Abigail Tripp has been living in London for over 20 years and proudly calls it her hometown. She also works for South London charity – DASL. In this interview she talks about many Brixton walks she’s done on her own and with others.
As part of her work for DASL, she has set up weekly lunchtime Brixton walks. With a group of fellow workers from different organisations based in WeAre336 on Brixton Road nearly every week she’s exploring Brixton on foot. In today’s interview she talks about places she’s discovered and where you can find wild garlic in the middle of the city.
What’s the best thing you’ve seen/discovered on one of your Brixton walks?
Slade Gardens and the hammocks in Max Roach Park.
How did you start your regular Brixton walks?
I set up a weekly lunchtime walk as part of Into Sport project that I work on at DASL (Disability Advice Service Lambeth – Brixton-based charity supporting disabled people to live independent lives) in May 2016.
I wanted to get away from my desk at lunchtime and have a chance to chat to people who work in the same building as I do. I wanted to talk to them about Into Sport and I don’t like doing in at my desk, because the project is all about getting more active. When you’re on a walk, you can talk to more people at the same time. My idea was also to give a chance to people from different organisations working within the same building a chance to get together on one of the Brixton walks.
Why did you choose a walk?
It’s a gentle exercise and if you walk slowly, you can talk to people. The social side was very important when making the choice. A lot of people like to come on a walk but they wouldn’t go by themselves. Walking gives you an option of stopping wherever and whenever you want, like we did the other day when we went on a see-saw in the park. Oh, we had so much fun.
There’s a couple who came a few times – they live in a sheltered housing and they came with their support workers. They wouldn’t go for a walk on their own but they joined us, because of the social aspect. They meet people, have a chat and it’s pretty much the only physical activity they do.
Also, when you think of people with mobility issues or those who are completely inactive, the first thing they can do, in most of the cases, to get physically more active, is walking. If they’re a wheelchair user, they can come on a wheelchair. It’s about getting out and getting fresh air.
Where have you gone with the group on your Brixton walks?
Slade Gardens, Ebony Riding School, Max Roach Park with daffodils and pretend castle ruins and hammocks, and we looked at the street art in Astoria Walk.
Do you plan all of them or do you improvise?
It’s a combination of both. Some walks I have planned, especially when I first started. I did a few short walks from the building to check the routes. The first one I went for was to Slade Gardens, just behind Brixton Cycles shop. I walked through them previously myself but I’ve never looked around, so in preparation for one of the walks, I went there and looked around. There’s some interesting architecture around the park. Notice boards tell you the history of the gardens. There’s plenty to enjoy, even though it’s a small space.
Architecture near Slade Garden is also amazing. There’s a massive church, out of proportion with the rest of the houses on the street. The road that faces the church and links it to Brixton Rd has some beautiful houses with tall pointing roof and interesting-shaped windows. They almost look as if they were built for artists. The amount of light you get at the top of the house and the view must be amazing. They’re lovely Victorian builds. Each house is quite individual. You get a row of terrace houses and then a massive villa next to it.
On the other side of the gardens, next to the children’s centre, there’s scented garden with curry leaves, wild garlic and other plants growing at this time of the year. You can’t go in but you can smell. It’s like a therapy in the middle of your day.
How about the riding school?
I came across Ebony Horse Club by a coincidence. I had doctor’s appointment and got the train back to Loughborough Junction. I’d never walked from there to the office but I knew that somewhere there was Ebony riding school and some other projects. I went there and found Loughborough Farm, Wyck Gardens and the horse club. It was half-accident half-exploring.
Once we went there on a Monday and the ponies were outside, so we could stroke them. You don’t usually get in the centre of Brixton but it’s so therapeutic. And the architecture in the area is also stunning. There’re the leftover lamp posts from when we had gas lighting, prang posts sticking out of the road, new row of blocks in Loughborough Junction. And with the massive trees that grew in the middle of the estate, the blue sky and green grass they look amazing.
Victorian villas, riding school and railway line – typical South London aspect. Victorian architecture, railway line and ponies, isn’t that great?
And the street art?
I discovered some myself and also did a bit of research between here and Brixton. Somebody painted them as a response to the riots in 1980s, some are behind a bar. Astoria Walk has a lot of really good street art. Walk along Brixton Road at the back ends of the shops. Back of Turtle Bay bar.
How do you manage the fact that, if you always start from the same location, your options for 30-minutes walks are limited?
Different things keep people interested and it’s great to do a different walk every week but as you said it isn’t possible in our case. I don’t pay that much attention to always making it different but about connecting with people. Doing shorter walk but looking closer at things. It’s a bit like mindfulness. Initially, I had a couple of people who was coming regularly and one of them, whenever, I mentioned a walk, wanted to know where we were going. But for me it’s more about meeting other people, having a conversation.
Some people like to be re-assured where they’re going but I can’t change the route every single Monday. If that’s the only time you see the person from another organisation you’ll have a lot to catch up.
What feedback have you got from participants?
They love green spaces and some of them they didn’t know Slade Gardens existed. Most people come out of tube station and walk down Brixton Road but never walk beyond the building. They did not know Brixton Cycles had moved. I know that subsequently people had meetings there rather than staying in the office. For me, that’s great, because I know they’ve gone out.
One of the volunteers at DASL really looks forward to it. What she does mostly is the database, so she really appreciates getting out. Sometimes she goes out with the post and joins us. One guy couldn’t join us if it wasn’t for the handcycle. He can’t walk that far but he can cycle. Charity shop hidden next to the office.
What’s the most important for you in those walks?
To go for a walk you usually need to find a reason. You can go out for the sake of the walk but I always try to find something – wild garlic or birdsong. If you stood still for 30 seconds you could hear the most amazing birdsong ever. The sirens were going on, they were digging something in the road but we could still hear the birds, they were there.
For me it’s the nature thing that I’m always amazed about – the birds are still there, the daffodils are still coming out. I appreciate that every year. Birds get mad with the sun, bees are out, because the blossom comes out. It’s amazing that the nature is so alive in the city.
You’ve been living in London for more than 20 years and you call it your home town. Where do you like walking the most?
I love walking around the City on Saturday or Sunday. I do really feel at home in the City of London – I’ve done bike rides there and led rides for others. My mum used to work round there and she also stayed in St. Barts’ hospital. I did my first work experience in the city when I was 15 and I got lost in Smithfield market.
Smithfield Market and all the streets near it are great. St. Barts hospital with the church within and without is another gem. One of the churches starred in ‘Four weddings and the funeral’ and ‘Shakespeare in Love’. The view from the hospital is a bit daunting though. You’re supposed to get better but from the room you can look at the church and the tombs.
if I’m going to Liverpool Street from Waterloo, I walk. There are different ways I could get there but I prefer to walk. That’s my choice on many occasions.
Which walk did you enjoy most recently?
On one of the Fridays I had a day off and had a dental appointment in Guys and St. Thomas hospital. You know what – I like my dental appointments there, because it’s on 6th floor and the view there… oh, just stunning there.
Afterwards, I was supposed to have lunch with someone but it got cancelled, so I couldn’t believe I had a time for a walk. I was meeting somebody else later that day on Butler’s Wharf near Tower Bridge, so I ended up with 2,5 hrs wandering through the Borough Market which I’m usually just marching through, because it’s so busy or I’m trying to get somewhere quickly.
I was there before lunchtime rush hour, so I could enjoy – samples, tasters. I felt like I’m relaxing. And from there I walked to Butler’s Wharf.
I love Tower Bridge – it looks like something out of the film. Being by the river or by the sea, or by the lake is something I absolutely love.
And what’s your favourite walk in London?
If I can choose only one, it must be Greenwich. Walk along the river, then to the top of the hill to see the view. I love that the whole maritime area belongs to the music department at the University of Greenwich and wasn’t sold to the developers for flats. When I walk through there, I hear people tuning their instruments.
Greenwich has a bit of everything – hustle and bustle of the market, the river. I love it when it’s massively high tide and people don’t realise that the path floods and when the boat goes past they may get wet.
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