The Capital Ring
Colin’s book, published by Aurum Press (an imprint of Quarto), is the definitive guide to the route. The 8th edition was published in July 2020 and can be bought or ordered from most bookshops, including Stanfords in London (7 Mercer Walk, Covent Garden, WC2H 9FA) and Bristol (29 Corn Street, BS1 1HT), or through Amazon and other online bookshops. Make sure it’s the latest 2020 edition, as in the image above.
The 78-mile Capital Ring, launched in 2003 and supported by Transport for London, has become one of the most well-known walkers’ trails in England. With many glorious views, it encircles the capital at an average distance of 7 miles from the centre and passes through some 50 green spaces linked by stretches of water including the Thames and some of its tributaries. The route is never far from public transport and refreshment facilities, so you can divide it into as many long or short sections as you need.
The official start is in Woolwich, but being circular you can start and finish wherever you want. Going clockwise, the route follows the Thames for a while, with a great view of the Thames Barrier, then heads south-west through Maryon Park, Charlton Park, Woolwich Common and Oxleas Wood to pass Eltham Palace, and on through Beckenham Place Park to Crystal Palace Park. Then the route swings north-westerly through Norwood Grove, Streatham Common, Tooting Bec Common, Wandsworth Common, Wimbledon Park, Wimbledon Common (with its ancient windmill) and Putney Heath to Richmond Park.
The Thames is encountered again and crossed at Richmond Lock, then the route heads northwards through Syon Park, passing Syon House, to pick up the Grand Union Canal at Brentford, then the River Brent at Hanwell. Perivale Park leads to another branch of the Grand Union and Horsenden Hill, then the route climbs again to pass between the elevated and historic buildings of Harrow School and cross its playing fields.
Turning eastwards now, the route goes through a succession of small parks to Fryent Country Park, where it ascends Barn Hill, with a view of the famous arch of Wembley Stadium, and Gotsford Hill, with its 360-degree panorama. More waterside walking follows beside the Brent Reservoir (Welsh Harp) and Dollis Brook, then Mutton Brook leads through Hampstead Garden Suburb. The route continues through one of London’s most heavily wooded areas, in Highgate and Queen’s Woods, then follows the Parkland Walk, a linear nature reserve occupying a former railway line, into Finsbury Park.
A section beside the artificial ‘New River’ leads to Stoke Newington Reservoirs, Clissold Park and Springfield Park. On its homeward stretch now, the route turns south-eastwards along the towpath of the Lee Navigation all the way to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, with views of its stadium (home of West Ham United FC) and the amazing structure known as the ArcelorMittal Orbit. An extraordinary raised embankment known as The Greenway leads to a campus of the University of East London and the vast Royal Albert Dock, now a watersports centre.
Finally, a promenade beside and beneath the Thames takes the route to and through the Woolwich Foot Tunnel, back to where it started.
Of course, sometimes you must follow roads between these places, but the route has been carefully designed to keep this to a minimum and follow quiet, residential streets where possible. Much of it is level, but you must be prepared to climb to some of London’s highest points. The ground is mostly level and firm, but there will be some uneven surfaces or grass, and it can get muddy in places after rain.