London Trails Guided Walk of Fitzrovia, by Ken Titmuss. 2pm to 4pm Sundays, £8.
Fitzrovia: A Walking Treasure Quest, by Treasure Trails. One hour, any time, £5.
Reviewed by Linus Rees
Both these walks of exploration start at Goodge Street tube station. The Treasure Trails’ walk is more suited to a family with children or a group of children led by an adult. The emphasis is on fun and exploration with some historical snippets thrown in.
Ken Titmuss’s guided walk is geared towards a more in-depth and serious historical exploration of Fitzrovia and looks at how the area developed over time.
Ken leads historical walking tours all over inner London. His guided walks take an historical perspective comparing today’s streets with the topography of hundreds of years ago. The walk around Fitzrovia looks at how the present neighbourhood came to be and how the streets and squares were laid out since the time the land was just a series of fields, lanes and tracks.
A small collection of historical maps helps to illustrate the walk and Ken points out how the roads have developed and how the building plots are the shape they are. Fitzroy Square is explored, the former Strand Union Workhouse is visited and one of Charles Dickens’ many homes is encountered.
As well as the people and places, Ken points out the different architectural styles that are to be found. Georgian mixes with art nouveau and arts and crafts designs. Many of the area’s listed buildings and conservation areas are appreciated. The walk takes around two hours and the pace is moderate but a lot of ground is covered.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable walk and Ken has a wealth of knowledge not only of Fitzrovia but about the development of London as a city. Ken also does a very interesting walk of neighbouring St Giles.
A much shorter walk is offered by Treasure Trails’ Fitzrovia Walking Treasure Quest. This walks takes the form of purchasing a walking package which you do yourself at your leisure. The package consists of a booklet with 20 clues to help you solve a puzzle as you walk and explore the area around Fitzrovia’s Charlotte Street. The objective of the quest is to solve the series of clues and by process of elimination find the missing Teddy Bear. Though you don’t actually get your hands on a fluffy toy, but you can enter a competition to win a cash prize.
The guide time for the walk is one hour. However, when I did the walk on my own during a busy lunchtime it took me nearly two hours. The instructions are very clear and the answers to the clues are dotted around the buildings and streets. If you are really stuck and can’t find an answer you can text a help line on your mobile phone to help you out.
After ten minutes of searching for one of the objects I gave up and texted the helpline on my Android smartphone. I quickly got sent a text message describing what I should have found and I was able to move on to the next clue.
Not a lot of distance is covered on the walk — less than a mile — but a lot of looking about at the details of buildings and the streets is endured. Some of the answers to the clues are quite difficult to find and you have to be pretty sharp-eyed. If there’s a group of you, then the workload is shared.
On both of these walks I discovered things about my neighbourhood that I was unaware of and both were enjoyable.
The Treasure Trails do-it-yourself walk is a good choice for a family or group of young children. At only £5 it presents very good value and you can do it anytime.
Ken Titmuss’s London Trails guided walk of Fitzrovia will give you a good overview of how the area developed from fields to the present day and Ken is keen to answer many questions about the area.