London Loop — sections 1, 2

I had three more sections of the London Loop left to walk. On a sunny day, I tackled sections 1 and 2 with a friend. My usual London Loop companion had completed the Loop.

There was a fast route to Erith via the Elizabth line, which is a recent addition to the London Underground that links the east and west of London. We first went to Abbey Wood then caught a bus to Erith. When we stepped outside Abbey Wood, we were pleasantly surprised by how open it was. After some confusion with the London Transport staff, we found out from where to get our bus to Erith.

The path starts along the Thames before heading southwest towards Bexley.

A lost woman

When we approached Bexley, we met a woman who was lost. She lived locally but strayed from her usual path. She was relieved to find us. Fortunately, we were going close to where she lived, and we walked together. She pointed out several points of interest and took us on a slight detour to show us an old cemetery.

We stopped in Bexley for a coffee before starting section 2.

Scadbury Moated Manor

Scadbury Moated Manor is the site and ruins of a medieval moated manor house and fishponds. The de Scathebury family settled here in about 1200. Their estate included fields and woodland. In the 1700s, the manor house was largely demolished. A new owner, in the 1930s, repaired what remained and rebuilt some earlier structures as well as reconstructing a manor house on the site in the Tudor style. Although we were too late to visit it, there was an information board that labelled some of the existing buildings, such as an apple store (not an Apple Store!), a well, and the remnants of the Tudor kitchen and Great Hall. The house is currently owned by the council and is protected by law. Since it’s a Scheduled Ancient Monument, causing damage may be a criminal offence.

Foots Cray Meadow

The rest of the walk felt like we were in the countryside not on the edge of London. Walking along the River Cray through Foots Cray Meadow was an especially beautiful section. People were picnicking, making the most of a late English summer day.

A pet hawk in Petts Wood and Hawkwood

The culmination of the walk was Petts Wood and Hawkwood, which were equally luscious and green.

At one point, we saw someone looking into the trees and making various noises. We asked him what he was doing. He said he’d come to fly his bird! It was a Parabuteo — more commonly called a Harris’s hawk.

We waited for a while but despite various meaty inducements, the bird wouldn’t return to his owner. We decided to continue walking. At that point, just as we turned our back to the owner, the hawk flew across the path, from one side of the woods to the other! We stopped and watched a little longer.

The bird eventually came down. It was quite something seeing the hawk close up. The hawk was 15 years old and now no longer the bird of prey of his youth. The owner had several hawks and was clearly fond of them and this one trusted him. As he stroked the hawk, I asked if I could stroke the bird too and he said I could at my own risk! I followed his actions and gently stroked the bird around the neck several times.

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