Hello again, folks and you are probably wondering what I am doing here if you have been following my rambles round the London LOOP. I’d finished it, hadn’t I? You had read in the last episode how I had walked into Uxbridge to the bridge on the Oxford Road and thereby completed the 152 mile circuit. so what am I doing back?
Well, don’t panic, I am not going to start out and walk the whole thing again, you will undoubtedly be glad to know. As promised I am going to have a little round-up here to provide a few hopefully useful internet resources and a few tips gleaned from personal experience to any reader who may be considering doing some or all of it. There is no actual walking done here, so if you feel like skipping by to some other page, please feel free. If you do wish to have a look, you know what to do, just press the “read more” button.
Hello again and thanks for jumping in. I am guessing from the fact that you are here that you may have an interest in walking at least part of the London LOOP and that is great but first a
As I mentioned in the text of my writing about the LOOP, I did it in 2013 and 2014, long before the pandemic hit and so anything I write here needs to be considered in the light of the pandemic and whatever restrictions are in place when you read this.
You will notice I am speaking of a pandemic that is not going to happen for years if you believe the date of this post. I have back-dated this entry to June 2014 although this is just so it publishes after the last entry of my walking but I am actually writing in mid December 2020. I shall post this in the hope that at some point things will return to some semblance of normality although I frankly do not see it happening any time soon and I do not believe that the world will ever return to what it was in 2019. Sad but true.
In a happy world where we can actually go for long-distance walks, perhaps in the company of friends, meet people and shake hands with them along the way, sit at a bar with a drink and chat to the barman and all the normal things that made the London LOOP so enjoyable for me, this is how to go about it. It may not be the best way to go about it but it is the way I did it.
Maps, guides and resources.
I should start this section by reieterating, as I do often on this blog, that I am a complete technophobe. I suspect it is a generational thing or perhaps just natural stupidity but I can barely answer my mobile (cell) ‘phone and that is not an exaggeration. I know many of you will be able to access your smartphones (or even watches) on the way for guidance and there are some good websites but we shall start off with analogue technology and you can figure out the digital stuff for yourselves.
My whole walking of the LOOP was prompted by a semi-random purchase of the semi-official guidebook as I was browsing the excellent Stanford’s bookshop in Covent Garden one day. It is written by David Sharp and Colin Saunders, published by Arum Press with ISBN # 9781781315613. I have had a quick look online and you can pick up a new copy for just under £10 with second hand copies cheaper than that.
What I particularly liked about this book is the shape. There were many days when I did not even take a daysac with me and the guide fits snugly into the hip pocket of a pair of jeans which is useful. Just remember to take it out before you sit down. I didn’t on many occasions and my copy is now what I believe booksellers call “foxed” but it served well. In truth, I used it very rarely for route-finding and more for finding places of interest.
The only caveat I have about the hard copy guide is that, like any guide, it was out of date the day it was published and the latest edition I can find for this publication is 2017 so it is a bit dated. At least websites have the advantage of being fairly simple to update as circumstances change.
If you wish to go the digital route you are well served and there is a “one stop shop” which I do recommend, the TfL website. TfL stand for Transport for London, the statutory body controlled ultimately by the Mayor of London, which oversees all transportation in the Greater London area. I am often critical of them as I think they are fairly useless at providing a transport service but their website is a goldmine.
Apart from your transport arrangements, which I will deal with later, they also promote walking and cycling as a means of reducing emissions and keeping people healthy and as such they have comprehensive guides to seven of the major walks in and around London. If the TfL site has a fault, it is that it is not terribly easy to navigate so I’ve done the work for you. Aren’t I kind? The general walking page is here and the LOOP specific page is here.
There are other websites available including a ‘phone app from an outfit called Go Jauntly who are collaborating with TfL. I don’t know how it works as ‘phones are a mystery to me but apparently you can download an app here.
A more traditional website is maintained by the Long Distance Walkers Association and here it is. The LDWA site does not give detailed directions like the TfL one but it has a number of very useful links and is worth a look.
Apart from these official, non-profit and commercial sites, there is a plethora of private accounts of people’s walks on some or all of the LOOP and most of them are a lot more comprehensive and concise than the one you are reading now! Just use your preferred search engine and search on “London LOOP”, you will be amazed what you can turn up.
One thing to note is that the sectioning of the route varies between the book and the websites as the site subdivides some of the book sections but that makes no difference when you are actually walking the route. Note that the section signs at many of the start / finish points use the book sections as the signs predate the website.
Printed word or 21st century technology, the choice is up to you so next let’s have a look at what kit you’ll need.
The first thing to remember is that you will never be more than a few hundred feet above sea level and most of the walking is extremely gentle so specialist kit is not required, it is not the Pennine Way! As I mentioned above, the first day’s walking I did I was wearing the clothes I had gone out in the night before for a drink with a friend as I hadn’t made it home – again! That day I knocked off Sections 12 and 13 of the walk (Uxbridge – Harefield – Moor Park) with no problem in just my street gear and I was to do that on many occasions. I shall cut and paste my thoughts on kit from my first entry about the LOOP in case you have not read it and to keep all the practical advice in one place.
“You could do it in a pair of training (running) shoes but I would suggest you use an old pair. I did the walk at various times of the year and even in summer a few small sections were a bit damp and muddy so don’t do it in your nice new Nikes.
I used to sometimes take a little daysack with me with a minimum of kit as you will never be that far from transport, shops, pubs, cafes, restaurants etc. I know you will find it hard to believe at times but you never leave Greater London. That really is all the kit you need”.
One thing I omitted to mention is wet weather gear which is an important issue in the UK where you can have monsoonal rain in the middle of the so-called summer. At any time of year it is a good idea to have a waterproof top with you as you just never know when it will rain. Some days I did not bother and never got too badly caught out. If it did come on to rain I would just duck in somewhere (usually a pub) and sit it out. If worst came to worst, and thankfully it never did, I would just have gone home as you are never too far from public transport on the LOOP.
Your only real decision about getting to / from the LOOP is whether or not you wish to use your own transport. I don’t drive and no longer have a motorbike so I had to use public transport which worked out fine notwithstanding the usual hassles on the system in London. Of course you could use your own transport but there are a couple of problems with this.
Firstly, parking. Anyone who knows London knows that parking is a nightmare. Many of the sections start / finish at Tube or train stations which might be OK for parking at the weekend but nearly impossible during the week and you’ll have to pay. Also, the Tube and train lines tend to run like spokes of a wheel so it is often a fairly convoluted journey back to your start point to pick up your vehicle. I would strongly recommend public transport as the better option.
One thing to remember with public transport is that it is often disrupted at weekends and over holiday periods for maintenance but the front page of the TfL site I provided above will give you all the details of planned disruptions. Obviously unplanned disruptions are a different matter but they do keep the site fairly well up to date so you can check when you are out and plan accordingly.
As you might expect, this is a very mixed bag as waymarking is the responsibility of individual local authorites rather than a central body and some seem to take their statutory obligations more seriously than others. Generally speaking it is good but there are some areas, especially when walking over open land, where it can be a bit sketchy. This is where your book or app comes in handy.
I was not using OS maps and the maps in the book are not very detailed so a few times I had to retrace my steps to the last place I knew was correct but I stress this only happened a handful of times and it was never too far.
Remember that the logo for the LOOP is the kestrel, usually white on a green background. The reason I say this is that often the LOOP runs in tandem with other paths and it is easy to follow the waymarks for another walk. In some places the same path constitutes three or even four different trails.
I realise that money is tight at present and the great thing about the LOOP is that it is entirely free. I cannot remember paying for anything on my walk and your only costs are your transport to and from. Obviously, I like a drink and stopped in many pubs. I also ate a few meals en-route but if you are really watching the pennies then just make up a packed lunch and bring a water bottle. There is certainly no shortage of beautiful places to stop for a bit of a picnic, from bluebell meadows (in season obviously) to canalside benches to viewpoints overlooking the whole city, you name it and every section will have somewhere nice to stop for lunch.
I did the LOOP when I was 53 – 54 years old and not particularly fit and I completed it in 15 days walking which thankfully makes the maths easy, it is about 10 miles a day. As I mentioned above, there is no particularly strenuous walking and I was taking my time and stopping a lot. How far you go depends entirely on your level of fitness, how often you want to stop and visit something etc. and the TfL website I linked you to above is very helpful in this respect. If you do not want to do a whole section it will tell you of points along a particular section where you can jump off and get public transport, you will never be too far from some means of getting home.
As a bit of light relief, the fastest known time for the LOOP is an utterly ridiculous 34 hours, 23 minutes and 21 seconds which was set in July 2020 by what can only be described as a madman called David Bone who is one of these ultra runners. Imagine running / jogging / power walking for a day and a half, the man is crazy. If you want to have a look, you can do so here.
I have made much in my main entries about stopping off in pubs and my self-imposed rule that I had to stop for a drink in any open pub I found. I have composed a slideshow of some of them above. Obviously, it is a huge slideshow, but you would expect nothing less from me, just dip into it as you see fit. I should point out that this is only a fraction of the pub images I have but I didn’t want to bore you rigid, well, bore you more than I already have done!
Regular readers will also know that many of them are now closed, which is a subject dear to my heart and I want to give a plug here to my mate Glen who runs the excellent Lost pubs website. This is not exhaustive obviously but has over 38,000 closed pubs listed. I have submitted a few myself during the course of writing up my LOOP exploits.
I dread to think how busy he, and other contributors like myself, will be by the end of this pandemic. It will be horrendous.
The last word.
I do hope you have enjoyed my writings about the London LOOP which was a great project for me. I learned so much, especially whilst writing up my travels and that was on top of the pleasure of just walking in some beautiful countryside, normally in complete isolation and as happy as I could be. I hope I may have inspired some of you to have a go at either a section or two or the whole thing.
I realise that many of my readers may never even visit London and for them I hope that I have at least provided a bit of vaguely interesting armchair travel.
It is some years now since I walked the LOOP but if anyone has any questions, please feel free to contact me here and I will do my very best to answer your queries.
I am now planning my next exploit to write up here on the blog so if you want to know what it is, as always, stay tuned and spread the word.