Writers & Poets – Walking Tour

Robert Mills

As a writer, I find it fascinating to read about what tools, processes and spaces other writers have used. I find it inspiring to be close to where they once penned a favourite story or poem of mine. This was true when I visisted Dylan Thomas’ boathouse earlier this year.

It fascinates me to see where he wrote. Did he know at the time that people would be visiting his writing shed, that he was writing classic works that would be adorted for decades to come? Doubtful and all the more interesting to pay a visit. I also need to head to Roald Dahl’s writing hut at the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.

Blue Plaques

This desire to visit writer related places led me to thinking about theĀ Blue Plaques in London. The Blue Plaques scheme was founded in 1866 and since 1986 has been run by English Heritage. The Plaques:

commemorate the link between notable figures of the past and the buildings in which they lived and worked. It is a uniquely successful means of connecting people and place.

Whilst you can search for a specific identifier (such as writer) the result is merely a written list. I wanted a map so I could plan my own walking tour of all the notable writer and poet plaques. I was surprised a map with a filter didn’t already exist. So I made my own writer focused one.

DIY Mapping

I searched for ‘writer’ on the Search Blue Plaques page and then created a bespoke map in Google Maps using their My Maps functionality.

By searching by address I was able to add pins to the map, rename them as the writer’s name and then add a description of who they were, what works they were known for and when the plaque was issued.

I then ordered them alphabetically by surname on the menu. Though there is no walking route as such, what this map does it provide me with all the locations across London of writer plaques. I can now visit them in the most efficient order with some careful planning.

The tour will take me to, among other places, the homes of Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, A. A. Milne, George Orwell, Enid Blyton and Virginia Woolf.

I changed the base map style to make the pins and names more legible, though I can change this again to add street names if needed. Hey presto. Is it perfect? No. Would a bespoke illustrated map with an actual walking route be amazing? Yes. However, I don’t have the skills to do that but at least when I head to London next I can start ticking off some notable locations where my writing heroes once resided. There are also issues with getting My Maps to display on mobile but think that’s a restriction with the Google Maps app rather than my own lack of ability. Least it’s a start.

If you want to view the map you can do so here.

Charles Dickens Blue Plaque image taken from Openplaques.org … which also looks like a great Plaque resource.
Header image of Dylan Thomas’ Writing Shed taken by First Light Studios.