Dave Sergeant

The Capital Ring is a walking route of 78 miles length around London split into 15 sections. See tfl.gov.uk/modes/walking/capital-ring for more details.

Capital Ring Section 7 - Richmond to Boston Manor - October 30th 2019

Today, to tie up the loose ends on my London walks, I decided to do a bit more of the Capital Ring. I had originally skipped doing most of section 7 because I had previously done that bit as one of Andrew Duncan's Favourite London Walks, admittedly in the opposite direction and partly on the opposite bank of the Thames down to Twickenham rather than Richmond). So to do it properly I did the whole of section 7 from Richmond station to Boston Manor tube. I would also be crossing the rather magnificent Richmond Lock bridge, or that was the plan...

So after a pleasant stroll from the station through Richmond Green (which now feels almost like home ground) I reached the Thames and approached the Richmond rail bridge which I had crossed on the train just minutes earlier. Very few boats on the river, must be getting near winter.

A little further along is the Kew Meridian marked by this line. This is where the famous line was before moving to Greenwich and was based on Kew Observatory, built in 1769 for George III. The observatory is supposed to be visible through a small gap in the post on the right but it seems trees have now grown and blocked the view, at least I couldn't see it.

Now the magnificent Richmond Lock comes into view, a half lock where the lock bit is only used at low tide (I thought the Thames was not tidal at this point, go figure). I noticed though scaffolding on it and workmen in orange coats and when I got there I saw this:

Foiled again, nothing else to do but to walk the few hundred yards back and cross via Twickenham Bridge.

So having crossed the river and retraced my steps on the other side, after some way I reached Isleworth. The public footpath just before here goes right through the veranda of the Town Wharf pub/restaurant and you have to dodge all their tables and guests, but yes, it is a public right of way! This is the church of All Saints. The present church is though a new building built in 1970 to the right of the tower which is all that remains of the 14th century church. A bit of walking along busy roads follows here for a while, but not for long.

Soon into Syon Park which was quite busy with walkers, cyclists, and being half term children. Syon House here is one of Capability Brown's works and was the home of the Dukes of Northumberland. Now closed for the winter months and only open on Sundays and Thursdays in the summer. Having passed it twice one of these days I will hopefully be able to see it properly.

Last time I was here there was a huge garden centre with a cafe that made a convenient half way stop. But it closed last month, part of Wyevale's decision to sell off all its centres, this is one that wasn't sold so is currently closed. It seems the council has various ideas for the site, I hope building flats here is not in their plans. Very little information outside about the closure, I found out online beforehand but it seems some were just a little puzzled to find the locked gates.

So after another short section of main road I reached the Grand Union and Brentford Lock. This is one of the stretches I had walked on an earlier Capital Ring trip. The huge building on the opposite side is the Glaxo Smith Kline complex, the pharmaceutical company. Nice pleasant walk along here and the presence of the A4 and then M4 at various places didn't deter too much.

This is the Athlete, the sculpture outside the GSK building.

Clitherow Lock, totally deserted of barges.

Just after going underneath the M4 I reached the end of section 7 (the actual end is a few hundred yards further on at Osterley Lock) where I turned off to head for Boston Manor underground station. A nice walk through woodland along the Brent River where it splits from the canal. On reaching civilisation again I had lunch at a conveniently located Harvester before reaching the station and catching the tube back to Richmond. The sections this end of London are good in that you can start early - I got to Richmond at 9.45 - and being a leisurely 4 miles I arrived home by 3pm which is almost a record. Very pleasant day out.

Update - July 16th 2020

I re-walked section 7 today. I wanted to carry on walking the Lea Navigation in east London that I had been interrupted doing back in March. The walk was certainly on but I couldn't find a sensible place for lunch as all the places I have used in the past are still shut. So the alternative was to re-do Capital Ring section 7 from Richmond to Boston Manor which I did last October.

So up on the train again to Richmond, through Richmond Green that I had done just 2 weeks ago when I went to Ham House, and up the Thames. This passed the Kew Meridian where you are supposed to see Kew Observatory. I thought I had glimpsing views of it through the shrubbery but there is no sign of it on the several long zoom photos I took, so that mystery remains.

Last October Richmond Lock was closed for maintenance so I was unable to walk across it as part of the Ring. Checking online I found after the maintenance it was then closed for the duration of the lockdown for social distancing reasons but has just reopened. As you can see the view from the pedestrian walkway is quite something. This is a half lock, where at high tide boats can cross via the weir but at other times like this morning they use the lock. The Thames though seems somewhat quiet with no boats to use the facility.

And now for something unexpected. The Ring diverts from the river for a while and follows the (normally) busy A3004 towards Isleworth. The guidebook suggests there were some plans for a better path by the river but there had been no updates. When I reached the river at Isleworth Ait I suddenly saw a Ring sign pointing back along the river. Curious I followed it and it took me back on the river bank and after half a mile brought me to a gap in the wall on the A3004. No Ring signage at all, just an innocent gap in the brick wall you see on the right. It cut out a few hundred yards of the busy road and the rather non special Lion Wharf Road. Hopefully it will get to the guide books in due course and somebody will invest in a nice sign by that wall.

The new path provides a few better views of Isleworth village. After going past Isleworth church the Ring heads for Syon Park. Syon House was open today, I think just the grounds rather than the house itself, but it seems entry was by prebooked tickets. No time anyway, maybe a trip there in a while when the house actually is open. In October the old Wyevale garden centre had just been closed. It is still closed but one of the adjacent buildings is now Birdies Kitchen where I stopped for a cuppa. Quite busy and friendly staff. The chap suggested that the garden centre may be reopening next March, seems a long time, and all the signage outside still indicates it is very much open for business. Anyway, nice 15 minute stop to watch the world go by, what little of it there was.

So out of Syon Park the Ring joins the Grand Union at Brentford Lock. The huge buildings of Glaxo Smith Kline come in view but apart from some lights in the entrance area looked strangely deserted, a sad sign of this new work from home situation. Seeing buildings of that size totally empty is a very worrying thing, it is not the future I want. Anyway the canal was a nice pleasant interlude and I passed a few people working on their boats with a cheery 'Good Morning'.

I had booked a table at the Harvester in Boston Manor for 1pm and had a little time to spare so sat on a bench by Osterley Lock, the official end of section 7. A couple were moving their boat through the lock so I watched them with interest and the 15 minutes soon passed. Off to the pub and a pleasant lunch which in this age seemed almost normal. Then on the tube (not quite so normal with face masks everywhere) back to Richmond and home. Another nice day out.

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