WALK LONDON is an initiative from Transport from London which sponsors free guided walks 3 times a year. There are a wide range of walks offered, from standard ‘walk and talk’ in the inner city, to ‘walks to inaccessible places’ (those usually have a fee, a bit against the philosophy of the event) or longer exercise walks in green and open spaces. This time I chose two walks in the inner city in areas which I’d like to become more familiar with.
On Saturday, I joined the ‘Hidden Alleys of the City’ walk which started at St Paul’s Cathedral but soon took us to corners away from main streets. We saw the oldest houses of the City on Wardrobe Place which look just like a street of Old Amsterdam with the tall red brick buildings and large windows: only the canal was missing!
We continued through alleys to visit some Tudor ghosts – playhouses, hospitals, monasteries and palaces that used to be around Blackfriars but are not longer there, only remembered through evocative street names – Dorset Ride for the residing Earl of Dorset, Brideswell for a long-gone palace later turned into a women jail (but aren’t most palaces this already?), Blackfriars for a once popular monastery. We finished in Fleet Street: the former kingdom of the press where the main newspapers had their offices and their printing facilities. Here, the buildings still stand but especially at weekends the new quietness of the area seems full of regrets.
The tour was given by City of London guide Stephen who also has a project of walking through London one postcode at a time. I recommend his blog to find out more about your area in a very original way.
On Sunday, by a bright sunny day and accompanied by two good friends, we walked east to west, crossing the City on an architectural exploration ‘from the Romans to Norman Foster’. The walk started on the south side of the Thames allowing us to take a sweeping view of the City old and new, St Paul’s Cathedral and the city skyscrapers. Crossing Tower bridge, we saw St Katherine’s Dock and what its proximity meant for the City merchants using it to offload their most valuable cargos of spices and the like – hence surrounding it with thick high walls. We spotted a stone turtle sculpture as an homage of the many turtle brought there for the daily amusement and the night soup of the wealthy. We continued to learn more about the City fauna, with iron griffons guarding the City from the east end thieves and cheeky mice stealing workers’ cheese sandwiches!
The second walk was given by City of London guide Anthony who gives more thematic tours around Barnett and London, all listed on his page here.
The next WALK LONDON event will take place on 23 and 24 September 2017; it’s already in my diary and I recommend that you place it in yours too if you are curious to find out more about London in a way that exercises both legs and brains.