Day Thirteen: Section 1

Today we walked from Erith to Bexley, around 8 miles in total. This is the official first section, but because we started at section 5 we are catching up with the first few in order to compete the whole Loop.

The walk was memorable for a few reasons. Number One reason: we took the very first Elizabeth line train to go direct from Heathrow to Abbey Wood! From Abbey Wood we got a train to Erith. If we’d managed to get our act together to get on the train at Abbey Wood in time we would have done the whole journey in just over an hour. Which is amazing! From west London to far away in south east London – Kent really – in much less time than driving. And it was free! With my old lady Oyster card I didn’t even have to pay. I am so grateful for all these things, and happy to pay my taxes for such a brilliant service. The Elizabeth line trains are a pleasure to travel on too; they are spacious, quiet, comfortable and so fast.

Here it comes! The 8.10 from Hanwell to Abbey Wood – direct!

Number Two reason: the pouring rain! It was bucketing when we got to the station, and even more torrential when we started walking. Only minutes into the walk we were wet. Luckily my boots stayed dry, my trousers stayed dry, and my jacket mostly did. My back pack did however get quite wet, even with the cover. Oh well! The terrible rain meant that we literally did not see anyone on the paths in the morning, even the hardiest dog walkers did not appear until the afternoon when the weather cleared up a bit.

The river Thames in the background – looking like wet cement

Number Three reason: the bleak industrial landscapes of the first part of the walk. I am sure this impression was heightened by the overall wet greyness and the relative lack of trees to break up the leaden skies – just looming pylons and cranes, interspersed with huge warehouses full of rubbish, or broken cars, to distract from seemingly never ending rain clouds.

Walking along the bank of the river Thames – a flood defence – with salt marshes to the left.
Erith Yacht Club. Last time we walked along the north bank opposite here, past a very large landfill site. It was a nicer day and there were sailing boats on the river from the club.
The River Darent with the Queen Elizabeth Bridge in the distance
The confluence of the rivers Darent and Cray. Crayford marshes is a large site of special scientific interest (SSSI), and very popular with bird watchers and people interested in wildlife. Today there was nobody!

The amount of litter was also very depressing. I cannot understand why people drop their empty drink can or crisp packet on the ground when the bin is literally metres away.

Anyway! The positive things (apart from the travel arrangements!): we saw a lots of ducks, cormorants and other water birds on the rivers – the Thames, the Darent and the Cray. Probably on a nicer day we would’ve seen more. We also saw some kind of hawk (difficult to tell which), and a vixen guarding her cubs. We reflected on the fact that even among the industrial areas of London there are pockets of green, space, rivers and wildlife. It was a similar situation near Hounslow and Heathrow airport.

This is perennial wall-rocket, a species of flowering plant in the mustard family. The leaves of cultivated rocket are used in salads. I tasted the flowers thinking they might be a bit peppery – but not at all – they tasted a bit like vanilla!

The second half of the walk, from Crayford to Bexley seemed more green and rural, and went through some woods. However the sound of the very busy A2 Rochester Way was very noticeable nearly all the time.

The rivers were very full, and flowing fast. Many of the riverside trees were now actually in the water! And of course there was a lot of mud and puddles to splash through.

We passed the grounds of Hall Place – a Grade 1 listed historic house, built in 1537 for Sir John Champneys, a wealthy merchant and former Lord Mayor of London. We did not go there today – too tired by then! However it looks like an interesting place to visit (more info here at Wiki), and now that it is so quick to get to Abbey Wood it is somewhere I’d like to visit and explore more. On a sunny day…

Overall it was a good walk, and the very British weather is fine for walking as long as you have some waterproof gear! Fingers crossed for better weather next time!

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