For many of us, trail running conjures up images of Britain’s A-list locations, the Premiership of the nation’s trails. Places such as the Yorkshire Dales; the Lakes; the South Downs; the Jurassic Coast. In our most recent blog, Sam Pearce of The Footpath Less Travelled also highlighted some great trail locations closer to London, including the Chilterns and the North Downs. In this blog we venture within the M25, as we explore options for urban trail running in the big city itself.
We were inspired by our runs along sections of the Capital Ring, a long distance footpath following very loosely the route of the North and South Circular through London’s suburbs. The experience brought home to us how many trails there actually are in our big cities. They sometimes just require that extra effort to seek them out.
Rivers and canals are a great source of urban trails. London is of course blessed with the Thames and a decent canal network. Although the more central routes along the Thames and Regents Park canal can get busy and overcrowded, things get much calmer further out. The capital’s smaller rivers, such as the Brent in the west and the Lea to the east, are well worth exploring. We recently discovered a wonderful wooded section of the River Brent between Wembley and the Hendon where the hum of traffic was the only evidence of the busy North Circular just metres away!
Following Mutton Brook underneath the North Circular
And, let's not forget that London is also a city of parks. Centrally, Hyde Park, Green Park and St James’ Park offer trails a plenty and, with a combined perimeter of over 11k, offer plenty of scope for longer runs. Even out in the suburbs there are plenty of small to medium sized municipal parks. A great challenge is to try linking up a number of your local parks and trying to maximize the trail vs. tarmac ratio. Throw the occasional golf course or sports field into the mix and you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at how long you can stay off road. (The Runner’s Guide to London is a great source of information, running notes, and perimeter distances for many of the city’s parks.)
Trail adventures can also be sought along marked urban trails, which tend to have their own distinctive signposts. We’ve found the quality and frequency of signage to be pretty varied making for combination of trail running and orienteering. Consider classic routes such as the Thames Path, The Jubilee Greenway or the epic 150-mile London Loop. Route maps are available through Transport For London.
So whether you live in Walthamstow or Winderemere, there are plenty of trails on your doorstep just waiting to be run!