It can be increasingly hard to find peace in the fast-paced city of London.
Luckily, illustrator Alice Stevenson made it her mission to seek out an oasis of calm in as many London boroughs as possible as she eschewed public transport to walk her way around the capital.
Now, Alice has released a beautiful new book of illustrations that detail her favourite walks in the capital.
Here the illustrator shares eight peaceful walks that you can follow for whenever you need a break from your hectic lifestyle, alongside her enchanting illustrations of each spot.
A spring time walk in Forest Hill is one of the most delightful afternoons you can spend in London. The area is a pleasant mixture of sturdy Victorian villas and early 20th century architecture and the dramatic hilliness of the landscape offers a multitude of breathtaking views of London to the North and the North downs to the south.
It’s a perfect area to wander without a definite route in mind, secret alleyways suddenly open onto expanses of green and large vistas. It almost feels as if you were wandering over the folds of a giant patchwork quilt. When walking in Forest Hill, The Horniman Museum provides a good focal point for the area nestled on a hill and it’s formal planted gardens provide the perfect spot to stop and admire the views and enjoy the tranquility of the area.
Nearest tube: Forest Hill Station
Directions: Head left down London Road
St Thomas’s Graveyard Hackney
This is the perfect location for some outdoor peace and contemplation in Hackney as, unlike the neighbouring London Fields, this area of green space is usually empty. Once you’ve passed St Thomas’s Square, you will see an white, ivy arch over an iron gate.
Go through this arch and follow the path to St Thomas’s recreation ground, the formal burial ground of a long gone, seventeenth, non- conformist chapel.
In the center of the garden sits a gardeners hut, similar to the one in Soho Square and the tombstones are all flattened above the wall covered with overgrown spikey plants and brambles. Dead Ivy and brambles cover the brickwork looking like veins and the backs of Victorian houses loom up behind the walls.
Nearest tube: Hackney Central Station
Directions: Turn right down Mare Street and walk down it’s eastern side for about half a mile
Teddington Lock to Richmond
At Teddington Lock, the trees and soft curved lawns combine with the footbridge’s structure and the boats to create an atmosphere which is both peaceful and functional. On the bank weeping willows frame modern flats. Crossing over onto the south side of the lock it’s lovely to walk in the direction of Richmond along the woody path admiring the view of the North side of the river through the trees.
Peering through branches you spy backs of private homes with gardens that go right up to the river with little jetties and speed boats at the ends of them. Rounding a bend in the path, you eventually get your first glimpses of Eel Pie Island, a large, inhabited Ait (river island). I love this sight.
The Timber boat houses and old boats give it a charming modesty and makeshift sense of eccentricity. Soon the path opens to Green on all sides as you reach Marble Hill Park and Marble Hill House stands gleaming white, surrounded by fresh green grass.
Nearest tube: Teddington Station
Directions: To reach the Lock, head right up Station Road and then turn left onto Ferry Road and follow it to the river
The Parkland Walk is a suburban railway line which was abandoned mid construction. It’s now a walk way or extremely narrow public park, that goes all the way to Alexandra Palace (with a brief break in Highgate). Following the path, it’s height rises and falls so sometimes you feel you are at the bottom of a bank and at others you are level with the top floors of tall Victorian Houses that you pass.
It’s a fascinating sensation because by walking the Parkland Walk, you feel that you are making a journey on foot that you would usually only experience from a train window. In the second and shorter part of the walk between Highgate and Alexandra Palace, the path rises higher and higher and you are greeted to some spectacular views of rooftops and the city itself.
Nearest tube: Finsbury Park
Directios: Cross over into the park itself then walk up the right hand side of the park parallel to the train tracks and you will reach the starting point
The Iselworth Ait is one of the River Thames’s most peaceful spots. Once at the river you are met with the Ait, a small tree covered island in the river. It used to be a centre of production for osier, a type of willow harvested to make baskets.
Now it’s a wildlife sanctuary that can only be reached by boat and public access is very limited but you can sit in one of the pubs dotted along the rivers edge and absorb the unique atmosphere it creates.
Rusting old boats and workstations create a sense of it’s industrial past, they seem to be biding their time in this forgotten corner of London waiting to sink softly into the mud. Below the raised riverfront, ramshackle houseboats are moored. Sit with your pint and enjoy the peace of this charming and unassuming little enclave.
Nearest tube: Iselworth Station
Directions: Turn right down Linkfield Road then left briefly onto Twickenham Road and then turn left down North street and follow the road to the River
Woolwich to Greenwich
This walk is in striking contrast to the Teddington to Richmond Walk but equally peaceful and beautiful albeit in a very different way. Once at the river’s edge the view is blue and grey with industrial colours and block shapes.
Out across the river the expanse is wide with pylons dotted in the distance. You can see the old Tate and Lyle Factory which looks like a giant bottle. Heading west towards Greenwhich along the river path, many mysterious sites await you, you pass overgrown, dilapidated jetty’s and the other worldly Thames Barrier which sits shimmering on the water.
Once close to Greenwich the atmosphere becomes less eery and more cosy and convivial and the river is dotted with weekend revelers enjoying London’s very own seaside town.
Nearest tube: Woolwich Arsenal Station
Directions: Turn right down Woolwich New Road and then cross over Beresford Street onto the intriguingly named No1 One Street. Follow it all the way down to the rivers edge
Kensel Green Cemetry
Kensel Green Cemetery is one of the Magnificent Seven Cemeteries build in the Victorian era. Still a working cemetery it is also a breathtaking outdoor museum to London’s past. Much of the westerly side houses fairly recent tombs but the as you head eastwards to the tombs become larger and a greater quantity of grieving stone women start to appear.
For the emerging Victorian Middle Class these hyperbolic monuments to the deseased were a way of distancing themselves from the working class and immortalizing the family name. You will find yourself amongst a headless, moss covered horseman, giant urns and a variety of ancient Egypt inspired structures including sphinxes, obelisks and tombs adorned with scarabs.
Grecian, stone woman and broken columns create the impression of wandering through verdant Roman ruins.
Nearest tube: Kensel Green
Directions: Turn left and then cross over Harrow Road where you reach the cemetery gates
Shadwell Basin is one of the most beautiful and strange sites in the whole city. It is one of the few London Docks not to have been filled in.
The basin is surrounded by trees and the Spire of St Paul’s Shadwell rises up behind them. Postmodern wharehouses that sit on the waters edge create beautifully patterned reflections. There are usually very few people here apart from the odd swan and people doing a spot of fishing.
Cross back over the “red metal” to the The Prospect of Whitby, London’s Oldest riverside pub and enjoy a drink on the deck overlooking the Thames.
Nearest tube: Wapping Station
Directions: Turn left out of Wapping Station and walk down Wapping High Street and after the bend take your first left down Wapping Wall and follow it along. On your right you are met by the red brick, Victorian Industrial splendor of the former Wapping Hydraulic Power Station. Keep going and then reach Shadwell Basin by walking over the ‘red metal” (industrial bridge) to the Basin
For more London walking inspiration buy Ways to Walk in London by Alice Stevenson, £12.08 from amazon.co.uk
You can also view her illustrations at an exhibition at Material London, open from today until 30 April