Sunday, 31 January 2016

#London Walk of the Week: Whitehall In Focus

Every Sunday we’ll pluck just one walk from the vast London Walks repertoire and put it centre stage.

You can check out the full schedule at

But if you only take one walking tour this week, why not make it…

Whitehall In Focus

Meet Fiona at Westminster Station Exit 4 10:45:a.m Saturday 6th February

This new In Focus season brings the classic London Walks forensic approach to our most famous streets. In the second walk of the series we turn the spotlight on Whitehall.

Whitehall contains more landmarks of our island’s history than any other street.

The casual visitor misses 99 percent of what’s there. We don’t.

The casual visitor gets the popsicle. We feast on the full banquet.

And the guide? Since “it all comes down to the guiding.” Some of you have probably guessed: it’s Fiona.

Fiona If this were the British military Fiona would be “the most decorated member of the Armed Forces.” The full fruit salad. All four badges. Blue Badge, City of London, City of Westminster, and Clerkenwell. And not just badges – there are any number of badged guides in London who are pretty run of the mill. Fiona wins the gold medal, the big one, the Numero Uno award: Blue Badge Guide of the Year, City of Westminster Guide of the Year, etc.

Final thought about In Focus walks generally. They’ve been a long time a-coming  – been like a wave forming and building, a wheel under the skin – to the London Walks programme. All things considered they’re practically a tectonic shift for us. Something has finally broken free. Moved. Which is by way of saying, famously we – London Walks – do untrodden paths, quaint little back streets and hidden courtyards. That’s always been our specialty. We want to get off main drags, get away from the London equivalent of Times Square and the Champs-Élysées. We want to nook and cranny London. Take people into the little backstreets they’d never find off their own bat. That’s not to say we didn’t know about Parliament Square and Whitehall and Trafalgar Square and the Strand (the four In Focus walks that will debut the series). We of course knew about them. Knew full well that in many ways they're the most nutrient-rich tesserae of London terrain. We just didn't think fine-tooth combing a place like Parliament Square – spending a whole walk there – was really us. We had enough to be getting on with in the back forty patches we'd staked out as our turf.

And there was one other thing. We had to bring our market – our community – along.  Get our following, our walkers, ready for this.  It wasn’t that London Walks – “walks for grownups” – was going to stop doing what we’ve excelled at for half a century. It was that we were going to add to the programme a strand that was counter-intuitive to the London Walks ethos. So counter-intuitive that we felt our market – our following – had to ripen. Be ready for this step, these steps. Our sixth sense is telling us that hour has come round. That we’ll get some takers for walks that look extremely closely at the likes of Parliament Square (and Whitehall and Trafalgar Square and the Strand and… well, there’s lots more in the pipeline).

Meet Fiona at Westminster Station Exit 4 10:45:a.m Saturday 6th February

A London Walk costs £10 – £8 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at

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