Top to Bottom: The City from Woolwich; The Grand Union canal below the A40;Mural on a pub wall near Highgate; Kingston Bridge looking east; Pumping outlet station on the Greenway at Bow; Campus, on right, at East London University;Mural at Ford’s Lock, River Lee.
Finally, it’s over. I’ve completed The Capital Ring, the 78 miles or 126KM walk around the fringes of suburban London.My challenge to myself is over and I’m now looking at something which will take longer and is further but which can be completed in stages and is not such a drain on my travelling time. For most of these stage walks begin with a tube or train journey out to the suburbs of London from my central location close to Waterloo. They are also covered by the zonal range of the Oyster card and aren’t such a drain on your wallet or purse. So, it’s either the London LOOP for me next or something further afield like the South Downs walk or the Thames Pathway walk, both equally challenging yet achievable over the course of a few days or more .
I’ve finished walking through ‘important nature reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest’ and across heathland and common; through pristine parks and neglected scrub, bridging brooks and marsh and untangling myself from briar’s. I’ve sunk, ankle deep, into mud below Bitterns Field on a recently drenched riverbank that had survived the floods of 2012 and scrambled across the bog the river bank had become . I’ve trampled concrete path and pavement, broken slab and gouged macadam and played hop-scotch with dog turds on a path from Eltham Palace that was close to a main road but far from regal.I’ve ascended bridges that spanned the M1, the A40, the A2, the A13 and the North Circular before descending into the silence of the subterranean foot tunnel which burrows beneath the Thames crossing at Woolwich . I have walked in less pretty parts of London yet never failed to come across some form of natural beauty and , at times, where it was least expected. It’s fair to say that on this walk I’ve seen it all and experienced London and its urban beauty as I had never imagined it would be.
Spread over a calendar year it took fourteen days in total to complete the fifteen stages though I originally planned to it finish inside a month. The mangling of my schedule was down to the organisers of the London Olympic games (which closed the tow path on the Lea Valley Walk and made an alternative route through Hackney Wick too much to bear) and the disintegration of my right knee ligament (see post below) which made walking too painful. Otherwise it wasn’t a particularly difficult walk but a walk which revealed a verdant beauty to London that will surprise you.
Leg 13 – Stoke Newington to Hackney Wick (3.6 miles or 5.2km)
After leaving the bus stop in Stoke Newington High Street I weaved my way eastwards through the wide busy roads pulsing with Hassidic Jews. Within twenty minutes I stood at the gates of Springfield Park, a park I had never heard of and one which didn’t get much of a mention in my guide.
‘Inside the park there are impressive views of beautifully landscaped parkland with steep, rolling contours … and presenting pleasant vistas … east over the River Lean and Walthamstow Marshes.’ Source.
The park is a wonderful blend of woodland, grassland and wetland with manicured greens and areas of ‘managed meadow’ nestling amidst the Ash, Oak and Plane trees.It is a rare gem of a Local Nature Reserve which attracts plenty of visitors and people eager to enjoy a peaceful day behind its gates. Yet it wasn’t the paradise I was hinting at in the title.
The ‘beauty where none was expected’ was when I first sighted Walthamstow Marshes. The photo (above) I shot at eleven in the morning and its simple beauty is something I didn’t expect to see in London. The Marshes at Walthamstow, nestled beside the River Lea, are the last remaining natural marshlands in the London region. The campaign which saved the Marshes from the gravel extractors in the 1970s listed some 350 species of plants growing at the the time along with 17 species of butterfly, Herons, Warblers, Jays and Kestrels amongst the 30 odd type of bird spotted.
‘Wetter parts of Marshes have beautiful mixed-fen vegetation, i.e. large expanses of sedge (beautiful in flower in May) distinctly zoned from stands of Reed Sweet Grass (Glyceria maxima) and Reed Grass (Phalaris arundinacea). Latter grow to 5 and 6 ft. Two large Reed Beds – North Marsh (3 acres) and South Marsh. Reeds grow to 2.5m (8ft) and are at their best in Winter.’ Source Here.
If you have the time pay a visit. There is an official website Visit Lee Valley but I prefer the left-field version of events in the Marsh from Marshman.