Sunday 5 November 2017

A Capital Idea – Part 4: Falconwood to Richmond

18.00 miles

And so to the final sections of the Capital Ring, the round-London walk we started back in the autumn of 2016. Initially, we’d intended this to be a winter project, but the loss of my father in the early part of this year meant these final few miles had been necessarily put on hold.   

However, the opportunity to complete the walk presented itself when we booked tickets to see Tears For Fears at the Royal Albert Hall and decided to book an extra night’s accommodation and “make a weekend” of it.

On King John's Walk

So, bright and early despite the late night the night before, we transferred out to Falconwood to pick up where we left off before, where our initial move was to tackle the loop through Shepherdleas Wood that we couldn’t complete last time due to rapidly-fading light.

Coffee break, with a distant view of
The Shard

That done, we picked up Section 2 of the Capital Ring, passing through Eltham Park and Avery Hill Park (where we were navigationally challenged for a few minutes) and beside Eltham College on the way towards Grove Park. It was good to be out and about again, and once again we seemed to have struck luck with the weather.

After the parkland and residential streets of Section 2, the next section followed a similar pattern of park areas connected by suburban streets. All of this area was new to us, and despite offering little in the way of challenge, the walking was pleasant enough.

Dinosaurs in Crystal Palace Park

We stopped for a quick lunch break at the café in Beckenham Place Park, then continued on through Penge to reach Crystal Palace Park. All I really know about Crystal Palace is that it used to be the location of the cast-iron-and-glass structure of the same name that was destroyed by fire in 1936, and is currently home to a bunch of large, lumbering creatures whose best years are well behind them. No, not the players of the under-performing football team of the same name, but dinosaurs!

Upper Norwood Recreation Ground

Originally, we’d only planned to walk as far as Norwood today, but with the weather good and time on our side we decided we could make a couple more miles so pushed on to Streatham. 

Norwood Grove

Crossing the Common, we eyed up the buses on the High Road. We had set our sights on eating in Brixton, which was just a few minutes away with transport. Well, you can’t come to one of the country’s premier international food centres and not give it a go, can you?

Fading light over Streatham

If you’re a bit of a foodie and you’ve never been to Brixton Village, I recommend you give it a try sometime. The Souk-like interior harbours all manner of curious foodstuffs and enticing ingredients, the narrow alleys reveal something of interest at every turn, and the exotic ambience definitely has a touch of “abroad” about it. We chose a selection of terrine and charcuterie from Corsica – delicious!  


Day 2: Streatham Common to Richmond Bridge

14.00 miles

Next day, we made our way back the Streatham on a cool but bright morning. The stage between Streatham and Wimbledon Park crosses Tooting Bec and Wandsworth Common, but is primarily walking on residential streets.

So, although the going is easy enough, there is perhaps a little less to enthuse the walker than on some other sections. Still, there were plenty of leaves to kick through on this autumn morning, which helped pass the time and eat up the miles.  

Wandsworth Common

Having passed HMP Brixton on the bus, it was now time to walk past Wandsworth Prison, situated incongruously between the green of the Common, the well-to-do houses and Wandsworth Cemetery.

We stopped for coffee in Wimbledon Park, in a café just down from the station. On the morning of the fall-out from Catalonia’s unilateral declaration of Independence from Spain, we found ourselves at a Spanish bar. The papers were full of the story: needless to say, politics was off the conversation agenda.

Wimbledon Park

The final section took us through Wimbledon Park, across Wimbledon Common and via Richmond Park to reach Richmond Bridge. We had covered some of this section before with our friends Celia and Nick, back when we were just scoping the route. The Common was much quieter than last time, when we got caught up with the Wimbledon Half Marathon.

Pen Ponds

Richmond Park was looking splendid in the afternoon sunshine. After taking a break on one of the park benches, we followed the route between Pen Ponds and on to Pemboke Lodge where we picked up a late lunch. It was busy, and although it was nice to retrace our steps from last year, see the protected view of St Paul’s Cathedral from Harry’s Mound and enjoy the wide view of Twickenham, Windsor Castle and the Thames as we descended towards Petersham Meadow, it was marred somewhat by dawdlers and path-hogs.

Heading for Pembroke Lodge

We had a final sit beside The Thames, reflecting on the weekend and the walk in full. And overall, we were very satisfied with both. The big advantage of a walk like the Capital Ring is that it is a good choice for the winter months, when the generally easy going and relatively mud-free walking really come into their own.

OK, so it had taken a bit longer than initially planned, but that couldn’t be helped. Having completed both, I think we are of the opinion that we’d tackle the Capital Ring and the London LOOP again sometime – perhaps even as soon as next winter.

Descending towards Petersham Meadows

Whatever the future brings, we are very glad to have completed these routes – routes that have had the ability to surprise us in many different ways. We’ve seen a lot more of London than we ever had before, grown to appreciate the history, geography, culture and diversity of our capital, and in the process got to know it’s character a whole lot better.

And do you know what? We’re all the better for it too. 


  1. I think I got more out of the Ring than the Loop. There was more travelling involved, and quite a lot of edge-of-suburbia which made us long for full countryside.
    The satisfaction is circling a great global city, but for me it was the Ring which showed me what beauties there are within that city as well as being, as you say, shorter and less muddy!

  2. Hi Jeremy - thanks for the feedback! I think we both feel there are pros and cons to both of the routes, mainly for the reasons you point out. We probably had bigger highs on the LOOP, but bigger lows too. The Ring was more average throughout.

    But, as you say, the satisfaction of circumnavigating one of the world's major cities probably outweighs everything else, whichever of the two routes is walked.

    As non-natives, we found the insight into London that the routes have given us left us with a much better understanding of a city we thought we knew, but in reality had very little knowledge of.