Off-Beat Walking in London

April 8, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Posted in Eating and Drinking, Learning Stuff | 1 Comment
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Well, we’re three quarters of the way through this gloomy Easter weekend and I’m sad to say I have not cycled once. Prof Hayling and I didn’t make it to Essex after all so I instead opted for a pleasantly melancholy London-themed weekend of gin, Patrick Hamilton (a re-read of Hangover Square) and walks around the city courtesy of Shire’s retro classic Discovering Off-Beat Walks in London and the fascinating Hackney Hear (which has led me around London Fields this afternoon, possibly looking a bit like a weirdo).

Yesterday I opted for Shire’s (partial) London Wall walk. Starting at St Paul’s you walk up St Martin-le-Grand and Aldersgate before wandering round the back to Noble Street where large portions of London’s Roman city wall can be seen. Things get a bit confusing when you negotiate the raised walkways around the Museum of London and the Barbican but it’s all fascinating stuff, especially as this is a walk that really highlights London’s rich juxtaposition of old and new, e.g. the 200AD Roman wall next to 20th and 21st century office blocks, or St Giles, Cripplegate Church in the midst of the Barbican complex.

This (left) is the the tower of St Alban’s Church and is all that remains of an early church that was rebuilt in the 17th century by Inigo Jones and again by Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London. The church was partially destroyed in the Blitz, with the rest demolished in the 1960s. Now just the tower remains as a listed building serving as a private home with a roof garden.

Hackney Hear is a GPS-enabled application for the iphone or similar. As you stroll around London Fields and Broadway Market, audio clips based on your location get played – I heard Iain Sinclair musing on London Fields’ distant and more recent past; a local discussing the gang culture of the area; a poem about trees; a song about the lido, and the history of outdoor swimming in East London.

If you stray out of range whilst listening to a particular recording you have to walk back – hence my possibly looking a bit odd as I paced back and forth, suddenly halting from time to time. But hey, who cares about such things? If you are in the area and are technologically enabled, I recommend you check out Hackney Hear – it’s free to download here. The map (pictured right) that accompanies the app is by the talented Badaude. You can read more about her experience of working on Hackney Hear here, and see some of her other London walking maps here.

Tomorrow I will re-emerge from these solitary London pleasures and host a Famous Five High Tea. It’s time to finally attempt the chocolate mould of Five Fall into Adventure as the Lenten chocolate fast is over, and, in the words of young Sid the paperboy, who gets embroiled in this adventure, I am now feeling ‘partial to anything in the chocolate line’.

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