Walking The London Overground: Done, and I Think I’m The First!

Kentish Town West

Photos of Kentish Town West taken 10 hours and 59 minutes apart on my final walk

On Sunday September 14th, 2014 I completed walking the London Overground as part of my ongoing attempt at walking the Tube (done), Overground and DLR. I believe I’m the first and, at this point, only person to have walked all of the London Overground (unless of course anyone knows of anyone else).

In a slight shift of focus, I’m now aiming to be the first person to walk the entire Standard Tube Map, which means I’ll also have to add the Emirates Airline into the mix (and more Overground if I don’t finish before the end of this year). Fortunately, mainline trains and the tram network don’t make it onto the map, which saves me walking them.

Overground Walk Stats

Total distance walked: 109.45 miles (176.14km) – 27% of the Tube’s distance
Time spent walking: 34 hours and 52 minutes – 23% of the time spent walking the Tube
Total number of walks: 5 (although I did walk the former East London Line as part of my Tube walks)

Shortest walk: New Cross Gate to West Croydon via Crystal Palace – 13.32 miles (21.44km)
Longest walk: Walking the Overground Circle from Kentish Town West to Kentish Town West – 34.48 miles (55.49 km) – Will be the longest walk of this whole adventure

Average walking speed: 3.14 miles/hr – 20% faster than walking the Tube
Average walk length: 21.89 miles (35.23 km) – 28% longer than the average Tube walk
Average walk time: 6 hours 58 minutes – 6% longer than the average Tube walk

Grand total distance walked to date (Tube + Overground): 503.75 miles (810.7 km)

Fundraising Reminder

Just a reminder that I’m doing the walks to help support Bowel Caner UK. So far I’ve raised £1,773.43 but am aiming to raise £16,013 – so please donate here

Blog Post Updates

You may have noticed that while this blog has been relatively active lately, there have been few posts about the Overground walks and none from my past Tube walks. The reason is that those posts take a long time to compile and I don’t really have a lot of free time.

However, my goal is still to publish photos from each of my Tube walks, just without the long winded prose to go along with them. So look out for those and photos from the rest of my Overground walks (and upcoming DLR walks) here soon.

You can read more about my Tube Challenge here.

Art Deco in Bloomsbury Walking Tour By Yannick Pucci Review

Art Deco in Bloomsbury Walking Tour By Yannick Pucci

I think for many people (myself included) Art Deco is an architectural style associated more with American cities than with London. Yet, look around just a little bit and you’ll find Art Deco buildings popping up all over the place, including several dozen Tube stations and London Underground’s Headquarters at 55 Broadway.

However, it always helps to have a guide to show you the buildings and tell their stories. So it was great to go along on Yannick Pucci’s Art Deco in Bloomsbury Walking Tour (Architecture in the Machine Age) because he has such an obviously passion for Art Deco architecture and history.

Unsurprisingly, given the tour’s name, the focus is on Art Deco in Bloomsbury. I was already quite familiar with Bloomsbury before going on the tour and thought I knew a bit about Art Deco as well. Going on Yannick’s tour demonstrated how much I’d been missing on both counts.

His tour is a wonderful combination of factual information, along with interesting anecdotes about the people who built, worked in and/or lived in the various buildings along the route. I was impressed with how much I learned about the architecture of the area in just over 2 hours.

Since tour guides generally like to protect their trade secrets, I won’t reveal too much of what’s included on the tour itself, you’ll just have to go find out for yourself. However, I will say that if you have even the slightest interest in either Art Deco and/or Bloomsbury you should go on Yannick’s tour. One of the best values in London at only £8 per person (or just £6.50 for students and seniors).

You can book his tours via Eventbrite here, follow his blog London Unravelled and follow on twiter @ypldn.

Here is just a small sample of what you may see along the way:

Continue reading Art Deco in Bloomsbury Walking Tour By Yannick Pucci Review

Euston To Watford Junction: Walking The Overground In Pictures

This post is part of my continuing series of walking the Overground & DLR, now that I’ve successfully walked the entire Tube network. The walks are in continued support of Bowel Cancer UK.

001 - Euston Station
Euston is probably the ugliest mainline station in London, but at least it was a sunny day.

My second Overground outing was a somewhat ambitious trek from Euston all the way out to Watford Junction. I completed the 22.27 mile (35.84km) walk on a very sunny June 21st, 2014 in just under 7 hours.

A significant portion of line uses the same tracks as the Bakerloo line. This meant I ended up walking some of the same streets I had previously, although this time going in the opposite direction. In fact, until 1982, the Bakerloo line used to run all the way up to Watford Junction, which means this walk could also be considered a tube walk extension.

Here are just a few of the photos I took along the way. As always, I hope you enjoy!

Continue reading Euston To Watford Junction: Walking The Overground In Pictures

Love Walking? Then Read The Insider’s Guide To Walking In London

As you probably already know I’m quite the fan of walking in London. My personal walking adventures have taken me to the ends of each of London’s 11 tube lines, along several of its Overground routes, the length of the Regent’s Canal and most of the the Thames within London.

And still I find there’s always more to discover! The only problem is deciding where to walk next. Catherine from LondonHiker.com has partially solved this problem by asking 21 locals (myself included) for a recommended walk in her Insider’s Guide To Walking In London (PDF).

These are not step-by-step walking guides, but serve as inspirations for walks you might want to consider. Here are just a few of the types of walks included:

  • Walking a tube line (mine of course!)
  • The walk where you don’t have to cross a single road (by Victor Keegan)
  • Discover Coffee in the City (by Lera)
  • Walk from London to the Sea (by Chris Booth)
  • Learn about London’s industrial heritage (by Rob Smith)
  • Wander around Bloomsbury (by Noelle Poulson, who’s walked every street in central London!)
  • And plenty of other walks up hills, along canals and into the wilderness you never knew was so close to your doorstep.

The only problem now is deciding which one you’d like to do this weekend!

The Guide is completely free can be downloaded here or by clicking the image below:

Insiders Guide to Walking In London

What’s your favourite London walk? Share it with everyone else in the comment section below:

Vic Norman’s Dragon and Flagon London Pub Tours Review

Beer mats inside pub #2 of the tour
Beer mats inside pub #2 of the tour

Despite London’s pubs closing at an alarming rate, there are still a minimum of 4,000 to choose from. So how do you find a good one?

Well Vic Norman’s solved at least part of the problem with his Dragon and Flagon walking pub tours.

The concept is simple: meet at a station on a Friday evening (private tours available on other dates), find Vic (not difficult as he had bright red hair when I met him), let him take you to 5 or 6 pubs. As an added bonus he’ll give you drink recommendations at each pub and also tell you a bit of London history along the way.

In my experience London tour guides generally fall into either the entertainer or professor category. Vic is very much the entertainer and is quite the personality. While he certainly knows his history and will point out many interesting things along the way, the main focus is the pubs. This is for the best though, as after 2 or 3 pints most people won’t be listening to the history part anyway.

So if you’re looking for an in-depth historic lecture or conversely a straight no nonsense pub crawl, these tours are not for you. However, if you’re looking for a tour with nice mix of history, pubs and drinking then I certainly recommend giving Dragon and Flagon London Pub Tours a try.

On a lovely sunny Friday 3 weeks ago, I went on his A Tale of 3 Bridges Tour. Now I won’t spoil it by revealing everything that’s on it, but I did manage to take a few photos using my new Nexus 5 phone (so apologies if the quality is not that great).

Outside St. Paul's with Vic  (with red hair) and other tour members,
Outside St. Paul’s with Vic (red hair) and other tour members.
St. Paul's and the Thames
St. Paul’s and the Thames
Pub #1
Pub #1
The Golden Hinde
The Golden Hinde
The Thames
The Thames
The Monument
The Monument
The City
The City
Old Billingsgate Fish Market
Old Billingsgate Fish Market
The Tower of London
The Tower of London
Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge
The Queen's barge?
The Queen’s barge?
The Final Stop
The Final Stop

Dragon and Flagon London Pub Tours cost £10 per person and tour dates are available on on the website. Be aware that these are walking tours so sensible walking shoes are recommended.

Full Disclosure: Vic generously offered to allow me to come on his tour free of charge with no obligation to write anything about it. I genuinely enjoyed it and would say it’s well worth the money if you’re in town when he’s holding his next one.

Gospel Oak To Barking: Walking The Overground In Pictures

This post is part of my continuing series of walking the Overground & DLR now that I’ve successfully walked the entire Tube network. The walks are in continued support of Bowel Cancer UK.

Gospel Oak Station
The somewhat randomly located Gospel Oak station was the starting point for my walk

On March 8th, 2014 I completed the first of my Overground & DLR walks by walking from Gospel Oak to Barking. Unlike my previous Tube walks there is no rhyme or reason to the order in which I’ll walk them. I started with Gospel Oak simply because it’s within walking distance of my flat.

Overall, the walk was just over 17 miles (27.4 km) and took a little over five and a half hours. This gave me an average walking speed of just over 3 miles per hour. Not terribly fast, but better than what I averaged walking the Tube. It was a beautiful sunny day so I took a few photos along the way. Hope you enjoy:

Continue reading Gospel Oak To Barking: Walking The Overground In Pictures

How Big A Beard Do You Grow Walking Over 4,500km in China?

While, I normally try to keep this blog focused on things related to London, every so often I like to feature stories that are just a little bit random and/or a little bit crazy. For example, watch the Longest Way Below:
Continue reading How Big A Beard Do You Grow Walking Over 4,500km in China?

Announcement: I’m Going To Be Walking The Overground & DLR

27j - Services from Stratford

Stratford, the only place where all services & my walks will intersect

On August 24th 2013 I successfully completed my walk of the Tube network. In the interim I’ve been rather quiet about what my next major project would be. I’ve toyed with the idea of walking the Capital Ring and/or the London Loop.

While those are both projects I’d like to tackle at some point, I’ve decided to be wholly unoriginal and instead walk the Overground (that is the TFL Overground, not National Rail; at least for now) and the DLR.

I’ve no desire to repeat my long walks though London in the rain and cold. Thus, the project has no fixed order in which I’ll walk the lines nor a fixed end date to be completed by. I’m going to choose walks when I want to do them, rather than forcing myself to do them because I have to.

The format of the blog posts is also going to be slightly different. These days I find I have far too many projects to work on and far too little time to work on them. So instead of writing book chapter length posts, I’m just going to post some of the photos from each walk.

I hope you enjoy them just as much.

Finally, I’m going to keep raising money for Bowel Cancer UK. Please donate here.

What’s Happening With My Tube Posts?

I have no idea how closely you read this blog, but if you’re a particularly keen-eyed, long time reader you’ll have noticed that I still haven’t written up most of my tube walks (or even tube station visits).

Well there is still a plan to get these written up. The bad news is that it will take some time. In the meantime I hope you do enjoy the other posts on this site.

Walking the Length of Manhattan From The Harlem River to Battery Park Along 5th Avenue & Broadway

Sign for 5th Avenue at the Harlem river
Only one way to go, and fortunately it’s south

While walking across Manhattan along 42nd Street offers many interesting sights to see, it’s not exactly a walking challenge. For that I decided to walk the length of Manhattan along 5th Avenue. and Broadway (the dividing lines between east and west).

I decided to begin my walk in Harlem and walk south to Battery Park. The reasoning was two-fold: one, I wasn’t sure what Harlem would be like and I’ve found that it’s far better to go through dodgy neighbourhoods early in the day than in the afternoon or evening. Second – as I’ve stated elsewhere on this blog – going south feels like you’re going downhill.

When I got off the number 3 subway at 135th Street, I concluded I’d probably made the right choice in starting rather than finishing here. According to this handy tool from the New Yorker, household wealth drops off quite quickly the further north you go from here. Now this isn’t to say that less affluent areas are guaranteed to be high crime, but I figure it’s better to somewhat safe than sorry.

The Harlem River, official starting point for the walk
The Harlem River, official starting point for the walk

From here I made my way north to the Harlem River so I could begin the walk south. I was very conscious that a stocky, white guy in shorts (it was only about 10C out) taking photos of things like street signs, probably stood out just a little bit. However, I was not alone, as another obvious tourist with a much more conspicuous camera than mine had also decided to come to the northern limit of 5th Avenue.

Given that I had over 10 miles to walk, I didn’t bother to stick around and chat. The first 20 blocks weren’t really that interesting, just social housing and other medium to low-rise apartment buildings with occasional glimpses of the Empire State Building offering just enough inspiration to keep going.

The Empire State Building in the distance
The Empire State Building in the distance

Marcus Garvey Park was somewhat of a surprising obstacle, since I’d not spent a great deal of time looking at a map before setting off. The quickest and most obvious route would have been to just walk straight through the park, but seeing a group of a about a dozen guys drinking beer from paper bags at 10am made me second-guess this decision and instead I just walked around it.

I passed more social housing projects, which I find somewhat surprising given how close I was to Central Park. My original image of New York was that anyone living within a few blocks of Central Park was likely to be at worst upper middle class. So it’s interesting to see that this isn’t always the case.

Martin Luther King Jr. social housing project
Sign for one of the many social housing projects I see along the first section of my walk.

Central Park transforms the nature of the walk as I no longer had any buildings immediately to the west of me and wouldn’t again for the next 50 blocks! This was the most open the walk would feel until the end.

I was somewhat tempted to walk through the Park instead of along the increasingly busy and traffic-clogged 5th Avenue, but I have found in the past that parks don’t really offer very interesting insights into a city. Plus, my wife and I had already visited it the day before.

Walking along the edge of Central Park
Walking along the edge of Central Park

This turned out to be a good decision as I was able to at least see the outside of many museums along Museum Mile. The area also became noticeably wealthier. Gone are the social housing projects, replaced with buildings with one (or often more) doormen.

The Guggenheim is arguably the most interesting of the museum buildings along Museum Mile
The Guggenheim is arguably the most interesting of the buildings along Museum Mile

While I didn’t really have time to visit any of the museums during my walk I figure I can at least pop in and use one their facilities. I decided that MoMa would make as good a choice as any other. However, I can’t even get into the building without a security screening and then I am told that all restrooms are after the ticket barrier (an adult ticket costs $25).

This is a marked contrast to the museums in London where you never have to pass through security checkpoints and often don’t have to pay for entry. Given there was nothing I could really do, I continued my walk south past the Central Park Zoo and to the southern end of Central Park.

Amish buggy handsom cab sign New York
I know this sign is supposed to be for handsom cabs, but looks more like an Amish buggy

I had now walked over 80 blocks, which sounds a bit more impressive than the actual distance of 4.5 miles. Once again the scenery changed completely going from being at least partially open to a concrete and steel valley of skyscrapers rising up either side of me. I was now on the world famous 5th Avenue – miles, both literally and figuratively, from the 5th Avenue in Harlem.

The world famous section of 5th Avenue8
The world famous section of 5th Avenue

Not being one for shopping or crowds, I knew this section of 5th Avenue was likely to be my least favourite and it did not disappoint. I was constantly dodging groups of shoppers as I attempted to continue heading south. Of course, I can’t really complain too much as I was constantly stopping to take photos of things along the way.

Alas as seen on 30 rock intro
As a 30 Rock fan this guy looked familiar…

Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom on the British Empire Building
Also the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom on the oddly named British Empire Building

There is a certain relief of being a tourist surrounded by other tourists. While I’m sure I got in someone’s way at some point along this section of the walk, at least I don’t stand out and can take my photos in relative anonymity. I reached 42nd Street which was the intersection with my much shorter east-west walk and meant that I’d now walked 100 blocks!

The Empire State Building which had looked so far away back in Harlem was now just a few blocks south. However, as I approached it, I found it nearly impossible to get a good photo. It’s simply too tall relative the surrounding streets.

In case you can't tell, this is the best photo I could get of the Empire State Building
In case you can’t tell, this is the best photo I could get of the Empire State Building

I’d also agreed with my wife to meet here and we could continue the rest of the walk together. As I’d arrived a bit earlier than I’d predicted I decided to see if I could get any better pictures of the building by going down some side streets and getting a little further off 5th Avenue. While, I failed at getting a decent photo I did stumble upon some more colourful businesses than I was expecting in the area.

This place looked anything but upscale.
This place looked anything but upscale.

I finally gave up trying to get a better picture of the Empire State Building, and met up with my wife. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and then we’re on our way together. Time certainly seems to pass much faster when we’re walking together and before I know it we’re at the Flatiron Building

Flat Iron building New York
Pretty. Toronto has one of these too!

While the plan is to eventually finish the walk along Broadway, we didn’t follow it at this point and instead continued down 5th Avenue to Washington Square Park, admiring the relatively low-key but undeniable wealth of Greenwich Village.

Looking back up 5th Avenue at Washington Square Park
Looking back up 5th Avenue at Washington Square Park

At the end of 5th Avenue, after 140 blocks and 7.5 miles of walking it felt as though I should be nearly done. I mean, I’d walked all the way south from 142nd Street to the point where 5th Avenue ends and the streets are no longer numbered but actually have names. Reality proved slightly different as there was still another 3 miles of walking to come.

Looking south down Broadway
Looking south down Broadway

We shift the walk a few blocks east and continue down Broadway. It reminds us both of Yonge Street in Toronto, full of chain stores and restaurants – the sort of place you go when you don’t know where else to go.

Those words don't sound like they should go together...
Those words don’t sound like they should go together…

The monotony was eventually broken by the impressive Manhattan Municipal Building and the less impressive City Hall. Yet, they were just an added bonus as I had not gone out of my way to see them. Instead, I’d picked this route because I knew it would bring me past the 9/11 Memorial and the base of the ridiculously nicknamed Freedom Tower.

Freedom Tower silly name, but very impressive building
Silly name, but very impressive building

Unlike virtually any other memorial site in the world, you can’t just turn up and go in to the 9/11 memorial. Instead you can either book online or turn up and hope you can get passes to get in. On top of that there are a huge number of rules and regulations you must follow. Given that the goal was to walk Manhattan not spend all day in a queue, we only had a very quick look before continuing on.

New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), centre of global capitalism
New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), centre of global capitalism?

Our last stop before finishing was to have a quick look at Wall Street. While this may be the global centre of capitalism – unless you work in The City – it was all a bit underwhelming. The NYSE building is indeed impressive but less so than many others I’d seen that day. Perhaps I was just ready to be done.

A quick walk down the surprisingly empty and quiet Broad Street and over to Battery Park and it was. At 10.5 miles (4.5 of which accompanied by my lovely wife), it was shorter than any of my Tube walks except the Waterloo & City line. Yet, I feel like I’ve seen far more than I do on a typical Tube walk.

New York Harbor, the symbolic end to my walk.

I think this is likely due to the fact that this is the first time I’ve visited New York as an adult. Thus, the impact of seeing many of the sights of New York was much greater than in London, where I’ve seen the sights dozens of times prior to passing them on a Tube walk.

Beyond that it’s difficult to compare the two cities too much as they are so different. London is a much older, lower rise, sprawling city, whereas Manhattan is much newer, denser and more self-contained (being an island helps of course).

Besides that, there are only two other observations that come to mind. First, New York’s neighbourhoods feel more homogeneous than those in London. For example, Harlem felt pretty universally poor and Greenwich Village felt universally rich. Conversely, in London, you’ll often get council estates next to some of the most expensive real estate in the world.

Second, New York feels like it has fewer hidden secrets than London does; everything just feels a little bit more out in the open. In London, I’m frequently surprised by what I find on my walks, whereas in New York both walks yielded fewer genuine surprises than I would have expected. Both walks were the perfect way to see Manhattan, but it helped reinforce that London is my home.

What do you think about how I’ve portrayed Manhattan? Fair? Way off base? Let me know in the comments section below:

Walking Across Manhattan Along 42nd Street – New York City Trip

I started my walk at the UN Headquarters

Last month I was lucky enough to be able to visit New York with my wife. It had been 14 years since I last set foot in the city and some things had definitely changed. As always I’m firm believer that you have to walk a city to know a city.

And so over the 5 days we were there we did a fair bit of walking. Here are some photos from my walk across Manhattan along 42nd street.

Continue reading Walking Across Manhattan Along 42nd Street – New York City Trip