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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.
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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.
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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)