Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Capital Ring: West Ham to Woolwich

A very cold, foggy morning for today's assault on the easternmost piece of the Capital Ring walk. We walked up to Ealing Broadway to catch a direct train out to West Ham. Our rickety District line train fetched up somewhere 10 stations short, and we were nearly returned to whence we came as the station announcement was an unintelligible whisper. So after switching platforms, we finally set foot back on the trail about 12.45pm. A lady on the second train was wide-eyed with enchantment when she saw Bondi join her carriage and said "Oh what a beautiful animal. I don't think I want to leave the train while he's here to look at."

We were back on the stinky old Greenway, which if it wasn't quite covered in pea soup fog, definitely reeked of some other pee. There was really very little of interest to see for some time, but we missed our exit by several blocks due to a lack of signage, so I switched on the GPS unit to get us back on the path. A park in Beckton had some Australian trees (labelled): a few eucalypts, including a young snow gum; and a forlorn branchless red cedar.

For the next hour or so we skirted some parks, the Docklands campus of the University of East London on Royal Albert Dock (top photo) and a lot of new apartment blocks around Gallions Reach. We saw very few pedestrians through this stretch, all very stark and uninviting.

[North side: into the tunnel][South side: tunnel stairs and Capital Ring official start]

After a final stretch of walkway by the Thames, punctuated only by the mist-muted greenery of the Royal Victoria Gardens, we reached the entrance to the Woolwich Foot Tunnel. With about 100 steps at each end, the tunnel extends for 500m under and across the Thames . I spared Bondi the stairs on the southern side and we took the wood-panelled lift up to Woolwich.

Now we were at the official start of the Capital Ring walk, having covered 43 miles (69km) since Richmond, with 35 miles (56km) remaining to complete the ring. We walked westwards along the Thames Path, with the Thames Flood Barrier (bottom photo) in our sights. We continued off the path for a while to visit the TFB's information centre, but it seems that the staff closed up early for the day, so we retraced our steps and finished up the walk at Woolwich Docklands train station.

It turned out that the journey to London Bridge station wasn't covered by our Oyster travelcard, so adding quite a bit to the cost of the day's journey that wouldn't be covered by the daily cap on Oyster travel. Really this part of the journey is a bit of a stretch from the POV of public transport: there's nothing special about the starting point (stairs leading up from the Woolwich tunnel) and rather ugly urban surrounds, all of which are at least a 1/2 mile from a (poorly-serviced) rail station. All in all we spent as much time getting to and from our walk today as actually walking.

Found a first edition of Alex Garland's The Beach in an Oxfam store for a few quid: it can sell for £100 or more. On the train journey to West Ham, I finished off Mark "League of Gentlemen" Gatiss' The Devil In Amber. A sequel to The Vesuvius Club, this volume has his hero Lucifer Box caught-up in a parody of a 1920's Dennis Wheatley-style occult adventure (think of the Hammer Horror film of Wheatley's The Devil Rides Out).

On the family tree front, I had some news from a librarian in Cumbria giving marriage details for my paternal ancestor Samuel Jones, which properly identifies wife Jane Woolcock's Cornish family.

No comments:

Post a Comment