Wednesday, 16 March 2011

LOOP 1: Erith to Bexley 9.5 miles (152 miles to go)

Friday 11th March 2011: Erith Riverside to Old Bexley

After deciding to actually start the walk, I was a little bit apprehensive. I'm walking the LOOP with Peter who's 14 months old and can't walk yet so I'll be carrying him. I've carried him on short journeys before now and I've walked further and on more difficult terrain, but never the two together. But off we headed into the wide blue yonder with pitta and humous sandwiches and jaffa cakes.

It was a bright and breezy day and absolutely perfect for the first trip out. There was nothing to put us off. Pete was all wrapped up, I was all psyched up and so off we went to catch the 10:22 from Maze Hill to Erith. It was at this point I started to worry. I wasn't struggling exactly, but I realised how heavy Pete is. I haven't weighed him for a while, but I'm reckoning on well over 2 stone now. A quick trip over the bridge, a hop onto the train and 25mins later we were on our way! Woo!

The start of the walk is quite urban with a little bit of riverside and then what feels like a long slog of roadside industrial walking. But stick with it! You soon come to the very atmospheric Crayford Marshes. A designated SSSI, there's grazing land, mud flats, ancient trees and lots of birds that I couldn't identify, but I'm sure I could given some expert help. We also admired lots of cows and ponies! 
Crayford Marsh
A pill box with lovely cows
Tea break and a look at the horses
Thames on the left, M25 in the background and River Darent to the right.
Looking towards the M25 made me realise that there are some really spectacular spots in London that don't involve being surrounded by people and buildings, it just takes a bit of effort to drag yourself away from the hurly burly. We carried on down by the Darent and passed the point where I assumed I'd be giving up (the turn off to Slade Green station) but it felt like we'd just got going so on we went!

There was quite a lot more of the Darent and River Cray to follow with friendly cyclists and dog walkers to have a little chat with. Then it got a tiny bit urban again as we headed into Crayford. This was a very short bit of road walking and we were soon back on the river.
River Cray with ancient willows and reed beds
Once away from the road noise this was a lovely stretch of river and again felt like we were at least away from the crowds if not actually in the middle of nowhere! The river runs behind lots of houses but we were forced to turn off the river after a stretch as the houses started to run down to the river. I'd love a house by the river like that - they all had boats and canoes and little landing stages. Very jealous! 

After this there was another stretch of road walking, but in town and near parkland so not too bad. And then back to the country stuff as we turned off for Hall Place, a Tudor country house with a fantastic tea room and gardens. The plan was to stop here for lunch by nipping through the back gates as suggested on the directions. Unfortunately, these gates don't open until the summer and so we couldn't get in without walking the long way round and in throught the main entrance. Instead, we stopped in the park and ate our falafel and humous sandwiches and had a cup of tea. I'd like to say thanks to the very kind dog walker who helped me back up with Pete as I suddenly lost all strength to cope.
I think it's quite obvious what Pete's doing here.

 After crossing the bridge and road, it was into woodland and a prettily shady walk into Bexley. There were plenty of woodland plants starting to poke through so if you do the walk a but later in the spring this section would be awash with colour and flowers.

We made a final stop at St Mary's Church in Old Bexley. There had been a plan to have a look around the inside, but the gates were locked and we couldn't get in. It's always a shame when churches can't leave their doors open for fear of theft and vandalism. Churches have been places of quiet reflection and refuge for centuries and now it seems that this is ending. For me, I like to go in and have a nosy, but find it sad when nobody can get in.
St Mary's Church, Bexley
A quick walk through town and we were at the station waiting for the train home. Jaffa cakes were consumed.
Pete's first Jaffa Cake, but probably not his last
Onto the train and halfway home I realised I'd left my wallet on the bench at the station. Only contained my Oyster card, keys, money, cards....bum. However, those wonderful people at Bexley station had found it and picked it up and kept it safe for me until the next morning! Southeastern, well done!

Even with the missing wallet, a brilliant day! And we even got to stop at Hall Place for tea and cake the next day when I went to collect my wallet!


Sandra said...

Hi Sally! I'm also walking the London Loop and decided to blog it!
I think that is so great that you are walking with your kid - pictures are so lovely!
I did sections 12, 13 and 14 so far and I really enjoyed section 12! Perhaps we can walk one of the sections together!

Tiya said...

Hi Sally,

I'm doing the London LOOP with my husband and really enjoying it. We're new to walking so doing it in approx. 5 mile chunks - have now walked from Erith to Foots Cray and looking forward to the rest. Hope you have lots of happy walks with Peter and if you run into an exhausted looking Asian couple, give us a shout!

I will follow your blog - mine is here if you're interested: