The Capital Ring is a strategic walking route that completely encircles inner and central London. It is approximately 78 miles long and cuts through as many green spaces as is possible.
So here we are again, Dog and me, on another section of the Capital Ring. It may be December, it may be nearly the shortest day and daylight fades around 4 pm but the weather forecast, after the storms of the last few days was good and Dog was deserting me for four days to spend time with the Lawyer and the Beautician so it seemed like the perfect excuse.
You may recall we left off last time in Richmond by the Thames.
Richmond is wealthy, a classic west London suburb that holds onto its charm and tweeness with all the ferocity that the moneyed classes can muster. Nice for a visit; suffocating to live.
Out from the station the towpath passes the site of the Palace of Richmond where Elizabeth 1 died. Now it’s mostly gardens and some left over buildings. This one being the former brewery.
Beyond the tube bridge, of Victorian construction and the concrete monstrosity from the 30s that’s Twickenham bridge is Old deer Park which, as the name suggests has deer – not that we saw any. The original meridian line when through here before being moved to Greenwich.
Up ahead we have the last non tidal crossing, the last lock being at Teddington behind us but this half lock allows boats to cross the final weir 2 hours either side of high tide. Afterwards the river is tidal for over 25 miles before it is fully out to sea.
We crossed the river above the half lock and turned toward Isleworth another lovely if somewhat preserved-in-aspic sort of place.
The river runs both sides of an island here – the Ait, pronounced ‘eight’ an old dialect word for island. It’s a nature sanctuary amongst the bustle.
Occasionally, as more plots are developed access to the river frontage grows (all planners require developers to put in a walk way) but still, hereabouts we had to detour in land. Hey ho.
By the church of Isleworth is the London Apprentice pub, so called because the Livery companies, the Guilds that ran commerce in London and now act as grandiose dining parlours and centres for charitable giving, had a rowing race that ended here.
Once again we branched inland but this time it was worth it as we walked through Syon Park, London home to the Dukes of Northumberland.
It’s now visitor friendly but the buildings and landscaped grounds remain splendid examples of two of England’s finest: interior designer Robert Adam and garden consultant Capability Brown. In the distance is one of the remaining Art Deco Industrial buildings, the Gillette tower with its iconic green clock, a feature of any drive to the West country.
A short step after quitting the park, the route leaves the Thames to finds it’s way back into central London and we begin to curve north and gradually east alongside the River Brent and, occasionally where the two combine, the Grand Union canal.
This wonderful and still usable waterway from the 18th century allowed commercial goods to move from Birmingham to London and visa versa and the on across the country.
Today the traffic is nearly all pleasure craft and the banks are fabulous natural reserves, even amongst the industrial and commercial building hereabouts.
One such building was clad in a wooden patterned structure and along the wall inside, a mural of river and canal life; this short video gives you the idea.
The river/canal passes some iconic offices – Glaxo Smith Kline, the drugs company, being one such. The sculpture out front is called ‘Athlete’, and from the look of him the performance enhancing drugs he’s ingested have done him no favours. To me he’s more Velociraptor than Olympian
I took a fair few shots today because the light was so good and the reflections spectacular. It is one of the joys of this stretch of the walk.
North of Osterley, and now following the Brent River exclusively – the canal is off towards Birmingham – we walked under the Wharncliffe viaduct, build by the great engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Shortly beyond the church of St Mary’s Hanwell appeared – this was designed by George Gilbert Scott in 1841 – Scott was also responsible for St Pancras Station and Great Eastern Hotel. These are magnificent pieces of engineering and architecture. Two such geniuses in close proximity – swoon!
We still had two miles to cover to reach our destination in Greenford but the enjoyment paled a little.
It was golf courses and flat recreation grounds dotted amongst 1930s sprawl housing and the busy angry A40, oddly called an Arterial Road but these days in need of a stent and a change of diet away from oily gaseoline. Perivale Park was nice enough, the running track good to see – there are too few in London – but after the joys of earlier and with the light beginning to fade, catching the tube home was welcome.
8.5 miles today and still mild by the end. Maybe we can do another section over the winter months, eh Dog?