Last Saturday, an important principle was established: using only public transport and a pair of stout walking shoes, it is possible to visit all the locations on a Monopoly board in a day, William Hartston passed Go but did not collect pounds 200.
You can make your way round all the real-life Monopoly sites - if the Northern Line does not break down, Chelsea are not at home, and nobody makes you do any belly-dancing. The Great British Monopoly Challenge began at King's Cross Station at 9.30 am, with more than 80 teams raising funds for the British Legion and other charities. I joined the Waddington's team which included the world Cluedo champion, Josef Kollar, and his wife Jill. He was dressed in a prison convict's outfit, complete with ball and chain. I didn't ask why.
We immediately adopted a cunning plan. Since all the other teams would surely dash from King's Cross to the sites in the light-blue set - Pentonville Road, Euston Road, and the Angel - we'd avoid the jams that were bound to occur at those locations and get some others visited first. So we set off on the Victoria Line to Oxford Circus, where the Argyll Street exit led us to Hamley's and a table set up to mark the Regent Street site. A sticker was added to our Monopoly board game card to go with the one for King's Cross Station. Back up to Oxford Circus, turn left, and we were soon at Debenham's, to have Oxford Street ticked off. Then a short walk down New Bond Street to Fenwick's to complete the green set.
We then walked along Brook Street to make our way to Park Lane. The trouble with the Monopoly board is that the distance between neighbouring properties tends to be just that sort of 15-minute walk for which it does not pay to wait for a bus even if there is one going the right way. This was clearly going to be a very long Saturday walk.
After Park Lane came a walk to Marble Arch and down Piccadilly for Mayfair - the Mayfair Inter-Continental Hotel - then across the road to polish off Piccadilly at the Ritz.
Hopping on a number 15 bus, we then quickly added Leicester Square and Coventry Street, then walked down the road to Trafalgar Square and picked up Whitehall, Pall Mall and Northumberland Avenue as well. We were doing well. It was not yet noon and we had notched up 13 properties, well on schedule to complete the course by teatime. Our itinerary had also left us close to Wellington Barracks, where we had been told the first Chance card had to be picked up.
On arrival at the barracks, there was the usual table manned by volunteers, but also several formidable looking soldiers ready to put us through an assault course. In our case, it was the "make a bed blindfolded" task. I thought that Jill and I, aided by Josef's instructions, coped magnificently. Our hospital corners were particularly sharp and any defect in the final product was the fault of the soldier who had ironed the blanket. Nevertheless, we were awarded only 6 out of 10 for our effort, which earned us one house.
The bed-making had slowed us down, so we went on the tube from St James's Park to Westminster, then walked over the bridge to the London Aquarium - the Water Works - where another task awaited us. This was a jet-ski simulator at which I was hopeless. I never got the hang of the steering, so no bonus houses there.
The plan was now clear: walk to Waterloo Station and take the Northern Line to pick up the three properties we had ignored at the start. A crowd on the platform indicated that there had been no train for some time, but the indicator announced that we had only one minute to wait. Three minutes later the train arrived, and five minutes after that we were still standing at Waterloo. A voice on the intercom then said: "A Parthenon intercalary in meringue Parmenides suppository. Nubile Ostrogoth anaesthetist." None of the other passengers understood it either, so we all waited. The next announcement was clearer: the train in front had broken down and the northbound service was suspended.
So we took the next train south and changed to the other branch of the Northern line, for Moorgate and the Community Chest at Whitbread's Brewery in Chiswell Street. Next stop would be the Angel, and we're back on course. But it was not to be; at the Community Chest, they sent us to Jail - at the Museum of London in the Barbican. The jailer made us wander through the museum in search of the answers to three obscure questions. By the time we had earned our release, we were not only running short of time, but were far from the madding Northern Line.
We fitted in Liverpool Street Station and Whitechapel Road (all the teams were allowed to give Old Kent Road a miss), thence to Tower Hill on the District Line for Fenchurch Street Station. A pleasant walk through the city - deserted as usual on Saturday - then led to Bank station, where a tube ride brought us to Holborn and the Electric Company - London Electricity - where we earned five more houses thanks to an exhausting pedal on a cycling machine. Wobbly legged, we staggered down Kingsway towards Covent Garden for the second Chance card, which took the form of a belly-dancing lesson. I hid behind a pillar.
From Covent Garden, Bow Street, Fleet Street and the Strand were all within walking distance, then the Bakerloo Line took us to Marylebone Station. We now had only Vine Street (missed earlier because we had confused Vine Street W1 with Vine Street EC3), Marlborough Street and that elusive light blue set. We had even earned our sticker for Free Parking in the Mall. But it was all getting too late. We abandoned the Angel, Euston Road and Pentonville Road, shot back to Piccadilly for Vine Street, then decided we didn't have time to take in Marlborough Street in Chelsea but should rush to the finishing post at Battersea Park to meet the 6pm deadline. Traffic disruption caused by Chelsea's home match made any other plan too risky. We arrived with two minutes to spare.
As we sat slumped on the grass, we took stock of our day's exertions. From start to finish had taken eight and a half hours. We had been on buses and tubes (or waiting for buses and tubes) for about three of them. The rest of the time we were walking at a steady 4mph. That's more than 20 miles round the Monopoly board. And we'd have done them all if it hadn't been for the Northern Line.
Total walked: about 20 miles.
Best-hidden site: Marlborough Street - off Elystan St, SW3.
More traditional weekend walks return next week.
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