Tag Archives: woolwich

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.

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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