Capital Ring — sections 1, 2

After finishing the London Loop, my friends and I started on the Capital Ring. Both are circular routes around London: the London Loop encircles Greater London and the Capital Ring encircles Inner London.

The London Loop is about 242km (150 miles) and the Capital Ring is about 126km (78 miles). Hopefully, the elapsed time for walking the Capital Ring will be a lot less than the few years it took us to walk the London Loop!

Unlike the London Loop, we’ve decided to follow the Capital Ring in sequential order, starting at section 1 and eventually finishing at section 15.

Our first section was from Woolwich to Falconwood, which is fairly flat and about 11 km. Near the beginning, we briefly saw the Thames Barrier, which was proposed after a storm in 1953 caused the death of three hundred people.

The danger of tidal flooding in London, caused by storm surges in the North Sea and high winds pushing water up the Thames estuary, has been known since Roman times. Without a barrier, much of London could be flooded, disabling much of its infrastructure. The solution was to build a retractable barrier consisting of ten gates, spanning 520m across the Thames. Construction began in 1974 and the barrier was opened in 1984. It’s one of the largest movable flood barriers in the world and will continue operation until at least 2070.

Part of the first section intersected with the Green Chain Walk, which I’d not heard of. That walk is about 52km (32 miles) and a candidate for a future walk once we’ve completed the Capital Ring.

Shooter’s Hill, one of the highest points in London, offered us panoramic views of the city. Once infamous for hosting highwaymen, it was now more famous for Oxleas Wood and Severndroog Castle. The woodland is a haven for wildlife; we spent time exploring the area. The Gothic castle was shut so we couldn’t see the view from its observation deck. It was built it in the eighteenth century as a memorial to someone employed by the East India Company, which, when it controlled large parts of India, had the largest private army in the world.

The second section of the day, from Falconwood to Grove Park, was about 6km and, again, shared many paths with the Green Chain Walk. One of the highlights of the walk is Eltham Palace. We didn’t have time to go in, but I went there twice during the pandemic. The first time, we couldn’t go inside so we enjoyed the grounds; the second time, the pandemic rules had been relaxed and we went inside.

Towards the end of the walk, we met a local, who told us about the donkeys we were about to meet. After a few minutes of walking, we saw them. They came across the field towards us, probably expecting us to feed them. I’d already fed the horses earlier and picked up some more grass for the donkeys. They loved it even though they were in a grass field. The grass is greener on the other side for donkeys too! There’s a photo below of four donkeys looking at me expectantly, as if I’ve told them to pay attention! They were really cute, and I could have spent the whole day with them.

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