Discovering my City – The Capital Ring
Walking the dog on the Greenway near my house I often see walkers purposefully striding along. I noticed the Capital Ring sign where I enter the path and decided to check it out.
The Capital Ring is one of a series of walks put together by Walk London. It is 78 miles long and links green spaces, rivers and canals in a walk around London by footpaths, bridleways and, where necessary, pavements. It took me to familiar places and undiscovered delights. Places I would never have been without the impetus of walking the route. Not physically demanding, nevertheless I felt a sense of achievement when emerging from the Woolwich Foot Tunnel at the finish.
Divided into fifteen sections, with directions to the nearest tube or mainline station at the end and beginning of each one, the Capital Ring is easy to combine two or three, if you are limited for time or keen to complete it quickly. We combined two sections for the most part, though did Stage 6 alone, to take advantage of its proximity to Ham House, where we spent the afternoon. There are several historic houses, gardens and museums close to the route, so some people may choose to combine visits with their walk.
We took a packed lunch each day but found some smashing little cafes along the route, particularly in local parks which was great to see. Not surprisingly the cafes do not tend to be open during the winter.
Full details of the Capital Ring route are now on the TfL website and it is very clear and easy to navigate. You can download route directions and maps from there. I chose to purchase the Capital Ring book which gives you more information and has some good photos. It was great to have the opportunity to see London as it is to its residents, who all know where the local park, cafe and paths are. It’s lovely to see what great facilities there are and how much history you can discover by leaving the popular attractions behind and keeping your eyes open.
Section one is 6.2 miles so we decided to take it easy and get the hang of the walk, not wanting to rush and miss things. The beginning is well sign-posted from Woolwich Arsenal Station but we still struggled to find the signpost at the start of the walk. I think this was us, getting tuned into the route, though looking at my photos, I think we can be forgiven as the sign was behind some hoarding!
The first stage was where we made most mistakes, before we learned to concentrate on where we were going and look ahead to where we would need to turn off. It was also the only day it poured with rain, making me reluctant to fish the book out of my bag and get it wet!
This first stage is really varied, with riverside walk, parks, woods and pavements. Climbing up to find Severndroog Castle, it was good to see it is being renovated to be community space, rather than luxury apartments as I had feared.
Following watery routes where possible, it is great to find yourself walking alongside the Thames on several sections.
One of the best things about the route was the surprises. Even though we knew what was coming up from the book, it still delighted me to turn a corner and find a trickling brook or an ancient woodland. A highlight had to be some donkeys, guaranteed to put a smile on anyone’s face!
Here are some of the things I found. Something for you to look out for if you walk the path, like a treasure hunt.
My appetite has been whetted for more long distance explorations of London. 2015 will be my year for the London Loop.