Borough and its markets

NEAREST LOCATION

Borough

RECOMMENDED BY
DISTANCE

4.75 miles (7.6kms)

ASCENT
0ft (0m)
TIME
3hrs
GRADIENT
DIFFICULTY
Easy
STARTING POINT
TQ324798

About the walk

Historically, Borough, Bermondsey and Rotherhithe were quite poor areas. Until a few years ago, very few people wanted to live in Bermondsey and in particular, Rotherhithe but, since the expansion of Canary Wharf and the addition of new transport links, it has been drawing more interest. To experience the specialist food and antiques markets here you will have to start this walk early – but early birds will be rewarded.

In the past, writers have been less than flattering about Rotherhithe, or Redriff as it was called during the time Samuel Pepys was writing his diaries (part of the route is along Redriff Road). In Our Mutual Friend (1864–65), Dickens writes of Rotherhithe, ' ...down by where accumulated scum of humanity seems to be washed from higher grounds like so much moral sewage...'. The early part of Moll Flanders' career as a prostitute, according to the author Daniel Defoe, was also spent in Redriff; it was certainly popular with sailors and renowned at the time for its many pubs. As in Docklands, developers have created some expensive properties for those after a spot of lofty living but the skyline was very different 100 years ago. The land was marshy and liable to flooding. Behind the riverside houses were farms and market gardens; the only things to look up to were church spires. Southwark Park now stands on the site of some of these market gardens. Although the area has more than its fair share of social housing (many homes have been bought in 'Right to Buy' schemes), the markets have a richness unique to south London and the East End.

Historic markets

Borough Market is the oldest early morning wholesale fruit and vegetable market in central London, where traders are joined on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays by a variety of specialist food retailers. Expect to see stalls selling anything from French cheeses and Cumbrian wild boar meat to barbecued burgers and organic vegetables, in an atmosphere more akin to a Dickens' novel. If you need proof, then enter from Bedale Street and witness the scene beneath the market's Victorian, cast-iron canopy. Bermondsey Antiques Market (held on Fridays between 4am and 1pm) is altogether different. For a start, the serious dealers have usually completed their trading when most of us are still asleep and before even the birds start searching for worms. It's an experience though, trying to find a bargain that would fare well on the Antiques Road Show.

Walk directions

From Borough tube turn left to cross Marshalsea Road and continue along Borough High Street, ignoring the left-hand slip road. A few paces past London Bridge tube is Borough Market. Just after Bedale Road cross the road into St Thomas Street. Ahead is the Shard, London's tallest landmark and home to an observation deck on the 72nd floor. On a clear day you can see the coast and on overcast days you will be in the clouds.

Turn right into Weston Street and continue past the site of the Bermondsey Leather Market, to Long Lane.

Turn left and follow Long Lane and just before the traffic lights is the site of Bermondsey Antiques Market, Bermondsey Square. Carry on ahead, then turn right into The Grange. At the end turn left into Grange Road, then first left into Spa Road. Or take the parallel path through the gardens.

Just before the railway arch turn right into Rouel Road and take the first left and under the railway arch. At the end turn right into St James's Road. Pass the St James Tavern, then turn left on Clements Road.

At the end turn right and in about 100yds (91m) turn left into Southwark Park entering though Jamaica Gate. Turn right and follow as the path gently swings to the left; the exit is before the sports complex via Hawkstone Gate. Turn left along Hawkstone Road to Surrey Quays tube station.

After crossing at the lights take the road behind the station leading into Redriff Road, which then veers left beside the shopping complex.

Before the red drawbridge turn right down the steps. At the bottom of the steps turn left following the white sign 'Russia Dock Woodland' and go past a row of town houses beside Greenland Dock. Turn left after the statue of engineer James Walker and, ignoring the first path, turn left under a bridge and continue on the main path ahead. Follow Russia Dock Woodland and then signs to 'Ecological Park' signs and then left go to Stave Hill.

After crossing stepping stones take the first right and bear left uphill to Stave Hill. Walk in a clockwise direction to reach the steps to Stave Hill. At the foot of the steps follow the path to Dock Hill Avenue. This crosses two roads before reaching Surrey Water. With this to your left, head for the main road and then turn left, and Rotherhithe tube is on the right.

Additional information

Mainly paved

Urban with views over Docklands

On lead except in Russia Dock Woodland

AA Street by Street London

Southwark Park; London Bridge station

Been on this walk?

Send us photos or a comment about this route.

Know a good walk?

Share your route with us.

Walking in safety

Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.

Find out more

About the area

Discover Greater London

Greater London is one of the world’s largest urban areas; 33 boroughs stretching north to Enfield, south to Croydon, east to Havering, west to Hillingdon and with central London at the heart of it all.

Greater London was officially created in 1965, but the boroughs themselves all have their own histories going back much further. Greenwich is home to the Prime Meridian, which all clocks on earth take their time from, while Hounslow contains Heathrow Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world. Greater London contains a multitude of parks and green spaces, from the six Royal Parks (including Richmond Park, Green Park, Hyde Park and Regent’s Park) and other huge open spaces like Hampstead Heath and Clapham Common; to smaller community spaces like Clissold Park in Stoke Newington and Burgess Park in Southwark.

The centre of London has its quiet spaces too, like Coram’s Field by Great Ormond Street, and Camley Street Natural Park, a stone’s throw from King’s Cross and St Pancras. One of the city’s most impressive features is the London Underground. Beginning in 1863 as the Metropolitan Railway, it took commuters into The City from the suburbs of Middlesex. It was the first underground railway in the world, and now consists of 11 lines, 270 stations, and 250 miles (402km) of track. It’s estimated that nearly five million journeys are taken every day, and there are nearly one and a half billion riders each year.  At peak times, there are more than 543 trains whizzing around the Capital.