diamond geezer

 Saturday, November 08, 2014

A walk around Albertopolis, Kensington's museum district. A walk down the Longford River near Hampton Court. A walk through Bexley village, on the Cray. And not just London - Dartmoor, Durham and the Wirral too.

They're all part of Discovering Britain, a treasure trove of walks that's free to download, created by the Royal Geographical Society. Wherever you are in the UK, from Margate to Belfast, there'll be one near you.
"Discovering Britain is an exciting series of geographically-themed walks that aim to bring these stories alive and to inspire everyone to explore and learn more about Britain. Depending on your pace, most walks take between two and three hours. The urban walks are normally no more than two miles long while those in the countryside or at the seaside are somewhere between two and eight miles long. Some walks are along very easy terrain while others are a little more challenging, so check the level indicated for each walk."
I thought I'd try Deptford. I don't know the area as well as I should, but it has lots of history, not all of it obliterated. The walk's called District 45, a chance to "travel back in time to London’s Deptford 100 years ago" - a 2½ walk from the High Street to the Thames and back.

Various resources were available to help me along the way. An online map to check the route, complete with 21 pins showing points of interest. A gpx file, in case my device finds that more useful instead. An image gallery to see what I might be enjoying. And a pdf booklet with directions and a shedload of background history and useful weblinks, which is 40 (FORTY) pages long. Someone's put a lot of effort into all this, although possibly too much because I didn't fancy printing out forty pages of rainforest for half an afternoon's stroll. So instead I went for the audio file option, that's 21 mp3 files in a zip folder, the idea being to listen and enjoy on the way round. It took me the best part of an hour to get the tracks onto my iPhone in a locatable manner, in the course of which I discovered I needed to print out a separate 16 page document or I'd not have the directions. I couldn't possibly describe the entire set-up as straight-forward, but was hopeful that the resulting experience would be rich.

The starting point for this walk is "the large anchor at the end of Deptford High Street, SE8 4AD", which is already a problem because "note: In 2013 the council put the anchor in storage during improvement works to the High Street; whether ot not it will return is unknown." It's not back yet. Instead the High Street, on a non-market day at least, is a raw chain-free shopping street that needs a commentary to bring it to life. The theme of the walk is Deptford at the time of Charles Booth's 1899 poverty map, with plenty of first hand extracts from his notes to flesh things out along the way. Prepare to listen to a lot about what things used to look like, even when there's nothing left of what he saw.

The walk soon heads off up a backstreet, nowhere any normal guided tour would venture, to track down the site of a former ragged school. But by this point I was already struggling to connect what I was hearing with what I could see, a theme which continued at the next few stops beyond the railway, across the council estate and down to Deptford Creek. It was only at this point that I realised my smartphone was on shuffle and had been serving up random historical snippets rather than the sequential commentary intended. Nobody thought to number the tracks, you see, and I spent the rest of the walk repeatedly checking I was on the right track before pressing play.

An architectural treat, if 100 years too late for Charles Booth's pen, is the Trinity Laban Conservatoire, a translucent dance studio behind Teletubby hills. Rather more evocative are the old docks along the Thames foreshore, amply brought to life in the audio commentary, but long gone and now covered by flats. They're faceless flats too, bland late 20th century to the west of the Ravensbourne and fresh slums of the future to the east. The trail points out some unexpected survivors - a jetty, an amazing statue of Peter the Great and a hemmed-in part-medieval church where a stone marks the local death of playwright Christopher Marlowe. I missed the stone, alas - it wasn't in the commentary, only the 16 page instructions, so I only noticed when reading more carefully later.

The streetname Deptford Green merely hints at what this flat-packed neighbourhood must once have been, likewise the brick wall that once held back the cattle market - these amply described by Booth's turn of phrase. By this time the walk is nearly complete but there is the treat of Albury Street to go with its fine run of listed Stuart houses. Deptford would be much better known, and loved, were all its residential stock like this. I blew the finish because St Paul's churchyard was locked, so audio track number 21 played out beside a nailbar rather than at "the Pearl in the Heart of Deptford".

So, all in all, the Discovering Britain walk was a mostly worthwhile experience. I learnt a fair amount about Deptford, although the focus on 1899 meant I felt I barely scratched the surface. The physical highlights were rarer than I'd have liked, but the commentary helped to bring the intervening ordinariness to life. I suspect the trail is best followed on a tablet, with a big screen to show the 40 page document and map all the way round. But you have to admire the thorough research that's gone into this multimedia resource, and all the other geographical trails across the country. If you can cope with the technology, why not seek one out?

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths
exploring urban wastelands

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards