Continuing our series of ambles around Greater London. This week, we take on an eastern section of the Capital Ring.
Distance: 6.2 miles
Terrain: flat at first but with some steep ascents and descents in the parks and the woods.
Start: Southern entrance to the Woolwich Foot Tunnel (nearest station: Woolwich Arsenal)
Finish: Footbridge over the railway line and the A2 in Eltham Park (nearest station: Falconwood)
Cafés en route: three
Deer herds: one
On the trail
The Capital Ring is a 78 mile circular trail around inner London that links up green spaces and existing footpaths. If the London LOOP is the M25 of walks, the Capital Ring is the walkers’ North and South Circular. It’s divided into 15 sections, each of which begins and ends close to public transport links. Along the way, it visits famous landmarks and lesser-known gems. It’s indicated by a variety of signs, the most common of which incorporates the walk’s Big Ben logo (right).
Stage 1 starts by the River at Woolwich foot tunnel, close to the ferry terminal. At first, it follows the river, affording views of the Thames Barrier, the towers of Canary Wharf and the Tate & Lyle refinery at Silvertown, passing through what used to be the old Royal Dockyard, remnants of which can be seen in the form of the gun drill battery.
The walk turns inland at Henry’s Wharf, a modern housing development, and passes a disused factory before following the A206 for a few hundred yards and thence into a series of parks — a route shared with the Green Chain Walk.
The first green space, Maryon Park, is where the path starts to climb — up through the woods after the tennis courts. We then cross a road before descending into Maryon Wilson Park (both parks take their names from a family who used to own much of the land in these parts). This contains a children’s zoo, including a herd of fallow deer.
The walk becomes flat as it passes through Charlton Park, which has a café and a children’s play area as well as plenty of open space. After more housing estate, a path leads into Hornfair Park which boasts its own BMX track. After this, we cross a road by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to another, more rural-looking open space — Woolwich Common. This scraggy but charming land has long associations with the military.
Roads and open spaces alternate in quick succession. We cross Shooter’s Hill Road and head across Eltham Common to another wooded climb, which emerges by Severndroog Castle. This tower, 128 metres above sea level, is the highest point on the whole of the Capital Ring.
Severndroog Castle is an 18th century folly built in memory of a naval officer called Sir William James, who had attacked and destroyed an Indian fortress called Suvarnadurg during the Seven Years’ War. It has a café and a viewing-platform from which you can see seven counties on a clear day — but that’s only open on Thursdays and Sundays.
We then descend a flight of steps to a rose garden and more woods, before emerging at another café that stands on the top of Oxleas Meadows. This has a glorious view across south east London and the North Downs. After the café, the path passes an outdoor multi-gym and heads downhill through Oxleas Wood and crosses Rochester Way.
The final park is Eltham Park North, also known as Shepherdleas Wood. These woods eventually peter out into open space, from which you can see the landmarks of central London over the rooftops of the nearby houses. There’s also a prominent duck pond.
This section of the Capital Ring ends by the footbridge that crosses the A2 and the railway line. Those wishing to start on section two can cross the bridge, but if you want to go home Falconwood station is just a short walk away.
Erith to Greenwich (21 km): Thames walk with an industrial flavour.
The Line (7.7km): Sculptural trail taking in North Greenwich, Royal Docks and River Lea
Richmond to Twickenham (4 km): Short Thames walk with plenty to see.
Uxbridge to Harefield (8 km): beautiful walk following the Grand Junction Canal.
Dollis Brook below Barnet (9 km): River walk with a particularly countrified feel.
The Parkland Walk (8.4 km): Alexandra Palace to Finsbury Park along old rail tracks.
Hayes to Shirley (7.5 km): A windmill, Winston Churchill and a great view.
Mortlake to Hammersmith (5.2km): Pleasant riverside stroll with pubs and mystics.
Lines of Communication: Follow the path of London’s Civil War defences (15km)
Article by Nick Young.