DC Editor Adam writes…
Karen's tour of little known Hampstead Garden Suburb goes this Sunday 29th April at 2.30pm from Golders Green tube. It, in a word, is a homecoming for The London Tourist Board's Guide of the Year winner. A homecoming because conducting that walk is leading a tour of the corner of London in which she was raised. Here she is…
There are those – the great Peter Ackroyd among them – who would deny the existence of ‘village London’. A conceit, others say, concocted by estate agents to pass off downmarket areas as quaint and cultural.
And there’s a part of this Village London concept that I, too, would quibble with. The enclaves and quarters, the different 'manors' (to use Cockney parlance) and neighbourhoods are often too complex to be encapsulated by the boundaries of a mere village.
The famous square mile, the City of London is, despite its diminutive size, is obviously not a village – from some angles it even seems more than a mere City, coming over more as some independent city state. In turn, the myriad exoticisms of Soho could never fit into a village. That fabled quarter – also roughly a square mile – is more a Peoples’ Republic – i.e. a quarter that welcomes the peoples of the world of all creeds, colours and sexualities – than a village.
If you want a citadel, we’ve got one of those to spare here in London, too: the rarefied academic halls and spires of Harrow on the Hill, especially when approached on foot from the east via the Capital Ring, resembles nothing less than a stronghold. Viewed thus it’s little surprise that Harrow brought forth Churchill.
There’s one more for the 'more-than-a-village' category: Hampstead Garden Suburb. Conceived as a retreat from the onset of the urban sprawl in the early 20th-century, this deliberately well-hidden corner of north London is undeniably ‘villagey’ in both feel and look – and that, indeed, was one of the founding principles of the place, foremost in the mind of its creator Dame Henrietta Barnet.
The result – the quiet lanes, the proximity of the Heath, the veritable festival of English domestic architecture, the fruit tree in every garden, the world-renowned girls’ school, the parish church by Lutyens – surpasses even the original high ideals of its conservationist foundation.
More than a village, more even than London’s most beautiful village (for such a term is too subjective), Hampstead Garden Suburb is nothing less than the Model Village.
Such village perfection as was only imaginable in 1907 made real – and never yet surpassed.
Sunday 29th April 2.30pm
Meet at Golders Green Tube
Here's a preview…
About Your Guide…
Karen comes trailing clouds of glory. Travel & Leisure crowned her "the world's greatest tour guide."
She hosts the Canadian television travel show "London Next Stop."
She won the London Tourist Board's Guide of the Year award.
She is, quite simply, a star turn – which is why she's the "go to" London guide for every major media concern.
A reformed actress and occasional journalist, her gold standard walks are, needless to say, vivid and entertaining.
She's the author of Royal London.
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.