Southern England is one of the most densely-populated places in Europe. London dominates of course, but there are any number of medium-sized towns, with infilling in between and lengthy patches of suburban sprawl. So it doesn’t sound too good for walkers.

But you would be wrong. Far-sighted post-war planners left ‘green belt’ space around not just London but many other towns as well, which even post-Thatcher free-market policies have not yet been fully able to dismantle, though the present bunch of Tories are having a damn good try.

And, although there is relatively little untamed, open-access land around, there are plenty of ancient rights-of-way which take you deep into the heart of some surprisingly remote patches of countryside.

Carousel pictures: Bodiam Castle and vineyard, Sussex Border Path; West Peckham, Greensand Way; Shooter’s Hill, Capital Ring; Enfield Chase, London Loop; Albury Downs, North Downs Way; Hampton Ferry, Thames Path

The flip side of dense population is good public transport access. From the capital, and many other places too, it’s perfectly straightforward if not even easier to leave the car at home, especially for the linear routes that I tend to favour.

My definition of southern England has areas to the north and south of the Thames. The northern part is dominated by the Chiltern Hills, a complex range with a northern escarpment but many little side-valleys to explore. South of the capital four west-to-east hill ranges traverse the landscape; in order from the north, the North Downs, Greensand ridge, Low and High Weald and the South Downs (the first two traverse Surrey too, and the South Downs tip into Hampshire). There are exceptional trails running along each of them – those on the two chalk Downs are national trails.

I love walking in London so much I’ve written a book about it (Walking in London, Cicerone Press, 2017) plus I was proud to serve as Chair of London LDWA from 2016-19. Two of London’s long-distance paths, the Capital Ring and London Loop, appear below.

Links highlighted in green below are live. New pages added regularly, come back soon!

Capital Ring
Greensand Way
London Loop
North Downs Way
The Ridgeway
Serpent Trail
South Downs Way
Thames Path