Sorry for posting this daylog and tomorrow's a little late. The reason will become apparent.

Today was the day of the Big Walk. My family are all keen walkers, and we decided a good long while ago to explore what long walks were possible in the area around us. One idea which occurred to us was the prospect of taking the train into central London and then walking all the way home - about 20 miles, through some interesting areas. Family illness and bad weather had conspired to stop us carrying out this plan until today.

We set out a little later, and took Thameslink and the Circle Line to Temple station, on the banks of the River Thames It was nearly 11:00 when we set off in a generally north-westerly direction, and the weather was (fortunately) fine. We skirted the Aldwych and headed up Drury Lane, and then decided on a whim to go through the Great Court of the British Museum. This was a pleasant interlude, and also avoided our having to walk up the dusty street running parallel. Then we crossed the Tottenham Court Road and headed up Cleveland Street past Telecom Tower to the Euston Road. There, we crossed into Regent's Park and headed northward up Broad Walk, stopping on the way for a cup of tea. Then we pressed on, past the south side of London Zoo. Looking over the zoo fence, I saw a reindeer. When in Sweden (around Umeå) at New Year this year, the only reindeer I saw were stuffed or cooked, so seeing a live one in the middle of London struck me as amusing.

Leaving the zoo behind, we crossed from the park onto Primrose Hill, the first of many hills to be climbed during the day. There were primroses blooming here, presumably placed there after popular demand, but very pleasant. Then we headed down into the smart streets south of Swiss Cottage, up Avenue Road, past the Swiss Cottage itself, and up College Crescent, away from the dusty Finchley Road. This route took us up Fitzjohn's Avenue, past a hospital with a statue of Sigmund Freud outside, towards Hampstead Heath. As we climed the hill, the houses again became smarter, until every one seemed to be a mansion. At the top, we turned a sharp corner and found ourselves in the main street of Hampstead village, next to the London Underground's deepest station. Despite having been engulfed by London, Hampstead strongly retains its village feeling, perched on top of its steep hill. Also up here were many restaurants, almost all of them expensive. One was offering unlimited dim sum for £13.50. There was also a J D Wetherspoon pub, but we didn't feel terribly hungry at that point. A little further on we broke out onto the open Heath, and followed the road along its edge to the pub called Jack Straw's Castle - nothing to do with Jack Straw, by the way. There we began the descent from the Heath, down towards Golder's Green. At the bottom of the hill we passed The Old Bull and Bush, and stopped to review blisters and the like.

Having rested, we turned the corner at the bottom of the hill and came upon the entrance to Golder's Hill Park, where we stopped for lunch at a very popular Italian restaurant. I had what was described as a 'Golder's Green Bagel' - smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumber. Not very Italian, perhaps, but delicious. Then, having drunk tea and eaten well, we moved on before our muscles decided to seize up. We headed along back streets along the extreme northern edge of Hampstead Heath, between Golder's Green and Hampstead Garden Village. Yet more mansions. Single houses as large as the (well-appointed) terrace of five in which I live. Eventually we came down to the junction of the North Circular Road and the Finchley Road at Henlys Corner, but did not cross the North Circular, rather turning right onto a path called the Brookside Walk, which follows the Mutton Brook and the Dollis Brook, small rivers which flow through North London's suburbia. This path took us under the North Circular, and the Great North Way and Hendon Lane, and eventually deposited us outside Hendon cemetery. We should really have followed the riverside walk a little further, since it could have saved us a lot of trouble, but we didn't know that.

We had to skirt right around the cemetery, since there didn't appear to be a path through it. Then, having got to the far side by the long route, I rashly decided we could cut across what was marked on the map as 'Arrandene Open Space'. It wasn't very open, and in fact consisted of a large tract of jumbled, muddy countryside with a lot of trees and virtually no exit. We ended up walking about a mile to end up a hundred yards from where we started, and got our shoes and boots covered in mud into the bargain. Then we carried on slogging up the hill, and discovered that the area my 'short cut' had been designed to avoid was the totally unsignposted old village of Mill Hill. I'd always thought of Mill Hill in terms of Mill Hill Broadway, where the Thameslink railway station is. This was a much more exclusive area, on the edge of the countryside and home to two public schools. Unfortunately, it was so exclusive that there wasn't anywhere to buy the afternoon tea we badly wanted. Moreover, if we'd carried on along the Brookside Walk, and from there gone the far side of a roundabout we'd passed in Hendon, we'd have been there a lot sooner. We'll know next time.

Old Mill Hill has plenty of place names to suggest that there really was a mill there once. From there we headed onward, through the outlying parts of Mill Hill and eastern Edgware, now with genuine open country on our right, until we came to the point where we left the urbanisation behind altogether. We headed for Moat Mount Open Space, an area of public countryside which would lead us into Hertfordshire. Still no afternoon tea. Moat Mount was approached along the edge of the most exclusive housing we'd seen yet - 'Mote Mount', consisting of a few green-roofed villas in their own private estates, with rare ducks in elegantly landscaped ponds - and past a riding stable. Then we crossed the Open Space itself, which is where the Dollis Brook rises. (It flows into Barnet and out again before coming to where we'd seen it before.) The fields were very damp, as though the river were rising out of the path itself. We glimpsed the M1 away to the left before reaching the far side of Moat Mount. Then we had to follow a busy A-road, and cross the A1 at Stirling Corner, which was probably the worst bit of the whole journey. Then we headed onward into Borehamwood, which is very dull, but entirely free of mansions, and where we finally got something to eat - sandwiches and cartons of milk from a branch of Iceland.

Then we headed onward through boring Borehamwood, and into the Hertfordshire countryside. More mansions appeared as we got to Radlett, where we joined the Roman road, Watling Street, which leads directly to St Albans. The sun was setting, and as we headed up the hill out of Radlett, it began to get pretty chilly. We crossed the M25 on a bridge, and went through the villages of Frogmore and Park Street before finally limping home to St Albans at 8:00pm, after walking a total distance of about 22 miles (35 km). We were extremely glad to be greeted by a hot dinner and good wine provided by family members who'd stayed at home. And then the pain started. My thighs felt appalling for the next twelve hours or so, and I was lucky to be the only walker who hadn't picked up blisters. So I only logged on for the briefest time, and then crashed into bed. And then...