The Capital Ring, Walks Number 8 and 9

This was first time we attempted two sections of the Capital Ring back-to-back. This meant we had to walk eleven miles, but, because both my sister and I live in South London, so getting to and from the north west of town isn’t easy, and also because we realised that we will need to double-up on occasion in order to fit fifteen walks into twelve months, we felt we had little choice . . .

Due to most of the Tube lines being down on the Sunday we had chosen, it took a long time to get to the start at Boston Manor and even longer to get back home from the finish at South Kenton. However, we were at least blessed with another sunny Sunday afternoon, which made the eleven miles (almost) fly by.

Walks 8 and 9 are interesting because they’re a real mixture of the different sides of London. Parts of the walks are alongside the Grand Union Canal, through fields and meadows, over hills, through the beautiful streets of Harrow-on-the-Hill and around the old school buildings, while others are along main roads, through industrial estates and some rather run-down residential areas.

Walk 8 is five miles from Osterley Lock to Greenford, and continues along the banks of the Grand Union Canal. This is one of the many locks at the start of the route:


Soon, however, we left the Canal for the River Brent, and came across the Hanwell Bridge. The original bridge was constructed in the 14th century, but the current structure dates from 1762.

Hanwell Bridge

We were hoping to avoid having to go up to and cross over the main road, but, as you can see, the river was too high on this particular afternoon, meaning that passing underneath the bridge was impossible:

Hanwell Bridge flooded

Once safely across the busy main road, we passed into the beautiful Brent Meadow, which was filled with blossoming trees, like these:


Once we came through the trees, with the River Brent on our right, the meadow was dominated by the awesome structure of the Wharncliffe Viaduct:

Wharncliffe Viaduct

Designed by the great Isambard Kingdom Brunel and completed in 1838, the viaduct was built to carry the Great Western Railway over the Brent Valley, and was named after Lord Wharncliffe who steered the GWR bill through the House of Lords.

Blossoms viaduct shadow

More beautiful blossoms under one of the viaduct’s arches . . .

On leaving Brent Meadow, we emerged into the village of Hanwell. The old village green is dominated by the spire of St Mary’s Church:

St Mary's Church, Hanwell

Built in 1841, the church is one of Sir George Gilbert Scott’s earliest creations. Of course, he would later go on to design many iconic buildings, such as the Albert Memorial.

The rest of Walk 8 took us through the green space of Perivale Park, before we reached he suburb of Greenford. Luckily the final, urban section of this walk is short (though the fact that it emerges onto a busy main road, complete with shopping centre, is something of a shock after the peaceful greenery that comes before – though we were pleased to be able to make use of the McDonald’s bathroom), and the start of Walk 9 soon saw us reunited with the Grand Union Canal:

Grand Union Canal

We passed under the old humped Horsenden Bridge:

Horsenden Bridge

We then began to prepare ourselves for what the guide book warned us were two steep ascents and descents, for Walk 9 is apparently one of the hilliest sections of the Capital Ring. These were the steps leading up the first, Horsenden Hill:

Horsenden Hill

We emerged to what we were told is one of the best natural viewpoints in London, and the view in all directions was pretty amazing:

View from Horsenden Hill

We learned that there is also a disused reservoir under Horsenden Hill, and a concrete cairn on the summit marks the altitude as 260 feet. We then continued downhill through Horsenden Wood, marvelling at the fact that we were still technically in London at this point:

Horsenden Wood

Unfortunately, on leaving Horsenden Wood, there is rather a long section of Walk 9 that takes you through Sudbury, which jolted us back to reality after the woods, hills and meadows that we had just been walking through. Needless to say, I took no photos . . .

However, Sudbury soon led into Harrow-on-the-Hill, one of London’s pretty urban areas. The centre of the old village (where the Normans, in 1094, built one of England’s earliest churches) is one of the highest points on the Capital Ring, at 350 feet above sea level, and, at 10 miles from Charing Cross, it’s also as far from the centre of London as the Capital Ring reaches. In the middle of the village is the old King’s Head Hotel:

King's Head Hotel

Allegedly dating from 1535, it also claims to be one of the places where Henry VIII courted Anne Boleyn.

As we continued along the High Street, we were surrounded by tourists and the old red-brick buildings of Harrow School:

Harrow School

Founded in 1572 with just one pupil, Harrow now boasts Winston Churchill, Byron and Trollope among its famous alumni.

Walk 9 then took us through the school playing fields, and over the Capital Ring’s only stile:


The final part of this walk was through Northwick Park, alongside a golf course, before we emerged, at South Kenton Station. We were quite tired at this point, having completed the 5.5 miles of Walk 9 straight after the 5 of Walk 8 in just over three hours. Though much of these two walks was through some amazing green spaces, we did feel that quite a lot of it was through rather urban areas, though perhaps we were spoiled by starting with Walks 6 and 7. It will be interesting to see how the balance between urban and rural changes as we work our way round the northern sections of the Capital Ring over the coming months.





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