Here’s the perfect pre-amble. Funded by Transport for London, Walk London is a new, brightly-coloured network of 30 interactive walking routes around the capital, which you can search by postcode or area, by the types of attractions you want to walk past (rivers, parks, etc) or whether you want to gently wander or test your fitness. This weekend, May 25 and 26, Walk London is offering free guided walks of all of these routes. Read on for four of the best.
Green Chain Route, 80km
A walk through the parks, woodlands and fields that wind along the River Thames from the Thames Barrier to Nunhead Cemetery. You don’t have to (and won’t want to) walk all 80 km (50 miles) in a day, so the map is split into sections online.
Architecture appreciators can admire historic monuments like the eighteenth-century Severndroog Castle and the Art Deco Eltham Palace, or you can choose to relax at Southmere or in the nature reserve at Oxleas Woods. The dinosaur park at Crystal Palace is also as fun as it sounds.
Capital Ring Route, 126km
Don’t be alarmed by the mega-distance: this walk around pretty London suburbia is split into 15 easy sections, each capturing some snappy scenery. Find commons and nature reserves, palaces and cemeteries (notably Abney Park), and get lost (or don’t) in the Great North Wood – which, weirdly, is south of the river. Richmond Park, Wimbledon Common and plenty of the Thames also feature in this lovely country amble through London’s urban metropolis.
Lea Valley Route, 29km
This 18-mile walk along the (confusing spelling alert!) Lee Valley follows the Lee Navigation towpath from Waltham Abbey south to where it meets the Thames at Limehouse Basin.
Stroll past London’s lively canal boat community and get a sense of the city’s post-war industrialisation: Swan’s light bulb, the thermos and the first plastics were invented at Ponders End at the Enfield end of the valley. Lastly, see how the London 2012 Games has restored the river landscape and its wetlands.
LOOP Route, 245km
The daddy of all London walks, the LOOP (London Outer Orbital Path) route stretches around the city limits and has been dubbed “the M25 for walkers”, though it’s nowhere near the roar of the motorway.
The LOOP walk reveals relics of London’s colourful past, from stately residences like Hall Place to monuments like the Wilberforce memorial. You’ll even pass a shot tower once used to make gunpowder. And, says Walk London, ‘you don’t have to be a military buff to enjoy a Thameside “graveyard” for concrete D-Day barges or to explore Kenley Aerodrome, the atmospheric former wartime air base’.
Pop into Kingston-on-Thames for some retail therapy (or perhaps some better walking shoes) and make the most of large green spaces like Busy Royal Park for a spot of lunch.