I do a lot of walking around SE1 and indeed all through London. I walk during the day, evening and night and record all at my photoblog http://www.curiouslyincongruous.net I walk for hours a day practically every day so I'm pretty experienced (and my legs are a lot more capable than they were 2 years ago when I started so take heart!) It's nothing for me to walk from Tower Bridge to Greenwhich or Canary Wharf these days (about 4-5 hours considering I'll do several hundred photos along the way).
The thing about London is that neighborhoods change so fast that its nearly impossible to go out for a good walk without passing through hidden charms, brilliant historical areas, interesting architecture mingled with surprisingly sad areas of poverty, scary characters and poor upkeep. The one exception in our area maybe to cross Tower Bridge (if you live in that area) and walk around the City or cross the Thames on any one bridge and walk along the north shore and cross another bridge (depending on your endurance select one) and loop back along the south shore. I don't seem to have the problems with bicycles that others have reported.
There are so many interesting things in SE1 and adjacent areas. The Mayflower left England near Rotherhithe and the walk along the Thames south from Shad Thames is full of empty parks and is quite beautiful. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales started in a tavern on a small alley right off Borough High Street and is marked with a plaque. The railroad trestle from London Bridge to Greenwhich was the first in the area. I stopped once at the Porsche place off Druid St and the owner took me on a tour of the insides under the track. It was like an historical tour back 150 years ago, fascinating! I love walking up Curtain Road, Great Eastern Street up to Hoxton or Shoreditch. Lower Marsh behind Waterloo Station is short but sweet. Exploring may seem dangerous but its very rewarding.
In my experience its not where you walk but how you walk, the recent attacks on people in Twickenham show that no place is immune from violence. I think its important not to project vulnerability or to put it another way, to project confidence. It might make you feel more comfortable to carry a personal alarm. These are hugely loud piercing noise maker things (sounding like a smoke alarm) that weigh next to nothing and cost about £6. You pull a little chain or push a button and they go off. Shout at a mugger to "Go Away", don't shout "help" or other vulnerable sounding words.
You can get a free booklet for each walk, with a map of the route, and a description of the places of interest you pass. I haven't done any of the walks yet, but spent a pleasant hour in a pub reading about them!
*Edited to apologise to James for posting link to another - though vastly inferior - local website.
Edited 1 times. Last edit at 2 September 2004 12.49pm by The Lady Miss Jo Jo.
Heather and I did a good walk last weekend - a new developments walk
Start at Southwark Tube for the Palestra site and Wooton St, Down Short street to look at empty site, then Webber st for my new favourite builidng a small incredibly colourful peabody development for key workers by Baron place.
Southwark bridge road for the condemned undertakers, site being cleared, and old houses being done up. Lant St for new development and cleared sites. Long Lane for new developments either end.
Grange walk for lovely old houses and Bermondsey Spa, back To Bermondsey St for new developments at Southern end and on to Leathermarket for redevelopment by Weston St.
Tooley st for a quick look at More London, Children's Theatre & refurbed Glaziers hall. Winchester walk for new development and new bit of Borough Market.
Southwark St for St Christopher's house site and old Sainsbury's HQ site, and back to Southwark tube.
If you do something similar leave several hours and have regular vists to pubs, preferably ones you've not tried before
I was left thinking how few old buildings there are left to refurbish and how the number of industrial sites to convert is shrinking. A debate for another day might be about residential developments driving out industry which provides local jobs. I think there's one left on Bermondsey St and then there are some industrial sheds behind the Tate.
Another thing I felt was that where developers have small quirky sites they do interesting things, where they have big sites, they do duller things.
Just to add my tuppence worth - I walked from London Bridge to Greenwich Observatory this weekend (in the gorgeous Sunday afternoon sunshine) along the south bank of the Thames Path.
In total, it took me about 2.5 hours (walking at a moderate pace, without a map, but with no real stops along the way).
The bit from London Bridge to Canary Wharf (or just opposite Canary Wharf, as I was on the South Bank) was really very easy to follow. You can't walk straight along the south bank of the Thames Path, so you occasionally have to go in a road or two, but that just made it all the more interesting to look at the old and the new standing side by side in Rotherhide. The paths are well signposted with black "Thames Path" signs. It was a really good look at all the new development taking place in the area and (if you are so inclined) there looked to be lots of nice little pubs along the way.
The second stage from CW to Greenwich is a bit different in character - you go through a mix of brand new developments and some pretty deprived areas in Deptford - I turned one corner from a fancy new "private" square into what pretty much looked like a scrap yard. It's also not as well signposted, and I ended up following the number 4 cycle route to Greenwich for part of the walk as I couldn't work out how to get back to the Thames Path (or maybe that was the Thames Path ?). Whilst I felt perfectly safe walking on my own throughout the entire route on a Sunday afternoon, I wouldn't do that section after dark. If you're not comfortable walking through council estates and large groups of kids hanging out in the afternoon, you might not feel the same.
However, can some smart person tell me if there is a clever way to get off the South bank of the Thames path at some point and cross over to the Isle of Dogs, or do I have to cross Tower Bridge and walk along the north bank ? (I had grand plans to go shopping for ice-cream in Waitrose...)