Winter wanders - find a local walk
Wild places and green spaces abound pretty much wherever you live - as outdoor adventurer Ian Finch demonstrates by highlighting some stunning walks around London.
Imagine of the star of a compass over London. Beneath its declination marks and arrows, four corners press against the twisting pavements, financial districts, cathedrals and theatres.
Underneath its historic streets, legions of workers and tourists travel on the subterranean systems on their daily commute. As we expand from London’s heart in all directions iconic skyscrapers give way to urban areas, contoured parks and culturally diverse markets.
Nestled amongst these urban sprawls and villages are London’s wild places and green spaces.
These are areas of rich natural habitats, of dense forests and abundant wildlife. There are numerous woodland trails waiting to be discovered amongst 10 to 2000-acre parks all under the varied mosaics of rare birds and small mammals. Imagine if you will, the compass. It’s reaching arms stretch north, south, east and west. Under those very arrows are the most beautiful and accessible winter walks the capital has to offer...
• North - Highgate Wood
Set in 70 acres of ancient dense woodland Highgate Wood is the little sister to the grandiose and rugged Hampstead Heath.
Enter the small trailhead at Cranley gate to the northwestern end. Follow the well-trodden path as it loops unhurriedly into the heart of the wood.
Stop by the beautiful wildlife hut packed with photos and art while sipping on a latte from the café.
Continue on the trail to the northern tip and follow it back to Cranley gate. Expect to jump streams and walk to the sound of woodpeckers drumming on this relatively short winter wander.
• West/Central - Thames River
As the iconic river snakes its way 180 miles from a meadow in Gloucestershire to London it flows through some truly beautiful and isolated terrain.
As it approaches London an unforgettable stretch begins at Hampton Court Palace, passing through Eel Pie Island and into Richmond.
To get a panoramic of the river's western entrance route, climb the hill and sit in awe.
Back down on the river you’ll pass the fragrant notes of Kew Gardens and the sight of endless riverboat homes.
The degree of this walk depends on your ability to keep strolling towards the nation's capital.
• Central/East - Regent's Canal
At 14km The Regent's Canal walk is one of London’s best-kept secrets.
Stretching from its source at the Grand Union Canal Paddington the 180-year-old river way spills into the Thames near the Limehouse basin.
Its peaceful and unbroken route is a breath of fresh air and gives a new perspective to some of London best-known areas while offering a chance to see a side to the capital most people miss.
• South – The Tamsin Trail
Richmond Park is a firm favorite. A place that at times feels so rugged and beautiful words can’t do it justice. As a site of special scientific interest it’s a place of great historic and wildlife importance.
The Tamsin Trail is a man made walking trail that reaches to the far corners of the park, leaving the interior wild and untouched.
Walking at a steady rate the route should take 2.5 hours. As with any trail, discovery is rarely found on the expected path.
An hour west outside London, the Chilterns are forever a place in my heart and an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Covering over 300 square miles the many diverse walking trails spread across the rolling chalk valleys like a spider's web. A favourite route starts in Wendover village, where the Chilterns reach their highest point.
Follow the small, steep national trail, past ancient beech woods and wild flowers, to the top of Coombe Hill for staggering views across the Aylesbury Vale. Keep an eye out for the Prime Minister's country residence, Chequers, from atop this weather-smoothed chalked feature.