London’s birds and the global sound wave

International Dawn Chorus Day on Sunday 1 May is a prompt to connect with birds as they herald a new day. Do London’s birds sing differently from their country cousins? Studies have found that great tits chirp higher. This is thought to be so as better to project above the rumble of traffic and other(…)

Stop. Look. Listen. Think.

It’s been a very long time since my last post. A lot has happened. I’ve met a wonderful array of tour-goers, old and young. I’ve taken on Central London with London In Slow Motion, the London Ear and the recently launched Power Walk. I’m slow-cooking ideas for a new tour in 2015 about Common London. And(…)

Slow It Down

With London In Slow Motion launching officially on Sunday 22 September, I spoke about my walks to the lovely folk at Slow It Down. It’s an eZine ‘dedicated to making time for the more thoughtful, imaginative and subtle things in life.’ You can read the interview here.

When Mental Slackness is a Virtue

Whether you’re going away for a week or stealing a day out in the sunshine I heartily recommend taking a moment to read this advice from E.R. Thompson. It’s from The Human Machine (1925), a collection of articles that first appeared in John Bull magazine. The Holiday Mind This month thousands of my readers will be having their holidays. I(…)

All Life Is Here

Out this morning in the glorious sunshine on a recce for the Thames Bestiary. It’s a walk that I’ve developed for Viewfinder Gallery’s Thames Trail project, but will be leading again this autumn sans Viewfinder. Passed Aerosol Can Man, about to be whitewashed by Greenwich Council’s anti-graffiti team … … pigeons sun-bathing … … a(…)

Feeling Like a Ghost

Generally, what captivates me most about old found photos and documentary footage is that sense of looking at ghosts. Watching this film of London in 1926, I experience the reverse: of being myself a ghost from the future visiting people from the past. It happens as the camera rolls along Petticoat Lane, from 4 minutes(…)

Mortified Menagerie

On the Greenwich Bestiary we chuckle at John Reardon’s Monument to a Dead Parrot. It’s a bird (a cockatoo, to be precise) with a marvellous story that I won’t go into now – you’ll have to come on the walk! Lately, it has put me in mind of Trafalgar Square. Partly, that’s because of the(…)

Come to London!

Another find from Greenwich market: a curious snapshot of nineteenth century London where Nelson’s column looms over the Tower and factories nestle beneath St Paul’s. It’s a city on the move, powered by horses, sails and steam. I am naturally drawn to the chimneys and funnels, painting the sky with their smoky plumes. Come to(…)

Of Sea Monsters and Giant Cranes

On the Chimneys & Tunnels walk we visit the launch ramp of SS Great Eastern, Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s massive iron sailing steam ship. Faced with a rather sad row of wooden sleepers in a quiet backwater of the Isle of Dogs, it’s hard to imagine the astonishing spectacle of the boat’s construction there in the(…)

Railways under London

I’ve often wondered how London’s deep tunnels were built in the years between Marc Brunel’s early nineteenth century heroics and today’s monster tunnel boring machines (see Into the void). At what point did men wielding picks disappear from the front line? Not before 1948 it seems, according to Marie Neurath, author and illustrator of the post-war(…)