How our green routes campaign is transforming our cities

London’s Green Link Walk is a wonderful example of green routes in action - and clear evidence for why we need more

Earlier this year, Transport for London officially opened the newest way to experience everything the capital has to offer. Emerging from the trees of Epping Forest, it winds through the wetlands of Walthamstow and the open parks of east London, past the dome of St Pauls and the tower of the Tate Modern, all the way to Peckham’s iconic Rye Lane. It links together some of London’s best green spaces and its most iconic sights.  

The Green Link Walk is the newest addition to London’s walking infrastructure. And it’s one we’ve been pushing for a very long time. 

A history of campaigning for green routes 

Back in 2020, we launched our vision to transform how we access nature on our doorsteps: a network of green routes in every city in England. These routes would encourage everyone to get out walking by greening streets and improving walking routes to, and between, a city’s green spaces.  

Not only would this make an invaluable contribution to the nation’s health and wellbeing (it’s estimated that the NHS would save £1.7 billion if every Londoner walked for 20 minutes each day), it would also help improve the natural environment, mitigate the effects of climate change and boost the quality of life of everyone who lives in our urban centres.  

Our first green routes manifesto 

So with our vision established, we set to work. In 2021, the Inner London Ramblers launched a manifesto, calling on the future Mayor of London to plan for and create a world-class green walking network for London. As well as seeking improvements for existing routes like the London Loop and the Capital Ring, and making sure these routes were promoted to Londoners, we worked with partners to create a proposal for six new green routes to bring nature closer to everyone. Many existing leisure routes were orbital, meaning they ran around the edge of London; ours were designed to go right into the city’s centre, linking up neighbourhoods with these existing paths.   


Getting the Mayor of London on board 

The six routes proposed by the Inner London Ramblers became a central part of London’s Leisure Walking Plan, which was published in November 2022. The plan set out the Mayor’s ambition to create the world’s largest, greenest and most accessible leisure walking network. 

In that plan – the first of its kind in the world – the Mayor pledged to select, and start work on one of the routes we identified. That route would become the Green Link Walk.  


The opening of the Green Link Walk  

On 1 March 2024, Will Norman, London’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner, officially opened the Green Link Walk at a ceremony in Islington. The route that had started life as the Five Boroughs Link when it was just a vision on a page had been renamed, slightly extended and opened to the public.  

Specifically designed to be accessible to all, to link up communities of “green deprivation” with green and blue spaces on their doorstep and to mitigate the effects of climate change, the Green Link Walk is a shining example of how we can transform the experience of living, and walking, in our cities.  


Transforming walking in Manchester 

It’s not the only example. In Manchester, the GM Ringway, 186 miles long and covering all ten of Manchester’s boroughs, connects up existing footpaths, parks and access land and is split into 20 stages, all of which are designed to be accessible by public transport.  

And in Salford, we have supported the Council in transforming old railway lines and canal side paths to connect people with local green spaces.  

These are fantastic achievements. But we don’t want to stop there. The Green Link Walk and GM Ringway are the blueprints we can follow to deliver for walking in London, Manchester and across England as a whole.   


The next step in the campaign for green routes 

That brings us to today. The 2024 mayoral elections in Manchester and London were a perfect opportunity to move the vision for green routes a step closer to reality.  

Working with our volunteers on the ground, we created manifestos for walking in both London and Manchester and our supporters wrote to the mayoral candidates asking them to commit to taking action.

And commit they did, with the likes of Andy Burnham promising a first leisure walking strategy for Greater Manchester, and even referencing the Ramblers’ campaign in his manifesto

How we can make it a reality 

Rolling out green routes across the country is a central part of our Outdoors Unlocked campaign, calling for a transformative new bill that breaks down barriers to the outdoors.    

We’re pushing for a new duty for regional authorities to plan for, and create, networks of green routes in their cities. By joining up networks of nature rich streets and green public spaces, we can ensure that everyone has access to nature on their doorstep.   

Find out more about our Outdoors Unlocked campaign on our dedicated webpage.   


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