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BARBICAN LIFE


A Walk in London


Garth Leder explores a website which gives directions for walking routes across London and makes his intrepid way from the Barbican to the South Bank finding numerous points of interest along the suggested route


The start of the walk – an unusual view of St. Giles Cripplegate from Gilbert Bridge


What’s the best way of getting from the Barbican to a performance at the National Theatre? Or to Waterloo station? The Drain from Bank? Tube via Baker Street? A taxi? Drive? Somehow none of these alternatives appeal: too busy, too expensive, too likely I’ll be delayed.


The South Bank is half way across London, and there’s no obvious good way of getting there. The roads are packed and full of fumes; the Tube takes its time, and costs the earth for such short journey: it can’t be more than a couple of miles.


St Paul’s


Hang on a minute: that’s not so far. Now, what about that website Ruth Calderwood mentioned at the BA’s AGM: walkit.com? Let’s have a look. Plug in the postcodes, tell the site I’m in London—as if an EC postcode could be anywhere else!—and… they suggest down past the Old Bailey, over Blackfriars Bridge and along the south bank, a matter of 1.7 miles. I suppose it is that close. The site produces a full set of directions, and, perhaps more usefully, a map, and it does all this for free. They think the walk will take me thirty four minutes at “medium” pace. I’d be nearly that long on the tube, given the walk over to Bank, and from Waterloo at the other end.


atmosphere, it’s got to be better than the filthy air on the Underground. What about fumes on the road, though? Perhaps I could stay away from the busiest streets? I go back to walkit.com: there! They’ll find me a low- pollution route if I just tick this box… down Wood Street, past St Paul’s and over the Wobbly Bridge. It’s longer, of course, but only just: 1.8 miles, versus 1.7 for the direct route, and this ‘clean’ route is supposed to take thirty nine minutes at “medium” pace. Come on, let’s go. I set off across Gilbert Bridge, printout from walkit.com in hand. In Wood Street I pass first the sobriety of the Police Station, towering over an empty pavement, then the merriment of City professionals crowding outside the Red Herring, admirably flexible in tailoring their interpretation of ‘lunch hour’ to the demands of a warm and sunny Friday afternoon. Cheapside is blissfully quiet: I march straight across the roadway, and only then realise I owe this peace to roadworks blocking the cars at one end. If it were always free of traffic, Cheapside could be an attractive shopping destination.


I look out of the window, at a sky of


unbroken blue over the cupola of St Giles Cripplegate, with the jagged peaks of the Shard a dull grey in the haze beyond. It certainly doesn’t look like it’ll rain, and the Met Office doesn’t think it will, either. I could always catch the Tube back if it does, but walking both ways would be healthier. I check airtext.info, which forecasts central London pollution today to be “mostly moderate… with areas of low”, but, whatever the fog of pollutants hovering in the London


6


If Cheapside was quiet, Bread Street is dead. It may have hosted the birth of John Milton, but this artefact of the City’s medieval street plan lies forgotten in the age of office buildings that cover an entire block: not quite paradise regained, but jolly useful all the same for steering clear of modern traffic. At the far end of Watling Street, I pause to admire the dome of St Paul’s. A swarm of tourists have carried their sunhats half way round the world to fend off the unexpectedly fierce London sun while they admire the cathedral: not a bad piece of architecture to grace a local stroll.


I turn down towards the Thames, past the College of Arms, to which the tourists pay rather less attention than to the pelican crossing: old buildings are two-a-penny in London. The College did, however, receive a visit from no less a


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