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Stuart’s First Walk

11 Jul 2015

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“He knew he had to begin somewhere and he knew that in one sense, any place was as good as another, but he scanned the index of his A-Z looking for a street name that sounded appropriate. His eyes fell on a line that read North Pole Road. Next day he went there and started his walk.”

So begins the odyssey of Stuart London, one of the protagonists in Geoff Nicholson’s novel “Bleeding London.” In the book, Stuart sets out to walk all the streets in the city — and in doing so, inspired reader Del Barrett of the RPS to launch the Bleeding London photo project.

On Friday, July 10, a group of RPS photographers — and author Nicholson himself — joined guide and RPS member Jen Pedler in following Stuart’s footsteps. The fictional Stuart launched his walking project on North Pole Road, in North Kensington, and followed a route that took him past Wormwood Scrubs prison, up Scrubs Lane and along Harrow Road. Pedler recreated Stuart’s walk, taking in a few extra sights and reading from Nicholson’s novel along the way.

Although Nicholson points out that he is not his character, he clearly explored in painstaking detail the parts of London he describes in his book. Many of the businesses Stuart encountered along North Pole Road are still there, as the RPS photographers discovered, and the group was pleased to find a specific tire shop on Harrow Road just as Nicholson portrayed it: decorated with a mural of the staff.

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On their three-hour, roughly five-mile walk, group members took a side trip through Kensal Green cemetery and a small neighborhood off Scrubs Lane, where they found an old pub sandwiched between houses and now used (or so a neighbor said) as a residence.

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The group also took a look at brutalist architect Erno Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower and the flourishing Golborne Road market.

With Nicholson due to return to his home the next day, after participating in festivities including the launch of the Bleeding London exhibit (running at City Hall until August 14), the walk was a perfect way to cap the week.

Pedler is offering to guide others on Stuart’s First Walk on several upcoming dates. See her website for more information.

(Photos: Janet Phillips, Gareth Phillips, Steve Reed)