First day of our Capital Ring walk. Leg one – Woolwich to Falconwood. Where is Falconwood anyway? Who knows? By the end of today we’ll know.
Sunny but cold today. I almost don’t take my coat which would have been a disaster. I wear my light jacket underneath but when L complains of the cold I chivalrously give it up to her. May never see it again.
Woolwich is only partly a dump. The Arsenal bit is all modern flats and cannons on plinths and so on. Nice though.
Get to the river but initially we’re quite confused as to where the walk begins. Find the Southern end to the Woolwich Foot Tunnel eventually. This is the beginning of the Capital Ring. Or is it the end. It doesn’t matter, it’s a circle innit?
It’s an inauspicious start right enough. The foot tunnel entrance is boarded up and not even obvious that it is what we think it is (it may not be of course). Then we start walking.
The river bit is pleasant but a little windy. H asleep for this section. See the Thames barrier and some old dry docks now converted into wet docks. This is where King Henry VIII built his flagship ‘The Great Harry’ (some ego at work there?) Nothing left of it now but a few splinters and an overflowing rubbish bin. Walk along but it’s quite hard to navigate using the capital ring map we have and I constantly have to cross-reference with Google Maps which shows our location. Road names are not shown on the capital ring map which makes it almost impossible to work out where you are. The path leads us along too far I surmise as it seems to run out of path after a bit. Fortunately, a couple just ahead of us are holding a paper copy of the Capital Ring Guide so we follow them through the garden of some sheltered housing back to the streets and the beauty that is Woolwich. Or should that be Uuluuich? Yes, that is what the Anglo-Saxons called it prior to them inventing the letter W.
Interesting how the yuppie flats are all crowded up to the water’s edge but as you move away from the river the housing is predominately council.
Onto Woolwich Road, cross over and into Maryon Park. I discover from an information board that the Michelangelo Antonioni film ‘Blow Up’ was filmed here. I’m quite excited about this. L less so. Take lots of photographs of undergrowth in the hope that I might accidentally stumble across a murder. Or some Sixties swingers cavorting with some purple paper. No.
It’s an interesting little park apparently not changed much since the Sixties. Strange atmosphere. Exactly the sort of place you would find a body. Not today though.
Leaving the park we follow some streets for a bit and then stumble across Maryon Wilson park (no relation). This is a hilly affair dominated by the petting zoo or farm at its centre. As we approach the menagerie of chickens and sheep living in perfect harmony a peacock chooses that moment to turn around. Some young men nearby are heard to ask whether it’s a male or female peacock and I bite my lip uncharacteristically passing up an opportunity to spread my knowledge.
The park has links with highwaymen which excites L quite a lot. Apparently, some highwaymen sought refuge here while being chased by the law and ended up in a drain where they were eventually caught. Losers.
Moving on we see some ‘Mickeys’ as T calls them or more accurately ‘two Mickeys and a Frou-Frou’. She also finds some bamboo which she carries with her for the next bit of the walk.
Out of Maryon Wilson Park we cross over a busy road and find ourselves in the huge expanse of Charlton Park. Lots of people playing football (why do they do that?) which excites H a lot. He’s in the backpack though otherwise he’d totter over there I imagine.
Next park (did I mention that the Capital Ring links together London’s green spaces?) is Hornfair Park. The guidebook tells me that Charlton Horn Fair took place here until drunken behavior saw it banned in 1872. It was revived in 1973 but was a lot tamer by all accounts. And what is a horn fair? If you have to ask you’ve probably never been to one.
A very restricted exit for us to manouvre the buggy through. Be warned Capital Ringers! Take a hacksaw.
Across a main road and then onto Woolwich Common. This is reclaimed military land where you can still see troops from the nearby Woolwich barracks training from time to time. Today was camouflage practice so we saw no-one. Lunch.
Some loud bangs alert us to something interesting happening at an unusual looking building to the North. The building looks like a huge meringue with acne – it’s very modernity and ridiculousness suggest the Olympics and we’re not wrong. It’s the shooting venue.
Everything around here seems connected with the military or shooting in some way – even the bench we eat lunch on bears the legend ‘kill fascist scum.’
We follow the well-trodden path to the main road past a bench generously strewn with strong lager cans. To a crossroads and quickly back onto green land. The hardest section of the walk is soon upon us – especially for pushing the buggy. A long stretch of steps daunts us but after a bit of effort we make it to the top. Discover an ancient Lilt can (circa 1980’s?) I don’t think they sell them anymore.
Some discussion with L about where Shooters Hill got its name – from Medieval archery, military activity or highwaymen. All three is the answer which seems to please L.
At the top of the steps we are rewarded with the spectacle of Severndroog Castle a quite remarkable folly built to celebrate the taking of a castle off the coast off Kerala back in days of yore (before 1970). Strange atmosphere we agree here. A bit like that ITV programme ‘Night Mare’. T wants to go inside to meet the fairies.
Down some steps (more steps!) before we disagree over the next direction and wander aimlessly for a bit. Meet a man who keeps eleven dogs in his mother’s house. Climb on a tree, that kind of thing.
Onward, ever onward and through the Jack Woods and to a fantastic vista from a café. This was a gun emplacement during World War II (more guns? So much killing, so much violence, so sad, so sad…)
This bit is quite well signposted so we don’t get lost for the remainder of the walk. Mostly woodland from here too.
Through Oxleas Wood – L and T move like butterflies at this point. It’s all about keeping T moving so we don’t have to carry her on the backpack. Crossing the main road beside a secluded pond we find ourselves in Shepherdleas Wood. This is very peaceful but a short part of the journey. It finishes up in a formal park (Eltham Park North) beside a lovely duck pond and a fine view of London including the Shard (which we will see finished during our traversing of the Capital Ring). L observes that it’s interesting to see this oh-so-familiar view from a different perspective.
Approaching the end now and the last stretch runs along the A2 which we can hear thundering below us. Then we come out to the entrance to the bridge crossing the A2 and the end of this section and the start of the next. Leave the Capital Ring at this point – unfinished business, we shall return!