It has been a few years since I last completed the Capital Ring, a 75 mile circumnavigation of London, so I have set out to do it again this year.
Saturday was cool but sunny as I set out on stage 1, a 7.1 mile walk through the green spaces of Greenwich, from Woolwich to Falconwood. There is a lot of climbing on this section which makes for quite a demanding start to the walk.
With the Woolwich Foot Tunnel closed, I started at Woolwich Arsenal DLR station. I haven't visited Woolwich since the 1990s and rebuilding works make the town centre confusing. Luckily I have a very good sense of direction and I set off from Starbucks filled with confidence - ten minutes later I was back at Starbucks having gone the wrong way...
The route proper begins at the Woolwich Ferry and a pleasant stretch along the river followed, with good views of the Thames Barrier. Just before the barrier the riverside path is forced away from the river and there are some close encounters with heavy traffic before entering the green oasis of Maryon Park.
At this point the walk climbs away from the river, ascending a long flight of steps and further gentle slopes through Maryon Wilson Park, passing an animal enclosure festooned with dire health and safety warnings.
Reaching the top of the hill the walk enters Charlton Park, a favourite venue for weekend footballers. Here also is the Jacobean mansion, Charlton House. It was originally built for Sir Adam Newton, tutor to King James I - they certainly knew how to reward teachers in those days - and now it houses a community centre and library. The picture in the earlier post shows the house in all its glory, but the ha ha is difficult to make out.
Onwards, through Hornfair Park and across the open expanse of Woolwich Common. Crossing the busy South Circular, the path enters woods and climbs steeply to the derelict Severndroog Castle. This unusual structure was built to commemorate Sir William James, who captured an Indian fortress of the same name. Severndroog also marks the highest point on the Capital Ring - it's all downhill from here.
On the descent I met some nice ladies from Lithuania who were admiring the view. It is so often the case that visitors value the unique aspects of our city more than those of us who live here. I paused for a quick photograph.
The next section threads its way through Oxleas Wood on a maze of paths, helpfully signposted by Capital Ring and Green Chain markers. A busy cafe at Oxleas Meadows provides refreshments - two bottles of water - and a great view. There are always lots of dog walkers here and the place echoes to the sound of barking and owners' shouts as they try to control their pooches. Nice to see that most of the dogs were family pets - very few status mastiffs were on show.
Descending through the woods, I encountered a group of volunteers clearing brush and cutting back the undergrowth. A couple of workers prepared tea and biscuits on a trestle table - a fine example of the Big Society in action.
The blasting of traffic in the deep A2 cutting signalled a return to 'civilisation', and it was a short walk to Falconwood station and the train back to town.
The next stage from Falconwood to Grove Park is much shorter and easier, but it has some great views and an encounter with Eltham Palace. I'm looking forward to it already...