Unless I say otherwise my walks:
- last about 90 minutes;
- cost £12 per person (£9 for children); and
- are conducted in English.
I try to give an idea of the terrain we cover for each one - generally speaking, we are walking on pavements so no need for hiking boots, but sensible shoes with a bit of shock-absorbtion will make the experience a happier one.
PLEASE NOTE: I run these tours in all weathers (unless advised otherwise by the Met Office, emergency services or one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse). If, for any reason, the tour is impossible to run then I will let you know as soon as possible and arrange a refund. I do not offer refunds under any other circumstances. Thank you for understanding.
CITY OF LONDON
Where it all began...
Samuel Pepys was born in the old City of London and was living there when it was all but destroyed by the Great Fire of 1666. He knew the Tower of London both as visitor (watching the Fire from its battlements) and a prisoner. He also saw the destruction of Old St Paul's and (most of) the construction of its magnificent replacement. We accompany him to view the Fire, staying through the Great Plague, having massive rows with his long-suffering wife - and we even accompany him to church, not a purely religious duty for him. Oh, and there's plenty of grisly detail about a 17th century surgical operation as well.
Tour starts from Blackfriars Station (front concourse) and end at Tower Hill.
Westminster Abbey remains, but the Whitehall of today is a pale reflection of the royal palace that stood there in Pepys' day. Here he bunked school to watch the execution of Charles I, and here he raced to bring Charles II news of the Great Fire. As a young civil servant he lodged in rooms just off Whitehall - and he seriously misbehaved in Westminster Abbey with royalty!
Tour starts from Charing Cross Station, front concourse, by the red post box.
Linking the City and Westminster, the Strand has always been a very important route, but for many centuries it looked nothing like the wide, stylish thoroughfare we see today. Then the Victorians came along…
What we see today is largely their invention. It doesn’t smell, it’s harder to fall into the river and it no longer harbours dubious bookshops and dodgy lawyers – but nothing is perfect and they swept some treasures and fascinating places away whilst they were doing it. In fact, the entire personality of the street was changed.
Come and find out what became of an Elizabethan street that survived the Great Fire of 1666; how Somerset House lost its arches; who you might meet on top of Temple Tube Station; why a gas lamp near the Savoy had its own supply; and much, much more.
The walk starts at Temple Tube Station.
Please note: this walk contains sexual references and is not appropriate for children under 14.
CLERKENWELL AND ISLINGTON
Clerkenwell was the first suburb of London, home to monks, nuns and criminals evading the City's rules. The village of Islington saw expansion with the canals and railways, ultimately enclosing the earlier settlement. As always in London, clues to every stage of their history abound, if you only know where to look.
We join the Regent's Canal at Kings Cross and follow its course to Islington, taking in a lighthouse, an ex-smallpox hospital and a path where electric power cables are cooled - by water... As the Canal goes into a tunnel we leave it for a while as we walk through the specially created area of Pentonville (not including the prison!) and play some musical coffins before rejoining it at Angel Basin. We see canal engineering, narrowboats, Georgian domestic architecture and very modern developments.
Starts at Kings Cross (just outside Starbucks) and ends at the Angel, Islington. There will be some climbing, up steps and a hill.
Clerkenwell's history is full of contradictions. St John's Priory, British HQ for the Knights Hospitallers, was there for 400 years, as was the Nunnery of St Mary. A place for meditation and calm, you might think - but the area lay just north of the City of London and was a perfect hideaway for criminals escaping justice. Later, dirty and overcrowded, it was a centre of political agitation and dissent. The Victorians had a solution for the crime and rioting, and their brutal but effective legacy remains to this day.
Tour starts and finishes at Farringdon Tube Station.
No steps on this walk but a few slopes to go up and down. If in doubt please drop me a line.
The new railways allowed Victorians the chance to live away from their places of work, and new Utopias were built to accommodate this. Battle Bridge, a grotty little village by the 1840s, acquired a new statue and name (the statue was of George IV and the name was Kings Cross), and was transformed, if not necessarily improved, by the railway terminus. Other areas, originally delightful, were carved up and spoiled by this revolutionary change.
Goods and passengers rolled in from the north, workers moved here to be near the junctions that needed their care and markets moved from other parts of London to make use of the new transport miracle.
We'll be exploring all this (and more) as we follow the clues to discover the drastic changes made to this part of London.
Tour starts at Highbury & Islington Station and finishes at Kings Cross.
Taking its name from the landed clergy who owned it in medieval times,
Canonbury has been open fields, a Prior's country seat, a site of some of the earliest
speculative building, a run-down slum, home to George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh and a venue for some of the pioneers of punk rock. Now it is once again desirable and its elegant squares well-maintained. Will this state of affairs endure? There have been many battles for its land and soul and there may well be more. The walk takes in all of this, and a hugely impressive example of Jacobean public service too.
Tour starts and ends at Highbury & Islington Tube Station.
Just north of the City, Clerkenwell was the first suburb. Although precious little of the substance can be seen there nowadays, water defined the area for good and bad. Health-giving springs attracted the wealthy, polluted rivers attracted slums and prisons. Add to that the association of fresh water springs with religious sites in the early middle ages and typically exuberant Victorian engineers 600 years later and the history of this area is a mass of surprises.
Tour starts and finishes at Farringdon Station.
We are walking up and down the contours of a river bank, so a few gradients to climb and descend, but no stairs. If in doubt, please drop me a line.
Greater London covers 606 square miles. The West End and City combined make up 9,5 of those.
What about the rest? let's get exploring.
Railways transformed British towns, and few were more drastically altered than Walthamstow, moving its entire town centre downhill in the 1870s. The old town, now known as the Village, dates from the 1100s and retains many features giving clues to what it was like and how it came into being.
Traces of old land divisions and speculative building estates are still there if you know where to look. Once it was little more than a church, open fields and a couple of tracks. Pig Lane and Vinegar Alley were its roads.
They are still there and we can see them in the newly trendy Walthamstow Village. The walk takes you back to the station but you can stay in the area and visit the local museum or any number of pubs and cafés.
Please note we do NOT visit the William Morris Museum on this walk.
WHATEVER YOU WANT
Please contact me with your requirements. Once you let me know what you have in mind, I get back to you within two days with a draft outline. If that's OK, we can go ahead.