Thursday, 31 January 2019

Winter Walking – The Post-Ramble Detox Bath

DC Editor Adam writes…

Outside in all weathers as a London Walks guide, I know a thing or two about battling the cold weather.

In this short series I'm sharing my winter weather tips with you lovely London Walkers, a hardy bunch who join me rain or sleet in the winter months.

In this post I'm sharing tips on how to unwind AFTER a winter walk.

And no, it's not with a large dram (!) see the "healthy" bit, above.*

How's THAT for a craven attempt to try and please everyone?)

A Detox Bath

You will need…

A couple of big cups of Epsom Salts

A spoon of baking soda

A few drops of camphor oil (no more than 10 drops)

A few drops of cedarwood oil (no more than 10 drops)

Some grated fresh ginger*

(*You can use powdered ginger if you don't have fresh, but it does tend to make much more of a gritty mess in the bath!)

Pour the Epsom Salts into the bath under the running tap, ditto the baking soda, then grate the fresh ginger into the water. Just before getting into the bath, add the oils. Make the bath as hot as you can.

The Epsom Salts - magnesium sulphate – will draw out toxins and helps muscles and nerves function properly.

The baking soda soothes windblown skin.

The camphor clears the head and the cedarwood, while also being a relaxant, soothes the aching joints.

Ooh, I'm getting all new-age-y and hippie-ish. But before I get too carried away, a couple of practicalities:

Drink a big glass of water before - and during, if poss - bathing.

This is not one for first thing in the morning, or for those about to operate heavy machinery. The effect is drowsy-making and nicely spacey. Plus, it shouldn't be rushed - take half-an-hour to soak.

You will need to shower-off afterward - this is a soak, not a wash and you will have bits of ginger in your hair!

No time for  bath like this? Then a simple hot towel is the thing for you…

Take a clean flannel, soak it then wring it out to the extent that it is still quite moist but not sopping wet. Roll it like this…

… and pop it in the microwave for 30-40 seconds.

Tip: DON'T set the microwave to full power. And if you choose to use essential oils such as eucalyptus (which you would apply to the dry towel) then be VERY careful when pressing the towel around the eyes.

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Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Keep Warm – Jumping Jacks

DC Editor Adam writes… 

Outside in all weathers, I know a thing or two about battling the cold weather.

In this short series I'm sharing my winter weather tips with my lovely London Walkers, a hardy bunch who join me rain or sleet in the winter months.

Jumping Jacks

Keeping warm on a winter walking tour? Two words: Jumping Jacks.

This is my tried-and-tested method of keeping my walkers warm on winter walking tours. I have been working this into my winter walks for six years now.

Admittedly the walkers with whom I have been jumping have all been under the age of 7 on schools walking tours – a demographic that can really take Jumping Jacks in their stride.

Last Saturday I led a group of adults and children celebrating a 40th birthday with a walking tour of Bankside. A very jolly bunch despite the perishing cold.

One-and-a-quarter hours in to the tour, with a stiff easterly punching at us, there was only one thing for it. I gave a short explanation and launched in to a demonstration. My group needed NO encouragement and within seconds we were all jumping up and down on the spot between the site of the old Rose and Globe theatres.

It was a lot more successful than my previous attempt – two weeks ago on the Rock'n'Roll London Walk – where a group of London Walkers simply stood and watched while I did jumping jacks on my own in Frith Street. Luckily for my dignity's sake, it was Soho and my behaviour was the least outlandish thing on display.

I will no doubt be busting this move again before the winter is out. So if you're unsure how to do Jumping Jacks, here's an instructional video (costume and false moustache optional)…

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Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Winter Kit – The Waterproof Bag From Millican

DC Editor Adam writes… 

Outside in all weathers leading my London Walks, I know a thing or two about battling the cold weather.

Over the next few days I'm sharing my winter weather tips - today I'm looking at waterproof kit…

(This post first appeared in early 2016)

Rain is a two-way street, you know. I've blogged it before: it's not so much that WE as London Walks guides go out in all weathers… it's that YOU London Walkers come out and join us in rain and snow, blizzards and gales.

Here's a tribute to the London Walkers who joined (and stayed with!) my Ghosts of the Old City walk a couple of wet Saturdays ago…

The rain fell again this weekend… so what's my winter tip for rain? How did I keep dry? Well, I didn't… When I got home I squeezed out my Doctor Martens like sponges. My army surplus coat was so soaked that it was like carrying the weight of another person on my back.

The stuff in my bag, however, remained bone dry. Thanks to my mate Matthew.

It's In The Bag

I am constantly on the lookout for a good rucksack. I'm often out and about all day, leading walking tours, filming and photographing London for this blog and recording the London Walks Podcast and I need to take my tools with me.

In a good rucksack I want comfort, sturdiness and I want it to look stylish, too. I am very picky. Almost all of the bags I have used over the years have been compromise options: big enough but not waterproof; waterproof but ugly; stylish but impractical.

For Christmas my wife and daughter bought me a Millican rucksack called Matthew the Day Pack. Having carefully considered the merits of Smith the Roll Pack and Dave the Rucksack at the Millican website, I think they chose rather well.

Here he is…

I've been road-testing it now for six weeks and at last I can say that I have finally found the ideal bag. The straps are good and thick and very well padded. The stud fastenings for the main flap are both secure and easy to use. There are compartments for my notebooks, sketchpads and pencils and holders for both of my flasks – I bring coffee and soup on a two/three tour London Walks day. The contents are easily accessible via a sturdy zip down the front (you don't need a miner's helmet to dig around for that lost pen in this bag).

The Secret Cagoule

This weekend Matthew really came into his own with his secret cagoule, tucked away in a hidden compartment in the base of the bag. Here he is modelling it on the tube…

Okay, the stylish element is seriously compromised here, but I ask you this: who looks cool in a cagoule? No one. Not even Derek Zoolander. Even someone as persnickety as I quickly saw the benefits of this ingenious little feature and it's well worth compromising style for practicality for the short duration of a London rainstorm. 

To deploy the waterproof covering, simply unzip the compartment in the base of the bag, take out the cagoule – it's attached to the bag by a cord – and sheath the bag when the rain gets heavy.

Every scrap of clothing about my person was soaked through… but my London Walks leaflets, my sketchpad, my notebook and my paperback book remained as dry as a bone inside my bag.

Spotted On The Tube

The picture above was taken on the Central Line on my way home from my London Walks tour. This is most appropriate as my wife first spotted Matthew on the tube and approached his owner to enquire about the bag. The chap proceeded to wax lyrical about the virtues of Matthew and he even went into the company's back story, telling my wife that they are based in Cumbria, they are committed to using sustainable materials and have even made covers for Moleskine notebooks (another fetish of mine). 

I can now well appreciate how this excellent bag inspires such devotion as I too have become a Millican evangelist. (You can catch up with the Millican story and learn about how the bag is made at their website

Thanks Karen & Isobella for my Christmas present. And thanks Matthew for keeping my stuff dry.

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Monday, 28 January 2019

The Monday Photoblog… Wintry London

DC Editor Adam Scott-Goulding writes…

Monday is ALMOST mute here on The Daily Constitutional. I always launch the week with a few London photos, grouped on a theme or neighbourhood.

Five wintry scenes…

Feeding the birds on The Serpentine

Wimbledon in her winter plumage

Sunrise in East Finchley Cemetery captured on an early morning run

Deer Park Richmond

Kensington sunset

The Monday Photoblog will return next week. In the meantime, if you'd like to share a London photo with us, please do! Perhaps you joined Karen or Adam on a tour and snapped a a great shot. Drop us a line.

Click the button below to book a place on one of my scheduled public tours…

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Sunday, 27 January 2019

Pavement Testing Fitness Apps No.5: The Downside of Fitness Apps

DC Editor Adam writes…

This week on The Daily Constitutional I'm revisiting some step-counting apps. Many of you will be using a step counter app as part of your January fitness regime. I'm out-and-about most days, up on my hind legs leading tours so here are a few road/pavement test results to help when you're trying to find the right app for you…

Today I'm pausing to look at the down-side of the fitness app business…


In an earlier post in this series I described a fitness app as Orwellian.

Pretty strong stuff for an easy-going blog having a bit of fun testing out step counter apps.

But my experience with the Human app was a real eye-opener and I thought it only decent to look at the downside of the fitness apps. This is a series about road testing every aspect of their performance, after all.

What was it about the Human app that made me sit up and question the whole business? 

The answer is that its great strengths were its own undoing.

The Human app started to make me feel a little uneasy because it mapped – in a beautifully well-designed and accessible way – all my movements. It then stored and presented those movements - again, in a beautifully well-designed and accessible way. Anyone stealing or hacking your device has a literal map to your door PLUS a timetable of the hours when you are most commonly away from home

Aye, there's the rub.

Tip 1. 

When using fitness apps, be careful with the data you store in your phone. It may not be as obvious as keeping your bank pin number or Amazon password secret. But if your movements follow the same pattern over the course of a working week, do you really want to share this info in a graphic way, telling the whole world when you're out-and-about?


Having said that, the app was huge fun. (As I also stated in the last post, I'm canon fodder for this sort of stuff, a bit of a techy geek.)

And because I found it such fun, I was checking it all the time. And I mean… All. The. Time.

Downside number 2: Addiction.

I found the Human app to be some seriously addictive tech. And thus, counter-productive. I used it for a week and when I wasn't checking it, I was showing it to anyone who would look.

I assume in my case the novelty would have worn-off eventually, but I have to wonder… how much time would I have WASTED before it did?

Tip 2

It's good that you've looked into getting a fitness app because it suggests you are at least curious about getting or being healthy. But don't replace one unhealthy habit (i.e. not exercising) with another (walking along looking at your phone).


The point about novelty could be a in your favour, here. Usually, I would cite a short attention span as a bad thing. In this case, however, growing bored with a fitness app could work well for you…

App developers are not going to want to hear this, but I've got a feeling they already know. The novelty of a new fitness app is a great motivator. I have found that, every time I tried a new app I got a new lift of enthusiasm for my fitness regime.

But do you really want to keep downloading and spending on new apps?

• Tip 3

Shop around. KNOW what you want before buying the app. Do you want a full day score for your movements? Or do you want to just measure short bursts or workouts?


As is often the case in the field of pop health, opinions vary on the actual benefits of step counters and health apps.

Try this from an article in The Daily Telegraph:

Researchers at Stanford University have found that using a pedometer can lead to significant increases in physical activity and weight loss, and improvements in blood pressure.

Versus this from The Independent:

Fitness apps might be doing more harm than good because they don't work but force people to focus on ambitious goals that they will never reach, according to a leading computer scientist.

I think it's important to end by looking at this 10,000 steps business – where did it come from?

Again, reports vary, but a common suggestion is that the figure was born in Japan in the 1960s. One source I found suggested that it was based on a survey of Japanese factory workers. Another that it was the marketing slogan of a pedometer manufacturer (Manpo-ke – literally 10,000 steps). Others yet suggest that figure is arbitrary or simply just a nice, round number.

Whatever the origin it has passed into common usage as a kind of 11th Commandment.

This one-size-fits all approach of 10,000 steps lacks any grounding in science given all the variables – height, weight, gait, age, terrain and more. So…

Tip 4

10,000 steps is CLEARLY a guide figure. If it motivates you to get fit, then it's all good. If you are stepping back-and-forth in the living room while watching TV at the end of the day just to hit your target, then perhaps it's time to reassess (!).

To sum up…

• Careful with data storage, security & sharing

• Playing on your phone will NOT make you fitter

• If you want real fitness advice, consult your doctor

Keeping all that in mind, I think you can get fit AND have fun with these apps. 

They can be great rough guides and good motivators. Just make sure the app fits your fitness regime and NOT the other way around. 

Good luck to you all with your January fitness routines – with or without gadgets!

Are you using a fitness tracker of step counter? Get in touch with your recommendations by dropping me a line at the usual address or leaving a comment below.  

Click the button below to book a place on one of my scheduled public tours…

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Saturday, 26 January 2019

Pavement Testing Fitness Apps No.4: iSteps

DC Editor Adam writes…

This week on The Daily Constitutional I'm revisiting some step-counting apps. Many of you will be using a step counter app as part of your January fitness regime. I'm out-and-about most days, up on my hind legs leading tours so here are a few road/pavement test results to help when you're trying to find the right app for you…

I Steps

iSteps Therefore iAm

I first tested iSteps way back in January 2014 on my Kensington walk. I enjoyed its simplicity immediately, but also the the gradual discovery of its underlying features - clearly this was an app that could be as simple or as easy as you wanted it to be.

The screen hasn't changed at all in the new version, so here's a shot of that first test…

One Step At A Time

The killer feature for me is that you can easily track individual walks or journeys. That's a big plus for me, being able to quickly set the thing to measure one London Walks tour at a time.

It's All About The Battery

These apps burn through battery like billy-o, but iSteps has a feature which allows the user to switch off all day running

Simple and effective.  

Not sure why every walking or step counting app doesn't have this feature displayed as prominently as iSteps. The log feature is also pretty handy - it allows the user to save data from multiple walks. 

Extra Functionality 

There is extra functionality – available as an in-app purchase upgrade for £1.99 – which gives you access to the mapping function. It's not a necessary addition to make this app function any better, but if you are a bit of a map nerd (guilty, m'lud) then it's quite fun. Especially when your Ghosts of the Old City route map ends up looking like this…

… so you can turn it into this…

I used it a few Sundays ago to make a step count on The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour walk. Here are the results…

Click the button below to book a place on one of my scheduled public tours…

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