Our Highlights of 2014

Our Highlights of 2014

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The Footprints of London team have chosen some of their highlights from another busy year. Thank you to everyone who came on our walks this year and all those who read and contributed to our blog. We have lots to look forward to in 2015 including our River Walks festival in April, another Literary Footprints Festival in October and more fundraising walks for Amnesty in the summer. Plus, of course, lots more walks that will uncover London stories and help Londoners love their city just a little bit more.

Rob Smith – Footprints of London

River Thames sunset


Mark Rowland

My strangest moment of the year was turning up at Borough to lead a Dickens walk one Tuesday evening, I’d checked in all that had booked when a group of three (plus a baby in a pram) hoved into view and said:  “Is this the Dickens walk? We’ve booked”.  “Well this is A Dickens walk, but I have everyone who has booked here” I replied.  On closer examination of their ticket on one of their phones, turned out they’d booked for someone else’s Dickens walk the following Saturday and had somehow managed to confuse a noon Saturday start with a 7.00 pm Tuesday start, so had turned up absolutely randomly four days early at completely the wrong time (and had made arrangements for the husband of the lady with the pram to meet them to pick the kid up so they could go on the walk) – only to find a guide standing there about to start a Dickens walk!  Booked them on, off we went and a lovely time was had by all, but with luck like that running their way I suggested they might want to buy a lottery ticket the following evening… 

My favourite review of the year;  a family group from the States who had followed my blog for some time  finally managed to book on my St James’s clubs walk in the summer and were kind enough to write a post on their travel blog about it afterwards (http://beachbums1.com/2014/08/12/london-footprints-of-london/ ) As they put it themselves: 

Originally, when I told my 16-year-old the name of the tour, I got a raised eyebrow and a not so subtle skeptical look. About an hour into the walk, she whispered in my ear “This isn’t what I expected. It’s really interesting.” 

High praise indeed! 

Best response to a question put to a group (from one of my kids walks, of course) ; “Who knows where the Great Fire of London is said to have finished” I asked.  Kid who could have been no more than 7 sticks his hand up: “31 millimetres” he replies.  Brilliant.  But as a general point, the level of engagement and knowledge I’ve experienced on the kids walks I’ve done this year has been a joy to behold. 

And then of course there are the never ending surprise views that London offers.  I’ve heard people talk about the element of luck in good photography in terms of being in the right place at the right time. Like the evening I was early for my Dickens After Dark walk so decided to reverse-walk the river section on my way to the meeting point and arrived at Queenhithe at this time, just as the sunset seemed “trapped” between millennium and Blackfriars bridges and made a perfect silhouette of those walking across the bridge.

Rob Smith

Favourite moments for me are :

– Meeting Liam Garcia on the London part of his Long Well Walk from Sheffield to Cape Town which is raising funds to build toilets in communities in Africa. I led a walk for the press day which looked at how London solved its sanitation problems.

Rob and Liam Garcia from The Long Well Walk

– Speaking at our Virginia Woolf evening St Olave Hart St during Literary Footprints

– Lovely summer evening walks through Islington Squares and Kings Cross
Regent's Canal Kings Cross - pic by Leigh Clothier
– Talking 18th century politics in Newington Green with Amnesty
– Amazing a trolley collector in Waitrose Holloway Road that there was a book set in his car park
lh river lea walk
– Raising money for the Thames Ironworks Heritage Trust on my River Lea Industrial History walk
– Walking with students from Caterham School as part of their project on Post Apocalyptic Fiction
– Celebrating my 100th walk for Footprints of London with a walk ending on Primrose Hill
primrose hill
But I think my favourite moment was the look on peoples faces when I took them to Bidder Street in Canning Town, a grim street lined with scrap metal yards. It was amazing to see how people reacted when I showed them pictures of the same street in 1890, with houses on either side and kids in the street. People were very moved that a whole community had just disappeared from the map. That’s the guides moment of reward – when your research reveals something interesting people would never have guessed at.
– Being interviewed by Anne Diamond on BBC Radio – coming completely out of the blue
Steve and Richard Great Fire of Westminster
– Doing a walk through a full scale protest in Parliament Square, not recommended and definitely avoiding that again, but actually everyone really seemed to enjoy it – it added an appropriate atmosphere to a walk about a great fire
– Getting a five star Tripadvisor  review and leading a group of hen women might also rank.
High point was Lonely Planet naming my Whitechapel walk on of the 5 best guided walking tours in London.
Strangest moment a chap in an electric wheelchair on my Whitechapel walk who got into an argument with a couple of passers by that got mildly physical. At the next stop the police arrived as the chaps had complained to them so I did a stop at the Wool Exchange while my punter was being interviewed by the police within my eye line. All ended happily!
Being telephoned out of the blue and being filmed with Anthony Horowitz in the Sherlock Holmes pub for ITV’s This Morning.
Anthony Horowitz, Gary the 'One-legged Newspaper Seller', and Footprints of London guide Robin Rowles

Anthony Horowitz, Gary the ‘One-legged Newspaper Seller’, and Footprints of London guide Robin Rowles





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