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Books about Town, London

This is a brilliant post about a challenge called Books about Town. I am gutted not to have known about this until it is nearly ending. Living too far away from London we can’t now complete this, but I would have LOVED to do so. This combined post about 4 days completing the challenge has been written by Louise who writes a fantastic blog called Liquorice UK which you can read here about her life as a full time Mummy to two beautiful little girls – her little heart warrior Jessica who was born with half a working heart and is living proof that miracles do happen and her heart-healthy baby Sophie who is just a little bundle of joy. Enjoy the read, and if you live close enough give it ago!

We love getting out and about as a family and having a challenge.  The National Literacy Trust and Wild in Art have come together to create “Books about Town” – 50 book bench sculptures which will have been placed across London and will be there throughout the summer. We decided that we would try and find them all as our summer challenge for 2014.

Day 1

We decided to spend a day in London yesterday and make a start on the challenge by doing the City Trail – 15 book benches around the City of London. We chose this trail as our starting point as we’d heard that Mary Poppins would be visiting the Mary Poppins bench on this trail on 6 July and giving out some free books. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to get to the bench in time to see her but we enjoyed having a day out together, walking around London and finding the benches on our trail.

City Trail 01

Our starting point was at the Tower of London where we ticked off our first bench: Katie in London. We then headed north and found our second bench, Noughts and Crosses, in Fen Court – a little courtyard just off Fenchurch Street. We also discovered another sculpture there – Gilt of Cain – a memorial to the victims of the slave trade. Our third bench, just off Cornhill, was A Brief History of Time where we managed to find the answer to one of the City Trail quiz questions.

City Trail 06

Benches four and five – The Wind in the Willows and Stormbreaker – were situated very close to each other near Bank station. I particularly liked the illustrations on The Wind in the Willows bench – beautiful bright colours and wonderful pictures of scenes from the book. Jessica seemed to like this bench too judging from the big smile on her face in the photo!

City Trail 02

We then walked to the Guildhall where we found the six bench – Wisden’s Cricketers’ Almanac and bench eight – The Laura Marlin Mysteries – was found in the pretty St Mary Aldermanbury’s Garden a short distance away from the Guildhall.

City Trail 07

This part of the trail brought us up to London Wall where we got to see a section of the Roman wall and stopped for a short break. Whilst Sophie had a feed, Jessica enjoyed sitting on one of the Boris bikes with Daddy and we also spotted a yellow Boris bike in honour of the Tour de France being due to pass through London today.

City Trail 05

Bench nine – Brick Lane – was found in Postman’s Park where Jessica also enjoyed being able to run around for a while. We also discovered the memorial to heroic self-sacrifice in Postman’s Park – another memorial which we never knew existed.

City Trail 08

City Trail 03

The next few benches were all found very close to St Paul’s Cathedral – Bridget Jones, Jacqueline Wilson, Mary Poppins, Fever Pitch, Peter Pan and Dickens in Liverpool. Sophie had had enough of book bench hunting by the time we reached the Dickens in Liverpool bench and had fallen asleep in the sling but Jessica was still quite happy to continue to the final bench which was the That’s Not My Meerkat bench.

City Trail 04

All in all, we had a lovely day out searching for the benches and got to discover various little parks and courtyards in the City which we never knew existed before (despite thinking we were fairly familiar with that part of London!) Fifteen benches down, thirty-five left to go!

Day 2

Whilst the benches inside the park were more difficult to find, this was a much nicer trail from Jessica’s perspective as she was able to run about more freely inside the park which she thoroughly enjoyed. We almost managed to reach the halfway point in the challenge having now visited 24 out of the 50 benches.

We started at Greenwich station where we found the first bench of the day (no. 16 in our running total of benches): Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Jessica loved the bright colours on this bench and both she and Sophie were very happy to sit together on the bench and pose for a photo. The next bench – Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary – was a short distance away along Royal Hill and then we made our way towards Greenwich Park for the next few benches, finding bench no. 18 – On the Origin of Species – just inside the entrance to the park.

Book Benches 01

Once inside the park, we were on a book bench hunt trying to find the “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” bench – not helped by the lack of detail on the Google map we’d printed out and it seemed other bench hunters were in a similar situation. After a lot of zooming in to the map on our phones, we eventually realised it was near the Flower Garden lake and managed to find it!

The next bench – The Time Machine – was next to the Wolfe Statue by the Observatory, looking out over stunning views across the park. Getting back down the hill was fun with the double buggy (although Jessica preferred to ride on Daddy’s shoulders instead)! Bench no. 21 – Jungle Book – already had a little occupant in the shape of a little blue hand-knitted toy which had obviously been left behind. We took our photo and left the toy sitting on the bench in the hope that his owner would return and find him and then headed on to the Elmer the Elephant bench.

Book Benches 02

The final bench inside the park was Captain Scott’s Autobiography and by this point in the day, the sky was becoming ominously dark and we began to suspect that the rain would call a halt to the challenge. The next two benches on our list – The Canterbury Tales and The Railway Children – were situated near to the Cutty Sark but when we arrived at the location for The Canterbury Tales bench, we discovered that it had been returned to the library for repairs. By the time we reached The Railway Children bench, the rain was starting to fall and, knowing we were going to be unable to complete the challenge in any event, we decided to leave the trail unfinished and return another day, having managed to visit eight out of the twelve benches on the Greenwich Trail.

Book Benches 03Whilst the benches inside the park were more difficult to find, this was a much nicer trail from Jessica’s perspective as she was able to run about more freely inside the park which she thoroughly enjoyed. We almost managed to reach the halfway point in the challenge having now visited 24 out of the 50 benches.

Book Benches 04

Having completed the City trail and almost completed the Greenwich trail – it was time to set off on the Riverside Trail and find the book benches situated along the banks of the River Thames.

Country Kids 01

Day 3

We started off at Southbank just near the London Eye as I’d thought there was a bench near Waterloo but when I consulted the printed out map from the Books About Town website, it seemed the first bench on our hunt was much further down the river than we’d anticipated. With the Festival of Love going on at the Southbank Centre, it still made for a very interesting walk along the river before we found our first book bench, the Shakespeare one, just outside the Globe theatre.

Country Kids 02

Continuing along the river, we passed the Golden Hinde II, a reconstruction of Sir Francis Drake’s ship in which he travelled around the world, and the site of The Clink prison (where there is now a museum).

Country Kids 04

Our next two benches, Great Expectations and Paddington Bear, were found very close together, near to Southwark Cathedral. We had to wait a little while to be able to take our photos as both benches were occupied by people relaxing and eating lunch. This was something that became a bit of a feature on this trail – the benches actually being mostly used as places to sit rather than as artworks to discover on a trail. We only came across a few other people who were trying to take photos of the benches rather than just wanting to sit down! I have to confess it got a bit frustrating at times, especially in areas where there were plenty of other seating options available!

Country Kids 05

On past London Bridge and to our next bench, War Horse. This was one of my favourites on the trail so far and the vivid red poppies against the black and white imagery of barbed wire and horses in battle was very striking and particularly moving with the centenary of the start of World War I being earlier this week.   The next five benches were very close together near Tower Bridge – the lovely bright and colourful Dr Seuss bench; Clarice Bean (which Jessica got very excited about – “Lola!” she kept saying, being more familiar with “Charlie and Lola” by the same author, Lauren Child); Through the Looking Glass; How to Train Your Dragon; and Discworld.

Country Kids 06

Our final bench in this area was the Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson bench near the London Bridge pier with its familiar images of the Gruffalo and the witch from Room on the Broom – characters that Jessica recognised from her bedtime stories. We took the river boat back to the London Eye, having realised that there was an extra bench on this trail not marked on the map downloaded from the website – the Jeremy Banx bench situated in Waterloo station which hubby noticed whilst checking the map on his phone. I knew there was a reason we had tried to park around that area! One last bench found before heading back to the car with two tired little girls who seemed to have both enjoyed their day out.

Country Kids 03

This trail takes the total number of book benches visited so far to 35 – just 15 left to go plus there is a 51st bench due to be unveiled somewhere in London at the end of August which we’ll hopefully manage to visit too.

Day 4

Our fourth and final book bench trail was the Bloomsbury trail. With just 15 benches left to find, we were determined to finish off our summer Book Bench challenge. Our trail started at St George’s Square, which was a burial ground back in Georgian times (one of Oliver Cromwell’s granddaughters is interred there). It was also the location of our first bench of the day – The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe bench. With one down and 14 to go, we set off to find the next one on our list – the Jeeves and Wooster stories bench.

Country Kids 01

As we turned the corner into the Brunswick Centre where the bench was situated, I suddenly had a flashback. I had been here just once before, a little over three years ago, the day we had visited Great Ormond Street Hospital and been told that our unborn daughter was unlikely to be suitable for surgery and probably wouldn’t survive more than a few hours. We had sat in Carluccio’s after phoning our close family, trying to process the devastating news. Being back here again brought back a rush of emotions that I was completely unprepared for – bringing me close to tears yet I was so thankful too. Because here we were outside that same Carluccio’s with that little girl standing beside us. It was a very moving moment.

Country Kids 02

We stopped for lunch and recovered ourselves again before heading off to find some more book benches. The next few benches were quite close together near the University of London – Sherlock Holmes stories in Woburn Square, Mrs Dalloway in Gordon Square, The Importance of Being Earnest in Byng Place and 1984 in Torrington Square. There was a children’s play area near by and so we took a break from our hunt whilst Jessica enjoyed some time to stop and just play and Sophie had a little nap.

Country Kids 03

Then it was off to the next bench – The Day of the Triffids near Senate House. Benches 43 and 44 – James Bond stories and Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly were opposite each other in Bloomsbury Square Gardens and next to another play area which gave Jessica another opportunity to have a break from posing on book benches and run around and play for a while.

Country Kids 04

There was another emotional moment as we headed towards the Pride and Prejudice bench in Queen Square near Great Ormond Street Hospital. There just outside the gardens was the spot where we sat and made some difficult and heartrending phone calls. We took a photo of the three of us on that same bench, very thankful that we were there three years on with Jessica with us.

Country Kids 05

Another stop off at a play area and then the next bench: the second of the two Peter Pan benches on the trail (this one titled ‘Always try to be a little kinder than is necessary‘) in Red Lion Square. Jessica fell asleep in her buggy en route to Covent Garden to tick off the final bench on this trail and the only bench situated indoors – Around the World in Eighty Days found inside Stanfords Travel Bookshop.

Country Kids 06

Although we had completed the fourth of our trails there were still three benches left to find as we had been unable to finish the Greenwich trail earlier in the summer. So we got on the tube (lots of fun with a double buggy!) and headed off to Greenwich to tick off the final benches. Secret Diary of Adrian Mole (Girl Engrossed) was near St Alfege’s church and the Samuel Pepys Diary near the Cutty Sark. Our final bench was The Canterbury Tales which had been away being repaired when we had last visited Greenwich but was back allowing us to finally tick all fifty benches off our list.

Country Kids 07

Country Kids 08

Fifty benches, four trails and a great way to explore London.  The benches will be removed from 14th September and then will be auctioned to raise money for the National Literacy Trust so there’s only about a week left to see them before they disappear.

 

 

 

Mini Travellers

Mini Travellers

Karen Beddow founded Mini Travellers in 2014 while doing what she loves most...going on holiday!

Mini Travellers is for parents looking for holiday ideas, destination reviews, days out and things to do with the kids. We also have family travel tips, activity ideas and all other things family holiday related. Take a look at some of our latest reviews for holidays and day trips in the UK.

3 Comments

  1. Lubna Ul-Hasan
    September 8, 2014 at 1:48 pm — Reply

    Hi! 🙂
    Your Book Bench trail Blog was so enjoyable to read and I found it really helpful and useful as I’m planning on my Book Bench Trek tomorrow and was desperately planning this marathon hike. I like the way you set off for each trail and loved your pics and little stories along the way. I found them so endearing and quite touching.

    I’m still not sure I can do all 4 trails in one day and may have to do the Greenwich Trail on a seperate day – we’ll see:-)

    You have a very lovely family and it was lovely to read your experiences on this trail. May God bless you and keep you and your family healthy and happy always:-)

    • Mini Travellers
      September 8, 2014 at 5:08 pm — Reply

      Thank you for your comment and your kind words I will pass these on to the family who submitted the review.

  2. September 8, 2014 at 5:35 pm — Reply

    Thank you so much for your lovely comment – so glad you enjoyed reading about our book bench hunt. Good luck with your marathon hunt – hope you manage to find them all! 🙂

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