Thursday, 3 September 2009

A Gentle Stroll

Believe me, however much they smile, there are few words more likely to strike terror into the heart of an overweight, arthritic travel writer than 'walking tour'. I immediately get suspicious when people tell me we are going for a gentle stroll. It may be just that – a leisurely potter around a historic town, fetching up in a pub or tearoom, but it can just as easily be a route-march across some steep rubble-strewn hillside. In one nightmarish case, it turned into a 4hr hike across the African bush in search of buffalo that only ended when I sat down under an acacia tree, absolutely refused to move any further even under threat of being eaten by lions. I simply couldn't move another step. So now, I end up cross-questioning people about length, number of stairs, gradients, quality of the roads and paths in a thoroughly suspicious fashion.
It was with some astonishment therefore that I found myself voluntarily organising a walking tour for the British Guild of Travel Writers yesterday, hosted for us by the Blue Badge Guides 2012 Committee. These splendid people gave us a preview of their regular public tours of the East End and the vast construction sites for the London Games, including the information centre that is due to open in the next couple of weeks. I ended up slightly damp but having seen not only the Olympic stadium but Bazalgette's elaborate Victorian Temple of Sewage (still in working order) and with a head full of amazing trivia such as the fact that the Lee River has been put to use to haul barges for construction, saving 170,000 lorry journeys. A great tour and an essential for every Londoner. It might just answer a few of the questions about why the Games are a good thing.
Tours run every Sat and Sun at 11am from Bromley-by-Bow tube station and cost £8 per head; for details,

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