Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Free Carol Concerts - A Short List

My plan to update my annual Top 10 of Free Carol Concerts has been thwarted by the amount of studying I'm doing for the Clerkenwell & Islington Guiding course. However rather than waste the research I have done so far, here it is!

1. Trafalgar Square

The world famous tree will be lit on Thursday 4th December at 6pm and then from Monday 8th to Tuesday 23rd December there will be carol singing around the tree by a different group each night - 4pm-8pm on weekdays and 2pm-6pm on weekends. More details can be found here.

2. St Bartholomew the Great

This year I finally made it into St Bartholomew The Great - in fact I went inside twice. My first visit was to see Murder in the Cathedral by the amazing Little Spaniel Theatre Company and I see they are returning with that production in October 2015. 

My second visit was as part of a London Historians tour which started with an early morning tour of Smithfield Market followed by breakfast and then followed by tours at St Bartholomew the Less, the Hogarth mural at Barts Hospital and then a tour of St Bartholomew the Great. I then had a third visit although this time was only outside in the churchyard where I had to speak for 4 minutes about the history of the church as part of my training to become a Clerkenwell and Islington Guide.

On my first visit I was absolutely taken aback by the interior of the church and will say that it is worth every penny of the £4 entrance fee. The Cloister Cafe is worth visiting too.

There are a number of carol services listed here including those for nearby solicitors and livery companies. The one that jumps out at me is a service of 9 lessons and carols including German music on Tuesday 23rd December at 6pm - scroll down on this link for details. I am hoping to get along to this one.
My previous years' lists can be found by clicking on these links - 2013, 2012 and 2011 which could be of use as no doubt these venues will be offering something similar this year.

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is a qualified City of Westminster Tour Guide who specialises in food and drink themed walks in the West End of London. 
Details of all her walks are listed here.  
To sign up to Joanna's mailing list click here
Follow on Twitter @wwalks
or like on Facebook

(New website coming soon!)

Thursday, 13 November 2014

A lunchtime wander: London Bridge

In my other job as a legal secretary I have spent a considerable part of 2014 working for a firm situated close to Borough Market. There is an enormous amount of things to do in the vicinity and I have probably only scratched the surface so please add your favourites to the comments at the bottom.

Places to sit outside by the river

The area immediately around Borough Market and the Golden Hinde is extremely busy and I would normally avoid this area. There are plenty of other places to sit. However the area between Minerva House (the building you need to walk around to follow the Thames Path from the Golden Hind to Borough Market) and the Glaziers Hall is usually surprisingly quiet. (Not yesterday when I took this photo though - probably because of the bus!)

It could be that you can’t actually see it from Borough Market or Southwark Cathedral Gardens so everyone just crams into the church gardens. The quote on the river wall from Raleigh says it all really - "There are two things scarce matched in the Universe - the sun in heaven and the Thames on earth".

Follow the river east a bit, underneath London Bridge and you get to the More London Estate. There are plenty of places to sit next to The Scoop (between Hay’s Galleria and Tower Bridge) and there is Potters Field Park too just beyond this. There is usually some form of exhibition on in the area too plus amazing views of Tower Bridge. This photo was taken one lunchtime after a very misty morning.

Places to sit outside away from the river

There is quite a selection of places to sit away from the river although some are rather tucked away. Minutes from Borough Market can be found a lovely quiet  garden. It’s at the junction of Maiden Lane and Park Street SE1. This doesn’t appear to have a name and the park is missing from the map. It’s not so much a garden (ie there is no grass) but it is a lovely shady area with benches and trees where boules is occasionally played. It is literally a hop, skip and a jump away from Borough Market – less than 5 minutes’ walk along Park Street and is just past the junction with Red Cross Way but seems to be largely unknown by many that work in the area.  

If you carry on down Maiden Lane you will come to Gatehouse Square where you will find this unusual sculpture rather hidden within residential dwellings.  There are steps nearby which lead to Southwark Bridge.

Red Cross Gardens

If you were to walk down Red Cross Way from Park Street, negotiating the crossing of Southwark Street (this is the worst bit), past the Cross Bones Graveyard (on your left) and Boot and Flogger wine bar (on your right), then cross Union Street you will then come across a school and the lovely Red Cross Gardens opposite. These are definitely worth seeking out and there is an unexpected and impressive view of the Shard from the gardens. (NB: as far as I know people don't actually swim in the pond; there was a photo shoot going on on that particular lunchtime!)

If you cross Red Cross Way and then walk down the alleyway to the right of the school – Little Dorrit Court you will pass another area to sit which is always quite busy and quite noisy as there is a children’s playground within – Little Dorrit Park. When you emerge from the other end of the alleyway you are on Borough High Street.

Practically opposite Borough station at the junction with Borough High Street and Marshalsea Road is St George the Martyr Church.

Every Monday lunchtime it is worth visiting St George the Martyr because the crypt downstairs is home to the amazing Dragon Cafe.  It's very much a space for the community and as well as very reasonably priced food there are regular weekly events such as free 15 minute massages, writing groups, exhibitions, singing, dancing, gardening etc. You do need to sign up on your first visit but there is no charge. An example of a weekly programme is here.

Next to the church are the church grounds surrounded with what is left of the wall that surrounded Marshalsea Prison - the debtors' prison where Dickens and his family were incarcerated.

Another place to sit is within King's College Guy's Campus. There is a farmers' market here every Tuesday from 9am until 2pm. There is also a museum - the Gordon Museum of Pathology - but it is rarely open to the public.

Places to Eat/Buy Food

Borough Market
If you avoid the busy period and particularly the stalls around Southwark Cathedral there are some gems to be found and I am sure there are many more I haven't yet discovered.

First of all a quite well known place - The Ginger Pig. The name of this butchers comes from the copper coloured Tamworth pig that they rear themselves on their Yorkshire farm. They started off with a stall in Borough Market but now have a number of shops in London including one in Moxon Street, Marylebone which features on my foodie/hidden pubs of Marylebone walk. The Borough Market stall/shop has a wide range of meat and sausages but also sells their famous sausage roll which is absolutely enormous but there is much more sausage meat than there is pastry and it is absolutely delicious.

Quite close to the Ginger Pig can be found the Brindisa shop - this is separate to the restaurant which is on the corner of Borough High Street. Next to the shop they grill chorizo rolls to order - which are delicious. Here's a review of this sandwich!

Three Crown Square is the part of the Market that is purely for ingredients so you don't get caught up in long queues for hot food. This useful map makes it easier to locate stalls.  A couple of my favourites are:

Wildes Cheese - they are known as the urban cheese maker. The cheese is made in a micro dairy in Tottenham from milk from Sussex cows. Last week I bought some of their St Bruce (which I now see is also known as The Drunk as one of the ingredients is Redemption Brewery's Hopspur). This cheese is particularly recommended for cheese on toast and I have to say that it worked very well and was delicious. Wildes Cheese are at Borough Market a couple of times a week but you can also find them at Richmond Market and quite a few shops around town including several in Walthamstow near me. A list of their stockists can be found here.

Not too far away from Wildes Cheese stall can be found De Calabria's stall. They sell jars of Sunratomato which is a delicious combination of sundried tomatoes, herbs, chilli and olive oil. I have become quite addicted to it and use it in salad dressings, pasta sauces plus even just on a bit of toast or French bread!

Not all food within and around Borough Market is expensive. Take Maria's Market Cafe for instance. The cafe has been going (in various forms) since 1961. They are famous for their bubble & squeak.

Little Dorrit Cafe, 11 Park Street

I have already mentioned Little Dorrit Park and Little Dorrit Court but here in Park Street there is also a cafe named after the unfortunate fictional character.  Despite its proximity to Borough Market this cafe is surprisingly good value.  This baked potato was so big I had to take some of it home with me!

Papaya, 109 Borough High Street

Thai cafe on Borough High Street. Reasonably priced and very quick. They also have branches in Soho and Mayfair.

Shrigleys, 125 Borough High Street

Moroccan food. Very tasty and reasonably priced.  The Moroccan chicken salad is especially good. There is always a long queue.

Luncheonette, 47-49 Borough High Street

I only spotted this place after reading the first chapter of Shakespeare's Local about The George Inn.  It is a very cheap sandwich/pasta bar and there is usually a queue outside.

Pubs and Bars

Quite unlike me I barely know any of the pubs around here. There is of course the famous George but unless you visit mid afternoon it is usually very busy. Click on the 4th photo along on this link from Londonist to see my impossible to eat sandwich!

I have heard good things about The Wheatsheaf but have yet to visit.  More a bar than a pub but serving beer and ciders from the Utobeer Borough Market stall The Rake in Winchester Walk is definitely worth visiting. It is very small though.

A bit further afield and a few minutes' walk from St George The Martyr church there is a great traditional pub - the Royal Oak - I was there when the photos on the link were taken but thankfully I'm not in any of them!

Lastly I recently stumbled across The Wine Pantry in Stoney Street. This is an amazing place. They only sell English wine and British produce.  I didn't have much time to browse - I will return but notice their amazing selection of gin - 3 shelves full including my favourite Bathtub Gin, Look at all the different type of tonics in the picture too. Apparently lemongrass tonic goes well with Bathtub Gin. I can't wait to try it.

Not only is it a shop but there is a small wine bar within where they are happy if you bring in your lunch  from Borough Market and enjoy it there with a glass of wine.  I'm looking forward to returning soon.

Free recitals

There is a weekly free organ recital on Mondays at 1pm at Southwark Cathedral and on the third Thursday of every month there's a free recital at St George The Martyr.


The Old Operating Theatre Museum in St Thomas Street is really worth the climb up the spiral staircase. Entrance is £6.50 but it's half price if you have a National Trust membership card!

Something a bit different

Cross Bones Graveyard - this is worth seeking out in Redcross Way. It's an unconsecrated graveyard to prostitutes known as the Winchester Geese who worked under the control of the Bishop of Winchester. The graveyard was uncovered with the building of the extension of the Jubilee line in the 1990s. At that time 148 skeletons were removed. Much more about the graveyard and the memorial gates can be found here.

Folk music at the Golden Hinde

Technically I shouldn't include this as it's not a lunchtime event but on the first Friday night of the month the Golden Hinde is host to the Tiller Flat Folk Club. Entrance is the bargain price of £5 (although it was £3 when I visited in May - the same night as Tom) but you do need to book in advance. I have been once and it was a great night.

Lastly I really should mention the excellent SE1 website  - www.london-se1.co.uk which is really worth checking out and signing up for their weekly newsletter full of local events.

As you can probably tell from the photos taken in the summer I have been writing this post for quite a long time. There is so much to do in the area I fear I shall never finish this post so am going to post it as is. I look forward to hearing in the comments about places I've missed especially pubs!

This is the 5th in an occasional series of lunchtime wanderings. I have previously written about Chancery Lane, Fleet Street, Marylebone and Westminster. NB: some of the older posts contain premises that are unfortunately no longer in business.

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is a qualified City of Westminster Tour Guide who specialises in food and drink themed walks in the West End of London. 
Details of all her walks are listed here.  
To sign up to Joanna's mailing list click here
Follow on Twitter @wwalks
or like on Facebook

(New website coming soon!)

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Christmas Walks - alternative office parties

Dare I say it but it is that time of year that people are starting to think about what to do for their work Christmas party.

How about a Christmas Lights themed walk through the West End?

The walk starts in a cosy Sam Smiths pub in Marylebone (with a fire) then meanders through the back streets of the West End (where the best lights can be found), through Mayfair and into Soho. The walk includes hidden passages, posh shops (usually with the best decorations) and lots of historical snippets along the way. As with most of my walks there is a food/drink theme plus Christmas traditions and decorations throughout. The walk finishes in Soho close to Piccadilly Circus tube in a freehouse that serves hot toddies and also does very good food.  

This walk lasts 1 hour 45 minutes and unusually can be done in reverse. There are plenty of eating establishments in both Soho and Marylebone if you would like to finish with a meal.

Email westminsterwalks [at] yahoo.co.uk for more details.

Photo courtesy of  https://www.flickr.com/photos/denis57/sets/72157628338866113/

Or maybe my Culinary Gaslit Tour of St James's would fit the bill:

St James’s is one of London’s most exclusive areas and is particularly pretty at Christmas with decorations along Jermyn Street and in the various arcades. It is also gaslit which makes for a very atmospheric walk. Famous for its gentlemen’s clubs which were originally coffee and chocolate houses St James’s also houses one of the oldest and most expensive restaurants in town and Britain’s oldest wine and spirit merchant not to mention the Queen’s grocery store and a 200 year old cheese shop. We will hear about the Jamie Oliver of the 19th Century, the cook that inspired the TV series the Duchess of Duke Street and the man who invented the sandwich. 

There are two really good pubs in St James's so we could have a halfway stop in one if desired and finish in another or maybe finish at The King's Head just into Mayfair on the other side of Piccadilly which has a really good menu plus is currently offering a free glass of prosecco for each person in the party if you book  a Christmas meal by 1st November!

This walk is 1 hour 45 minutes without a pub stop.

I can take up to 20 people on either of these walks although the ideal size is around 15. For a group bigger than 20 I would need to bring in another guide. 

Email westminsterwalks [at] yahoo.co.uk for more details.  

Monday, 29 September 2014

FREE Walks - Local London Guiding Day - 11/10/2014

Save the date - Saturday 11th October is this year's Local London Guiding Day.  This is the fifth year running that London's four local guiding associations - City of London, Westminster, Clerkenwell & Islington and Greenwich have got together to offer a day of free walks on a specific theme.

This year's theme is The Georgians. Each guiding association has created an hour long walk in their respective area which they will repeat throughout the day from 10am until 4pm. No booking is required - just turn up!

The walks are free but there will be a collection for the Royal British Legion at the end of each walk.

You may need quite good eyesight to read the flyer below, so details of each of the walks are as follows:

City of London:  Georgian Life in the City
What was it like to live in Georgian times? Learn a little bit more about daily life in the City, see buildings from the time and hear stories of those who lived and made their mark while a George was on the throne.
Meet: Bank station, exit 3, Royal Exchange

Clerkenwell and Islington Guides: Bad, Sad, ... and Mad!
A fascinating walk through the Georgian streets and squares of Islington exploring the world of the Four Georges.
Meet: Angel station

Greenwich Tour Guides: Inheritance, Indulgence and Infighting
Follow in the buckled shoe footsteps of England's Hanoverian monarchs and their dysfunctional families amid more grand Georgian architecture than you can shake a powdered periwig at.
Meet: Cutty Sark DLR station

Westminster Guides: Through a Fanlight Darkly
Sometimes the most secret places are closest to the busiest streets. Join us to explore one such area and to meet its Georgian inhabitants.
Meet: the forecourt of Charing Cross station, in front of the hotel.

In the meantime like this page on Facebook with some tantalising teasers about the walks!

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Twitter - A Beginner's Guide (Updated for 2014)

Twitter has improved in the 2 years since I wrote my original post so I have updated it (with screenshots this time thanks to the amazingly useful Dropbox).

I am rather obsessed with social media and I'm always going on about how Twitter or Facebook and of course blogging are good for getting your name (and business) known. You may wonder how Twitter can help you so much as you are limited to 140 characters per tweet but it is amazing once you know how.

Start off by going to the sign up page of www.twitter.com and creating yourself a Twitter ID. This needs to be l4 characters or less.

“WestminsterWalks” was too many letters so I am @WWalks. You don’t have to put your real name on the sign-up page but whatever you put will appear next to your Twitter ID on your tweets. “WminsterGuides” is “Westminster Guides” but my Twitter page “WWalks” has my real name next to it. If you use your real name in this way people that don’t know your Twitter ID will still be able to find you.

Once you are signed up create a short profile stating what you do and ideally include a link to your website. It is also preferable to have a photo to show you’re serious about Twitter. You could maybe use a logo if you don’t want to use a personal photo.

How to start

Even before you are following anyone and have no followers it’s best to do one or two tweets introducing yourself so potential followers can see who you are.  You could just say something about a walk coming up or have a link to your website. If people look at your profile and you haven’t tweeted yet they are unlikely to follow you.

If you click on “Home” you will see a picture of a quill pen on the far right hand side. Click on this and a box comes up. You can then type, add photos and even add your location.

What to Tweet

I tweet about walks coming up but I also tweet about things I find of interest in London and think worth sharing. Reply to others’ tweets (the option to “reply” is underneath each tweet), get involved and share information via the re-tweet button. If people realise you are willing to share they are more likely to reciprocate. There is also the option to favourite (ie like).


Links are automatically shortened so there's no need to worry about their length.


Click on the picture of the bell and you will see who has re-tweeted you, followed you, favourited you etc. I have set it up so that I receive a text too which is useful if you are away from internet access. Click on the picture of the cog to the left of the quill and then click on "Settings" to choose your notification preferences.

Who to Follow

As you start following people they will in most cases follow you back. However don’t automatically follow everyone that follows you. Check out their tweets first – are you interested in what they have to say or could they be useful to you. It’s also worth checking when they last tweeted – anything more than a few months ago means their account is probably dormant.  

I started off by following lots of museums, London themed websites such as Ian Visits,  Londonist and London Historians, hotels, London enthusiasts and also fellow Westminster Guides. As my walks are mainly food and drink themed I also follow lots of cafes, cocktail bars and restaurants. Since Summer 2013 I have been doing local walks too so now follow lots of Walthamstow and Chingford based businesses.

People use Twitter in different ways. I dip in and out, others try to read every single tweet in their timeline. This is impossible. Yes I do follow over 2000 accounts but I have managed somehow not to get addicted to constantly reading my timeline.


Have you ever seen adverts with a “#” in front of a phrase and wondered what it meant. Well, this is a hashtag and is a way of categorising tweets. If you are attending a talk or conference there is likely to be a specific hashtag so all tweets about the event that include that hashtag will be grouped together. I now can't watch TV without following comments about that programme on Twitter at the same time!  More info on hash tags is here.

The one that you will see the most is #FF – this means “Follow Friday” and the Twitter user will list a number of Twitter accounts he/she is recommending.


An automatically generated email is sent to Twitter users each week which usefully lists your best performing tweets. It is sometimes surprising what is the most popular and therefore helps improve your output.

This morning via Twitter I discovered an even more useful tool where from the moment you sign up your tweets are analysed.  Details are here

This tool only works for tweets written after you sign up to the service which is why my statistics are so low at the moment.

There is also a separate page where you can analyse your followers ie where they come from and who they follow ie 82% of my followers are from the UK and 30% follow @LondonHistorian (a very worthwhile organisation to follow and to join -  but I digress).

Dos and Don’ts

Do share other people’s tweets by re-tweeting. 

Do send thank you tweets to organisations but on the other hand don't send thank yous when people follow you. If you’ve enjoyed the theatre, a walk or an event of some kind (even if not related to your business) send the organisation a tweet (although make sure you don’t start your tweet off with their ID* ) and you will find that in 9 cases out of 10 they will re-tweet your tweet to their followers which should hopefully give you wider exposure. You can then do the same if you receive similar tweets!  I once tweeted about a production at Wilton's Music Hall remarking that the actor looked like Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice. The actor (unfortunately not Colin Firth) re-tweeted it and thus brought more people to me.

*You need at least one character (even just a dot) before “@[name] otherwise your tweets will only get a very limited audience.

Do Favourite other people’s tweets. This is like a bookmark which you can come back to. People looking at your profile can also see your favourites so know more about you.

Do tweet at varying times of the day about an upcoming walk/event but don’t repeat too many times which is boring for your followers.

Don’t just promote yourself. This is boring for your followers and they are likely to unfollow you.

Don’t send a series of the same tweet to lots of individual organisations. Your other followers will see this same message over and over again and are likely to unfollow you. I see this mistake time and time again. It is extremely annoying for your followers and those that you are targeting are likely to ignore you as you are spamming them anyway!

Don’t say thank you individually to all your followers for following you. This has actually put me off following people as the majority of their tweets are acknowledgments for following them!

Don't just re-tweet other people's tweets. Give yourself a voice, have something to say. I personally am unlikely to follow people who don't have their own identity.

Protected or not protected

Twitter is a public forum. Anything you tweet can be found by anyone whether or not they are on Twitter themselves. If you are not keen on this you can make your tweets protected. This would mean that only your followers (who have all in this case been individually approved by yourself) would see your tweets. To my mind this defeats the object of Twitter which is to gain a large audience in a short time. However if you do want to find out more about protecting your tweets details are here.

As a result of my original post back in August 2012 a Westminster Guide @GWinLondon joined Twitter and  is now a prolific tweeter with more than double the amount of followers I have!

Good luck and if you have any tips to add please put them in the comments below.

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is a qualified City of Westminster Tour Guide who specialises in food and drink themed walks in the West End of London. 
Details of all her walks are listed here.  
To sign up to Joanna's mailing list click here
Follow on Twitter @wwalks
or like on Facebook