Written by Dalia Dawood
Brrr… the days are dark, temperatures have plummeted, and we’re all wearing five extra layers just to go outside – winter has landed in London, that’s for sure! While it might be tempting to stay indoors with a warm blanket and ditch the exercise routine altogether, the cold weather doesn’t necessarily mean your fitness regime has to freeze too.
If you’ve put on a few festive pounds (who hasn’t?), now is the best time to brave the elements and try some outdoor activities that’ll keep you trim. Forget the gym, 2018 is all about enjoying the lush green spaces London has to offer. So strap on a pair of sturdy walking boots and embrace the fresh air with our off-duty outdoor walks guide…
JOIN A LOCAL WALKING GROUP
For most people, hiking in London probably consists of tunnelling through the tube corridors at full speed while battling for a space on a packed train carriage. But for outdoor lovers, there’s plenty of local hiking groups where you can get together and ramble through the city’s many idyllic green spots. According to surveyed habitat information, did you know that a whopping 47% of Greater London is green, while 33% of the city is vegetated green space? So you really are spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding on a winter walk route.
It may go dark earlier these days, but you can always join a walking group if you want to enjoy a hit of seasonal exercise while staying safe and visible. Among London’s local groups is Blackheath Ramblers, a close-knit group based in South East London that regularly organises expert-led walks. Short rambles in London mainly take place in the Greenwich and Lewisham areas – these are the home boroughs of many members as well. They also enjoy longer hikes through the stunning countryside that surrounds the city, including Kent, Surrey and Sussex. Links to upcoming walks and full details can be found on their website: www.blackheathramblers.org.uk.
The Southbank Ramblers, mostly based in the Lambeth and Southwark boroughs, is another group whose love for walking has taken them to picturesque locations in the South East of England, as well as London. For a small fee you can become a member of the Ramblers Association and join in with group activities, but there’s walks available for non-members too – check out www.southbankramblers.org.uk for more info.
Both of these hiking communities are among the nine groups that form part of Inner London Ramblers, a charity dedicated to looking after London’s green spaces by organising communal walks. Another exciting London-based group are the Metropolitan Walkers, who often host night-time walks. From short rambles around the city to healthy hikes of up to 17 miles, don’t worry, there’ll be plenty of pit-stops at a selection of cosy pubs along the way. With this group, there’s also the option to take a mid-week evening stroll… perfect for winding down after a long day at work.
DISCOVER SOUTH LONDON ON FOOT WITH THE GREEN CHAIN WALK
If you want to explore South Eastern sights and scenery while boosting your health this winter, there’s no better way than via The Green Chain Walk. Stretching from Thamesmead down to Nunhead Cemetery, The Green Chain Walk is a network of more than 300 open spaces in South East London and features a diverse patchwork of greenery just waiting to be discovered. From ancient woodlands and wild nature reserves to parks and golf courses, you’ll find it all here.
The Green Chain Walk spans an impressive 50 miles, so you wouldn’t be expected to complete it all in a single day! Most people do this walk in smaller doses, and the path is conveniently linked via nearby train stations. Split into 11 sections, you won’t find many other walks in the area that cover so many spectacular sights. You’ll pass the 18th century Gothic folly of Severndroog Castle, spot the Art Deco glamour of Eltham Palace, go birdwatching among fishermen boats at Southmere, marvel at the amazing wildlife – and there’s even dinosaurs to see at Crystal Palace Park! It’s a truly unique and visual way to soak up the rich culture and heritage this understated section of London has to offer.
The best bit? You can take part for free in your own time. Discover guides on how to cover the route’s 11 sections on The Green Chain website: www. greenchain.com and download handy maps and travel information via Transport for London: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/walking/green-chain-walk.
You’ll soon feel fitter and forget about the cold weather with all the fun to be had this wintertime. Now get those feet moving!