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Title: 50 Walks in London
Author: Deborah King
Copyright: © 2002
Publisher: AA Publishing
Relevance: 50 Walks in London is an ideal book for reporters trying to learn the geography, history and culture of the greater London area. It is useful for correspondents working on stories in the London area and those new to the region looking to orient themselves to one of the world's most populous regions.
Review: As you might guess, the book outlines 50 walks in and around the London area and categorized each by distance (all walks are between two and ten miles with the average being between three and four), what you'll have to ascend or climb -- if anything, and the overall level of difficulty of the walk (from one to three).
The type of route you'll take on each walk such as foot paths, field edges, bridle paths, gravel, tarmac, or paved sidewalks (in the case of downtown London), is also clearly marked for each walk. Nicely, the landscape around which each walk is based is also categorized so that walkers may choose a particular walk based on their moods or architectural fancy.
Although most walks are illustrated with hand-drawn maps, the book also annotates each walk entry with the appropriate "real" map reference. For example, the suggested map for the "Guts and Garters in the Ripper's East End" walk is the AA Street by Street London, while the suggested map for the "Along the Thames to the Gardens at Kew" is the Aqua3 OS Explorer 161 London South Map.
Also described is a small bit of history to accompany each walk, including where historic areas might be, memorable areas, notable plaques and other points of interest. Although these are more than adequate for the book, serious history buffs will be disappointed in the paucity of juicy and detailed stories that can make history come alive.
Each walk is also annotated with the level of dog friendliness (for example, downtown city walks are a lot less dog-friendly than a romp in the country -- and the 50 Walks in London make note of this fact). Nicely, each map notes any public toilets on the route for people who feel the call of nature.
We especially liked the "Where to Eat and Drink" and "While You're There" sections that bring the walk to life, and provide a way to rest and refresh oneself (not to mention soak up a bit more of the local culture) before continuing one's sojourn.
Although the book is titled 50 Walks in London, it clearly has an emphasis on the surrounding greenbelt of Britain's major city. Each walk is themed with good background reading and each contains specific directions ensuring walkers do not get lost. Tube stops (where available) are also clearly marked, making many of these walks accessible to those who haven't quite figured out how to drive on the "wrong" side of the road.
We very much liked the idea behind 50 Walks in London, but there are many places within Central London that are not covered in the book. One of our reviewers commented that the overall emphasis of the book seems to be away from the Cities of London and Westminster (mostly what tourists think of when they think of "London"), and towards the many parks and walking spaces outside the city proper. Although this makes sense from a target marketing point of view -- the book is published by the (British) Automobile Association and is mostly aimed at a British audience -- it clearly could be supplemented by another book entitled "50 Walks in Downtown London".
We also wondered how walk numbers were assigned. Walk #1 "Daylight Saving in Chislehurst" starts us off near Bromley (very south of the Thames) while Walk #2, "Wansted and its Royal Connections", takes us north of the Thames halfway between Enfield and Romford. Walk #3 takes closer to the "real" (i.e., inner) London with a walking tour titled "Three Mills and the Canals" concentrating on the east London areas of Hackney Wick, Mile End, and Bow.
Size-wise, 50 Walks in Downtown London does fits it a pocket -- but it better be the back pocket of your jeans. At 4-3/4" wide and 8-1/2" tall, the book it just small enough to take with you on your tour. Like most guidebooks, it would benefit from a spiral binding to enable folding the book back on itself. But like most guidebooks, it is perfect bound to suit bookstores that require books to be "spined" on bookshelves, rather than "faced".
We were very impressed with 50 Walks in London and recommend it to any reporter, correspondent or writer who has a thirst for exploring in and around the London area. Although we were disappointed that not all the walks have maps and some of the maps could be better illustrated, we were very impressed overall with the tone, amount of detail and accuracy of the book.
We could see future editions being split into 50 Walks of Downtown London and 50 Walks in London's Greenbelt, but as it is, the existing book straddles these two options well. We were surprised at how few Tube stops certain walks were patterned around, but this illustrates our point that many of these walks are clearly outside of what most tourists call London.
End of Review
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