diamond geezer

 Friday, August 24, 2007


London's a great city to walk in. The centre's compact enough to cover on foot, full of sights and parks and bustle and so many things to see. And the suburbs are perfect for a ramble, full of footpaths and woodland and peace and quiet. But we Londoners rarely get out our walking shoes to explore the capital properly. Oh no. Most of us just end up sitting in cars or trains or buses instead, on our way to the same old destinations over and over again. And that's a shame.

the London LoopTransport for London agree, which is why they've established a network of six strategic walking routes across the capital. These are specially signposted routes, some walkable in a day, others requiring rather longer. They cover every corner of London, from Trafalgar Square to Cockfosters, and there's bound to be one near you. Some of the routes follow major rivers, some look a bit random, and others appear to have been sketched out on a map by someone attempting to draw a circle with a pair of wobbly compasses.

Details of all six walks can be found on the new Walk London website. There's an interactive map to help you to decide where to go. There are pages devoted to each of the walks, and in some cases to each subsection of each walk. There's another page where you can order free leaflets by post - although the service is very slow, and not terribly reliable, and restricts you to a piddling three leaflets (out of 60) in each submitted request. But never mind, because most of the leaflets can also be downloaded direct from the site, which means you could be out and walking within the hour.

I couldn't let August pass without doing something special. So I thought I'd go out and take a stroll along each of London's six strategic walks. Not the whole of each route, you understand, but a section of each. It would take far longer than a week to walk the lot... and anyway, several people have already beaten me to it. I've picked sections across all corners of London, not just in the middle. And I've had a great time so far, exploring byways, bridleways and towpaths I'd never even considered visiting before. I hope I can polish off the rest of the six walks before next Friday. If so, expect to read a report about each over the forthcoming week. Because sometimes the journey can be more enjoyable than the destination.

London's six strategic walks
Thames Path: follow the meandering banks of London's greatest river (67 miles within the Greater London boundary)
Lea Valley Walk: a waterside stroll beside East London's not quite so famous river (12½ miles within Greater London)
Capital Ring: a circular footpath around the edge of Inner London, sort of Zone 4-ish (78 miles, in 15 sections)
London Loop: a circular footpath around the edge of Outer London, sort of Zone 6-ish (150 miles, in 24 sections)
Green Chain Walk: a network of interlinked paths cutting across four SE London boroughs (40 miles, in 10 sections)
Jubilee Walkway: perfect for tourists, wandering around central London's most famous sights (14 miles, all in Zone 1)

Go fetch your trainers, and let's go for a walk...

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