Summer, it’s when Londoners take their clothes off and flock to the green spaces.

I left work with a couple of hours to kill before I had to meet a friend, so I decided to walk from my workplace to Blackfriars. The early evening sun was glorious and the heat just about right to enjoy a shortish stroll along the Jubilee Greenway and Thames Path, across some of London’s most impressive and iconic vistas.

Starting point: Gloucester Road tube station, reachable by District and Circle Line services.

Finishing point: Blackfriars railway station, reachable by District and Circle Line and National Rail services.

Distance: 4.9 miles (7.9 kilometres).

Ordnance Survey Maps app route link here

Download the GPX file for this route here Gloucester Road to Blackfriars

Gloucester Road itself is much nicer than a lot of the other local main roads. Brompton Road and Cromwell Road are cluttered and noisy, respectively, and are not enjoyable walking routes. Gloucester Road has a much nicer aura about it. There is a fair amount of pretty architecture to look at, especially if you look up, but at ground level you will find that there are only a small minority of chain retailers. I kept to the eastern pavement and was able to inspect a nice piece of street sculpture just after the shops run out.

I walked slowly behind two Imperial College students (judging from their branded bags) who were debating why the man couldn’t get himself a clever and pretty woman “I just get bored very quickly”. The woman retorted that there is no such thing as an attractive, intelligent, AND interesting man – “It’s impossible”. Goes to prove that you can go to one of the world’s top educational institutions and still have crap for brains. I upped my pace and tried to leave these idiots behind as I entered Kensington Gardens but the girl’s voice was so tinny and piercing that I could hear her even when I turned off the wide avenue and began to follow the Jubilee Greenway eastwards.

Albert Memorial and Royal Albert Hall from the Jubilee Greenway

Peter Fischli's balancing stonesHappily the scenes of London winding down gradually muffled that self-satisfied and ever-preaching voice into a murmur. Old and young, outwardly toff or chavvy, foreign or British, they all speckled the green expanse with bodies in various shades of undress. One strange young man was singing loudly, to the universe at large, in what felt a lot like a mock-Jamaican accent. Royal Parks Rangers were helping a young Muslim boy fetch a ball from a greedy willow tree. Even the cyclists were paying attention to the needs of the pedestrians and tending not to bear down on them with too terrifying an urgency. The sound of people chatting and giggling complimented the ticking chains of ever-present Boris Bikes (Old Ken must be seething that they’re known as that – I’m pretty sure that Livingstone laid pretty much all the groundwork for Boris to hoover it up).

People relaxing and playing at the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain

The view east from Hyde ParkThe view from the Jubilee Greenway of the Albert Memorial and Royal Albert Hall is very prettily framed by the trees. Then just a few metres on there are Peter Fischli’s balancing boulders in front of the Serpentine Gallery. The Cloud sculpture is also just visible at the moment. West Carriage Drive was crossed in an instant and I headed down the path separated from the Serpentine by a veil of trees.

In the distance I could see the Shard and London Eye blinking in the sun but off to my left there was a lot more fun going on. Scores of children were playing in the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain and as far as you could see there were more sunbathers and small gatherings having fun together. I meandered between the path and the trees in order to soak up the relaxing vibes being given off, before walking beside the lake for a few metres, so that I could dodge goose poo for a minute, before rejoining.

Geese in Hyde Park

Following the course of the main path didn’t last long and I veered off into the small patch of formal gardens near to Hyde park Corner. The iron trellis covered a boy while he sent his remote-controlled car careening around, and another couple hugged in view of the fountain. The flowers were putting on a great show here. Even if my photos don’t prove that…

Along the Jubilee Greenway in Hyde Park

A mini trying to get into Buckingham PalaceReality comes as something of a shock after the relative serenity of Hyde Park. Crossing the A4 and passing under Wellington Arch was actually pretty hairy as cyclists were tearing up the concrete as though if they could just get their cadences right, and then hit a certain speed, then they might well and fast-forward through time, back to their homes.

Along the shaded path towards Buckingham Palace I spotted classic cars being unloaded from trailers as part of yet another Royal Jubilee event, but standing outside Buckingham Palace with all those interested tourists it was hard not to get a little bit swept up in the pageantry of the Royals. I’m definitely not a monarchist but I still tried out the panoramic function of my camera to capture the Victoria Memorial and the Palace.

Buckingham Palace panorama

As I entered St. James’s Park it got really hard to maintain my pace so I had to weave in and out of buggies and old people. It was much more crowded and therefore less fun because this park is a lot more shaded – it concentrates people onto the paths. This was a different kind of London winding down though so it all counts.

The lake in St. James's Park

Again I eavesdropped on a woman telling her mother/older friend how much of a deadbeat her father was. A benefit scrounger and a layabout apparently, but the older lady didn’t seem either convinced or happy to discuss this topic. And certainly not, I suspect, with a tall ginger bloke trying to listen in…

The younger woman moaned all the way to Whitehall.

The Palace of Westminster is lovely in any weather but really is impressive against a clear blue sky. I’ve decided that my very last walk along any of the ‘strategic walks’ (i.e. Capital Ring, Thames Path, LOOP, etc.) will be the the Thames Path to Westminster. It seems fitting to head to the hub after completing both the orbits.

London Eye from the Victoria Embankment

Anyway, I crossed onto the Victoria Embankment and sped up – I was running out of time to meet my friend. Dawdling in Hyde Park had taken much longer than I realised. I looked admiringly across at the South Bank as much as possible but I regularly needed to get out the way for successive waves of joggers and school groups being counted as they tumbled from coaches. It was very busy over on the south side, as it always is. I lustily eyed up the women sitting on the boats which have been turned into bars. Not for their beauty, but for their ice cold bottles of wine. It looked very tasty.

Looking south from Cleopatra's Needle on the north bank of the Thames Path

The City of London boundary looks tacky and cheap, I don’t know why, but the Thames looked as classy as ever. I must go and eat at the OXO Tower one day, it looks like it commands expensive views.

The Plane trees thinned out as I approached Blackfriars Bridge. A different kind of Londoner can be found between here and Westminster – temporary Londoners. It’s almost all tourists I think. Well, them and the joggers.

The OXO Tower from the Victoria Embankment

As I crossed into Blackfriars Station I watched two veiny hippies carrying an injured bicycle up the pavement, and then cringed as I watched a fat middle-aged Englishman being overly attentive on two pretty Japanese girls. He tried to raise giggles from them as he lightly touched their shoulders, but they just looked like they had asked for directions, had not understood a word of what the man had told them, and now just wanted to get away from his lecherous eyes and wandering fingers.

Another kind of Londoner at leisure methinks!

This was one of the shorter walks I’ve done in the city but it sells itself easily. The time of day and the season were perfect. If you have a little time to kill then follow this route and have a gander at London at leisure.