Saturday 8th December 2012
9.6 miles including station links
Toilets: Cafes and pubs in Richmond; Garden Centre at Syon Park; The Fox pub, Hanwell; Animal Centre at Brent Lodge Park; Westway Cross Shopping Park, Greenford; Pub near Greenford Station; Greenford Station platform (locked when we were there).
I only had two relatively short sections left for me to complete the Capital Ring, so we managed to do the whole walk from Richmond to Greenford in one go, making it to the end just before it started getting dark. The weather was cold but bright and sunny, perfect for walking.
Upon arrival in Richmond, our first task was to find a cooked breakfast. This mission was accomplished at Patisserie Valerie. We then walked through the upmarket shopping streets of Richmond. The Capital Ring takes you through so many different parts of London, and they vary enormously. Richmond is definitely one of the most affluent parts, absolutely a world away from the Hackney Wick section. We soon reached the path by the River Thames, and passed under Richmond Railway Bridge.
We walked across a bridge over Richmond Lock. It’s a half-tide lock, meaning that for two hours either side of high tide, it is possible for boats to just sail on through. When the tide is any lower than that, the sluice gates are closed and the lock must be used in the more conventional way.
After a short diversion around Old Isleworth, we rejoined the Thames and saw Isleworth Ait, a private island which is also a nature reserve. Apart from the planes overhead, it was a peaceful walk. If it wasn’t for Richmond’s proximity to Heathrow, you’d be able to pretend you were in a much smaller place.
Later on we passed the London Apprentice pub, which is said to have been a venue for celebration when members of City Livery Companies completed their apprenticeships. On one hand it looks like a beautiful, traditional, riverside pub. On the other hand, they advertise themselves as being subscribed to Sky Sports. Let’s just say that this is a bit of a negative point for us when choosing a pub to go to, especially when somewhere quiet and relaxing is required.
The tower of All Saints’ Church dates back to the Fourteenth Century. The sign outside said the rest of the church was destroyed by a fire in 1943, and then rebuilt from 1968-1970. The tower is still as beautiful as that of any ancient church, but as for buildings built in the late 1960s, well, it definitely shows. It looks like the sort of extension that was just tacked on to the end, without any care for the character of the building.
We continued through Syon Park. Syon House was closed for the winter, but the grounds are open all year round.
We stopped off at a very upmarket garden centre, where a cafe and toilets are available even when the rest of the visitor attractions are closed.
After crossing a main road, the walk changed in character as we started to follow the Grand Union Canal and passed Brentford Lock. There were plenty of modern canalside homes springing up all over the place, with the very shiny Glaxo building in the background.
We eventually reached Osterley Lock, and continued straight on to the next section of the walk. I can’t remember exactly at which point this photo was taken, but I am most intrigued by the Kerr Cup Pile Driving Competition Prize Length of Piling 1959. No idea what that’s all about, and an online search just brings up several people asking the same question.
A bit further up we stopped off for lunch at The Fox Pub in Hanwell, where we had an excellent, filling meal. Several good vegetarian options are available, none of which are mushroom risotto. Our walk continued past the first of Hanwell’s flight of six locks. Some work was being carried out to replace one of the gates.
We walked through a slightly smelly arch under Uxbridge Road. There was a sign saying that we should avoid it in case of flooding, and the signpost seemed to have been changed to direct us across the road. We went through the arch anyway.
We continued into Brent Meadow, containing the highly impressive Wharncliffe Viaduct. It was so impressive that we spent a while standing under it, taking it all in. The supports are hollow, and are home to a group of bats.
Next up was Brent Lodge Park, which contains an animal centre. There are toilets available, and I passed a peacock on my way there.
The last bit of the walk was relatively boring, going through unremarkable parks and recreation grounds with muddy paths. All in all, though, the walk had been a really good one. We noticed the wooden escalators at Greenford Station, a rare thing these days. Also, Greenford must be one of very few stations where you have to go up an escalator to get to the platforms.
I have now walked around the whole of the Capital Ring. I can’t believe how sceptical I was when I first started it, thinking it would be boring. It’s turned out to be one of the most interesting long-distance routes imaginable. It’s amazing how we can live in London for our entire lives, and still discover new places all the time; people say that a lot about places in the middle of town, but it’s equally true of the suburbs, and especially true of the other side of town that you don’t usually go to. Beautiful parks, cemeteries, rivers and canals, ancient buildings, disused railway routes, and other quirky little points of interest, they’re all there. Every section contains something of interest. Even my least favourite bit around Hackney Wick, whilst not conventionally scenic, was still interesting and there was plenty to discover. So what are you waiting for? Pick a section, get out there and do it.