Hannah Parry: How to Adventure in London
My boots slipped and slid in the soft mud as I held out my arms for balance. The footpath rose steadily uphill in front of me with thick undergrowth on either side - white snow lay in patches where the now bright daylight had failed to reach. The path widened and suddenly I was dazzled by the low, winter sun. A frozen pond, a memorial stone and some surprised ducks greeted me at the top. Navigating the edge of the pond led me to an ideal lunchtime bench where I unpacked my picnic with a magnificent view of this area’s most famous landmark: Wembley Stadium.
You don’t have to have a big budget and a week off to have an adventure. I love global travel but I am a Londoner, and I keep returning to this huge metropolis on a regular basis. But that doesn’t mean I stop adventuring. You can adventure in this urban sprawl in a variety of ways, allowing you to see the city from a different perspective, explore unknown areas and get outdoors and active. Read on for my favourite ways to be adventurous in London!
I found my view of Wembley Stadium from atop Barn Hill on Section 11 of the Capital Ring - a 78 mile route around London, exploring some of the greenest parts of the city. It’s divided into 15 sections, each of about 10 km (6 miles) with very detailed instructions (transport, toilets, refreshments) and directions. The whole route is also sign-posted so there’s no chance of getting lost! What I like about it, is not only exploring the green areas, but also walking down residential roads and along high streets, experiencing parts of London that I’d not have cause to visit otherwise. 10 km would take the average walker less than 3 hours and all sections start and end at TFL stations. Lace up your boots and start exploring, all for the cost of your Oyster journey. You can print off your own completion certificate when you’ve done every section too.
If you’ve ever been to London then you’ve walked some of the Thames Path without realising it. One of the UK National Trails, the Thames Path runs from the great river’s source in the Cotswolds for 184 miles to the Thames Barrier at Greenwich. In central London you can stroll along the South Bank, past the London Eye and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Slightly further out and the path changes character, with gravelly trails replacing the concrete paving slabs, and peaceful marinas supplanting the sky-scrapers and office blocks. My part of the Thames Path is west of Putney Bridge. Running, cycling, strolling and hiking on both the north and south banks of the river are a frequent pastime of mine. The river is always changing so I never get bored. There’s an array of wildlife and rowers to keep me entertained. And it’s perfect for those long runs - starting off on one bank and crossing over for the return keeps things interesting and there’s easy access to Richmond and Gunnersbury Parks. Why not come and explore my neighbourhood? Take the tube to Kew Bridge or Hammersmith and start adventuring. (Pssst, don’t forget to refresh at one of the numerous riverside pubs!).
Kayaking on the Thames
Old Father Thames - it’s vast murky depths fascinate me. What better way to get to know London’s lifesource than from the water’s surface. The conditions can be rough, the river still provides transport routes to vast freight ships and fast ferries which create waves over a metre high. The tide is challenging too. High tide and low tide can see a change of up to three metres water height, with strong and unpredictable currents. Still interested? You need to join a club. Kayaking and canoe clubs operate the length of the Thames. I’ve had the pleasure of paddling with both Tower Hamlets and Edge Progressive Paddling based in Brentford Clubs like these are run by volunteer coaches who have expert knowledge about their patch, from following rules in Westminster to navigating the river islands and planning round the tides. Both of these clubs offer a huge range of activities - sheltered water training, white water trips to Devon and Wales, sea kayaking abroad, pool sessions in the winter but most importantly, a chance to know the river, make new friends and get outside and active.
Adventure doesn’t have to mean in the wilderness. Exploring your neighbourhood in new ways - whether that’s on foot, cycling or from the water - makes London a continually interesting place, with the added bonus of a well earned pint never far away at the end of the day.