For those of you who missed it, last weekend was Open House London 2014, which offered a chance to see inside 800 buildings across the capital that are not normally open to the public.
The most popular options this year included: The Gherkin, The Cheesegrater, The Bank of England, 55 Broadway (London Underground HQ), Houses of Parliament, and 10 Downing Street, among others. As you'd expect, they were incredibly busy, which meant you either needed to get a ticket well in advance, or be prepared to queue for hours.
However, there's a whole world of interesting building to explore besides the most popular ones. Better yet, you can often see two or three of them in the time it would take you to see one of the others.
Just to give you an idea of the types of buildings you can get access to, here is summary from what I managed to see this year:
If you haven't already watched the video above, do it now! It solves the age old question: "Can someone actually run faster than a tube train?" Want to find if they can?
Then watch as James Heptonstall races a circle line train between Mansion House and Cannon Street while his friend Noel Carroll stays on-board and films the dramatic conclusion.
Update: For an even more impressive feat watch as the same duo complete the even more ambitious run from Moorgate to St. James's Park to beat the train. Not to take anything away from achievement, but it should be noted they don't follow the circle route directly, but instead take the most direct route. Still pretty incredible it can be done.
Photos of Kentish Town West taken 10 hours and 59 minutes apart on my final walk
On Sunday September 14th, 2014 I completed walking the London Overground as part of my ongoing attempt at walking the Tube (done), Overground and DLR. I believe I'm the first and, at this point, only person to have walked all of the London Overground (unless of course anyone knows of anyone else).
In a slight shift of focus, I'm now aiming to be the first person to walk the entire Standard Tube Map, which means I'll also have to add the Emirates Airline into the mix (and more Overground if I don't finish before the end of this year). Fortunately, mainline trains and the tram network don't make it onto the map, which saves me walking them.
Overground Walk Stats
Total distance walked: 109.45 miles (176.14km) - 27% of the Tube's distance Time spent walking: 34 hours and 52 minutes - 23% of the time spent walking the Tube Total number of walks: 5 (although I did walk the former East London Line as part of my Tube walks)
Shortest walk: New Cross Gate to West Croydon via Crystal Palace - 13.32 miles (21.44km) Longest walk: Walking the Overground Circle from Kentish Town West to Kentish Town West - 34.48 miles (55.49 km) - Will be the longest walk of this whole adventure
Average walking speed: 3.14 miles/hr - 20% faster than walking the Tube Average walk length: 21.89 miles (35.23 km) - 28% longer than the average Tube walk Average walk time: 6 hours 58 minutes - 6% longer than the average Tube walk
Grand total distance walked to date (Tube + Overground): 503.75 miles (810.7 km)
You may have noticed that while this blog has been relatively active lately, there have been few posts about the Overground walks and none from my past Tube walks. The reason is that those posts take a long time to compile and I don't really have a lot of free time.
However, my goal is still to publish photos from each of my Tube walks, just without the long winded prose to go along with them. So look out for those and photos from the rest of my Overground walks (and upcoming DLR walks) here soon.
Here's something you probably don't see on your daily commutes, a nightclub on the Tube. The prank seems to have been created by Trollstation and the video above was caught on camera by reddit user BurnSpeed.
You can watch the full video below, including when the police show up:
I think for many people (myself included) Art Deco is an architectural style associated more with American cities than with London. Yet, look around just a little bit and you'll find Art Deco buildings popping up all over the place, including several dozen Tube stations and London Underground's Headquarters at 55 Broadway.
However, it always helps to have a guide to show you the buildings and tell their stories. So it was great to go along on Yannick Pucci's Art Deco in Bloomsbury Walking Tour (Architecture in the Machine Age) because he has such an obviously passion for Art Deco architecture and history.
Unsurprisingly, given the tour's name, the focus is on Art Deco in Bloomsbury. I was already quite familiar with Bloomsbury before going on the tour and thought I knew a bit about Art Deco as well. Going on Yannick's tour demonstrated how much I'd been missing on both counts.
His tour is a wonderful combination of factual information, along with interesting anecdotes about the people who built, worked in and/or lived in the various buildings along the route. I was impressed with how much I learned about the architecture of the area in just over 2 hours.
Since tour guides generally like to protect their trade secrets, I won't reveal too much of what's included on the tour itself, you'll just have to go find out for yourself. However, I will say that if you have even the slightest interest in either Art Deco and/or Bloomsbury you should go on Yannick's tour. One of the best values in London at only £8 per person (or just £6.50 for students and seniors).
So when Daniel Botcherby, a former co-worker of mine, got in touch and said he'd created something different using the Tube map, I have to admit I was somewhat skeptical. However, Tubenav is actually really cool.
Basically, it claims to be the first fully interactive Tube Map, which you can use to find local businesses close to any of London's Underground stations. And yes, they've licensed the map from TFL.
I found using the web app relatively straightforward and it worked well for me on both my laptop and my mobile. All the stations I checked seemed to have listing; surprisingly even far flung ones such as Chesham (not even in London):
However, the web apps' real strength lies with listings in central London:
Since I'm a fan of both the Tube and entrepreneurship, I thought I'd let Daniel (Tubenav's COO) explain it in his own words. I sent him nine questions by e-mail and here are his responses:
1) Where did the idea for the app come from?
Well, it all started from the idea that there's a huge innovation gap we're seeing in the transport system. We've got hybrid buses, oyster cards, contactless payments, journey mapping api's with live transport information but we're still using the same static Tube Map! It's a fantastic design that we all know and love but we really wanted to do more with it!
2) Who should use the app?
I think if you're new to London or a tourist looking to get around the city – This app is for you. For tourists we can help you navigate to your hotel and get you used to that area with what's around you worth checking out.
When you start moving around the city, our web app lets you simply search for places you want to go to and how to get there and we even help you discover new and exciting things to do to get you used to the city.
3) Why use this app over other alternatives (e.g. Google Maps, Yelp, Foursquare, etc.)?
We are combining the best elements of Google Maps and Foursquare with the best discovery elements of Yelp, Timeout and Yplan! We have a superior directory of places than Google Places – with more relevant content and a far more user friendly experience. We've combined searching and navigating to a place within two clicks – so you don't have to bounce between all these apps that only serve one piece of the puzzle of how to get to somewhere!
4) Where are you getting you 'recommended places' data from?
We spent a year researching the best places in the capital and in addition to that we have 3 years of data from a previous venture. So this formed the basis of our recommended places – and with London changing as rapidly as we add the data, we've got a team of tastemakers with their ear to the ground so that we can be the real-time provider of what's going on in the city.
5) How is the app going to make money?
Right now our focus is to provide the best experience possible to our Tubenav community. We want to provide you, if you're new to London or even if you think you know-it-all, something of value and show you how exciting London is.
Just the other day I was invited to a break-dance event which was absolutely incredible but there was not nearly enough people as I would have imagined for the quality of the dancers, it's these kind of fresh events that go under the radar that we will be bringing to the forefront to highlight London's diverse cultural heritage.
6) When can we expect iPhone and Android versions of the app?
This is happening soon – we're currently raising funding through Seedrs to help us get to this stage and beyond. In the meantime our web app is fully optimised for your mobile phone and tablets.
7) Was it difficult/expensive to license the map from TFL?
Yes! TFL have a great team in charge of who they let and don't let use their map and we went through several stages of approval before we were even authorised to fully build our working prototype. We're a brand new case for them since we've built London's first fully interactive Tube Map, and we're proud to have that relationship.
8) What new features do you plan on adding in the future?
In line with our idea of making London Real-Time... we'll be launching something called 'Hot Spots' and these will be beacons flashing on the Tube Map that will alert you to the 'hottest' things happening in London and even some free giveaways! So definitely keep an eye out for that!
You'll want to click on the map above to see a full resolution version
The map above was created by Brian Butterworth at Uk Free TV and is an attempt to include all current and future planned upgrades to TFL's services on one map.
On first glace it looks a bit of a mess. However, looking a little closer you'll find a few interesting things such as:
High usage stations have a slightly larger font size and are highlighted in yellow.
Stations outside of Greater London are shown with a lighter text colour.
The Map includes Crossrail 1 & 2, High Speed 1 & 2, Thameslink, the R25 and even the Northern City Line but not the current Tram services in South London or the Emirates Air Line.
Distances between out-of-station interchanges are shown
A slew of new stations have been added including: Battersea, Nine Elms, Cassiobridge, Watford Vicarage Road, Junction Road, Old Kent Road, Camberwell and I'm sure lots more.
Euston-King's Cross-St. Pancras looks like it will be one crazy interchange station.
The River Lea is included along with the Thames (not sure why)
The Beckton curve is shown on the map
I doubt a map like this would ever be used by TFL as it's simply too complicated. However, I think Brian has done an incredible job highlighting the issues that TFL will (hopefully) soon have to address. Mainly how much more can you add to the current map before it becomes unreadable.
The genius of Beck's 1933 Tube Map was that it made everything simple. While the map above uses Beck's techniques of straight, vertical and 45 degree diagonal lines, there are simply too many of them and geographical accuracy is further sacrificed. When all these services do open, it will take another genius like Beck to help use navigate our way around them. Until then, this is a great attempt in my opinion.
Euston is probably the ugliest mainline station in London, but at least it was a sunny day.
My second Overground outing was a somewhat ambitious trek from Euston all the way out to Watford Junction. I completed the 22.27 mile (35.84km) walk on a very sunny June 21st, 2014 in just under 7 hours.
A significant portion of line uses the same tracks as the Bakerloo line. This meant I ended up walking some of the same streets I had previously, although this time going in the opposite direction. In fact, until 1982, the Bakerloo line used to run all the way up to Watford Junction, which means this walk could also be considered a tube walk extension.
Here are just a few of the photos I took along the way. As always, I hope you enjoy!
As you probably already know I'm quite the fan of walking in London. My personal walking adventures have taken me to the ends of each of London's 11 tube lines, along several of its Overground routes, the length of the Regent's Canal and most of the the Thames within London.
And still I find there's always more to discover! The only problem is deciding where to walk next. Catherine from LondonHiker.com has partially solved this problem by asking 21 locals (myself included) for a recommended walk in her Insider's Guide To Walking In London (PDF).
These are not step-by-step walking guides, but serve as inspirations for walks you might want to consider. Here are just a few of the types of walks included:
Walking a tube line (mine of course!)
The walk where you don't have to cross a single road (by Victor Keegan)