London: the step-by-step guide

Michael Leapman reaches the peak of Beckton Alps on his Newham walk
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The Independent Culture
If you're giving Klosters a miss this year there is skiing nearer home at Beckton Alps, even if the view from the top of this former gasworks waste tip is less lyrical than from the Swiss mountains.

From West Ham station, turn left and left again into Memorial Avenue and take the second right, Celandine Way. Through an iron gate at the bottom turn left towards the recreation ground and take the central path of three to cross it diagonally.

Turn left onto Grange Road, passing the East London Cemetery on your left: look at the impressive memorial garden by the entrance, each urn marked by a pruned standard rose adorned with wreaths and bouquets. Turn left onto Upper Road and at the top of the slope turn right, through a squeeze stile on to a metalled footpath.

The stile is designed to allow bicycles through, but no larger vehicles. This long straight footpath and cycle way runs between grassy verges along the top of the north London sewer, built in the mid-19th century to siphon the stenches from central London, though no whiff reaches walkers. Its views over east London are scarcely picturesque but offer insights into what people do with their back gardens.

Stay on the path for about two miles as it crosses several roads. Beckton Alps, ahead on your right, is visible from some distance away and just before you reach it the path ends at East Ham High Street. Turn left, cross the road by the church and turn right into Norman Road.

On your right is the entrance to St Mary's churchyard, now the East Ham nature reserve (open 9am-4pm daily). Said to be England's largest churchyard, at 10 acres, it is preserved for wildlife and the paths through the graves provide a pleasant stroll.

The church itself was built in 1130, London's only Norman parish church still used as such. Its timbers and blind arcading are worth looking at if you can get in. It is open for worship at 10am on Sundays or you can sometimes get the key when the visitorcentre is open (weekends 2pm-4pm).

Leaving the reserve turn left on to Norman Road and left again to walk under the flyover to Beckton Alps. The path to the top zigzags to a platform, where you get views of Shooters Hill, the Thames estuary and the Canary Wharf skyscraper. Alongside, skiers let go of the ski lift and make their stylish way to the bottom, where there is a cafe and bar.

Go down by the same path but just before the foot keep straight ahead at a junction to the exit on Alpine Way. Cross to a footpath signposted to Beckton DLR Station, passing the shopping centre car park on your left and ignoring the underpass on your right. Cross Windsor Terrace and keep ahead past the DLR station (no weekend services).

Cross the road and just before the next roundabout veer off on a cycle track to the right. Reaching the road again keep ahead, with New Beckton Park on your right. Cross over and at the next roundabout turn left into Cyprus Place.

At the Ferndale pub, cross on to a footpath on the right, heading for a prominent round pumping station. Turn right at the Gallions Roundabout and cross two main roads before taking the path on the right immediately under a flyover. There is a gap for pedestrians to the left of the locked iron gate, beneath a small cabin usually occupied by a security guard who may warn you to keep to the footpath as you traverse the eastern end of the old Royal Docks - an intriguing stretch of the walk.

Stay on the metalled road alongside the dock basin and at its end follow the footpath sign on the right. From here, the path across the dock mouth, crossing two huge locked gates, is marked by black-and-white signs but you have to keep your eyes open fora few of them. Be vigilant just past a large grey warehouse, where the obvious road turns right but you want a narrower path to the left, leading to a riverside walkway.

Soon after you turn back inland there are alternative signposted routes: the one you want is to the left, up concrete steps, taking you across the second locked gate. The path emerges on Woolwich Manor Way. Turn left and follow the road as it winds downhill to the Roundhouse pub, where you turn left on Bargehouse Road. At its end go up a slope and turn right on to another river walkway.

Just past the Royal Victoria Gardens and before the Woolwich Ferry terminal, go up the steps alongside the terrace of the Royal Pavilion pub. They bring you out opposite the old North Woolwich railway station, now a local rail museum. The newer station to its left is closed until May. A replacement bus service stops every 20 minutes about 100 yards to the left of the new station and will take you back to West Ham.

Most of this route is part of the Green London Way, a footpath through outer London's rustic stretches, described in Bob Gilbert's book of that name (Lawrence & Wishart, £9.99)

Distance: Five miles Time: Two-and-a-half hours Underground: West Ham (District and Metropolitan)

Parking: In Memorial Ave Getting back: Bus (rail replacement service) from North Woolwich to West Ham (see below)

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