The benefits of walking have never been more evident than this year when, due to the pandemic, so much of our lives and the things we usually enjoy have been curtailed. It was much easier during the summer lockdown when the sun shone; the parks, woods and open spaces were looking at their best and it was possible to hear and see so many birds and other wildlife. However, it is much harder now as the nights are drawing in, the weather is getting colder and wetter and it seems to take a lot more effort; but, according to the NHS, it is still so worthwhile to help us to build stamina, lose weight and make our hearts healthier.

They tell us that walking every day is the best way to form a good habit to build on; a habit that could start with leaving the car at home to pop to the shops, getting off the bus a stop earlier on your journey home from work, leaving the lift and taking the stairs or just meeting up with a friend for a relaxing stroll – socially distanced, of course. Many children are over-weight and lack stamina so the best way to encourage them is to walk with them to and from school. Local schools will be especially pleased with this as they experience frequent problems regarding unsafe drop-offs outside the school gates as well as the excess air pollution caused by idling cars.

Having convinced you that you can still enjoy a winter walk you may consider it might not be the same as you did in the summer unless you have waterproof boots, you may prefer to keep to pavements and made-up paths and, as weather conditions can quickly change for the worse, your walk may be shorter.

Here are a few ideas of places not too far from home that you may not be familiar with or have not enjoyed in the cooler months.

How about a brisk, uphill walk to Charlton House and along Marlborough Road to the entrance of Hornfair Park, this is known to many as the place to find a superb outdoor swimming pool – Olympic sized and heated throughout the winter. Also formal gardens, a children’s playground and a BMX track. Turning left onto Shooters Hill Road will bring you to The Old Blue Cross Pet Cemetery. It’s tucked away so, as a guide, look for the bridge over the road and opposite the Fox Under the Hill but do not cross over. This little know spot shares an amazing history from animal care at the end of the 19th century to a haven and, later, a cemetery for animals returning from WW1 and WW2 but nowadays just a reminder of the care service personnel had for their animals. If you prefer not to return the way you came why not continue along Shooters Hill Road turning left down Academy Road to find a footpath across Woolwich Common that will take you to Charlton Park Lane and then back to Charlton House.

Another short walk with a couple of often missed spots is along the Riverside Path heading west towards Greenwich. This area was once renown for its shipbuilding and repair works, now there is just one company, Cory Environmental, still occupying its original site since 1873. You will not be able to avoid noticing the maze of overhead conveyor belts and the mountains of aggregate at Murphy’s and Angerstein’s wharves along your way towards the Ecology Park. Take a stroll along the duckboards through this haven of peace and pleasure looking out for coots, moorhen and an occasional duck heading towards the Alder Carr – a freshwater, a flooded area with many alder trees. On your way to the Yacht Club stop and listen to the sound of the reeds as they blow in the wind and lookout for a small memorial garden. Here you will see an old rowing boat serving as a flower bed and a tiller preserved in concrete in remembrance to a Raymond Lahane who, the sign tells us, was an Irish Guardsman, Sailor, Gentleman and Rainbow Chaser who died at the age of 90. If it was summertime I’d suggest, on reaching the Yacht Club, make another stop to listen to that very emotive sound of the boats’ rigging tinkling in the wind but this time of year all the boats have been shored and stored under a tarpaulin. Depending on your mood, or that of the weather, you may now want to retrace your steps, turn away from the river to walk through part of the Millennium Village or continue on towards Greenwich. Whatever you decide happy walking everyone!

PS Here is another short walk, sent to me by a friend, that you will all recognise but maybe not the history and photographs, copy into your browser:

https://www.wlv.ac.uk/research/institutes-and-centres/centre-for-historical-research/football-and-war-network/football-and-war-blog/2019/a-virtual-second-world-war-walk-from-the-valley-to-the-white-swan.php