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Forget the usual tourist attractions. Two new tours this month show you the secret sides of the city

“I’ve been fascinated by waste and rubbish for a long time,” says Rosie Oliver.

Sounds odd, but perhaps odder still is that the founder of Dotmaker Tours has turned this gravitation towards garbage into a ‘rubbish trip’ – a walking tour of London’s historic waste dumps and landfills. 

Poring over the city’s trash might not strike you as a great way to fall in love with London, but Oliver disagrees.

“The tour challenges the idea that rubbish is something that is incidental or ephemeral to the city,” she tells us.

“Some really significant moments in the story of London relate to waste.”

Oliver’s brand-new rubbish trip – its second ever outing is on March 17 – is just one of a number of offbeat tours intent on telling the lesser-heard stories of London.

Sure, you could sign up to snap the Houses of Parliament from an open-top bus, but there’s a whole other breed of London jaunts that look to dig deeper into the Big Smoke, and are capable of surprising even those who walk the city’s streets every day.

When TNT turns up to meet Oliver at the Mudchute DLR station a little worse for wear on a Sunday morning, for example, we’re just as surprised to discover the pretty pockets of this most unattractive-sounding of London locales as we are the trashy tidbits along the way.

The area is so called because it literally was a mud chute in the 1860s.

Piles of slop excavated as workers built the Millwall Dock were dumped here, but today it’s home to a peaceful urban farm.

There’s even a disorienting rural-feeling cafe to rest your bones at; one could easily believe they’re supping tea in the wilds of Derbyshire, were it not for the skyscrapers peeping over the hill.  

We’ll not give too much more away, but suffice to say you’ll see some seldom-visited parts of the city and find ancient cast-offs in the most everyday places.

Even Oliver was surprised when researching the trip: “I discovered that road dust from exhaust fumes contains palladium, the precious metal used in laptops and mobile phones,” she says.

“The streets of London are literally lined with modern-day gold.”Another new tour hitting the tarmac this month is the latest from Alternative London, which has been showing folks around East End street art since 2010.

Founder Gary Means is launching an east London markets tour on March 31, showcasing another side of the area’s distinct culture.

Even better, tour-goers will get to take advantage of exclusive discounts at stores along the way.

“It’s the first time people can try guided alternative shopping in London,” claims Means.

“People will get a real insight into a way of life that’s been here for hundreds of years, while still getting a completely up to date experience.”

Expect a real insider’s insight into the city’s subculture: “It’s important for people who want to get under the skin of London to have an opportunity to see the real side of the city, from a local’s perspective,” explains Means.

“The guides know the area and markets like the backs of their hands.” Eat, drink, shop and learn.

The next Rubbish Trip is on March 17,
11am-12.45pm. £8.
Booking essential. 

The East London Markets tour starts March 31 at 11am and lasts 3-4 hrs. £10.
Book in advance. 


More quirky London tours 


London's most unusual city tours: From Rock Legend Minivan Tour to East End Uncovered, discover the city's secret sides
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