“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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.  dotmakertours.co.uk 

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

 

More quirky London tours 

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Hidden City – Across London

A great way of discovering different parts of London, this treasure-hunt style experience involves you solving a trail of clues sent by text message, taking you into tucked-away corners.

There’s a list of trails to choose from (including Soho, below) and price is per team.     

£16, Daily, times vary with trail 
Various places and times
inthehiddencity.com 

 

Poverty London Tour – Across London

Poverty tourism that is literally that – this tour is shaped around Victorian reformist Charles Booths’ ‘poverty maps’, which illustrated the parts of the city that were full of the undesirables in the area now comprising zones 1 and 2.

His maps used colour coding to delineate the streets’ class make-up – black was for the ‘lowest class’ who were mostly ‘vicious’ and/or ‘criminal’, for example.

Guide Sean Patterson runs two walks through London’s socio-economic past, taking you around Deptford and Clerkenwell. 

£15, dates and times vary 
4 Tanners Hill, SE8 4QD; 
St John’s Square, EC1V  
TubeDeptford; Farringdon  
charlesboothwalks.com

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Rock Legends Minivan Tour – Across London

London’s played a massive role in shaping rock music and this small minivan tour (groups of up to 16 people) takes you to some of the city’s most historic sites – the house where Jimi Hendrix lived, Bill Wyman’s Sticky Fingers restaurant, and you’ll have your photo taken on the Abbey Road crossing over which the Beatles walked.

Plus you’ll visit hotels, record labels, clubs and other famous rock folk hangouts. 

£30. daily, 1pm W1Y 5BL  
Tube | Charing Crosss  
viator.com

 

Olympic Tour – Stratford

A year on and the magic is still in the air – this tour looks behind the scenes of the Games that put the capital back on the map.

It will tell you all about the Olympics, the transformation of the East End and how it is going to look in the future. 

£9, until Apr 13, Mon, Weds, Thurs, 1.45pm  
Stratford, E15 3BN 
Tube | West Ham  
walks.com

 

Narrow Boat Tunnel Tour – Islington

Islington tunnel on Regent’s Canal is a 3/4-mile-long underground trip back through time, the hour-long tour telling you how the canal has been used over the course of its near 200 years of existence.

£8.30, twice monthly,  May 12 to Oct 13.
Times vary  N1 9RT  
Tube | King’s Cross  
canalmuseum.org.uk

 

Night Time Photography Walk – Westminster

If you want the best pics of London, check out this night-time guided walk through the icon-laden streets of Westminster where you can snap the city’s most impressive landmarks and enjoy both expert tutelage and a short history lesson to boot.

£50, Mar 8, 15, 21 & 22,
6pm-8pm SW1A 2LW  
Tube | Westminster 
creativephotography.co.uk

 


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Skyscraper Tour of London – Across London

London’s past is etched all over its present, with churches and cobbled streets filling the place.

Its futuristic skyline is just as dominant, with skyscrapers reaching up into the atmosphere, often controversially – do they enhance the city, depicting its modernity, or destroy the famous cityscape for good?

Take this walk, marvel at the likes of the Shard and the Gherkin and make your own mind up.

£15, dates and times vary 
Liverpool Street Station, EC2M 7QH  
Tube | Liverpool Street  
londonarchitecturewalks.com

Alfred Hitchcock location walk – Across London

Guide Sandra Shevey takes you around some of the most famous locations to feature in Hitchcock’s most renowned movies. 

£45, Mon, Wed & Sat, 11am SW1P 3JX  
Tube | Westminster 
sandra_shevey@yahoo.com

 

Liars’ Tour – Across London

Have you ever been on a tour and thought that the stories you were being fed were just too good to be true?

This tour purposefully plays up to this as you get two stories, one with the real history and the other a crock of shit – you have to decide which one to believe.

How mucky do you think London’s past has been? Tours operate in Blackfriars, Bloomsbury, the City, Chelsea, London Bridge and the South Bank.

Be warned, they’ve recently updated their fibbing repertoire.

£7.50, Various times and dates Various  
londonstreettours.co.uk

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East end Uncovered Tour – East End

See how this culturally thriving area of the city got its artistic bent.

You’ll see where Banksy and other street artists made their name, discover where Shakespeare’s plays were first performed, take in a local market, lunch in one of Brick Lane’s world-famous curry houses and down a pint in a local boozer.

A right proper day out!

£26, daily, 10am EC1Y 1BE  
Tue | Old Street 
urbanadventures.com/london

 

Hidden Pubs of old London town tour – Central London

It’s just like a regular walking tour, only it’s about pubs and has pit-stops for you to familiarise yourself personally with the subject at hand, in either a half or full pint form.

Hidden boozers down back alleys and in secret little courtyards – it’s 2000 years of London and its love of the sauce. You’re in good hands.

£9, Tuesdays, 7pm 
Temple Tube, WC2R 2PH  
Tube | Temple  
walks.com 

 

Nights out: Sonic Experiments – Central London

Composer Kerry Andrew leads you on an aural tour of the city as its tones and textures change with the onset of night.

£20.50, A sensory journey. 
Apr 3, 6.40pm WC1N 1AB  
Tube | Russell Square   
theschooloflife.com

 

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A Eureka Tour with Cathy Haynes – Central London

School of Life’s public programme curator Cathy Haynes leads this tour of how London locations influenced the creative process and discoveries of some of the most ingenious minds to grace the city.

Novelist Virginia Woolf and French filmmaker Georges Perec feature in a tour that visits a magic store and a ‘temple to genius’, and challenges you to fire up your own creative juices and see what you can come up with.

£20.50, Mar 25, 9.40am WC1N 1AB  
Tube | Russell Square  
theschooloflife.com

 

Emirates tour – Highbury

See behind the scenes of one of London’s most popular football teams, the formerly ‘invincible’ Arsenal, on this 90-minute tour.

Get up close and personal behind the scenes at the 60,000 capacity stadium. If only the Gooners were as impressive as their home on the pitch.

£9,Daily, from 10am-5pm
(not on match days) N5 1BU  
Tube | Arsenal 
arsenal.com/tours

 

Ghost tours – across London

Ghost expert Richard Jones, who’s been conducting spook tours for 25 years, leads you through some of London’s spectral past on a variety of sinister trips such as ‘Sweeney Todd’ and ‘Hidden Horrors’.

Tues, Fri & Sat, 7pm, Various places  
london-ghost-walk.co.uk

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Jack the Ripper tour – East End

One of the more cheesy walks, but it’s such a grimy, blood-soaked part of London’s history that it is top fun nonetheless. Icky, sticky, mystery-cloaked fun.

This walk (above right) is the original, and still the best. 

£9, daily, 7.30pm 
Tower Hill, EC3N 4DJ  
Tube | Tower Hill  
jacktheripperwalk.com

 

History of quirky London tour – Covent Garden

London as a city is bonkers and defies logic, and it has done for some time.

Men cutting off their cocks in public, the world’s smallest police station, the street where cars drive on the right side of the street (which is wrong), not to mention David Cameron’s illegitimate heritage – you’ll learn this and more, and then never look at the city in the same way again.

£18, Mon, 7pm; Sat, 11.30am 
Covent Garden, WC2E 9JT 
Tube | Covent Garden 
insider-london.co.uk

 

London’s lost rivers tour – Central London

Beneath the city’s  tarmaced streets lies a buried network of old rivers. Paul Talling takes you on a guided tour of the bizarre existence these waterways have gone on to lead.

He also admits that the tours can take as long as you want them to, and usually end up in the pub afterwards as well. Bonus!

Grand Surrey Canal is March 9’s tour while Wapping Canal’s on March 16.

£9, Mar 9 & 16, 1pm Peckham Rye; Wapping stations  
Tube | Peckham Rye; Wapping  
londonslostrivers.com

 

Photos: Getty; Rosie Oliver 2013