Outside in all weathers, we London Walks guides know a thing or two about battling the cold weather.
In this short series we're sharing our winter weather tips with our lovely London Walkers, a hardy bunch who join us rain or sleet in the winter months.
Steve writes in…
When Jack Frost is nipping at my nose and other extremities and I'm taking my group around Jack The Ripper's chilling haunts I rely on my long johns and woolly hat.
Mind you, having discovered recently that I am of Viking blood and ancestry I may swop the long johns and hat for a boar skin kilt and a horned iron helmet!
Two good points here: layers and hats.
(Three good points when you consider that a Viking will lead your Jack the Ripper tour. Worth a tenner, surely.)
I'll come to layers in a mo. But the hats business, we all know this one, don't we?
•You lose 50% of your body heat through your head •
Everyone sez so, so it must be true, no?
Have a read at this…
[Ooh! Bad start!]
"… is thought to have arisen through a flawed interpretation of a vaguely scientific experiment by the US military in the 1950s. In those studies, volunteers were dressed in Arctic survival suits and exposed to bitterly cold conditions. Because it was the only part of their bodies left uncovered, most of their heat was lost through their heads.
The face, head and chest are more sensitive to changes in temperature than the rest of the body, making it feel as if covering them up does more to prevent heat loss. In fact, covering one part of the body has as much effect as covering any other. If the experiment had been performed with people wearing only swimming trunks, they would have lost no more than 10% of their body heat through their heads, the scientists add."
Taken from a Guardian article in 2008. Read the full article here… www.theguardian.com/science
So we should ditch hats? No! Hats good! Just ask my colleague Harry…
(Ask him in person on his weekly Unknown East End tour.)
What it means is that you have to keep wrapped up elsewhere, too.
Which brings us to the layering business. Here's Kim. Or as they used to say in that shampoo advert, here comes the science…
"The secret is to dress warmly with lots of layers that will trap the air, hat and gloves are essential and if it's really cold then there's tights or long johns under the trousers and an extra pair of socks."
Trapping the air, see? Layers are the key.
But Kim's not done. She continues…
"Then you need regular hot drinks - always tea for me - and this is the season where comfort food comes into its own. Finding the chunky soup shops and the cafes with shepherd's pie is a real delight.
So this gets you out and about but how to manage the walk? Well it's keep moving, shorten the stops and keep your eye on the walkers - I did once cut short a walk with a group of schoolchildren as one of the boys was turning blue in front of me.
But then I try to find places where you can get inside - even if it's only for 5 minutes it gives you a break and warms you up a little. This often means churches -there are lots of them and they are open - but don't think this necessarily means religion. Sometimes you'll find tombs or memorials to interesting people, great charities that are using their premises and history galore and once you start to investigate these fabulous spaces you'll get hooked.
Finally, the walk is done and you've got yourself home. Shed the layers, make the tea, turn up the heating and snuggle up on the sofa. One thing missing? You guessed it - the cat. He's sitting here now, on my lap as I type my copy and sharing his body warmth as he purrs away. The perfect hot water bottle!"
Thanks Kim. As you will have noted, she makes no mention of Steve's Viking helmet (you're on year own there, Steve), but does echo his sentiments on long johns.
So who was the original Long John?
Well, just like the 50% heat loss through the head business, we're back into myth and legend territory here.
Story goes that the famous and respected John Smedley company of Derbyshire, established more than 200 years ago, was the first manufacturer to produce such a garment and named them in honour of the famed Irish-American boxer John L. Sullivan, the first heavyweight champion of gloved boxing. Here he is, replete with the long pants…
As you can see, he's gone for the ol' long-johns-and-a-dab-of-Old-Spice-and-nothing-else look. It's a tough look to pull off, and one that you will seldom see your average London Walks guide. Apart from Steve. It would make a nice change from his boar skin kilt and horned iron helmet.
Thanks Steve, Harry & Kim
When you see him from a distance you think he's a roadie for a heavy metal band. And then he starts guiding and it's KA-BOOM. Which is by way of saying, all that business about him being London Walks' fizziest guide - I'll let you in on a secret - that's a piece of English understatement. Anything else? Yes, lots. He's a dashing actor, a playwright, a song writer and a musician.
Steve leads Jack the Ripper on Wednesdays at 7.30pm
Kim, who has worked in the House of Commons and the European Parliament, is another 24-carat Blue Badge Guide: she won the London Tourist Board's Guide of the Year award in 2001.
Kim is leading the Old Palace Quarter onFriday 19 and 26 January and The Blitz walk on Thursday 25 January.
Harry – "Britain's Favourite Guide"* – is a Cockney, a Scouser and (these days) a country gentleman. And a character - how could he be otherwise? And a top flight professionally qualified Blue Badge Guide.*So he was elected on that famous BBC Radio 4 travel programme.
Harry leads The Unknown East End on Sundays2.30pm Whitechapel tube .
Want to share a winter weather tip or cold remedy? Drop me a line at the usual address.
Kim will be back soon with more cold weather advice for London Walkers, and we'll also be hearing from Laurence.
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 www.walks.com.