You may remember that on 1st November last year, TfL took down all the content on the Walk London website, reducing it to little more than a homepage. They then transferred some of the original information, but by no means all, to a subsection of the main TfL website. Directions for each of London's seven strategic walks survived, but not maps, be that a general overview of routes or detailed maps of individual sections. An entirely unimpressive downgrade, discarding hard-won creative capital in the race for a rationalised web presence on a mobile-friendly platform.
Two and a half months later the good news is that most of those maps have returned. Or rather they've been updated, because it appears that TfL's midwinter hiatus was to coax the old style maps into a new format. Previously the maps and directions were separate and you had to print out both, and the maps were based on OpenStreetMap data. The new maps provide everything you need in one document, just as they used to do when printed leaflets were available. They're also based on TfL's Legible London basemap, which some might see as an improvement, with the route marked clearly as a line in red.
So if you fancy walking, say, Capital Ring section 7, there's now a four page pdf with everything you need. Up front is a summary overview, including a small map showing the walk's location within Greater London and a single larger graphic showing the entire route. There then follow instructions on how to reach the start from the nearest station, including close-up map, with equivalent information for the final station tacked on at the end. Inbetween are written directions for the entire walk, including additional maps to guide you through any tricky sections. And interspersed throughout are various "Did you know?" boxes outlining some historical or environmental fact, so you don't simply go for a nice walk, you learn something along the way. The text is familiar, indeed much of it appeared in those printed leaflets from two thousand and something. But it has at least been updated so that, for example, reference is no longer made to tourist attractions that have closed. Indeed there's the sense of a human hand behind all this, rather than some kind of cheap cut and paste job, which is nice. Maybe that's why it's taken so long to achieve.
Oh, but not all the maps are there yet. Many are, particularly those for the river-based walks such as the Thames Path or the Lea Valley Walk. But several sections of some walks still have no graphical representation whatsoever, just a text-only list of directions with which you might or might not end up getting lost. I'm assuming this is because the replacement project is still underway, indeed it appears that these new maps have been appearing unheralded over the last few weeks. So in case you're thinking of going walking in the immediate future here's a list of which maps are available and which aren't yet.
So maybe don't walk the London Loop yet, and as for the Green Chain, try the SE London route's dedicated webpage instead. But almost everything else is there, and presumably the whole lot will be eventually, so you can get out and go walking round London again.
Which is precisely what's behind Walk London's sole remaining reason for existence - the organisation of three free walking weekends a year. The next of these is Winter Wanders, a collection of 41 led walks taking place across next weekend. Some are relatively short pavement-based exploits in the centre of town, more an informed sightseeing tour than a proper hike. But others are longer rambles on which you might even need proper boots, some even in Outer rather than Inner London.
The full list of Winter Wanders is here, with a map of all 41 starting points (colour-coded by day) to be found here. Or just strike off on your own on the route of your choice, which you can do now that Walk London's maps are returning to the internet. London may be taking walking seriously again, and it's about time.