Sunrise at High Elms

It’s a lovely crisp morning, and really quiet at my favourite place to walk Rocco – High Elms Country Park. Not too muddy this morning, which is a bonus.

As we descended down the hill, the sun was just rising over the opposite hill, bringing a bit of colour to the woods:

Merry Christmas to one and all!

An ethereal evening walk

It was a particularly stunning evening at Poverest Rec on Saturday – the moon was large, orange and low, and the mist covering the area was only about six feet deep, giving a weird effect which this photo doesn’t really capture.

The air was very still and it was not at all cold.  Altogether quite a lovely walk!

Shoreham Woods

Rocco and I regularly walk in Shoreham Woods (at least we do when it’s reasonably dry!) so today I thought I’d document our walk in pictures.

The first bit is across the M25 motorway, so very noisy, but soon it becomes quieter and Rocco starts collecting sticks:

This section of the path is on a slope, and can be really muddy in winter:

The view down the valley is lovely:

We then climb into Pilots Wood:

and shortly arrive at the top of the North Downs:

The path soon dives back into woods

and follows the Darenth Valley, with views of Shoreham village:

All too soon, we’re climbing back up the hill:

then down and up across the valley. Luckily Rocco ignores the cows!

Another short break, then it’s back up the last hill to the car park:

A LOT of up & down in a short distance!



Tonbridge & River Medway

The forecast was for a very hot day, and our respective calendars were clear, so we took the train to Tonbridge.

Rocco is now getting quite used to trains:

Tonbridge really benefits from having the River Medway flowing through the town:

The ruins of Tonbridge Castle are in the background. First stop was a nearby pub, which had a nice courtyard at the back:

After many beers and a nice lunch, we set off for a walk along the river, which consists of many different channels and bridges to cross. It wasn’t long before Rocco had a swim, and luckily, managed to get out again (much of the river bank is quite steep):

Further on, we came across a (very) disused lock:

We headed back through Haysden Country Park and Barden Lake:

and after a bit of a trek through the back streets of Tonbridge, we returned to the station and our train home:

Another lovely day out!


Oxleas Wood

As we’re now ‘allowed’ to travel further for our exercise, we decided to walk around Oxleas Wood in the sunshine. This is actually a collection of woods and parks that interlink around the Shooters Hill area in South East London.

We started in Eltham Park South (the park is split in half by the main A2 Dover Road):

Rocco found a stick within seconds of getting out of the car:

We then crossed the A2 via a large overbridge and walked through Eltham Park North, which is mainly woodland. Rocco found a dirty pond of course:

We then walked through Oxleas Wood to Severndroog Castle:
Severndroog Castle was built in 1784 as a memorial to Sir William James, once the Director of the East India Company, by his wife Lady Anne James. It celebrates his most famous exploit, the capturing of the island fortress of Suvarnadurg. Severndroog Castle is 132 metres (432 feet) above sea level, gifting it with exceptional views of the London cityscape, the Thames River and the edges of London’s seven surrounding counties.

It was of course closed, so no “exceptional views” for us. Instead, we stopped for a break on the terrace, then headed back downhill a different way:

This had more meadows (you can see a small open cafe at the top of the hill):

And then back through Eltham Park:

A nice afternoon out!


More musings

Phil and I went for a walk on Monday for his birthday.  We went to Petts Wood, where everyone was being very sensible and keeping their distance.  The weather was lovely and the flowers were shining in the sun.  Rocco had fun splashing in the stream.  It was a welcome dose of normality.

I couldn’t get my shadow out of the way!

Capital Ring 15 – Cyprus to Woolwich

It was just about warm enough today for me to finish the Capital Ring Walk. This section is mostly shared with the Jubilee Greenway walk, so again, it was a joint effort.

We returned to Cyprus station (with a quick detour to see the end of the line at Beckton), and then we negotiated the walkways of University of East London to Royal Albert Dock:

The whole area is surprisingly quiet, at least until a plane takes off from the nearby London City Airport:

We then passed under the busy ‘Sir Steve Redgrave Bridge’ across the dock to the renovated ‘Galyons Bar and Kitchen’:

The grade II* listed Gallions Hotel was built between 1881 and 1883 for the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, to accom­modate travellers who were halting overnight. Rudyard Kipling stayed at the hotel when he was setting off for India, and the author mentions the place in his novel The Light that Failed (1890): “Is it Tilbury and a tender, or Gallions and the docks?”

We then negotiated various building works to get to the Gallions Reach area, which is a strange combination of building works, industry and high density housing.
Gallions Reach is named after the Galyons family who were prominent in the area in the 14th century. The word ‘reach’ here refers to an open stretch of water along a river, but originally used to denote the distance that could be sailed by a vessel on one tack.

Finally, we reached the River Thames in all its industrial glory:

The path now follows the river, but is interrupted by the large lock that give access to Royal Albert Dock:

Luckily the lock was not in use, so we could just walk across the gates.

A bit further on is the even larger lock for King George V Dock:
These gigantic gates at King George V Lock admitted the 36,644-ton Cunard liner RMS Mauretania in 1939. Measuring 790 feet long by 88 feet wide there was just a whisker to spare on all sides.

The path then follows through the Gallions Point Estate, where we stopped for lunch:

Then through Royal Victoria Gardens, complete with Steam Hammer:

Further on, the path (a public footpath no less) was blocked by fencing where they are modernising the (currently closed) Woolwich Ferry. There were no signs or diversions, so we snuck through the barriers, avoided the wet concrete and escaped back onto the road:

Nearby is the entrance to the Woolwich Foot Tunnel, which we used to cross the river:

The south entrance to the foot tunnel is where I started the Capital Ring walk nearly a year ago (see Capital Ring Walk 1):

It was then a short walk to Woolwich Arsenal station, then a couple of trains home.

4 miles of Capital Ring walking and 1 geocache today. Overall, I didn’t find the Capital Ring Walk quite as good as the London Loop Walk but it did take me to many areas of London that I wouldn’t otherwise have seen.

For more information on the Capital Ring, see

Capital Ring 14 – Hackney Wick to Cyprus DLR

The forecast was for a lovely day (indeed it almost got too warm later), so it’s back to East London to continue with the Capital Ring Walk. This section is shared with the Jubilee Greenway walk, so it was a joint effort today.

We returned to Hackney Wick station, again via Stratford, and joined the River Lee Navigation by the Olympic Park:

Everywhere in this area seems to be a building site:

Shortly we reached Old Ford lock:

and a bridge covered with what we termed “3D Grafitti”:

We left the water for “The Greenway”:
The Greenway is on top of the Northern Outfall Sewage Embankment. It runs for nearly 6 miles (9.6 kilometres) from Hackney to Beckton where the sewage is treated before discharge into the River Thames. It forms part of London’s extensive sewage system put in place by Joseph Bazalgette in the 1860s and much of it is still in use today. The Capital Ring follows this elevated pathway for nearly 3 miles (4.8 kilometres) with great views of the Olympic Park.

And sure enough, the West Ham stadium and the Arcelor Mittal Tower comes into view:

and an interesting café; time for a break!

The Greenway should continue on from here, but building work forced us to divert off into the grim ‘real’ East End. It wouldn’t have been a problem if the diversion had been signposted, but we ended up retracing our steps a few times in order to get back on route:

Eventually we reached the busy Stratford High Street:

Shortly afterwards, we passed the Meridian, marked by a metal strip and a sundial set in the path:

Then Abbey Mills Pumping Station:
The Abbey Mills Pumping Station is a palatial structure also built by Bazalgette in 1868. As the new sewers operated by gravity, by the time sewage had reached the East End, it was over 13 metres underground. So, to get the waste back up to the surface, steam-powered pumping stations were built, like Abbey Mills, which was in use until 1996, when it was replaced by the shining silver building nearby. However, the old pumping station is still used during heavy storms and its historic pumps, now electric, are used around 30 days
a year. With its ornamental Gothic architecture, the old pumping station is used as a location for TV and film, featuring in episodes of ‘The Bill’, ‘Londons Burning’, ‘Hogfather’ and ‘Batman Begins’.

Nearby was an old pump, colourfully repainted:

Much effort seems to have been put into “artistic” structures along The Greenway, less effort into information boards and seats:

Eventually, we left The Greenway for the real world, including crossing the very busy A13:

The character of the walk then changed as we followed paths through various Beckton parks:

and shortly afterwards, we reached Cyprus DLR station and the train home.
Cyprus station is named after the nearby Victorian estate of Cyprus, itself named after the British colonisation of that Mediterranean island. This is the station for the
University of East London (UEL).

6 miles of Capital Ring walking (including a short part of Section 15) today.

For more information on the Capital Ring, see

Jubilee Greenway 3 & 4 – Camden to Hackney Wick

Another sunny day, so we took the opportunity to do the next section of this walk.

We returned to Camden Town station and headed towards the busy Camden Lock market – too many tourists!

It was quieter by the canal though; this is Hampstead Road Lock:

Unfortunately, the towpath onward was closed due to building work, but circumnavigating the streets to rejoin the canal, we found this lovely green wall:

Then finally, we were back on our route along the canal:

Next stop was St Pancras Basin, with some interesting re-purposing of the old gas holders:

We watched a Eurostar come into St Pancras; very much the old and the new together:

St Pancras Lock is pretty:

Further on, we reached the Islington Tunnel, and had to divert over it. This was a much nicer diversion than with the earlier Maida Hill Tunnel, leading through a quiet housing estate and the busy (but not touristy) Chapel Market:

After some lunch, we rejoined the canal at the east end of the tunnel:

and followed the ever changing canal onwards through the Shoreditch area:

We should have turned off into Victoria Park, but instead followed the Hertford Union Canal for a bit before getting to the park:

Section 4

Victoria Park is enormous, and very well kept:
Victoria Park covers 218 acres and was originally laid out by Sir James Pennethorne between 1842 and 1846; he had been a pupil of the architect, John Nash, and was himself Architect to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests. Victoria Park’s design was much inspired by Nash’s work at Regent’s Park.

After a nice cup of tea in the park cafe, we braved the footbridge over the A12 and the rough end of Hackney to reach Hackney Wick station and the train(s) home:

7.1 miles of Jubilee Greenway walking and 1 Geocache today.

For more information on the Jubilee Greenway, see



Capital Ring 12 & 13 – Highgate to Hackney Wick

After the summer heat, it’s now a bit cooler, so time to continue my Capital Ring Walk.

It was a reasonable journey to Highgate Tube Station:

and a short walk through suburbia to the “Parkland Walk”, a quiet nature reserve created from a disused railway line:
The railway line, now occupied by the Parkland Walk, was opened by the Great Northern Railway in 1867. In the 1930s, as part of the ambitious New Works Programme, London Underground planned to electrify it and take it over as part of the Northern line. Much work was done, including the new platform buildings at Highgate station. The work was abandoned at the outbreak of the Second World War and the line was closed to passengers in 1954. It remained in use occasionally for freight until 1970 after which the tracks were lifted. It is now a haven for wildlife with about 250 species of plants and the shy muntjac deer living here.

including a disused platform:

The route then crossed the East Coast Main Line and into Finsbury Park:

After crossing a busy road, the path then follows the “New River”:

The New River is spectacularly misnamed, as it is neither new nor a river – it’s nearly four hundred years old and an ingenious artificial watercourse. Built at a time when fresh water for London was in very short supply, it brought water 40 miles from springs in Hertfordshire to Islington. Following a very twisting route, the gradient dropped very gradually so that gravity pulled the water along; the canal dropped two inches every mile. There was considerable opposition from local landowners and it cost a fortune, but the entrepreneur and goldsmith, Sir Hugh Myddelton, pushed it through with support from King James. Today the ‘river’ still supplies water to the capital. You can follow the river on foot for most of the way from Hertford to Islington.

The path then passes through the Woodberry Down Estate. “With some 50 blocks this forms the largest council housing estate in Britain.

and follows past the imaginatively named East Reservoir and West Reservoir:

All too soon, the route crosses the New River and into the streets of Finsbury Park:

Next is Clissold Park, with some attractive planting, lake and cafe:

Finally for this section, the route goes through Abney Park Cemetery:

Abney Park Cemetery was the first European Garden cemetery – that is, with reception buildings, chapel and landscaping – to take a non-denominational approach with no separation between the graves of different religions; consequently there was no consecration of any part, except where individuals chose it for their plot.
It’s now a very evocative site and nature reserve where over 300,000 graves have been laid since it opened in 1840; many notable people are buried here.”

Section 13

This starts with more road walking through Stoke Newington:

Then into Springfield Park:

with views down into the Lea Valley:

Springfield Park, opened to the public in 1905, has been designated as London’s first Regionally Important Geological Site – RIGS – and is on the English Register of Parks and Gardens of Historic Interest. The Park’s landforms tell a fascinating story about the geological history of the Lea Valley. The name comes from the series of springs that arise in the area from the combination of sand, gravel and London clay.

Dropping down the hill, we reach the Horse Shoe Bridge over the River Lea:

with views of Walthamstow Marshes:

For centuries the River Lea formed the boundary between Essex and Middlesex. Now it forms the boundary between the boroughs of Hackney and Waltham Forest. Over that time the spelling of the river has caused problems as originally it was Ley, a field covered with grass. Acts of Parliament called it Lee although it appeared as Lea on many maps. There were disputes about the spelling for a long time and to settle them it was decided that the natural aspects of the river, such as river itself, would be spelt LEA and man-made features such as the canal would be spelt LEE.

The path then follows the river down towards the Thames:

Eventually, the Olympic Park is seen in the distance:

and a short detour leads to Hackney Wick Station and the train home:

Yet again, all of the last stations that I’ve used on this walk all begin with H – Hanwell, Harrow, Hendon, Highgate and now Hackney Wick!

10 miles of Capital Ring walking today and 5 Geocaches found.

For more information on the Capital Ring, see