As the days get longer and warmer, Muscovites head for Serebryany Bor ("silver forest"), the island famed for its wildlife and beaches. This week's long picturesque circuit can - of course - be walked at any time of day, but it is particularly lovely in the evening when the light of the late-setting sun suffuses the dachas, woods and river. Although Moscow doesn't have the true St. Petersburg "White Nights," the evenings are noticeably extended as the longest day approaches this Saturday. With the sun setting after 10 p.m., you could probably start this walk after work and still be finished before nightfall. To get there, catch trolleybus 20, 21, 65 or 86 from Polezhaevskaya Metro Station. Three of these buses end at the trolleybus depot, which is where the walk starts, while the 21 pursues its lonely route to the far end of the island. Arriving by public transport means you are exempt from the hundred ruble toll levied on cars and you can jump back on the trolleybus whenever you've had enough without worrying about where you left the car.
Taking the path from the back right hand corner of the trolleybus park, fork left past the playground, to reach the start of a circular "eco trail," opened last summer, passing marshy areas, a lake, an aviary and an observation tower. This is a great area to spot all kinds of water-loving birds, including redstarts, warblers and buntings. Although the cold weather earlier this summer has kept mosquito numbers down, a dab of citronella wouldn't hurt.
Returning to the start of the trail and going on along the original path, you pass a lifeguards' house and turn left over two bridges to reach the far side of the lake. After this, the route is straightforward, basically following the coast of the island along sandy paths, bordered by flowers. This wild southern side of the island is rather noisier now that the new main road has been completed. As so often, the process of getting around more quickly means that the places we want to get to in such a hurry are not as nice as they used to be. The still considerable charms of the waterside in this area are chiefly enjoyed by nudist beach-lovers, who can be seen posing among the trees like overweight, sunburnt Greek statues.
Rounding the corner, you come to a fenced-off, paying beach. The water quality is, of course, identical to the free beaches either side which in many ways are more appealing; patches of soft sand under the willow trees. Continuing along the western shore of the island, there is a fantastic view of the newly-restored seventeenth century Church of the Lifegiving Trinity on the opposite shore in the village of Troitse Lykovo, which will be explored on next week's walk.
On the north-eastern tip of the island, is Serebryany Bor's best known beach, Plyazh 2, with a children's area, café and sun loungers. You have to pay 500 rubles to lounge for the day and the Pomeste café is not cheap, but the location is great and so are the fresh rolls and herb butter. From the west-facing terrace you can watch the sun sinking behind the tower blocks of Strogino. From the gate, you can catch a trolleybus or marshrutka back into town or you can go on walking...
The second half of the island circuit is pleasantly different from the first; there is less space for picnics and games of football, but the paths are pretty and the views are good. Many expats are lucky enough to have houses in this area. For the first 700 meters after the beach, you are forced to walk along Tamanskaya Ulitsa as the fences of elite villa complexes cut off the waterfront, but soon you come to a sandy path leading left through the scotch pines and along the shore. From this point, you can choose between a lower path beside the water or a higher path above banks of speedwell. The drifting poplar seeds and liquid song of the thrush nightingales all contribute to the magic of walking here at this time of year. You pass a landing stage and finally turn south again along the canal, along a tree tunnel between pink dog roses and wild strawberries.
When you reach the bridge, a flight of metal steps runs up to street level. There is a bus stop at the top across the road, but if the sky is still light and you want to walk on, there is a wonderful route to be enjoyed along the other side of the canal. There are fantastic views in both directions from the bridge and on the far side, a matching set of steps leads down again to the water's edge where you turn right. When you pass the yellow building, take the metal staircase up the bank to appreciate the view. There is a lookout point almost immediately, facing west along the Moscow River with a fallen ash tree to admire it from.
Going on through a popular cliff-top park, you catch glimpses across the Stroginsky Zaton, the largest lake in Moscow. When you reach the corner of a concrete wall, turn right through a fence and up through pine woods to Zhivopisnaya Ulitsa ("picturesque road"). Tram 28 runs every ten minutes to Shchukinskaya Metro from the tram stop opposite.
The playground and nature trail get this route off to a good start. For a shorter route to the far end of the islandtake the sandy path straight ahead into the woods instead of turning left along the water. Keep going in this direction, bearing right if in doubt, until you come out onto a quiet road. Turn left along this as far as a junction. Take the path on the far side between the two roads which leads you through the woods to the lovely western shore of the island where you can pick up the main route. Turning right along the riverbank, you pass a number of playgrounds and sandy coves great for building camps and sandcastles or climbing trees. The Dyetsky Gorodok ("children's village") at Plyazh 2 makes a great end point. For 200 rubles, kids can spend a happy half an hour with the trampoline, bouncy castle, big paddling pool and so on. The nearby café even has a kids' menu.