Thursday, 20 September 2012

Mayor of London Discovery Trails - Purple Route

Red Bus Wenlock
Having completed the Pink Route on the Mayor’s Discovery Trails we were all eager to see more straight away and so we made the short journey from Covent Garden to Piccadilly Circus to begin the Purple Trail.  The official blurb for this one was "Piccadilly and Oxford Street are the stars of this trail which offers views of the city’s grand architecture and historical squares" and on paper at least it looked like quite a varied route.

Nutty Taxi
Our first Wenlock was immediately outside Piccadilly Circus Station and across the road from Eros, the famous statue at the heart of the square.  We didn’t bother to go and look as it was thronged with people as usual.  Instead we waited patiently to get our picture by the almost equally popular Red Bus Wenlock, perhaps my favourite of the day so far.

Window Shopping
Having bagged the first of the trail so quickly, we set off eagerly down Piccadilly in search of the second.  It soon became clear that Piccadilly is no ordinary shopping street.  All the shops sell only high end and luxury items – even the bakers shops sold macaroons that could only be obtained by those with sizable wallets.  Nearly £2 for a smidgeon of a cake is not what I am used to paying!  Nevertheless we enjoyed window shopping immensely as we walked down to the next mascot on the trail.

Gemstones Wenlock
Gemstones Wenlock probably adequately described the tone of the shopping opportunities along the way and this was quite a brightly coloured Wenlock, with a pattern that was supposed to resemble the various jewels on offer in stores all along the road.  The mascot wasn’t the only gem along here though – we also passed the beautiful buildings of the Royal Academy and the Queen’s Grocer, Fortnum and Mason.  The latter looked a lot of fun with a jaunty looking musical score decoration across the front.

Burlington Arcade
We continued along Piccadilly, sticking our nose into a shopping arcade that was quite interesting looking.  It was tempting to have continued right to the end but was sadly the wrong direction so we continued onward to opposite the Ritz Hotel, where we had to turn right and find the next Wenlock, this one a Queen’s Guardsman, complete with bearskin hat.  Surprisingly we had this one to ourselves, allowing us time to inspect at our leisure.

Queen's Guard Wenlock
Further on we were pleased to find a green space, the first we had encountered on trails for some time, in the shape of Berkeley Square.  The Square was dominated by some very attractive plane trees, so it was perhaps no surprise to see that one of the mascots in the square was named after the trees.  The other though was quite confusing – the plinth and guide said it was called Tyger Tyger Mandeville but the decoration depicted butterflies.  I suspected a  change had been made and a web search suggested that the original one might have been damaged?  I did find one picture in its original colours, but much was being obscured by a repair man.  The replacement artwork was still beautifully done, even if a different theme.

Afternoon Tea Wenlock
We crossed the road from the park and headed around the corner into Mount Street, where we found the next one - a plain Wenlock.  Perhaps a little dull after all the highly decorated ones, but it did fit its surroundings quite well.  We had entered a part of London awash with buildings dedicated to various diplomatic missions from different countries.  Many of the buildings looked very well appointed and expensive to maintain.  The streetscape was absolutely immaculate, with not a spot of grime, let alone litter!  We were now in the heart of Mayfair, the most expensive neighbourhood on a Monopoly board and easy to see why!

We headed for Grosvenor Square on the next block and were amused to see the Canadian and US Embassies face each other across the square, neighbours here in London as well as in North America!  The centre of Grosvenor Square was thronged with people and overseen by the very impressive statue of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, surely one the most famous of America's Presidents.
Boris Bikes
Grosvenor Square had two mascots on the eastern corners.  We saw Afternoon Tea Wenlock first and then Cycling Mandeville, rather fittingly stationed by one of the cycle racks contained the so-called 'Boris Bikes'.  These are designed for short term hire - a scheme that deserves some more investigation by me I think!  Might be a good way to have a look around some more of London in the future.

Roosevelt Statue
The onward route was slightly convoluted but did give us the opportunity to take a look at Bond Street, a very different kind of shopping street to Picadilly, with more everyday shops than its more illustrious neighbour.  It was only a brief flirtation for us though as we headed down South Molton Street.  This was a pleasant surprise - a pedestrianised shopping street with some individual looking shops.  The girls were attracted to a young woman who was blowing bubbles outside a cosmetic shop - she blew them some extra big ones to chase!

Blowing Bubbles
The two mascots in South Molton Street were a lot of fun.  Mandeville had morphed into a shopper, complete with many bags of shopping while further along the road Wenlock was struggling with many dogs to walk!  The sun had come out again from behind the dark clouds and showed them off at their best.  Shoppers looked at them rather bemused as they passed – we were alone in taking an interest in the mascots.  At the end of the street was a freshly painted phone box and it was only at this point that I realised that all the traditional red telephone boxes in town had had a makeover – they all looked resplendent in their new coats!

Shopper Mandeville
We turned left at the end of the street and continued window shopping as we wandered along to the next mascot in Hanover Square.  Alongside the square were some major works going on for the Crossrail Project; major new rail infrastructure under construction that will massively increase capacity on the railways coming in from the east and west of London as well as provide some new direct routes, notably between City and Heathrow Airports.  The mascot in Hanover Square was appropriately called Builder and was a Mandeville dressed up in a pretty authentic looking rail worker’s outfit.

Resplendent Phone Box
The relative peace and quiet of Hanover Square was soon swapped for the madness of Regent Street.  Twenty years ago on a Sunday this street would have been quiet and all the shops closed but today it was alive with people ‘leisure shopping’.  Regent Street itself always looks grand but this year it has taken on extra importance as it hosts all the flags for the participating nations in the Olympics and Paralympics.  The whole street looked absolutely fantastic with flags strung between the shops across the road the whole way down.
Builder Mandeville

We took the opportunity ourselves to take a break from the walk so that the kids could spend some time looking around Hamleys, one of the biggest toy shops in the World and a place that I still like browsing around!  We spent nearly an hour checking out everything and particularly loved the Lego models of the Royal Family on the top floor!

Regency Street Flags
Back outside we crossed the road and found Groovy Wenlock, a celebration of the Swinging Sixties and nearby Carnaby Street.  It was a phenomenally popular mascot and we struggled to get a shot of it, in contrast to those a couple further back on the trail.  The walk down Regent Street was a bit of a trial to be honest, with many of the shops being completely off limits to look at on account of the enormous crowds hemmed in on the pavements.  The Ferrari shop in particular was extremely popular, although I suspect that the Formula One Car on show in the main entrance wasn’t actually for sale!

The Royal Family

We eventually worked our way through the crowds to the part of Regent Street that sweeps around to Piccadilly Circus.  To me the architecture of these buildings is amazing – they look so grand, especially the way they curve around with the road.  The last mascot was here, Linen Hall Mandeville, a celebration of traditional outfitting in this corner of London.

Groovy Wenlock
From here it was a short walk back to Piccadilly Circus to be reunited with Red Bus Wenlock once again.  This route was one for the architecture fans and perhaps the best collection of mascots that we had seen thus far.  They were certainly a varied bunch, celebrating transport and culture in this part of the West End.  The contrast between the quiet parts of Mayfair and the busy shopping streets of Piccadilly and Regent Street was quite marked and we saw some more parts of London that we would not otherwise dreamed of going to.  Having completed this one we still had enough left in the tank for one last trail and so from here we headed to the Red Route.

South End of Regency Street


  1. Hi Paul

    I was drawn to your photographs of the buildings, especially in Regent Street. They couldn't build them like that nowadays.


    1. Thanks Bill - ever since I first saw those buildings many years ago I have always though how handsome and grand looking they are. I think you are right about not building them like that anymore - stone buildings don't seem to be in vogue any more