The Gerald Colton Way looks an oddity, but there is a sharp logic to it. It runs from the South Bank Centre in Central London, out to the Buckinghamshire Chilterns, with loops and eccentricities on the way.
The route is 65 miles long, so do not expect to walk it in one weekend. It was devised in 1994 by Gerald Colton, a founder member and long-time Walks Organiser of the Hampstead Ramblers, to mark the first multi-racial elections in South Africa that year. He named it the ‘Mandela Way’ and it ran from a statue of Nelson Mandela by the Royal Festival Hall, out to the Boer War monument on Combe Hill in Buckinghamshire. It has no other connection with South Africa though and so after Mr Colton’s death the next year, the Hampstead Ramblers renamed his route in honour of its inventor.
Since the 1990s, the route has become mostly forgotten, which is a pity because it is eminently walkable in sections – the path is devised so as to pass railway stations allowing sections to be walked as day walks, and some of these are very interesting. It also achieve the feat of finding a largely green route all the way through and out of the metropolitan conurbation.
The route on its winding course passes through four counties, beginning on the Surrey bank of the Thames before crossing to Middlesex. It crosses almost due north all through Middlesex, then looping through Hertfordshire and Middlesex again before climbing through the Chess Valley into Buckinghamshire and following the Misbourne Valley through the Chilterns.
The Gerald Colton Way provided, if not a natural waking route, a series of pleasant walks to make into a personal project.
(Thanks to the Hampstead Ramblers for information on the route.)
In the Explorer, 1:50 000 series:
- Explorer 173: London North
- Explorer 182: St Albans and Hatfield
- Explorer 172: Chiltern Hills East
- Explorer 181: Chiltern Hills North