More Walking for Pleasure
I’ve written previously about walking for pleasure and its respective health benefits. I’ve decided that I wish to do more than just walk locally and for mainly functional reasons. Walking to the shops is good exercise but somewhat lacking in places of interest and areas of natural beauty, unless your definition includes the local Indian Restaurant and betting shop. So in an attempt to expand the scope of my travels, I’ve downloaded a few bespoke walking apps to my phone that are relevant to the local area. The most notable is the BexleyWalks app. Bexley being the London Borough in which I live. Although I enjoyed these suggested walks, they have covered a lot of familiar territory. Yes, it has been interesting to follow the various routes and pause to read about the local area history. But many of the walks are based in an area I’ve lived in for four decades. I need to travel further afield to somewhere I don’t know so well.
Luckily, South East London has the Green Chain Walk. This is a linked system of open spaces covering five London boroughs. Bexley, Bromley, Lewisham, Greenwich and Southwark. The Greater London Council (now the Greater London Authority) created this Green Chain of 300 open spaces to protect them from building activity in 1977. The various paths cover a mixture of urban and rural areas and offer a wealth of sites and places of interest. The 18th century Gothic folly of Severndroog Castle, the Art Deco glamour of Eltham Palace and birdwatching at Southmere, among the boats and fishermen. This also includes numerous parks such as Plumstead common and Oxleas Woods. The walk also includes the wildlife and replica dinosaurs of Crystal Palace Park, Horniman Museum and Gardens and the Thames Barrier. The entirety of the route is well signposted throughout. All signs show the 'G-C' logo and text "Green Chain Walk". There are also numerous apps that can be used to navigate this extensive network.
I’ve also started trawling though websites like meetup.com to see if I can find a local walking group. It would be nice to enjoy walking with a group of like-minded people and I often find that I stick with new projects more consistently when I commit to a third-party group. In the meantime, I’ve joined the Cool Dudes Walking Club, run by comedian and long-time walker Marek Larwood. Marek has documented his walks and day trip for a while on his You Tube channel. In between the quips and humour, I have found them very useful as well as entertaining. Recently he has created a separate channel for his walking activities and has shared several ambitious walks that he has undertaken. This includes a four-day journey around the Isle of Wight coast. Although it is not a walking club in the traditional sense (as of yet there have been no formal group walks organised), it does present an opportunity to interact with other walking enthusiasts on social media. And the perks of membership are outstanding. These include a “Cool Dudes Walking Club pencil, badge, membership card and terrible hand drawn map of Britain”.
Finally, as South East London appears to be enjoying the last vestige of summer, I went for a brief stroll through Old Farm Park. My home backs onto the Western end of this public space, although the Eastern end is still allegedly awaiting development after the council sold the land in 2016. With temperatures reaching a pleasant 67° Fahrenheit (19.44° Celsius), a short stroll round the park proved most enjoyable. Greater London has a lot of infrastructure and housing problems due to the ad hoc fashion it which it has grown during the post war years. However, one thing it doesn’t lack is green spaces. Yet in such times as these, who can say how much longer such precious public resources will remain protected? It’s a terrible cliché to invoke but it’s very much a case of use it or lose it. Whenever local authorities look to sell such land, they frequently try to bolster their position by claiming that the park in question isn’t being used. Therefore it’s essential that the public walk their dogs, hold activities and generally ensure that these local resources are utilised in a high-profile fashion. Which brings me nicely back to my initial point about walking.