(Member blog post) London LOOP : Part 1 : There and Back Again.

Since January I have been following the London LOOP. This seemed to be a natural progression from last year’s Capital Ring as it is a bigger circle around London (zone 6 mainly this time rather than zone 3) and is the brainchild of the same people. Actually London LOOP is tautological as the “L” is for London and the “OOP” is for Outer Orbital Path. This repetition works in this case because, as with the Capital Ring, I am covering it in both directions. I am mainly walking clockwise first so I know where I am going (although I do sometimes get ahead of myself and run on these bits) and mainly running (well, running/walking/swearing) it anti-clockwise. Anyway, as it as a long way, I figured I’d write about how I’d been getting on so far. As I am not quite a third of the way around, this could be the first post of a Peter Jackson-like trilogy (assuming I make it round). Thinking about it, I can even appropriate “There and Back Again” from the first Hobbit movie. Not sure that “The Desolation of Smaug” is going to fit quite so well if I write about the next bit.

Anyway, here is how I got on.

As ever, I write a lot and so you could just skip to my pictures (of trees, mainly) which are here….

11/01/2015 : Coulsdon South to Banstead Downs (Walking) ; Banstead Downs to Coulsdon South (Running)

This section set the tone in showing that the London LOOP would feel a bit more rural and far more muddy than the Capital Ring. At points you can pretend you are in the actual countryside. The high point on this section was the discovery of the Mayfield Lavender Fields. These were pretty in January, but I imagine they will look amazing in the summer and probably smell even better than that. I cut the section short by a few hundred metres because I would have had to have crossed the A217 and there weren’t any lights to make this easy /quick to do. If you are only doing each section in one direction this wouldn’t have been too bad, but I would have had to have crossed once and then almost immediately turned around and crossed the road again. There was a lot of traffic so this would have taken ages. For the sake of completeness I will have to cross the road twice when I do the adjoining section, but I will cross that bridge when I come to it. Actually, if someone could build me a bridge in the interim that would be great!

24/01/2015 : Hamsey Green to Coulsdon South (Walking)

31/01/2015 : Hamsey Green to Coulsdon South (Running in wrong direction to test out new trail shoes).

15/02/2015 : Hamsey Green to Coulsdon South (Walking) ; Coulsdon South to Hamsey Green (Finally running in the right direction).

Bit of repetition on this one as I realised that I would have to be more organised and set off earlier if I was going to be able to do everything in the light. It is probably best to get these (really quite obvious) realisations out of the way on one of the sections that is closest to where I live. I’m actually trying to cover the LOOP so that all my runs geographically follow on from each other (I didn’t do the Capital Ring in order at all). This is partly because it looks nice, but also partly so that I am doing the further away stages when there is more light and so more time to get there and cover the section. This plan will be absolutely flawless unless I move.

22/02/2015 : Shirley to Hamsey Green (Walking) ; Hamsey Green to Shirley (Running).

I rescued a fellow London LOOPer from getting lost when I was walking from Shirley to Hamsey Green. He was identifiable as such by the fact he was carrying the same book as me. Given how often I get lost, it was something of a minor miracle that I was able to spot him missing a turning and stop him from doing so. We had a bit of a chat and then lapsed into the uncomfortable silence that happens in Britain when you run out of weather to talk about having fallen into step with one another. He very politely excused himself at this point and pressed on ahead. He turned out to be a quite useful motivator when I got to Hamsey Green though. When I got there it was starting to rain heavily and tempting to abandon the run and get the bus. However, he was at the bus stop and I had previously explained the two directions thing to him (before we had lapsed into awkward silence). I felt like I couldn’t wimp out because of a bit of rain. That was great though because running through the rain and the mud turned out to be just what I needed at the time and completely joyous and exhilarating.

01/03/2015 : West Wickham Common to Shirley (Walking) ; Shirley to West Wickham Common (Running).

When I was doing the Capital Ring last year, I made the comment on Facebook that there was a disappointing lack of markers at the point at which I crossed the Greenwich Meridian Line. This lack of markers thwarted my desire to take a cheesy picture of my feet either side of the line. (Just so you know, the cheesy feet pun was completely intentional here, I also considered corny…). Anyway, someone clearly listened as there was a marker here. However, I still failed to take a cheesy/corny feet picture because there was person leaning on it. Never mind.

08/03/2015 : Petts Wood to West Wickham Common (walking) : West Wickham Common to Keston Ponds (Running)

Trying to walk the 9 mile section and then run it back all in one go seemed a bit ambitious. I appreciate that a lot of the Clapham Runners are marathoners and so 18 miles would be training (and involve less walking) but I am not. Also, it would have probably gone dark before I finished.

22/03/2015 : West Wickham Common to Keston Ponds (walking) : Keston Ponds to Petts Wood (Running).

A bit of extra anti-clockwise walking, to get me back to where I was supposed to start running.

29/03/2015 : Old Bexley to Petts Wood (Walking/Cursing) : Petts Wood to Old Bexley (Running/Cursing)

On this section I got obscenely lost in the woods in both the walk and the run because I apparently do not learn from my mistakes. By obscenely lost I mean both that I got really very lost and also that the being lost led me to swear volubly. It also bucketed it down, which seemed particularly appropriate for the first day of British Summer Time. Had I wanted to make a slight detour I could have gone to find a monument to British Summer Time, but I didn’t because of the aforementioned bucketing down and the inadvertent detours I had already taken. This wasn’t my favourite section.

18/04/2015 : Crayford to Old Bexley : Old Bexley to Crayford.

There was sun for the first time. I ditched the bobble hat and even remembered sun cream. It was less easy to pretend I was in the countryside than in other stages because of the sounds of the A2. There were some very pretty bluebells in the woods though and the bit along the Cray was really lovely.

19/04/2015 : Erith to Crayford : Crayford to Erith.

This contrasted with a lot of the previous sections that had been quite woodlandy. This was more marshy with lots of signs of industry. I had a good view of the Dartford Crossing for quite a bit of it which made me realise how far I’d come from where I’d started the LOOP in Coulsdon. Anyway, I have made it to the Thames.

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