The Ridgeway – Ashbury to Letcombe Bassett

Time to get back to the Ridgeway, after a few months of absence. I plotted the next 12 miles from Ashbury and determined that Letcombe Bassett and therefore Wantage would be the best place to leave the car. 12 miles would be tough as it was my first walk of that distance for a while and also there were no coffee stops or cafes on the route. One of the downsides of the Ridgeway is that it does not really go through many villages or towns near them but hardly ever through them.

I left the house at 08:10 dropped Helen up the road and headed to Wantage, ignoring the Sat Nav and going south of Oxford to get to the A34. I was hoping the rain/drizzle would stop by the time I got to Wantage but it had now. I sought out a shop to get some cheap waterproof trousers, and found some for £7 on the market. I suspect the vendor could have applied surge pricing as it was the type of inundation that makes you really wet. I grabbed a coffee in Costa to get my bearing and figure out how to get to Ashbury. Uber said there were no cars available so I wandered over to the local taxi rank. An old man seemed to be headed the same way so I held back rather than grabbing the only taxi waiting.

It wasn’t long before a taxi turned up, the driver was not very talkative and when he was he mumble quietly, so there wasn’t much conversation, he dropped me at the top of the hill where the Ridgeway crosses the B4000, which saved me having to walk up it from Ashbury. I headed off down the path the rain continued and I realised that I wold have to put the waterproofs on if I wanted to stay slightly dry.

The walk was pretty uneventful to start with but there were some ancient monuments to take a look at Wayland’s Smithy was the most interesting and the only one where I came across anyone else out having a look. I plodded on and passed a trough with a tap and a notice that said the was was fit to drink and that it was to celebrate the life Peter Wren who loved the countryside. I had a drink to save the water I was carrying. We need more taps like that in the countryside, to go with the benches you sometimes come across. Both would be very welcome on a long walk.

Eventually I came across a lady on a bicycle followed by three dogs, she stopped and told me an old dog was lagging behind a bit. About a quarter of a mile later I came across a setter who looked like he was on his last legs, it was all he could do to lift his head to look at me while he plodded past. next up was another lady and a dog this time both were on foot. The lady explained that she trying to keep off the slippery chalk, however she was running out of grass and was in danger and slipping down, I offered here a hand down but she said thank but no thanks so I left here teetering on the edge of a grass patch.
not many people Old dog

A couple of 4×4 drove up and 4 men with fluorescent orange flags got and walks across a field down to the valley. There were small sections of corn growing they clearly were running a shoot for pheasants, which were quite numerous in the area. Finally I arrived at Letcombe Basset, but unfortunately there was no pub so I settle for a bench at a junction. It had stopped raining for a while so I took the opportunity to take my waterproofs off to let my now slightly damp jeans dry out. While I was doing so a man drove out out of a parking space then moved his van into the vacated space then drove off in the car. Between each move he left a vehicle blocking the highway, there was no traffic.

The walk to Letcombe Regis was along a road because I missed a turning for a foot path, I tough someone had blocked the entrance but studying the maps more closely a complaint would not be necessary as google streetview allowed me to see where the foot path entrance was that I missed. In the village there was a big retirement complex which was run by Bupa. It was quite well done and I guess catered for all sorts of retired people, that that did and did not need care. There was a brand new village shop and cafe, it was a bit strange, clearly run by locals, but there was not much useful produce in the shop cuppa soups cakes and biscuits the sort of thing you would need if you were visiting an elderly relative! I stopped for a weak coffee and move on.

The path back to Wantage was paved but cross country I imagine that maybe it was built by the manor house at Letcombe Regis for staff in the bygone days, I wasn’t complaining it made for easy walking. In Wantage I popped into the cobblers to ask about leather glue apparently Bostik 6092 is the best stuff, but they could not sell me any even though I don’t look like a glue sniffer. In specsaver they did not have my contact lens fitting I was not being successful on the shopping front. I did manage to get the ingredients for Lhaksa at Sainsbury’s.

I dropped by Rory’s to fix his PC and he bought me a pint at the Akeman in return, it was good to catch up. The Lhaksa worked out OK.

Orford Crown and Castle

Orford views
Orford views

We picked a great weekend for the weather, the forecast was sunny cloudy, we were off the stay a couple of nights at the Crown and Castle in Orford. I dealt with a couple of administrative items before we left at 09:30ish, round the M25 and up the A12, traffic was relatively ok apart from the usual black spots on the A12.

We chose to head to Minsmere RSPB reserve first, for a walk to Lighthouse cottages, for lunch, then back to the the reserve via the hides. The heather was in fine bloom on the heath, as we approached Lighthouse cottages, the Dartford Warblers were about but quite elusive, generally spotted disappearing into the heather.

Orford views
Orford views

At the NT cafe we had a drink and scone/cake then headed down to the beach and onto the east scrape hide. There were lots of Sandpipers and Black Godwits to mention a couple. We sent a while enjoying the wildlife and then headed back to the visitors centre in the hope of seeing Bearded Tits on the reeds overlooked by the flood defences. Helen had a quick peruse around the gift shop, then we headed back up the road but took the turning to Orford.
We got the last parking space at the Crown and Castle, settled in then went for a walk down to the harbour and quay. The village is full of old cottages many of them looked like holiday cottages. It is a looking village, very typical of rural Suffolk.

Orford views
Orford views

Our dinner was very good the highlight for me was the skate main course. We were quite tired and retired to our room by 21:00. Breakfast was at 08:30 and the dinning room was quite quiet, I had poached eggs on toast and Helen had French toast and maple syrup. We planned to go to Orfordness by boat so we grabbed some lovely bread from the Pump House bakery in the village, and some cheese from the village shop, then headed down to the quay we missed the first boat but were lucky enough to get in the 10:20.

There were reports of a Ted Necked Pharalope and we teamed up with a bird watcher in an attempt to find it. We walked to the wardens hut via the blue route which is where it was seen, but we failed to spot it. At the wardens hut we had a look at some moths the researchers had caught over night. The Tiger Moth was most impressive with its bold camouflage colours.

Next stop was a building with some impressive binoculars mounted on top, good for viewing distant things as they were rock solid. From there a gravel path led to the red and white lighthouse, where we stopped for a rest on the gravel bags used to shore up the coast line and stop the lighthouse falling down. The trek along the shingle beach was tedious and led us to a group of buildings where we stopped for a rustic sandwich.

The church that featured in the Detectorists
The church that featured in the Detectorists

We were determined to see the Pharalope so we decided to do the blue route too, which is the more remote of the paths in the spit. It takes you close to Alpha Mist which is still a broadcasting installation for the BBC world service. The track back to the jetty had passing places, we decided that it is hard to imagine that they would ever be used because all vehicles have to arrive by boat.

Close to the jetty Helen spotted a brown mammal approaching, it was a hare. We stood for a while and although it was aware of our presence it came very close and wandered across the track and into the grass right in front of us. One of those amazing but rare wildlife encounters. We had a short wait for the ferry boat after getting out tickets back from the warden who checks everyone is off the island.

We stopped for a coffee at the tea room where Helen was harassed by a wasp, while I watched the tide almost reach the cafe terrace. I fancied an ice cream from the van at the car park but the queue was too long so we headed back to the hotel and had a half of Adnams each on the terrace, and as always after a day out in the fresh it it tasted better than normal.

The church that featured in the Detectorists
The church that featured in the Detectorists

On sunday we had the routine cooked breakfast and sadly we checked out and headed out of Suffolk, but before we left we would have a few things to check out. First as we left orford we spotted the school used in the Detectorists where teacher and partner of the lanky bloke taught. Then we went to an RSPB reserve called Wolves Wood near Hadleigh in Suffolk the plan was to walk from the reserve to the church that featured in the same BBC 4 comedy. It turned out you could not easily get from the reserve because it would have meant leaving the trail, so we did the trail then headed bay car to Aldham Church which is a stunning little church set on a small rise at the end of a country lane. I took some photos and a timelapse which turned out to be useless because the breeze move the camera.

next we visited my Aunt and Uncle for a cup of tea and cake, then headed round the M25 to visit a big M&S to get some clothes and grab some supplies for dinner. We were home by 16:00 and had had a very enjoyable weekend.

Capital Ring – Boston Manor to Hendon Central

Rubbish on Horseden Hill
Rubbish on Horseden Hill

Keen to get back on the Capital Ring after two weekends off due to a weeks holiday in Kent, I was up early, on the 07:46 Metropolitan train from Amersham, destination Boston Manor. The weather was a bit grey with a chill in the air but the forecasters promised sunny with showers later on. The journey to Boston Manor was a bit tedious as twice i would have to travel up a branch line only to have to reverse to go a couple of stops up another branch. Annoyingly I missed a connection at Harrow-on-the-Hill so waster 12 minutes.

At Rayners Lane I crossed platforms to get the Piccadilly line, interestingly the trains seemed really low, and there was a step down to the train, i guess the trains have to go in smaller tunnels, and the Rayners Lane platform is slightly higher than most, turns out the all the Piccadilly trains are low. I changed again at Acton Town and got on a Heathrow train, full of people and their luggage, it always makes me wonder where they are all flying off to.

Harrow on the Hill high Street
Harrow on the Hill high Street

The path follows the river Brent for a while passing factories and through a couple of golf courses. It all becomes a bit urban at Greenfield where a main road and railway needs to be crossed. I took the opportunity at Westway Cross retail park to grab a coffee which i drank outside in the sun, i also eat a pain au raisin that i had purchased a at Local Sainsbury earlier.

Horseden hill was a hard slog and when I eventually go to the top to enjoy the view it was somewhat spoilt by the rubbish left behind bu some people who had picnicked there. Down the other side of the hill and on the flat I was passing through what was clearly a very old Oak wood, judging by the size of the trees.

Harrow School Building
Harrow School Building

Next up was Harrow when I walked up the high street, which was almost deserted, I guess it was the school holidays. I made the security guard a bit twitchy by stopping to take photographs of the historic buildings. I was quite tired by this time and the walk to the edges of Wembley was a challenge with not much to see.

In a moment of madness I had decided at this point to see if I could do a long day as I had been just making the 10 miles on some of the previous days, target changed from Wembley Park to Hendon Central. I got to Brent Reservoir and had a longish break to build up my strength for the next few miles. It was a pleasant place to stop I could watch the boats in a sailing race whilst enjoying the warm sun.

The Windermere Pub Kenton
The Windermere Pub Kenton

I really had had enough by the time I got to Hendon Central, which was quite familiar as I would sometimes pass down the road when I have occasionally driven into London. Looking at Google maps it the journey bac was going to be a ball ache. I consider a taxi to a Metropolitan tube station but in the end waited for an 83 bus, which took me to Wembley Park, ironic that I had already walked past it.

I had a 30 minute wait for the next Amersham train, I guess I had just missed one. The platform was crowded by families with small children dressed up as princes and princesses it turns out that Disney on Ice was at the Arena. I was glad to get back to Amersham but still had a chore to do get dinner from Waitrose in Chesham.

 

Capital Ring – Wimbledon to Hanwell

I had been looking forward​ to this section, finally I would be onto a more pleasant section, Wimbledon to Hanwelk would involve two trenches of parkland and two stretches next to water. The parklands are Wimbledon Common where i would be on the look out for Wombles, and Richmond Park where i might spot some deer an other wildlife. At Richmond i would be back next to the Thames and then follow the river Brent. All that sounds much more interesting than the walk so far, although it started to improve on the last stretch.

The weather promised to be cloudy but bright and unseasonally warm, potentially 16 degrees. I consulted Google maps, and there was not much between car and train when i took into account total time as Hanwelk is a bit out of the way, and difficult to get to Wimbledon from. I opted for the train as it would allow me to be more flexible.

I had got a cramp as i stretched when i woke up and my calf muscle was sore and torn, i thought it would ruin my day but i reckoned the walking would do it good.

I got a free parking space but just missed the 08:01, but the fast 08:11 was soon whisking me away to Euston. I went wrong at Earle’s court and has to double back as i got the train going down the Richmond rather than Wimbledon branch, but lost less than 10 minutes. At Southfields I then managed to walk a couple of hundred yards in the wrong direction.

It was not long before I got to Wimbledon Common, after passing the car park full of Chelsea tractors I was soon in woods and fields, and immediately spotted a Goldcrest and mistle thrush. The air temperature was high enough for me to walk with just a t-shirt. Eventually I came to a road which is the border between Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park, interestingly it had a separate crossing g for horses riders who were everywhere. The deer in the park were obviously thriving, there were notices about the cull which has just finished.

Richmond Park is distinctly different in terms of habit, I guess the deer have some influence over that. Again there were plenty of Londoners make the most of the open space and weather. The path is straight forward straight then a 45 degree turn which I missed so walked the long way around an enclosed nature reserve. On the far end there is a car park with a coffee shop which I made use of, it was time for a rest.

There is a lovely meadow after you drop down from Richmond park called Petersham I’m guessing it is not built on due to flooding and I bet is has some rare species on it. The other side of the meadow I hit the Thames but on the other side of river from where I had walked the Thames Path. Soon I was in Richmond, near the bridge there was some boat building and repairing going on in the sun. There was a prty atmosphere with alll the Rugby fans gathering outside the pubs for a beer and some lunch before the match later on.

Whilst stood around taking in the atmosphere a guy walked past he looked professional and had a TShirt on with a website http://richardwalkslondon.com/ on investigation Richard McChesney is a serious walker and has plans to set a record for the first non-stop walk around the M25, he reckons it will take 48 hours, and for the whole time is is not allowed to not be on his feet. I would struggle to do 48 hours staying awake let alone havng to stay on my feet and walk.

At Isleworth i had to take another detour when builders had blocked a section of the river path. I joined the river again at a pub called Town Wharf, where i had  a conversation with a local at the bar turns out he has an interesting job, locksmith at the British Museum. I was keen to sit down so had to make my excuses, i hope i did not offend. The jumbo fish finger sandwich went down a treat on the Riverside terrace. I was sat next to a bunch of Scotland supports who thought they were going to beat England at Twickenham!

Eventually you leave the Thames for the Brent, i realised that getting to Hanwell and then getting home for the Rugby would be a challenge so i bailed out at Boston Manor station. Interestingly the first stop was Northfield which was an interesting balance seeing as i started at Southfields. At Leicester Square there was lots of chanting as more Arsenal supporters got on and supporters of another team were on the platform.

I comfortably made the 15:54 from Euston but that would mean missing most of the first half of the rugby. I got the BBC radio app loaded and got most of it when there was a signal.

Capital Ring – Penge to Wimbledon

I fell out of love with the Capital Ring I think because I started it at a time when the days were short, and the first few legs were very urban and not very inspiring. I have been doing some more local outings which made a change. I liked the idea of doing walks with an overall aim or purpose, so I took a look at the map and determined that one more leg and I would be back into a more interesting part which would last for most of the rest of it.

I checked the weather and determined that Saturday was the right day, Sunday promised rain all day. I was up early and aiming for the 08:11 from Berkhamsted. It looked like things were going well, I got the last free parking space at the station, then realised that I would make the 08:01, I got my ticket and had time to get a coffee as the train arrived, I walked out of the coffee shop as the train doors opened.

Three generations of males joined me at the table I had on the train, boy younger than 10, father and grandfather, they were off to Manchester to watch Bournemouth play Manchester United. I commented that Bournemouth did not sound like they belonged in the Premier division, apparently a few years back they had collection buckets going round the stadium to keep the club going.

The start took me up Crystal Palace hill qhuch was the start of a long section high which descended and ascended often. After a particularly steep climb I came Streatham Common where a handy community cafe served me a cortado and a pain au raisin. I rested for a while taking pleasure in watching all the joggers that spring had bought out many of them having to break for bro a walk, probably due to lack of practice over the winter months.

The path crosses quite a few commons some of them divided by roads. I passed through Streatham and Balham before eventually reaching the edge of Wimbledon, where the houses got grandeur. Wimbledon was full of more joggers and appropriately people playing tennis. The weather was reasonable qarmand sunny perfect weather for getting out of the house.

I decided to go to Southfields station to to ensure I had done more than 10 miles, luckily for me there was a chip shop just opposite the tube entrance so I stopped for some and was given a high portion I only managed half of. The journey back was via Victoria and Euston. I was back in Berkhamsted before 16:00.

Capital Ring – Falconwood to Penge East

Early start at Berkhamsted
Early start at Berkhamsted

Late night Boxing Day party I thought would have dampened my enthusiasm before a walk, but I got to bed at a later but reasonable hour, and felt refreshed rather than hung over. A quick breakfast of left over Christmas food, hot cross buns, and a coffee and I was set to get the 08:53 from Berkhamsted. There were lads of free parking spaces, but I managed to miss the 08:46 while I got my ticket, annoying especially as the coffee shop was shut. I had time to spare so headed into Berkhamsted town to see if data could find a coffee shop open. I thought I was out that for luck but then noticed that Love Food Dining was open, they sold take away coffee and dam fine coffee in my opinion.

Eltham Palace water supply
Eltham Palace water supply

The train was packed but I found a seat. It was a frosty start to the day, and quite cold at -1 degrees C, but the weather forecast was a fine day, and with the sun almost as low as it get the photo opportunities were there for the taking. The train was delayed a little bit when we were held waiting for a signal outside Euston.

The transit to Falconwood was via the Victoria line to Victoria then a Southeastern train to my destination. The train was a bit slow and stopped for what seemed like every station, but eventually I got there. I was planning about 10 miles for the day, and was hoping I might get get to a camera shop at Euston on my way home to buy a new lens to replace my mid zoom which had finally packed in after over 10 years of service. I was going to invest in a 16-35mm f4.0 L IS USM.

Extreme Christmas
Extreme Christmas

En route to Waltham I passed through yet another Leafy London Suburb with lovely houses. I passed by Eltham Palace which is run by National Heritage. It was a strange building from the outside, some of it clearly less than 100 years old, but it has a mixture of parts that suggested that there had been some sort of building there for a very long time. It also had a moat.

On the other side of the track things were a bit more run down and I spent a couple of miles waking along paths between by run down housing estates, however I got great views as of Docklands from the slightly elevated path.

Cyclo-cross rider at Beckenham Park
Cyclo-cross rider at Beckenham Park

At Downham high street I looked for a cafe but could not find one that looked worth trying. Eventually I came across a McDonald’s drive thru, so stopped for a filet-o-fish and some chips washed down with a coffee. It is an interesting process these days, rather than talk to someone you use a large, 40 inch touch screen to order and pay then your food is delivered, although I realised once I was tucking in that you could order in the traditional way at the counter.

Things got a bit rural for a while as I passed through Beckenham Park, there was a cyclo cross competition going on, so I paused for a while and took some shots of the action. I carried on and things were pretty urban for the rest of the section with ntil I got to Penge East. As I approached I could see the Crystal Palace aerial beckoning in the distance.

Kent County Cricket Club
Kent County Cricket Club

I had a bit of a wait for the next train to Victoria again a bit busy but it is easy for one person to find a seat. The connections went well and at Euston I had a 30 minute wait for the next train, and with a Calumet (photographic shop) just around the block it seemed rude not to pop in and have a look. As luck would have it they has the lens and in stock and it did not take long to negotiate a better price than those list, I was a few hundred pounds lighter. Probably the most expensive wait for a train I have ever had.

I grabbed the rear most carriage to ensure easy access to the exit at Berkhamsted Station. I had got be another 10 miles of the Capital Ring and has a new lens, which will be taking pictures for this blog in the very near future.

Capital Ring – Cyprus to Falconwood

University of East London
University of East London

Having finished the London Loop I needed a new challenge, I thought I would give the Capital Ring a go. the Ring is a whisker over half the distance of the London Loop at 78 miles which breaks down into 6 or 7 stretches, of reasonable length. It is another route around London but closer to the centre, and I hoped would be a bit more urban than The Loop.

We finished work on Wednesday the 21st so I thought I would get my first section done on my first day off. Trouble is it is a week day so travel would be more expensive. I knew the first off peak train from Berkhamsted was the 09:31 so I aimed for that. I was not too sure of the best option so went to the ticket office, it turns out that my Railcard was only valid on trains after 10:00 so I opted for the £20 one without the Railcard discount. I had to be on a train back before 16:49 which would suit me fine.

John Burns Woolwich ferry
John Burns Woolwich ferry

I had puzzled over where to start, my book and early Xmas present from Helen started at Woolwich and went clockwise, and from experience I knew following book was best done on the same direction. I could however start anywhere on the Ring and just loop back to the beginning of the book as necessary, so I went to bed thinking somewhere north of London would be best given the train restrictions. One final look at the map in the morning and I changed my mind, the route passes close to a DLR station just north of Woolwich ferry so I decided to start there, just a mile from the start of the book, and a chance to use the tunnel, as when I did the Thames Path I had used the ferry.

The train was on time and empty at Berkhamsted, but by the time we got to Euston most seats were taken. The weather was forecast as sunny but there was a most about, which I hoped would make for good photos. The northern line took me to Bank the I got on the DLR to West Ferry then changed to the Becton line for the final leg to Cyprus. I had a front row on the train and with no driver’s cabin you get great views of Docklands as we passed through.

Boat on the Thames
Boat on the Thames

I soon reached Gallions Point, which at first glance looks like it is spelt wrong but when I checked on Wikipedia it all made sense, “Gallions Reach is a stretch of the River Thames between Woolwich and Thamesmead. There are various locations on both sides of the river named after Gallions Reach. The area is named for the Galyons, a 14th-century family who owned property along this stretch of the river.”

At Woolwich ferry I chose the tunnel rather than the ferry which I used when I did the Thames Path, deep and long is as much as I have to say about it. The getting the modern bit wood panelled lift back up to the surface is worth the ride and save some energy. I was still on familiar ground as the path again follows the Thames Path, but after  a mile I took a left through Marion Wilson animal park where in the middle is a very secure couple of fenced areas containing ducks and chickens on one side of the path and deer, with antlers, on the other. I think it was run by Greenwich council for children to experience where children can experience a kind of farm like environment.

Shooters Hill
Shooters Hill

I crossed a busy road BT was soon in another ark this time Charlton Park which contains Charlton hall a grand Elizabethan, I think, building. I came across auch needed WC and a great little cafe where I had a cheese sandwich and a coffee for lunch. 

The next significant milestone was Shooters Hill in Greenwich borough. The path was in the woods but not at all muddy. It was however hilly. I passed a castle then a cafe both at the top of hills. I was glad of the final descent.

At Shepperdleas Woods I had had enough and decided that Falconwood station on the South Eastern Railway line, to Charing Cross, was the place to finish off. I had a two minute wait, for the relatively busy train but I found a seat without any trouble.

I made short shrift if my London transit by getting off at London Bridge and walking to the Northern Line, I got to Euston with 4 minutes to spare for the 16:34, which was well within the time cut off for my off peak ticket. I think I am going to enjoy the Capital Ring.

London Loop – Harold’s Wood to Purfleet the final leg

Thames barges in the mist
Thames barges in the mist

I kept waking up in the night, possibly because I knew I wanted to get up early to make sure I finished off LOOP, by getting the 07:49, however I was wide awake at 05:55 so I got up and was parked up at Berkhamsted with 20 minutes to get a ticket and coffee before the 06:49. I had no excuse to not finish. Puccino’s was open that early which was a relief, apparently they had a lie in and opened at 06:00 instead of their usual 05:00!

The train was on time and there were plenty of seats I managed to get a seat with a table to myself. Quite a few people got on at Watford at 07:03 my theory was that there first train pad there hours is always slightly busier than others?

Once again Google maps came to the rescue, I checked the best route from Euston and as I got to the southbound Northern line platform the train arrived, then after walking from Moorgate to Liverpool street the next train to Harold’s Wood was to depart in 4 minutes. I was back on the walk at 08:23 it was very foggy so navigation was going to b re a challenge.

Arty misty ThamesI was in familiar territory as I walked a short action I had walked the week before, I left the built up area and entered Harold’s Wood park there were just a few dog walkers and joggers about. Visibility was down to about 70m. At the end of the wood I walked along a B road to get across the A127, or better known as the Southend Arterial Road.

Arty misty ThamesI again was in familiar ground as I approached Upminster and passed the car park where I had left the car the week vefore, the route was again urban for a while, until we hit Ingrebourne valley at Hacton parkway. I would be in the country and wildlife areas for quite a few miles, and had not taken the opportunity to get a coffee and some water as it would have meant a detour. I thought I may have made a mistake but then I came across Ingrebourne Valley Visitor Centre, run by the Essex Wildlife Trust, in Hornchurch Country Park. The café was a good one as many of the wildlife centres gave these days. I was not impressed with the stale scone but the butter covered that up and the coffee was good. I had a table overlooking the reserve and it’s reed bed but these was not much chance of sightings because they were all lost in the mist. I did however if and time to browse a book called The East End Then and Now, a thick book with all sorts of stories and pictures if the East End.

Lighthouse on the Thames
Lighthouse on the Thames

On the way out I noticed a small exhibition about the role of the area during  WWII there was some Spitfire action around there involving the RAF. I also noticed a bird box camera display there was a squirrel asleep in the Tawny Owl nesting box! As I walked the remainder of the reserve I noticed pill boxes and gun emplacements.

I’ve learnt with all the walking this year that the tortoise normally wins, walk at a reasonable pace don’t try to rush, as that just results in sore things and blisters. At a good pace, around 3 mph, I ultimately am able to walk further than if I try to sprint.

As I approached Rainham there were a couple of super stores ans the photo place for garden atorage, Rainham Sheds. Evidence that I was nearing the Thames ce in the form notifications of Ferry Lane, which actually lead to the railway station where I crossed over on a pedestrian walkway. There was no evidence of a ferry to be seen, especially in the mist.

At the Thames edge I spotted waders, Godwits, Redshank, and Curlews amongst the ticks. I could hear boats but could not see them. A regular siren called out six times about once a minute, it was warning of a  jetty I think, for boats offloading rubbish for the landfill. The route followed the Thames edge and there Was a sign posts every 200m counting down the distance to the finish at Purfleet, they started at about 4km.

Purfleet Magazine
Purfleet Magazine

There was not much to see what with industrial estate, and landfill, but I did pass Coldharbour lighthouse a light on a red tower about 10m high. I saw over Twenty goldfinch on a fence, and surprisingly a Stonechat amongst them. My feet were starting to get a bit sore at 13miles but I carried on rather because I knew Rainham RSPB was close and a sandwich in the very strange modern visitor centre was beckoning. I got chatting to the RSPB man who told me that there was a Cattle Egret, two Short-Eared Owls, and some Avocets out on the reserve, it was tempting to go and take a look but they were all in the far side if the reserve, and I had some walking still left to do and in any case had left my membership card at home. Reluctantly I pulled myself out of the comfy armchair and got back on the LOOP.

It was not far, just a mile, to Purfleet station a train arrived but I was determined to find a plaque indicating the end of the LOOP so I let it go while I searched for the plaque. It turns out there is not one, or one that I could find anyway. So I sat on platform one and waited 25 minutes for the 14:56 back to central London. Google gave me a choice of routes I decided to get off at Barking and get on the Hammersmith and City all the way through to Euston. If anything the mist was even thickerbas the light faded. It looked like I would make the 16:24 from Euston, I was glad I had got up early l, it would have been proper dark if I has left an hour later.

The end of the London Loop Purfleet Station
The end of the London Loop Purfleet Station

Not sure if I missed the connection or got there early but Google suggested the district line when I check at Barking, it was due in 1 minute. At West Ham Google had me get off and wait for the Hammersmith and City to shave a minute of the journey. I noticed that the temperature had dropped significantly as waited briefly on the same platform I had got off at. No further suggested changes emerged. I actually made the 16:05 and had time to grab a hit chocolate, before getting on the train, which had changed platforms since it was announced on the departures board.

I really enjoyed the London LOOP and was surprised at how rural it was. One of the aspects I really liked was the adventure if getting g to and from parts of London by public transport. My next challenge will be the Capital Ring which I will attempt to get a good chunk of it done over the Christmas break. I reckon at 78 miles it should be doable in 6 sections of 13 miles.

I grabbed a ready meal from Waitrose on the way home and Helen and I planned to spend the evening in front of the TV, we thought we would give Westworld a go.

London Loop – Chigwell to Harold’s Wood

Loop view
Loop view

Saturday it rained all day so I skipped the usual walk and we headed for the cinema to see Snowden, which was good, not too technical that Helen enjoyed it too despite her thinking it might not be a good film because it was about computers. Sunday on the other hand was blue skies and a tad cold, excellent walking conditions. Getting to where I left off was going to be a challenge, I was once again on the opposite end of the LOOP from where I live.

I decided to drive to Upminster as I could het there in under an hour’s then could use the tube to get back to Chigwell where I had left off the week before.T he drive involved the M25 until the last junction before the Dartford tunnel, the Southend Arterial Road for a few miles to Monster where I parked in a car park that was free on a Sunday, and on the LOOP route, which I followed to Upminster Bridge station. A train was waiting for me on the platform. Passing through Hornchurch, Barking, West Ham, and Bow Road I changed at Mile End to get on the Central Line, to Chigwell.

Interesting stations on the Central Line included Gants Hill, Fairlop and Grange Hill. Not sure of the 80’s kids TV programme was filmed at it’s namesake? I had to change when the train terminated at Hainault. I had a 15 minute wait so would probably only start walking at 11:20 it was going to be a challenge to get the planned 15 miles done before it for dark. the Woodford twain was advertised on platform 2 but then arrived on 1 so there was a mad rush to change platforms, I just made it as the doors closed!

Loop view
Loop view

About a couple of miles in a guy called Dave caught up with me and I enquired whether he was walking the LOOP, it turns out he was. We chatted for a couple of miles, he had an interesting job. He was doing a PhD in the physics of solar weather, and prediction of solar flares. His pace was just slightly faster than my usual place, and at the first hill I bid him fair well. Soon I was the other side of Hainault Forest Country Park.

So far the going had been muddy which would turn out the be the theme for ther day as the path crossed lots of fields. There did not seem to be a way to stop the mud sticking to my boots. The next country park would be Havering Country Park, but I don’t remember much of it as I’m sure I was getting a cold and sore throat, which was distracting me. I passed through Chigwell Row Wood, and walked past Ye Olde Kings Head which I could not figure out whether it was still a pub, a private home or a curry house. It turns out it was an trendy restaurant where all the stars eat including Alan Sugar and Tamara Ecclestone, the website is here http://sheeshrestaurant.co.uk/

After Foxburrow Wood and walking through a nondescript housing estate I decided to bail out at Harold’s Wood station, I had had enough. I found the bus stop and waited 20 minutes for the 256 to Hornchurch High Street, then another 15 minutes walk (0.7 miles) to the car. The journey back was fine as the traffic was OK. Helen had a honey and lemon waiting for me when I got home and had made tea, perfect!

 

London Loop – Cockfosters to Chigwell or Chingford

Cockfosters ticket hall
Cockfosters ticket hall

Up slightly earlier that the week before to get the 07:44 from Berkhamsted to Euston. I was up earlier not because I was walking further than usual but because the commute was getting longer as I was getting further from home again after progressively getting closer since the start in Erith. Weather was cold I was expecting 4-6 degrees all day, but sun and clouds were promised ideal for taking pictures. The train was a couple of minutes late, nothing to complain about, I think because the train to Croydon in front was running a little late.

Rosberg retired from Formula one during the week which seemed to come out of the blue, I can’t blame him he will probably never have to work again. It would be nice if Verstappen could join the Mercedes team, as he has show that he us quite capable, during the 2016 season. Who ever takes his place will be in a great car which had dominated 2016, which should liven it up for next year.

Enfield lock number 13
Enfield lock number 13

The Victoria line to Finsbury park was my next transit. They were announcements about delays on the Piccadilly line my next journey, things were about to get a bit complicated. First I climbed the stairs only to find that the Piccadilly line was at the same level as the Victoria. I check Google maps and  the bus alternative would be 56 minutes compared to the 26 on the Piccadilly, so it would have to be seriously delayed for it to be worth getting the bus. Down at the right platform the next one was due in 7 minutes, fingers were crossed as I hoped to not waste time on the commute. As it turns out train was OK and I was in Cockfosters in good time.

The path passes close by the station and I was soon in woods with the early dog walkers, the path was mainly countryside for first 7 miles, I stopped for a Snickers break in Clay Park, and spotted a couple of Ring-necked Parakeets. A dog walker struck up a conversation, and told me all about his dog, and how the side of Enfield to the west of the A10 was the posh or more expensive side, with equivalent houses attracting a 20℅ premium. The sun was warm on my back but there was a definite chill in the air. The sky was bright blue with big white cumulus clouds drifting by. At Forty Hill a foot bridge over the A10 queueing into London

Cakes
Cakes

At Enfield High Street I hoped to stop for lunch but there was not really any coffee shops that might sell sandwiches, but I did opt to get a coffee in one of the patisserie shops, which sold mainly cakes and baclava and other far western Europe or middle East delicacies. I ordered an americano and some if the small savoury biscuits on display, and one free sweet thing which I hoped would be pistachio. Whilst I sat there resting a nan came into collect a cake for Adrian, however it was a she, so spelt Adrien, they went back of shop to get the icing editor out.

A few blocks of terraced houses came nect, at one a family looked locked out and were attempting to get a small child to climb through the upstairs very small window. I wished them luck the window looked smaller than the child  stopping the wheelie bin. Next up wad the canal and Enfield Lock 13. Just up the canal I got a bit lost and had to double back a bit, but I did see a great canal boat name at the dry dick, it was called Narrow Escape. Next was in Lea, or is it Lee, Valley, it was unclear, some signs one way and some the other. The path followed what I guessed was the Lea river, and the habitat became good for bird watching.

Leopard gates at Gilwell Park scouts activity centre
Leopard gates at Gilwell Park scouts activity centre

I knew I would be getting into Essex today and the first sign of that was a  “No dumping” sign by the county council. I crossed a few fields and climbed a hill then the path took me up the drive for the Gilwell Scouts activity centre which has some history. According to Wikipedia “Gilwell Park is a campsite and activity centre for Scouting groups and all Youth Organisations, as well as a training and conference centre for Scout Leaders with many business and local groups using the facilities, including the hosting of social events such as weddings and birthday parties. The 44 hectare(109 acre) site is in Sewardstonebury, Epping Forest, close to Chingford, London.

In the late Middle Ages the area was a farm, growing to a wealthy estate that fell into disrepair towards 1900. It was bought in 1919 by Scout Commissioner William de Bois Maclaren and given to the Scout Association of the United Kingdom to provide camping to London Scouts, and training for Scouters. As Scout Leaders from all countries of the world have come to Gilwell Park for their Wood Badge training, it is one of the landmarks of the world Scouting Movement.”

At the grand leopard gates at the main entrance the path took a left and skirted around the centre which looked like a great resource. The path got very hilly I seemed to be either climbing or descending one for quite a while I the nk four hills in total. Them I came across the edge of Epping forest which is right near Chinford station, I decided I could manage another 4 miles so stopped at a Brewers Fayre for a rest and some chips. There was snooker on the TV and someone was feeding money into the fruit machine next to me. I must say that fruit machines are far more complicated than when I looked at used one. The snooker was quite interesting Selby versus Murphy 46-61 with just the colours to go, they were in a I’ll snooker you then you’ll snooker me game.

Essex Sunset
Essex Sunset

The final few miles were mainly suburbia, and a David Lloyd centre, then I crossed the M11, and left the Loop route to get to Chigwell station via a well to do housing estate. Google maps suggested the bus was quicker but it left just as I arrived, so I headed to the Tube station.

I chatted to the underground staff member regarding best route, he suggested in a Scottish accent getting the second train to avoid a change at Woodford then get off at Liverpool Street and take any train to Euston Square. I consulted Google maps and it suggested Tottenham Court road, then Northern line. I eventually settled for Northern line from Bank.

At Euston I hurried because I need some dinner, but my plans were dashed when the fast train was called on platform 18 which unlike the normal platform did not have a Marks and Spencer on the ramp to the station. I decided to use Berkhamsted Waitrose instead.