The London Loop is a walking route of 150 miles length around the outer boundaries of London split into 24 sections. I am currently walking the loop and this is a blog of a few sections. See tfl.gov.uk/modes/walking/loop-walk for more details.
Erith 'by the sea' - the beginning of the loop with Coldharbour Point
near the end 150 miles away across the river.
The London Loop is an enjoyable 150 mile walk around the edges of London. There is a companion 78 mile walk within it called the Capital Ring. Some call the Capital Ring walking the North and South Circular Roads and the Loop as walking round the M25. Neither of these are strictly true. The Capital Ring does meet these roads at a couple of points but apart from a few yards never along them. The M25 is seen only twice from the Loop, once in the distance when it crosses the Queen Elizabeth Bridge at Dartford and again near Heathrow. It is entirely within the M25. I prefer to call it the Zone 6 walk as it largely follows the outer boundary of the TFL tube Zone 6 at its access points.
I walked the Capital Ring between August 2018 and February 2019 and the Loop from February 2019 onwards. All these trips were blogged in the Mensa forums in their 'Day in the Life of This Mensan' thread, accessible to Mensa members. Following requests I have written these blog pages based on those blog accounts starting from Section 14, June 2019. Earlier sections are available to Mensa members in their forums but not really accessible since they are buried in a very long thread.
The London Loop is well documented. As well as the official descriptions from TFL there is a widely available guide book, The London Loop, by Colin Saunders which is regularly updated (though inevitably out of date as things change all the time). TFL used to have a companion website www.walklondon.org.uk but that has been discontinued for some years and it is not clear how much support they now give to the Loop. I also gained much encouragement from other blogs out on the web, in particular those from Diamond Geezer who has blogged all of it in his daily blogs.
The Loop is divided into 24 convenient sections of 4 to 9 miles in length and the ends easily accessible by public transport. Most are tube or rail stations but a few legs connect at bus stops. Much of the fun in walking the Loop is working out how to get to these start and finish points and in some cases where it was necessary to split sections or convenient to join them alternative travel needed to be worked out. In my case I was starting in Bracknell, well west of London, and it typically took 2-3 hours to get to the start, usually arriving around 11am. All travel was from my local station, Martins Heron, using the 0905 train, the first off peak train. Some sections to the west and south of London were done via Richmond, Twickenham or Clapham Junction but the majority were via Waterloo using the excellent value One Day Travel Card. My Senior Railcard paid for itself several times over just on these trips, and bus travel within London and elsewhere is free with my concessionary travel card. Yes, there were some problems at times on the trains, and a few delay replay claims, but by and large these offered a good service. At least it was easy to see when there were major problems in the morning and choose not to walk those days.
Most important to a day out is a good lunch and as well as working out how to get to the sections I had to earmark likely eating places. The guide book tries to suggest some but often there are alternatives. For the longer legs a lunch stop halfway along would be ideal but often this is not possible as you are miles from anywhere, so in that case a late lunch at the end is the only option. Or in some cases eat back in central London. Eating places varied, from pubs, restaurants, down to corner cafes, garden centres, etc. In quite a few cases the selected pub turned out to have closed, undergoing refurbishment, or in the case of Hamsey Green demolished to make way for a new supermarket. I had to be flexible, and in a few cases just abandon lunch. All part of the fun.
The condition of the Loop and presence of fingerposts varied enormously. It seems some London authorities go to great pains to maintain the path and in some cases the Loop shares the path with another route that is well maintained and signposted. In many places though it is very different, with the path overgrown, bridges and stiles in poor condition, and total absence of loop fingerposts. The instructions in the guidebook and TFL guides are often not as detailed as they should be and it is easy to get lost - and once you are lost there are certainly no loop fingerposts to help you. I probably added another 10% to the walk from wrong turnings.