A New Series of Urban Walks

I’ve been lucky with the amount of time I’ve been able to take since the summer as a break from working, but it can’t last for ever, and soon work will press on me again. With this in mind, and knowing that one of the ways I keep sane when working is by doing some pavement pounding in London, I wanted to come up with a new series of walks. So I did just that.

One of my aims for the year is also to do more history-related walks, and a couple of weeks ago I hit upon the idea of statues, and creating walks by linking a series of statues up. One of the joys of walking somewhere like London (yes there are actually some joys), is the number of hidden or unexpected gems that you come across – from unobtrusive yet significant bits of history, to more quirky stuff, and this idea seemed to fit right into that.

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HMS President, WW1 destroyer, painted in dazzle pattern as part of the centenary commemorations

 

London is one of the richest cities in the world in terms of the amount of public art on display – both monumental (like statues) and the less formal (like the Olympic and Paralympic mascots that were dottted around the city in 2012, or more recently the Paddingtons and London buses). So creating such walks shouldn’t be difficult.

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Aldgate

 

I soon realised that the difficulty wasn’t going to come from lack of material, but rather from the sheer overwhelming amount. In other cities in the UK, it may be possible to do a single walk taking in all of the significant statues and public art – in London it’s not possible with over 400 items in the City of Westminster alone.

Laurence Olivier, outside the National Theatre
Laurence Olivier, outside the National Theatre

Some internet research very quickly revealed the way to tackle this though, and in particular a set of pages on Secret London, which had them by theme. I then expanded these lists with some lists by borough from Wikipedia, lifting those items that appealed from the Wikipedia list and adding them to the embryonic categories from Secret London. As I was doing so, some additional groupings emerged, leaving me with the following themes, some of which have enough in them to enable further sub-divisions:

  • Explorers
  • Engineers
  • Kings and Queens (I could do several walks on this category alone, not surprisingly)
  • Men of Letters, Philosophers and Religious Figures
  • Politicians and Statesmen (with sub-categories of Foreign Politicians, Americans, Freedom Fighters)
  • Scientists
  • Stage and Screen (actually surprisingly few)
  • Women (some covered in other categories too)
  • Warriors / Military (with obvious subdivisions into sailors and soldiers) – and this isn’t even including war memorials which could be a whole category by itself
  • Early History (Greeks, Romans, early Britons etc)
  • Mythical Figures
  • Victoria and Albert (because much of this stuff was put up when they were around, not surprisingly there’s loads of them specifically)
  • Artists

What I had here was a decent list that I could shape into a variety of walks – be those focused on a particular theme, or visiting all of the statues in a particular area. This means that I can build these into my London working schedule, or do them as full days in their own right.

Watch this space for the walks themselves….

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