Last weekend I did all three walks, encompassing the full spectrum of group sizes, beginning with what is officially known as a 'biggish' group on Saturday morning for the walk from Trafalgar Square to St Paul's. It was also London Open House weekend, so we took the liberty of sticking our noses in to the entrance hall of the Royal Courts of Justice, a quite formidable building on the Strand, officially opened by Queen Victoria in 1882.
Nicole and Drew were back for their second walk and the rest were newbies hailing from India via the UK, Australia via Switzerland and the States.
In the afternoon it was just Barbie, all on her own, so could officially be termed 'an incredibly small group'. She had joined the Sunday walk the previous week, when there had been a somewhat larger contingent. Here she is on London Bridge.
The building just behind Barbie, to the left of her head has been in the news recently. It's 20 Fenchurch Street, previously dubbed the 'Walkie Talkie' and now renamed the 'Walkie Scorchie' because during a rather more clement day the other week, the sun's glare had apparently reflected off the windows and melted parts of a car, amongst other things. Londoners of course love nothing better than to bestow nick names upon the city's buildings, as the Gherkin, Cheese Grater, Razor and Wobbly Bridge can testify.
Sunday's east London walk was a 'medium sized group' and saw the return of Eric and Gail from Saturday morning. They were joined by John, Christopher and Elika. Here they are standing by one of street artist, Stik's pieces on Princelet Street, just off Brick Lane.
Youngest - Sophie
Best new sensible haircut - Drew
Best moustache - No winners
Biggest family group - The Lynch's
Most Kevins in one group - Saturday morning (x2)
Many churches in London are affiliated to particular groups of people or associations, like St Paul's in Covent Garden (the actor's church), or St Bride's on Fleet Street (the journalist's church). The church of St Clement Danes which stands alone on a little island close to where the Strand and Fleet Street collide is known as the RAF church. It is the Central Church to the Royal Air Force.
You'll often find that churches occupy sites that have had religious significance for centuries and in this respect, St Clement Danes is no different. There's been a church on the plot since the 10th century. It is often muted that Danish settlers first commandeered the area as an explanation for the 'Dane' in the name. However, although there have been a number of differing suggestions for the title, I'm not sure any have been proved definitive. It seems most are speculation.
Although the church survived the Fire of London (1666), Christopher Wren (as if he didn't have enough to do) built a new one because it was a bit dilapidated, with James Gibb adding the tower in 1719.
On the 10th May 1941, St Clement Danes suffered a direct from an incendiary bomb during WWII. All that remained was a shell, and the outer walls stood abandoned for over a decade. It was finally restored and rebuilt in 1958 courtesy of the Royal Air Force and donations from sister air forces throughout the world, and now, not only is it a regular place of worship, but a memorial to all who died whilst serving in the Royal Air Force.
It's a beautiful church, crammed with interesting pieces of air force memorabilia, poignant memorials, books of remembrance, Coats of Arms and gifts from around the world. Here's just a few things to look out for.
Oranges and Lemons
It's difficult to write about this particular church without mentioning the children's nursery rhyme/song ... 'Oranges and Lemons', which begins with the verse, "Oranges and Lemons say the bells of St Clements" and name checks numerous London churches and the message their bells are ringing. If you happen to pass by the church of St Clement Danes at the right time, you'll hear the bells ringing out the well known tune. You can be forgiven then, for assuming that the church that stands before you is the very same, so famously immortalised in the aforementioned song. Well ... according to Steve Roud in his book 'London Lore - The legends and traditions of the world's most vibrant city', this particular church basically hijacked the whole thing in the 1920s. The nursery rhyme is incredibly unspecific as to which St Clements church it is referring to, so spare a thought for the church of St Clement's Eastcheap, who theoretically have as much right to the title as their Westminster counterpart. After installing the bells and inaugurating a special 'orange and lemon' service and handing out citrus fruits to the congregation, the church of St Clement Danes have effectively claimed the prize for themselves.
Talking of bells, as I was, the oldest bell in the church tower was cast in 1588 by Robert Mot, the founder of the Whitechapel Foundry, the same company that cast Big Ben ... many years later. Either way, if you happen to be in the area ... why not pop in.
There are a wealth of museums in London and they come in all shapes of sizes and have something different to offer. The Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the British Museum to name but a few, are all brilliant and well worth a visit, but I sometimes wonder how many visitors to London search out the slightly smaller, quirkier, but equally interesting museums that lurk just outside the central tourist hotspots of London. On that note, I'd like to mention the Horniman Museum and Gardens, which can be found in Forest Hill in south London, just a short train ride from London Bridge or also rather handily now included on the London Overground line.
In a nutshell, the Horniman Museum is a free anthropological museum set within 16 acres of gardens. Although the museum has been modernised, upon entering you will very much feel like you've stepped in to the private collection of some kind of Victorian collector of strange curiosities from around the world. The very simple reason for this, is because that's exactly what you have done.
The museum was founded in the late 19th century by a guy called Frederick John Horniman who had a penchant for gallivanting around the world to places like Egypt, Sri Lanka, Burma, China, Japan, Canada and the United States and purchasing indigenous objects, specimens and oddities that either appealed to his own sensibilities or he thought might one day, illuminate the lives of those, unable to experience the wonders and treasures of the globe. Mr Horniman (incidentally) was able to finance his rather expensive hobby, by virtue of the fact that he had taken over his father's tea company (called Horniman Tea) which had been founded in 1826. By 1891 it happened to be the largest tea trading business in the world.
After 30 years or so of collecting assorted curiosities Mr Horniman had managed to pretty much fill his entire house with them. It would seem his own family took second place to his prized possessions, as the family were duly moved elsewhere and the house was turned in to a museum. It became known as the 'Surrey House Museum' and opened to the public in 1890. Although only open twice a week (for a total of 14 hours) and on bank holidays, the museum received over 42,000 visitors in its first year and even after an extension had been added, it became necessary to build an entirely new museum, which duly happened.
Upon completion, Mr Horniman thought it'd be nice to donate the museum, its collection and the surrounding gardens to the public as a free gift, which he did, with London County Council as Trustees. The new museum was formally opened in 1901.
Today, the museum is still free to the public, and has over 80,000 objects from around the world. At times it does feel like you've stepped back in time as you wander around cases and cases stuffed with taxidermy, skeletons, plants, fungi, insects and fossils, and apparently, have about 250,000 different specimens. However, everything is brilliantly lit, laid out and explained. If you're in to musical instruments, then you'll be delighted to discover they have a collection of 8,000 musical instruments which span 3,500 years of music making from the Egyptians to the present day. The museum also organise regular events for all ages, but seem to do loads of workshops and fun events to inspire and educate kids. They have frequent exhibitions and if you like wandering around gardens, then they certainly can offer that too.
All in all, it's definitely worth checking out. I personally could have spent hours just wandering around the amazing collection of animals, a number of which are unfortunately now extinct. With a bit of luck though, the Horniman Museum and Gardens will be around for a long, long time to come.
The Horniman Museum and Gardens, 100 London Road, Forest Hill, London, SE23 3PQ.
Only two walks this weekend, as the people on Saturday morning failed to turn up. Instead, I visited the church of St Clement Danes on the Strand (amongst other things), which I shall undoubtedly write a brief doodah about at some point. So ... in the afternoon, I met Annie, Pete(r) and Jane who were spending a weekend in London, on a minor sojourn down from the north of England ... Lancashire I think.
They were reasonably familiar with London (Annie in fact knew loads of stuff), and had visited Borough Market before, so we just stopped off at the 'German Deli' so that Jane (who is half German) could stock up on some German-esque provisions.
On Sunday, we mixed things up a bit by not only starting at a different time, but in a completely different location. Saturday's walk can't have been too hideous, as Annie, Pete(r) and Jane all returned for a wander around east London, and joined a mighty group of seventeen people. Yes ... seventeen. It was a pretty international group consisting of people from France, Israel, Switzerland, Norway, Scotland, Northern Ireland and even Hackney.
Here they all are just near Shoreditch Station. You can see to the right of the picture, a small section of disused railway line. The current station opened as part of the Overground Line just a couple of years ago, but the original station (which that railway line belonged to), also called Shoreditch Station, opened in 1840, but the name changed to Bishopsgate Station a few years later, to encourage commuters working in the City to use the line. Bishopsgate of course, is the main road that slices straight through the financial centre of the City, down to London Bridge. Interestingly, to the left of the picture, you can see the Broadgate Tower, which was built right on the cusp of the City boundary. It's quite astonishing the stark contrast between the City on one side, with its tall, grand, modern architecture and buildings that ooze wealth ... and the distinct lack of any high rise buildings in Hackney, to the right.
Anyway ... a short while later, we came across a couple of reasonably new pieces of street art by Ben Wilson (I found one of them on a walk last week). I've mentioned Ben Wilson before, as he uses bits of discarded chewing gum as his canvas, quite often painting miniature scenes depicting the view from where the chewing gum was ... discarded. In this case, the chewing gum on the left shows a small street, just off Rivington Street and the back of Shoreditch Town Hall, whilst the one on the right is of the Artwords Bookshop, and people passing in front of it, just a bit further down.
That's pretty much it for this weekend.
The Double Whammy Award for doing two walks in one weekend on consecutive days - Annie, Pete(r) & Jane
Most French - Isabella & Marc
Best moustache - No winners
Best hat - Fiona
Name I couldn't pronounce - Asne (pronounced Ozna)
The months seem to be tripping by at the moment, so here is a brief review of some of the private walks I did in August.
I was fortunate enough to spend two days with the Hausman family from Washington DC (if memory serves) which meant we were able to cover a whole load of London. The top left picture shows them standing outside Buckingham Palace, whilst the top right was on the second day, outside St Paul's cathedral. The walk was so exciting, that you can see that Rick and Lisa's son Matt grew quite considerably over night. Bottom left shows Maria & John enjoying a post walk drink in an east London boozer, whilst the bottom right picture is of David and Fran from New York and New Jersey respectively, in Trafalgar Square.
On the above photos we have from right to left, Susan Bob, Peggy and Dave outside St James's Palace, Gurudhan and Jennie (who I think ended up doing 4 walks with me) with St Paul's in the background and finally, Darshini and co. standing outside the Royal Opera House just near to Covent Garden.
Unfortunately for Colleen and Grace (top left) they chose one of the very few rainy days we had in August to do a walk around Westminster. Top right shows Victoria from the States in St James's Park, whilst bottom left is Deborah and Mike standing in Covent Garden. Last but not least is Barry and his crew who joined me on an early evening wander around east London.
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.