Tuesday, August 21, 2018


I follow John on the Twitter box and enjoy his urban walking adventures. Sadly, I don't think most cities are as good for it as London is, because London is a great place to just wander.

The received wisdom, though, is that the best walking is done in the countryside, where the air is clean and the views are dramatic. Walking in cities – especially the suburban or industrial quarters where I often end up, even if I don’t intend to – is less fashionable. Well: the received wisdom is wrong. Urban walking is better, and I’m willing to go head to head with anyone who says otherwise.

One reason is that, with the best will in the world, the countryside is boring. One field is very like another, and many of them are filled with cows which, though nobody likes to talk about it, have a nasty habit of killing people they take against. In a city, there’s more to see, and you’re less likely to get stamped on by a cow.

Walking is the best way of getting to know a place, too. There’s only so much you can learn from behind the wheel of a car or the window of a train, zooming past things before you even notice them, and anyway, in those vehicles, you need a destination. On foot, though, you can wander: serendipity kicks in, and you find things you never even knew you were looking for. On one long walk, I discovered the world’s first municipal park in Birkenhead, the model for Central Park in New York. On another, I learned of the existence of St Volodymyr, whose Christianisation of Kievan Rus is commemorated by a statue in Holland Park. This is not the sort of thing that you learn in a field.