Groups taken on a New Direction in London

A stunningly sunny day on 5th May saw 19 GTO readers and their guests sample one of the many new tours put together by Groups Direct, showcasing their unique take on what London has to offer.

Sara Young reports back.

The group was met at the London Bridge Experience by Gavin Davies, Emily Fisher and Simon Warwick from Groups Direct, who were welcoming and enthusiastic about the day to follow, immediately creating a fun and friendly atmosphere.

Split into two groups, we were taken through the London Bridge Experience and Tombs where fantastic acting and gory special effects (including severed heads!) brought the history of the bridge to life vividly. There were many opportunities throughout The London Bridge Experience for visitors to be immersed and, unsurprisingly, our readers rose to the occasion including joining in a Cockney singsong at The Star Inn on Fish Lane, and taking great joy in denouncing one poor reader in the Chapel of Thomas Beckett for witchcraft!

“It was a really interesting day and has given me a lot of ideas!”
Lynne Bundock, Secretary of Spring Chickens, Minster on Sea

“The guide was very good. He has given us a brilliant insight into London and I’ve enjoyed the glimpses of old London in between new London.”
Joan Storkey, Norwood Green WI

Lunch was served at The Horniman’s at Hays, which was a short and pleasant walk from The London Bridge Experience along the embankment. Groups Direct often use this venue for outings. As the old site for Horninman’s tea trading, and with its elegant, Regency-esque décor, it was a fitting choice.

We enjoyed a Londoner’s favourite, sausage and mash, followed by a chocolate brownie and drinks. For vegetarians, the quest for the perfect veggie sausage can sometimes be a bit of a challenge but myself and the other vegetarians in the group were not disappointed; delicious.

Groups Direct has an extensive network of Blue Badge Guides and after lunch, we were met by Stan Medland, whose remarkable depth of knowledge took us on a journey along the River Thames in the sunshine. The iconic architecture, from old to more modern landmarks, was given a whole new perspective through Stan’s storytelling.

Our final stop was tea and coffee at the dickens inn, formally an 18th century timber warehouse. Set in the heart of st. katherine’s dock in London, with the window box flowers fully in bloom, it was an ideal ending to the day.

The whole day was efficiently and smoothly managed by the team, ensuring that our time in London was relaxing and enjoyable.

“This is what I love about London, this is what brings London to life. You don’t get that feeling when you come up by yourself. It’s been brilliant; we’ve been in places we’ve never been before. It’s opened up a whole new area of London.”
Ray Ives, Briscoe Pitsea WI

Groups Direct

Groups Direct is a new venture, set up in July 2015 by Gavin Davies with Simon Warwick joining as Chairman in January 2016. The company currently has 46 tours but are adding to this every day. As a team, they have over 25 years of experience working with UK groups. Gavin Davies said: “We like to take a product, mix it up and then look at it with fresh eyes. Groups don’t just book theatre trips, they like days out and excursions, which we wanted to reflect. We can create bespoke tours for organisers, and can amend any itinerary for things like budget and accessibility. Our team is very experienced and, ultimately, we are there for your group.”