The Green London Way is a walking route of 110 miles length around London split into 18 sections. It follows much of the route of the 78 mile long Capital Ring but has some new sections. The Green London Way is largely the work of one man, Bob Gilbert, who is a supporter for the protection of urban open spaces and public access. His book, The Green London Way, outlines each section with detailed description of the historic and wildlife aspects of each section and is being used as I walk the route.
The long awaited Elizabeth Line (Crossrail) finally opened on May 24th. What better way to try it out than combine it with one of my London walks. The first half of Green London Way section 2 from Woolwich to Abbey Wood seemed to fit the bill. Apologies if this report seems a bit too much Elizabeth Line but everybody else seems to be posting about it at the moment and it really is something special!
Armed with a one day Travelcard, fully accepted on the new line out to the zone 6 boundary I arrived at Waterloo on time just after 10am. The most sensible place to pick up the Elizabeth from there is at Tottenham Court Road so ventured up the Northern line and then into the newly opened parts. What strikes you immediately is how spacious it all is, none of the confined corridors of the old lines, and of course the newness of it. Though some of the interchange routes to the other lines are quite lengthy those at Tottenham Court Road from the Northern are not too bad.
The Elizabeth line trains are 9 coaches so the platforms are surprisingly long and there is a lot of debate at what carriage you should join to minimise your walk at the other end. It also means that while some carriages are full others are almost empty. As my train came in I noticed a few sparsely occupied ones, but the one I got on was pretty full. Off we go, the acceleration and speed of the trains is very noticeable and I was soon on my way to Woolwich. I didn't care too much for the yellow lighting they have put along the escalators at Canary Wharf but expect others like this little touch.
Arriving at Woolwich, another long platform with the exit escalator right at the other end out of sight then a spacious ticket hall and plenty of TFL staff around to give assistance. My SWR ticket receipt dropped out of my bag while I was taking some piccies and one of them ran after me with it. Nice little chat with her. 29 minutes from leaving Waterloo as against 35 minutes or so via the old routes, definitely quicker.
Woolwich Elizabeth line station is within the boundaries of Woolwich Arsenal grounds and this is a mixture now of histrorical buildings, cafes, parks and a market. Woolwich Arsenal DLR and Network Rail stations are several hundred yards away, across the busy road, even though marked as an interchange. That is outside the Arsenal grounds and some are cynically suggesting the two should swap names. Apart from a couple of tourist signposts and 'where am I' maps on the bus stops it is poorly marked as an interchange route.
The route of the Green London Way first goes through the residential area of Woolwich, up the appropriately named Sandy Hill Road and soon enters Plumstead Common. At the end of this is the stump of an old windmill, now a pub.
Down the long staircase into the Slade with its pond at the bottom, then up the other side onto Winn's common.
After a while Bostall Woods are entered, a large woodland area with many paths. I got a bit confused last time I walked here because the route follows unmarked paths so decided instead to follow the Green Chain Walk signs which via a different route would take me via Lesnes Abbey. This worked for a while until I lost the signs and had to do a lengthy stretch on a busy road before picking them up again.
Eventually I found the Abbey, today busy with people. This abbey dates from the time of Henry II but went into ruin at the time of Cardinal Wolsey when it was neglected. I did consider eating here at their cafe but after looking at the menu decided on my other option, the Great Harry in Woolwich.
So up to Abbey Wood station and the one hop trip back to Woolwich. Abbey Wood is one of the two above ground stations in the central section, the other is Custom House. Arriving back at Woolwich the TFL lady who I spoke to on the outward trip was still there and gave me a smile.
After a pleasant lunch at the Great Harry back to the station to complete my tour of the Elizabeth line. Going down the escalator there I wondered why the signs were suggesting the exit was at the bottom of them, clearly some things not quite right. Train, or at least the bit I was in, was fairly quiet. 23 minutes later I was at Paddington having passed through all the stations. It does not currently stop at Bond Street but the train slows down there, deserted apart from a couple of workmen. The escalator to the Bakerloo line was right there where I got off the train but that was deceptive, there was a long tunnel at the bottom even with seats to rest for a while before you reached it. The Bakerloo line was somewhat of an anticlimax to the end of my day. But it certainly was a pleasant and interesting one.