September is one of my favourite times of year in London. The weather usually cheers up, evenings are still relatively long, there’s loads still going on - and the kids are back in school, which makes getting around just that tiny bit easier. Of course there are still lots of visitors, but that just gives the place a buzz. With a bit of luck the tube strikes that have been plaguing London this summer will be over too.
One of the things I'm most excited about this month is the new Totally Thames festival.
There has been a 'Thames Festival' for several years, but previously it tended to focus on the South Bank. This new venture is an entire month of really exciting events for all ages and tastes, from the highbrow to the downright silly and it stretches all the way from the great barrier in the East at Woolwich to Teddington where the river stops being tidal.
There are scores of events—theatre shows, walks, talks, activities, screenings, boat trips and exclusive tours round areas you don't normally get to see.
Boat rides down the Thames include an 'In the company of...' series, from eminent Londoners. Historians, TV personalities, writers and London movers and shakers, all of which have something different and interesting to say about the city—most of which are personal heroes of mine.
I particularly recommend the one with Dan Cruickshank and Hallie Rubenhold—what those two don't know about the seamy side of Georgian London probably was never fit to print anyway.
There are some wonderful river-related talks from curators at various museums, including object handling. I'm looking forward to the Museum of London talks (including a rarely-open Roman bath house on the river front) and a boat trip setting out from the Brunel Museum at Rotherhithe. It's always worth joining one of the many archaeological walks, not least because there's always an outside chance you'll unearth something curious yourself while you're walking along the foreshore. Anything from Roman coins and medieval shoes to Georgian pottery and Victorian pipes have been known to turn up with the tide.
I am highly intrigued by the world's first 'Bascule Chambers' concert, which will be held in what looks like a natural amphitheatre in the bowels of Tower Bridge itself.
It's a totally new venture and apparently part of the new composition includes the sound of the Bridge opening. I just have to hear that!
Much more tranquil is the extraordinary sight when, down at the Thames Barrier, they conduct the annual closure. The barrier is tested and the river...stops.
It's curious enough to see the mechanisms grinding into action, but even odder is the sight of one of the world's great rivers turned into a lake, with somewhat confused local bird life trying to work out if they prefer the great sheet of water one side or the strange sight of a nearly-empty riverbed the other.
Totally Thames Festival runs between 1-30 September, across all 17 boroughs that have a connection with the River Thames.
If you're visiting near the end of September, you just HAVE to at least check out Open House London, where all manner of architecturally curious and historic buildings are open to the public free of charge, for one weekend only. Expect major mansions and gentlemen's clubs in Piccadilly, funky new office blocks in the city and some truly bizarre, ancient gems in corners you never knew existed.
Some people (like me, ahem...) can get quite obsessed, ordering the catalogue then regimenting their day with military precision to see as many places as possible, but it is often worth just looking up where you'll be on that day. Every London borough has its own collection of secret houses opening, and visiting a few is better than breaking your back trying to see it all.
Open House London is on 19th & 20th September 2015, across London.
The famous flower shows of Chelsea and Hampton Court are long over, but one major festival remains. Slightly out of town at the great garden of RHS Wisley, the later-summer delights of full-blown plenty are celebrated at the six-day RHS Wisley Flower Show.
The blooms are spectacular, and there's an emphasis on the plants themselves rather than garden design, which tends to be Chelsea and Hampton Court's domain.
I'm particularly looking forward to the stands that sell heritage seeds and antique garden implements. I'm not sure how much call I'd have for Victorian cucumber straighteners or grape scissors, but I want to see them all the same.
There will also be specialist talks from Wisley experts on a range of gardening conundrums. I'll be first in the queue for the one on how to deal with slugs.
The RHS Flower Show runs between 8th and 13th September. Don't worry if you don't have a car. There's a free shuttle bus from Horsley Station. Trains depart from Waterloo Station and you get 25% off tickets if you come by train! Just present your train ticket at the booking office.
Talking of Hampton Court, which we sort-of were, the 500th birthday celebrations of the palace are still sparkling. Along with chocolate tastings, cinema screenings and meat roasted on a 500 year-old spit, don't miss the Bed Tour.
The palace has several historic four-poster beds but some of them are so delicate they can't go on general display. In this anniversary year, textile conservators from the palace are holding special 'backstage' tours, every Wednesday in September, to show small groups of visitors how they preserve these remarkable survivors from bygone glory. Adding to the 'secret' feel is the fact that the tours are conducted by torchlight as the textiles are so vulnerable.
Although tours are included in the price of entrance tickets, numbers are strictly limited so make sure you go to the information desk in Base Court when you arrive to find out times and get your name on the list.
Hampton Court is a five minute walk from Hampton Court Station. Trains run half-hourly from Waterloo.
One last little thing to look out for—in September, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II becomes our longest-reigning monarch! To celebrate both our current queen, and the queen whose record she breaks in September, Queen Victoria, Kensington Palace is creating a film installation that draws parallels between key moments in both reigns. The show will open on 9th September, the day Her Majesty officially overtakes her Royal predecessor, who grew up in the palace.
Kensington Palace is in Kensington Gardens, London, W8 4PX. The nearest tube stations are High Street Kensington, Notting Hill or Queensway.
Don't forget to let me know what you'd like to know about in London. Drop me a line in the comments section and I'll do my best to help!