London can be a stressful and unhappy city to navigate. The main streets are choked with pedestrians, cars and pollution. Ill-considered architecture and an abundance of depressing, homogenous chain stores can make it feel a soulless, uninspiring place devoid of beauty and charm.
But behind the relentless capitalist facade and the temples to consumerism lies another city, a place of achingly beautiful parks and elegant roads where traffic and people are not found. Hidden in plain view are limitless streets lined with understated, pretty buildings just sitting there hoping you will notice them.
The quiet beauty of London lies in the backstreets, in the little alleys and cut-throughs. It’s found in the churchyards and the secret parks. Old buildings are dwarfed into almost invisibility by their modern glass counterparts but remain stoical, calm in the knowledge they were there before and will probably remain long after.
London is a city of layers. Layers upon layers of history, culture, nature and architecture. Second World War bombs blow off Georgian frontages to reveal Tudor buildings lying underneath, construction work exposes Roman walls long since buried and the swirling tendrils of nature reclaim decaying churches. This is where the real beauty of London is found.
Anyone who has spent any time with me will know that I walk a lot. An awful lot. I’m a foot soldier and find that walking is by far the most inspiring way to get to know this great city from the inside out. I’ve found the only way to survive navigating London with my nerves and sanity in tact is to always seek out the more beautiful and interesting routes, the ones dismissed by most people because they are unfamiliar, or meandering and not direct. If you are not well acquainted with London these routes can be hard to find, the maps on our phones are agnostic on the subject of beauty.
This is why I created my series of twelve London walking maps, to share with you some of my favourite London ambles. The wanders I take if I want a prettier route from A to B, or if I want to soak up some inspiration or to get lost in photographing Georgian buildings and wisteria. These are the places I go when I want to remember that London has stood proud for two millennia and is infinitely greater than the sum of its parts and will outlive all of us, something that I found strangely reassuring.
Whether you are a seasoned Londoner looking to discover new parts of the city or are a visitor or newcomer who wants to see the real London, you will love these walks.
The walks align with the months of the year, the seasonal cycle of London. Each walk takes place at a time of day and even a day of the week for when I think the location is at its most atmospheric.
My walks are free for you to download here and I’m thrilled to tell you that I am now going to be running an exclusive one-one-one walk each month and one group walk. The group walks are limited to just six people and include a stop for tea and cake, or glass of wine and a packet of crisps, depending on where we end up.
I would absolutely love for you to join me on one of these walks. We can take time out of our busy lives and wander the quiet streets together and talk about about our shared love for this wonderful city. You can find out all the details here.
Next week we take possession of a dilapidated, neglected Victorian terraced house in North London and so begins a six month renovation project, during which we will be moving to the country.
Christmas shopping in London can be an enjoyable and fun adventure, far removed from the stressful crowds of Westfield or Oxford Street. You just need to know where to head for. Here are my favourite destinations.