London Walks connecting.
This… is London.
Story time. History time.
Yes, London Walks.
y Streets Ahead.
Streets ahead on this day, January 22nd, 2024.
And for the record, that’s the surf of the Indian Ocean you’re hearing in the background. Waves – I wonder how far they’ve come – waves breaking against a breakwater about a hundred yards from where I’m sitting.
Anyway, it’s PRO time.
PRO. P for Pin. R for Random. O for Ongoing.
Our Pin is a January 22, 2024 news story pinned to the front end of this podcast.
And R for Random. Our Random is a fun, quirky, catch-you-by-surprise, out-of-the-blue factoid.
And O is for Ongoing. The Ongoing we’ve got going is a series about Trafalgar Square. But today we’re going to give that one a breather. I’ve got other fish to fry today.
The pin – the news story – is, you guessed it, Storm Isha. 99 mph winds. Road, rail and air travel disrupted.
Moving on, today’s Random.
Today’s Random is the great London riddle. You ready? Take this on board. Let it sink in.
London is perpetually new. And always old.
And so we come to Ongoing. We’re going to back burner Trafalgar Square today, give it a miss. Instead, we’re going to introduce a new strand to the Ongoing Weave. Going to call this one The Walks Announcement Strand.
And the best way I can usher this one in is to say, London Walks is doing it. We’re putting Humpty Dumpty back together. As you know, the Humpster, along with the rest of the world, fell off the wall called Covid back in 2020. Fell off the wall and shattered into a million pieces. Those million pieces were the fragments of London Walks
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
Well, we didn’t have any of the King’s horses, let alone all of them. Nor did we have any of the King’s men.
But by God we’ve been putting Humpty Dumpty – putting London Walks – back together again. Piece by piece.
And as of today we’ve got a really important piece – a really wonderful piece – that’s wonderful as in wonderful the adjective. And Wonder Full the noun and adverb. Wonder…Full. Full of Wonder. As of today we’ve got a really Wonder Full piece back in place.
Appetite whetted? Here you go. The distinguished University College London geologist Ruth Siddall’s Urban Geology Tours are back. Starting on February 10th. Ruth’s going to do a different urban geology tour for us in four of the next five months: February 10th, March 16th, May 4th, and June 29th
And after that 2024 Springtime – Eastertide run – of Ruth’s urban geology tours, we’ll go from there. Watch this space. For full particulars of this first run of four just go to those four dates on the Calendar on the London Walks website – www.walks.com.
And for a closer look, here’s what’s so wonderful – so special – about Ruth’s Urban Geology Tours.
First of all, this almost goes without saying, Ruth herself. She’s the perfect combination of astonishing expertise, contagious enthusiasm and great fun.
Another London Walks superstar guide, Adam, talks about mingling with a group of walkers before the start of one of Ruth’s tours and when Ruth arrived a couple of the people in the group delightedly exclaimed, “Oh, it’s her” – and the way they said it, said it all. They’d been with Ruth before, they knew how much fun they’d had and how interesting it had been. They saw Ruth and they knew instanta they were in for another good time.
Now as for Ruth’s expertise, Ruth’s walks are sui generis. There’s nothing else like them. They change the way you see London. I remember the first one I did with her. It went up through Mayfair. Now at no little risk of belabouring the obvious, I’m a London Walks guide. I know Mayfair. I know it really well. I guide it. Ruth made a neighbourhood that I know really well all new. My jaw was hanging open from first to last.
I’d never looked at building stones before. Let alone have even the foggiest about their history. Their characteristics and properties, the millions of years of titanic drama deep in the bowels of the earth that it took to create them. Ruth unveils those scenes, paints those pictures, makes us see them. You want spellbinding creation stories, they don’t come any more awesome. Titanic forces over time telescoped for us. Edge of the seat ripping, rumbling, tearing, grinding, crushing, crashing bombardments deep in the bowels of the earth. And we get it in fast forward – the most tremendous, convulsive, lightshow in our minds.
My best American pal – David Hall – lives in Manhattan. David went on one and was gobsmacked. Thunderstruck. Now every time he comes to London he books Ruth for a private Urban Geology Walk. He’s a tremendous walker. Walks all over Manhattan. And I hear it again and again, he now looks at Manhattan buildings very closely and wonders – every time – “I wonder what Ruth would say about this piece of Manhattan. Or that piece over the way.” I half expect the time is coming when he’s going to fly her over there to give him a Manhattan Urban Geology Tour. David’s like me. He likes knowing things other people don’t know. And he fancies seeing swanky Park Avenue New Yorkers coming” out of their building and thinking, “I know fascinating stuff about the building you’re living in that you’re clueless about.” He’s going to have to screw his self-control to the sticking point to keep from accosting those people and saying, ‘hey, did you know this about your building?’
But let’s give the last word to Serena Tallarico, the Senior Business Development Manager for London & Partners, the umbrella organisation that promotes and oversees London Tourism. The AGU – the American Geophysical Union – the nonprofit organisation of Earth, atmospheric, oceanic, hydrologic, space and planetary scientists – has always held its annual convention in America. A few years ago – pre-pandemic – they decided to test the waters, give some thought to holding their annual convention in a foreign country. Needless to say, that was red meat to London & Partners. They’d love for the AGU to come to London. London Walks is of course a partner, a member of London & Partners.
Inevitably, they reached out to us. “The AGU is sending representatives over on a fishing expedition. They’re looking to see what they can lay on for their members if down the road they decide to hold their convention in London. Does London Walks have anybody who’s be right for them?
Do we ever was the answer to that question. And her name is Ruth Siddall. She’s an eminent University College London geologist. She does brilliant urban geology walking tours. They go with Ruth it’ll be a done deal.
So sure enough, we lined up a Ruth-guided urban geology tour for them. And as we knew it would, it went down a treat. In her note to us, Serena said, “Ruth’s walk was a runaway success – the highlight of the three-day familiarisation trip. Upshot: London is now firmly on the map for AGU and their future meetings.”
And then Serena was well away, she said, “OMG, the hidden treasures you can find on London walls. Who knew there are fossils on the buildings we walk past every day.” Serena put her finger on it of course. Literally and figuratively. One of the great takeaways from Ruth’s urban geology walks is going along there at a future date with a friend and saying, “hey, look at this, that little fellow is 280 million years old.” Thereafter your friend is going to look at you with a newfound respect.
So that’s Ruth. That’s her work. Those are her walks. That’s who we’ve got back in the London Walks fold. If we were the British Museum Ruth’s walks would be the equivalent of the Egyptian mummies or the Rosetta stone. They’re that special. She’s that good.
I’m usually not even remotely directive. But with the distinguished University College London geologist Ruth Siddall’s urban geology tours I’m going to go against the grain. I’m going to be directive. Do yourself a big favour. Book one or more of her walks. See for yourself what there is to see. See why everybody raves about her tours.
“Oh, it’s her!”
You’ve been listening to This… is London, the London Walks podcast. Emanating from www.walks.com –
home of London Walks,
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.
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
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, archaeologists, historians,
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.