Saturday, 31 March 2012

Capital Ring

Hanwell → Highgate

pab-fryent.png Distance: 19.4 miles
Ascent: 357 metres
Duration: 5 hours 40 minutes

« Not walked | Not walked »

We have a habit of starting out on long-distance paths, then leaving them unfinished for months or even years on end. One day we'll complete the North Downs Way and the Thames Path, but for now it's back to a path we started around this time last year: London's Capital Ring. After today's rather lengthy outing we should be able to complete the circuit with just one more walk.

Two themes characterised this section: unexpected wildlife and diverse cultures.

horsenden-fox.pngClose to our starting point we saw a green woodpecker rooting around in a field; later, we heard another quite clearly chipping away at a tree. A short distance we came across another unusual sight: right in front of us on the path on Horsenden Hill stood a fox. We hushed our voices, fully expecting it to run off, but instead it began to approach. When it wasn't scared off by a shout, or a stick tossed in its general direction we decided to take a different route.

These types of encounter are not what you'd expect from an urban walk, but as we've been learning, the Capital Ring is wilder than you would imagine for a walk that's never more than ten miles from the centre of London.

What you do expect from London is a diversity of cultures. Starting near Southall we were the odd ones out in a bustle of Asian faces. Then later at Brent Cross we passed under the fishing-wire boundary of the Northwest London Eruv, where kippah-wearing boys scurried along the pavement.

The notion of the eruv - a large public area designated as a "private place" for the purposes of Jewish law, so as to facilitate observance of the sabbath - has fascinated me since the Northwest London Eruv was originally proposed. In practise the eruv was only visible because I knew where to look out for the fishing wire strung between lamp posts as we entered, and the increase in obviously Jewish dress. The streets felt quieter on this Saturday, but that was probably in my imagination rather than in fact. I didn't notice where the exit was.

So although I find the notion of an eruv rather curious - it seems to me little more than an elegant religious hack - I saw nothing to justify the fear that was being spread at the time this was originally constructed.

highgate-wood.pngThe final section of the walk was in woodland, a delight to be in the shade after a long day in the sun. London does urban woodland very well, and I imagine that had I found myself living in north London as a student I would have spent many days exploring Highgate Wood. We celebrated the end of the day with ice cream eaten from comedy teddy bear-shaped cones.

Posted by pab at 20:59 | Comments will be back one day. Please email me instead!