One of the things I love best about these walks is seeing where the day takes me. I never research the area beforehand, I just see what catches my attention along the way. It’s a great way to see a version of London that’s all for me and that highlights the things I find most interesting. I talk with shop owners (and strangers on the street), read plaques on places of interest and keep an eye out for any themes of the day. Every day has its own character and even if I walked the same path next week it would be a new experience again, showing me things I didn’t see before.
My hope with this blog is to inspire you to take a couple of hours one day to set out for a wander with no purpose and see what London has to show you. You know those side streets and courtyards you glimpse as you walk briskly to and from your office? See what they’re all about. Get curious. Get lost. Get a taste of London at its mysterious best. The only downside? You may get addicted. I can assume no responsibility for the hours you may lose in your attempt to quench your London thirst.
Today was a really interesting and fun 5.58 miles with far too many finds to share without boring you to death. Here are my highlights!!
The Star of the Day
Way back on Day 2, the Gherkin managed to make its way into nearly every photo I took. Today, St. Paul’s did the same. It peeked over rooftops to find me in backyard courts and it dominated the skyline when the alleys opened into streets. Numerous books discuss the history, architecture and social significance of St. Paul’s but I find it a fascinating place for the role it plays every day. Everyone LOVES this building. Friends gather on the steps for people-watching sessions, kids chase each other around the lush gardens and strangers whisper to each other across the dome.
It’s solid, it’s beautiful, it’s comforting, it’s peaceful. I can imagine there were no dry eyes in the house when, after the Blitz, the smoke cleared and there stood the dome of this invincible building. Spend an afternoon in its shadow and you’ll see why it is so loved and cherished.
Want more? There are many views of St. Paul’s that are protected by law. Check some of them out for yourself! Also, if you didn’t get a chance to take part this year, the Open House will come around in 2014 too.
Other Places of Interest
Even though they are in the shadow of this monumental building, several other spots caught my eye as I was meandering through the back roads today.
– The King’s Wardrobe
Does this stir up the image for you of a giant oak wardrobe sizzling and crackling from the inside, flames licking the outside with a crack in the door revealing a priceless mink coat about to get roasted? No? Ok it’s just me then. As it turns out, it isn’t that kind of wardrobe. According to Wikipedia, originally the Wardrobe did mean a room where the King stored his clothes, armour and treasure, but the term eventually expanded to describe its contents and then the department of clerks who ran it (Really??! A whole department??). All I can say is that it’s a damn shame the role of Master of the Wardrobe no longer exists.
– Amen Court
A small, residential court next to the Stationer’s Hall. I was amazed at how quiet it was back here. When I say quiet, I mean absolutely silent. That’s a rare find 100 yards from Ludgate Circus.
– Wynkyn de Worde & Stationer’s Hall
Ok I’m a book nerd so bear with me on this one!
Wynkyn de Worde (yep, that’s his name) is commonly known as “England’s first typographer”. While he did rely on patronage from the wealthy to cover printing costs, he also aimed to make printed material available for the average citizen, marking the beginning of the mass market book (surely Danielle Steele and John Grisham owe him some accolades!). He set up the first print site on Fleet Street (later to become the centre of printing in London) and the first to set up a book stall in St. Paul’s Churchyard (which later became the centre of book trade in London). I wish I knew how to pronounce his name so I could say thanks!!
The Stationers Hall houses the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers, one of London’s 109 Livery Companies. The liveries, trade associations within the City (formerly guilds), regulated the wages and unions within their industry. They are responsible for ample amounts of social and educational programmes within the City and retain voting rights for the Corporation of the City of London.
In 1515 only 48 Companies existed and were ranked by the Court of Aldermen based on economic and political power. The Stationer’s Company fell at number 47. Apparently stationery and newspapers have always been undervalued!
An interesting point about that list as well: the Merchant Taylors and the Skinners (numbers 6 and 7) have disputed their rank on the list since its inception (they were both awarded charters in 1327 but with no proof as to which was first) so each year they swap places. This is thought by some to be the origin of the term “at sixes and seven”. Gotta love some debatable etymology!
A last note of interest (to me) is that the Hackney Carriage Drivers’ Company is one which still plays a professional role in the city: regulating black cab drivers who have passed the Knowledge (and we all know how I feel about these guys!)
– Crossrail construction
If you haven’t noticed the massive amount of Crossrail construction throughout the city, you are clearly spending too much time with your head down playing Candy Crush on your walk to the office. It’s a MASSIVE project to improve the cross-city commute for millions of Londoners. It’s a pretty big deal. There’s something so enjoyable about watching a huge project take shape, one bucket-load of dirt at a time.
Today’s Theme: Doors!
I came across a lot of doors I liked today. Here are some of my favourites.
Bits and Bobs
I’ve watched ALL 8 seasons of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia the last two weeks so this made me smile. (If you haven’t watched this show you are missing out! It’s awful and wonderful and bizarre and sweet….and evil.)
I like this artwork in One New Change
REALLY?!?!?!?! Christmas bookings already??? Must we??
Last week I asked for ideas for my new walking companion and journal. While Felix Tuffington was considered, I decided I like the idea of linking him with a London walker (thanks, Ian!). On Day 4, I came across a journal snippet of Sam Pepys on the wall of Stew Lane, a small alley housing the Samuel Pepys Bar & Restaurant. So I decided to name my buddy Stew!
Today’s Happy (Nerdy) Moment
I found a Trap Street!! These are fake streets mapmakers use as a sort of fingerprint on their information. If another company makes a map with the same fake street in the same place, it’s a pretty solid bet they just stole your information without doing their own legwork. *tsk tsk* I respect the A to Z far too much to reveal where it is (or isn’t). You’ll just have to figure this one out for yourself.
See you next time!
Today’s walking map can be found at: http://www.mapmywalk.com/workout/389665425