As a Londoner, if you go down to the woods today you’ll be in for a big surprise. You won’t find a teddy bears’ picnic, but rather some great places to go for an out-of-the-way walk.
Though it’s a big, congested city of about eight million people, London has far more parks and woodland than most people realise, and numerous fantastic walking trails.
Here, then, are some of the best places for a ramble.
In case you’re wondering, rambling is the catch-all British term for going for a walk. It means anything from a hardcore trek to a meander through the suburbs.
This brand new 60km route links all nine central London venues for the 2012 Olympics, and the numerous attractions, parks and views along the way. There is an excellent website, jubileegreenway.org.uk, that breaks the route into 12 easily doable chunks.
The Green Chain walk covers 65km (divided into 10 different sections) across south-east London, from Thamesmead all the way to Crystal Palace Park.
It’s not one continuous path, but rather a series of routes passing through some suburbia as well as marshes, woodland and delightful parks such as Plumstead Common and Oxleas Wood and Meadows.
For a real sense of diving deep into the forested countryside, take a visit to one of London’s many woodland areas.
Epping Forest (Epping New Rd, IG10 Epping; cityoflondon.gov.uk/openspaces) is a massive expanse where you could easily spend a whole day rambling.
Highgate Wood (Muswell Hill Rd, NW10 Highgate) is easily accessible, as is the adjacent Queen’s Wood.
Selsdon Wood Nature Reserve (Old Farleigh Rd, CR2 East Croydon then bus 409) and Sydenham Hill Woods (Crescent Wood Rd, SE26 Sydenham Hill) are both worth a look. See wildlondon.org for more.
Stately manors, ye olde pubs, flash new apartments, parks and gardens, gleaming offices and boats – the 107km of the Thames Path that runs through London has it all.
You can walk to pretty much any point on the river, and pick a path.
The prime sections are from Hampton Court to Richmond, along Southbank from Westminster Bridge to London Bridge, and from Greenwich to the Thames Barrier.
London loop and capital ring
The London Outer Orbital Path (known as the London Loop) is to ramblers what the M25 is to motorists.
It’s a 240km route around the outskirts of the capital, much of which passes through the Green Belt, the large swathe of open space that is off-limits to development to contain urban sprawl.
There are many Tube stations along the path: Northwood and Uxbridge (Metropolitan line); High Barnet (Northern), Cockfosters and Hatton Cross (Piccadilly); Chigwell (Central); and Upminster Bridge (District).
Meanwhile, the Capital Ring is a 125km orbital route threading together parks, open spaces and quiet streets, passing through Ealing, Wimbledon, Hackney and Highgate, also incorporating the Green Chain walk.
» For Green Chain, Thames Path, London Loop and Capital Ring see walklondon.org.uk
Join some ramblers
Metropolitan Walkers, for people aged 20 to 40, arranges numerous walks across London each week as well as weekends away.
The Ramblers Association is the main body in Britain to cater for walkers, and has loads of useful information. See ramblers.org.uk.
The Inner London Ramblers group lists some great walks in the city, described in detail, at innerlondonramblers.org.uk.