About Adventure in London
Despite the unfortunate weather inflicted on the UK for much of the year, if you're prepared and dressed appropriately (think waterproofs, disposable rain ponchos, and Wellington boots, a.k.a. "wellies") then you don't have to let the elements prevent you from going outdoors. Whether you want to keep active in the city or escape further afield, there are plenty of two-legged, four-legged, two-armed and two-wheeled activities to entertain your inner Olympic athlete.
London isn't the hilliest of cities, nor does it have much rugged terrain. For off-road walking (as opposed to intrepid hiking) Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common, both in West London, and Epping Forest in East London are good places to explore.
Outside of London and easily accessible by train, a number of hiking trails to get the blood pumping and give the legs a workout. The National Trust and National Trails websites are good resources to find information about trails, places of interest and events. Ashdown Forest (home of Winnie the Pooh!) in East Sussex, Box Hill in Surrey, and the South Downs Way are just some of the trails worth getting out of bed early for.
Depending on how much greenery you want to see, as opposed to historic buildings, walking along the River Thames offers different experiences.
In West London, start at the Putney Bridge tube station, follow the signs out of the station to Putney Bridge itself. Cross the bridge and turn right onto the Putney Embankment. You will walk past Thai Square restaurant and a number of rowing sheds. Continue to follow the Thames Path along the river all the way to Richmond (and even beyond). This 8.5 mile (13.6 km) path is flat and very pleasant all year round (although it can be muddy after rain). Some places of interest along the way include the London Wetland Centre, Hammersmith Bridge, Kew Gardens and a number of pubs. It's also worth mentioning that during high tide, sections of this walk can get flooded, which is visually quite spectacular yet can be difficult to pass.
In South London, starting at Queenstown Road overground train station, walk north toward Battersea Park (along Queenstown Road itself). You can wander through the park, which is one of London's most varied and photogenic, or you continue toward Chelsea Bridge. Once you've crossed the bridge, turn right and walk along the Thames Path all the way to Lambeth Bridge. Cross over the bridge so you're back on the south side of the river and turn left. From here you can keep walking along the Thames Path, where you will pass several places of interest and enjoy lots of scenic views, all the way to Tower Bridge. When you get to Tower Bridge, cross the bridge and finish the walk at Tower Hill tube station. Interesting sites along the way include the Battersea Power Station, Tate Britain, the Houses of Parliament, Southbank, Tate Modern, Hay's Galleria, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.
If you take a circular path around any of the city's parks it means you won't get lost. Most of the parks, such as Hyde Park, Regent's Park, Victoria Park, Battersea Park and Clapham Common, are big enough to build up momentum without feeling as though you're literally going around in circles.
Depending on how thick-skinned you are, London has a number of outdoors swimming facilities, some of which are open year-round. There are a number of variations of these facilities, from leisure centres, to lidos, to ponds, to pools. Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds in North London, Oasis Sports Centre in Covent Garden, Tooting Bec Lido in South London and London Fields Lido in East London are just some to choose from. A number of gyms and other leisure centres (refer to the "Gyms" section) also have swimming facilities.
Many of London's gym chains, such as Virgin Active, Fitness First and LA Fitness restrict single-pass and short-term users. Even when individual clubs do offer such passes they are often expensive and may even come with time/day restrictions.
If you're not staying in a hotel that has an on-site gym or you don't want to pay for a single pass at one of the premier gym chains, Better Leisure Centres www.better.org.uk/short-term-passes may offer a good solution. You can buy 1, 5, 7, 14 or 30-day passes and there are centres across London.
The cycling scene in London is rapidly expanding with increasing numbers of commuter, leisure and sports cyclists on the roads. Dedicated cycle lanes and awareness-raising campaigns are making London roads more cycle-friendly, however, they are still not the safest place for visitors and unconfident cyclists to be on.
For those who are confident on the roads (you are not allowed to cycle on footpaths) or want to cycle in parks, the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme is an excellent, inexpensive way to explore the city. Visit the TfL website and refer to the cycling section (www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/) for general information on cycling in the city, how the cycle hire scheme works, and outlets that run cycle tours and rent bicycles. It's also worth mentioning that although helmets are not compulsory, you may want to look into hiring one from a bicycle rental shop.
Whether you enjoy traditional forms of yoga and Pilates, yoga by candlelight, yoga outdoors, or intensive hot yoga, London offers an abundance of studios and classes. The MINDBODY yoga and Pilates apps are good for finding and booking onto classes near your GPS location.
London's cityscape may be 50 shades of grey but there is an abundance of green spaces in between. And it's not just concentrated in the inner-city parks, such as Hyde Park, Green Park, St. James's Park and Regents Park.
North London: Hampstead Heath, Alexandra Park, Clissold Park.
East London: Victoria Park, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (set to reopen in summer 2013) and further afield at the end of the Central Line on the tube system, is Epping Forest.
South London: Battersea Park, Clapham Common, Greenwich Park, Kennington Park.
West London: Holland Park, Wimbledon Common, Richmond Park.
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