In retirement it is good lifestyle choice to keep fit and active – one motto is that ‘the more you do, the more you can do’, but I realise these kind of flip clichés are of no help if you are waiting to have a hip replacement or some such horror. My husband and I enjoy walking for views, fresh air, pub lunches and so on – he likes to go further and higher than I do! We also love ‘London Town’ which is just 35-40 minutes away from our nearest station. Just as it is from Appley Green!
Walks around London, then! This seems like a good way to spend a day! There are many companies that do guided walks and these offer the great benefit of being spoon-fed the background facts and little anecdotes that can make a building or statue come ‘alive’. You don’t have to walk around with your head in a book at risk of walking into a lamp-post, Mr Bean style.
The easy way is not always the preferred choice and my husband decided we should do the walk around the Inns of Court and he would be the ‘guide’ with his trusty book, like Michael Portillo with his ‘Bradshaw’s Guide’. I am not particularly recommending this way of doing it, but simply saying that is what we did and being independent does of course have many advantages: stopping when you feel like it for a coffee or to take photos, or discuss some strange obelisk growing out of the pavement … and so on. You would have your own reasons for choosing an organised walk or DIY style.
This walk is particularly well suited to the retired (or unemployed) since Gray’s Inn and Lincoln’s Inn are largely closed at weekends. Something I would recommend, that I did not do, is to read about it beforehand; so that you really do know what to look out for and the historical wonder that lurks within the walls of whichever building is right in front of your nose. Do not do as I do, but as I say!
The historical connections with these beautiful buildings are many and illustrious and I cannot attempt to cover this here; it could take volumes. I hope this will be just enough to whet your appetite and stir some interest to find out more.
The four ‘Inns’ , where barristers work, are the Inner Temple, Middle Temple, Gray’s Inn and Lincoln’s Inn. Once qualified they are ‘called to the ‘bar’. Queen’s Counsel (QC) is the highest rank of a practising barrister.
Along King’s Bench Walk, the 17th century buildings were designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Tony and Cherie Blair worked at No 11. The Temple Church was built by the Knights Templar, whose origins go back to the 12th century in Jerusalem, and featured in the Da Vinci Code. A column there marks where the 1666 Great Fire of London allegedly ‘stopped’ on the West side of London. The Middle Temple Hall dating back to 1573 holds a 29 foot Bench Table cut from a single oak tree in Windsor Great Park.
Ede and Ravenscroft, 97 Chancery Lane, supplies all the necessary regalia, suits, robes, horse-hair wigs and smart dresses (these for lady barristers, needless to say).
In the South Square of Gray’s Inn at No 1 a young Charles Dickens worked as a clerk.
Literary references shout out at you at every turn: Shakespeare – many plays were performed; Robert Louis Stevenson; Ben Jonson, John Donne; and you may see a ghost or two of famous historical and political figures, such as Sir Francis Drake; monarchs aplenty; Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Thomas More …
Gray’s Inn Gardens are a lovely place to sit and think, have lunch or just sit.
Lincoln’s Inn Fields, where many people here are enjoying the sunshine, was once used for duels and public executions!
The Hunterian museum, named after John Hunter, described as the founder of scientific surgery, in the 18th century, has 3,000 surgical specimens on display – if you fancy that sort of thing!
The bells of the church of St Clements Danes play … you guessed it, ‘Oranges and Lemons’.
This walk was an unexpected pleasure, dipping into a noteworthy part of London’s living history. I have to say that for a pleasant working environment, it would be hard to beat.
We like to have a balanced day, as we did when we went up the Shard after a visit to the Museum of London http://miriamwakerly.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/the-shard.html This time, after lunch, we partook of a tour of the new studios at BBC Broadcasting House which was a very different side of modern London.
This kind of sightseeing may not be your cup of tea at all, but I would love to know if you feel more intrigued than you did before!
Guided Walking Tours
and books that enable you to do your own thing:
Miriam Wakerly’s blog, Miriam’s Ramblings: www.miriamwakerly.blogspot.co.uk
@MiriamWakerly on Twitter https://twitter.com/MiriamWakerly
Author of Shades of Appley Green – a modern village novel
Also, Gypsies Stop tHere and No Gypsies Served