Sunday, September 15, 2019

Hackney Wick to Woolwich

I walked the final two sections of the Capital Ring yesterday, which completes my 78-mile circular journey around London and put me right back where I started last March. Seems like a really long time ago!

Yesterday's portion of the walk started in Hackney Wick, where I picked up the canal towpath and enjoyed fine views and reflections across the relatively still water.

Londoners never miss an opportunity to take advantage of a nice sunny day. (And yesterday's weather was about as close to perfect as a person could want.) There were lots of people out and about, some simply soaking it in like this guy, others biking or running.

The walk left the canal and joined the Greenway, a 6-mile walking path on top of the elevated Northern Outfall Sewage Embankment, a legacy of Joseph Bazalgette's sewer system built in the 1860s and still in use today. It runs from Hackney to Beckton, where the sewage is treated.

The Abbey Mills Pumping Station (above) was built in 1868. It's a lift station, bringing sewage back toward the surface from the gravity-operated system beneath the ground, and apparently it's still used occasionally, though most of the work is done by a more modern facility next door. It's definitely the most amazing, ornate lift station I've ever seen!

Eventually the path reached the Royal Albert Dock, a former shipping basin connected to the Thames. The University of East London, with its groovy dorms (above) is located here, and London City Airport is just across the water. I could watch planes taking off and landing with the skyline of London in the background.

I accidentally veered off the path and passed the ornate Galyons pub, where I decided to stop for lunch.

I'm not usually a cider drinker, but I'd never seen Strongbow's "dark fruit" cider before, so I decided to try it. Not bad! And a beautiful color, too. I asked the bartender if it was a seasonal drink, but he said no -- they stock it because the university students like it.

I rejoined the path and soon found myself at the Thames, walking along the riverfront.

The path got a bit dicey at this point -- overgrown with blackberries and buddleia, and passing behind several large construction sites. I eventually came to a couple of canal locks leading from the river into the shipping basins. The map and Capital Ring signage directed me to walk across the lock arms, but at the King George V lock there were gates closed and padlocked across the path! I couldn't believe it. I had to climb over a chain-link fence to keep going -- and judging from the condition of the fence others have done the same thing. Super annoying!

From there the path went behind some housing estates and through Royal Victoria Gardens until it reached the entrance to the Woolwich Foot Tunnel, a pedestrian tunnel beneath the Thames that opened in 1912. I took the lift down to the tunnel itself and walked a quarter of a mile beneath the river to Woolwich.

In case you're wondering what it's like down there...'s my not-very-dramatic 22-second video. There were only a few other people in the tunnel but a trio of boys with a basketball managed to make a fair amount of noise in that echoey space.

Finally, after walking 9.2 miles, I got to Woolwich -- only to find a carnival going on! I was too exhausted to hang around very long, but I saw some Rajasthani (I think?) musicians and lots of other people marching in a parade around the main square. I caught a Thameslink train that took me straight back to West Hampstead.

And now I can say that I have walked both the 150-mile London LOOP walk (the blue ring) and the 78-mile Capital Ring (the red one, obviously). Whew!


  1. That is a lot of walking ! There is an Abbey Pumping Station in Leicester. It is now a museum of science and technology.
    Enjoy your Sunday.

  2. Well done you! Completing both those trails is quite an achievement.
    The ornate pumping station would have been built when the British Empire had more wealth than it knew what to do with and I'm all for the idea of an ornate pumping station.
    The cider is such a beautiful colour. After a long walk on a hot day I'd order one too.
    Where to next? :-)

  3. Congratulations. Those walks are quite an achievement.

  4. Like the postman being undeterred by rain nor sleet, neither fence nor brambles kept you from your goal.

  5. Steve- you amaze me! Is there a place online where people can have discussions about taking these walks and share information? It would be good to know things like where there are locked gates, etc.
    And that's a lift station? My goodness! Quite a contrast between it and those dorms which are QUITE groovy indeed!
    I would not be able to get out of bed if I'd walked over nine miles the day before.

  6. ALL of these photos are astonishing, Love the dorms! The tunnel, though, is a bit creepy to me...I guess being female I avoid places without exits every few feet. Just a built in device. You should have worn the same pair of shoes and taken photos of them walking the million mile walk- you could have made some dosh , advertising. Always the capitalist...I must say, sir, that is quite the accomplishment- I reckon few do that much walking , taking stunning shots along the way! Book worthy!

  7. 150 miles? That's not bad at all. With photos and description that's a great blog project.We need some of these walkways in North america.

  8. Good On You!! Would Love The Opportunity To Ride That 150mi Loop And Enjoy Those Sights. Whats On Tap For Your Next Adventure??


  9. Wow! That's a lot of walking. I think it is cool that there are such long interesting trails around London. The photos are great. Love that first one with the reflection, and the dorms are crazy interesting. Well done, Steve!

  10. I think that is so cool that London has these walking paths and that you have walked them. thanks for the pics.

  11. Very impressive that you've walked both of these now. That is quite an accomplishment. I love those dorms. Great looking buildings. And, that pub you stopped at is pretty cool too. I can't wait to learn what your next walking project will be.

  12. Now that you've walked under the Thames, I wonder if there is a walkway in the Chunnel between the U.K. & France. That would be a pretty long walk, though. Better bring your lunch.

  13. That is quite an accomplishment - 228 miles - just shows what a person can do by taking a goal and breaking it down. Bragging rights are yours! Very impressive.

    I love the water and reflections in the first shot, and those circular dorms.

  14. I love the fact that those trails exist, as well as the fact that you've walked all of them. Congratulations.
    It's also amazing how much good weather you had.

  15. As someone who also loves walking solo and observing the world around me, I offer you my praise and congratulations on your completion of both The Loop and The Capital Ring. It is a great achievement. I doubt that many of your fellow Londoners have completed both those circles. Well done Steve!

  16. That's quite the accomplishment and a lot of walking. The tunnel creeped me out. I don't like running into people when I'm alone in a confined space.

    Love the dorms, or the color of the dorms I guess. Beautiful.

  17. Fantastic. Well done. I enjoyed it all very much.

  18. Congratulations to you! I used to love walking but cannot do it now. Wow, that's quite a feat you've accomplished. I just love the photos, especially those dorm buildings. Such interesting architecture. You have a wonderful evening, hugs, Edna B.

  19. I think your next project is to photograph all the other neighborhoods from Bleeding London - just because other people did them doesn't mean you can't :)

  20. Thank you for taking us along on your journey quite an accomplishment Steve, interesting to see the old and new architecture I especially like the student dorms photo today.