They're not just for dogs, y'know.
Neither are they just for bobble-hatted, leathery-skinned OAPs who whizz past you in a blur of Gore-Tex and nordic hiking pole.
N'no, walking is for the masses. And you can be a part of that mass. And that mass can be in London. There's no need to head for the Brecon Beacons - admittedly, the air is clear... but you do need to dislocate your jaw to pronounce the placenames. So you'll be pleased to hear that you can stretch your legs on some fantastic routes around our fair capital - admittedly the scenery is rather more architecturally-based than beacon- or glen-based... but on the up side, a restorative coffee-shack or juice-bar is never far away. (Features notable by their absence up a Beacon.)
The best walks around London
In Paul Talling’s book, London’s Lost Rivers, you can read all about the mysterious disappeared waterways of our city’s past and with this in mind we should celebrate what’s 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 centre of Mile End Park.
A walk through the Lea Valley waterways gives you a great look at old London. Industrial yet green, this walk from Limehouse upwards is one of the best in East London, especially for fans of wildlife.
Everyone knows that Epping Forest is where the bodies are buried but don’t let that put you off. The vast woodland is both peaceful and beautiful in equal measure, which makes it well worthy of setting aside a few hours to walk below the canopy.
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.
Thames Path: Walking by the water is great. Sure, woods are good and stunning inner city architecture is divine but there’s something about being next to the water. The Thames Path walk gives you approximately 40 miles of water to walk alongside. Expect some beautiful sights from Hampton Court all the way up to Tower Bridge.
Hampstead Heath to The Bull and Last: It’s a classic but Hampstead Heath is the kind of place that shows you something new with every visit. It’s a struggle to the top but once your over and down the other side there’s a home made scotch egg waiting at the Bull and Last. Take sledges when the snow comes, too.
South Bank: With the BFI, the National Theatre and the Royal Festival Hall, there’s no doubt there’s a lot of fun to be had inside the South Bank’s cultural institutions. But for the walker it’s the modernist fifties architecture and the views of the adjacent bank that make it so special. Take your time as you take it all in.
The Dickens Walk: Much of London served as inspiration for the great writer. And a Charles Dickens walk is the best way to see the things that shaped his writing from the backstreets of Bermondsey (the slums in Oliver Twist) to Gray’s Inn (David Copperfield). Start at the Dickens Museum at Doughty Street and then pass through Gray’s Inn, St. Paul’s and Borough where some of the streets are even named after his characters!
The (Il)Legal Walk: Start at 14 New Bridge Street, Blackfriars. This was a building once home to London’s male and female prison population from 1556 before it became a home for destitute children. Next walk towards The Old Bailey, England’s central criminal court, explore the chambers along Fleet Street’s back alleys, before ending your walk at Aldwych where the Royal Courts of Justice loom large.