Spring has sprung so it’s the perfect time to lace up your walking boots and explore a new route.
Tired of your daily loop? We asked Alex Middleton, founder of Vespucci Adventures, for his pick of lesser known routes under an hour from London by train.
But first, it’s time to take it back to basics. Forget GPS, the team at Vespucci create signature hikes and print bespoke maps for each route in a bid to coax people outdoors and away from their phones - so if you’re feeling brave, opt for an absolute digital detox while rambling the good old English countryside. Just remember to pack your compass.
Below, Alex has shared a selection of Vespucci’s top hikes near London, to inspire your own - and you’ll be pleased to know there’s a pub pitstop for each.
Walk in the Park
Where: Sevenoaks, Kent
Time from London: 35 minutes
Walking Time: 3hrs 30mins
Pitstop: Bucks Head
The hike: “This relatively leisurely circular walk set in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty passes two National Trust houses and a stunning deer park. Catch the train to Sevenoaks (a 2km walk from the start of the route) and take in the stunning views across the Kent Weald, immerse yourself in history at the National Trust properties, and enjoy the roaming deer in Knole Park. Towards the end of the walk, take a load off and quench your thirst at The Bucks Head pub in Godden Green.”
Bound for the Beacon
Where: Chiltern Hills, Hertfordshire
Time from London: 35 minutes
Walking Time: 4hrs
Pitstop: The Greyhound
The hike: “This circular hike is beautifully crafted, you’d never know it’s so close to London. Hop on the train from Euston to Tring, the walk up to Ivinghoe Beacon provides outstanding views to the south and there’s plenty of wildlife to keep an eye out for before you reach the Beacon itself. The hike crosses into the Ashridge Estate, now owned by the National Trust. Taking you through untouched woodland sprinkled with bluebells in the spring, up to the impressive Bridgewater Monument and then on to a welcome Brownlow coffee shop stop. You’ve then cracked the back of the hike as the lovely village of Aldbury lies below you. A quick traverse down the escarpment and you’ll arrive at The Greyhound, a lovely village pub with accommodation. Tring Station is a short walk away.”
Head for the Hills
Where: North Downs, Surrey
Time from London: 35 minutes
Walking Time: 5 hrs
Walking Distance: 16.5km
Pitstop: The Drummond at Albury
The hike: “This circular hike through the North Downs has riverside walking, ancient woodland and a secret picnic spot. A stroll alongside the River Wey is first up as you leave Guildford station and Head for the Hills. Pick up the historic Pilgrim’s Way and start the gentle climb through the ancient woodland of Chantry Woods. The views are already impressive before you’ve even emerged beside St Martha’s Church, perched on a hilltop with another spectacular panorama.
“Gently traversing down the hillside, we suggest a minor detour to a fantastic hidden picnic bench you would never otherwise have known existed. Enjoy the pretty streams and lakes around you before arriving at the sweet village of Albury which offers a welcome opportunity for a drink at the Drummond and some restocking at Pratts, the village store. This is the halfway point and your route back runs in a figure of eight via medieval gunpowder mills, a Doomsday Book mansion and the beautiful Pewley Downs.”
The Only Way in Essex
Where: Dedham Vale, Essex
Time from London: 1hr
Walking Time: 3 hrs
Walking Distance: 11.7 km
Pitstop : The Sun Inn, Dedham
The hike: “This is a stunning stroll through Dedham Vale, with plenty of wildlife and artistic connections along the trails that inspired artist John Constable. Starting at Manningtree Station, just an hour on the train from London Liverpool Street, this circular route weaves its way along the Essex-Suffolk border, amongst the stunning landscapes of Constable Country and Dedham Vale. The first half of the hike meanders alongs the banks of the beautiful River Stour, taking you past historic Flatford. There is a lot to see in this beautiful hamlet, including Willy Lott’s Cottage, made famous by John Constable’s painting The Hay Wain.
“After Flatford, you then have the perfect chance to take the plunge - Fen Bridge is our recommended spot for a refreshing wild swim. Dedham village then appears at just the right time for lunch, the halfway point. With plenty of options for a pitstop, you can either treat yourself to a delicious pub lunch or pick the perfect spot for a picnic. The rest of the route is easy walking, heading along The Essex Way and back to Manningtree Station. This hike is a perfect all-rounder with a beautiful route, steeped in culture.”
Box Hill and Back
Where: Box Hill, Surrey
Time from London: 45 minutes
Walking Time: 3 hrs 50 minutes
Walking Distance: 11.6km
Pitstop: King William IV
The hike: “This stunning, circular route takes you over Box Hill, past historic estates and through mystical woodland. Alight at the wonderfully Victorian Box Hill and Westhumble Station and pick up a coffee from Ryka’s café before you begin your walk. Enjoy spectacular views and woodlands along the way, before stopping for a well-earned lunch at the King William IV pub, nestled away in Byttom Hill. If you’ve brought your own, there are plenty of picture-perfect picnic spots en route. After lunch it’s time to explore the Druids’ Glen and the fascinating ancient yews that inhabit it. Norbury Park also features a lot on this hike, complete with an imposing Georgian Manor whose origins are mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. A steady downhill trail leads you to the home straight as you get a glimpse of the beautiful railway bridge over the River Mole.”