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Seven winter walks in outer London

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash 6 min read

From short river walks to hilly day hikes, London has plenty to discover also in winter Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The best time to walk in London is probably in spring when the parks are green and lush or autumn when the pathways are full of colourful leaves. But winter in the city has its charms too, especially as the days are too short for long-distance adventures. If it’s not pouring down the winter walking actually can be the best of all seasons, especially if you prefer having quiet pathways and crowd-free parks for yourself. Wear good warm boots as it can be muddy and pack a flask of hot drink to warm up in case the cafes close early. If you are planning to visit a nature reserve or heritage site, check the opening times as some are only open for limited hours or on weekends. Here’s an overview of some easy and moderate walks in outer London for winter exploring.

The Line
Art walk

7.7 km (4.8 miles), 4 hours, easy

The Line is a public art and nature trail in East London, crossing River Thames from Greenwich Peninsula and continuing along the Lea Valley. You can walk the path both ways from Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to North Greenwich or another way around, but you have to catch the London Cable Car ride to get across the Thames (£5 one way). The walk will take you along a collection of artworks and installations as well as heritage and wildlife. The Three Mills Island and Green is London’s oldest industrial site extending back for at least a thousand years and Cody Dock is a creative community hub and ecology site.
C7-D7 on London Greenground Map

Bridge over the River Wandle, Mitcham © London Less Travelled / Flickr

Wandle Trail
River walk

4.8 km (3 miles), 1-2 hours, easy

The Wandle Trail is 20 km (12.5 miles) long, so unless you are really brave, consider a taster of the trail in winter and come back in spring for a longer stroll. It starts from the River Thames near Wandsworth Town and follows the River Wandle to East Croydon, but one of the most scenic & ‘rural’ sections is probably near Morden Hall Park. The park itself offers plenty to explore from The Wetland Boardwalk to the historic Snuff Mill and second-hand bookshop at the stableyard and is a good starting point, but you can also start further up from Merton Abbey Mills and Art Galleries. The trail continues south through Ravensbury Park to Watermeads Nature Reserve, where you can catch a bus to Morden or Tooting.
E5 on London Greenground Map

Capital Ring (SE)
Hill walk

17 km (10.6 miles), 1 day, moderate

If you are a determined walker then with 78 miles in full length Capital Ring could keep your weekends busy for the full winter, but if you just want to get outdoors on a sunny Sunday, then you don’t have to leave the capital for the hills – the south eastern London is actually quite hilly. You can start from Beckenham Place Park and walk to Downham Fields – a large hillside park. From here pass the natural Grove Park Nature Reserve on the way to historic Eltham Palace Gardens and continue to Avery Hill Park and winter garden. Stroll through the tree-lined Eltham Park, before climbing up to rural feeling Oxleas Woods & Meadow for some scenic hill views.
E7-D7 on London Greenground Map

Tram climbs towards the Coombe Lane tram stop CC BY-SA 4.0 Eagleash / Wikimedia

Woody Loop
Woodland walk

19.3 km (12 miles), 1 day, moderate

You don’t have to use the short daylight hours for commuting to the countryside as some parts of outer London feel almoust rural. Croydon is a busy modern hub, but wander slightly further out and you find the area around Addington has a completely different feel. You can start from Addington Hills with wooded walking paths and views over London, then head to Bramley Bank Nature Reserve before reaching Selsdon Wood, part of the London Loop trail. Continue to Hutchinson Bank Nature Reserve for sloping woodland views and wildlife spotting and loop back along Addington Vale and Spring Park. Tram (Coombe Lane) stop takes you back to West Croydon or New Addington.
F6-F7 on London Greenground Map

Regent’s Canal
Bridge walk

5.8 km (3.6 miles), 2-3 hours, easy

London is famous for its iconic bridges over River Thames, but did you know its historic canals also have an elaborate small bridge network? Grand Union Canal is the longest canal in England with over 100 bridges, numerous locks and seven arms, but if it feels a bit too strenuous to walk during the winter you can start by walking a London section of the canal or the adjoining Regents Canal to get a taster of some of the London small canal bridges. Paddington to St. Pancras section only has over 30 bridges with a curious Lisson Grove Bridge – the only house in London that is built over a canal. Look out for it at the entrance of the Maida Hill Tunnel, if you are coming from Little Venice, you have to look back after exiting the tunnel.
C5 on London Greenground Map

Mallard on a lake, Photo by Joe on Unsplash

Woodberry and Walthamstow
Wetland walk

6.4 km (4 miles), 2-3 hours, easy

Start a walk from the Woodberry Wetlands – a nature reserve in Hackney with rich wetland habitat next to the busy urban environment. Coal House cafe serves warm drinks if you need warming up. From here walk to Springfield park and join the River Lea up to Walthamstow Wetlands. The site is recognised as the largest urban Wetland in Europe, especially important for the wintering wildfowl and still functions as a working water reservoir. It also includes a historic Engine House (now a visitor centre) and a Coppermill. You can continue up to Tottenham Marshes along the river and catch a train back from Northumberland Park station.
B6-C6 on London Greenground Map

Tilbury Fort and Gravesend
Heritage walk

Approx. 3-5 km (1.8- 3 miles), half a day, easy (includes ferry crossing)

Tilbury and Gravesend are further out from London, but still close enough for a day trip to see the rich maritime history of the Thames Estuary. Tilbury Fort was an artillery fort built to protect London from seaward attacks from the 16th century up to Second World War. Now the star-shaped bastions are converted into a spacious green space and museum (entry £7 on weekends only). A short walk will take you to the Tilbury walk of memories – a tribute to the lives of the Empire Windrush passengers. From here catch the Tilbury ferry to Gravesend (Mon-Sat £4 one way) and take time to explore this historic village with nautical importance.
D10 on London Greenground Map

London Greengroud Map is your valuable guide to hundreds of London green spaces, waterways and nature sites. Walk along the official long-distance paths, discover hidden gems in greater London or tailor your own custom adventures – you’ll never run out of ideas with this tube-style map with a new perspective.

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London Bookground Map

Clapham Library - Google Street View © 2022 Google Maps 4 min read

Busy modern library with cafe, bike parking and bus stop
Clapham Library – Google Street View © 2022 Google Maps

London Bookground Map is the first side step from the Greenground Map project to a new path, connecting libraries across London into a large creative library network. 350 mostly public, specialist and some member libraries are linked together with 12 thematic lines based on historic writers with connections to London. Walking distances, closest bus stops and bike parking on the map make planning your visits easy and the activity icons in the index help to find what’s happening in the library.

The specialist libraries are mainly clustered in the centre of London and offer unique experiences with thematic collections and events. If you like poetry, step on the Shakespeare line and visit National Poetry Library. Are you a film lover? Walk the Doyle line to explore the collections of The BFI Reuben Library. Seacole line will take you to the Wellcome library of healthcare, and the Christie line will have you covered with a stop at the Guildhall Library and police museum focusing on the history of crime investigation (note: according to reliable sources the police museum has sadly permanently closed, but the library remains open).

There are also many unique public libraries across London to explore with extended North and South lines. From quiet historic reading spaces to vibrant modern library centres and local community-run spaces – libraries draw together people everywhere. As books move from shelves to devices, libraries too have to reinvent themselves for a new era of readers. This map aims to show the importance of libraries as open and welcoming community spaces. 

During making this map I searched all 350 libraries on Google maps and looked for additional information from borough council websites. All boroughs have different approaches to displaying library information, but I think Lambeth Council had the best library hub with very clear, inviting and open information. All the information you need as a reader is accessible from the front page – from joining the library and services to new books and activities as well as active social media feed.

Modern readers are not content anymore with paper books and photocopy services and look more holistic approach with rounded services from onsite (reading) activities to online communities and events. Digital and audiobooks are the new normal of reading on the go and many busy professionals may only connect to online services. The library on site can be a workspace for the day for a new start-up to escape isolation or a much-needed public space for a young parent or elderly to connect with others.

Library services are more complex than ever before and libraries are still under a lot of pressure to prove themselves as many historic library houses are under threat of closure. However, some have reinvented themselves as charities and are pushing back with running library services and community events by volunteers rather than face closure such as Perivale Community Library in Ealing. Luckily there are also success stories and old libraries are being mindfully renovated to adapt to new community needs such as Lea Bridge Library in this recent Guardian article.


But mainly has this project grown out of personal interest in books & libraries and I hope it will also inspire you to discover the amazing London library network in a new way.

NEW! London Bookground Map is available in my shop for £12 (postage included)

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Copenhagen Greenground Map – a green guide for walkers and cyclists

4 min read
Copenhagen Greenground Map – Connecting parks & open spaces

Copenhagen is one of my favourite cities to walk and I’ve been looking forward making this map to inspire others to visit this cool, green and sustainably thinking European city. The first Copenhagen Greenground Map selects 360  parks and open spaces, linking them together with 12 creative green and blue lines for memorable day hikes and bike trips in and around the city. The map also features some camping sites and plenty of activities, inspiring you to explore outside city boundaries and discover the open spaces in Greater Copenhagen suburbia.

As usual the Greenground Map does not map the transport network, but it shows where to go! The map connects the parks and interest points to give you the oversight of the city based of its landscape and natural connections, so the Copenhagen becomes an intertwined network of canals, rivers, green paths, nature reserves and coastline. It will change the way you’ll perceive the city and helps finding interest points outside the centre, whether these are forests, hill-tops, beaches or even giant wooden trolls!

Close-up of the map

With 385 kilometres (239 miles) dedicated bike lanes in the city and even bike bridges crossing the harbour it’s easy to get around on the bike. This is remarkable considering London has about the same length of bike lanes (data from 2020), when being nearly 9 times bigger in size. It gets even better as you can take a bike on metro or S-Train (outside rush hours) and even catch the harbour bus for the price of public transport. All these perks make Copenhagen one of the most bike friendly cities in the world.

If you have time in your hands Copenhagen is also a great city to explore on foot and travelling on the public transport network is a great way to get around. Travelling in Copenhagen area is relatively cheap considering the 3 zone ticket costs about 5€ . The airport for example is in zone 3 and the Greenground Map shouldn’t cover area past zone 5. The tickets are even cheaper with local travel card (you have to pay to get one). This option may be worth to explore if you’re planning to stay longer.

Copenhageners have around 42 m2 of public green space per person (this may have changed since this report was published), whereas in Paris this number is less than 10 m2! In any case Copenhagen residents have plenty of opportunities to get close to nature as you’re never further than 300 m from a park, waterway or coastline. With selection of free designated camping sites in Greater Copenhagen as well you can spend a night or two outdoors, if you are venturing out for a longer hike or biking trip.

For art and design lovers the Greenground Map also has a dedicated museum line as many are surrounded by greenery or are located near the waterways. Either you’re into contemporary art or more traditional folk art, you’ll find something to match your interest or just have a nice day out in cultural or historic surroundings. If you’re planning a day out with kids, they would love exploring a huge nature playground or play on a beach near an old military fort you can find from the map.

Crowing seems to be in the nature of the Copenhageners and you can find many growing sites in the city such as this remarkable neighbourhood of round allotments. But now the planting seems to have moved on rooftops, where creative growers have started new era of urban farms with accompanying restaurants to hang out with friends in the evenings. You can also find organic food in Copenhagen street markets, best places to eat & drink and people spot, if you need some fuel up for your long walks.

Copenhagen Greenground Map is now available in our shop!

Green network for walking and cycling

Greenground Maps are based on Google Maps directions.

Additional resources:
https://www.visitdenmark.com
https://www.visitcopenhagen.com
http://cyclingincopenhagen.com
https://thomasdambo.com/works/forgotten-giants/

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London Greenground Map – 2nd edition

3 min read
Greenground Maps – the first and second edition

The first paper edition of the London Greenground Map came out a year ago and included 380 parks & open spaces and 12 inspiring green lines for walking and cycling between parks. First map also included viewpoints, ferry piers and suggestions for outdoor activities such as kayaking, outdoor swimming and bird watching. This small pocket map got lot of media interest and people loved the concept – 1000 maps sold out by the beginning of this year.

The second edition of the London Greenground Map aims to keep the spirit of the first map, but expands the concept wider, now including twice as many parks in London to give more scope to explore. I’ve also included six more green & blue lines and an art line. The upgraded map is twice the size of the original map and printed on the recycled paper with sustainable inks, yet comes with the same price tag as the original.

Second edition includes several new interesting lines. Additionally to the official TFL and Ramblers’ LOOP line that appeared as an outer border on the first map, the new edition of the Greenground Map now also includes the highly requested Capital line, connecting the parks and open spaces of this popular walking path. And the LOOP is no longer the outer border – the map now breaks through the London Orbital, creating links with the countryside beyond.

Closeup of the map

In south the map now includes the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a section of North Downs Way from Box Hill to Sevenoaks. The Thames Downs line connects the Thames to the North Downs Way. The detailed directions can be viewed here. On the east the the two lines are connected by the Darent Valley line that runs from Dartford to Sevenoaks.

The Royal Line now extends up to Windsor taking in the famous Windsor Great Park and The Long Walk as well as few historic green spaces along the way such as Runnymede. Additionally to Darent the new river lines now also include Ravensbourne in South-East and Roding in North-East, both connecting Thames with LOOP line.

The Line – London’s first dedicated public art walk is now on the map as Art line, passing several parks and green spaces on the way. Starting from Queen Elizabeth Park it goes through the Three Mills Green and Cody Dock before crossing the Thames to Greenwich Peninsula. More detailed map with the artworks can be seen here.

Brompton Dock icons now point where to hire a Brompton bike for cycling between green spaces inside London or even for outdoor adventures further out in the countryside. The more detailed map with exact locations is here.

Second edition also includes city farms and this TimeOut article highlights some. I’ve also added icons for selected campsites around London for getting out to nature. Couple of outdoor bouldering sites make another interesting day out.

With twice as many green spaces, seven new lines and more outdoor activities to discover I hope the second map will be an inspiration for both existing and new London Greenground explorers 🤞

Tube style walking network

The second paper edition of the Greenground Map is now available in my store for £10 (postage included).

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Bristol Greenground Map – connecting parks and open spaces in and around Bristol

2 min read

Bristol map is the third map of the Greenground Map series and connects the parks and open spaces to inspire walks (and bike rides) inside and further out in the city. With 10 inspiring green lines and around 250 green spaces to explore, the map does not only include the inner Bristol, but expands to other areas such as coastal town Portishead as well as links to surrounding countryside; also including the Bristol and Bath railway Path – a walking and cycling path to neighbouring city Bath.

Bristol’s most famous and recognisable landmark is River Avon, which also becomes the first line on the map. River Avon Trail is also the most easiest line to navigate, running from Avonmouth to Bath. I’ve included two more river lines – Frome and Hazel Trym that offer nice walks along the riverbank, if not all the way then at least on some sections on the line. The Woody Line in the West of Bristol covers the leafiest area – Leigh Woods and Ashton Court as well as some of the nature preserves further away.

As Bristol is very creative city and the street art has become a very important scene over the past years I also included a Street Art line which includes some more nature inspired works. The Upfest festival location on North Street is one of the main areas to see murals such as One Love Coral Reef by Louis Masai or Cheeky Seagull near the Greville Smyth Park. Park murals also include Ollie Gillard’s nature murals in the Redcatch Park, a new St George Park mural and Eurasian Lynx by ATM near King’s Square.

Working on this map was an opportunity to take a walk down to memory lane, as I walked and cycled all over and up & down Bristol during my MA. I remember long walks to Bower Ashton from Bedminster on weekends and crossing the misty Avon on the bike on my way to work in the mornings. Although I know few of the routes covered on this map, there are many more I haven’t walked on and making this map has been truly mind expanding. I hope you enjoy using this map as much as I did making it!

15,000+ views/downloads so far!

Would like to support the development of Greenground Map project? Your donation will help these maps to grow! 🌱

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The first Edinburgh Greenground Map

3 min read

It’s been a while since my last post and I thought it’s about time I created something new! As the London Greenground Map has turned out to be my most successful project so far with 46,000 downloads and 500 paper maps sold up to now, I have decided to keep creating these schematic walking maps, which people like and I love making. So the next map in the Greenground series is another green capital – Edinburgh! 🏰⛰️

Edinburgh is much more compact than London and this map aims to connect most Edinburgh parks and open spaces and some further afield. I have not included Queensferry as I wanted to keep the diamond shape of the map, but I am open to all suggestions & comments to make this map spread wider in future versions. Right now it covers around 220 Edinburgh open spaces and has 9 creative green and blue lines.

Those who follow me on Twitter know I base my maps on Google Maps, which is great tool to work with, but is not always accurately showing all the green spaces. For Edinburgh map I also used Parks and Gardens list of Edinburgh Council to find smaller parks. Some of these parks do not come up on Google maps and can be located using this directory. The Muir line is based on John Muir Way and more detailed maps can be seen on their website.

Edinburgh is a very walkable city and also in a walking distance from the countryside. To show this I extended the lines to south up to Pentland Hills Regional Park, that’s only 6 miles away from the centre or 8 miles via scenic Water of Leith walking path. However walking and cycling from Edinburgh can be challenging due the bypass that divides Edinburgh & the great outdoors as well as numerous golf clubs that are green, but closed off from public.

The Edinburgh map is in chillier tones than London map, reflecting the cool northern vibe. I’ve only visited Edinburgh during low light autumn/winter season and I think it’s a beautiful quiet time of year to walk in the parks & by the seaside and follow the river paths on the bike. As we are heading to this season now I hope the map helps Edinburgh locals to get out and discover new green spaces during this winter. 🚶‍♀️🚴

For closer look see the PDF
5,000+ views/downloads so far!

Would like to support the development of Greenground Map project? Your donation will help these maps to grow! 🌱

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London Greenground map with distances

2 min read

The newest of London Greenground maps has more fluid lines, especially for Thames line that now follows the river more naturally, includes 100 more parks with 400 parks and open spaces total and as a new feature shows the walking distances between parks. I have also began to locate the green ways that are long linear parks usually by the waterway or railway tracks and sketched in some new suggestions for creative walking loops. 🚶‍♀️♾️

This diametrical map does not show the exact routes, but rather acts as a starting point in planning more precise journeys. The distance line lengths between parks and open spaces vary as the walking routes are not always straightforward and at times can be quite winding. This is why a mile on a map is represented with considerable difference. However I hope the map gives a larger scope for someone planning a green route in Greater London.

In most cases the distances are calculated from park centre to park centre and sometimes, especially with large parks, the walking distance between differs. For example Kensington and Hyde Park are next to each other and could be crossed over in minutes, but walking from centre to centre is a mile long route and takes considerably more time. As no one would be walking only to the edge of the park I thought centre distances would make more sense.

The loops and lines that make up the map are suggestions rather than fixed routes and the main intention of the map is to show London as one connected green network and encourage active movement between parks and along the waterways. Currently not all the London roads are quiet or safe because of traffic, but hopefully this will change soon when more people are becoming interested in active travel. 🚶‍♀️🚴‍♂️

For closer exploration see the PDF
70,000+ views/downloads so far!

Would like to support the development of Greenground Map? Your donation will help the map to grow! 🌱

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Greening São Paulo map for Geographical

2 min read

Last month I was commissioned to create a map for Geographical Magazine to illustrate a story of urban greening in Brazil featured in their December issue. The editor Paul Presley requested for an area map of Minhocão – the highway planned to be converted into a park, but otherwise I didn’t have lot of information to begin with. So I took some time to read about the project, although the timeline was tight and came up with a flat map featuring an ‘elevated’ highway that has gone through a green transformation.

I highlighted the green areas in the neighbourhood and ‘closed off’ the 3 km stretch of highway to cars by adding pedestrian and cycling lane with icons. I also added extra foliage, seating and shades as well as new access points such as elevators. Although the area map is based on real map, the illustration is theoretical and does not reflect the real conditions and plans, but I very much hope it helps to reimagine the motorway as green space that is open for sustainable walking and cycling.

Lottie Watters’ article is a fascinating and critical view of what becomes of the area after it has been greened. She draws comparisons with High Line at New York and Rambla de Sants in Barcelona as well as notes the doubt and mixed feelings in community – it’s a story definitely worth to read for anyone interested in the effects of urban greening. Through working on an infographic map to illustrate her writing I personally have learned a lot of the area I beforehand was not familiar with.

Perhaps one day I have an opportunity to visit and see if the project turned out as I imagined it. 🤞

Greening the ‘Big Worm’ is an article by Lottie Watters in this month’s Geographical Magazine, December 2019

Illustrative map of Greening the Minhocão on the left
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Greenground Map in Forbes article of London National Park City

< 1 min read

Forbes article of What Is London’s National City Park Status And Which Other Cities Will Follow? is a story of London’s journey of becoming a National Park City and the people and ideas behind it. I was very happy to see it also features the Greenground map alongside the Urban Good‘s official National Park City map.

The author, Alex Ledsom, covers the Greenground Map’s concept later in the article.

A key part of the campaign has been to restyle London as a green city in the maps its residents and tourists use every day. The Greenground Map by Helen Ilus follows the layout of the iconic London tube map but it links green spaces instead of transport hubs. It is hoped it will encourage sustainable and healthy commutes around London by linking its green spaces, paths and cycle routes. The map also includes kayaking routes and birdwatching spots. 

Forbes

I love Alex’s quote of restyling London as a green city through maps. This shows sometimes we do not need a lot to make a change – we just need new eyes to see things differently!

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The Greenground Map on National Park City website

< 1 min read

Last week saw London becoming National Park City with various events taking place around London, including opening ceremony in London City Hall as well as the launch of National Park City ‘Maker’, 64 pages paper the guys at National Park City have worked very hard for last months. The Greenground map gets a mention on the online post as supplement idea to enjoy!

Furthermore the Greenground Map is now displayed on National Park City website alongside with the amazing Urban Good’s National Park City Map and Kabir Kaul’s Nature Reserves of London. The post includes short description of the project and some ideas for further development. I especially like the ‘Explore’ button on homepage.. this is what this experimental map is all about 🙂

Read about Greenground map on London National Park City website