Tranquil City

For most of us, our experience of London most of the time is as a noisy fast place. We arrive at crowded stations, rush to work along busy roads, shop to blaring music, and go for drinks in places where we have to shout to be heard. The challenge of finding a slower side to(…)

Celebrating London’s trees

It’s May, the sun is out and the trees are looking good! As well as their gorgeous spring finery, here are five things to love about London’s trees.London’s trees are as much a part of the capital’s human history as are its buildings. Take the London Plane, which is in fact a cross between the(…)

Wandering Free?

To wander through London pausing occasionally to notice, listen, reflect, discuss – these are the freedoms our walks depend on.‘Twas not ever thus. Walking through the Mediaeval City after dusk was forbidden under laws such as the Curfew Ordinance of 1297 – a drastic measure to ‘protect’ the capital from murderous mobs. In the nineteenth(…)

Getting to grips with noise

With International Noise Awareness Day coming up on 25 April, it’s a good time to think about noise: what it is, and what we can do about it.According to the government’s Noise Policy Statement, ‘sound only becomes noise (often defined as ‘unwanted sound’) when it exists in the wrong place or at the wrong time’ causing(…)

The Monument: memorial, fossil, telescope, gnomon

The Monument – the flame-topped Doric column to the north of London Bridge – was once the capital’s tallest building. At 202ft, it’s as high as it is distant from the bakery on Pudding Lane where the Great Fire started in 1666. Visible from all around, it would have reminded anyone who looked up of(…)

Ringing the changes

First it was Big Ben – silenced in August (see London Loses Its Voice) – now, St Paul’s. So, when I led a group into the Cathedral courtyard one Sunday morning expecting them to be dazzled by the change ringing, we were greeted with … nothing.It turns out that the bells were taken down in(…)

London’s answer to plastic waste

There was a time when Londoners weren’t that fussed by water. Gin and beer were far more popular, and – dissipation and alcohol poisoning aside – safer to drink. It took the Victorian temperance movement coupled with terrible cholera epidemics for people to realise that free, potable water might be a good thing. So, in(…)

Talking about Slowing Down on Lush Radio

I was delighted to be invited by Lush cosmetics radio station to join a conversation about slowing down. It’s an explicit theme of London In Slow Motion walk. But actually the idea of slowing down – taking time to stop, look, listen and think – is key to all our walks.It was an interesting morning bouncing ideas around with Eloise King (executive producer(…)

London loses its voice

At midday on Monday Big Ben will sound its last bongs until 2021. It’s being silenced so that the clock and surrounding tower can be safely repaired. It will continue to show the correct time. But once the bell’s striking hammer is locked, the clock will lose its voice.Perhaps London, too, will lose its voice. Big Ben represents(…)

City noise and body rhythms

We tend to think of noisy places as ‘fast’ and quiet places as ‘slow’. There’s a rather obvious reason for this: motion – from cars, tube trains, hordes of commuters – usually generates noise. Other kinds of noise, though, have nothing to do with movement. A pub packed with people shouting to be heard above the music might still feel(…)