Come together, right now over me – Adam on the Abbey Road crosswalk

London calling.

London Walks connecting.

This… is London.

This is London Walks.

Streets ahead.

Story time. History time.


Good morning, London. It’s April 19th, 2024.

Today’s pin isn’t so much a news story as a heads-up.

But first, we need to set the scene. Start with the double nucleus – the two cities – of London and Westminster. Two cities linked by three roads. The northernmost road is High Holborn. The middle road is the Strand and Fleet Street. Same street but two names. Those two names are a reminder that London and Westminster once upon a time were two entirely different and separate cities. When you’re in the Strand you’re in Westminster. When you’re in Fleet Street you’re in London. And the third road – the most important road throughout London’s history – the River Thames.

So those three roads conjoin, link those two very different cities. In time, a series of palatial residences sprang up along the north bank of the Thames. They’re all gone now. Remembered only in name. Durham House, York House, the Savoy Palace, Northumberland House, etc. And how mighty and magnificent they must have been. Centuries ago a foreign visitor said, “the world affords no finer sight, take land and sea together, than to come up the river, shoot the bridge at high tide, and go along to Westminster surveying the palaces fringing the north bank of the Thames.

Ok, hand on heart here, I just misled you. Ever so slightly. I said they’re all gone. Only their names survive. Not quite true. One of them is still with us. Somerset House. And it is truly magnificent. Somerset House is London at its grandest in that continental manner. I’ve been known to call it St Petersburg on Thames. And so we come to the heads-up. Something astonishing happened to St Petersburg on Thames a few weeks ago. Somerset House’s huge and majestic courtyard was transformed into – wait for it – a bamboo garden. The large scale – that puts it mildly – the large scale commission was the work of Hong Kong-based artist Zheng Bo. But let’s go to the horse’s mouth. Here’s Somerset House’s take on what’s happened to the finest neoclassical courtyard in London.

“This site specific and participatory installation creates a place for contemplation and serves as a reminder of the restorative qualities of nature within the urban landscape of Somerset House and central London. Zheng’s commission is the newest addition to the annual Somerset House Courtyard Commission Series which features international, contemporary artists who exemplify innovative thinking across sustainability and ecology.”

And, yes, you’ve guessed by now, the bamboo garden’s tenure in the Somerset House courtyard is almost over. Come April 28th it’ll be no more. So this is your last chance to see a one-off, see something you’ll never get another chance to see. A bamboo garden in the courtyard of St Petersburg on Thames.


Moving on, today’s Random. By now you know I’ve got a weakness – though I’d call it a fondness – for London nuggets of fact. So let’s get this pretty special London fact into play. London is the third largest Scottish city in this country. There are 200,000 Scots in London. So, yes,  the Big Smoke’s got a ways to go before it overtakes Glasgow’s 640,000 and Edinburgh’s 500,000 but in a photo finish it’s pipped Aberdeen’s 198,000.

And what a contribution, what a difference the Scots have made to London. And what a difference our favourite Scot has made to London Walks.

And lo and behold, that brings us to today’s Ongoing. Ongoing – London stuff right down the pipe.

Our favourite Scot. Well, London Walks aficionados certainly know the score here. That’s right. I’m talking about Adam of course. How good is Adam? Let me put it this way. Those of you who know American basketball will get this instanta. Adam is to London guiding what Michael Jordan was to basketball. Sport not your thing? Ok, let’s shift gears. Try this. Adam’s the Caravaggio of the London walking tour scene. Intellect, passion, wit, warmth, style, mastery of his subject, originality, he’s got it all. For many years now I’ve described Adam as the only human being I know who talks like a well- written magazine article. He does a ton of walks for us, every single one of them is a masterpiece. But his speciality of specialities is London music tours. And he’s dropped by today to tell us everything we need to know – that’s the main course – and everything we want to know – those are the trimmings – about the Abbey Road crosswalk, the most famous crosswalk on God’s green earth. Here’s Adam…


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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