Tag Archives: walk

Unplugged: Capital Ring – Plaistow to Woolwich [THE END]

11 Dec

It was a slightly warmer day than a fortnight ago when my friend Chris and I walked the previous section of the Capital Ring in London. Today we continued from where we left off at Plaistow on the Greenway (which you might remember follows the route of the Northern Outfall Sewer).

The Greenway is nice and flat and makes for quite easy walking, but unlike the previous section there was not much to see along this section, really just houses, a cemetery and a hospital. The only thing that broke it up were frequent road crossings and gateways like the one above.

Eventually the route broke off from Greenway and passed through a string of parks (seemingly known collectively as Beckton District Park). This at least broke some of the monotony, but they weren’t particularly attractive or appealing under grey cloudy skies, although we did meet a group of geese out for a walk.

Having passed through a residential area we then arrived at the modern buildings of the University of East London on the banks of the Royal Albert Dock. Across the water was London City Airport and beyond that the King George V Dock. The only boats moving on the water today were rowing boats and in the sky above were a surprisingly small number of planes arriving at the airport.

The path cuts through another residential area to take us out to the banks of the River Thames with just the river separating us from the finish point on the south side. The official route uses the Woolwich Foot Tunnel to cross under the river, but this is closed for rebuilding work until March 2011 so we had to take the Woolwich Free Ferry across the Thames instead.

I have never used the foot tunnel before, so I was a little disappointed not to be able to walk under the Thames, but I don’t recall ever using the ferry before either so that was a new experience for me as well, although admittedly not that exciting.

The start and finish point of the Capital Ring is the southern entrance to the foot tunnel and it was somewhat of an anti-climax in the end to arrive and find it surrounded by hoardings, but at least we made it round.

So, that completes the 78 miles of the Capital Ring around London (actually I am not sure about the accuracy of some of the mileage, but it doesn’t really matter). For the most part it has been an enjoyable walk, there were some parts of the route where I felt less than comfortable and was glad to keep moving and there were places where I could have lingered for longer, and will possibly re-visit at some stage.

It has been quite varied, not many hills, but a pleasing amount of woodland and parks, although many of those parks were really playing fields and not proper parkland (like Richmond Park). There was usually something of historical interest for me to see and many of these sights would warrant closer examination (we never really had time to linger for long). Of course there was also plenty of modern features to admire (like the Olympic Stadium) or cast scorn upon. Really everything you would expect from the City of London.

Thoughts now turn to the next route for the new year, I am currently considering the High Weald Landscape Trail, 94 miles from Horsham, West Sussex to Rye, East Sussex. Being more rural might mean waiting for a few months for the ground to dry up a bit. We also still have the North Downs Way to finish, but that is for the summer when the days are longer and we can spend more time walking.

I also want to try to get in some more family history themed walks next year. There are lots of places in Sussex (and beyond) that I want to visit, with houses and churches to photograph and generally get a feel for some ancestral landscapes. I also intend to walk the South Downs Way next year, this time all in one go, or rather all in one week, rather than spread out over several weeks.

Unplugged: Capital Ring – Finsbury Park to Plaistow

27 Nov

It has been a while since my friend Chris and I went to London and walked a section of the Capital Ring, but despite the cold weather that is what we did today. When I say cold, it was only around freezing but still a lot colder than I am used to walking in. Despite the cold this has to have been one of my favourite sections of the walk.

We started back at Finsbury Park railway station and headed across the Finsbury Park and on to Clissold Park and Stoke Newington. Here the path took us through Abney Park Cemetery, which is a lovely cemetery which although it looks overgrown and neglected is actually a nature reserve and conservation area. There are some amazing memorials here and I could have spent hours exploring, one of the most prominent graves is that pictured below of William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army.

From Stoke Newington the path continues in a north-eastern direction to Springfield Park and the River Lea, the walk then follows the river roughly south-east. There was quite a lot of activity on the river (narrowboats, canoes and swans) and the path follows this until Old Ford Lock, where the path joins The Greenway.

The Greenway is another named path which is along the top of a sewer. I have followed many things over my years of walking, from disused railways to rivers and canals, but I think this is the first time I have followed a sewer. The sewer in question is the Northern Outfall Sewer and it is elevated above the surroundings, giving some great views.

The Greenway crosses the site of the London 2012 olympics and there are excellent views of the construction works in progress. The photo above shows the main olympic stadium to the north of The Greenway. Although it looks quite bright, the weather took a turn for the worse, it didn’t actually rain (or snow) but it did come over very dark and threatening.

Further along The Greenway there were some interesting views across to Canary Wharf (pictured below), acting as a reminder that we are nearing the end of the Capital Ring, on the bank of the River Thames. Hopefully in a couple of weeks we will be back up to London to complete the final section before Christmas.

Capital Ring: Preston Road to Finchley Road

11 Sep

My friend Chris and I continued our walk around London on the Capital Ring. To be honest it wasn’t a very good day’s walking, the weather was not very nice, although we did manage to avoid most of the showers. There was very little of interest in this part of north London to look out for.

Having said that it did get off to a promising start (once we had left the residential area around Preston Road underground station) with a climb up Barn Hill. On the top of the hill we were rewarded with a splendid view across to Wembley Stadium (despite the grey conditions) and a white painted trig point.

Barn Hill trig point

Not long after here things started to go downhill, there was a bit more open country, and a climb up to Gotford Hill (with the rather desolate looking footpath sign shown below) but soon were in built up areas again, walking along pavements beside busy roads and between rows of houses.

Remote footpath sign

Then things got really bad as virtually all the signs marking the route disappeared. I don’t like having to walk around with a map constantly in my hand, and have been used to just following the signs on previous sections. We didn’t go far out of our way, but we did miss a couple of turnings. It was just annoying to have to keep checking the map to see which street we should be following.

By lunchtime we had just about had enough, the weather was deteriorating and we need some food. We decided we wouldn’t make it all the way to the end of this section of the route in time for the train home, so we decided to stop early, get some lunch and make our way home. As we are now in north London it is taking longer and longer to get back home, but we are about three-quarters of the way around the route now, and time to start planning the next route we are going to walk.

Capital Ring: South Greenford to Preston Road

28 Aug

After a break of a couple of weeks (probably too much of a break if truth be known) I was back up in London with my friend Chris walking another section of the Capital Ring More accurately it was about one and a half sections, finishing the previous section off, completing one whole section and starting the next.

Today’s route was largely along residential streets and as such was a bit disappointing, there were however a few highlights which made it worthwhile. The first of these was following another section of the Grand Union Canal, unfortunately it was quite a short stretch, but it did make me think again about walking to Birmingham one day.

For me the best bit of the walk today was the climb up Horsenden Hill and the views at the top. We were lucky with the weather today, and despite a bit of cloud the views were quite excellent, probably the best of route so far. The picture below shows the view looking west.

View from Horsenden Hill

As an added bonus, at the top of the hill was a trig point, a lovely grey painted (apparently anti-graffiti paint) block of concrete used in mapping the country. It was a few metres away from the path and I couldn’t resist paying it a visit and getting some photos.

Horsenden Hill trig point

Whilst I enjoy visiting trig points it is always much better when you just happen to come across one in the course of a walk, although it can be rather frustrating to find out afterwards that you have been somewhere near a trig point but didn’t actually spot it at the time, like in Richmond Park.

Today’s walk was rather more hilly than previous sections, Horsenden Hill was the only real green hill of the sort I am used to, but the other hills were evident in the place names (Sudbury Hill and Harrow on the Hill) and the sloping streets.

Harrow on the Hill is the home to the famous public school, and as we are just at the end of the summer holidays it wasn’t too busy. There are some nice looking buildings and impressive views across to the City of London to the south and to Wembley Stadium. The Capital Ring runs through the school’s playing fields heading east towards Northwick Park, home to a large hospital and golf course but not much else.

Capital Ring: Grove Park to Streatham Common

10 Jul

Today my friend Chris and I completed the next two sections of the Capital Ring walk around London. Despite the temperatures pushing 30°c (which is pretty hot for England) we completed about 13 miles, mostly on the pavements of south-east London.

3.  Grove Park to Crystal Palace (8.5 miles)

4.  Crystal Palace to Streatham Common (4.0 miles)

I wasn’t that impressed with the first part of the walk, not much to see, no real views to speak of and much of the route along concrete and tarmac. There were a few parks and a couple of strips of woodland, but on the whole this were quite unremarkable.

The only really remarkable thing was the state of the grass, it has been several weeks since we had any decent rain and everywhere is starting to look so dry and brown, it is really sad to see. I know it will start growing again when we get some rain, but it doesn’t really make for an enjoyable walk.

The highlight of the first section was reaching the end at Crystal Palace Park, not least because there was at last something interesting to see. There is quite a large park there with many facilities including a very welcome cafe. There are some wonderful historical features here that really warrant further investigation one day.

Sphinx at Crystal Palace Park

The most prominent feature is the massive mast of the radio and television transmitting station, there is even a little cable car, presumably for maintenance purposes, that we saw rising slowly almost to the top of the mast.

Transmitter mast and stone terrace

After spending a bit longer than we had planned at Crystal Palace we continued onto the next section. Fortunately is was a shorter section because not only were thing starting to get very warm, but it seemed almost as uninteresting to me as the first section, with only a few redeeming features.

Loads of lavender

The photo above is of the lavender at Norwood Grove, which had quite a nice little garden perched on top of a hill. The views from here were pretty good, looking south to the North Downs. I wonder if we will ever finish walking along the North Downs Way this year?

The final part of the walk was from Streatham Common itself down to the railway station that bears it’s name. Every time I head to London I pass through Streatham Common station on the train, one of the many places for which I know the name, but have no idea what is there. Now I know, quite a nice piece of rough grassland at the top, leading down to more traditional park and playing fields.

At least this walk is putting pictures to what were previously just names on a map. It is a shame more of them aren’t more interesting, but I suppose you have to take the rough with the smooth.

South Downs Way: Exton to Winchester

29 Jun

South Downs Way sign

Today I completed the final section of the South Downs Way, from Exton to Winchester (both in Hampshire). It was a bit of a spur of the moment decision last night, and it meant another early start and a marathon bus journey to get home.

The weather started rather grey and overcast, with a forecast of rain, but I was still in my shorts and short-sleeve shirt (and an umbrella in my rucksack). I did wonder whether I had got it wrong, but once I started walking it became clear that although the sun was not visible it was still a going to be a warm day.

I spent a little longer than I had planned in Exton, mainly at the church (pictured below), St. Peter and St. Paul, which was open and is a delightful church. There were several baptisms, marriages and burials of my ancestors that took place at that church and it was good to see it in detail at last.

Exton Church

I hurried off from Exton, trying to make up for the time I had spent in the church, heading in a north-westerly direction up Beacon Hill. The first half a mile or so was a gentle rolling landscape and I could almost see my ancestors working on these fields 150 years ago. Then things got steep and the thoughts of my ancestors turned to thoughts of mountain goats.

Stile on a slope

The view from the top was worth the climb, even in the gloom and haze there were quite spectacular views to the south and west. Also there was a trig point there as well, which made it really worthwhile. From Beacon Hill the South Downs Way continues in the same roughly north-westerly direction, and to be honest the path became a little dull again.

The views were very limited, often blocked by hedgerows either side of the track. The only thing that kept me going was trying to catch up with and stay ahead of a couple of groups of walkers, who had also got off the bus at Exton. My dalliance at the church had allowed them to get ahead of me, but it was a great motivator to try and catch up with them.

Fingerpost on Gander Down

The path started to open up a bit more after the halfway point and also it started to rain, fortunately it was nothing more than a few spots, although the skies threatened more. Within an hour or so the clouds started to break up, there was more blue sky than cloud.

The views at Cheesefoot Head were quite spectacular, and before long the city of Winchester came into view, then promptly disappeared as I rounded the side of the hill, but at least I could now see where I was heading, albeit still more than a couple of miles away.

Chilcomb church

As I descended towards Winchester I checked my watch and decided I could fit in a visit to Chilcomb church. I couldn’t remember exactly which one it was, but one of my MITCHELL relatives was baptised here, and I felt that I ought to get a photo otherwise I would probably never get around to visiting it again. It is such a delightful little church, I was really glad I took time out to visit, there are stunning views of Winchester from the churchyard.

The final couple of miles from Chilcomb to Winchester were not particularly interesting, the entry in the city is across a footbridge over the motorway, and then about a mile along pavements into the heart of the city. The final stretch is along the side of the River Itchen, which was quite nice, but it seems all traces of the South Downs Way had disappeared from the city.

Despite my brief efforts, I couldn’t find any sign marking the end of the South Downs Way, the statue of King Alfred has apparently been adopted as the end (or start) of the route, but having walked the 12 miles from Exton (and over 100 miles from Eastbourne over the last couple of months) I had hoped to find some official indication that I had reached the end.

King Alfred at Winchester

I must confess the path did bring me into a different part of the city, one which I hadn’t seen before because it is at the opposite end of the city from the Hampshire Record Office, and it was a much nicer part of the city, and somewhere I would like to come back to and explore further.

Then came the question of getting home. There were two options, bus or train. I had been hoping I would get to Winchester in time to get the bus, because I have been wanting to get the bus home from Winchester for over six months now, so I made my way to the bus station.

The bus journey home is an epic journey, and one that cuts through my Hampshire ancestral homeland. From Winchester the bus goes to Alton (home of the WRIGHT family) and then on to Guildford, Surrey. The journey takes about an hour and forty minutes, and as well as Alton it passes through Alresford, Hampshire which is home to my MITCHELL roots.

Racing through the Hampshire countryside on the top deck of the double-decker bus was a perfect way to end the day, especially as when we neared Ropley we passed alongside the Mid Hants Railway and were treated to the sight of one of their preserved steam trains heading for Alton.

From Guildford, Surrey it was another hour by bus to Horsham, Sussex where I was finally able to get on a bus that would take me home. For some people four hours on buses would be torture, but for me it was just a perfect way to end another little adventure in my life.

Capital Ring: Woolwich to Grove Park

26 Jun

Today’s walk was a complete change from our usual walking territory, instead of heading out to Kent to continue walking the North Downs Way, my friend Chris and I headed for London to start walking the Capital Ring.

The intention had been to complete the North Downs Way before starting the Capital Ring, but the next stage of the North Downs Way was a problem to get to because of engineering work on the railway. So we decided that we would make a start on the Capital Ring.

As the name suggests the Capital Ring is a circular path that winds it’s way around the city of London. The total distance is 78 miles, so not that long, and being mostly in the outskirts of London the transport connections are very good. I can’t claim any real genealogical connections with the walk, most of my London ancestors were from the very centre of London and the walk is some way out of the centre.

Today we completed the first two sections of the walk:

  1. Woolwich to Falconwood (7.1 miles)
  2. Falconwood to Grove Park (4.1 miles)

Most of the route is unfamiliar to both Chris and I, although many of the place names are familiar we have never had any reason to visit them before now. The walk begins on the banks of the River Thames, by the southern entrance of the Woolwich Foot Tunnel and heads west along the side of the river, before heading southwards.

Smile, it's Tate and Lyle

Confession time here: I was too carried away walking along the side of the river, enjoying the view and the sunshine to notice the signpost telling us we had to turn left away from the river, so we had to back track a couple of hundred metres when I noticed the mistake (when the path stopped abruptly).

Generally though the signposts were very good, there was really only one occasion when I had to consult the map, when the signposts conflicted each other (someone had obviously been interfering with one of them).

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect on this walk, being London I expected a large amount of built up areas, and there was a fair amount, but there was also a considerable amount of countryside and parkland, although we were never that far away from roads and people.

The route did take us past (or near) several landmarks such as the Thames Barrier, Charlton House, Severndroog Castle (pictured below) and Eltham Palace.

Severndroog Castle

The views from Severndroog Castle would have been quite spectacular if it weren’t for the haze, likewise on the path just after Eltham Palace, there was quite a panorama. It was a real delight to see so many famous landmarks of London (like the Gherkin, London Eye and Canary Wharf Tower) from such a distance and in the same skyline together.

Rose garden at the foot of Severndroog Castle

I have already said that the signposts were pretty good, and generally the route was very easy walking, there were really only two steep climbs, one with several flights of steps. There was a lot more pavement than I am used to, and most of the sections were quite short, meaning that we were often changing direction, rather than walking for several miles in the same direction along the ridge of the hills.

Hopefully next time we head out for a walk it will be back to the North Downs Way, but I shall look forward to walking the rest of the Capital Ring, although it is not particularly challenging it is a good excuse to see parts of London we wouldn’t otherwise, and hopefully will increase my knowledge of the geography of London, which will hopefully benefit my genealogy at some stage in the future.

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