The Capital Ring Challenge

Starting in November 2018, members from Catford WI are attempting to walk the Capital Ring, a 78-mile circular route around London that is divided into 15 easy-to-walk sections between Woolwich and Becton District Park. Members, family and friends are able join us for all the stages or drop in on individual walks as they prefer.

Stage 1: Woolwich Foot Tunnel To Falconwood

On 23 November, four members walked Stage 1 of the Capital Ring Walk, setting out from a foggy Woolwich along the Thames Path. A short distance ahead of us was The Thames Barrier, shrouded in fog.  We walked on to Maryon Wilson Park, where there is a small children’s zoo and through Charlton Park, where Charlton House is situated. We walked across Woolwich Common to Oxleas Woods, where Sevendroog Castle is situated. We finished our 7-mile walk at the Oxleas Meadows Cafe, where we enjoyed a welcome hot drink and bite to eat.

Stage 2: Falconwood to Grove Park

On 1 December, undeterred by the weather, the ‘Fearless Four’ set off from Falconwood Station in the rain. Once again, we took a selfie before we started the walk. Still not grasping exactly how it can be done, Tom from Southeastern Trains rescued us and took a picture. Thanks Tom! 

Early on in the walk Kay and Audrey tested the anti-climb paint on the bridge over the A2 and can attest it works! We walked past the old water-supply system to Eltham Palace and continued on to Mottingham, walking past farmland, parks and playing fields, meeting the odd horse and donkey along the way. Ever-ready Ursula, armed with secateurs, started collecting Christmas decorations. We finished our 4-mile walk at Grove Park by the Quaggy River.

Stage 3: Grove Park to Crystal Palace

On 9 December, the 'Steadfast Six' walked Stage 3 of the Capital Ring Walk. Following many hysterical attempts at taking the start-of-walk selfie, the group set off along the Railway Children's Walk, which took us to the Downham Woodland Walk, where we caught the little wooden train! We stopped and enjoyed a hot drink at the White House (no, not that one!) in Beckenham Palace Park before moving onto Cator Park. Along the way, we became seven when we were joined by Sian and her bicycle.  We had fun with an unplanned stop in the park to have a go on the zip wire.  The final stage of the 8.5-mile walk took us around Crystal Palace Park, where we saw the amazing foundations of the Crystal Palace.  In true Catford WI style, we ended the walk with a celebratory cuppa and slice of cake in the Crystal Palace station cafe.

Stages 4 + 5: Crystal Palace to Wimbledon Park Station

On 28 December, seven ‘merry’ women and one ‘merry’ man set off to tackle Stages 4 (Crystal Palace Station to Lewin Road Streatham) and 5 (Lewin Road Streatham to Wimbledon Park Station) of the Capita Ring. It was great to have Karrie from St Mary’s WI on the Isles of Scilly (twinned with Catford WI) join us on the 9.5-hour walk.

We started at Crystal Palace Station, walking through Westow Park, Biggin Hill Wood and onto Norwood Grove. There is a Grade-2 listed building at Norwood Grove, built in 1840, as well as the Grade-2 listed Rookery Gardens. We walked onto Streatham Common, finishing the Stage 4 route at Lewin Road. 

One ‘merry’ women less, the group continued on to Stage 5, walking past Tooting Bec Lido and through Tooting Common. We stopped for a lunch break at the Sam Remo Cafe on the common – the dull sky cleared and we had a well-earned cuppa under a bright blue sky. After lunch, we continued on to Wandsworth Common, passing Du Cane Court in Balham, built in the Art Deco period, Wandsworth Prison and Cemetery, then walked through Earlsfield, before finishing at Wimbledon Park

Stage 6: Wimbledon Park Station to Richmond Bridge

On 4 January, the ‘Magnificent Seven’ wrapped up in many layers to walk Stage 6 of the Capital Ring. It was a beautiful, bright, crisp winter’s day, just right for the walk. We set off through Wimbledon Park, then on to Wimbledon Common, passing the landmark Windmill (last remaining hollow-post flour mill). After a few high jinks, we entered Richmond Park, passing the oddly named Spankers Hill Wood, before stopping off at Pen Ponds Cafe for a cuppa and great bacon butty. Moving onwards, with bacon-filled contentment, we took a short detour to visit Henry’s Mount to look out over London and at St Paul’s Cathedral, some 10 miles in the distance (a protected view, no buildings can be built to obscure it). After leaving the park, we walked alongside the Thames to Richmond Bridge, where the 7-mile walk finished.

The Capital Ring – Stage 7: Richmond Bridge To Osterley Lock

Six of us set off from Richmond Bridge to start the 5-mile walk. We joined the Thames Foot Path and walked under Richmond Railway Bridge and Twickenham Bridge, passing Old Deer Park before crossing over Richmond Lock. We rejoined the Thames Foot Path and stopped off at the Town Wharf pub for a warm drink. We continued on our walk through Syon Park to join the Grand Union Canal at Brentford Lock, where we walked on to Osterley Lock.

The Capital Ring – Stage 8: Osterley Lock To Greenford Station

The ‘Magnificent Seven’ set off from Boston Manor Station to make their way to the start of Stage 8 at Osterley Lock. From there we walked alongside  the Grand Union Canal to Hanwell Lock, where we veered off to follow the Brent River. We saw the impressive Wharncliffe Viaduct, which was built in 1838 and used by Great Western Railways. From there we walked onto Brent Lodge Park, where we had a warm drink, meandered around the maze and then, with our inner child screaming to ‘have a go’, we took off on the zip wire. Worn out from laughing, we set off again, passing Brent Valley Golf Course, through Perivale Park and finishing our 5.5-mile walk at Greenford Station.

The Capital Ring – Stage 9: Greenford Station To South Kenton

Waterproofs on and with a hot drink inside them, six set off from Greenford Station for a 5.5 mile walk. We passed by Paradise Fields Wetlands, then joined the Grand Union Canal to Horsenden Hill. There were great views from the top of Horsenden Hill overlooking London. We continued onto Harrow on the Hill and walked past many of the buildings of Harrow School. The last part of the walk was along a very muddy track, where with a few near misses we managed to get through without taking a dive.

The Capital Ring – Stage 10: South Kenton To Hendon Park

With clear blue skies and bright warm sunshine, six of us set off from South Kenton station on 15 February, heading towards Preston Park. Brent council must like their residents fit, as we come across a well-equipped fitness area. Always willing to have a go, Alison tried the space walker, Elaine went on the skier and Kay had a go at the rowing machine. However, Cam and Ursula took the opportunity for a sit down! It was good to see a small group of local women using the equipment, apparently on a regular basis, go girls! Shortly after, we entered Fryent Country Park and found the going a little boggy and muddy. We walked to the summit of Gotford’s Hill (known locally by the kids as ‘Telly Tubby Hill’) and discovered great views out over London. We walked on to Welsh Harp Reservoir and detoured ever so slightly to the local garden centre, where we took a welcome break and enjoyed a hot drink and a bite to eat. Weary, but refreshed, we continued our walk to West Hendon and onto Hendon Central Station, where the 6-mile route finished.

The Capital Ring – Stage 11: Hendon Park To Highgate

On 2 March, the ‘Famous Five’ were without their fearless leader for stage 11 of the Capital Ring (Kay was unwell and unable to join us). We had a great 6-mile walk from Hendon Central to Highgate, seeing some beautiful houses in Hampstead Garden Suburb, the very fine Art Deco underground station in East Finchley and the impressive Highgate Wood along the way. We also found two parks with zip wires while on our travels!

The Capital Ring – Stages 12 + 13: Highgate To Hackney Wick

On 15 March, the ‘Magnificent Seven’ set off from blustery Highgate to Parkland Walk, a 2-mile stretch of reclaimed railway track that is now a wildlife haven. We walked on to Finsbury Park, then along the New River Path, a very muddy, very slippery path (options of brambles on one side and the river the other). A couple of us did take a tumble, but in true WI fashion we stopped and made ourselves feel better with biscuits! We stopped at Clissold Park for a well-earned break and a spot of lunch. Afterwards we walked through Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington, where we saw the grave of William Booth, who founded the Salvation Army. From there we walked on to Springfield Park, an important regional geological site. Leaving the park, we crossed the River Lea, where we saw Springfield Marina, home to a large selection of narrow boats. We then walked along the Lea Valley Walk, which took us past Walthamstow Marsh and onto Hackney Wick, where our 9-mile walk finished.

Stages 14 + 15: Hackney Wick To Woolwich Foot Tunnel

Well, we’ve done it: we walked the final two stages and completed the Capital Ring Walk – all 78 official miles of it, plus a few extra for distractions such as zip wires! With blue skies and warm sunshine overhead, we set off from Hackney Wick Station on 29 March and connected with the Greenway Walk, skirting alongside the Olympic Stadium (now the home of West Ham Football Club) and the Orbit. We passed Abbey Mills Pumping Station, a wonderful Victorian building with ornamental gothic architecture, built by Joseph Bazalgette in 1868. Further along the Greenway Walk we passed Victorian school buildings and the East London Cemetery. We left the Greenway Walk and entered Beckton District Park, where at Will Thorne Pavilion Stage 14 finished. We continued our walk in Beckton District Park to start the final stage 15, where we found a nice spot in the warm sunshine for lunch. We continued onto the campus of the University of London, situated alongside the Thames at Royal Albert Dock. Our walk took us along the Thames waterfront, with clear views across to Woolwich. Given the lovely weather, we decided to cross the river to Woolwich by ferry boat. Having made it back to ‘our side of the pond’, we had a well-earned celebratory cuppa in a local Woolwich cafe. Well done to everyone who has taken part in the Capital Ring Walk. It’s been interesting, educational, athletic and fun!