Ralph McTell is a well-respected song writer, Streets of London is his most famous song by some margin, although “Clare to Here” which he wrote in 1963, is well known in Ireland. Streets of London is a good example of the 60/70s folk revival, and I am led to believe that it is taught as poetry in some German schools, it is also one of the most covered songs in the world. One of my favorite versions is by Sinead O’Connor, the sweetness of her voice highlights the sadness of the lyrics.
In 2017, it was released as a charity single as a duet with Ralph McTell and Annie Lennox with the proceeds going to Crisis, the homeless charity. The Anti-Nowhere League did a punk version in 1982, it sounds like it should be terrible, but it actually works surprisingly well as an angry punk song, with a “London Bridge is Falling Down” intro.
Grove Park to Crystal Palace – section 3 – is the longest on the Capital Ring. Starting at Grove Park Station we soon reach Railway Children Walk which commemorates the fact that the author E. Nesbitt lived nearby. There was very successful British film of the book in 1970, starring Jenny Agutter, and there have been many other adaptations since it was first serialized in “The London Magazine” in 1905.
Soon after this we arrive at Downham Woodland Walk, a narrow strip of woodland, which was once part of the Great North Wood. This itself was once part of the prehistoric forest that covered most of England, so many of the trees here are direct descendants of that forest. It does actually feel like a very old forest as you walk through it, although I guess that could be because I read about it before the walk.
Just before you leave the wood there is a marker to let you know that you are crossing the Greenwich meridian line. Soon after, we come to Beckenham Place Park, crossing the Ravensbourne River by means of a humpbacked bridge. Legend has it that the river got its name because Roman soldiers were led to the spring at its source by a raven. This is a large park; we walk alongside a golf course and cross a railway track before we come to Beckenham Place Park Lake, which appears to be a popular spot for wild swimming.
Up the hill from the lake is Beckenham Place Mansion. It was a fine house in its day, it is grade II listed. Now it belongs to Lewisham Council, who appear to be renovating it, although I have to say that it seems to be going on for years with little change. I have a similar picture from the 2010 walk, and it looks very much the same except that the scaffolding is in a different place on the building.
There is a section of residential streets before you reach a small but pretty park, Cator Park. It has two small rivers running through it, The Chaffinch and The Beck, tributaries of the Ravensbourne. It has a busy cafe, a playing field and nicely tended flower beds.
The final section of the walk is through Crystal Palace Park. This is packed full of interest. It was built to hold The Crystal Palace, of the Great Exhibition of 1851, when it needed to be moved from Hyde Park. When it was built it was London’s most spectacular pleasure garden. It hosted firework displays, circuses, concerts and shows. It had fountains, cascades, statues, a maze and a miniature railway. The Crystal Palace itself was destroyed by fire in 1936 and was never replaced. Now it has a National Sports Centre with first class athletics and swimming facilities.
The Dinosaur Court was built in 1854 and contained the first ever dinosaur sculptures in the world. Having spent most of the 20th Century out of favour, in 1973 they were made Grade II listed and following renovation early in the 21st Century they became Grade I listed in 2007, putting them in an exalted list with St. Paul’s Cathedral, Monument, The Bank of England and others. One of E. Nesbitt’s books, written in 1907, has a storyline where the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs come to life.
The Park has two very nice cafés too, both called Brown and Green, one at the Penge end of the park and one at the entrance to Crystal Palace railway station. The one at the lower end of the park was very busy with parents and children in buggies on the day I was there, but the one in the station had plenty of space and quick service. Crystal Palace station is the end of a long but satisfying walk full of interesting sights.
Highclere Castle is the home of the Earl of Carnarvon, a Grade I listed building, and Grade I listed garden, in Hampshire between Newbury and Andover. It is a beautiful, historic building in its own right and has added renown because of its use in many films and TV series, probably most famously Downton Abbey. If you know these films or watch the TV series, you will recognize the building as you drive up the long sweeping drive to the car parks.
The walk up to the house from the car park is also recognizable and there was a constant queue of people having photos taken at the famous front door.
When you book, you need to be aware that there is no photography allowed inside the house, however the interior decoration is both sumptuous and recognizable. You certainly do have the feeling that you are walking around a film set rather than a family home. The views of the gardens from the windows of the house are equally attractive, which is a testament to the talent of Capability Brown, the famous 18th Century landscape gardener, who designed the ground in the 1870s.
The house is full of historic interest too. It was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers in the first world war, a storyline used the TV series, if I remember correctly. Before that, it was here that the discussions were held, that led to Canada becoming an independent country. There is a Canadian Maple tree in the front garden, donated by the Canadian embassy, to commemorate this. The building also holds a notable Egyptology Museum, as the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, funded the dig that exhumed the tomb of Tutankhamun. His interest also led him to purchase many other ancient treasures from that part of the world.
The day I went to Highclere was a more expensive tour than the basic entry day and although this did not appear to give a great deal more (a couple of extra rooms, a personal guide and a talk) in terms of access, it did limit the number of people in the grounds and castle to under 200 through the whole day. On a normal open day, they can get over 1100 people, so I’d imagine that queue for photos at the front door becomes very long.
There is a café and bar, and you can order afternoon tea on the lawns. It is about an hour from London by car and roughly the same by train (a £20 taxi ride from the station). I spent about 4 hours there wandering the house and gardens and the time passed very quickly, so with the travelling times, it was a full day out – and a day well spent.
Written in 1939 and released as part of the London show “New Faces” in 1940. It was first sung by Judy Campbell (the mother of Jane Birkin, famous for singing the very French song “Je t’aime” in the late sixties) in that show. It was immediately popular, and Vera Lynn had recorded before the end of the year. Frank Sinatra’s version is probably the most well-known, reaching No. 2 in the U.S. charts.
It has been covered by so many artists that it is hard to pick favourites, Glenn Miller, Nat King Cole, Michael Bublé, and Rod Stewart to name just a few. The Stéphane Grapelli and Yehudi Menuhin version is really good. Manhattan Transfer’s cover won a Grammy. The New Vaudeville Band did a distinctive version in the mid ’60s, and Ian Hunter (remember him from Mott The Hoople and Ziggy Stardust?), includes a version on his live sets.
It also features in many films and TV shows. Robert Lindsay sings it as the theme tune to the series “Nightingales”. Tori Amos sings it in the credits of Terry Patchett’s “Good Omens”. David Mitchell even sings it to Olivia Coleman in “Peep Show” Berkeley Square is a square in Mayfair, surrounded by smart terraced houses. Many of the earliest British Prime Ministers had their private residences there. It is a grassed square containing 18th Century Plane trees and there was a “coming out ball” (for debs, not as we know the term now!) held here, under a marquee, every year.
This Gallery holds the art collection of The City of London. Not only is it free to visit, but most weekdays it has a free guided tour of the gallery at 12.15pm and 1.15pm. The collection on display is small compared to the National Gallery or the Tates but it certainly worth a visit.
The original gallery was destroyed in the Blitz and not rebuilt until 1999. When it was rebuilt, it was designed around holding the painting above, which is huge, around 5.4m by 7.5m, as there was no other gallery in the UK with a space large enough to hold it. The gallery was actually commissioned to be built in 1985, but they discovered that it was being built on the site of a Roman amphitheater. It is possible to visit these remains in the basement of the gallery.
The remains are well laid out with some pieces still in the floor but covered in glass and other areas cleared for you to walk around with a light show imagining where the seats and auditorium would have been.
The most famous work is possibly “La Ghirlandata” by Rossetti which has been recently restored and is now on display on the first floor. It has many commissioned works from the 18th Century to the modern day and there are a couple of the Lord Mayors parade, one from the 1880s and another from the 1960s. It is interesting to compare what has changed and what has remained the same in the intervening years.
Just in case all this was not enough, they have The City of London’s actual copy of the Magna Carta on display on the lower ground floor. Apparently, this is not on permanent show though, so if this would be your main reason for attending, check before you go. It was very quiet on the afternoon I went and there are plenty of seats for you to sit and appreciate the art. All in all, I would say that The Guildhall Gallery is a much overlooked and underrated London Gallery.
Falconwood to Grove Park is one of the shorter walks on the ring, I’m not sure how come it measured 9k on my app, when the ramblers site says they did it in 7.1k. I think they followed the direct route from the station to the footbridge whereas I followed the signposted path, which I have to admit looks a little more circuitous on the map. Start by walking in Eltham Park North, which changes to Eltham Park South once you cross the brutalist footbridge over the busy A2.
Next, we have a section of suburban streets. A typical London mixed income area, some posh houses and schools, with some modern new build, low rise blocks of flats, Eltham would be considered a reasonably well-off part of South London. Its big claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of Bob Hope. Conduit Meadow here. held the spring that fed the river Shuttle, although it is not visible here, and it provided the water for the nearby palace.
As the houses become older, the street names become more interesting, and we enter Tilt Yard Approach. This is a hint that we are arriving at a place of historical significance and sure enough as we go down the hill we see the walls and moat of Eltham Palace.
This is a fantastic historical building. Now cared for by English Heritage, both the house and gardens are a treat to visit. It has great architectural items from two very distinct historical periods. It was the country residence of the Kings and queens of England from the 14th to 16th century and then in the early 20th Century it was bought by the Courtauld Family and is one of the beautifully preserved Art Deco buildings in the country.
Past the Palace we go along King John’s walk, which is now a lane of stables and riding schools. It has a lovely juxtaposition of old and new with horses grazing before a classic London skyline. There are also some nice ornate wrought iron gates along this walkway. It also passes a large house, named Fairmont, that was once the home of the cricketer W.G. Grace.
A brief walk College meadow, past football and cricket training pitches brings you to the nicely named, but less interesting to look at, Quaggy River. This is the end of section 2, and on to Grove Park station which brings you Back to London Bridge. Grove Park has a nice mural to Edith Nesbit, who wrote “The Railway Children”
Baker Street is really a song about wishing to get out of London, but it still evokes the feel of the city in the late 1970’s. The sax break gives the intro a lonely, big city vibe and then the lyrics are a longing to escape to a nostalgic countryside that only exists in songs or people’s dreams. It was apparently written when he had already moved out of London and only visited to see lawyers, while he was negotiating his way out of Stealers Wheel contract, so you can understand why he didn’t see London is the happiest of lights. However, despite this, the final verse is positive “The sun is shining, it’s a new morning” and it sounds like he makes it out.
Released in 1978, it was a huge hit around the world. No. 1 in Australia, Canada, South Africa. No. 2 for 6 weeks in the US and No. 3 here in the UK. There have been many cover versions – in fact Undercover in arguably had a bigger hit in the UK with the song, reaching No. 2 in 1992, although to be fair it not a version that you hear often now, unlike the original.
Gerry Rafferty had hits in Stealers Wheel – “Stuck in the middle with you” is a great ’70s song. He was also in a duo with Billy Connolly called The Humblebums, very folky. The Foo Fighters used to do a cover of Baker Street at their live gigs and, of course, it is the song Lisa from The Simpsons used to learn the saxophone
It is remarkable how similar the sax solo sounds on this 1968 song by Steve Marcus, I suspect it would have ended in a courtroom had we been in these more litigious days. For all that, Half a Heart is a good song in its own right, very different in tone and I would probably never have heard it, if not for Baker Street.
All in all, a worthy addition to The London Playlist, if you have any suggestions for songs that you believe should be added please let me know in the comments.
The World Reimagined is an exhibition of 103 individual, artist decorated globes, set out in 10 trails, in 7 different cities throughout the UK. I walked the City of London trail, which has 10 globes.
The Globes are designed to make us think about our history in an honest way and they hope to inspire us to look toward a fairer future.
The city of London trail was a little over 3km and took around 2 hours. Some of the globes were hard to find and if I’m honest the map wasn’t great. If anyone does the trail and finds the first globe, I would be grateful if they could give me a hint as to where it is. I used the app after the map was less than helpful and when it said “you have reached the globe” it was nowhere to be seen!
The globes on the City of London trail are a lot about slavery, which I guess is actually where a lot of its wealth came from. The stories they tell are interesting and informative. The trail takes you through a part of London that is rich in history and that is also fascinating to walk through today. You will see St Paul’s Cathedral, Bank, Bow Bells, The Gherkin and much more.
The exhibition runs until the end of October, there are 4 different trails in London, as well as trails in other cities including Swansea, Leeds, Liverpool, Leicester and Birmingham.
The world reimagined has a big online element too, with many YouTube videos, and each globe has QR codes that can be scanned so you can “collect” the globes and read information about them, such as the artist and what they represent.
All in all, an ambitious project – the globes and trail are only a part of it. I found it an entertaining morning out, so if you are in any of the cities taking part and you fancy a walk, I would recommend looking up “The World Reimagined”