London without cars

Last Saturday I gained an insight into what London might feel like without cars. As part of the Ride London festival, Waterloo Bridge (pictured) and other roads round the city centre were reserved for cyclists. It was strange to walk along the Strand and hear only the sound of chatter and spinning wheels.For cyclists, the(…)

London’s underground heat

It’s been a hot few weeks here in London. Above-ground, things have been made worse by the heat island effect: all the reflective hard surfaces and heat from cars and air conditioners, which mean that temperatures in the city centre can be up to 10C warmer than in the countryside. Things have been pretty steamy underground,(…)

Time to talk about the Thames Tideway tunnel

The Thames Tideway tunnel – also known as the ‘super sewer’ – will be the biggest infrastructure project ever undertaken by the UK water industry. I first heard about it in 2003. I had recently joined the legal team at the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and was about to take on(…)

A Poetic Response to The London Ear

I received this week the best thank you I’ve ever had for a walk: a wonderful poem. It’s called Abecedarian for the future sounds of the city and was written by the poet Sarah Salway who came on The London Ear on Tuesday evening. Sarah penned it afterwards as an example for her students of an ‘Abecedarian’, where the first(…)

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.Things were different in the past. In Mediaeval London, it was forbidden to walk through the City after the dusk curfew bell. In the nineteenth century, whilst nocturnal roaming was allowed, large areas of the metropolis(…)

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(…)