Byron, Super Collision, New Walks & Getting Away from the Marathon

London calling.

London Walks connecting.

This… is London.

This is London Walks.

Streets ahead.

Story time. History time.


Good evening, London. It’s April 20th, 2024. Today’s pin. Yesterday was the 200th anniversary of the death of the great Romantic poet Lord Byron. He who was “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” So this pin, this news story is a shoo-in for me because it’s a literary news story. And very much a London news story. It’s about the statue of Lord Byron in Park Lane. On an island in Park. And because it’s on an island – the dangerous currents of all that traffic surging by it day and night – it’s the London statue nobody ever sees. Nobody in their right mind is going to risk their life crossing a freeway to see a statue. It was a terrible place to put a statue – mad, bad and dangerous to go. Anyway, 66 years ago the authorities gave the go-ahead to relocate the statue. In Hyde Park. And, well, the wheels of change can and do turn slowly in London. 66 years on the statue is still isolated out there on its traffic island. But the bicentenary of Byron’s death may have done the trick. The Byron Society is fund-raising to get it moved to that infinitely better site in Hyde Park that, in 1958, was mooted and approved as the final resting place for the Byron statue.


Moving on, today’s Random. This one’s coming from Sevilla airport. Putting paid on our ninth visit to the most beautiful Spanish city of them all, the city half a millennium ago was the most important city in the world.  I’ve traveled a fair, dozens of countries, several continents… and my favourite place in the world, to visit at any rate, is the sunny south, the Mediterranean. I’ve got friends and family who’ve been to London. And to Paris. But never to the Mediterranean. I think of Malcolm, an old friend and in due course our first graphic designer. An eye for colour and beauty like no other. But Malcolm has agoraphobia. Serious, severe panic attacks when he crosses Waterloo Bridge. Or Westminster Bridge. Or especially the Millennium Bridge. Malcolm’s never been abroad, let alone to the Mediterranean. It’s not as though it’s a national tragedy. But it is desperately sad, an acute personal tragedy, that Malcolm has never seen the blue of the Mediterranean or the cerulean southern skies or the flowers. Or the oranges growing on trees.

Anyway, I’m leading up here to today’s Random. Mediterranean-wise, we’re blessed that we’re alive today. 50 million years from now the Mediterranean won’t exist. You look carefully enough and look long enough you can see it happening. You’re on a beach holiday, in Spain, say, on the Mediterranean. Stay right there for a year, your eyes riveted to the shore. In a year the shore will have moved a little less than an inch. Will have moved toward the African shore. Giving the lie to what Herman Melville said about the sea in Moby Dick. “One knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath.” Gives the lie to Melville because we do know about that mystery, we do know what’s happening. What’s happening is Africa and Europe are slowly colliding. Have been so for 40 million years. On the way they’re pushing up the Pyranees and the Alps. 50 million years from now it won’t be two continents separated by the Mediterranean. It’ll be one supercontinent. Eurafrica. And where the Mediterranean was there’ll be a mountain range as high and mighty as the Himalayas. So get to the Mediterranean while the getting’s good. And credit where credit’s due. I have Tom Standage, the Deputy Editor of The Economist, to thank for that glimpse of an unrecognisable world, that glimpse of tectonic, geologic and, yes, climate change. When the Mediterranean – the name means in the middle of the land – isn’t a lovely sea in the middle of the land but instead is a K9 and a Mount Everest and basically a Himalayan range that makes today’s Alps look like foothills. When that hour comes round, it’ll be say hello to a reverse Atlantis for Gibraltar and Rome and Barcelona and Jerusalem and Morocco and Athens. Fancy a Mediterranean holiday – pack your parka. Just as well it’s happening at a rate of one inch a year. I’m put in mind of what Mary Shelley said in Frankenstein, “Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” Imagine.


Moving on. Today’s Ongoing. And that Random – that tectonic shift – leads right into it. Unlike the tectonic shift it’s going to be brief. It’s going to London Walks developments and announcements. For the very good reason that this is a travel day.

And sure enough, announcement Numero Uno is a perfect fit with continental drift. Happy days because Geologist Ruth has just written in with some more dates for her Urban Geology Walks. Four of them in fact. Ruth’s walks have got their own thumbnail on the home page – it’s an image of a great and sudden change – presumably an eruption – and it’s labeled Rocks of Ages. So just shimmer on over to the Rocks of Ages thumbnail if you want to see what Ruth will be serving up Urban Geology-wise between now and September. Can’t recommend her walks too strongly of course. There’s nothing like them. London buildings never look the same again. Ruth differentiates London building stone. Their characteristics. How they came into being. The cataclysmic adventures that were visited on them over millions of years as they made their way down their birth canal. The tendency with Ruth is to look back back back – look back millions of years – but of course she’s SuperWoman, she’s got that X-ray vision – she can see forward millions of years. Tell you about those tectonic plates. About those awful stirrings beneath the Mediterranean. Indeed, beneath London. What a hoot.

Ok, that’s the first announcement. The second announcement is the Friday Lawyer’s London Walk that’s guided by a lawyer. I say Friday because it has now officially made its way to being a weekly offer. Pre-pandemic we did Lawyers’ London – the Inns of Court every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The Monday and Wednesday walk made a quick comeback. The Friday one well, there was a lacuna there.

The Friday Legal London walk was conspicuous by its absence. Step forward criminal defence lawyer and professionally qualified guide Joanne. She said, ‘why don’t we do a lawyer’s London Walk once a month on a Friday, limit the group size, and have it always guided by a lawyer, a solicitor or a barrister.’  We gave it a whirl. It was successful. We bumped it up to twice a month. And now it’s full speed ahead, it’s going every Friday. Costs a bit more and has to be booked and pre-paid. But you’re going to be guided by a barrister or a solicitor and you get the VIP treatment of a guaranteed small group. So you’ll see that one on the Friday menu.

And last, but certainly not least, Adam’s full complement of Summer 2024 Music Tours has just been rolled out. Adam also has a thumbnail on the homepage. Look for the guitarist and the legend Music Tours.

Tell you something about this walking tour game. All other things being equal this would be one of the world’s most pure meritocracies. The best guides would make the running. Doesn’t always work out that way of course because of all the internet marketing shenanigans that are going on. There’s a protocol for savvy visitors that goes a long way toward counteracting those shenanigans. But savvy visitors are maybe only one out of every 50. Anyway, if anyone wants to know, that pure meritocracy protocol is to listen to what other customers say about a walk. Or a guide. By way of example – here’s Adam’s most recent review. It came in this morning. And it’s par for the course. This is the kind of thing people say about Adam’s tours – and indeed about Adam the man – over and over again.

The reviewer is one Johnny Warburton. The walk is Adam’s Rock ’n’ Roll London Tour. Here’s Johnny.

“If you love music you must do this tour. Simply Brilliant! A walking tour with Adam was as near to walking with a good friend who delivers you knowledge in a way you enjoy and remember. Cheers Adam, hope to see you again. Johnny”

Anything else? Yeah, you want to get far from the madding crowd tomorrow – and some of you will want to – far from the London Marathon, I mean, here’s a handful of great London Walks, taking place tomorrow, Sunday, April 21st, that will do just that, get you far from the madding crowd.

Two Sunday morning walks in Hampstead. My, David’s, Hampstead Village and Hampstead Heath walk. And Stewart Purvis’s Hampstead Spies Walk.

Highgate Village – “a place apart” – will perform the same magic. As will Alison’s Charming Chiswick Walk. Ditto Stephanie’s Classic London Mews and Hidden Passageways walk. Those are all in the morning. For the afternoon, try either Little Venice or The Regent’s Canal Walk. Great escapes, all of them. So far from the madding crowd. A solace. And a relief. The diary heading could read: April 21st, The London Marathon. I caught a break. Went to Hampstead. Or Chiswick. Or Highgate. Or Little Venice.

You’ve been listening to This… is London, the London Walks podcast. Emanating from –

home of London Walks,

London’s signature

walking tour company.

London’s local, time-honoured, fiercely independent, family-owned, just-the-right-size

walking tour company.

And as long as we’re at it,

London’s multi-award-winning walking tour company. Indeed, London’s only award-winning walking tour company.

And here’s the secret: London Walks is essentially run as a guides’ cooperative.

That’s the key to everything.

It’s the reason we’re able to attract and keep the best guides in London. You can get schlubbers to do this for £20 a walk. But you cannot get world-class guides – let alone accomplished professionals.

It’s not rocket science:

you get what you pay for.

And just as surely,

you also get what you don’t pay for.

Back in 1968 when we got started

we quickly came to a fork in the road. We had to answer a searching question:

Do we want to make the most money? Or do we want to be the best walking tour company in the world?

You want to make the most money you go the schlubbers route. You want to be the best walking tour company in the world

you do whatever you have to do

to attract and keep

the best guides in London –

you want them guiding for you,

not for somebody else.

Bears repeating:

the way we’re structured –

a guides’ cooperative –

is the key to the whole thing.

It’s the reason for all those awards, it’s the reason people who know go with London Walks, it’s the reason we’ve got a big following,

a lively, loyal, discerning following – quality attracts quality.

It’s the reason we’re able – uniquely – to front our walks with accomplished, in many cases

distinguished professionals:

By way of example, Stewart Purvis, the former Editor

(and subsequently CEO) of Independent Television News.

And Lisa Honan, who had a distinguished career as a diplomat (Lisa was the Governor of St Helena, the island where Napoleon breathed his last and, some say, had his penis amputated –

Napoleon didn’t feel a thing – if thing’s the mot juste – he was dead.)

Stewart and Lisa –

both of them CBEs –

are just a couple of our headline acts.

Or take our Ripper Walk. It’s the creation of the world’s leading expert on Jack the Ripper, Donald Rumbelow, the author of the definitive book on the subject.  Britain’s most distinguished crime historian, Donald is, in the words of The Jack the Ripper A to Z,“internationally recognised as the leading authority on Jack the Ripper.” Donald’s emeritus now but he’s still the guiding light on our Ripper Walk. He curates the walk. He trains up and mentors our Ripper Walk guides. Fields any and all questions they throw at him.

The London Walks Aristocracy of Talent – its All-Star team of guides – includes a former London Mayor. It includes the former Chief Music Critic for the Evening Standard. It includes the Chair of the Association of Professional Tour Guides. And the former chair of the Guild of Guides.

It includes barristers, doctors, geologists, museum curators, a former Museum of London archaeologist, historians,

university professors (one of them a distinguished Cambridge University paleontologist); it includes

criminal defence lawyers,

Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre actors,

a bevy of MVPs, Oscar winners (people who’ve won the big one, the Guide of the Year Award)…

well, you get the idea.

As that travel writer famously put it, “if this were a golf tournament,

every name on the Leader Board would be a London Walks guide.”

And as we put it: London Walks Guides make the new familiar

and the familiar new.

And on that agreeable note…

come then, let us go forward together on some great London Walks.

And that’s by way of saying, Good walking and Good Londoning

one and all. See ya next time.

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