London Walks...the beginning
As ever, life got in the way and I haven't been able to sit down and write in a while. I did do what I promised though and I began to explore the city more. For my birthday a couple of years ago I was given a box of 'City Walks, London - 50 Adventures On Foot.' It has sat on my bookshelf all this time, along with two other books about London (which I will begin to delve into soon) and when writing my first blog post I decided that I would work my way through the walks by picking the cards at random, packing my bag and going out on a walk. Each card, about twice the size of a playing card, has a map on one side and directions on the other including places of interest and interesting facts about where you are. I've done three of the walks already, two solo and one with a friend, and what I enjoyed most was the fact they made me slow down and actually look at where I was walking. This really is a beautiful city and one that I have completely and utterly fallen back in love with.
I'm not sure how interesting the first few will be to read about. I did them so long ago so they may end up being more factual than witty and interesting insights to parts of London you thought you knew...to be honest, I'm not sure they would be that witty anyway!
Walk One: Chelsea - King's Road & Neighborhood Highlights
The first cards out the box...Chelsea. I must say that my heart did sink a little bit. Chelsea, the home of rich and privileged, not really somewhere I would choose to go on a walk but these are the cards I picked so on went my shoes and out the door I went. It was a beautiful June morning and the bus journey took me over the Thames - a sight I will never tire of - up to Sloane Square.
I strolled down King's Road stopping off at Duke of York Square, where there were a lot of rather good looking and trendy people drinking coffee and the Saatchi Gallery. "Ah ha!" I thought. This is exactly why I am doing these walks, to go to places I have always meant to or not known about. I have been wanting to go to the Saatchi Gallery for a while but never got my act together. Here was my chance...it was closed for a private event. Never mind, it has gone on the list of 'Things I would like to do in London' so if anyone fancies a trip there, let me know.
The walk took me further down King's Road, into the Chelsea Farmer's Market - a place I wasn't that impressed with. It was pretty and cute but there is nothing 'farmer' or 'market' about it at all. Brixton Market, Borough Market, Maltby Street Market - that's more like it! Wandering past the pretty houses of Old Church Street, Justice Walk, Cheyne Row (where Thomas Carlyle "one of the Victorian era's finest writers" lived) and Cheyne Walk (some of its residents have included Mick Jagger, Henry James, Laurence Olivier, Ian Fleming and W. Somerset Maugham) I ended up along the Chelsea Embankment. I love being down by the river and spend a lot of time at The Southbank but I very rarely go anywhere else along the Thames so it was nice to see another part of it. I also discovered the Chelsea Physic Garden. This place looks absolutely fascinating. The walled Garden was founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries for its apprentices to study the medicinal qualities of plants, making it London's oldest botanical garden. Again, this has gone on the list of things to do as I think it would be nice to go with someone.
I continued back round past the Royal Hospital Chelsea and up to King's Road finishing the round trip at The Royal Court Theatre and that was Chelsea done - a lovely walk along some very pretty streets but nothing really to write home about. I will be heading back to visit the Saatchi Gallery and the Chelsea Physic Garden though so I would say it was a success.
The description on the card says about the area:
"Once the epicenter of London's countercultural scene and a vibrant symbol of the Swinging Sixties, King's Road has (to the dismay of some) received a rather dramatic makeover in recent years and is now one of London's most posh shopping streets."
I really did get the feeling that it would have been a much more interesting area to walk around all those years ago. But places change, they evolve over time and that is one of the reasons London is such an interesting city. It is always growing, changing, shifting as people come and go leaving their mark.