Oge Ejizu, London leader for the Black Girls Hike walking group, reminds us that exploration is a mindset and there are always new pathways to be discovered, often much closer to home that expected. The Summer months gifted Oge a love for scouting out new walks for her group that may have usually been over-looked, allowing her to see her home of London through a new lens.
As the fireworks were coming to an end, signalling the beginning of 2020, I breathed in determination. I had completed my list of all the places I was set on exploring in the UK. I was excited; this year I was going to do more solo hikes, wild camps and spend time bringing together like-minded people to go on group hikes with. And then lockdown happened. Despite all that has happened, there has been a silver lining.
Companion on the trail
"The route was 17km and would take approx. 5 hours to complete. I knew I needed a bag that would be up for the task; to be able to sit snuggly and comfortably on my shoulders, to take the weight of the walk when I got tired and, be able to fit everything I needed without having to play hide and seek to find it later in the day. I decided to take my Smith the Roll Pack 15L (With Pockets). It was the right companion for the days adventure. It wasn’t too big and was lightweight enough for me that at times forgot it was there."
As I eased into the rhythm of lockdown, I found myself like most people desperate for some type of escape. Although I didn’t do the West Highland Way in April as I had penned on my New Year’s adventure list, lockdown has given me the time to explore places I would usually overlook. Once upon a time, I used to think that London had nothing to offer hiking and exploring wise. I’m glad lockdown has proved me wrong. It has given me the opportunity to discover what’s on my doorstep.
I live in East London and can see Canary Wharf skyline from my bedroom window. There’s nothing like waking up at 4.30am to watch the sunrise from the Royal Victoria Bridge bounce off the skyline, without the rush of having to dash off to work. Not having the ability to travel during lockdown has been hard but I have grown a deeper appreciation for things like watching City sunrises and sunsets, seeing the Thames Clipper whizz through the East side of the River Thames and being able to leisurely sit on the Emirates Air Line as it effortlessly glides me into Greenwich Peninsula.
There’s much more to London than city life. When restrictions eased, I took the first opportunity to share the paths I had discovered with the hiking group I lead in London called Black Girls Hike. This would be our second hike of the year and I wanted to show off a place that often gets neglected in comparison to the usual favourites of Richmond Park and Hampstead Heath. For this hike, we would be following the Green Chain Walk; starting in Woolwich and slowly seeing how the City morphs into the beautiful woodlands of Oxleas Woods and Bostall Woods, slightly peeking into the ruins of Lesnes Abbey, thinking of all the heritage and stories that have gone before us.
Planning a good, well thought out route is one part of what makes a hike enjoyable, another part is having the right equipment and a bag that can keep up with you, one that can react and respond to your body and anything else the day may bring. The route was 17km and would take approx. 5 hours to complete. I knew I needed a bag that would be up for the task; to be able to sit snuggly and comfortably on my shoulders, to take the weight of the walk when I got tired and, be able to fit everything I needed without having to play hide and seek to find it later in the day. I decided to take my Smith the Roll Pack 15L (With Pockets). It was the right companion for the days adventure. It wasn’t too big and was lightweight enough for me that at times forgot it was there.
After a quick briefing with the group, we set off, letting the conversations and day flow freely. As I weave in and around the group, I take in the hiking tales shared that individuals share with me, what they’ve been doing with their lockdown and what has been something new they’ve discovered. Most excitedly, I hear the gasps of people discovering a part of London they too have overlooked and didn’t know was right under their nose and, that’s what I love to hear the most.