Wherever you are in London the Regents Canal is never too far. On a crisp autumn day, especially in the morning when the water is so calm there is no nicer way to travel then a walk along here. The east side is my favourite with many snack bars and coffee hubs where you can sit and watch the Hackney posse rock about. Better yet are the charming houseboats that are docked up, especially towards trendy Broadway market which have taken to selling goods and sometimes even having live music. Take bread to feed the ducks and enjoy a piece of real London living.
The best place to start is the opening near Angel tube and the Canal can take you all the way to Victoria park.
A walk along Buckinghamshire's Chess river, through ancient forests, past water meadows, and through fields teeming with wild flowers, lined by cob nut trees and blackberry bushes, is a wonderful way to clear the smog from your brain.
Best of all, it's accessible on the Metropolitan tube line and a round trip will cost all of £7. En route, the Cock Inn at Sarratt and the Rose & Crown at Chorleywood make splendid stopping off points for sustenance and liquid refreshment. We passed a watercress farm too, and a huge bunch of freshly-harvested greens cost £1.50 and tasted a hundred times better than the stuff from the supermarket.
Take the Metropolitan Line from Baker Street or Marylebone Station to Chalfont & Latimer. Follow the river walk along the Chess river to Chorleywood village.
Chorleywood is on the Metropolitan tube line also.
The walk is about 7km.
Chorleywood Common, Chorleywood, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, WD3 5LW
Google map: bit.ly/reCtPs
Church End, Church Lane, Sarratt, Herts WD3 6HH
Google map: bit.ly/nI5yiW
Nunhead Cemetery is one of the best places for a stroll in southeast London.
It's one of the least known, but most attractive, of the great Victorian cemeteries of London. Consecrated in 1840, it is one of the seven Victorian cemeteries established in a ring around the outskirts of London.
Some parts of the cemetery have been renovated in recent years, and the paths are well-maintained and the ruined yet elegant Anglican chapel sensitively preserved. However, there are also wild parts, with overgrown secret trails, romantic areas, spooky tombstones, beautiful trees, abundant wildlife and crumbling Gothic architecture to discover. It's a lovely place for a Sunday stroll and photo opportunities abound.
The Brockley Footpath, leading between the walled border of the cemetery and the covered reservoirs, is a strenuous workout, leading steeply uphill, but I wouldn't undertake it at night.
Nunhead Cemetery North Gate
Linden Grove, SE15 3LP
Google map: bit.ly/gfDp1e
Nearest overground railway station: Nunhead
Sydenham Hill Woods is a lovely area of woodland for walking in. It's quiet and peaceful, even on the weekend, and popular with dog-walkers and young families. It's big enough that you're not endlessly coming up against fences with roads on the other side of them, yet small enough that you can't get lost there. It's also the most pleasant way to get from Forest Hill to East Dulwich and when you do get to the Dulwich side, there is a marvellous area of pretty allotments to wander around, from which you may take in 'the best view of London in London'.
From the Forest Hill end, it's about a ten minute walk from the train station. The 185 and 176 buses also stop nearby.
From St. Katharine's Dock, opposite the Tower of London, there's a nice walk to Tobacco Dock or even further, to the Shadwell Basin. For the curious, it's a good way of seeing Thomas Telford's London, and appreciate London's industrial and naval past. Passing behind houses, along a sunken canal, you usually see joggers and people out for a walk. It's a shame Tobacco Docks are closed now, but the 'pirate ships' outside are worth seeing.
From here, carry on to the peaceful Shadwell Basin; turn left to join Cable Street; or turn right and follow the Thames back to Tower Bridge. The streets around Wapping are especially intriguing, and there's a really good Italian restaurant (Il Bordello) on Wapping High Street. If you're not sure of where you are, you can always retrace your steps and the canal will take you back to St. Katharine's Docks.
From the Tower Hotel at St. Katharine's Dock (nearest tube station: Tower Hill), cross the footbridge and join St. Katharine's Way. At roundabout, cross road to reach small reservoir. Down steps and under bridge to join canal. Follow, and just after pirate ships, turn right on Wapping Lane. At the river, turn left onto Wapping High Street. Continue and this will take you back to the roundabout, where you cross over to get back to St. Katharine's Dock.
...walking along Southbank is one of the most beautiful ways to see various sites of London.
Starting from the London Eye, overlooking the Thames, Houses Parliament and Big Ben.
The Royal Festival Hall in particular, is an excellent meeting spot and place to chill... sometimes you get art or music for free in the foyer :) and there's a cafe and bar for refreshments!
There are plenty of tourist-friendly/child-friendly restaurants around here, big chains such as: Waggamama, Strada, Giraffe, also a pretty big "eat" (with great sandwiches, juices etc,.) a bookshop and music shop too... plus a regular book market outside the BFI, in the summer various free events outside, well worth checking out this area and just walking, walking, walking...
Prancing around London in the middle of the night with a bunch of old men in fancy dress. No, this is not some kind of post-modern theatre, but an ancient ritual which has taken place pretty much every night for the past 700 years in this great old city. The Ceremony of the Keys involves an ornate and complex set of rituals to ensure that the Tower of London is locked up good and proper. At exactly seven minutes to 10 o'clock each and every night the Chief Warder in his regal red coat and somewhat bonkers Tudor bonnet, carrying the Queen's Key and a giant lantern, marches around the perimeter of the Tower of London locking up the gates, accompanied by Foot Guards, sentries and various other characters straight out of the history books.
Complete with archaic greetings, a bugler and the best costumes you're ever likely to see. Having lived in London all my life, I can honestly say that I've never spent such a magical and unforgettable 10 minutes in London and urge everyone to accompany the procession at least once. It's free, but to go along you need to go through the hassle of writing a letter (no emails of course!) -
Tower of London
For more information visit their website here: www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/WhatsOn/ceremonyofthekeys.aspx.
Lurking in the hinterland that is Hack-Hack-Hackney, this little bit of east has most definitely missed out on the regeneration, but it's also missed out on the outlaw years of estates, grime and crime. It's a beautiful spot offering tranquillity amongst the sprawl, where you can stroll along the river, watch the wildlife scuttle by, catch a real odd (but truly unique) pint at the Hope and Anchor, or pick up a fry-up at the cafe opposite Lea Valley Marina. Beautiful, chilled and totally hidden.
The Little Angel Theatre is a marionette (or puppet) theatre. It's a little gem hidden away in Islington behind the bustle of Upper Street and Essex Road. It's a tiny building on Dagmar Passage.
The puppet masters are just that - masters of their art. I used to go with a friend and we were often the only adults there without children, but many shows have two levels of interpretation and you certainly don't have to be a child to enjoy them.
Before or after the show have a stroll along the New River Walk, running between Canonbury (The Marquess Estate) and the Angel. It's a lovely linear park based around the river that used to bring water to London from the country. It's beautifully peaceful, and there are ducks to watch (or feed) and benches to sit and contemplate. You could do a round walk down the park and back up Upper Street to Highbury and Islington tube and get the best of shops, cafe, theatre and park for a day's entertainment.
14 Dagmar Passage, off Cross Street, London N1 2DN
Highbury and Islington or Angel tube
020 7226 1787 (Box Office)
020 7359 8581 (Admin)
I'm definitely more of an urban type and enjoy a regular matinee screening at the Barbican cinema followed by noodles in Smithfield.
Sometimes though, I enjoy a trip to Harrow-on-the-Hill, especially in the autumn.
My partner, who lives there, gave me a guided tour one weekend. We strolled upwards about 10 minutes from the tube (Metropolitan Line), past the famous Harrow school, to St Mary's Church on Church Hill. The atmospheric churchyard is where Lord Byron sought inspiration. We cut down a dark passage through the trees leading from the gravestones into an open area which had amazing views across London.
Another short walk back to the church and down the High Street and we were at The Castle Inn pub. We had lunch on the lovely garden terrace, where some windfall apples had fallen on the ground around our feet.
Castle Inn pub on 30 West Street (020 8422 3155)
The hidden gem that is the Regent's Canal goes from Angel right out to Limehouse.
The western end of the canal gives you Camden and Little Venice... the eastern end gives you London's industrial heritage, the amazing Victoria Park, Bow, a quick detour for the Colombia Road flower market on a Sunday and Broadway Market on a Saturday.
But now I'm having second thoughts about posting this because it's a rare treat and we don't want too many people bounding down the tow path...
Angel Tube, then turn down the street next to The York pub. Walk as far as you want...
It is often quicker to walk from one place to another than sit in a traffic jam in a taxi. It is healthier too. Avoid crowded shopping streets in favour of almost deserted side streets which run in parallel, eg. Wigmore St rather than Oxford St.
There is a fantasic amount of interesting history around Shakespeare, brothels, bear bating pits and pubs along this stretch of river. I recently downloaded an audio guide for my mp3 player from a website at www.podguides.co.uk. Really good intersting walk recorded by a proper Blue Badge guide.
The Regents Canal, once one of Britain's busiest commercial routes, is now an informative walk through widely differing areas. The towpath takes in Limehouse, Islington, Kings Cross, Camden, Regents Park and finally Little Venice near Paddington. Camden Lock is an ideal stop off for some shopping in the local market and a snack or drink.
Primrose Hill is an easy detour north for views over London and, passing through the north of Regents Park, if you time it right you can take in the feeding of the hyenas as you walk right through the middle of London zoo.
Start at Kings Cross by turning left and walking behind the station on York Way until the canal crosses you. Paddington station is close to Little Venice, where two canals meet.
Situated on a hill in one of the nicest parts of London is the Royal Observatory. I like it because of the view across the Thames (fantastic and free); it’s not jammed in like lots of things in London (the Aussie in me wants big spaces) and for something different, you can stand in both halves of the world at the same time . How so? By straddling the line at 0 degrees longitude at the Observatory ( which means, you stand in two hemispheres at once).
The National Maritime Museum is close by (at the bottom of the hill, on the edge of the park) and is also worth a look, as is the Queen’s House. The Observatory is part of the Greenwich World Heritage site.
Greenwich Park, London;
Access from Greenwich station is best (carparking is limited);
Royal Observatory and National Maritime Museum: www.rog.nmm.ac.uk
Greenwich Park: www.royalparks.gov.uk/parks/greenwich_park/
The Thames Path is a national trail walking route along the length of the Thames - from the source to the mouth - which of course means it runs right through the heart of London. It's a great route, and gives you a flavour of the variety that there is in London, just by going a few miles along it. You could be in Kew then Putney or by the Houses of Parliament then the Tate Modern. If you are a bit more adventurous you will find yourself up close and personal with Canary Wharf and then the amazing Thames Barrier.
Sunday flower market, good for buying fresh flowers and plants, but also great just to walk about. Plenty of cafes and shops to poke about in too, and within walking distance of Brick Lane (for a curry) or Kingsland Road (for Vietnamese).
Columbia Road, Hackney E2
If you are bored with the hum drum that is wally world take the time on a Sunday to discover Spitalfields Market. Home to London's student fashion designers you may discover the new Stella McCarthy... Or come across the perfect retro furniture in the many 2nd hand shops.
Here you'll also find the most authentic Spanish Tapas, hams hanging from the ceiling and saw dust on the floor, bar in London.
Via a short walk through the bustling Brick Lane you will come across Columbia Road Flower market. An oasis amongst Tower Hamlets, it is great fun to get tangled up amongst the tree ferns and orchids. Possibly a perfect Sunday for those that love London.
Start at the Angel tube and walk north-ish around Barnsbury, where Tony Blair used to live, or along Upper Street to Highbury Field. Check out Lonsdale Square off Liverpool Road and Canonbury Square to the east of Upper Street. Beautiful and very real residential London - not too rough and not too polished.
N1, N7, N5
Angel tube station is on the Northern line. Highbury and Islington tube station is on the Victoria line.
You can spend a whole afternoon walking between Higbury and Islington and Angel tube stations. There are so many gorgeous boutiques and cafes. My recommendations for places to eat are Le Mercury (number 140a) for gorgeous French home cooking where all main courses are less than £7 and all starters are around £3.50 and the wonderful delicatessen Ottolenghi (number 287) which has the most mouthwatering window display with mounds of chocolate and raspberry meringues!
Then there's the shopping. Upper Street is perfect for Christmas present shopping as so many of its shops are crammed with "ooh, she'd love one of those" trinkets. There's After Noah at number 121 selling vintage telephones and wall clocks alongside unique pieces of jewellery and children's toys. Oliver Bonas at 147-148 has more of the same with a small selection of pretty outfits. Aria at 295-297 has some scrummy handbags and its interiors shop opposite sells furniture fit for a penthouse apartment.
On Sundays there is also a small but very good Farmers' Market behind the Town Hall and the independent cinema The Screen on the Green (number 83) is a great place to catch the latest arty flick.
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