Tag Archives: river thames

Capital Ring: Richmond to South Greenford

7 Aug

I spent another Saturday walking in London with my friend Chris, completing (almost) another couple of sections of the Capital Ring. This time we picked up from where we left off last week at Richmond Park and headed generally in a northerly direction to end at South Greenford railway station.

There was a definite theme to today’s walk: water. Within about ten minutes of getting off the bus we were beside the River Thames and followed this for a couple of miles. The riverside at Richmond was just starting to wake up, cafes and bars preparing for the day and some activity on the boats on the river.

Richmond Lock

This was the first time I have been alongside the Thames outside of central London, and it was really quite nice, lots of old buildings and signs of the previous commercial aspects of the river. The picture above is of Richmond Lock, with some quite fantastic ironwork on the bridge crossing the river.

After leaving the river the route cuts across Syon Park, past the rather plain looking Syon House (pictured below). I don’t know what is inside Syon House, but it seemed quite a popular place with all sorts of facilities in the vicinity, although the car park was a bit of a building site. Syon Park (like Richmond Park last week) was spoilt by the constant stream of aeroplanes passing right overhead on the way to Heathrow Airport.

Syon House

Soon however we were alongside water again, this time the Grand Union Canal at Brentford Lock. This is the first time I have really spent any time walking alongside a canal, and wish we had walked further along the towpath. There are not many canals in Sussex, although many stretches of river were made navigable at various times. We were never far away from traffic noise, modern buildings or housing, but there was a plenty of things to see on and along the canal.

Grand Union Canal

I believe that if we had carried on walking we would have eventually ended up in Birmingham, but we had to leave the towpath at Hanwell (with it’s flight of six locks) and follow the course of the River Brent, still more water! We followed the river for a couple more miles, before arriving at Wharncliffe Viaduct.

Wharncliffe Viaduct

I had been looking forward to viewing this masterpiece of railway engineering since I had read it was on our route. It was designed by my hero Isambard Kingdom Brunel and I stood and marvelled at this remarkable example of Brunel’s handiwork. After passing under the viaduct and taking a quick detour into Brent Lodge Park we continued along the side of the river for a few more miles, but interest was beginning to dwindle and the landscape becoming more developed.

This was one of the most enjoyable sections of the Capital Ring so far. I especially enjoyed walking alongside the canal, although the industrial past of the canal system has all but vanished, there are still traces of it’s history on the banks. Perhaps one day (or several days) I will follow the canal all the way to Birmingham.

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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