London Walks for your MP3 Player
Forget about guide books and maps. Listen to my description as you walk through London.
8/22/2011 | Download File (22.21 MB) - right click to download
Lower your eyebrows O ye of little faith. A walk through Deptford? Surely not, I hear you say. Scoff not - this will prove to be one of the most fascinating walks so far, whether you walk the walk, listen to it, or follow it on Google Streetview as I know lots of you do. So, suspend your unbelief and follow me through Deptford. Or - follow Sergeant Vanstone as he walks his beat on 25th and 26th July in the year 1899. Yes - this is an actual walk and we follow much of the route he took. Sergeant Vanstone was not alone. The beautiful manuscript notebook I am following was not written by this particular Bobby. It was written by Charles Booth, who accompanied him. Booth was engaged in surveying the streets of the East End. His maps coloured each side of the streets using a colour key intended to signify levels of affluence and deprivation. Yellow for walthy. Red for well-to-do. Shades of pink, violet and purple for Comfortable, Poor & Comfortable (Mixed) and Poor. Deep blue meant Very Poor. One category remained. In the late 19th century, poverty was seen not as an unfortunate condition which was remediable and resolvable, but as the fault of individuals. Shockingly, the remaining black colour was reserved for what Booth describes as Semi-Criminal. A terrible indictment, you may think, and I agree. The silver lining though came from the fact these maps changed the attitude of late Victorian London. Afterwards there was more talk of social deprivation and poor wages and less of criminality. Nevertheless, looking back at the descriptions of the neighbourhoods Booth and Vanstone passed through, and comparing what we see today is a salutary exercise and a fascinating one from both the historical and social perspective. Oh yes, and you can toss in industrial archaeology, the development of trade, and so on and so forth. I'm not saying that Deptford is pretty, quaint, or picturesque. It's clean, peaceful, and most definitely up-and-coming, at least where the old houses remain. True, many of the old streets have disappeared and been replaced by fairly low-rise housing estates, most looking quite reasonable. The second world war determined the wholesale clearance, not housing policy. The neighbourhoods, like much of London, are pleasingly multi-ethnic and multi-faith. Lots of Chinese and South-East Asia shops in the High Street add to the cultural mix and providing wonderful food and shopping. Take this walk on a Wednesday, Friday or Saturday if you love mooching round the Markets. The market area is just near the railway station. This is the start and end of the walk. From Central London, you can take a train from Cannon St (walk out of the District & Circle Underground, and turn right and right again to enter the mainline railway terminus) or London Bridge (from the Underground platforms, follow 'British Rail' signs). Trains are frequent. You alight after one or two stops. You can use your Travelcard or Oyster, but remember to touch the Reader as you leave Deptford station. Thanks and appreciation go to the London School of Economics who have put Booth's work online for us to read. Look for Booth B368 from the LSE pages if you want to see the original notebook scanned.
5/17/2011 | Download File (31.84 MB) - right click to download
I'm glad I thought of this walk. We start at Warwick Avenue Underground Station (Zone 2 on the Bakerloo Line - just one stop north of Paddington) and finish on the Circle & District Line platform of Baker Street, the worl'd first underground railway opened in 1863. Baker Street is also on the Metropolitan, Bakerloo, Jubilee and Hammersmith & City lines. The walking is easy. There are lovely houses and interesting places to see. Most of the route is free of the noisiest traffic. Like the walk to Campden Lock, we start by the cab shelter by St Saviour's Church where there is also a Boris Bikes stand, and walk down Warwick Avenue to the Grand Union Canal at Little Venice. I describe the history of Maida Vale and St John's Wood as we walk beside the canal towards a tunnel under Aberdeen Place. Where the Campden Lock walk continues along the towpath towards London Zoo, this time we turn left and walk up Lisson grove to Lord's Cricket Ground. Here a guided tour of the home of cricket is recommended. For details of availability, click here. Continuing up Grove End Road brings us to Abbey Road with its famous EMI recording studios and the pedestrian crossing made famous by the Beatles on their 1969 album cover. The EMI studio was the first custom designed recording studio complex built anywhere in the world. Artists associated with the studios include Edward Elgar (Land of Hope & Glory 1931), Yehudi Menhuin, Thomas Beecham, Janet Baker, Glen Miller, Cliff Richard, Max Bygraves, George Formby as well as the Beatles themselves. In recent times, the Abbey Road studios were responsible for recording music used in the films Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter. At Abbey Road we pause to look at the graffiti left by Beatles fans from all over the world on the walls and gates of the studios. There is an opportunity for some snacks, coffee, or drinks in St John's Wood High Street. The shops are elegant and upmarket. This shopping street is an unexpected and welcome haven of calm after the frenetic northbound A41. After some refreshment here, we enter the old burial ground of St John's Wood Church, now a park, but originally the final resting place of more than 50,000 souls. Some of the ancient headstones remain in a wildlife garden. Leaving the church, we cross the busy roundabout and enter Regent's Park beside the London Central Mosque. From Hanover Gate, we walk alonside the boating lakes, past the fantastic Nash terraces including the London Business School and exit into Baker Street by way of Clarence Gate. Where else but 221B Baker Street would one look for the fictional rooms where Holmes and Dr Watson lived. Nowadays the shop is a museum. Tat for the tourists, of course, but fans of Conan Doyle will not want to miss it. The platforms of Baker Street Circle & District Line are the end point of the walk. Here one can see the brass plate recording the first steam trains running from Paddington undersround, and see the original brick vents where smoke escaped. The railway with its open trucks must have been a wonder to behold, as well as very unpleasant to ride in. A fascinating and lovely walk. Lots to see. Lots to do. A pleasant stroll of some 3 miles. I hope you enjoy it.
3/7/2011 | Download File (5.24 MB) - right click to download
Londoners call the Transport for London Barclays Cycle Hire scheme Boris Bikes after Mayor Boris Johnson. Started in July 2010, Londoners could rent sturdy bicycles from around 400 docking stations scattered around the central zone. Once registered, you paid £3 for a plastic dongle which would release bicycles from their stands and automatically charge an access fee of £1 for the 24 hour period. Payment could alternatively be for 7 days (£5) or the whole year (£45). Now in 2011 casual use of Boris Bikes is possible using your credit card, either online or at the terminal beside each docking station. The price is the same (except that you do not have to pay for a dongle) and once your have chosen the appropriate access fee you are issued with a 5-digit number to release your bicycle. After cycling to your destination, dock your bicycle firmly and await the green light which indicates your bicycle has been properly docked and the charging period has finished. The secret is to cycle for no more than 29 minutes. if your journey is longer, simply dock your bicycle and take another one from a nearby docking station. For this, you put the same credit card in ther terminal and receive another 5-digit number which will release another bicycle. Alternatively, have a coffee or wait 10 minutes before taking a bicycle from the same docking station and continuing on your way. Check out the interactive maps of docking stations which shows in real time the number of bikes available and empty spaces in which to dock. Voila. Simple. The first 30 minutes is free, so stay multiple times within half-an-hour and you will not have to pay more than £1 a day. So much is free in London, from cycling the sights, visiting museums, and watching the world go by, why not ditch the Underground, get fit, and go from place to place at your own pace. remember to cycle on the left, and use as many of the cycle lanes, bike paths especially in the parks, and contraflow lanes as you can. It's perfectly possible to cycle for miles without ever having to dice with taxi drivers around Hyde Park Corner, or join the melee along Kensington High Street. London is becoming more and more cycle friendly, so why not join the rest of us on two wheels - all for less than £1 a day?
1/11/2011 | Download File (19.04 MB) - right click to download
We pick up the London Wall walk again at the Museum of London. If you are continuing the route from Part 1 you will be at this point. If you are just doing this part of the walk, then you should start from St Paul's Underground station (Central Line, zone 1) and take Exit 2 then walk up St Martin's Le Grand to the Museum. This concluding part of the London Wall walk starts with a visit to the Roman Londinium galleries in the museum, where you can see houses, shops, pavements and other reconstructions of life at the time the Roman wall was built. At the east end of the gallery is a long, inclined glass wall which overlooks the city wall. From here you can look down over the bastion which we saw from ground level in Part 1. The remainder of the walk is about an hour in total, so much shorter than the walk so far. There is a long section of the wall nearby in Noble Street with its own observation walkway, glass panels, and descriptive boards. Noble Street leads down to the junction with Gresham Street and the church of St Anne and St Agnes. Crossing St Martins Le Grand once again, we enter Postmans Park where the wall by G F Watts commemorating ordinary people who sacrificed their lives to save others provides a poignant and fascinating record of individual bravery. The site of Newgate which was demolished in 1777 is the next point of call, near the Central Criminal Court in Old Bailey. Remains of the wall can be seen on application to Security in the Merrill Lynch offices office hours - call 020 7995 9770 - but sadly the portion in the basement of the Central Criminal Court cannot be viewed by the public. The foundations of the Roman wall have been discovered incorporated into the western wall of St Martin's Church Ludgate. This is another Wren church with interior by Grinling Gibbons. Opposite is a nostalgic old sweet shop and an alleyway off Pilgrim Street. From here, we make our way parallel to new Bridge Street. This marks the line of the Fleet River, and we know the wall was diverted to run along the bank of the river when the Dominican Black Friars build their house on the site of the previous line of the Wall running down to the River Thames at present day Blackfriars. You can finish the walk at Blackfriars Station, or walk west along the embankment for 5 minutes to Temple (District and Circle lines - zone 1).
10/19/2010 | Download File (33.59 MB) - right click to download
From about 120 AD the Romans enclosed the capital city of Roman Britain, Londinium with a wall. No one know why. The wall was not necessarily built for protection at that time. Archaeologists have speculated that the objective might be to restrict access in and out of the city, enabling the Roman rulers and their successors to collect taxes. Another possibility is that the wall might have been constructed to impress, but floating more than a million Kentish ragstones up the Medway and along the Thames, each weighing as much as 500kg, might be stretching the prestige explanation a bit too far. Whatever the explanation, the wall was built. It was 2 miles long, stretching from the Tower of London by the River Thames in the South-East towards the North and then West to join up with an existing Roman fort just South of present-day Barbican. From there, the wall ran to the South-West, finishing at Blackfriars. The original Roman wall was characterised by ragstones interspersed with lines of terracotta roof tiles for strength, and diamond pattern bricks for decoration. The wall was extended upwards and strengthened in the mediaeval period when London was inhabited once again, and used as a defence throughout the middle ages. Gates were built at strategic points, and the names such as Bishopsgate, Aldgate, Aldersgate, Moorgate survive as road names to this day. Much of the wall has disappeared from sight. Either it was subsumed into houses, churches, and storerooms, or demolished when traffic volumes grew, or the stones were taken away and used to construct houses by local people. Much of this happened since the 1760's and a portion of the wall near the Museum of London was used as a Victorian warehouse which was not discovered until the blitz of the 1940's revealed the original line of the wall in the rubble of bomb sites and destruction. The Museum of London designed a Wall Walk many years ago, and erected ceramic information boards at strategic points. Sadly, many of them have now disappeared with building works. The IRA bomb of 1993 destroyed one. Parts of the wall were incorporated into modern office blocks, and other bits are very hard to find. You cannot therefore follow the walk as designed any more, but I have based this podcast on it. Having said that, all I have done is follow the line of the wall from Tower Hill to the Museum of London, but the commentary includes quotations from the original Museum of London text which can still be found on their web site even if much of it is hidden or has disappeared from the streets. This walk takes only 3 or 4 hours, but has taken me the best part of 3 days to design and research. I had to ferret out a big section of the wall that had been built into the basement of a conference centre. There are no signs, but the staff are happy to show you on request, even if you have to know it is there. The West Gate of the Roman fort is now in a locked room beside a car park. It is accessible on one day a month, and guided tours are offered by Museum staff. Again, you have to know it is there. So all in all, this walk was a labour of love, and took far longer to do than any of my other walks. It is in two parts. This is part one, from Tower Hill Underground (Circle and District zone 1) to the Museum of London (St Paul's Central Line zone 1). I hope to finish off the walk from the Museum down to Blackfriars when I get my breath back. It's a wonderful walk. There are many places where large, high sections of the wall are visible for free. The trouble is, you have to find them or know where they are. I tell you, and as far as I know there are no other up-to-date guides anywhere or my life would have been easier. It's a shame such an important historical site is now so poorly documented. if nothing else, I have made the whole length easier to find and more fun to follow, and the whole experience more interesting.