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White chalk cliffs and aerial view of the Beachy Head Lighthouse, Eastbourne, East Sussex, England

The best walks near London

From seaside strolls along white cliffs to beautiful woodland treks, here are the best walks within easy reach of London

By Claire Webb and Ellie Walker-Arnott
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UPDATED MAY 2020. PLEASE NOTE: Facilities and businesses in the towns and villages we mention will be closed at the moment. Government advice is to avoid public transport so don’t travel by train. Please be mindful of the people who live locally both in the countryside and in the small towns these routes pass, check whether car parks are open before you set off and adhere to social distancing guidelines on your walks. 

For those of us who have been lucky enough to be able to leave the house, our daily lockdown walks have become joyous, freeing adventures – even if we've only strolled up the road. Before this, Londoners were already getting into walking – it’s fun, it’s free and it boosts mental as well as physical health! – but now we’re committed. 

There are plenty of pretty walks in London, but with new government guidance telling us that driving out of the city for a walk in the countryside is now allowed, we’ve got our sights set on these stunning routes that are a little further afield. In the coming weeks and months, you can blow out the lockdown cobwebs with a seaside stroll along the white cliffs of the Seven Sisters, or head inland for a country ramble through the stunning ancient woodland of Epping Forest. Dust off your boots and take a hike with one of these brilliant countryside walks near London. 

RECOMMENDED: The best walks in and around London

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The best walks near London

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AT_riverthames_sourcetosea_towerbridgeexhibition_2010press_CREDIT_Pangbourne by Adrian Warren and Dae Sasitorn.jpg
Adrian Warren and Dae Sasitorn

Goring Gap and the Thames Path

Length: 5 miles
Start: Goring  
End: Pangbourne

If you’re in the mood for a gentle rural amble, this stretch of the 184-mile Thames Path is far from boring. It starts in the pretty Oxfordshire village of Goring, where the Thames Valley is squeezed to its narrowest point by the Berkshire Downs and tree-blanketed Chilterns. The footpath (waymarked with acorn symbols) follows the curve of the river as it flows south, winding past wildflower meadows, woods and the Hartslock Nature Reserve, which is home to red kites and rare orchids. 

Read more here.

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Epping Forest bluebells
Flickr / chiron3636

Epping Forest's Oak Trail

Length: 6.6 miles
Start and end: near Theydon Bois station 

Get lost in ancient woods just outside the city. Marked sporadically with green-labelled posts, Essex’s Oak Trail takes walkers across the M25 towards 6,000-acre Epping Forest’s secluded northern realms, where gnarled beeches have grown massive crowns. You also pass a deer sanctuary and Iron Age earthworks – legend has it that Boudicca battled the Romans here. It’s a thoroughly lovely ramble. 

Read more here.

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Box Hill - best day trips from London 2018

Box Hill

Length: 6.8 miles
Starts and ends: near Box Hill and Westhumble station

Admire this famous beauty spot’s glorious views, then head off on Juniper Top and Bottom. First you’ve got to hop across the River Mole’s 17 stepping stones and climb 272 steps to the top of Box Hill, where the trail begins. The endorphins are definitely pumping by the time you reach Juniper Bottom – maybe that’s how it got the nickname “Happy Valley”.

Read more here

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The Chilterns

Chess Valley in the Chilterns

Length: 9.9 miles
Start: Chorleywood 
End: Chesham

As far as we know, Chess Valley in the Chiltern Hills isn’t home to any chess masters, but it did used to produce a lot of watercress, fed by its sparkling chalk stream. This bucolic walk follows the river, wending through rolling meadows, woods carpeted in dainty yellow celandines, and the chocolate-box villages of Latimer and Chenies (which has had several cameos in Midsomer Murders).

Read more here

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5
hang gliding, devil's dyke

Sussex’s Devil’s Dyke

Length: 10.1 miles
Start: Hassocks 
End: Upper Beeding

Join the kite-flyers and hang gliders and marvel at the view from Devil’s Dyke – arguably the finest in the South East. You’ll appreciate it all the more after walking up three steep hills to get there on this spectacular stage of the 109-mile South Downs Way (which has an awful lot of ups, too). It passes through pretty, National Trust-owned Saddlescombe Farm. 

Read more here

6
Group walking the South Downs Way, Sussex

A South Downs ridge and Seaford Head

Length: 14.3 miles
Start: Glynde
End: Seaford

If you’ve already done the classic Seven Sisters clifftop walk (see below) or can’t face all those hills, this is a long but lovely alternative. Largely following the South Downs Way, the route snakes along a ridge and a river valley, before curving round Seaford Head – which looks across to the Seven Sisters’ rippling white bluffs. 

Read more here

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The Coast Guard Cottages & Seven Sisters Chalk Cliffs just outside Eastbourne, Sussex, England, UK
Paul Daniels/Shutterstock

The Seven Sisters and the Eastern Downs

Length: 19 miles 
Starts and ends: Eastbourne

This loop of the South Downs Way ticks a lot of boxes: hilltop panoramas, woodland, a meandering river, a pebble beach and a rollercoaster cliff hike. You can do the whole thing over two days, but, as overnight stays aren’t allowed at the moment, you can simply pick a section of the route to stroll. The trail climbs inland, passing Jevington (the birthplace of banoffee pie) and Alfriston village before it tackles the breathtaking (in every sense) Seven Sisters. You can hunt for fossils at Birling Gap before conquering the infamous finale: Beachy Head.

Read more here

What are all the rules around day trips now?

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