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 Loop – Section 2 – Old Bexley Village to Orpington

London Loop - rail crossing.
London Loop – rail crossing.

I was in two minds whether to do another section, but I woke up early, and felt ready to get up. Some toast and a quick check of train times and I left the house among for the 07:46 from Berkhamsted. I was early enough for one of the free parking spaces and the ticket was only £13.70 with my newly acquired Railcard.

The train was far from full, and I got a seat with a table. At Hemel a man got on carrying a ruck sack and a very large pipe cutter, I wondered where he was going and to do what? The official section 2 is only 7 miles from Old Bexley Village to Pets wood, however I was hoping to do a but further, anything over 10 would be a good start. I noticed that my FitBit battery was almost flat, and I wondered how long it would last before going completely, I was most likely going to miss out on steps and unfortunately steps mean prizes. There would be no prizes for me!

London Loop -  Suburbia
London Loop – Suburbia

As I was leaving the train at Euston when I noticed I had my T-shirt on inside out, I would have to find a chance to turn it the right way round. My journey was complicated by the closure of the Northern line at Euston, for track maintenance, I has to get on the Victoria line to Green Park to get on the Jubilee line, to North Greenwich then the 132 to Bexley.

The atmosphere was a bit misty but I was hoping for the sun to burn it away once I got started. I had a short wait at North Greenwich for the 132. The path follows the river Cray for quite a while and I spotted trout so it is probably pretty clean. Once it left the Cary it went through a few parks and nature reserves you really did not feel like you were inside the M25. Every so often it passed through suburbia with its manicured front gardens add to that the types of cars in the drives my guess is that it was a middle class area, i.e. commuter belt. I also spotted quite a few Parakeet and I soon got my ear in tune with their call. I did not expect to see them I thought they were more west London birds.

London Loop - Countryside
London Loop – Countryside

As I came to the edge of one estate I passed a field transected by a footpath with chain link fence keeping people out. There were three ponies asleep all three of them farting intermittently. The next section was almost exclusively in wood and eventually I passed Petts Wood the official end of section 2, but I carried on for a few more miles, my guess was that I did about 11 or 12 miles of the loop path. At the next main road I checked google maps for a bus but the signal was poor so I carried on to the next main road. There was a bus soon but I got the distinct impression that it was an ex bus route I I ended up walking another 3/4 mile to Orpinton Station. On the way I came across a small parade of shops like you do in traditional commuter belt. There was a picture framer that had a machine that cut out the cardboard inner frames which was interesting as it looked well made but self made. At the bakers I bought a Belgian iced bun which only cost a pound and tasted great after 12 miles of walking.

London Loop - Train at Orpington Station
London Loop – Train at Orpington Station

At Orpington station I had a bit of a wait for a train, as I took the advice of the station staff and google and got the train to Charring Cross rather than Cannon Street. I grabbed a coffee and settled in for 25 minutes of Pokemon. The train journey was quite short as the train only stopped at Waterloo East before terminating a short distance on at Charring Cross where I alighted. I then had a dilemma I realised when I got to the underground that the Northern line was not stopping at Euston so I tried the bus instead, but on exiting the station the Ride London event was in full swing so I had to walk to the north of Trafalgar square where it was not obvious if the busses were running. So I dropped into the underground again and got the Northern line south to Embankment (a step backwards) where I could get the Victoria line to Kings Cross then the Circle to Euston Square.

I eventually made it with two minutes to spare for the 15:54 on platform 11. There was an announcement on the train that it was the train to Coventry not Northampton and the LED scrolling displays said that too. I got off with a few other people who were assured that it was the Northampton train so we got back on. It turns out it was the Northampton train and it did stop at Berkhamsted. Where I found the car and stopped for a curry from the M&S. I was home just before 17:00 it had been a long day, but another section had been completed.

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.