Before the pandemic, Geoff Simmons ran free history tours of Wandsworth, which would draw crowds of people eager to uncover the stories waiting on their doorsteps.

Though lockdown put a halt to these walks, the 57-year-old from Earlsfield, says he has discovered even more about his neck of the woods.

At the end of March, Mr Simmons turned his usual walking tours into downloadable PDFs, in a series called the “Great Escapes”.

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The maps, which can be printed out or read on phones, feature a list of numbers, with information and links attached. They can be easily completed in an hour – the time that was allotted for daily exercise by the government.

“I quickly turned out four of five before it snowballed. People were asking me for more and more, so I kept them coming. Before I knew it, I had 24 of these walks done.”

“Some of them were based on walks I was doing before but some have taken me further afield into the Wimbledon, Streatham, Merton, Southfields areas. It’s really broadened my knowledge.”

“It ticked so many boxes, it was a way of getting out of the house, exercising the body, the mind, and a sense of neighbourliness. It offered a release, and I really liked the idea that it was helping people through the health crisis.”

Like his guided walks, the maps are free, but they do include a link to donate to St George’s Hospital, and a charity providing critical NHS meals for front line workers.

A full-time graphic designer, creating visually exciting posters came naturally to Mr Simmons. However, it was his love of history – a favourite at school and then a hobby when researching family history – which led him to pursue the project.

“I’ve lived in Wandsworth for 30 years, but I was always whizzing around, so it’s only been in the last 15 years that I stopped and took an interest.”

Over the last seven years, Mr Simmons has built up a bank of local knowledge, from books, history groups, online and archives.

Most guides have a historical theme, including the Tooting Magical Musical Tour and Walking in a Womble Wonderland.

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However, recently the guides have reflected present events.

In the last few months, they have responded to May’s Victory in Europe Day and the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement.

Mr Simmons says today’s turbulent times have given him plenty to think about.

“It might not be widely known to people but a lot of wealth in Wandsworth was created from slave ownership. I got to read up on black history, and hopefully my tour was able to reflect that.

He points to Khama road, in Tooting, which was named after a visit by three African Kings, who came to England to prevent a railway being driven through what is now Botswana.

Mr Simmons hopes to pay tribute to these stories.

In the past, his tours have raised funds to put up plaques about notable figures. In 2018 he commemorated Sadie Crawford, the pioneering jazz pianist, and is now looking to fund a plaque for two-time Olympic gold medalist Albert Hill.

For Mr Simmons, local heritage is increasingly important.

“It's a way of keeping the history alive and making sure people appreciate where they live. The more you know about where you live, the more you take pride in it.

“When people see a group of people with my map, looking up and around, it makes them think they live somewhere that’s quite special.”

It’s a really exciting time to live around here. London is still the best place to be, despite everything that’s happening. It’s never ending, how many interesting stories keep turning up,” he said.

You can find out more about the guides here.