The first paper edition of the London Greenground Map came out a year ago and included 380 parks & open spaces and 12 inspiring green lines for walking and cycling between parks. First map also included viewpoints, ferry piers and suggestions for outdoor activities such as kayaking, outdoor swimming and bird watching. This small pocket map got lot of media interest and people loved the concept – 1000 maps sold out by the beginning of this year.
The second edition of the London Greenground Map aims to keep the spirit of the first map, but expands the concept wider, now including twice as many parks in London to give more scope to explore. I’ve also included six more green & blue lines and an art line. The upgraded map is twice the size of the original map and printed on the recycled paper with sustainable inks, yet comes with the same price tag as the original.
Second edition includes several new interesting lines. Additionally to the official TFL and Ramblers’ LOOP line that appeared as an outer border on the first map, the new edition of the Greenground Map now also includes the highly requested Capital line, connecting the parks and open spaces of this popular walking path. And the LOOP is no longer the outer border – the map now breaks through the London Orbital, creating links with the countryside beyond.
In south the map now includes the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a section of North Downs Way from Box Hill to Sevenoaks. The Thames Downs line connects the Thames to the North Downs Way. The detailed directions can be viewed here. On the east the the two lines are connected by the Darent Valley line that runs from Dartford to Sevenoaks.
The Royal Line now extends up to Windsor taking in the famous Windsor Great Park and The Long Walk as well as few historic green spaces along the way such as Runnymede. Additionally to Darent the new river lines now also include Ravensbourne in South-East and Roding in North-East, both connecting Thames with LOOP line.
The Line – London’s first dedicated public art walk is now on the map as Art line, passing several parks and green spaces on the way. Starting from Queen Elizabeth Park it goes through the Three Mills Green and Cody Dock before crossing the Thames to Greenwich Peninsula. More detailed map with the artworks can be seen here.
Brompton Dock icons now point where to hire a Brompton bike for cycling between green spaces inside London or even for outdoor adventures further out in the countryside. The more detailed map with exact locations is here.
Second edition also includes city farms and this TimeOut article highlights some. I’ve also added icons for selected campsites around London for getting out to nature. Couple of outdoor bouldering sites make another interesting day out.
With twice as many green spaces, seven new lines and more outdoor activities to discover I hope the second map will be an inspiration for both existing and new London Greenground explorers 🤞
The second paper edition of the Greenground Map is now available in my store for £10 (postage included).
I am taking a step back this week and looking more into the background of London multiple wayfinding systems to make connections and see, where the current project could be positioned and if there’s a room for more wayfinding. So here are different levels of pedestrian and cycling navigation systems I have currently identified. There are many more, of course, but this gives some idea of what the people on the ground level are faced with.
The time when simple signs here and there were considered job well done is long past and the systems are becoming increasingly more complicated to develop and implement. On the other hand it is also becoming a skill to read these systems effectively and make the connections between different wayfinding systems. Whether we want it or not, it’s likely we use many systems in one day to find our way in the city.
When Legible London by Applied Wayfinding launched in 2007 it was a groundbreaking A to B walking system and attempt to unify all the different signage in London. I think it has been a huge success and I remember what difference it made between mid 2000s when I first started visiting London and on 2010 when I lived there. I’ve also used it every time on my London visits since and it’s one of the best executed systems I know. However, I still find that maps that show streets around you in about 5-20 min radius are sometimes hard to connect. Applied wayfinding itself admits in their research that at the time they conducted it nearly half (44,7%) of people used London Underground map for planning the journey.
TFL transport maps
The TFL transport maps and signage is the most used wayfinding system in the city. These practical and straightforward maps are meant to be understood by anyone (residents and visitors alike). However as London is growing the TFL maps have also become more complicated, trying to include more information that can make the maps less legible. The current tube map is far more information heavy than it used to be a decade ago, but I think it still remains one of the best navigation maps in the city. Journey planner is a handy tool for quick travel planning and now also includes alternative transport, but it can limit the overview of the whole network. I always prefer to have a ‘real’ map as a backup to see where I am actually going.
Walk London Network
The Walk London Network is the network of walking paths in and around London originally created by Ramblers. Mainly intended for leisure walking and hiking these paths aim to take people to more natural areas and pathways. The difference between Legible London and Walk London Network is the intention of the walk – first being a wayfinder in the urban environment and second mainly for leisure walking and hiking. The waymarking on these trails are more hidden depending on the location and you may need an additional map to accompany the walk. Taking these paths require more preparation, including some map reading skills.
Each council such as Hounslow for example has their own wayfinding systems for local interest. Public pathways, riverside walks, placemakers in the town centres and park maps. These are all grown from local initiative and represent an important part of the community. They also give identity for the neighbourhood and can be modern or traditional, even spread across several boroughs. So it’s very possible than by walking around one neighbourhood you come across to quite a few different wayfinding systems, maps and signs along the way.
Site specific signage applies for example to college grounds, entertainment sites and shopping districts. These are often modern and cutting edge signage systems to find specific points of interest on the grounds. Most of the times these systems are site specific and not visually connected to other external systems. For example both Barbican and Wembley Park have developed site specific wayfinding and signage. Also, the Royal Parks have their own mapping and signage system that is applied London wide and across several boroughs.
The London cycle network has its own layered wayfinding system I know less about, as I have not cycled as much in London as I have walked (it always seemed too dangerous before). It also has changed significantly due to new cycleways and signs that are implemented right now. So I am yet to explore this further, but according to my local informant Angus there are several systems that are yet to be connected with each other and to nation wide cycle network.
This seems a lot, but London is a very complex city and it’s not surprising it needs multiple levels of signage for transport, walking and cycling. Is there a room for Greenground navigation in this? I think so as it represents a different side of London that is not transport specific and opens up a whole new experience for many people.
Twitter thread with signage, maps and systems shared by Londoners. Thank you everyone who contributed to this thread! 🙏
If the idea of continuous pavement line network across London seems too out there, then another option could be more traditional wayfinding system with sign-posts in the centre or at the entrances of the green space. As the core idea of the Greenground is to travel through and between the parks, then maybe in the centre rather than at each entrance. Also, I measure the distance between the parks from approximate centre point of the park. As some of the parks are huge and the Greenground diagram shows circles I think this is the only way to do this if the walkers and cyclers aim to travel from park to park.
However the ‘park pole’ should still be on a used path, not for example in the field or woods. It should have a park name, on which ‘line’ this park is and which are the closest parks on the line. It could also have the time it takes to walk or cycle to the next green space and what outdoor activities the park has. This solution is not as easy to navigate than the robust pavement lines, but it is more discreet and would still help people to discover their parks. Even if you are not familiar with the Greenground concept, seeing one of those green poles makes you take notice of the parks nearby. Technically these signs would also work without the ‘line’ attached just as a guide for nearby parks.
The park pole could also be at the edge of the park if it’s on a quiet way by the river or canal, where lot of people would pass. I think there is no particular rule either than being somewhere central, where it is seen. For example Victoria park runs along the Regent Canal, but its true centre is quite far – if you walk by the canal, you wouldn’t come across the pole. It’s also possible the park is connected with several ‘lines’. Victoria park on the Greenground map is on Regent Line, but is also nearby to other significant North London parks ‘connected’ via North Line. The alternative could be Victoria park having two park poles for each line.
In more ‘rural’ settings the park pole could be made of wood instead of metal and stand on main path or on a crossroad somewhere close to the centre point, where people could rest and decide which path to take next. In a way it is like a ‘station’, where you can plan your next part of the journey, check the distance/time to next stop and maybe change lines if you wish to. You can also ‘get off’ from the line, explore the park and continue the journey later. The sign in this setting might look intrusive, but at the same time it is clearly visible for everyone.
To sum up the whole idea of ‘park pole’ approach is to find a central place that becomes a station for slow commuters. It can be either in the geographical centre or near a resting area in the green space. This more traditional wayfinding system points from park to park, however it’s up to commuter to find the exact way. I think this approach would work in certain areas, but may be more challenging to establish in rural settings, where is more concern for keeping the integrity of the landscape and in city centre parks where the space is limited.
Would this work? Would be great to hear, what you guys think in Twitter!
The first paper edition of #GreengroundMap came out last week (yay!) and I have been thinking how the Greenground idea could work in reality. The map is inspired by the London underground system, but the core idea is for people to walk and cycle between parks and green spaces. Obviously the Greenground is not as defined as the transport system, where the tube takes people from station the station. So how would walkers and cyclists navigate from park to park in a simple and straightforward way using visual clues like they do in the underground?
The simplest solution would be to use painted lines on the pavement in public spaces. As the cities grow more complicated, the coloured footpath lines could build a designated grid for the walkers and cyclists through quieter natural environments, away from the busy roadsides and traffic. This could work well along the waterways, which by nature are simple to navigate. The lines wouldn’t divide the path like traffic lines do, but run alongside as a navigation tool, making the turns and twists at detours.
The parks and open spaces on the line would be the open green ‘stations’ where to rest briefly or spend time in nature and enjoy outdoor activities. Parks could have some designated seating areas and signage for the ‘Greenground’ commuters and even facilities such as water fills and bicycle racks. The downside could be the overcrowded lines in certain times and some of these ‘park stations’ could face overuse. However, if to guide the Greenground commuters to wider roads, the rest of park grounds wouldn’t suffer as much.
The pavement lines could work in paved city environment, but not all London (thankfully) is paved. There are still plenty of tracks and paths for walkers and cyclists to explore in more natural surroundings. The walking paths such as Capital Ring and London Loop mostly go through natural environments and are intended for urban hikers. The Greenground is not a competition to these paths and does not replace them. It’s a visual navigation system to enable people to switch from transport systems to active travel more easily.
Perhaps this physical marking is not so much needed in the digital era, where everyone has a personal navigation device. The map could also remain digital and act as a reference rather than propose a physical way-finding system. With no painted lines the Greenground navigation could be more intuitive and personal. With only existing virtually, the lines can be easily adjusted, added and changed if one area starts to get too much traffic. Especially small parks and narrow paths may feel the pressure more, if suddenly too many people passes through.
It’s wonderful the first Greenground map has been received so well, but is it just a quirky idea or could it be a real life navigation system?
London is one of the greenest cities in the world and not only because of its traditional parks and green spaces, but also for some magnificent greenways. The canals and rivers are long linear parks often aligned with trees and greenery for walkers and cyclers to enjoy. The abandoned railway lines such as Parkland Walk is another way to convert a linear space to a park.
The green ways often connect bigger parks and provide safe and quiet routes from one green space to another. If all the parks were connected by greenways, cycling and walking would be much more enjoyable and tranquil experience. These paths can get busy too, especially on weekends, but they are still much better option than walking or cycling next to traffic lanes.
The benefits of linear green walking spaces was obvious already in 1970s when four east London boroughs came together and created a Green Chain that is a system of 300 linked parks. This protected the parks from development and provided 50 miles (80 km) of green walking routes. Thanks to their insight this part of London is still particularly green.
As someone who always takes a green way when she can, Green chain is one walk that is definitely on my bucket list! 🌳🔗🌳🔗🌳
The newest of London Greenground maps has more fluid lines, especially for Thames line that now follows the river more naturally, includes 100 more parks with 400 parks and open spaces total and as a new feature shows the walking distances between parks. I have also began to locate the green ways that are long linear parks usually by the waterway or railway tracks and sketched in some new suggestions for creative walking loops. 🚶♀️♾️
This diametrical map does not show the exact routes, but rather acts as a starting point in planning more precise journeys. The distance line lengths between parks and open spaces vary as the walking routes are not always straightforward and at times can be quite winding. This is why a mile on a map is represented with considerable difference. However I hope the map gives a larger scope for someone planning a green route in Greater London.
In most cases the distances are calculated from park centre to park centre and sometimes, especially with large parks, the walking distance between differs. For example Kensington and Hyde Park are next to each other and could be crossed over in minutes, but walking from centre to centre is a mile long route and takes considerably more time. As no one would be walking only to the edge of the park I thought centre distances would make more sense.
The loops and lines that make up the map are suggestions rather than fixed routes and the main intention of the map is to show London as one connected green network and encourage active movement between parks and along the waterways. Currently not all the London roads are quiet or safe because of traffic, but hopefully this will change soon when more people are becoming interested in active travel. 🚶♀️🚴♂️
This minimal map shows only parks and green spaces as point of interest as well as all the bus stops in Greater London. You can either search for a park and see which bus stops are closest or alternatively, if you know the bus stop you’re going to, you can look out for green spaces nearby. For example you can enter Brockwell Park in the search box and have a bird-eye view of all the nearby stops.
Some parks only have one or two bus stops nearby, but most bigger parks have several stops to choose from. For example Alexandra Park does not have just one Alexandra Park stop, you can go to Garden Centre, Palm Court, Ice Rink or Alexandra Palace Park.
Battersea Park similarly has more than one station as entry point to the park. For example, if you are planning a walk by the Thames starting from Battersea Park/Chelsea Gate and finishing in Albert Bridge stop across the river might be the best route for you.
Of course Google Maps is more practical for journey planning, but the aim of this map is to give uncluttered overview and a start-point for exploration. Especially if you are someone who likes to spend time in green spaces and also really happens to like bus stops.
Tomorrow is the first advent and I thought it would be appropriate to celebrate the start of December with an advent calendar of parks and green spaces for a walking enthusiast. The calendar has a selection of 24 parks to go for each day up to Christmas and one special treat for Christmas Day. I hope it inspires to revisit few old favourites and perhaps discover some new green spaces and sights this holiday season! 💫
The map based calendar starts from North West and works its way through London, finishing in South East. There’s one park, farm or sight to go on each day of the month and although it is unlikely you’ll visit them all, I hope the calendar gives inspiration to embark at least on few adventures. For example Morden Hall Park or Beckenham Palace in South are both great to visit on the season as well as woods, city farms and wetlands of North.
Some of these parks run Christmas activities such as fairs and ice skating, craft workshops and light walks. Kew Garden has a renowned light walk. Check out before to see what’s on or just go with the flow.. there’s plenty going on. Others are quiet places where you can walk around, enjoy fresh air and look out for wildlife. Wherever you visit I’m sure you have a different experience on each day. You could even brave it and have a winter swim!
And of course.. when you’re finished exploring don’t forget to give some special love to your favourite local park 🙂 💚
In the season when everything is roller-coasting around shopping it’s easy to forget Christmas is not only about spending. In fact you’d feel much happier to spend some time outdoors, see the city in festive spirit and pick up some gifts on the go. Depending on your budget bring enough to buy warm drinks and street snacks or even take some with you – there’s nothing nicer than a flask of tea and home-made fruitcake or gingerbreads to keep you going while exploring.
Trafalgar Square Christmas is not the same without the smell of a spruce tree and every year the City of London orders one from Norway to stand in the square centre. It’s a tradition that’s been going on for years and switching on the light ceremony this year is on December 5th at 6 pm (mark your calendars!). There will be speeches and carol singing on the night and every evening through December (singing, not speeches). As the open Christmas venue organised by the city this public tradition will get 10 points out of 10. Bring a hot drink, friends or family and enjoy the holiday spirit.
Southbank Centre Walking by the Thames is nice all over the year, but during Christmas the area gets a special makeover for the season, with lights and markets popping up everywhere. Atmospheric Southbank Centre winter market is open for two months from November, bringing the buzz and light to the river. No doubt it will be busy and popular with locals and visitors alike, but if you get overwhelmed you can always step aside and enjoy the views over the river with cup of cocoa, either bought from one of the cosy looking cabins or kept warm in the home brought flask.
Borough Market For the foodies Borough Market is a great destination on weekends all around the year, but in December it opens every day with seasonal food, decorations and it’s own Christmas tree. You can easily spend a fortune there, but you don’t have to. The samples are often free and if you pick up one or two food items you really liked you can either give them as gifts or have them as special treats in Christmas. Even if you really are on a budget (for example working as independent illustrator!) you can still spoil your taste puds with a doughnut or cinnamon bun from one of the vendors.
Somerset House There are many ice skating spots popping up in London, but the one in Somerset House is the oldest and one of most beautiful. Even if you don’t plan to skate, you can still watch other skaters and take in the holiday vibe of the beautifully decorated square with its Christmas tree and lights. You can even have hot chocolate while’re watching, but it’s not exactly cheap and you may want to pick one up before heading to the Somerset House. If you bring your own sustainable thermo cup, it will last for longer. At the end you may decide to give a go on skates as well.
Carnaby Street Many streets are lighting up for Christmas, but Carnaby street is special this year as all its decorations are recycled and sustainably produced. It’s called Carnaby x Project Zero and this years theme is ocean diversity. There are plenty of street lights in London, but this one is the first to be produced with zero waste from start to end. Even the energy used was renewable! Fingers crossed next year all the others will follow this initiative. When you’re done with admiring the sea creatures you could head to Chinatown and pick up some authentic street food on the go.
Covent Garden Although shopping in the area is one of London’s most expensive the market lights and decorations are free to see for everyone and if not exactly the place for shopping spree you can find a small gift or two. I personally would pop by at Stanfords to pick up a specialist travel book either as a present for myself or to a friend. You could even go to the British Museum later, with more than 60 free galleries there is plenty to see any time of the year. The quirky Clocks and Watches room with the display of wooden cuckoo clocks and golden pocket watches sounds especially seasonal.
Greenwich There’s more in Greenwich than the Christmas market, although walking around the village and admiring decorated shop fronts could be your main activity of the day. There are plenty of priced activities and this year, for the first time, skating opens up in Royal Museums. Either if you’re skating or not you can still take in the magical vibe at the Queen’s House and watch the skaters whizzing by in their colourful hats and scarves. When you get overwhelmed by holiday buzz, find a quiet spot in the park for treats you brought from home or picked up at the market.
Tower Bridge London’s most magnificent bridge is not less magnificent at Christmas and lighten’s up this part of the city in darker evenings. With Christmas market on one side and Tower of London on the other this area has plenty activities including ice skating next to Tower. But even just a walk along the bank in the dusk is atmospheric to see Christmas tree and seasonal art installations near the City Hall, with views over Tower Bridge in the background. You can also take a stroll over the bridge and admire winter lights from the heights. Dress warm as it can get quite nippy.
Natural History Museum Another museum that is magical in Christmas. Not only because there’s a skate ring next to it, but in wintery light the cake like museum really looks festive. You may think Natural History Museum is about dusty skeletons and extinct species, but the truth is very far from it. The museum has many different collections and even a huge Mineralogy collection with rocks, gems, ores and even meteorites. As the dark skies are lit up during Christmas, this is an ideal time to explore the stars in close contact and add the sparkle to the day.
Camden Market If you want to get lost in alternative Christmas reality then Camden Market is just the place for it. You can easily spend half a day exploring the quirky shops and stalls in the depths of Camden and if you get tired, pick up some food from the diverse food outlets to eat on the canal side. Even if you don’t find anything to buy (although there’s plenty of funky and weird stuff), you’ll still have festive time with live music, seasonal food and decorations livening up one of the oldest street markets in London.
With street markets, skating rings and lights there’s plenty to explore this season. And while you are walking keep an eye out for real spruce trees as well, growing in local parks and on the streets. With all the pimped up trees across the city, there is nothing more beautiful than a real thing. Christmas is open. Get outdoors and enjoy the season! 🌲
After taking a creative break in Edinburgh I’m back in discovering the natural wonders of London. So todays infographic/map is about waterfalls! Waterfalls in London doesn’t really sound likely, but London actually has quite a few waterfalls, although most of them are man-made. Some parks are quite well known for their water cascades such as Regent’s Park and Kyoto Garden in Holland Park, but did you know there’s a beautiful waterfall on the Carshalton Ponds in Sutton or a quirky brutalist style cascade in Barbican Estate?
There is something really tranquil about being near the water and sound of waterfall has a very calming effect. However with the loss of natural environment and man-made structures replacing the nature, the real waterfalls and cascading rivers in cities have become scarce. Artificial structures like ponds and steps may replace the nature, but they are far from being the real thing. If more city parks would have real streams and waterfalls this would help considerably to create quiet pockets, where to relax and enjoy the nature.
I’ve seen many amazing ‘real’ waterfalls around the world and you may argue cities are not a place for waterfalls, but I disagree. I think cities are exactly the right place for anything that would make it more natural/calm/wild/interesting and better for its residents. For example why couldn’t there be a waterfall park in London, where people in all ages could go to relax and hear the water flowing. River Wandle is hardly a Minoo Park, but maybe, with a little help, it could be? 🌊