London Outer Orbital Path (Sections 1-2)   10 comments


The putative starting point of the LOOP is Erith Station on the Thames just before it enters Kent (as does, inadvertently, a small section of today’s path).  The journey to the station involved facing away from whilst listening to what sounded like a very old cockney (who, upon examination, was in his early-to-mid 30s) and an Afro-Caribbean petty criminal and dope dealer (who, upon inspection, just turned out to be a skinny, white-trash teenager and also the not-so-old cockney’s cousin).  They sat across the aisles and several seats down from one another so they had to speak really loudly about the cockney’s ‘girl’ who was banged up in Reading Gaol until at least October, what a misery and expense it is to make the visiting journey, and how much he misses fucking her.  This last bit came with a level of detail, if not nuance, that was surprising considering the limitations of his vocabulary, otherwise.  You see why I avoided any chance of eye contact until my stop?



The riverside is about a hundred meters away from the station after a wee jog through the college.  The only pub I could be certain was still in business in the area was the Running Horses, so I made an early pit stop there.


The Thames estuary really starts to open up as it meets the North Sea in this part of town.



As I suspected, the White Hart was closed but I couldn’t tell if the refurbishment was for flats or if it would reopen as a pub.  Neither could I tell if the boat mural was new or restored, but either way it is magnificent:


It’s quite maritime in the neighbourhood.  This is the yacht club seen across part of the marsh:



But, for a couple of miles this is what you see off to your right:



Even the informative plaques seem to show debris:



It hadn’t occurred to me but the water is brackish here so you could do saltwater fishing or evapourate the waters for salt:



This is one of the salt pans described above:



When you finally get to town, it’s good to see modern art.  I found this on my way to the Duke’s Head in Crayford:



The next section had some construction by part of the trail and as a result I had my first opportunity to fly blind, as it were.


If you smirk at this, shame on you:



Variations of this tag were spread from Erith to Foots Cray.  I would have shot them all had I known they were going to change as much as they did, location-to-location:



It wasn’t just the construction that got me lost.  Some of it was the dearth of way markers on this part of the trail.  At one point, I found myself directly under a footbridge over a motorway that I was pretty certain I should be crossing:



And, indeed I found some of the markers in the next ¼ mile before they evapourated again and I wound up quite lost.



Which was fortuitous, lest I should have missed this trio of fine art deco structures atop a hill on the way to Bexley:





Once in Bexley, I was back on my maps.  And, again, shame on you:



A brief stop at the Railway Tavern preceded a bimble down the river to the Foots Cray Meadows where I found a much nicer bridge:



And, a stunning parkland:



Muscles aching at this point, I stopped for one more quick one at the Seven Stars before what should have been a quick dash down to Petts Wood (fnarr-fnarr).

The path just a 100 m away from the Seven Stars has been blocked, forcing you to find an alternative on your own.  At the A20, I made a choice that turned out to be not to bad since it put me, eventually, back on the way marked LOOP at the SW edge of Scadbury Park.  However, if you then follow the LOOP markers you will circumnavigate the park via a heavily wooded and very hilly path.  If kids did this as a prank, well done you; if the tenders of the trail did it, you fuckers should rot in Hell.

So, the second time I passed the car park I exited and stopped in the Sydney Arms for a fortifying whiskey and a bit of water to rehydrate.  Once again, I was off my maps and it was getting dark (clouds, not twilight) so I took a compass reading at the next major road and headed WSW until, in Chislehurst, I found a sign for Petts Wood and change course.  Just off the A208 on a trail in Petts Wood, I found a marker pointing downhill and followed it (and others spaced about 100 m apart) despite not trusting them at all until I got to the rail crossing and could once more match map to visual inspection.  I could easily have gone straight home but the Daylight Inn beckoned.

With three more sections to go down here, I headed back to the northern bit the next day.






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