking backwards, but starting at the end. I had been wondering the same thing myself, so on Saturday morning, the 7 would be chalkers very kindly agreed to meet me near Trafalgar Square instead.
Also, I'm very much under the impression that it's quite a long walk, again feedback that I've been getting. I'm very much of the opinion that walking tours should be fun, (or at least a little bit fun), and if people are getting tired, and hungry then it ceases being so fun. So, on Saturday I suggested trying a different and shorter walk finishing at St. Paul's and see then how everyone was doing.
I personally thought it was a good length and we finished by going up to the roof of the New Change shopping centre which not only gives you stunning views across London, but of St Paul's too. I took the following photo from up there one evening the other week.
Anyway, I really enjoyed it and they were a lovely group. Christina, who came on Saturday wrote a nice review on The Travel Editor website. I might be using the following quote in future marketing campaigns ... "Jonnie is endearingly scatty in his approach, like a fully loaded iPod of history set on shuffle." I think it's a good thing, maybe, unless you don't like scatty iPod shuffley history type things.
Pretty much all of the group then went for a well earned post walk drinkie poops in Ye Olde Watling nearby.
Sunday was an intimate affair, as a couple of people didn't turn up, but Kalpana and Matt valiantly agreed to go it alone. They of course had very little choice, as they'd come down from Birmingham. We had a wander around Shoreditch, Hoxton, Columbia Road (lots of Christmas trees there at the moment) and Spitalfields and after they left, apparently went for a curry on Brick Lane. Kalpana sent me a few photos she took on our travels and has very kindly let me put them up here.
Male Chalker, with the most female name - Joan
Best translator - Joan
Best moustache - Joan
Best sideburns - Joan
So, I'm thinking of having a minor walk re-shuffle in the new year. Nothing drastic, but will hopefully make them better and more enjoyable, so do check back to see what's happening.
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.