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
We rounded off November with a large group for the Saturday morning walk that was pretty much half and half English people who were either born in, or lived and worked in London and visitors from the States and New Zealand. Here they are, towards the end of the walk in an area known as the King's Wardrobe, not far from St Paul's cathedral.
We pass by lots of places of interest on this particular walk, including an old pub called 'Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese' which I eventually got round to writing about last week.
Sunday was the first day of December, and the Christmas trees were already being snapped up at Columbia Road Flower Market. There's always a great atmosphere down there in the run up to Christmas, and the many independent shops that line the street have a special late night opening on Wednesdays during December, so if you fancy looking for some choice gifts without all the busyness of the Sunday market, it's well worth a visit. They'll also be open on Saturday 21st December from 12noon until 8pm, just in case you like to leave your shopping until the last minute. It seemed only right and proper that I took the photo of Sundays group standing amongst the Christmas trees.
There were also a couple of surprise walkers on Sunday, friends of mine Anna & Kat who I wasn't expecting ... hence why it was a surprise.
Also, seeing as I only wrote about Clet Abraham and his altered street signs last week, here's another of his creations I spotted later in the day on Redchurch Street in Shoreditch.
Most Swedish Group - Sunday
Most Peruvian hat - Tony
Best moustache - No winners
Name that most rhymed with 'vermin' - Fermin
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
Some Walker Photos - East End Walk
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.
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 - 24th/25th Nov '12
There were two very different weather type walks last weekend. On Saturday, Katherine, Doug, Jen and Rhiannon endured three hours of non stop drizzle on their walk from Trafalgar Square to St. Paul's. We couldn't walk through Trafalgar Square because it was closed off and littered with various types of armoured vehicles and there was apparently a 'rehearsal' of some sort going on. There didn't seem to be much happening, but I discovered that the following day, Tom Cruise was filming something or other there. oooh.
Here are the group sheltering beneath their umbrellas on Fleet Street. The sun didn't come out, so maybe we weren't smiling enough.
Sunday was much sunnier, and we traded in the rain for a bit of wind. I was joined by a group of thirteen ... yep, thirteen (a bumperish group) which included a couple of Londoners, a handful of Americans, a half Canadian/Italian, someone from Durham, an Australian and I think also a South African along with a few others.
Here they are just by Columbia Road flower market, which is already starting to get chock full with Christmas Trees.
During our walk, we spotted street artist Jimmy C (AKA James Cochrane) daubing some new work on the Foundry, an old bank between Old Street and Great Eastern Street. He was in the news during the Olympics for painting a large mural of Usain Bolt near Brick Lane and is well know for the almost pointillist technique he uses. Anyway ... after the walk, I spotted him being interviewed infront one of his new just completed works. I've mentioned him before and people on my Sunday walk always love the work he's done on Whitby Street (amongst others). Good work Mr Cochrane.
Umbrella with the most frogs on it - Rhiannon
Shiniest silver trainers - Loriana
Most likely to buy Christmas Pudding themed truffles - Tori
Best moustache - No winners
Latest - Ellinor
Mother & Daughter combo - Jenny & Anna
Weekend Roundup - 8th/9th Sept '12
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
The sun actually made an appearance this weekend and Saturday was a scorcher. In the morning I was met by Gordon and Vivian from Manchester, Lis from Denmark and Michelle from Australia.
We made our way from Trafalgar Square to St Paul's and even managed to stop off for a drink in a 17th Century pub on the way. Here they are outside St Paul's cathedral at the end of the walk.
It looked like it was going to be another sunny day on Sunday for the east end walk, and was, except for a freak 45 minute deluge complete with thunder. However, Sanjeev, Josephine, Ant and Anna carried on regardless and by the end, we had all dried off again. They were a lovely group, and although Anna (from Greece) was the only non Londoner, she was strangely the only one to have previously visited Columbia Road flower market. Here they are just outside a pub called the Birdcage on our way from the market.
Incidentally, the fashion for keeping caged birds, which at one time could also be purchased from the market, was brought over by the Huguenots in the 17th Century.
Thanks to everyone who came on walks this weekend.
Best Tattoos - Michelle
Most Danish - Lis
Most involved in the Olympics - Anna
Best Moustache - No Winners
Best prepared with sun cream - Michelle and Anna
Best knowledge of good curry restaurants - Sanjeev and Josephine
It's more of a Sunday roundup really, as I completely forgot to take any photos on Saturdays walk. However, I was joined by Beth, en-route to her home in Washington DC via Beirut, for the Saturday afternoon St Paul's to Monument walk. Incidentally, we stopped off at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre so Beth could get a ticket for the evening performance of Henry V, but it was completely sold out. Just incase you fancied going, it's perhaps best to book first.
On Sunday, I met June, Henry and David for a wander around the east end. Although all from the States, June and Henry are currently visiting and David is doing a 6 month stint in the City and living in Shoreditch, so thought he'd explore is his own neck of the woods.
Here they are just near Columbia Road Flower Market.
Redchurch Street and the streets around it have changed massively in the last few years and is now home to boutique hotels, boutique cinemas and even in some cases ... boutiques. It has an incredibly high density of street art and just over the road is Box Park (the world's first pop-up mall) and of course Shoreditch House, a private members club with a roof top swimming pool. It's all a far cry from days gone by and incase you're interested, here's an article the Guardian wrote about Redchurch Street earlier in the year.
After we'd finished waiting for Henry to feel useful, David was keen to show us some work by a street artist, who although all over the east end, I've never actually mentioned. Just around the corner from here on Whitby Street are a couple of pieces by James Cochran or 'Jimmy C' an Australian, who uses an almost 'pointilist' technique to achieve the desired effect. Here's David telling us why he likes them so much.
Thanks to those who came along on walks this weekend, and as ever, a smattering of awards. Just two this time.
Most American - Beth, June, Henry & David
Best Moustache - No Winners
Weekend roundup - 21st/22nd Jan '12
The second weekend of London walks in 2012 have passed in a flurry of factoids, fun and perhaps another word beginning in 'F' that currently eludes me. Before I begin the weekend roundup I'm afraid I must start on a sour note; a sombre incident that I feel compelled to share or even warn you about. I feel it is my duty, although what you are about to read will perhaps outrage you as much as it did myself.
Before saturday afternoon's walk (which begins near to St Paul's cathedral), I thought I'd pop in to a nearby pub and become more familiar with Charles II. I ordered a pint of lime and soda and Charles II didn't order anything, because he existed only as pages in a book. The pub is called The Centre Page and is on that little stretch of walkway that runs between the 'wobbly bridge' and the cathedral. You can see it in the below picture. The yellowy building on the left.
I deliberately included St Paul's in the photo, so as to give you a better idea of where the pub is situated, so you can AVOID it. The reason being, because I ordered a lime & soda (admittedly a whole pint, with ice), the constituents of which, mainly being both lime and soda water costs almost nothing to produce, yet this drink, in this pub costs £3.10. That's right £3.10. It's a disgrace. Rant over.
Saturday - St Paul's to Monument
By the time I met Jeremy, Juliette and John at 2.30pm my lime and soda related outrage had subsided and we set off on our Londony adventure. Despite being a small group, I would reckon they were collectively of above average height, and John and Juliette were particularly keen to inspect the Occupy camp of tents clustered around the base of St Paul's.
I try to learn something new before each walk, regarding a particular facet of that walk and on Saturday I had decided to learn the exact term to describe why the Millennium Bridge is know as the 'Wobbly' bridge and that term (which I managed to drop in) is 'Synchronous Lateral Excitation', a phenomenon that has been known about for hundreds of years, but somehow, no one thought of mentioning to Norman Foster, responsible for building the bridge. If you're interested in finding out more about Synchronous Lateral Excitation, then you might be interested to read this paper on the subject by David E Newland from the Dept of Engineering at Cambridge University. Then again, you might not.
Anyway, we continued on through Bankside, Borough Market and surrounding area, then headed over London Bridge and finished up at the Monument. Here's a slightly blurry photo of Saturday's Chalkers looking a bit confused on London Bridge, or if not confused, certainly pointing on slightly different directions in a photo art directed by themselves.
Sunday - 'My neck of the woods'
I've been unsuccessfully attempting to take a few more photos on the walks, but have realised that if you're the tour guide person then it's quite hard to take photos of the group, as for quite a large portion of the walk I am talking. Anyway, it's something I'll work on, but if you come on a walk and take some photos, please feel free to email them to me, should you so desire. Unfortunately I only took one photo on Sunday.
So yes, I met Beth, Paul, Sam and Anna at the designated meeting point and did a slightly different route from previous Sunday walks, heading over to Spitalfields and then battling through the hoards up Brick Lane to Columbia Road before traversing Kingsland Road and returning to the Old Street area via Hoxton High Street. Unfortunately the Hoxton Street Monster Supply shop (a shop that provides everything a monster might need to ... well, be a monster) is closed on Sundays, but you can find out more about them here, and also the work they do in the local area through the Ministry of Stories.
Sam, who came on Sunday, is a resident of De Beavoir town in Hackney, so it was great to have a 'local' wanting to explore their area. I've discovered that people seem to consider that guided walks are for 'tourists', and although I'm biased I would argue that there's always something to discover about the place that you live.
The group were an easy going, inquisitive bunch and here they are at Columbia Road flower market.
Most alliterated group - Saturday Afternoon (Juliette, John & Jeremy)
Most French - Jeremy
Most Polish - Anna
Person who most judges historical figures based purely on their looks - Sam
Best moustache - No winners
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.