It is the season for blustery walks and warming pub pitstops.
So, lace up your boots — here’s where to escape the concrete jungle, without straying far from the city.
Lea Valley Walk
Tottenham Lock to Bromley-by-Bow
How long: Around 6 miles and 2 hours
Route: The Lea Valley walk is an 18-mile stretch along the River Lea running from Waltham Abbey and the Thames at Limehouse Basin. Begin at Tottenham Lock veering off the towpath slightly to detour through the serene Walthamstow Wetlands (pictured above) London’s largest urban wetland nature reserve and home to countless wildlife species.
Continue towards the Hackney Marshes and Olympic Park (which will be on your left) ending at Bromley-by-Bow. If you fancy a mooch around Victoria Park, turn right a little earlier at Hackney Wick. The route is signposted with swan symbols.
USP: One of the few spots in north-east London where you may catch sight of casual grazing cows.
Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace
How long: Around 3 miles and 1 hour
Route: The Parkland Walk is a linear park that follows the abandoned railway line that connected Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace. It’s split into two parts, the north section runs between Cranley Gardens and Muswell Hill, while the larger section, Parkland Walk South, connects Highgate and Finsbury Park — take the scenic route via Queens Wood and Highgate Wood to get between the two.
USP: Marvel at the abundant flora — over 300 kinds of wild flowers have been found along the route — and look out for hedgehogs, foxes and butterflies.
Hampstead Heath Circular
How long: Around 6.5 miles and 2 hours
Route: The Hampstead Heath loop starts and finishes at Hampstead station, hitting up all of the Heath’s highlights, including the steep ascent up Parliament Hill and rewarding iconic views of London, taking you past the Hampstead and Highgate Ponds, Kenwood House and Jack Straw’s Castle.
USP: Set on 791 acres of stunning meadows and woodland, Hampstead Heath is a sanctuary for most Londoners needing to escape urban stresses.
The Wandle Trail
Wandsworth to Croydon
How long: Around 12.5 miles and 4 hours
Route: Make a day of it and take on the Wandle Trail, a popular walking and cycling route that winds along the River Wandle in south-west London from the River Thames at Wandsworth to Croydon.
USP: The River Wandle has a rich industrial history, more than 90 waterwheels — also fittingly the trail’s logo — are thought to have operated along its tree-lined banks, powering mills and workshops producing copper, iron, tobacco and textiles.
Richmond to Ham House
How long: Around 4.5 miles and 1.5 hours
Route: Starting at Richmond station, this hike leads you through Richmond Park to the viewpoint at King Henry’s Mound, one of the highest places in London and where, on a clear day, you can see St Paul’s Cathedral. Continue on to Ham Avenues and Ham House — a 17th-century National Trust building with pretty gardens (worth a visit once you’re allowed).
USP: With 630 red and fallow deer roaming freely in the grassland habitat, Richmond Park is a fantastic spot for deer spotting. Autumn is rutting season, when the red stags and fallow bucks compete for females — just remember to keep your distance.
Green Chain Walk
Bostall Woods to Oxleas Meadows
How long: Around 3 miles and 1 hour
Route: Over in south-east London, the Green Chain walk takes you through dozens of woods and parkland beginning in Thamesmead and finishing at Nunhead Cemetery. There are 11 sections of the walk, which spans 50 miles and is signposted with the G-C logo. Take the stretch between Bostall Woods which passes through the open grassland at East Wickham with its abundant bird and plant species and on to Oxleas Wood.
USP: The soothing ancient forest at Oxleas Wood, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, is home to oak trees, silver birch, hornbeam and coppice hazel.