London Loop Section 2 – Petts Wood to Old Bexley

Continuing my walk on the London Loop

How can it have been two years since I ended Section 3 of the London Loop at Petts Wood? It felt both fantastic and odd to find myself back at Petts Wood station picking up the 150-mile long trail and knocking off the final couple of sections of the London Loop.
I’ve loved all of my London Loop walks, which quite incredibly started with Section 17 in January 2018, and Section 2 did not disappoint, passing largely through woodland for a big chunk of the 8-mile route. I visited Scadbury Moated Manor, Sidcup, crossed the Kyd Brook and most memorably, strolled beside the River Cray as afternoon passed into early evening.

London Loop sign

Walking London Loop Section 3

London Loop Section 3 – Hayes Common to Petts Wood

I seem to use the London Loop as a device to re-orientate myself after time away from the city. The outer London orbital path resets my internal compass. So after my trip to Berlin with my son, I returned to the Loop at Hayes in the London Borough of Bromley to pick up the path I left in August last year.

Probably the greatest thing about the London Loop is how it exposes just how green a city London actually is. That although the capital clawed the surrounding countryside into its grasp, consuming chunks of Surrey, Kent, Essex, Hertfordshire and nearly the whole of Middlesex, large swathes of verdant land remains. The Loop takes you through farmland, country parks, woodlands, nature reserves, parks, along riverbanks, and naturally … golf courses. And Section 3 that took me from Hayes Common to Petts Wood turned out to be possibly the greenest section so far.

St Giles Church Farnborough, London Loop Section 3

As I hone in on the conclusion to my four years walking the London Loop I realise just how many of the memorable walks of that time have been on the Loop. I could pick out highlights then that would simply be a rundown of the route so far – from Enfield Lock through Uxbridge, over the Thames at Kingston to where I ended up at Petts Wood. I may draw out the last two sections just so I don’t have to end the circuit just yet.

Walking the London Loop – Section 4

London Loop Section 4 – Hamsey Green to West Wickham

It was so great to get back out on the London Loop the other week, picking up at the end of Section 5 at Hamsey Green and continuing along Section 4 to West Wickham. Note that I’m walking in the anti-clockwise direction and started on Section 17 at Enfield Lock in January 2018. This does make following the excellent Transport for London maps and directions a little challenging at times, but I’ve got used to reading them in reverse over the last three-and-a-half years.

London Loop sign - Section 4 Hamsey Green

This was a glorious section of the London Loop – I know it probably sounds as if I say that about them all, but some are certainly more bucolic than others and crossing the southern highlands of greater London in sections 5 and 4 from Coulsdon South to West Wickham has been quite stunning. And easily the most physically demanding sections that I’ve walked so far.

The highlight of section 4 was undoubtedly the incredible views back across the London basin from Addington Hills. But the field path that led from Kingswood Lane in Hamsey Green then progressed through Puplet Wood and Selsdon Wood was a real treat. As was seeing the Croydon Trams at Coombe Lane, and crossing Fallen Oak Field. All this in the London Borough of Croydon. And that’s the great charm of the London Loop – it reveals the city anew to you as you walk through great woods and meadows, pass by working farms, and tramp across the commons. You realise just how green the capital is – and what was done to preserve these precious open spaces.

September 2021 is the 20th Anniversary of the London Loop – what better time to get out on London’s orbital path.

Walking the London Orbital Path – London Loop Section 5

Walking London Loop Section 5 from Coulsdon South to Hamsey Green in the London Borough of Croydon

I’m finally back on the London Loop for the first time since February 2020, picking up at Coulsdon South and walking Section 5 to Hamsey Green. The London Loop is a 150-mile orbital path around London divided into 24 sections. I started on Section 17 at Enfield back in January 2018 and have been walking the London Loop clockwise, in the opposite direction.

Section 5 is one of the must picturesque so far passing across a chain of Commons managed by the City of London – Farthing Downs, Coulsdon Common, Kenley Common, and Riddlesdown. We also pass through Devilsden Wood, Happy Valley, RAF Kenley, Riddlesdown Quarry, and Betts Mead.

The Ramblers are celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the London Loop in September 2021 with a Love your Loop event – more info here

The London Loop – Ewell to Coulsdon

It’d been too long since my last walk on the London Loop back in August 2019, when I’d walked section 8 from Kingston to Ewell. Summer felt like a distant memory when I alighted at Ewell West Station to pick up London’s 150-mile orbital walking trail.

London Loop Section 7 (walking in the reverse direction)

This section starts with a magnificent piece of modernist architecture at Bourne Hall, a giant flying saucer shaped 1970 building that landed on the grounds of the former Garbrand Hall. The route takes you through a fine park with a lake and fountains close to the headsprings of the Hogsmill River that was the principal feature of Section 8 of the London Loop.

Through the village of Ewell we cross into Nonsuch Park, once one of Henry VIII’s hunting grounds that boasted a palace unlike ‘nonsuch elsewhere in the world’, so it’s said. This is a park that invites digression from the main route of the Loop across it’s wide lawns and along avenues.

Ewell

There’s a mile or so of road walking on the other side of Nonsuch traversing streets of postcard suburbia before coming to the end of Section 7 (or the start if walking in the clockwise direction) on Banstead Downs Golf Course. This was the site of one of the more intriguing features of the walk, and one not mentioned on the Tfl guide. Marked on the Ordnance Survey map are a series of tumuli that at the time I found difficult to identify. Checking online after the walk it seems if the Gally Hills Tumuli are in fact Saxon ‘hlaews’, a relatively rare type of burial mound in England with only around 50 or so being identified. The Historic England listing states that these would have been for ‘high ranking’ individuals. An excavation revealed “an extended inhumation with a bronze hanging bowl, a shield- boss, a split socketed iron spear-head and an iron knife.” Two of the mounds still stand in the rough beside the fairway watching the golfers and the ‘loopers’ pass by.

There is a detailed archaeological report here: THE SAXON BARROW AT GALLY HILLS, BANSTEAD DOWN, SURREY by JAMES F.BARFOOT and DAVID PRICE WILLIAMS

Banstead Downs

London Loop Section 6

Section 6 continues across Banstead Downs with some glorious views back across the London basin, towers poking up on the horizon. We then follow Freedown Lane – a long track that runs behind High Down Prison. The prison wall that we walk past is one of the remains of the Victorian asylum that previously occupied the site. Just beyond the prison, there were the remnants of what must have been a signficant building half buried along the top of the bank. Being that the prison was built on the land of the former asylum and hospital, I’m not sure what was here, my best guess is that they were ancillary buildings connected to the hospital, perhaps relating to its wartime use.

The Loop takes us through Oaks Park, landscaped for the Earl of Derby in the 18th Century (the fella who gave his name to the famous race at Epsom). Many of the old trees remain as does the stone grotto. I would liked to have dwelt here awhile but was up against the light, although I was still able to enjoy more fine views back across London.

Banstead Downs

The path progressed across a lavender farm with an old red phonebox in the middle of the field – glorious I imagine in summer. Then across Carshalton Road Pastures, a ridge of chalk downland at the northern extremity of the North Downs. We pick up a sunken path topped by what the Tfl leaflet calls an “ancient hedgerow”, bringing us out onto a housing estate initially developed for returning soldiers from WW1. It’s streetwalking from here down the hill to Coulsdon, with its appealing High Street blighted by angry rush hour traffic and the end (or start) of Section 6 of the London Loop.

Can’t wait to get back out there – the London Loop never disappoints.

London Loop – Section 8 Kingston to Ewell

London Loop Section 8 – Kingston to Ewell

Always great to revisit summer walks in these cold winter days. Back in August I picked up the London Loop Section 8 in Kingston and followed it to Ewell. This section of the London Loop follows the Hogsmill River for long sections, crosses over a barrow in slumbering suburban streets, and passes through one of Britain’s most beloved sitcom settings in Surbiton.

 

Here’s an edited transcript of the video

Great to be back on the London Loop down here at Kingston on Thames? I don’t even know bit of a walk I’m doing here through Kingston along the Charter Quay is actually on the London Loop, but I’m going to walk along anyway.

This is the beginning here at Kingston. Picking up from where I left off in May and I don’t know where I’ll end up, but I want to have a look at the King Stone. This must be the Hogsmill River, which is where we start the walk, before the Hogsmill is about to make its confluence with the Thames. And here’s the London Loop sign, which I found by accident, next to this kind of really old battered phone box.

The King Stone, the famous Anglo Saxon coronation stone, and these are the names of the Anglo Saxon Kings, that are said to have been crowned upon this stone:
Edmund, Adelstan, which I think is Athelstan – Michael Wood, the great historian considers him the greatest of Anglo-Saxon Kings. Edward, Adelred, another Edward, Edwic, Eadred. Actually the name Kingston isn’t derived from this coronation stone,  according to Steve Roud and his book London Lore a really wonderful book, Kingston actually was already in use before the first known coronation and it means a Royal estate or palace and the actual word is Cyningestun. What a great thing to kick off this section of the London Loop.

Coronation stone kingston

I started the London loop, I think it was January, 2018 this is the furthest out for me being in Leytonstone and I started at Enfield. I come all the way around now to Kingston, took a while to get here. I’m walking the London Loop anti-clockwise. I don’t think there should be a way you do it personally, but all the directions are given in a clockwise direction.

The walk I’m doing today is territory which is completely unknown to me. So we’ve come across that dreadful roundabout there.  It has the feeling of Slough or Reading. It’s like a big town. Then we’re going to go pick up the old footpath here.

I had a brief chat with my friend Nick Papadimitriou on the phone, and he said, apparently this is a Richard Jefferies river, mentioned in piece called London Trout (in his book Nature Near London).

We have an interesting I bridge above the Hogsmill opened in 1894. We now go down this little path between the river and the school.

London Loop sign

What’s the other association with the Thames at Kingston, of course is Jerome K Jerome’s three men in a boat. That’s another area where the associations of Caesar’s invasion of Britain.

The Stanley Picker Gallery, which I wanted to visit for a while, looks closed. Had some interesting exhibitions in the past. Center for Sseless Splendor, sounds great.

You can mostly do the London Loop without a map. I think. It’d be interesting to see if I can get away with it today. I have got both the TFL maps I printed out and an Ordinance Survey map. I’ll see how far we get just following the London Loop signs.

[I went the wrong way almost instantly] It’s quite funny after saying that about the London Loop signs, I followed the sign in the direction it was pointing and actually took me away from the river and when I looked at the map on my phone,  it was quite a long way off course.

I think that’s King Athelstan school. Well after that rather curious contradiction in the London Loop signs, we’re back on track.

Athelstan Road
We continue down Villiers Road and head towards Berrylands Station. Turn off Villiers down Lower Marsh Lane, which promises great things, doesn’t it?

The Western section of the London Loop really is an edgelands ramble, isn’t it? Here we’re walking between a water treatment works and a cemetery can’t get much more edgelands than that.
Wow. It’s really is a major water treatment works, isn’t it? These great temples rising from the undergrowth.

Berrylands Station, believe we just carry on under the bridge here. This is great. This little stack of pallets here, stuff with straw and twigs and what have you is a breeding habitat for stag beetles. Isn’t that great? This is an interesting parade of shops here.

London Loop

The Hogsmill at Kingston

So I’ve managed to go a little bit astray there just as I was saying about freewheeling it. But at that point  I ended up following a tributary of the Hogsmill, so I’m just going to loop back on myself slightly.

[In a street somewhere in Surbiton] This is a history of really fascinating architecture. It’s kind of like a mixture of arts and crafts and and kind of modernism Bauhaus in suburbia.

It’s not as bad as I thought. It only took me about 10 minutes to get back to the Hogsmill. I don’t regret that little diversion as a delightful little tributary of the Hogsmill.

You down the road here and then there’s an underpass. I just have to find the path now.

Here we go back on the London Loop. I really got that urge to go backpacking again.

Wow. This is lovely, beautiful, big open space opening up, green parakeets, glycerine through the branches. It this really beautiful Willow arch somebody made.

This mosaic on the wall. They’ve really captured the magic of the edgelands in this bit of artwork. It’s a reference to a Millais, the famous image of Ophelia floating drowned in a river. Well that’s actually was painted, near here in the Hogsmill river.

London Loop

There’s climbing quite steep Hill now. This is the parish church of St John the Baptist Malden

Barrow Hill, ‘barrow’ as we know is a burial mound that makes you wonder whether that was once a burial mound on this Hill here.

At that point in the year, now we’re about two thirds of the way through the year when you start to reflect on the walks you’ve done throughout the year. Some, absolute cracking walks this year. It’s been a great year of walking and they come back to in little snippets again,

A Toby Carvery a real symbol of the edgelands of as much as I bought a water treatment works.

A sign for the County of Surrey, you have to come up on cross this race track here they call a road then just on the other side carry on.

I have to say the Hogsmill has been one of the most of the delightful London tributaries that I’ve ever walked along. Really picturesque the whole way.

Somehow managed to turn this into an 11 mile walk. West Ewell Station is where I think I’ll end today’s walk. It must be what, six o’clock ish? What a cracker, the London Loop always delivers.

Walking the London Loop – Hayes to Kingston

It was great to be back out on the London Loop – picking up in Hayes on the May Bank Holiday Monday (6th May), where I’d finished back in March on the section that I’d followed down from Uxbridge. The first part of section 10 continues along the canal a short distance, past the rubble of the Nestle factory, as far as the River Crane, which takes on the role as titular spirit of the walk for much of the day. Then we visit the peaceful storied church of St. Dunstan’s where a memorial to the great comedian Tony Hancock is nestled in a corner of the churchyard.

The next part of the walk through Cranford Country Park towards Hatton Cross is characterised by jumbo jets skimming the rooftops as they came in to land at Heathrow. Seeing London’s great terminus sat on what was once a corner of Hounslow Heath (the ‘heath row’) gave me an enormous desire to jump on a plane and head off traveling once more.

London Loop Section 9

Section 9 finds us again following the River Crane down through spindly woodland to Hounslow Heath, full of memories of ending the first walk here for my book, This Other London. I even found the bench on a mound were I sat and ate a snack in the May sunset those seven years ago.

There was more roadwalking ahead, another section of the Crane, and skirting Fulwell Golf Course before reaching Bushey Park just before sunset. The deer roamed and grazed and I meandered to the gate exiting to Hampton Wick as the dark arrived.

The Thames twinkled as I crossed the great stone bridge into Sunday night Kingston, too late to seek out the King Stone which awaits the start of my next venture out onto the London Loop.