A Slice of Alternative London
As I explained in my previous post on Covent Garden
,it has no set boundary as such, but most people head for the piazza at the former fruit and veg market, which is where most of the action is.
Just north of the piazza on the other side of Long Acre at Shelton Street, Covent Garden passes from Westminster into the Borough of Camden and the Seven Dials district of St. Giles, which has quite a different feel to it, especially around Neal’s Yard.
Seven Dials was a concept dreamt up by Thomas Neale MP in the early 1690s. The idea was to have streets radiating out from a sundial pillar in the centre, and it wasn’t just to make it look good, but also to maximize his profits from the venture by charging rents on per foot of frontage rather than per square foot of interior space.
He commissioned the respected stonemason Edward Pierce to design the pillar with six sundial faces, but he added a seventh road to the scheme after the pillar was constructed in 1694. His aim was to make the area the most fashionable in London, but by the 19th century it had ended up as one of the most notorious slum areas in the city and renowned for its gin palaces: At one point, each of the seven apexes around the monument consisted of pubs, only one of which still remains – The Crown, on the apex of Monmouth Street and Short’s Gardens.
The Gentrification of Stokes Croft
Mention the name Stokes Croft to anybody in Bristol, and you’ll get an immediate reaction. Some see it as a cultural hub, but others are less enthusiastic, seeing it as a graffiti-ridden area full of drugs, crime and homelessness.
The Stokes Croft world is a very different one to mine – but it’s changing, and I think now is as good a time as any to find out more about the area known locally as The People’s Republic of Stokes Croft.
Stokes Croft, for those who don’t know it, is a relatively short stretch of road that forms part of the A38 trunk road from Gloucester as it comes into Bristol city centre, but to most Bristolians it also includes a small number of streets on either side of it.
Sandwiched between the relatively affluent Kingsdown and the African-Caribbean community of St Pauls, the area does not have an official boundary, but the map below shows what’s included within the ‘Cultural Boundary’ as featured on the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft (PRSC) website.
The problem with anywhere that sits on a boundary line is that it has no official identity of its own.
St. Nectan's Glen
A Magical, Mystical Valley in North Cornwall
We’re now at that time of year when everyone, it seems, is travelling around – everyone, that is, except me.
I’m not a great one for heading off into the summer traffic, but for anyone who has little choice, and prefers somewhere peaceful, perhaps St. Nectan’s Glen may just be the place for you.
Many people travel down to Cornwall for a summer break, and quite a few beat a path to Tintagel. It’s easy to see why; it has a magnificent coastline and a castle that lures people who have a fascination for King Arthur.
The town is a bit too touristy for my liking, but just a 5 minute drive out of town along the road to Boscastle is a car park where you can leave the car behind, and head up through St. Nectan’s Glen to somewhere that is so magical that it could easily be home to Merlin himself.
Dartington - A Place of Culture, Learning and Social Thinking
If you’ve come to Totnes
and wondered why the town has become a place of alternative lifestyles then look no further than Dartington, a village just a couple of miles outside of town.
The village is dominated by the Dartington Hall Estate which occupies 880 acres of this part of South Devon. With a long history dating back over a thousand years, it was bought by Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst in 1925 and since then has earned a reputation for being a centre for individual thinking and freedom of expression in music, art and all things ethical.
Totnes - Twinned with Narnia
On the ‘Welcome to Totnes’ sign that greets people to the town somebody added ‘Twinned with Narnia’ below it. It’s been removed since by those who don’t have a sense of humour, but to me it’s a perfect description of Totnes.
The town has been described as ‘New Age’, ‘Alternative’ and even ‘eccentric’ but however you like to describe it, Totnes is different to any other town in the South Hams, or even Devon for that matter.
The alternative lifestyle that many people in and around Totnes have adopted originally stems from the Dartington Hall Estate, and in particular the ideas of Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst who came here in 1925. Dartington is just a couple of miles outside of Totnes and I’ve given it a separate page, but for now I’ll just say that it’s somewhere that specializes in the ‘arts, social justice and sustainability’.