Amy Johnson, Beatrix Potter, Dinosaurs, Ellen Terry, Emmilene Pankhurst, Florence Nightingale, George Eliot, Mary Beale, Mary Seacole, Mary Wolstencraft, Octavia Hill, Odette, Sarah Siddons, the Brontes, Vanessa Bell, Women in World War 1
Here are 4 walking tours in London which have been devised with winter (or a poor weather forecast at other times of the year) in mind. National Portrait Gallery – Talented Women Subjects Walk; Dinosaurs, Art & Science Walk; Four Markets & A Museum Walk; Woolwich Arsenal Walk.
With a high proportion of the portraits in the National Portrait Gallery being men, and most of the rest women aristocrats, the theme for this walk is the remainder, namely talented women. Artists, artistes, aviators, nurses, philanthropists, politicians, writers. And it makes sense to concentrate on pre-late 20th century, because the late 20th/21st century exhibits on the ground floor get the most crowded. So upstairs you see and hear of Mary Wolstencraft, Sarah Siddons, Mary Beale, Octavia Hill, George Eliot, the Brontes, Mary Seacole, Florence Nightingale, Ellen Terry, Emmeline Pankhurst, Amy Johnson, Vanessa Bell, Beatrix Potter, Odette Marie Celine. To hear about 14 portraits on one tour might be overkill; if so you can just see those women in which you are particularly interested.
75% of the Dinosaurs, Art & Science walk takes place indoors or beneath the ground. You take a tunnel that links 3 of London’s greatest museums and pop into each of them for a quick look round. If you’re happy to spend equal amounts of time in each, you’ll see Rodin sculptures, The Rocket, the Apollo 10 Command Module, historic fossils and a Diplodocus.
But if you’d rather see a T.Rex than a sculpture, or one of the first motor cars rather than a dinosaur, the walk can be adjusted accordingly. You’ll also have the chance to stop for a cuppa in the oldest (and most beautifully decorated) museum café in the world. The rest of the walk is outside, to see beautiful museum architecture, a great concert hall and a college for the arts. And you see the site of the Great Exhibition which inspired all this splendour.
3 of the 4 very different, interesting markets are under cover. And you’ll be warm and dry in a museum which not only houses remains of London’s Roman ampitheatre but also beautiful paintings that capture many scenes from London’s history such as Billingsgate market and the pageantry of the Lord Mayor’s Show. You also see two of London’s most beautiful church interiors and the inside of one of the City’s most historic buildings. As a result you’re under cover for 75% of the time. And you’ll also see beautiful architecture – old & new, and see and hear about lots of things from the East End’s and the City’s rich history, from Hugenot silk weavers and Street Art to Lloyds of London and the Guilds.
There are more beautiful old grade listed buildings packed into the Woolwich Arsenal site than any correspondingly sized area anywhere in Britain. And it’s a good option in winter because there’s the option to walk round the excellent indoor Heritage Centre which adds further to the story of 500 years of the Arsenal. There’s also a cafe and pub on the Arsenal site, the latter built into one of the Arsenal’s most famous buildings, the Dial Arch, so it’s easy to stop for a break at any time. You here of the Arsenal’s history from Henry V111 thru Samuel Pepys to its importance in the Napoleonic, Crimean and Great Wars. There’s a succession of magnificent 18th century red brick buildings, and you see where women who became known as ‘canaries’ worked in World War 1. You walk by gatehouses, guard houses, a brass foundry, steam housings, a military academy, a great warehouse, shell foundry gates and lots of huge guns and cannons. The walk also takes you along the river for a great view of London from the Thames Barrier to the Shard via Canary Wharf, and in the other direction you see where a terrible disaster took place.