Thousands of people cross the River Fleet every day, but few of them realise it. The Fleet is mostly hidden underground today, but Footprints of London guides Rob Smith, Debbie Pakulski and Jenni Bowley will be following its course from the springs of Hampstead to the Thames at Blackfriars. You can join them for a day of walking and history, finding traces of the Fleet in street names and gushing pipelines, and hearing the stories of those who have lived on its banks. A rare chance to walk from one end of a river to the other in a day.
The whole walk is about ten miles, but if you cant spare the time we are doing the walk in three sections
Part 1 – Hampstead to Kentish Town: Spas, springs and reservoirs 10.00 – 12.30
The walk starts in the beautiful green spaces of Hampstead Heath. We will visit both sources of the river, enjoy the stunning views that Constable painted, follow in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela, and see the iron rich springs that made Hampstead so popular. You will need boots for this part of the walk. Theres a break for lunch in Kentish Town
Walk 2 – Kentish Town to Kings Cross: Victorian Streets, Railways and Philanthropists 14.00 – 16.00
Feuding French poets, the generous Victorian benefactor who gave it all up for love, a forgetful architect and a venue from Londons first Olympics put in an apperance on the second part of the walk. The submerged Fleet winds its way through Victorian streets and quiet gardens, and we will point out the highlights of the architecture on the way. Theres a short break at the stunning new entrance to Kings Cross station.
Walk 3 – Kings Cross to Blackfriars: Spas, prisons, slums and sewers 16.30 – 18.30
Making our way through quiet side streets in Central London we will follow the Fleet until it meets the Thames. We will see the traces of the fashionable spas that were fit for a Kings mistress, and hear about other sports like bear bating and bare knuckle boxing, and take in refreshment at a pub nearby. As the sides of the Fleet valley get steeper we will talk about the terrible slums that were found there and the people who campaigned to make them better. Finally we will hear about Christopher Wren's plans fo the Fleet to rival the canals of Venice, and at last reach the spot where the Fleet meets the Thames.
Rob and Jenni will be there to answer your questions all the way and there will be lots of time to chat with your fellow walkers. A great way to explore London from a new angle.
Pictures by Julian Walker