“Walking as part of my commute gives me the space to think about what my work day holds in the mornings, and then to unwind in the evenings” – says Clare Wadd, Ramblers Inner London area chair. She talks about her walk to work and the benefits of it.
I think it’s the best encouragement to walk to work she can give us this National Walking Month. I was so pleased when she agreed to write for Walk & Talk about her daily walk from Waterloo to Moorgate and want to welcome her post on the blog hoping it’ll be a great inspiration to you all.
Words: Clare Wadd, Ramblers Inner London area chair
I walk as much as I can round London – for the exercise, the enjoyment, and to avoid the stress and hassle of public transport. My commute is a long one, from Kingston to Moorgate, and I choose to incorporate as much walking in it as I can. It takes a bit longer, but who cares – it’s just so much nicer. Walking as part of my commute gives me the space to think about what my work day holds in the mornings, and then to unwind in the evenings. It also gives me the reassurance that there’s only one part of my journey that can go wrong, the train in from Kingston to Waterloo.
Walk to work: The odd beginning
The walk to Kingston station from my house is about a mile. I do this part of the walk differently in summer and winter. In daylight I take a long fenced-in footpath – we’d call it a ginnel in Yorkshire where I come from – but in winter in the dark, I walk the long way round, through the suburban side-streets, admiring front gardens and listening to the birds. I could cut down to the river and take The Thames Path – and I often do at weekends – but when I just want to get to the station, I take the quick route down the main road, passing people waiting at the bus stop, I’ll see on the train later. It’s a nice enough main road, part residential, with spring flowers in front gardens, and part shops, so I can buy The Guardian as I pass the newsagent.
Walk to work: Waterloo to Millennium Bridge
My walk really comes into its own between Waterloo and the office though. I cut round the back of the Tate Modern, with its chimney stretching up into what’s often a bright blue sky, and I drink in the beautiful quirky new Switch House extension.
Then it’s down a path round the side of the Tate and onto the Millennium Bridge, the highlight of my commute. Whether the day is bright or grey, whether it’s sunrise or sunset or dark or daylight, the view in either direction is an absolute joy every single day. Living in the suburbs as I do, crossing The Thames on foot in the middle of London makes me feel routed in and connected to my city. This is the heart of it, the centre of it – there’s Tower Bridge, The Shard, the water glistening or murky, who cares, it’s London.
If the tide’s out, I can see the beach on the North side, with the remains of old wooden jetties, and I think about generations of mudlarkers, from ancient to contemporary, making their finds. I watch the boats, bringing commuters in, and taking rubbish out. And I look down at the mini-artworks Ben Wilson has made on discarded chewing gum stamped into the bridge by a million shoes, and smile at both his ingenuity and at the art itself, wondering how it took me so long to notice it in the first place.
Walk to work: St. Paul’s to Moorgate
Straight ahead of course, another London icon, St Paul’s, fills my view. I’ve come to love the little park area in front of the cathedral, with its understated sculptures and memorials, its blossom trees and shrubs, with their heady scent, depending on the time of year.
I cut up the ancient Watling Street, and then Bread followed by Milk – it’s the real old city this, when the street-names told you what you could buy, and when this was the centre of it all. Milk Street brings me out at the Guildhall, with its unexpected pond and its own sculptures, and here sometimes I vary my route, swinging East in a slightly different place as I hack over to the Armourers’ Hall.
Then Moorgate, my least favourite part of the walk and the place where it starts to get really busy, as all us pedestrians are forced into too narrow channels past the Crossrail works at Moorgate station.
It’s a queuing system here, with only room for one person in each direction really, but lots of us want to try and bustle past to get to work just a split second earlier. Here, the tranquillity of walking has gone, and I’m a commuter in a hurry like everyone else, trying to get over the awful crossing at South Place, trying to get to work.
And then I’m there, a splash of green, Finsbury Square emerges – and my day begins.
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