Walking in London
Park, heath and waterside - 25 walks in London's green spaces
By Peter Aylmer
A guidebook to 25 walks in London's green spaces and nature reserves, covering both the city centre and Greater London area. Taking in woods and forests, parks and heaths, canals and rivers, the guide includes a wealth of information about some of the species you might encounter as well as the history and conservation of these areas.
SeasonsWinters are rarely too cold, nor summers too hot. The transitional seasons of spring and autumn bring first a blooming of life and second the transformation of leaf.
CentresAll of these walks can be undertaken from a base within the Greater London area.
DifficultyAll of these walks are within the range of most occasional walkers, though some routes can be linked together to give longer days for those who want them. Little specialist equipment is needed beyond comfortable footwear and clothing appropriate to the season.
Must SeeWoods and forests, parks and heaths, London's rivers - far more than just the Thames - and canals. Many of the walks pass by some of London's architectural jewels, while others delve so deep into countryside that it's difficult to think you are still in London.
This guidebook presents 25 varied walks exploring London’s green and open spaces. Covering both the city centre and the Greater London area, it takes in royal parks, heaths, forests, canals and rivers, including Epping Forest, Hampstead Heath, the World Heritage site of Kew Gardens and Wimbledon Common. Walks range from 4 to 14 miles and most can be accessed by public transport.
Alongside detailed route descriptions and OS mapping, the book features practical information on parking, public transport and refreshments. Each walk showcases a particular species of wildlife that you might encounter, and there is fascinating background information the history and conservation of the capital’s wild spaces.
London is a city of 8 million people and 8 million trees, and its vast open spaces are home to 13,000 species of wildlife. This book is an ideal companion to exploring a greener, more gentle side to the city.
The geology of London
London’s open spaces
When to go
Safety in London
Getting around London
What to take
Using this guide
East to the Lea
Walk 1 Rainham Marshes and Coldharbour Point
Walk 2 Dagenham’s open spaces
Walk 3 Epping Forest from Chingford
Walk 4 Wanstead Flats and Park
Walk 5 Olympic Park and Greenway
Walk 6 River Lea
Lea to Brent
Walk 7 Enfield Chase
Walk 8 Regent’s Canal
Walk 9 New River and Parkland Walk
Walk 10 Royal Parks
Walk 11 Hampstead Heath
Walk 12 Dollis Valley Greenwalk
Brent to Wandle
Walk 13 Ruislip Woods
Walk 14 Yeading Brook
Walk 15 Crane Park
Walk 16 Bushy Park and Home Park
Walk 17 Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park
Walk 18 Kew and Isleworth
Walk 19 Wandle Trail
East of the Wandle
Walk 20 Happy Valley
Walk 21 Hills and woods of Croydon
Walk 22 Sydenham Hill Wood
Walk 23 Woodlands of south-east London
Walk 24 Chislehurst
Walk 25 Downe
Appendix A Long-distance paths in London
Appendix B Where to find out more
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Walking in our capital city is not all pavements and traffic fumes!
As any London LDWA Group member will tell you, walking in our capital city is not all pavements and traffic fumes. It is home, as Peter Aylmer points out, to eight million trees and, for every acre of land that bears a building, road or railway, another is open space.
An example he gives is Wanstead Flats, that tussocky plain between the A116 and Wanstead Station, just under one mile square and where, in 2016, the local wildlife group counted 1508 species - all in 0.2% of London's area.
So this is a book whose 25 walks are on a relatively unusual theme: viewing London as a range of habitat for wildlife. Expeditions take in one National Trail, six regional trails and a plethora of local trails and informal paths and, as the author points out, on every one of these walks you will find yourself wondering where all the roads and houses have gone. Routes are easily accessed by London transport, and range from 4ml shorties that can beguile a lunch hour to six-hour day hikes.
This most readable little book is stuffed with bags of information as well as the usual maps and is a must for anyone who wants to explore the big city in a different way.
Julie Welch, Strider, the Long-distance Walkers' Association magazine
A wealth of information
London can be an expensive place to visit but why not try a free activity walking to discover green spaces and nature reserves. Usefully all the walks can be accessed by public transport and whilst some are quite long they could be broken down into shorter sections. Covering both the city centre and Greater London area the 25 walks take in woods and forests, parks and heaths, canals and rivers, the guide includes a wealth of information about some of the species you might encounter as well as the history and conservation of these areas.
Life In magazine
There is lots to explore and [this book is] a great size to fit in your pocket.
This a book which gives you 25 walks around the greener parts of London where you will bump into birds and other wildlife at some part of your walk.
It is not written as a ‘where to watch’ but a walking book with many pictures of habitat and wildlife included. It starts with the RSPB reserve at Rainham Marshes and includes the River Lea avoiding the wetlands when most here would prefer to get closer! Many walks are lines not circular but then again there is a transport network to bring you back again.
Interesting facts are found by each walk like Hampstead Heath has ¼ of the British spider species on this one site! Ruislip Ancient Woodlands has a stream and even a ‘Lido’! There is lots to explore and a great size to fit in your pocket.
A comprehensive guide to walking that covers the whole of the London area.
It's been a while since we had a comprehensive guide to walking that covers the whole of the London area. Peter Aylmer's new guide may be the best since Colin Saunders' London: the definitive walking guide in 2002.
The 25 walks range widely across the capital, reaching into the Home Counties while not neglecting the many opportunities in the inner city and centre. All are accessible by public transport, most follow manageable terrain, and most are under 10 miles long. They focus on London's green spaces, rivers and canals, and particularly nature reserves-which together, and still to the surprise of many Londoners, account for half the surface area of the metropolis.
Each walk description features flora and fauna as well as historical and other features to be found along the way. The information has the backing of conservation groups and a historian. All this is beautifully illustrated with photographs by the author and other skilled enthusiasts. The guide is aimed at individuals, families and groups who want to fill perhaps half a day, or the winter daylight hours of a whole day, in the open air. The routes are original, devised by the author, but some give a taste of the long distance footpaths (Thames Path, Lea Valley, London Loop and others) and brief information on these is included. For leaders of what most of us call 'short' walks and belonging to Groups in the London boroughs, Walking in London will be standard reading. It will also appeal to Groups based in Hertfordshire who want to include London in their walks Programmes.
It should certainly be acquired, read and referred to often by new walk leaders. Its choice of off-the-peg fine walks offers an excellent way to break into leading; it also contains sound practical advice on safety, transport and so on that complements what we are taught about country walking.
And if any friends or family are thinking even vaguely of taking up walking, make sure Walking in London helps fill their Christmas stockings.
The book is simply tremendous.
The book is simply tremendous. Superb graphics, amazingly easy to read maps, terrific prose that is helpful but not elephantine (at the end of the day, it is a GUIDE to physical exertion, not a novel or series of scientific vignettes), and astonishingly effective illustrations all spark my imagination. I am now in that happy state where I can realistically envision a number of future visits where my efforts will be devoted to exploring as many of the individual routes suggested in the guidebook as I can compass.
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Peter Aylmer has climbed many hills and walked many long-distance paths all over Britain, and is equally at home in a tent or bothy in the Scottish Highlands as he is in a nature reserve hidden in some unconsidered London suburb.
Peter still relishes the surprise on people’s faces when he tells them that some of his favourite walking is in London and Essex. The secret is knowing where to look. This started early for Peter, visiting his uncle's farm in Essex; later, taking the tube out to Epping Forest after work so that he could walk back home through it. Now, as a walk leader for the Long Distance Walkers Association, he is still developing new routes through both town and country in southern England.
Peter spent his career in education, from teacher and politician to writer and editor at national level. He is now chair of trustees for the UK wing of an international aid charity.