London is a large and complicated city, but you won’t get lost if you always carry an indexed book of street maps. Don’t worry if you’ve taken the wrong turn. Find a street corner where you can read the street names, and look up the place in the index. Far simpler than those country walk ‘bear left through brambles to the hidden stile’ instructions. Google Maps on your phone are, of course, an alternative if you don't mind the continual zooming in and zooming out, and if your network gives good coverage.
There are no sketch maps with my walk directions, because you’re always better off with a proper book of maps. Always take one with you, even if using the best walks books. Apart from anything else, curiosity is bound to take you off the route occasionally. Beware of one sheet tourist maps with drawings of Nelson’s Column. They won’t help you.
Any of them. They’re all good. Here are some I use. I like something small and light, but the bigger the area it covers, the better. I prefer a conventional binding to spiral wire-bound; most seem to come in either.
The Collins Pocket Atlas is light, and slim with well proportioned pages so you’re not forever in the fold. This is the ideal pocket map for walking most of London, although it doesn’t reach quite as far out as the others.
Most of the maps on offer are not brilliant at showing paths through parks, and that applies to this one. (Page size 103 x 151 mm, weight 112gm).
Philip’s Street Atlas also has good page proportions. Like the others, the central area is mapped at a larger scale. Unlike some of the others, the large and small scale sections don’t duplicate each other, so they’ve been able to cover a bigger area in the large scale section.
The overall area covered by the book is the biggest of the pocket books, too. Occasionally this map’s unclear where a continuous street changes its name and, like the others, not good for paths away from streets. (Page size 105 x 140 mm, weight 218gm).
The A-Z Mini Street Atlas is roughly comparable in size with others described. The index includes individual blocks of flats, useful if you’re a debt collector, but it adds to the thickness of the book.
The large scale section in the middle is one of the smaller areas, while it has the narrowest pages. It makes the best attempt to plot paths across Hampstead Heath and other parks. (Page size 90 x 153 mm, weight 216gm).
A-Z is the original, created in 1936 by Phyllis Pearsall, who walked around London recording the names of 23,000 streets.
The AA Street by Street book is another perfectly good set of maps, very clear, with similar coverage to the A-Z Mini.
It has fewer pages than the A-Z Mini but is the same thickness, and weighs in as by far the heaviest of all four pocket maps.
Paths across Hampstead Heath? Didn’t know there were any. (Page size 100 x 163 mm, weight 266gm).
The A-Z Street Atlas covers the Greater London area, much more than the books described above, and is handy for walks in the outskirts. You won't need this coverage for many of the walks on the website.
If you’re a car owning Londoner, you probably have one in your glove box.
As you’d expect, it has a larger page size, so is less convenient to carry, though it does mean you less frequently walk off the edge of the page. (Page size 130 x 193 mm).
Every main line railway terminus has a bookshop, usually WH Smith, where you should be able to buy a book of maps. Waterstones and WH Smith sell them in their high street bookshops, and smaller newsagents are worth trying. They won’t offer much choice, so buy whatever they have. If you leave your map at home on your next outing, just buy another. They don’t cost much.
One day, on line maps will do the job, but they’re currently cumbersome to use and even in London there are places where your signal disappears.