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Find Yourself Doing the Lambeth Walk

An easy stroll through Charlie Chaplin's home town, an aromatic garden and the Archbishop's Park.

Distance 3 miles (4.8km)

Minimum time 1hr 30min

Ascent/gradient Negligible

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Mainly paved streets

Landscape Riverside walk and churchyard garden

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 161 London South

Start/finish TQ304780; Vauxhall tube

Dog friendliness Keep on lead

Public toilets Archbishop's Park

1 Take Exit 6 from Vauxhall tube, turn left and walk over a pedestrian footbridge, towards the green-tinted windows of the MI6 building. After 100yds (91m) turn left along a path towards the river to join the Thames Path and follow this along to the right. At Lambeth Bridge follow the underpass to the right of the steps leading up to the bridge and, once through to the other side, you'll catch a glimpse of the Houses of Parliament on the opposite bank. A few steps further on, turn right, opposite the steps to Thames Cruises, and cross the road to St Mary-at-Lambeth Church. To your left is the entrance to the Archbishop of Canterbury's London pad, Lambeth Palace.

2 Continue through the churchyard and enter the Museum of Garden History. From the entrance to the church, turn left and follow the wall to St Mary's Gardens with its central water fountain. Continue for 100yds (91m) and turn left through an alley into the Archbishop's Park. Follow the tarmac path ahead, the Lambeth Millennium Pathway, and notice the plaques beneath your feet. One commemorates Clapham Rovers winning the FA Cup in 1880 and another celebrates the time when the Lambeth Walk became a dance craze in 1936.

3 Follow the path around the tennis courts and past a children's playground, to leave the park opposite St Thomas's Hospital. Turn right and cross Royal Street - look for the London Eye peeping above the hospital. Cross Lambeth Palace Road then, at the junction, turn left towards the Houses of Parliament on the north side of Westminster Bridge.

4 At the Houses of Parliament turn left into Millbank (which used to be known as Margaret Street). A few paces beyond the statue of Oliver Cromwell turn left into Victoria Tower Gardens. Now follow the Silver Jubilee Walkway, past the sculpture by Auguste Rodin, towards the river. The six figures depict citizens of Calais who offered themselves as hostages to Edward III, who had besieged the town in 1347.

5 Walk up the steps at the end of the park and over the zebra crossing. Continue along the Thames Path to Vauxhall Bridge. Cross the bridge back to the start of the walk.

This is the closest you will get to Lambeth Palace, which, although not open to the public, can be seen from the adjoining Archbishop's Park, a recreation ground still owned by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is also the area in which Charlie Chaplin grew up and the one that started the dance craze in the 1930s, the Lambeth Walk, used in the musical Me and My Girl (1937). And last but not least, this walk includes a church that has been turned into a quirky museum dedicated to gardening.

The Museum of Garden History saved the church from demolition and created the world's first museum of this kind. Inside there are enough tool collections and gardening artefacts to keep even Charlie Dimmock amused. Notice too the beautiful, stained-glass windows. At the rear, the peaceful 17th-century garden is scented throughout the year and there are pots of herbs for sale. We have the Tradescant family to thank for introducing many of the plants and trees seen in this country today. John Tradescant and his son were gardeners to Charles I and also adventurous travellers, bringing back specimens from Russia, America and North Africa. Appropriately, their tomb lies in the churchyard garden next to another that is dedicated to William Bligh (1754-1817), the celebrated navigator more commonly known as Captain Bligh of Mutiny on the Bounty fame. But why is he buried here? Despite the tarnishing of his reputation by Hollywood scriptwriters (Charles Laughton's blustering character in the 1935 film bore very little resemblance to the real Bligh), one of his early nautical successes was to tranship the highly nutritious bread fruit plant from the South Pacific to the West Indies. This provided plantation owners a reliable and cost-effective source of food for their slaves and labourers.

While you're there

Take a look at Vauxhall Gardens, once a middle-class Victorian pleasure garden with an entry fee of 3s 6d (17½p), which, at that time, was the equivalent of half the weekly wage of a domestic servant. In its heyday it hosted a range of death-defying feats and a major attraction in 1802 was an ascent made in a 'fire balloon'.

Where to eat and drink

The bright and airy café at the Museum of Garden History is the perfect place to read or to sit and contemplate while visiting the museum church. Subtly separated from the gardening tools and memorabilia but in full view of those colourful, stained-glass windows, it serves light lunches and cakes.

What to look for

In the porch of St Mary-at-Lambeth Church is an unusual memorial to a man who was struck by lightning in the 18th century. He used to work in the salt house. His unfortunate end is graphically described: 'his intestines spilled out?'


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