This Saturday happens to be London’s first memorably sunny day of the year. The perfect weather to attack the Capital Ring. Over the course of a year we’ve done 5 out of the 15 walks. A third of the way through we’ve picked up a fair few useful nuggets, so we present them here for your consideration:
1: Get the book
The slightly clunky Walk4Life website still hosts guides and maps for each section, but they seem to be slowly moving across to TFL’s Walk London website. Both are a bit rubbish to be honest, so we picked up a guide called – strangely enough – ‘The Capital Ring’ by Colin Saunders, available from all the usual suspects. It provides a narrative guide and directions for each section, stopping to point out all the interesting bits and snippets of local history, as well as the nearest stations, cafés and toilets. It also includes Ordnance Survey excerpts, though the guide is well written and the paths well laid out so there haven’t been many times we’ve needed to use them. With the clean lines of something like Google Maps a tap away, the Ordnance Survey maps feel a little old-fashioned. They’re definitely useful when you’re trekking out into the countryside with a compass, but not for such a well worn trail. The book itself is pretty tough and suited to use in all the British weather we tend to have.
2: Wear walking boots
The aforementioned book does a good job of letting you know the kind of terrain you’re going to be facing (sometimes flat suburbia, sometimes muddy forests, sometimes plenty of hills), whereas the websites seem to gloss over this completely. Regardless I’d do every section with a decent pair of walking boots. Especially in the winter the routes through woods and fields can get very muddy, even more so when bikes or horses have been through. Even when the route seems to be pure suburbia you can get caught out- one alleyway running down the side of a school was a complete bog. Lisa’s Converses didn’t fair too well…
3: Take a camera with a zoom lens
There are plenty of sights to take snaps of as you wander along the route, most of which your standard issue mobile phone should cover. Occasionally though you’ll crest a hill that peers down towards the capital and often the official route passes by points of interest without detouring to them, so a proper camera is in order. I take the same cheapish pocket camera I’ve had for years- a DSLR is probably overkill and likely a bad idea if you accidentally face-plant in a ditch.
4: Take lunch, snacks and water
Being a wandering route with plenty of points of interest, you’re not going to be marching to the finish line in a couple of hours. Take water to stay hydrated (walk headaches are apparently a thing), snacks that give you plenty of energy and of course, lunch. With the route not being in the centre of London while it does pass some lovely pubs, cafés and shops you might find they’re not open, especially on a Sunday.
5: Plan in advance
Take a look at the interesting places you’ll be passing and check when they’re open if you’re intending on having a peek. For example the beautiful Eltham Palace is only open for a few hours on a Sunday and Severndroog Castle might need pre-booking (though it was under refurbishment when we passed). Also check for weekend engineering works on the tube and trains. Especially now that we’re doing parts of the ring on the opposite side of London to our home, closed lines are a real pain.
Once again I hope we’ve convinced you to get out there and try it. No if you’ll excuse me I think it’s time for a walk!