Some of us spent the last week cursing the freakish weather and couldnít wait to get back onto the business of welcoming autumn and all its copper coloured goodness. Itís not so much the cancelled conker tournaments that rankled, just that a London walk really isnít a London walk without a neutral grey sky and a foreboding drizzle that amps up the melancholy. So, au revoir Indian Summer Ė if we wanted sun all year round weíd all just move to LA. Right guys?! Get walking.
In Paul Tallingís book, Londonís Lost Rivers, you can read all about the mysterious disappeared waterways of our cityís past and with this in mind we should celebrate whatís left of our canals because they might not be here forever. Explore Regents Canal from the edges of Little Venice, past the kayakers of the Kingsland Road Wharf and finish up at the wonderfully local, Palm Tree pub on the border of the ecology park at Mile End Park.
Hampstead Heath to The Bull and Last
Itís a classic but Hampstead Heath is the kind of place that shows you something new with every visit. Shudder at the determined pond lurkers while savouring your place on top of the city amongst the haughtier walkers of north London. Itís a struggle to the top but once your over and down the other side thereís a home made scotch egg waiting at The Bull and Last
. Take sledges when the snow comes, too.
With the BFI, the National Theatre and the Royal Festival Hall, thereís no doubt thereís a lot of fun to be had inside
the South Bankís cultural institutions, but for the walker itís the modernist fifties architecture and the views of the adjacent bank that make it so special. Then there are the under-the-bridge booksellers, the skateboarding and the river itself to steal the attention. End up by crossing the river to Gordon's Wine Bar
to rest up in a suitably suave architectural abode.
Isabella Plantation at Richmond Park
Take a boat, bus or bike down to Richmond from Embankment before you start your (long) leisurely walk and get prepared for the kinds of ponds, streams, deer and pure fantasy that make it feel like something out of The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me. The Isabella Plantation
holds the kind of outstanding beauty that makes Richmond Park the quintessentially London oasis, hence the Roald Dahl reference (and I still canít believe the Pelly got that hole shot in his billÖ honestly)
South Kensington and Knightsbridge
Judging by the lights of Harrods and Harvey Nichols, Christmas is already making its way onto the agenda, but thereís more to Knightsbridge than the marketing of material holidays and fake fuzzy feelings. Depart from Museum Street and explore westward. Yes, look in awe at the material treasures of the area but turn off down Kinnerton Street for a walk amongst beautiful private squares, Victorian houses and peculiarly placed churches. Respect the wealth and beauty of the neighbourhood then gate crash either the delightfully gentrified Star Inn or The Wilton Arms
for a Hot Toddy, yahÖ