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.