London Loop – Hatton Cross to Uxbridge

London loop rubbish
London loop rubbish

I woke up to a fight morning, but the weather people were promising sunny weather, so I would keep the momentum going, Hatton Cross to Uxbridge which is 11 miles. By the time I had parked up in Uxbridge the air was still chilly but blue sky was starting to be visible through the now low clouds.

I missed a 222 but they run every 7 minutes so it was not long before another one came along. I decided to shave 10 minutes off the loop by skipping half a mile of the loop to save having to change busses. When I got off the bus I must have got my map up the wrong way because I crossed the road and walked to where it crosses the LOOP. At the zebra crossing I noticed a lady and two boys, she was carrying the same print out I had in my back pocket for the sections I was doing that day, I wished them luck with it but i’m not sure they made the connection. They were however the first people I had seen who were without doubt doing the loop (or part of), other people I have seen may have been but without asking I will never know.

Tesla cockpit
Tesla cockpit

Once on the path I crossed a park then I had to cross a road at the end of a housing estate, the rubbish at the side on the bend in the road was awful the worst I had seen so far on the walk, it was on Cranford lane. I followed the river for a mile or two and came across a church which was almost smothered by the M40 which I passed under and about 500 metres further on the path turned left at 90 degrees and follows the Grand Union Canal for a couple of miles as it edges through the industrial area of Hayes.

I left the canal and the path took me through a business park then across the edge of Stockley Park golf club across a dual carriage way and across Stockley park itself. Eventually dropping me out on a business park on the edge of Yiewsley. I decided a coffee was in order so my eyes were on alert. I spotted a Tesla showroom and ditched the coffee idea for a look at the cars inside.

Tesla can in the show room
Tesla can in the show room

The sales man was a friendly chap even when I explained that I was far from being a customer. He answered all my questions and we chatted about how Elon Musk was really just a battery manufacturer. he invited me to have a sit in the cars and encouraged me to play with the massive touch screen that they have in the centre console. Finally he offered to get me a coffee from the fancy machine they had, thus saving me a couple of quid. I thanked him and set off again and was soon dumped back on the canal towpath, where I spotted my second lift boot converted to a canal boat with living accommodation, I had previously seen one on the Thames river bank.

Red autumn leaves and green pond weed
Red autumn leaves and green pond weed

I was feeling a bit peckish so when I passed a large Tesco on the side of the canal I popped in and got a sandwich and a bottle of water, then where the path takes a left at Packet Boat Marina near Little Britain I stopped at a handy bench and consumed them. Soon after the path leaves the canal and head north following the Colne river leaving the Slough arm of the Grand Union to go West. I carried on the Grand Union for a while before realising I had missed the turn, however I was able to se two instances where the canal was bridged over a couple of rivers.

The Colne river passes through an area with lakes and I saw plenty of wild life and not many people. I saw both a Heron and Little Egret both in a tree which is not usual to see before roosting time in the evening. The path follows the river round the industrial estate on the west side of Uxbridge and ten joins the Grand Union again for the last couple of miles. I did not take the first opportunity to get back to the car but took the next left so that I reduced the length of the next section to Moor Park. It looks like it will be mainly on the Grand Union.

London Loop – Kingston Upon Thames to Hatton Cross

Deer rut in Bushey Park
Deer rut in Bushey Park

This section was going to be a strange one, from Kingston ending up at Hatton Cross tube station, and thankfully a shortish one, 8.5 miles, after the previous days 15 miler. It would be the first time I would not use my Railcard as I would be using the car and a bus.  I would be doing an official section so it was well documented.

I set off at a reasonable the and set the satnav for the NCP car park at the Hatton Cross station. It took me round the M25 and M4 things went a bit wrong after that.  The satnav said I had arrived but it was nowhere to be seen, I carried on a bit but then had to stop to consult Google maps, which soon got me to outside the station but the on a road with no access to the far park, it was on the A30, so I had to go 1 mile back and forth to get to the entrance.

The Shot Tower Crane Valley
The Shot Tower Crane Valley

Luckily the bus was due and I was soon en route to Kingston, as we got closer things became familiar as places I had passed when doing the Thames Path. The bus stop was near the bridge on the side I had finished but it did mean I would miss a few hundred yards of  the Loop. Once across the river I entered Bushey park which was very popular, with loads of people about. I could not resist a stop at the woodland garden coffee establishment for a coffee and a piece of cake, I had to take the day easy, after all, because of my sore foot.

The deer in the park were in full rut and far more approachable than the ones in Ashridge. There were plenty of photographers and long lenses about. The path keeps mainly to the wooded and lakes areas. It was a real pleasure to walk through, alas it came to an end and the path spent a while on roads and in housing estate until it enters Crane Park, and follows the river Crane for a mile and a bit.

BA Hangar heathrow
BA Hangar heathrow

Halfway through the park there is a shot tower which has been renovated and is now a visitor centre for the London Wildlife Trust, unfortunately it was closed, I bet the view is good from the top. According to the web “Once the site of the Hounslow Gunpowder Mills, Crane Park Island is a beautiful reserve where you could be lucky enough to spot a majestic kingfisher or the threatened water vole.

It is a mosaic of woodland, scrub and reedbed, which due to careful management provides a home for the increasingly scarce water vole.

The island welcomes visitors throughout the year and has good facilities for people with disabilities. School children on specially organised visits can investigate the rich aquatic life in the shallow stretches of the Crane.

NCP car pak under the flight path at Hatton Cross
NCP car pak under the flight path at Hatton Cross

The old Shot Tower was opened as a visitor centre in 2004. It is open to the public every Sunday afternoon between 1.30pm and 4.30pm and for special events. Call 07702 669 888 for details. It was 13:20 so I hung around for 10 minutes, until a lady on a bicycle turned up and opned up shop. I asked if it was worth climbing the stairs to the top, and convinced me it was. Given I had walked quite a way by then ot was quite some effort and a bit of a disappoint men as the view was not quite over the tree tops.

Next came Hounslow Heath which is a large expanse of heath land and I spotted quite a lot of birds about. It is directly under the Heathrow flight path so it can be a bit noisy. I got my scanner out and listened to the air traffic controllers and ground staff going about their jobs. I passed through a wood called Donkey Wood and joined a river for the rest of the walk, it was pretty uninspiring as it looked polluted and ran down the back of houses and industrial buildings. I hit a dual carraige way and had to walk about 1km along the pavement to get to Hatton Cross station before I could tick that sections off.

London Loop – South Coulsdon to Kingston upon Thames

Sir Francis Crick Institute
Sir Francis Crick Institute

A bit of a milestone thus section as I was about to hit the Thames again, so that is kind of halfway. It was a going to be a tough one because the distance is more than 12 miles, but I figured if I start out early I would have plenty of scope for rests. I was up at 7 and resisted the urge to switch my PC on and be distracted by the internet, I was aiming for the 08:11 but when I got to the station I was in good time for the 08:01, which was slower but got to Euston 4 minutes earlier.

I expected to use the Victoria line but Google maps suggested an alternative, using the Thames link from St Pancras, which meant a 5 minute walk. It gave me an opportunity for another London terminus tick and a chance to see  the Sir Francis Crick Institute building. I noted that the cafeteria had a few two people tables but mainly a few long tables with chairs down each side. I guess that it means that people will mix more because they end up sitting next to people. In my work cafeteria all the tables are round and you end up with the same people on the tables each day. With a long table you still get the groups but they are sat next to other groups rather than being isolated. I quickly took some pano shots as the building is tall and hard to get into one shot.

Suburbia seen from the London Loop path
Suburbia seen from the London Loop path

At the St Pancras I quickly found the right platform and my timing was perfect, the train pulled away about 30 seconds after I boarded. The Thames link crosses the river close to Tate Modern in fact the station is over the river and you get a great view of the gallery, The Shard and The City buildings named after thing you find normally in a kitchen. The train went as slow as it did last week and after crossing the Thames soon joined the same set of rails. I theorised that it always went slow but would speed up when it got away from all the junctions and was speeding through the countryside to Brighton.

The route out of Coulsdon was quite well signposted and although it starts off in the town soon you are in the countryside. At the edge of Coulsdon I came across a funeral directors called  W A Truelove & Son Ltd which I thought was an interesting name. Close the Oak Park I cheated a bit, missing off a dog leg to avoid a couple of hundred yards of road, and I thought I had missed the Mayfield lavender. I had but not only was the place closed but the lavender was obviously in hibernation with hardly a purple shade evident in the field. There was however a red phone box and a wooden gazebo, which I guess photographers use as props. The path I took did run along one edge of the field.

Spaceship building
Spaceship building

I rejoined the path at a road crossing and entered Oak Park, it started to rain so I took the opportunity for a rest and a coffee in the café, in the hope that the rain would stop when I ventured outside again. The BBC had promised rain but when I checked the latest predictions it was more optimistic. I had to cross a Golf course with dual carriageway between first and second 9 which must be a pain for the players. The LOOP is not well sign posted across the course, and I clearly looked lost too, as a cuple of golfers asked me if I was, not that they could tell me where the path was!

Banstead Down is an SSSI and I saw my third Jay of the day, the first one in a front garden. I also noticed holes with acorns in the bottom evidence of squirrels and jays preparing for winter. The Golf course dumped me into a housing estate, which looked quite posh. Then I noticed that I was in the borough of Epsom and Ewell, and a sign informed me that it was twinned with Chantilly France.

Across Warren Farm Woodland Trust I had to keep to the paths as there were of dog walkers and shit when you are off the paths. I got to Ewell Castle School.ans then into the centre of the town it was lunchtime and the first good establishment I came across was an Italian, it was empty which was a bit worrying, but it looked good and they has spaghetti di mare on the menu. I needn’t have worried as no sooner as I has orders more customers started to arrive. They served bread in a basket which was a nice touch, I ordered a Perrier to go with my lunch which turned out to be a 75cl, I was not carrying water so managed to drink it all. The spaghetti was excellent, and I lingered a while to finish off he water and avoid a stitch when I did get back on the Loop. As I left the restaurant the sun was shinning.

Berrylands interesting building
Berrylands interesting building

I walked though Bourne Hall which now has an interesting spaceship of a building housing a museum of local history. A sign told me I had 7 and a quarter miles to Kingston. I passed East Ewell station and realised I was off the path so I ended up taking a longer route and missing a kilometre of the path, but I was soon back in n the Loop path.

Next up was Hogsmill NR and Jays number 5 and 6. The path follows the very long reserve for quite a few miles. At one point the path went along a road rather than keeping to the rivers edge, seemed like a pointless detour so I kept to the river. Before the detour I stopped at a Toby Inn for a lemonade and to rest my feet.

Crossed dual carriageway with a double back to use a subway, then into Elm Wood meadows. The path continues to follow the river Hogsmill until you finally hit a housings estate then you go under a railway, but not before spotting 9 Parakeets in a flock. I passed Hogsmill sewage treatment which smells of piss, so I did not hang around. Next up was Surbiton cemetery and some near by stone masons. The outskirts of Kingston came swiftly after and my feet had had enough, 15 miles seems to be my upper limit. I weaved my way up Kingston high street dodging the shoppers, and found the station. I has a painful run to get to platform 3 for the 16:18 to Waterloo, it saves me waiting 15 minutes for the next train.

I got off at Vauxhall and got the Victoria line to Euston then made the mistake of thinking I could get a bottle of water from M&S (no queue at the checkout) and get to platform 8, I missed the train by seconds, so had to get one 20 minutes later. As it happens the second one almost caught up with the first one, so little re was lost. All in all a good day where I managed 15 miles, which although probably a bit too far is good to know I can.


London Loop – Croydon to Coulsdon

London loop view near Croydon
London loop view near Croydon

Holidays and other stuff had got in the way of London Loop sections, although it was a Sunday the weather looked good so I got up early and headed to Berkhamsted, to do the section from Croydon to Coulsdon.

On Saturday I did a trip to Banbury to have a look at the North Signal box, which was to be demolished on Monday. I invited my dad and Helen’s dad and they both enjoyed the opportunity, to have a go at pulling the leavers, something they had never got to do whilst young train spotters.

Strange pond with daisy circle
Strange pond with daisy circle

It was cold and overcast when I got to the station, but on the journey to Euston on the 08:40 the clouds started to clear. The Victoria line took me to Victoria station where I had time to get a coffee before the slightly delayed 08:32 to Brighton could take me to East Croydon. I’m not sure if it was because the train was delayed or not but they announced that it was not stopping at some of the scheduled stations, and then proceeded to stop many times between stations. Eventually slightly later than advertised the train got to East Croydon and I alighted.

It took a while to find the tram stop as I had exited from the station via a side entrance and the tram stops are at the main one. The trams have quite an acceleration on them and quickly get up to speed, there should be more adoption of them in my opinion. I got off at the Combe Lane stop and quickly found the LOOP path.

Urban view on the London LoopThe path is again surprisingly rural sticking to woods, meadows and down land, I eventually got to Selsdon where a parade of shops was a great place to get some lunch, as I was travelling light with no camera bag. I grabbed an egg sandwich Snickers, and a bottle of water at the  cooperative, crossing back over the road I noticed a .non-branded fried chicken takeaway, and so I popped in GR some chips to go with my lunch. The menu pictures showed MacDonald style chips so I ordered a large portion. When the portion was handed over it was a large box full of chips the type of they use to hold the chicken meals they sold. I tried my best but could not finish them, and I had to save my egg sandwich for later. I later lost the Snickers from a hole in the carrier bag I was using.

The path was really against the grain of the landscape constantly crossing hills and valleys rather than running along the valleys. It was as if I was in the Chilterns with chalk downs and clifss evident. A very just be landscape looking really great in the autumn sun.

Mini observatory on the London Loop
Mini observatory on the London Loop

I passed through quite a few City of London Corporation park lands, and a could of National Trust parcels of land. Henley comments n also has an airfield in the middle of of it but there was no vantage point from the path nor any evidence of activity. It was however still owned by the ministry of defence.

The final mikes after Coulsdon Common involved walking through or past some strange names such as Happy Valley, Devilsden woods and For thing Downs which was about mile and a half of hill with great views all around. Just before Happy Valley I came across a couple with several dogs including two Labradors one of the came bounding towards me followed bt the second one which was a bit bigger, and proceeded to body slam me against the inside of my right knee, almost taking me out out in the process. I was lost for words at the time, the bloke looked concerned but the woman just said “Labradors are boisterous aren’t they?”, I just carried on walking with a bit of a limp. Had I been a smaller person or someone who was frail they definitely would have floored the person. The last mile was down hill and got me to Coulsdon South rail station, where I had a half hour wait for a train to London Bridge, which stopped first at East Croydon.

I has a rush from the mainline station, with only minutes to spare to get to the underground then to the right platform at Euston for the fast train to Berkhamsted. I had time to grab the Snickers I owed myself and a bottle of water before running to the platform to get on the train. There were not many spare seats but I managed to find a single spare seat.

All in all a a good day out with lovely landscapes and beautiful skies. Quite a long walk at over 12 miles for the day.


London Loop – Orpington to Croydon

Saint Giles the Abbot Church Farnborough
Saint Giles the Abbot Church Farnborough

My first free Saturday for a few weeks due to other commitments, so in order to keep the momentum up I headed to London for another section of the Loop walk. We were moving into newly refurbished offices at work and I felt a little guilty about not heading into work, but there were plenty of volunteers. My plan was to involve a tram, the official section was Orpington to West Wickham but that was 9 miles below my target of more than 10. The path passes Croydon station but would have been too far, but I noticed a yellow spot and rail symbol on the OS map which turned out to be a tram, and the path crossed the road at a stop, and the distance would be over the 10 mile mark, perfect!

The weather was blue skies but chilly, as I left the house to catch the 08:11 train from Berkhamsted, and would cloud over later. So the weather would be good for photo’s. The train was on time it was the fast train that took only 30 minutes.i n the ticket hall were two gentlemen in dark Gray suits with slightly oversized but slightly slimmer than usual brief cases, I was intrigued as to who they are and what was in the cases. They were in front of me in the coffee queue and I noticed that both had the same ties on, which had a symbol which I imagined was a masons symbol. I concluded they were masons and they had some sort of ritual item in the cases.

Shire Lane near Keston Village
Shire Lane near Keston Village

The Northern line to Embankment got me to within walking distance of Charring Cross where the train to Orpington would be waiting. I did not realise the Northern line went to Charring Cross first so ingot off there, not sure if the walk is shorter from Embankment but that is what Google suggested! The Orpington 09:00 train was waiting on platform 6 I had 3 minutes to spare!

I dropped by the bakers I stopped at the end of the last section and bought an iced bun it went down very well. The path very soon goes rural party due to High Elms country park and partly because of a golf course, three miles in I could have been any where in southern England’s countryside. At four miles I passed the Met Police dog training centre entrance, and a garden centre with some friendly ducks. At the top of Holwood hill is the Wilberforce oak where Wilberforce was inspired to talk to Pitt about ending slavery. Then I passed through Keaton village and Hayes heath where there are some grand houses with a view of the valley. The path stays high in the spirit of the loop which takes in some of the high points in London.

Wilberforce Oak
Wilberforce Oak

I passed some shops and grabbed a sandwich and fruit for lunch, then continues on to Wickham church where a bench in the grave yard made a great place to stop. Whilst sat there a portly man walked up the hill in a pair of Speedos and a rucksack, and proceeded to go into the church! At mile 9 I was on a country road and heading through Shirley, then I headed up the steepest hill of the day where from a viewing platform I got a great view of London, it was a shame that the weather had turned a bit and the sky was overcast. Just set back from the top of Addington Hills was a house which when I got closer appeared to be a restaurant. It turned out to be a Chinese restaurant and Karaoke bar their website.

Tram to Croydon
Tram to Croydon

From the top of the hill I descended through the woods and eventually came to a tram way and the platform. I had to ask someone which side to stand on to get the tram to Croydon. The tram was very swift especially when starting off, I guess due to the electric motors. I alighted at Croydon East station and checked out the train departures board. The quickest route to Euston was via Victoria but the trains heading that way appeared to be delayed so I got the train to London Bridge instead. There was one due in 3 minutes which had no stops in between. Looking out the window you pass close to Millwall football ground where the players were warming up and the fans were passing through the turnstiles.

London Bridge station is under the Shard and it is just a short walk to the underground entrance, where I got the Northern line all the way to Euston then the fast train to Milton Keynes which stopped at Berkhamsted.

London trip to the Canadian Embassy

The back of Buckingham Palace
The back of Buckingham Palace

A few months back I booked tickets to look around the newly refurbished Canadian Embassy, it was on a Friday so we had booked a day off. We got the first off peak train from Berkhamsted, which was packed, Helen reckons it was the first time she had had to stand on a train to London, thankfully it was a fast one so we only had to stand for 30 minutes. we arrived and there was lots of police with guns at Euston so we figured out which bus we needed then got a 73 to Buckingham palace.

We arrived at the palace a little early our tickets were for 12 o’clock so we headed away from the tourists and found a cafe full of builders where I had a cherry tart and an americano they were both very nice. When we went back to the palace there was band outside the palace playing the Happy chart hit from a couple of years ago. Back at entrance C we were allowed into an ante tent where we could wait for the security search. It was not a long wait and the security was swift unlike Luton Airport.

A room in the Canadian Embassy
A room in the Canadian Embassy

Suitably checked out we headed into the one way tour of the palace, for which a commentary iPod/MP3 player was provided. There were a lot of people going round so it was difficult to get close to the exhibits but we saw enough, and I felt that there was plenty to see, and would recommend it to anyone. Eventually we came to the back entrance where we walked out to an area with a cafe and the palace gardens. We were again in a one-way path to the exit, but we were now allowed to take photo’s. At the exit we signed up for the year long pass as I think it may be useful to return in the winter when there may not be so many people.

Just up the road from the exit we got a bus to Piccadilly then walked to but stopped off at an Italian restaurant chain called Prada where I had a half decent Pescatori Pizza and we shared a bottle of water. Whilst eating lunch I checked the tickets it was from 15:00 till 16:00 we both had it in mind that it was at 16:00. Our plans changed instead of going to an exhibition we thought we would be able to go straight from the exhibition and make it to Euston to get the last train before a wait till 19:00 would be required due to the off-peak tickets we had. We headed to Trafalgar Sq, but we were a little early (there is a theme emerging here), so we dropped into the special exhibition about how good Canada were at detecting Neutrinos and cosmic rays. We had to have our bags x-rayed again before we were allowed in.

Window at the top of the Canadian Embassy
Window at the top of the Canadian Embassy

The exhibition was small and we were finished by 14:40 and headed o the other entrance where we met a woman with a clipboard doing security, she was insistent that our names should be on the list before we could be let in, the trouble was the site where I booked the two tickets did not ask for may name it just used the account details I had previously given them. Helen was not on the list, I tried to explain that there was a column for quantity on the form on her clipboard but she was having none of it. A member of the embassy staff intervened and we were let in and the situation explained to the clipboard monitor. We were then scanned and x-rayed again to get into the building for a second time.

View from the top floor of the Canadian Embassy
View from the top floor of the Canadian Embassy

We sat around for a while and the same member of staff came over and started the tour by first giving us a bit of history abut the building which used to be a gentleman’s club before Canada even existed. The tour was very informative there was a lot of art to see, carpets made from art designs and furniture made from Canadian wood, there was at least one room for each Canadian province. We were lucky that there were no conferences or talks going on so we got to see all the rooms, including the ones on the top floor where we sampled honey harvested that day from the roof top bee hive and then we were allowed on the roof terrace to have a look at the view and take picture of Trafalgar Sq.

Once the tour was finished we headed straight for the tube which Helen had agreed to brave to save time. It was very hot but we did make the  1630 train got a seat and had time to stop for a bottle of water. We got home tired but felt we had had a great day out, it beats going to work!

London Loop – Section 1 – Erith to Bexley

London Loop - Thames mud warning
London Loop – Thames mud warning

I wanted to keep up the Saturday walking and decided that the London Loop would give me a chance to see some parts of London I have never seen, as it goes around the capital and within the M25, and I usually go to the centre.

Quoting Wikipedia : “The London Outer Orbital Path — more usually the “London LOOP” — is a 240-kilometre (150 mi) signed walk along public footpaths, and through parks, woods and fields around the edge of Outer London, England, described as “the M25 for walkers”. The walk begins at Erith on the south bank of the River Thames and passes clockwise through Crayford, Petts Wood, Coulsdon, Banstead, Ewell, Kingston upon Thames, Uxbridge, Elstree, Cockfosters, Chingford, Chigwell, Grange Hill and Upminster Bridge before ending at Purfleet, almost directly across the Thames from its starting point. Between these settlements the route passes through green buffers and some of the highest points in Greater London.”

London Loop - River view with boat
London Loop – River view with boat

I was up early as it would take just short of 2 hours to get to Write the start of the Loop. I comfortably made the 08:11 to Euston, and managed to get a free parking space. One of the good things about the walk is that it is accessible from stations within zones 1-6 which means a London Travelcard will cover it, so the cost would be at most £300 if it takes 15 sections, I would hope to improve on that by covering more than 10 miles on my section breakdown.

I got the Northern line to Bank then got a bit lost finding the right exit for Canon Street station, so had a 20 minute wait for the train to Plumstead. I filled the time playing Pokemon Go and I must say London is a treasure trove of Pokemon. I got on the long and very empty train, and whilst sat in an empty carriage I heard a phone go off. As there was no one on the train I tracked it down answered it, the man on the other end asked where I was, and I agreed to stand outside the carriage so that he could retrieve it for a passenger who had reported it lost. My good deed for the day done and it was only 09:27!

London Loop - Overgrown pathWhilst on the trin I was able to catch Pokemon whan we stoppped at stations, it was a good job I bought my extra capacity battery with me as it is a real drain on batteries. At Plumstead we had to get off the bus and use a replacement bus service which took us to Erith. It was not exactly at the start if the path but it was good enough for me being just a few hundred yards away.

The path keeps to the river Thames for a while and it felt like familiar territory, then followed the river Garent and then the river Cray, it seemed to be a very industrial area with industrial units and a lot of waste recycling. The patch was on a raise embankment and quite isolated I saw two cyclists and one walker in the three miles by rivers.

London Loop - If the bidge is not high enough dig down
London Loop – If the bidge is not high enough dig down

The path follows the river Cray for quite some distance most of it through green areas and some it urban. In Crayford I cam across a parade of shops including no less than three barbers. I decided it was a good place to stop and got my self a portion of chips and a litre of water, then sat in a grassy area and listened to a gospel singing in a nearby building.

There was a lot of wildlife on the route I had already seen lots of gulls but failed to see and waders on the Thames mud, the odd Kestrel and the best of all was a Kingfsiher that was heading my direction only to turn around in mid flight really close by.

I had been checking Pokemon every so often and was getting lots of points, as well as lots of water based characters, not something you get around Aylesbury much. I eventually came across Hall Palace where some kids and dogs were making the most of the hot weather and paddling in the river Cray. Hall Palace it self is an independently run historic house which looking at it’s website looks quite interesting it even has Pokemon looking topiary bushes. EventuallI hit a busy dual carriage way where the signing was not great but I eventually found the path around and under to avoid having to cross the road.

London Loop - Crayford centre
London Loop – Crayford centre

The heat was really getting to me by this point so I decided to do the official first section rather than stretching it further as had been my plan. That will be one of the challenges doing the London Loop because public transport is all around it will be tempting to jump on a bus or train when I have had enough. On the Thames walk I was always walking back to my car and had little options for stopping early. I will however also have the option to carry on further if i’m feeling good.

Eventually I got to Bexley which appeared to be an affluent town, with lots of expensive cars in the traffic. I opted for the bus rather than the train as I wanted to see how good it would be for catching Pokemon. It turns out to be very good, if you get the timing right there is a Pokestop every few hundred yards and characters appear just as often. I knew I had to change buses to get to Euston and in front of the bus I was on was a 108 which went to Euston, I took the chance to jump off the one I was on and get on the 108 but it left before I had a chance to get on it. I waited for the next bus and got off at North Greenwich and decided it was getting late so I got on the Jubilee line and then the Northern line to Euston.

The 15:54 from Euston was air conditioned which was a real relief from the heat I had experienced all day. My experience of the first day (excluding the heat) was good and I do plan to complete the whole circuit despite the time it takes to get to the starting points, and then getting back.

Thames Path – Newbridge to Radcot Bridge

Radcot Lock
Radcot Lock

This stretch is probably the most isolated one so far, possibly the whole Thames, 10 miles with just one bridge between the start and finish points. I parked up at the Maybush pub at Newbridge just before 10:00 the plan was to seek permission to leave my car there then bus it to Farringdon via Kingston Bagpuize, then find a taxi to get to Radcot Bridge, so I could walk back to the Maybush.

The pub did not open till 10:00 so I popped my head in the kitchen door and asked if I could leave my car, they kindly agreed that it would be OK. I cross the river to find the bus stop outside the pub on the other side of the river. I would have a 20 minute wait for the X15 bus. The bus was on time cost £1.70 and I got off at Spring Hill where I had another 10 minutes to wait for the Stagecoach 66 to Swindon, via Farringdon my destination. The bus was again on time and my fate was £3. So far so good, my next challenge would be to find a taxi in Farringdon.

A bend in the river Thames
A bend in the river Thames

I got a taxi number from the tourist information office and arranged to be picked up from the market square, they said they could do a car in 30 minutes so I went in the cafe on the square for a coffee and a piece of apple cake. The cage was both a cafe called The Faringdon Coffee House and a restaurant called Al Roche Lebanese Restaurant.

The taxi was 5 minutes late and cost £10, the driver dropped me off in the pub car park by the bridge, which I had to cross to get on the path. The weather was bright but overcast, hazy and quite humid, so I soon list my out layer. The path was over grown and became increasingly so as the day passed. The was lots of bird life about of note were quite a few curlews, warblers including reed, and reed buntings. I saw a warbler which was light grey with a very black head which at first glance was a black cap but which I decided needed to be looked up when I got home.

Hot tub at the Maybush pub at Newbridge
Hot tub at the Maybush pub at Newbridge

I skipped The Trout inn at the only road I would cross that day, and eventually stopped at mike 5 the halfway point, where I found a foot bridge to sit on and enjoy the view. Whilst sat there eating my Aldi home brand Nutella spread sandwiches, I could hear Cuckoos and Curlews calling constantly, and apart from the OS aircraft there was not a man made sound to hear. At one point a stoat started its way up the bridge, but turned back when I reached for my camera.

The rest of the path was a rural as ever and I did not see a soul except for a couple at a lock. I passed a few boats and a couple of pedalos as I got close to the Maybush pub, as well as a few walkers. I had truly been on a remote stretch where people don’t really venture. I arrived at the Maybush at 15:30 and had walked just short of 10 miles, which meant I may have cut some corners because my guide book said 10 exactly.

Thames Path – Newbridge to Wolvercote

Newbridge on the Thames
Newbridge on the Thames

This stretch took a bit of thought because it was starting to get rural. I knew where I had to start/finish but how far to walk so I could get to the other end easily was an issue. Kinston Bagpuize was an obvious choice (including the strange name), but would have involved a long walk and buses to get to Wolvercote. In the end I decided to go for Newbridge by taxi from Oxford centre, it would mean I could do a 11 mile stretch and set myself up well for the subsequent leg.

I parked in a car park at Wolvercote and walked into the village where I got the bus last time. Interestingly the village has quite a few pubs two of them overlooking a village green, it seemed quite quaint. As I approached the bus stop a bloke in a hoodie walking towards me looked at me and seemed to change his mind, and go to the bus stop stand there and spit, then when he realised I was going to the bus stop he walked up the road I had come from, looking back at me. He was acting very suspiciously.  I had a 10 minute wait for the bus, but I never saw any more of the dodgy geezer.

Lots of Goslings on the Thames
Lots of Goslings on the Thames

It did not take long to get to Oxford on the number 6 bus, which dropped me off at the cross roads at the north end of the high street. I dropped I to Starbucks for a coffee and cake, and asked about a taxi rank, which I found after a Kenyan Puccino. The taxi office was a strange place having loads of high value slot machines along side the despatcher. The estimate was about £28 to Newbridge, a lot but I did not have much choice the next bus was in two days!

I got chatting to the Lithuanian driver, who had been working since 1800 the day before, his views on immigration were interesting given that he was one himself, he clearly considered himself European and not an immigrant it was the people from outside Europe who need to be controlled. It just proves that the whole situation is almost intractable.

Vintage lorry
Vintage lorry

I was dropped off at the bridge at Newbridge where a sign explained that there was another 40 miles to go, however I was doing a stretch the wrong way so my total would only be 40 once I had done the days 12 miles. Not long after I started I came across some geese and goslings there were at least 50 goslings with about 10 adults. The route was very rural and I kept on catching up with a family in a barge at locks and moorings, until I got to the Ferryman pub opposite Bablock Hythe, where I stopped for a coffee.

The path forces you inland for a couple of miles and runs parallel to the river about half a km inland. There were lots of sheep in the fields and at one field boundary with a lot of bleating going on all the mums were corralled for shearing. At Pinkhill  lock I stopped to eat my Belgium beer cheese sandwiches, which I had packed because the path did not really go near many option for food. Two lock keepers were on duty one young lady and and older woman I wondered if the younger one was and apprentice.

Buttercups
Buttercups

On the last leg I could hear a music beat in the distance and eventually came across a rave on the other bank. The meadows were very covered in buttercups and other wild flowers a sign of ancient fields with no pesticides. After 4 hours I hit the 10 mike mark and only another like and a bit got me back to the car, but not before seeing two blokes swimming in the Thames.

I drove home and had a quick shower before we went to A&C’s for dinner followed by a Proclaimers gig at the Waterside Theatre.

Thames Path – Clifton Hampden via Abingdon to Lower Radley

Butter cups and daisies Lowe Radley
Butter cups and daisies Lowe Radley

I missed a couple of weekends on the Thames Path as I was on holiday until n North Norfolk for a week. The weather man promised sed me fine but cool weather which turned out to be perfect for me, blue skies and fluffy clouds and a perfect temperature for walking. I did not get up as early as I might have planned. I drove to Lower Radley CIA the Oxford ring road, where I parked as near to the river as I could get, then I had a half mile walk to the Radley station where I could get a bus to Abingdon. The bus arrived about a minute after I arrived, then as we pulled into Abingdon the T2 pulled into same bus stop perfect timing. I got off the bus in Clifton Hampden a smidge after 11.

Wier at Abingdon
Wier at Abingdon

The path is very rural and unpaved most if the way to Abingdon. I could have stopped at the village of Culham, but wanted to get two thirds of the way before I stopped for lunch, which would be at Abingdon. Just before I got there I stopped and put a pair of socks over my 1000 mile socks as I was still having issues with blisters, I’m not sure if I need to have my need two layers or one and tight laces or loose, but the issue is a around the ball of my foot.

Boat house on the Thames
Boat house on the Thames

It was only then a short walk to the Nags Head on the river by the bridge at Abingdon. I had a half of beer and a great wood fired pizza which went down a treat. The pub also sold steaks delivered to the table on a hot paving stone. I took the opportunity to try a time lapse sequence using the Magic Lantern software I had installed on my Canon 70d. It allows you to more finely control aspects of the cameras features. Also using the SLR means I can use manual exposure which you can’t do with the GoPro.

The final stretch was rural again, which I expect most of the remaining 60 miles will be. I turned in land at the rowing club at Lower Radley and was soon reunited with the car. With hindsight I could have done a bit further as the final mileage was just short 10 miles. The next stretch will take me to past Oxford, then I think it will become more of a challenge to get appropriate public transport.