No, I am not referring to Wagner's magnum opus, but to London's Capital Ring, an inner orbital 78-mile walking route. We started this walk back in October 2019, the idea being that we complete a stage every month (these generally combining two sections of the official route, which are rather short). In the event our circuit has been interrupted several times by lockdowns and other covid restrictions.
Assembling at Plaistow station in glorious sun, the day boded well. As has been our practice, we had two groups on the walk setting off an hour apart. From Plaistow station our route passed various interesting historical features. Firstly, we followed it followed for a mile of so the route of Balzagette's Northern Outfall Sewer. The Greenway walking and cycling route runs on top of it but there were no smells!
We then threaded our way through various pleasant urban parks and green spaces. At one point we developed a sudden interest in a football game played by some players - who were of a slightly younger average age than our walkers! After tearing ourselves away, we eventually emerged at the enormous Royal Albert Dock, which is now the site of the East London University, the Excel Centre, and on the opposite side, the normally – but not today - busy London City Airport. We in group 2 decided to have our lunch there on some well-placed benches. We were also at that point caught up by Steve, who had been late joining the start of the walk. After lunch we developed another new sporting interest while watching teams of youthful rowers on the dock.
Eventually we reached the rather wild and marshy stretch of the Thames known as Gallions Reach. Here a section of the riverside path was closed, but Peter confidently led us through a housing development in the right general direction and we found ourselves back on route by the river. We crossed the locks at the entrances to the East India dock system and continued towards North Woolwich. We needed to cross the river the reach our October 2019 starting point and complete the circuit. Group 2 had a final rest in Royal Victoria Gardens before we crossed by the official route of the long Woolwich foot tunnel. Group 1 had earlier decided to use the Woolwich Ferry, which looked more fun!
The southern end of the foot tunnel marks the end (and start) of the official Capital Ring. From there we walked along the river to the Woolwich Arsenal development, a quite successful combination of historic military and new buildings. A few of us would have liked to have a celebratory drink, which is now allowed outside in groups of 6, but on such a beautiful day predictably there were no tables available. So it only remained for us to reflect on the walk, say our goodbyes, and look forward to the next one (the next big project being the London Loop).
Many thanks to Robin for pre-walking all the stages, sometimes more than once, and for leading one of the walk groups for the whole route. Thanks also to everyone who has come whose company has made the walk so enjoyable, and apologies to those who could not attend because of restrictions on numbers.