The Capital Ring, Walk Number 7

A new month, a new walk. For some reason my sister and I were under the impression that The Capital Ring consists of twelve walks, but it’s actually fifteen, which means we will eventually have to do a couple back-to-back. Having started in February with Walk 6 (seven miles from Wimbledon Park to Richmond Bridge), last Sunday saw us taking the train from Putney to Richmond to complete the four miles of Walk 7 from Richmond Bridge to Osterley Lock. We were incredibly lucky with the weather – apparently as warm as 18 degrees – and this section of the Ring is also very beautiful in parts, following either the River Thames or the Grand Union Canal for almost the whole route.

The first bit of the walk took us along the towpath from Richmond Bridge. This was the site of Richmond Palace, a favourite of Elizabeth I. Though though the Palace was destroyed by Cromwell’s troops, many magnificent buildings now line the riverside, including this one, Trumpeter’s House:

Trumpeter's House

The first of many bridges along this walk is Richmond Railway Bridge, built in 1848 and later repaired in 1908:

Richmond Bridge

We crossed the Thames at Richmond Lock, the construction of which took place between 1891 and 1894:

Richmond Lock

Continuing to follow the river northwards, we reached Isleworth Ait (our new word of the day). Apparently an ait is an alternative word for eyot, meaning ‘small island’. There were lots of houseboats along this stretch of river, moored beside the ait:

Isleworth Houseboats

We skirted the edge of Isleworth and entered the grounds of Syon Park, landscaped by Capability Brown in the 18th century:

Syon Park

Syon Park takes its name from Syon Abbey, a mediaeval monastery founded in 1415 by Henry V. When Henry VIII died in 1547 his coffin rested at Syon en route from London to Windsor. It is said that during the night his coffin burst open and dogs were found eating the king’s remains the next morning; proof, for some, of divine retribution for his actions in dissolving the monastery eight years earlier. Syon House has been the home of the Duke of Northumberland since 1594:

Syon House

On leaving Syon Park we entered Brentford – unfortunately you have to walk through the town for a while, one of the few bits of this walk that’s takes you through an urban area – before rejoining the water and continuing along the towpath of the Grand Union Canal. The canal links London to Birmingham, and construction of it started in the late 18th century. Walking along the towpath is an interesting mix of ancient and modern, as noise from the nearby motorway competes with the sounds of various different birds, and as houseboats are moored alongside new apartment buildings:

Houseboat and Flats

It’s eerily calm, especially when you come across abandoned canalside warehouses:

Canalside warehouse

And again when you cross the canal at the sinister-named Gallows Bridge:

Gallows Bridge

Built in 1820, the bridge is decorated with the Grand Union Canal insignia and has a rough surface which was used in order to enable canal horses to grip onto it better.

For the last few hundred yards of this section of The Capital Ring we continued along the canal, through the peaceful surroundings of Boston Manor Park. Apart from the occasional sound in the distance of the Piccadilly Line tubes or an aeroplane arriving or leaving Heathrow, you would never imagine that you were in London:

Canalside

It took us about 75 minutes to walk the four miles, including, as usual, frequent stops to take photographs, and the odd panic where we thought we might have taken a wrong turn. Later this month we’re hoping to walk Sections 8 and 9 on the same day (slightly over ten miles).

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