To get my body working again after over a year without walking, I decided that the Capital Ring would fit the bill, since it has hundreds of possible break-points (they are called bus stops and stations). In twelve mornings over five weeks, I completed the round. It really is a capital walk, with less street-slogging than I seemed to recall from last time.
Yes, I have been here before. I have followed the book clockwise from Woolwich. This time, I decided to be contrary. Starting at the upstream crossing of the Thames at Richmond, I walked in the anticlockwise direction, via Crystal Palace, Woolwich, and Highgate to arrive back at Richmond. Of course, there is the same amount of ascent and descent whichever way you go round, but there were more occasions when I was glad to be going my way than when I wished I was going in the opposite direction. It starts with the blockbuster delights of Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common, and ends in generally graceful descent of the Brent Valley from Barn Hill (with the brutal exception of Football Lane, Harrow).
There are, though, one or two disappointments to be found, from the desecration of Brunel’s iconic Wharncliffe Viaduct in Hanwell to the closure of so many toilet blocks in parks (though in the north, this lack seems only to extend to gents’ facilities, with the distaff side still served). But the main anticlockwise gripe is to do with the waymarking.
Yes, every cast-iron fingerpost points both ways, and nearly every waymark post does likewise (apart from those which have been stolen, of course). The problem, in a limited number of places, is in the positioning. The waymarks have been sited, it seems, with a clockwise route in mind, and then the anticlockwise arrow has been added. But there are places where the clockwise route forward is obvious, so no waymark; there are places where the clockwise route demands a decision, so a waymark is provided. But anticlockwise walkers have a bit harder to work, and more checking of maps. We are only talking of about twenty or thirty such locations, but it grates.
But these are minor gripes: it is a very fine walk. Even anticlockwise.