TRAVEL FEATURE - - LOUIS LA PLANTE
3 Things You Need to Know About Hiking in London
Catherine Redfern doesn’t let the looks she receives from passengers on the train deter her from her ultimate goal. She’s a Londoner, damn it, and she is going to hike.
Motivated to achieve this goal despite living in one of the world’s largest urban areas, Redfern decks herself out in her hiking gear and heads toward London public transportation in order to reach the trails surrounding the England city. When she does, Redfern “sticks out like a sore thumb amidst the crowd of people in suits walking down the street,” she writes on her blog, London Hiker. Once aboard a train, she must “squeeze past people in very narrow aisles, trying not to stab them with your poles.”
Redfern’s knowledge and experience on London hiking was a natural fit for our blog, so we tapped her in mid-2014 for a story on the three most common excuses that stop people from hiking around London—and why those reasons must die.
She was so prolific in her interview that we couldn’t share everything Redfern had to offer in just one story. Here, we provide more tips for hiking in and around London from Redfern.
Hiking novices should start here.
“For beginners, I’d suggest the North Downs Way. It’s great to walk an official trail, and you can split it into sections,” she says. “It’s quite close to London, too.
“The North Downs and the Surrey Hills Area of Natural Beauty take you through a lot of old woodland on sandy tracks and, sometimes, muddy tracks. You can lose yourself here, literally and metaphorically. You can find tranquility, although it has to be said there are several section of the North Downs Way where motorway noise is omnipresent.”
Experienced hikers can ramp up to more difficult to trails.
“In the South Downs National Park, you get panoramic views, grassy exposed paths on top of the downs and windswept trees. They are possibly the best views you can get within a day from London but are very easy walking as once you’re up on the ridge, you'e up all day.
The most difficult section might be the Seven Sisters which are a range of cliffs on the way to Eastbourne. You exercise the old leg muscles here as you walk along the hilltops as they undulate up and down.”
For a more flat trail, try the Thames Path.
“Walking the Thames Path is a completely different experience. It’s obviously all flat, for one thing,” says Redfern.
“You start off at the Thames Barrier in a very industrial section, and it’s very much a ‘working’ river as you pass by several old and current docks. As you follow the Thames into the center of London, you pass by a seemingly endless parade of mind-boggingly expensive houses and it makes you realize how much wealth is here. You might ask, Who on earth could afford that?
“Finally, you end up in an almost villagey feel as you head past Weybridge and Chertsey, with pretty painted boats and manicured locks.”