2021 – A Year of Great Walks

It barely needs to be stated that 2021 was another strange year – let’s leave that aspect there. But it was another great year of walks for me personally – a year that has seen my YouTube channel grow to over 40,000 subscribers (something I thought would never happen).

Winter walks

Back in January I finally made a video of my walk through London’s Little Italy that I started documenting and researching nearly 20 years ago when I lived at the Angel and formed part of a chapter in my book This Other London (which was re-printed in paperback again this year finding new readers). Then came a series of walks tracing and uncovering local lost rivers – The Alders Brook (more overlooked and neglected than lost), the Walthamstow branch of the Philley Brook (Fillebrook) which was one of my highlights of the year, and the Higham Hill Brook.

Continuing the riverine theme, it was fantastic to walk along the West bank of the River Roding with the brilliant Paul Powlesland, from Ilford to the new Barking moorings that Paul and the River Roding Trust created. It was so heartening to see all the great work that the Friends of the River Roding have done cleaning and clearing that bank of the river, restoring an ancient footpath along the riverbank.

Paul Powlesland
Paul Powlesland & Jenny at the end of their epic River Roding walk
River Lea Walk

Places of transition

As Spring slowly started to emerge I explored some of the changing areas of London around Hackney Wick, Stratford and Greenwich Peninsula. These are some of the themes I dig into in my next book which should be published in 2022. I also took a trip out to the western edge of London to visit the medieval village of Harmondsworth, which is threatened by the planned expansion of Heathrow airport.

Fascinating chats

It was a great pleasure to visit the fantastic Maud Milton in her studio at Trinity Buoy Wharf where she creates the wonderful mosiac roundels that can be found at some of the London Overgrond Stations. And mentioning the Overground reminds me of the walk I did with Iain Sinclair along the Thames estuary at Tilbury talking about his new book The Gold Machine. We also discussed this onstage over two nights at the essential Wanstead Tap where I’d also had the enormous honour of doing a sold-out three-night run of talks in May.

River Walks & Old Haunts

I did more river walks throughout the year – the lost rivers of The Peck and the Hackney Brook, the urban watercourses of The Rom, the Wandle (with the brilliant Prof Kate Spencer), the River Pinn, and the Dollis Brook. There were also walks exploring some of my old stomping grounds around Canonbury and Camden.

Out to the Sea

Some of my highlights were walks along estuaries out to the sea – first walking the final section of the Essex Way following the Stour out to Harwich, then drifting the final stretch of the Thames Estuary to the Wakering Stairs looking out along the treacherous Broomway at sunset. On the final weekend of October I managed to get out to Orford Ness coming back on the last boat til Spring 2022. What an experience that was.

The Broomway at Wakering Stairs

Group Walks

2021 was also a year of group walks – always a great experience for me. Firstly it was some Leytonstone Town Centre strolls in the summer for Waltham Forest Council. I also created a series of audio guided walks around notable cemeteries for a wonderful organisation called Advantages of Age and then we met up for a group walk around Nunhead and Camberwell Cemeteries.


Another personal highlight was going down to St. Leonards-on-Sea to spend the day with visionary filmmaker Andrew Kötting and ending our jaunt around the town with a trip to the place where his seminal travelogue Gallivant began (the film that inspired me to start making films).

City stories

In the dark midwinter days I’ve found great comfort revisiting some of the locations that I started exploring and researching in the early days of this blog, recording wanders around the territory of Bunhill Fields, St Luke’s and City Road, and then a couple of days before Christmas, linking together a series of resonant points around Fleet Street.

I’m a little taken aback, to be honest, when I look back over these journeys across the year as a whole, and it makes me excited about the year ahead.


  1. Robert K Goldman   •  

    Thanks John. Your walks and videos are an inspiration. I did the (almost) complete Capital Ring and the Thames from Abbey Wood to Oxford.

  2. David Mead   •  

    Happy New Years John.

    Thank you so much for sharing on YouTube, and here on the blog. I originally lived & worked around Southend-on-Sea, and spent many a weekend wandering around London.

    I’ve been living in the USA for over 20 years now. Your walks provide a comfortable connection to my “old stomping grounds”, as well as reminder of the constant change towns & cities go through.

    Looking forward to the new book. Keep on keeping on 🙂

  3. John Low   •  

    Thanks John for all your wonderful walks during the past year. I’ve enjoyed them all immensely (on both you tube – to which I finally got around to subscribing – and here on your blog) and I look forward to 2022 and walking with you again – “wherever that may be”! Also, looking forward to the new book. Best wishes and stay safe from that wretched virus.

  4. Sandra Kent   •  

    Hi John – we dont do any walking although we live in Cheshire very scenic. We stumbled on your videos by chance on youtube and have become really interested in watching them, as previous members of our family hail from different parts i.e Barking(Mother)but born in Stepney, Bethnal Green and Docklands (Grandparents) Mother in law from Silvertown then South Woodford and Father in law from Wandsworth. We will continue watching and have ordered your last book, even considering the London Compendium you mentioned on a video we saw the other day.
    Will probably buy your new book also for future reading

  5. Rodders Republic   •  

    Hi John, thank you for all the great videos in 2021. Appreciate theres a few fingers in the London 1915 blitz walks already, not sure what the etiquette is, but you would do a great take on it, such as the clock frozen in time at the Dolphin Inn. Reading an excellent book by Ian Castle 100 Objects of the first blitz on this. Loved your video where your super imposed the zeppelin over the Lee Valley by the way 🙂 All Best

    • JohnR   •     Author

      That’s a great idea thanks Rodders – I really enjoyed inserting that zeppelin

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