The Capital Ring; an orbital walking trail mapped out by unusually driven ramblers in 1990, snakes around London for over 78 miles. As autumn takes hold it can be easy to forget that London is one of the greenest cities in Europe, but the hotchpotch of parks, forests, cemeteries, docklands and leafy residential streets that make up the route bring home the sheer scale of nature to be found within the M25. Fully signposted and supported by Transport for London, the rather intimidating 126km route has been split up into 15 separate walks which is definitely the recommended approach for all but those masochistic souls who view 78 miles in a day as an effective way to work up a mild appetite.
I took up the path after uncovering one of the distinctive lime green signs in Highgate and soon found myself on Parkland Walk, an old railway line that has since been colonised by roving bands of dog walkers. The ring is filled with these strange footnotes of London’s past from the Byzantine turrets of Joseph Bazalgette’s Abbey Mills Pumping Station (a relic of a time when it was deemed vital for sewer facilities to resemble surrealist castles) then onto a glorious view from Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Wharncliffe Viaduct and jaunt along the Grand Union Canal and the River Brent (which the truly unhinged could follow all the way to Birmingham if they were so inclined). Whilst it includes popular weekend wanders such as Crystal Palace, Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park the real charm of the route is how it leads the walker through parts of London that they’d be otherwise unlikely to encounter. London holds more hidden gems than most of its denizens will ever uncover; but for those who feel that their relationship with London has grown stale, the Ring offers a chance to reacquaint oneself with the scope and majesty of the capital.
Plan your walk at tfl.gov.uk/modes/walking/capital-ring