Great Walks around London
London may be a busy city filled with man-made attractions, but it still manages to offer a wide array of parks and nature walks to escape all the congestion and noise. Central London makes a great base for many of the city’s excellent walks and offers some of the finest hotels such as Park Grand London Paddington which provides easy access to the Underground.
Whether you’re in the mood for an all day hike or simply a short afternoon stroll, you can be assured London has many options for you to get outside for some fresh air. Here are some of the top spots which locals love to lace up their walking shoes for.
thames path (right): photo by Timo newton-syms
The Thames Path
At 184 miles in length, the Thames Path is not one that can be achieved in a day. However, when broken up into sections, the path provides several wonderful individual day hikes. The Thames Path is an easily managed trail which runs along the banks of the River Thames and is suitable for people of all abilities.
The path follows the same route taken by rowers during the popular annual Oxford Cambridge boat race. While the route is busy with visitors and fans during the race week, for the rest of the year it is relatively peaceful. Take the path along the Thames where it flows upstream between Putney and Barnes Bridges. During the walk, visitors cross through Fulham Palace Gardens and past the sloping area used by the St Paul’s Rowing Club. A good stopping point is the Barnes Bridge.
Known as the People’s Park, Victoria Park has been a local favourite for over 170 years. The park offers lovely walks around several lakes which also provide paddle boat rentals. Replenish your energy at one of two cafés which include the Pavilion Cafe in the West and the Park Cafe in the East.
You’ll find plenty of room to spread out in this 200+ acre park that hosts several festivals during the summer months. The park also offers tennis courts, a bowling green, running tracks, and areas for soccer. Download an audio guide to your phone to enjoy hearing the history of the Memoryscape Trail as you make your way from Crown Gate West to the Stone Alcoves from the original London Bridge.
Victoria park: photo by Saskia Bosch van Rosenthal
Ham House and Garden
Enjoy an 8 mile circular route that begins and ends at Kingston Station, making its way to Ham House and Garden along the way. You’ll make your way through Richmond Park where you may spot deer herds en route to King Henry’s Mound, which offers great views of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Other great spots for nature along the trail are Petersham Meadows and Isabella Plantation.
Visit Ham House, a 17th century mansion managed by the National Trust, which offers a large collection of historic paintings, furniture and textiles. Enjoy a bite to eat in the Orangery Café which sources produce from the site’s kitchen garden. The well manicured Gardens provide a nice relaxing break before making your way back to Kingston Station.
London’s Parkland Walk is a roughly 4 mile route from Alexandra Palace to Finsbury Park. It follows an abandoned rail line where you will come across overgrown tunnels, ever-changing graffiti, and crazy sculptures depicting things like spriggans. Come nightfall, bats make their way out of their local roosting site.
Also in the area are several nature reserves including Highgate Wood and Queen’s Wood. Both offer woodland trails that are home to over 70 species of birds, foxes, hedgehogs, and butterflies during the summer. Guided historical tours can be arranged to learn the history of the forests, including a time where Highgate Wood was inhabited by the Romans. Stop to have a bite in the Queen’s Wood Cafe which offers a nice selection of organic vegetarian dishes.
Highgate Wood: photo by ewan munro
Hackney Downs to Springfield Park
This walk begins in Hackney Downs, once Lammas land but now a park with wide open spaces which are perfect for various outdoor sports. The nearby Hackney Downs Studios are a great place to meet creative minds. Shop the many independent stores and check out the weekend vegan market.
Part of this walk incorporates a portion of the 50-mile Lea Valley Walk. You’ll pass Leyton Marsh which was used for basketball training during the 2012 London Olympics, but now offers recreation trails set amongst habitat for reintroduced local wildlife.
Springfield Park was once made up of three private estates but became a public park in 1905. While two of the estate buildings were demolished, one known as the White Lodge Mansion is now home to the Springfield Park café. The park is home to tennis courts, a rugby club, nearby rowing club, and trails which provide views across Walthamstow Marshes.
springfield park: photo by ewan munro