We have set up a sub-group of the Longer Walks Group to walk the London Outer Orbital Path, a 150 mile route around the periphery of the capital. We are dividing the walk into 14/15 sections each being between about 10 miles in length, starting south of the Thames at Erith and finishing at Purfleet near the Dartford Crossing. All walks take a place on Wednesdays.
To begin with at least, there will be a maximum group size of 12 on each walk, including the 2 group leaders (Ruth Hayes and Betty McAskie).
Please note that only members who have joined the Longer Walks Group are accepted on the London Loop walks. You may join by completing this form.
Please read the walk descriptions carefully before booking. A number of the walks require train journeys south of the Thames to reach the start point.
On each walk we will take breaks, including one for lunch approximately mid-way through. This means all walkers will need to bring their own packed lunches and enough drinking water to last the whole day. There may be the possibility for further refreshment at the end of some walks.
This walk starts at Hayes Station at 10.20 a.m. The 9.37 train from Charing Cross to Orpington arrives at Hayes (Kent) Station at 10.18. After rejoining the London Loop and crossing playing fields, we may spot a dalek like structure which marks the Greenwich Meridian. We also catch a glimpse of Wickham Court (now a College) on the way up, but get good views from the hill top. After walking through open fields and woodland, and skirting Shirley, we climb up to a viewing platform on Addington Hill. From the London Wildlife Trust reserve there are also great views to be found, although the little wooden bench will not accommodate us all. A short walk through housing leads to a long stretch of woodland and open countryside before finishing at Hamsey Green where we get a bus to Croydon.
The group will meet at East Croydon Station at 10.00 a.m. to get the bus to Hamsey Green. Direct trains leave Victoria at 9.36 and 9.39. There is a fairly steep climb (including steps) up the ridge to reach Kenley Common, but we can take our time. We then pass close to Kenley Airfield, the last of the Battle of Britain airfields. There should be opportunities to stop and picnic on the lovely grasslands of Happy Valley and Farthing Downs. We then have a short urban stretch to walk through before crossing the Woodcote estate which with its little black weather-boarded farm buildings was divided into smallholdings after WWI. Finally we cross Oaks Park, where 200 English oaks were planted to mark the millennium, before finishing the walk at Banstead Station.
The group will meet at Banstead Station at 10.30. There are 2 options for travel. The 9.41 train from Victoria, with 1 change at Sutton gets in to Banstead at 10.26, or the 9.30 direct train from Victoria which also arrives at 10.26.
After a short walk on Banstead Downs, there is an urban stretch before we enter Woodland Trust land with the possibility of diversions to view the Gothic style 1804 Nonsuch Mansion and/or the remaining stones of Henry VIII ‘s Nonsuch Palace. Passing Ewell High St with its attractive buildings and Victorian Castle, we enter Bourne Hall Park through an arched gateway, all that remains of a large country house. We then follow the Hogsmill River, an attractive route, as despite suburbia on either side provides a green corridor with bushes and trees screening us from the buildings. We follow the Hogsmill, with occasionally diversions away from the river until we finally arrive in Kingston.
Meet at Kingston Station at 10.15. There is a train from Vauxhall at 9.40 or from Waterloo at 9.42, both arrive at 10.10. There’s also an earlier train from Vauxhall at 9.31, but it depends on whether or not you are allowed through the barrier in time.
Having re-joined the Loop at Kingston Bridge and crossed the Thames, we have a lovely walk through Bushy Park. Once part of the Hampton Court estate, deer can still be seen roaming free. We pass a number of ponds, one called Heron pond, but no guaranteed sighting, and largely follow water courses through the park. There’s lots to see, including a grand line of Chestnuts, originally planned as the entrance to a wing of Hampton Court that was never built, while a slight deviation along the avenue of trees reveals the 17th Century Diana Fountain (the Roman Goddess). We pass through woodland reaching the River Longford, and then through Teddington where we skirt a golf course before reaching the River Crane, a tributary of the Thames. We continue to follow the river, passing Shot Tower (a 16 Century gunpowder mill) before crossing Hounslow Heath, once famous for highwaymen, to emerge at our finishing point of Donkey Wood.
North of the Thames now and the journeys are getting easier. For this one, we only need to use the underground, so it’s a 10 am start, at Hatton Cross, Piccadilly Line.
We begin by re-joining the River Crane, and passing through a country park, the remains of the Earl of Berkeley’s estate. The house became ruinous, but the old church survived and is worth seeing. We then pass through Hayes to cross the Grand Union canal and go through Stockley Country Park, before meeting the canal again and entering a complex water system of canals, an aqueduct, a river and finally some flooded gravel pits now pretending to be lakes.
There is a granite obelisk with the City of London arms which was a coal tax marker built in 1667, the tax helping to rebuild London after the Great Fire. Shortly afterwards, we leave the canal to follow the River Colne upstream to Uxbridge Lock where we encounter the grand Union again at the very end of the walk.
London Loop Route 3: Petts Wood to West Wickham Common
Today we walked in the footsteps of giants, reached one of the Loop’s highest points, came across the source of a Thames tributary, walked through an ancient sunken green way curiously called Bogey Lane, and passed through a dingly dell, grassy glade and timber revetment. We weren’t going to get lost either, amongst the 9 walkers I counted 3 versions of the guide to the Loop, 2 sat navvy type things and an Ordnance survey map. And the Loop itself was exceptionally well marked, so all bases were covered.
We soon made our way into Jubilee Country Park full of beautiful blue flowers, which I since discovered are chicory, then into first Sparrow and then Darrick Woods. These like the several woods that were to follow, provided a welcome shade from the sun. We stopped at a pub in Farnborough for a quick (coffee!) break and then headed off through the open grassland of High Elms Country Park with spectacular views south to the North Downs.
The next section was an uphill walk through the Holwood Estate where, at the top, a historic site awaited in the shape of a stone bench and the remains of an old oak. This was/is the Wilberforce Oak, a tree that hosted a major historical event. Here William Wilberforce held a conversation with then Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger that eventually led to the abolition of slavery. The oak tree isn’t much to look at now; just the hollow remains of an old tree trunk. A replacement tree was planted in 1969 using acorns from the original, although storms put paid to it in 1987. However another sapling – a third generation – was planted, and grows next to its parents. And it was around these trees, and their remains, that we ate our lunch.
The route entered Keston Common, with its two small lakes that sit at the source of the River Ravensbourne. This bubbles up from a spot called Caesar’s Well, and then starts its journey through south east London eventually to join the Thames at Deptford.
The path continued pleasantly alongside Hayes Common and then West Wickham Common to reach the end of this section before reaching Hayes Station where a train was waiting to take us all back to London.The GPS calculated that we had walked a distance of 9.9 miles. Our final stretch of the journey through London Bridge to the tube, we decided, would easily take us over 10 miles!
London Loop Route 2 : Old Bexley to Petts Wood
Getting to Bexley Station by train from North London proved unexpectedly challenging, so the walk started later than planned – but it was well worth the wait! On a beautifully sunny day we renewed our acquaintance with the now clean River Cray, home to dace and pike, and a watchful heron. This stretch of the walk took us through unspoilt countryside, made even more attractive by a lake and a late eighteenth century five arched bridge in Foots Cray Meadows, associated with the landscape architect ‘Capability’ Brown. We stopped for lunch at Sidcup Place, recently converted into a large public house.
Resuming our walk we came across a moated manor in Scadbury Park Nature Reserve. After a stroll through the National Trust’s Willett Memorial Wood, we crossed open fields to Jubilee Country Park, from where we headed towards our destination (Petts Wood Station) through the ancient woodland of the National Trust’s magnificent Petts Wood, saved for the nation from developers by Colonel Francis Edlman and others. This was an indeed as splendid section of the Loop, and we wondered if this would be bettered on our orbital journey.
London Loop Route 1 : Erith to Bexley
We marked the start of our 150 mile journey in Riverside Gardens, which as the name suggests borders the Thames. Sadly though, we soon lost sight of the river as the route took us through Erith, past some industrial units before we reached it again. From here the Loop sets off along the Thames for a while, sharing its path with National Cycle Network Route 1 and the Thames Path extension.
With the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge in front of us, the landscaped landfill sites on the north bank, we followed the path alongside its many recycling plants. This stretch provided not the leisure and pleasure activities we associate with walking alongside the Thames, but formed its industrial core, notably transporting and managing the rubbish that we Londoners generate. I heard a number of terms being used to describe this stretch including: desolate, bleak and perhaps my favourite – dystopian. Added to this sense of melancholy was the forlorn sight of a horse being tethered to a stake. But the sky was vast, and after a while many of us found some strange beauty in our surroundings. At the very least there certainly was a feeling of space, and with the hawthorn bushes beginning to show their leaves, a sense of spring around the corner. At Crayford Ness we headed off south alongside the Darent River on a high and windswept grassy path which together with the brutalist Darent Barrier forms part of the flood barrier arrangements for the Thames. We then reached our third river of the day: the Cray and followed that until we were faced with more breakers yards, scrap merchants and large lorries delivering more rubbish to be treated as we approached Crayford.
Here we stopped for a picnic lunch, just outside Lindy Lou’s Tea Room – apparently a pun on its origin as a public toilet. Heading off towards Bexley via the Hall Place Park some of us noticed, at its entrance, slender columns carved with shells and ferns, remnants of the canopy of the Crayford Cinema. And it was just after this that John averted a near disaster; the path was suddenly blocked by drainage works. With satnav at hand he was able to navigate a diversion over the busy A2 and finally into Bexley.
It certainly wasn’t the prettiest of walks, but that probably isn’t the point. A long journey such as the Loop will have its high and lows, and if we want to learn more about the outer fringes of London then this was a good starting point. But what the day highlighted for me was our disregard for nature: we were continually affronted by rubbish lining the path and litter choking urban streams.
On a lighter note, well done everyone for finishing it, especially those walking with injuries or recovering from illnesses … and we made a few friends along the way.