So today we walked the final section of the LOOP, the London Outer Orbital Path. Steve, Michelle and I started the epic journey almost exactly 12 months ago on 16th January 2022. We started at Section 5 and walked the Loop in consecutive sections clockwise finishing today at the exact spot we started from!
The Loop is a long distance path, 152 miles (245 km) around the edge of London, inside the M25 motorway. It is divided into 24 sections of varying lengths from 3-4 miles to about 10 miles. All the sections are accessible by public transport. We did try and avoid using the car if at all possible, and we did manage this for almost all the walks. Getting to and from the start and finish of the sections was sometimes just as much an adventure as the walk itself! There is more information at the Inner London Ramblers website here.
Today’s walk from West Wickham Common to Hamsey Green was a lovely route to finish the walk. It took 2.5 hours to get to the starting point – a combination of trains and buses – and about 4.5 hours to walk about 9 miles or so. We started off in 30’s suburbia, but quickly found ourselves in a series of woodlands, squelching through mud and puddles for most of the day!
Soon after this we found ourselves crossing an expanse of playing fields where games of rugby were in full swing. Steve recognised the strip of our local club in Ealing – Trailfinders. That’s a way to go for a game!
At some point through this bit of woodland we went through a section called Cheyne Wood. I was disappointed to miss the information board all about it. However I can tell the story myself, of the Ancient Order of Froth Blowers, who bought the house (Stramshall Lodge) and grounds in the 1920’s. The spoof ‘Order’ was a charity set up by ex soldier Bert Temple in gratitude to surgeon Sir Alfred Fripp to raise money for children’s hospitals. The subscription money allowed the member to blow the froth off other members’ beer- “and occasionally off non-members’ beer provided they are not looking or are of a peaceful disposition”. (From Wikipedia – click here for lots more information!) Temperance societies were not happy with this novel way of raising money for children’s charities, although many thousands of pounds were raised, and spent on hospitals and holidays for disadvantaged children. The charity came to a natural end when the founder, and then Sir Alfred died. The hospital at Stramshall Lodge closed in the 1980’s and the wood was bought by Croydon council.
The weather gradually got a little warmer, and the cold wind abated. You could almost think that spring was just around the corner.
After a particularly steep climb we came to a viewing point in Addington Hills, and what a sight beheld us! The sky was clear and bright and we could see right across to the north of the river. The Crystal Palace transmitter was right there, and then far away we could see the city with all the skyscrapers, the Shard, Canary Wharf and the O2, and the Wembley Arch. Apparently on a really good day you can see Windsor, but we couldn’t quite make that out!
A little way after the viewing platform we came to Heathfield House, a rather fine 18th century house with panoramic countryside views. We stopped and had lunch here.
Even in winter there is lots to see in the woods. Moss and fungi were particularly noticeable, especially in the absence of leaves on the trees somehow.
As we neared the end of the walk we emerged from woods into fields, and then finally through more 30’s suburbia to the shops of Hamsey Green.
The journey home was straightforward and there were no delays like last time, so we got home in about 1.5 hours. To celebrate we went to our local Thai restaurant, Ran Thai in Hanwell, where we presented ourselves with certificates of achievement!
What shall we do now? Well, we have a walking holiday in Yorkshire booked for April, and before that I have the small matter of a marathon to run in Rome! For more on that check out my other blog!