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Man on decades-long quest to walk every street in London

A south-east London man is on a mission to walk every street in the capital.

Jack Cornish, who works for Borough-based walking charity Ramblers, began his quest about ten years ago, while living in Brixton and working in Holborn. He was walking to work every day and aimed to go a different route each day. As he put it, the undertaking “expanded out from there”.

He has been working on the marathon task ever since, setting aside times to tackle huge chunks of London, as well as walking smaller sections in quiet moments, like in a spare half hour before meeting friends at the pub.

Jack, who has also walked from Land’s End to John O’Groats, thinks he has done about a third of London so far in the decade since he began. He logs his walks in three ways: on the Strava app, adding his routes to a customised Google map, and colouring the streets he has covered in an A-Z book.

And there is no cheating in Jack’s mapping method: it’s not enough just to set foot for a second in a street before walking on to the next one. Jack makes sure he walks down each one, which can make for a zigzagging, ‘ladder’ effect.

Asked whether he regrets his mammoth undertaking, Jack said: “Someone mentioned to me that there’s a novel about a man who tries to walk every street in London. I think he eventually goes mad. I haven’t read that.”

Jack’s day job for Ramblers, whose office is on Clink Street in Borough, is running a programme to re-establish the many paths, tracks and alleyways that have not been legally recognised as public rights of way.

The programme, called ‘Don’t Lose Your Way’, has identified 49,000 paths that could be lost to the public because they have not been formally established. The deadline for applications on all of these rights of way is the start of 2026 – as the government set a 25-year time limit on its Countryside and Rights of Way act to help re-establish these routes at the start of the century. Getting rights of way legally established gives them a significant level of protection and they can’t be easily built upon.

“We’ve got a network of paths, but it could be better,” Jack said. “There are some villages and communities without many paths at all. ”

There are two main reasons for getting more rights of way legally established. “One is pragmatic and practical, people like going out walking and cycling, and it’s important to get people out of their cars, and it obviously helps with tackling health issues.

“The other is that paths are part of our history. These rights of way are the oldest part of our history that we still have. It’s part of the ordinary heritage of how people have negotiated the towns and cities they live in”.

There is a long history of Southwark residents and south Londoners defending their public rights of way. One Tree Hill in Honor Oak at the south-eastern edge of the borough was fenced off by a private golf club in 1896, which led to mass protests in the area before the park was eventually reopened to the public.

Jack, who now lives in Brockley, where he also grew up, has recently begun walking into the office again, and said that there is more potential in Southwark for better walking routes. Ramblers proposed a new set of ‘leisure walking’ routes ahead of the mayoral election this year, several of which are in south London.

“It would be great to have more routes in to the centre like the Surrey Canal [in Peckham], as alternatives to things like walking up the Old Kent Road. What I enjoy is going on the side streets, the little quiet cut throughs. There’s a lot of potential for that in areas like Walworth and Bermondsey.”

Learn more about Ramblers and Don’t Lose Your Way here.


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