The best London walks for families
A successful kids' walk or cycle ride isn't about distance covered; it's about avoiding tantrums and ensuring the whole family combines fun with fitness
They want to climb trees, follow goslings around a pond and feed them, get lost in a magical forest with witches and fairies or pretend to be spies hiding out in bushes.
Kids also want to hunt Pokemons on smartphones or turn their walk into some kind of adventure with a treasure-hunting expedition or geocaching hunt.
As we venture out with the kids around London, there's so much to discover: animals, colours, sounds, flowers… and new ways to navigate tried-and-tested territory (on skates, with skateboards, on bikes and scooters).
Richmond Park. Photo: Jordan Platt/Unsplash
Some glorious kid-friendly walks in London
Sure, you can turn any walk into a magical outdoorsy treat for the kids. But these destinations will make urban rambles with little ones all the more enjoyable.
Richmond Park: With tranquil and peaceful woodland just ripe for exploration, Richmond Park is also a winner for its wilderness factor: with hundreds of deer roaming the premises, the prospect of spotting one – or 20 – is enough to make your tot's legs keep moving.
Green Chain Walk, southeast London: The Green Chain Walk is a 50-mile treasure trove of delights, where kids can see Eltham Palace, Severndroog Castle and Crystal Palace Park's dinosaurs, among greenery, waterways and wildlife (the bird spotting here can't be beat). Divided into 11 sections, and choose a new bit each weekend for the family to discover.
Photo: Marta Moya/Unsplash
Wandsworth Common: We always imagine Wandsworth Common to be a bit like Darcy's Pemberley: resplendent with natural beauty, it doesn't need to be show-offy to be spectacular. With plenty of cycle and running paths, hidden trails through trees and numerous duck ponds, it's perfect for anyone who wants to climb trees, hunt for goslings and ducklings and even play in the sand (someone's made a makeshift sand pit on the Bolingbroke Grove side, near Nightingale Lane). Look out for hearts pinned to trees as part of the #hearthunt - so lovely for the kids to run around spotting them, you'll also find them in Clapham Common, Tooting Common and Streatham.
Tower of London. Photo: Deven Kleu/Unsplash
London Wall walk: As many will have noticed over the past several weeks, central London has been far quieter than the city's parks in Zones 2 and 3. So this might just be the moment to take the home-schooling outside and give the kids an urban history-based walk. The London Wall walk, devised by the Museum of London in the 80s, from Tower of London to Blackfriars, is a history-filled couple of hours that will educate the whole family about local history as you track the informative plaques along the way.
Walthamstow Wetlands: London's newest wetlands centre is the perfect spot for birdwatching and mini beast hunting. You can even walk from there to the Hackney Marshes, another fun spot for kids to explore.
Wanstead Park. Photo: Mark Sepion/Unsplash
Wanstead Park: This tranquil east London spot has woods, water and grassland, with loads of gorgeous flora (bluebells!) and fauna (herons!) to discover.
Regent's Canal Path: One for older kids – you don't want to be traipsing through the canals with a buggy in tow – the two-mile stretch between Little Venice and Primrose Hill is just wonderful, with waterside air to breathe in and colourful boats to check out.
Battersea Park. Photo: Steve 02/Unsplash
Battersea Park: Even with Go Ape!, playgrounds, mini golf and the zoo shut, we still think Battersea Park is one of the kid-friendliest places in London. In addition to river walks, the kids can enjoy a geography lesson finding the pagoda and going Buddha-spotting.
Wimbledon Common: Running through the woodland at Wimbledon Common is the stuff that kids' dreams are made of. Plus, a few hours here will really tire them out.
Devil's Punch Bowl, Hindhead, Surrey: This stunning pastoral idyll inspired writers from Keats to JM Barrie. It's a lovely spot for kids to run through the heathland, as well as for keen cyclists, with multiple family-friendly trails to navigate.
Photo: Amadeusz Misiak
Hampstead Heath: This 800-acre north London destination makes for a fun walk with its endless criss-crossing paths and glorious views from Parliament Hill Fields. It's also our favourite place to go 'house-hunting' in London.
Photo: Treasure Trails
Go hunting for treasure with Treasure Trails
If the side-effects of weeks at home are that your kids are reluctant to go for walks, or if you're struggling to motivate the family in inclement weather, then try turning your walk into an adventure – with some help. Treasure Trails has over 1,000 self-guided treasure hunts, murder mysteries and spy adventures across the UK, with plenty of options for London-based kids to enjoy, from lion hunting in Stoke Newington to a murder mystery in Regent's Park. You can also search for cycle trails and pet-friendly walks. Local London trails are available to download online.
Photo: Paulo Nicolello
Embrace nature in all its glory
If your kids like a challenge to help motivate them – and who doesn't? – use Farrow & Ball and the Natural History Museum's Colour by Nature competition to guide you on your next walk out and about. The competition tasks kids with looking around for their favourite colour in the natural world, photographing it and giving it a name. Choose anything from a bird's feather to the earth underfoot, and you could win 10 litres of your very own paint colour – perfect for Mummy and Daddy's new DIY project – by submitting your entry here by 27 May. Happy hunting.
Learning Resources' GeoSafari Jr. toys are perfect for explorers on the go
As anyone who's ever tried to leave the house with a youngster can attest, accessories are everything – and while dollies and dinos may accompany your toddler on most walks, here are a few other useful items to consider…
GeoSafari Jr. Kidnoculars
Young nature-hunters will love nothing more than discovering new mini-beasts, scouting for ducklings and bird spotting in the trees, and Learning Resources' GeoSafari Jr. Mighty Magnifier (£13.99), which lets kids flip from 2x to 8x magnification, and Kidnoculars (£11.99), ideal for bug hunts in the garden or when out and about, are the perfect learning aids.
Trybike at JoJo Maman Bébé
Managing walks with young children is far easier once they get their own set of wheels – a balance bike, trike or scooter can be a real game-changer in terms of tantrum reduction and extending the length of the walk. Trybike (£130) is our current favourite kids' ride. The Dutch brand's designs are made from stainless steel with a cute retro appeal. This bike can be used as a trike when kids are younger, before being converted into a balance bike and then a two-wheeler.
Scrunch Bucket at JoJo Maman Bébé
Our children like to pick up leaves, sticks, stones – whatever they can get their hands on – and even a global pandemic hasn't been great at stopping them. The Scrunch Bucket (£7.99) can be squashed, bent and thrown into your reusable tote bag, but pops back out into a bucket shape when the kids need it for collecting their 'treasures'.
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