Hidden gems in Greenwich and traces of first Sikh lady in London are some of the hidden secrets of London that Summeet and Deep, from My London Odyssey, talk about in this interview. They also share their passion for walking in London and advice parents how to explore the city with babies and children.
Summeet and Deep are the two bloggers behind My London Odyssey.
Deep is from Hertfordshire near the Chiltern Hills and Summeet grew up in flat Dallas, dreaming of mountains and lakes. After moving to London together, summer evening strolls gradually expanded into micro adventures exploring the backstreets of this great city and the surrounding countryside. Since becoming parents, country walks, hills and climbing mountains become a natural extension for family weekends out.
They spent more than 10 years in London, mostly in East London and in Greenwich, and now live in Tokyo.
In this interview they talk about their exploration of Greenwich, Thames Path, discovering traces of last Queen of Sikh Empire in London and other hidden secrets of London.
Before moving to Tokyo you lived for more than 10 years in London. What’s your best walking memory from the city?
We have several. Walking the Thames Path from the Thames Barrier to the edge of London, the Grand Union Canal through Hertfordshire and charting out our Chelsea and Westminster based Maharajah Duleep Singh historical walks.
Thames Path is meaningful as we spent most of our weekends walking along it. It changed our mind-set about urban adventures. The Thames Path also was a joint adventure-project before the blog and maps came to be, so it was a way to bring us all closer together as a new family of three. Deep also did parts of it herself, which was a nice retreat from being ‘just a mum’.
The canal path walks were enjoyable as Deep grew up in those parts. Chelsea/Duleep Singh family walks were charted out over a series of weekends. We felt like historians and enjoyed creating a walk from the various sites related to their family.
Can you tell us a bit more about Maharanee of the Lost Empire and her son Duleep Singh? It sounds like a fascinating hidden secret of London.
She was a formidable lady and the last Queen (i.e. Maharanee) of the Sikh Empire which lasted until 1849, when her husband, the Maharajah Ranjit Singh died. The British then imprisoned her had their 9 year old son Duleep Singh sign away the kingdom and the famous Koh-i-noor diamond to the British. She later escaped captivity and was reunited with her son some 13 years later in London and lived in Kensington for a few years prior to her death. She was arguably the first Sikh lady in London.
One of the hidden secrets of London you came across is related to her, isn’t it?
Yes, it was finding the location of what used to be Abingdon House in Chensinton Avenue, the location of where the Maharanee used to live in London. The original building is no longer in existence, although researching to find the location was a lot of fun.
How did you find the Abingdon House? Did it require talking to some historians, going through various books etc. or was it more straight forward?
It was mentioned in a book (‘The Maharajah’s Box’) and then we did some good old digging on Google to look at historic records to see where the building is now located. We also spoke to a London based historian as our first effort was the incorrect location.
Which walk you’re most looking forward to doing when you return?
The Thames Path. Any one stretch contains such a vivid mix of history, architecture, ongoing design and development. The path is easily accessible, requires no planning, and is suitable for all ages. It is a perfect romantic stroll, it can be made rugged or a fun family walk as well. For example, Surrey Quays Farm is on the Thames Path and we adore Ham House and Gardens off the Thames Path in Richmond it feels you are suddenly in the countryside.
Outside of London, it’s the village of Blo’ Norton in Norfolk and the walk we designed related to the history of Prince Frederick Duleep Singh as 2018 will mark the 150th anniversary of his death.
You spent quite a lot of time in Greenwich. What’s your favourite walk in the area?
Greenwich was certainly a large part of our life in London. Walking across the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College late at night after a long day at work was a particularly relaxing way to unwind.
What are some hidden gems of Greenwich?
The views from The Point throughout the year, the War Memorial at the far corner of Greenwich Park and strolling across Cutty Sark gardens on weekends with the family to see views across the river and enjoy the stalls and street entertainment.
What’s your biggest inspiration for walking in the cities?
Cities like London have a very deep and long history with lots to discover and our favourite way of doing so is to ‘flaneur’ through the backstreets. We pick a location and walk there. There’s always so much to discover beyond the obvious and to do so serendipitously adds to the experience.
How do you manage walks and explorations with a child?
In fact, walking became much easier with a child. Babies seem to love being outdoors and as new parents, getting out with the baby in a carrier and getting fresh air was the perfect antidote to sleep deprivation! City walking is very convenient with children, country walks are great for day trips and weekends away. It is easy to keep to routine too. We would change and feed on the go.
Do you have any advice for parents living in London who would like to explore the city on foot with their baby/toddler/ young child? Anything from your experience that you wish somebody had told you?
Adventure is a mindset, especially when you become parents. It is inexpensive to have walking adventures with kids, we would always pack our own food and snacks which somehow always taste better in the outdoors whatever the weather. We used a sling/carrier as long as we could as that makes it easier to get around. You don’t have to make everything ‘kid-orientated’, especially when they are younger they are just happy to be outside and look around. At their level everything is exciting and fresh.