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Walthamstow wetlands - Time out nature feature
Photograph: Andy Parsons

Three writers share their favourite London walks

Inspiration for fresh winter walks this new year

By Time Out London contributors

Have you looped your local park more times than you ever thought possible? Yeah, same. We asked three writers to reveal the walk they love the most in the city – whether for its views, terrains or sentimental value. Their replies will get you excited about pounding London’s streets again. 

Blythe Hill to the Horniman

When I was a child, I split my time fairly evenly between my gran’s ground-floor flat on Faversham Road and my mum’s basement flat in the heart of Forest Hill, a couple of hundred yards from the half-demented Victorian opulence of the Horniman Gardens. It’s about a mile and a half from one point to the other, and there are two ways to do it: the flatly utilitarian option of following Stanstead Road; or the route that snakes from Blythe Hill Fields in the Catford borderlands, all the way up through Honor Oak, and lets you arrive by stealth at the carefully manicured greenery in Forest Hill.

The first is for the daily grind – a choke of South Circular traffic and sparsely stocked cornershops. The second is more suited to reflection. It’s a route I still take about once a month, when the weather’s good and my day’s clear. From Blythe Hill, the eastern skyline opens up to reveal the slightly dated skyscraper impositions in the City, a view that Gran never really took to. Certainly, it lacks the spectacle you’ll be granted at the Horniman, but the older I get, the more I appreciate its subtler charms.

The last time we were there it was 2006 and she was frail, with the end nearer than any of us knew. We walked arm in arm, almost in silence, before alighting on a bench to take in the afternoon sun. We sat for a while, gazing out on nothing much, before turning back into our days. Weird, the routes that stick with you. Francisco Garcia

Little Portugal to the South Bank

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I’ve always been fond of long walks. When I was a broke postgrad, it was often my only option for getting around the city. And when I finished university in 2015, I started heading to work on foot. I wanted to add some exercise to my days of sitting at a desk, but cycling seemed too daunting and running on my lunch break was far too ambitious – pounding the pavement felt like the perfect solution. Now, one of my most-loved walks is actually an old commute of mine.

I’d start in Stockwell and head through Vauxhall and along the Thames until I reached the bustling South Bank. It was a solid hour I had to be alone, to listen to podcasts and to clear my mind in preparation for the day ahead. All while looking out at the glittering reflections of the Thames. On days when I had more time, I’d choose the scenic route, taking a left down South Lambeth Road through Little Portugal (a perfect place to stop for tasty natas) until I reached Vauxhall Gardens. There’s a beautiful hidden lavender garden there and it’s especially magical in late spring when the flowers are in full bloom.

Although it’s not my commute any more, the walk from south to central is still one I enjoy. Ambling along the Albert Embankment reminds me of watching New Year’s Eve fireworks with my mum. Even when I near the London Eye, and my path becomes dense with tourists, it makes for an opportunity to people-watch. Niellah Arboine

Walthamstow to Vicky Park

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I’m a reluctant Londoner. Spend too long here and I start hearing the siren call of cow poo and wet moors. So pretty soon after relocating to Walthamstow, I tried to find out where it was possible to do the all-weathers activity that characterised my childhood in the South West: going for a walk. My friend suggested we try the newly opened Walthamstow Wetlands, then head down to Hackney Marshes and the Olympic Park, and finish with Victoria Park.

It was early December and she was dressed like a city dog-walker. I was dressed to tackle Snowdonia. Why? No idea. My outfit proved unnecessary because, despite the name, Hackney Marshes is not especially marshlike and Walthamstow Wetlands (unless you fall into a reservoir) is not all that wet. This is a good thing, as it means you spend less time concentrating on retrieving your wellies and more time admiring the scenery.

The beauty of this route is that it combines a good dose of nature with a great swoosh of ever-changing London geography. You can see coots, herons, cormorants and gulls on the waters, while Alexandra Palace can be sketchily made out from the viewing platform in the old Coppermill Tower. Rosemary Waugh

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