Geography trips abroad are an excellent opportunity for students to experience landscapes and phenomena that are not present in their home region, but there is also a great value in taking excursions to closer destinations. For students in the United Kingdom, geography trips to London present the chance to learn more about the issues at their doorstep. From urban rivers to rural-to-urban migration, socio-economic discrepancy and new construction developments, London is a fascinating city from a geographical perspective. To cap it off, students can visit world-famous institutions such as the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Museum of London.
Urban River: The Thames
The most appropriate place to start the itinerary of geography trips to London is on the banks of the Thames: the river has defined the city’s development, from the earliest prehistoric settlements along its banks to the major metropolis of today. The river has also been changed by the city. Its tributaries – the Fleet, Wandle and more – have been mostly covered over by buildings, where once they were important waterways in the old city. The people of London have used the Thames for commerce, housing (in river boats), travel and waste disposal; developments over the past centuries have notably turned it from a foully polluted river to the cleanest metropolitan river in Europe. It continues to affect the city in many ways, including its potential for flooding and the consequent defences (the Thames Barrier may soon need to be superseded) built to protect the city.
London is a thriving and ever-developing city. Students on geography trips can walk along the revitalised South Bank area and see the recently constructed Shard skyscraper, or visit the City where numerous builds – the Leadenhall Building (the ‘Cheesegrater’), 20 Fenchurch Street (the ‘Walkie-Talkie’, infamous for burning pavements and cars in the late summer of 2013) and more – are underway. These constructions have consequences for the city and its people. By visiting London, students can learn much more about these projects by seeing the buildings and their locales for themselves – it’s an important aspect of understanding why these projects take place.
As the country’s capital and a major world city, London is home to a number of world-renowned institutions of value to visitors on geography trips. The Natural History Museum is a leading educational museum, with exhibits on plate tectonics, animal taxonomies and prehistoric life, as well as a formidable specimen collection. Next door, the Science Museum provides an ever-changing array of exhibitions, many of which will interest students, in addition to its permanent collections. Across the city, the Museum of London will complete students’ understanding of the Thames’ role in London’s development, as a great number of the artefacts in its displays about London’s history were found in or near the river.