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August 18, 2006

Ghost walk in St James Park and Green Park

Those of you who used to read currybetdotnet before we left the UK will know that Claire and I used to regularly go on 'ghost walks' through London, lifted from or inspired by a book by Richard Jones called 'Walking Haunted London'. We even made up our own spooky walk through Walthamstow and Chingford.

On Tuesday I found myself in town with a couple of hours to kill, so I attempted one of the walks in the book that Claire and I never got round to - Royal London in the St. James Park and Green Park area.

Ghostgoucester Before starting at St. James Park Underground station I made a quick detour to Gloucester Road station to have a look at the "City Glow, Mountain Whisper" artwork by Chiho Aoshima that is the latest piece of platform art. In the words of the leaflet it is:

a beautiful landscape that gradually transforms from day to night and from an urban to a rural scene, echoing the journeys of tube passengers

It looks really good in the station actually, although with the style being somewhat similar to Peter Fowler's monsterism creations, I couldn't help but expect the Super Furry Animals to burst onto stage at any moment.

Ghost55broadway The walk proper starts at St James St Station, home of the London Undergrounds impressive 55 Broadway HQ building. The first 'ghost' is that of Queen Anne - her statue is alleged to descend from the wall once a year to march up and down the streets. She'd be impressed by the company she has been keeping. The street the statue is on, Queen Anne's Gate, must be one of the smallest streets in London with the most blue plaques. Lord Haldane, Lord Palmerston, Lord Fisher, William Smith MP, Charles Townley and Sir Edward Grey all left their mark on the street - and four of the blue plaques are on three consecutive buildings.

Ghostanne

Ghostplaques

From their it was down the 'Cockpit Steps' towards St James Park itself. Both the park and the steps have stories of headless ghosts attached to them, and one of the stories was apparently even cited in a motoring court case in 1972, where a driver was acquitted of dangerous driving on the basis that he had crashed his car due to seeing a ghost. The ghost that belongs to the park is said to rise from the lake.

Ghostlake

It was just after I'd crossed the bridge in St James Park yesterday that a pigeon demonstrated what he thought of the Richard Jones book by crapping on it as I was reading the map. Pleasing.

The next stops were two royal palaces, Clarence House and St James Palace. Both they, and Buckingham Palace, have ghost stories associated with them. Also in that stretch of the walk I passed Green Park's 'Tree of Death'. Yes, there is apparently a haunted tree in the park which drives people to despair and causes them to hang themselves in its branches.

Ghostpub It was then time for a pit-stop, in the Golden Lion in Angel Court. Sadly when I visited, the upstairs bar wasn't open, as this is the part of the pub that is reputed to be haunted. Still, it seemed churlish not to sup a pint and soak up the ambience of downstairs anyway :-)

The penultimate stop on the walk is 19 St James Place, where the death on one elderly sister was herald by the appearance of her long dead sibling to take her away.

The walk also includes a final stop at what is called the most haunted house in London - 50 Berkeley Square. However, with time running out I made my way straight to Green Park tube station instead - I'll have to catch that spooky place another time.

Needless to say I didn't see any kind of ghostly activity, although I did feel haunted during the walk by the feeling that Claire and I should be doing it together, rather than being stuck on separate islands at the opposite ends of Europe.

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