Section 4: In the Footsteps of Jack and Stephen
This section proposes three journeys; two are short walks following the footsteps of Stephen and Sir Joseph Blaine, the other a longer journey with Jack, joining together many of the locations mentioned in the canon. This longer adventure would be undertaken mainly on foot, with connections by river taxi and train, and is described first.
Walking in London:
Walking city streets can be tiring if one is not used to it. Although Londoners walk fast you can take it slower and stop often - there is much to see about you and not all at eye-level.
Although city walking is a different technique from country walking, some of the same rules apply. Wear comfortable shoes with sturdy soles, and take suitable clothing such as a light raincoat in summer (unless you are certain of fine weather) or an overcoat in winter. Umbrellas are not practical in London's windy and bustling streets - one reason perhaps why City businessmen and Guards officers in mufti always kept theirs tightly furled even in a rainstorm.
Hats are again fashionable for men - a Panama or tweed flat cap in summer, a dark Fedora or Homburg in cooler weather, but not these days the City Bowler (Derby) of yesteryear - that's strictly for judges of Hounds at country fairs, or the drivers of Whitbread's heavy horse dray, which you may see taking barrels of beer to City pubs on a weekday morning.
Car, taxi and bus drivers in London are well behaved, but strangers to the city, particularly from countries where driving is on the right-hand side, should take great care crossing the roads at all times - look right, look left, look right again! Preferably use the many pedestrian crossings (many controlled by pedestrians operating lights) or foot tunnels. Bicycles are common, fast and silent in the narrow streets of the Square Mile and in Mayfair so be vigilant.
Places shown in the itineraries as links are described in Section 2.
Jack's Voyage around London:
The walk is presented here as one unbroken journey, following a chain of many of the places mentioned in the Aubrey-Maturin canon, but this would be uncomfortably difficult in practice. Breaks for refreshments and to enjoy certain locations are essential. There are links using underground trains or river taxis, and pre-planning using a London street map (the Geographer's A-Z is excellent) and a London Underground map enables you to take alternative shortcuts if you wish.
At least one very full day should be allowed for this journey; two days would be sensible if the visitor wishes to spend adequate time in some of the more interesting locations. Access to some of the sites mentioned may be restricted, permanently or at certain times of the year or day. The whole route has been travelled by the author recently and few restrictions or other difficulties are known, but the traveller should check access to avoid disappointment.
Jack's London Voyage - itinerary:
- Start under Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square
- east up The Strand past Charing Cross Station
- continue to (The Liberties of) The Savoy at Savoy Court
- continue along The Strand past Aldwych to the Law Courts
- turn right off The Strand into Middle Temple
- stroll round the Inns of Court to King's Bench Walk
- turn left through Mitre Court to
- Fleet Street, have a drink at El Vino's or The Cheshire Cheese
- down to Ludgate Circus, start up Ludgate Hill, turn left into Old Bailey
- at The Magpie and Stump cross Newgate Street to Giltspur Street into Smithfield and Bart's Hospital
- retrace your steps to Newgate Street and turn left to St Paul's Churchyard
- from St Paul's Cathedral take Cannon Street past Mansion House station and take Queen Victoria Street to Bank station
- turn right into King William Street and walk downhill to The Monument
- retrace your steps a few yards to the Docklands Light Railway station, taking a train to Island Gardens station
- from Island Gardens walk towards the river then into the Greenwich Foot Tunnel
- walk under the river to Greenwich
- admire Cutty Sark and Sir Francis Chichester's Gipsy Moth IV
- up King William Walk, over Nelson Road to the Royal Naval College (now a university)
- into Greenwich Park (up the hill to the Old Royal Observatory or)
- turn left at the gates to the National Maritime Museum and the Queen's House
- spend some time in Greenwich then retrace your steps to the Cutty Sark
- at Greenwich Pier pontoon take a river taxi to Westminster Bridge landing
- from the ferry landing stage, walk up to the Houses of Parliament
- walk northwards up Whitehall
- pass Horse Guards to The Admiralty
- into Trafalgar Square and back to the feet of Nelson
The journey starts in the heart of the City of Westminster, from Nelson's end of Whitehall on foot to The Monument in the City of London. This is quite an arduous walk taking about an hour or so, unless you sensibly stop for refreshment.
At The Monument, take the interesting new Docklands Light Railway to the banks of the river Thames (about 30 minutes travel) we come face to face with one of the great sights of the world - the Royal Naval Hospital Greenwich, a World Heritage Site. We reach that by foot tunnel under the Thames from the prettily but inaptly named Island Gardens. It is close to Mudchute, which is more appropriate!
On the high level, overground railway route the traveller will have a very good view of the modern City of London but will also pass by some of the less salubrious areas of the old East End, including remnants of the old docks. If you pass stations with names redolent of maritime history, such as Custom House and Gallions Reach, you are on the wrong branch line!
The train gives spectacular views as you come through Canary Wharf, a city in itself where 20,000 people work in a major commercial centre housed in beautiful new buildings and cityscapes. Observant travellers seated at the front of the (driverless) train will get a clear view of the Millennium Dome at several points towards the end of the journey.
Between Island Gardens and Greenwich, walk through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. Built over a 100 years ago for the dock labourers living on the southern side of the Thames, it is a long and eerie route, but worth it as the traveller decamps from the tunnel out of a cast iron turret on the south side of the river. Right in front of you is "Cutty Sark", the China tea clipper; note the horse's tail in the hands of the figurehead Cutty, the witch in Rabbie Burns' poem. You can go aboard this lovely ship and see a wonderful display of ship's figureheads and marvel at the history of this famous tea clipper. Dwarfed by Cutty Sark is the 53' yacht "Gipsy Moth IV" sailed in the first solo circumnavigation of the world by Sir Francis Chichester.
The river voyage:
From Greenwich Pier you can take a river taxi upstream, stopping at several landing stages along the way to Westminster. River taxis are not cheap but the trip is worth it, particularly if the weather is clear, as they give a splendid view of London from the river. Some of them have bars on board and a few have open-topped seating areas. The river is tidal and big here, and still quite busy so do pay attention to the safety notices.
Although many of the buildings of riverside London have changed since Georgian times, the changing perspective as the boat swings through the Reaches is the same and with a little imagination you could be in the wake of The Ringle taking Stephen and his strong boxes to his meetings at The Temple.
On this voyage you will see:
on the North Bank:
many old river stairs and wharves along Greenwich Reach and Limehouse Reach the Tower of London and Traitor's Gate the Prospect of Whitby pub Tower Bridge HMS President, the name ship for RN staff at The Admiralty Somerset House the Houses of Parliament
on the South Bank: many old warehouses and small docks Greenland Dock HMS Belfast, the WWII battle-cruiser (you can go aboard) Sam Wanamaker's superb replica of the Globe Theatre (which presents Shakespeare's plays in the open air) The South Bank Arts Centre, National Theatre and Festival Hall The London Eye (which will give you a spectacular view of London and the surrounding countryside on a clear day) An alternative to the river taxi for the return to Westminster, cheaper and faster but much less interesting, is the new Jubilee underground line, from North Greenwich (by the Millennium Dome), Canary Wharf or Canada Water stations to the post-Modern station at Westminster opposite the Houses of Parliament.
The short stroll (about 60 minutes):
- Start under Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square
- carefully cross the very busy road (traffic from the left) to Canada House, then cross again to Admiralty Arch, walk through to north side of The Mall
- nod to Captain James Cook outside the Old Admiralty Buildings over The Mall
- take the steps up to Carlton House Terrace into Waterloo Place
- turn left into Pall Mall and walk to the end at St James's Palace
- retrace your steps a few feet to St James's Square, walk through past White's Club ("Black's")
- cross Piccadilly and walk westwards passing Dover, Stratton, Bolton, Clarges and Half Moon Streets
- take White Horse Street into Mayfair
- turn left into Shepherd Market
The longer walk (about two hours - half a day if you visit the Guards Museum or Buckingham Palace, or picnic in the Park):
- Start at the feet of Nelson in Trafalgar Square
- carefully cross the very busy road (traffic from the left) at Admiralty Arch into Whitehall
- pass the main gates of The Admiralty New Buildings to Horse Guards
- walk insouciantly past the sentry on horseback into the courtyard and through Horse Guards Arch
- into Horse Guards Parade, looking at the rear of the Prime Minister's London house and Cabinet Offices on the left side, and admiring on the right side the rear of the Admiralty Old Buildings and The Citadel (covering Sir Joseph's secret "green baize door")
- march smartly across the Parade crossing Horse Guards Road into St James's Park, feeding the ducks in the lake if you wish
- the Guards Museum in Wellington Barracks ("Welly B") is in Birdcage Walk on the southern flank of the Park
- carefully cross The Mall by the Queen Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace (if the Royal Standard is flying The Queen is present)
- into Constitution Hill and turn right into Green Park, bearing slightly right as you walk through
- at the other side of the Park, cross Piccadilly at The Ritz into Mayfair
- take White Horse Street into Shepherd Market
- from Sir Joseph's house (if you find it!) saunter eastwards (parallel to Piccadilly) through the many small streets to Regent Street, Haymarket and back to Trafalgar Square
On each of these walks you will see many buildings which Stephen, Jack and Sir Joseph would have known. The streets of Mayfair have not changed much apart from the cars blocking the roadways, but even in Georgian times there were complaints about the noise, danger and pollution from riding horses and carriage horses!
To discover more about modern London, I heartily recommend the superbly illustrated and very detailed Dorling Kindersley Eye Witness Travel Guide. You may also like to join a small group on one of the excellent afternoon or evening themed London Walks with expert guides, which cost about £5 - try their website for more information: http://www.walks.com/
© J M J Reay MM