Coal Tax Circuit

Length — 315km (walked 2018)

Coal Tax post at Chelsham

Travel through the outer areas of London, and you are likely to come across little white cast-iron posts with the City of London shield. These were erected in the 1860s, along with other markers in stone, to delineate the boundary, within which any inbound shipment of coal was liable to a tax. Of the posts which remain, some are situated beside railways and canals (and the Thames), and others are out in open land, but the majority stand today beside roads.

This route joins up these into a circuit of London. Staines-upon-Thames and the mouth of the River Darent are the riverside extremes; in the north, the route passes through Theydon Bois, Potters Bar, Watford and Uxbridge, while the southern section takes in Epsom Downs, Biggin Hill and Swanley. A ferry is taken across the River Thames at Shepperton.

You are encouraged to read the introduction first, as it sets the scene, describes general logistics, and outlines the conventions used in the sectional documents.

The route may be divided into seven parts: each of the links below will lead to a page about the particular part. Rickmansworth station is the transport point for Batchworth. Intermediate points as breakpoints are given in the text of the directions.

Multi-day parts

Purfleet to Theydon Bois
Riverside, parks and streets, then Hainault Forest and farmland
288m ascent
Theydon Bois to Potters Bar
Farmland and woodland all the way, with only a few streets
568m ascent
Potters Bar to Batchworth
Farmland and woodland, with a green route through Watford
557m ascent
Batchworth to Walton-on-Thames
The Grand Union canal, the Colne, the Thames, and a ferry
167m ascent
Walton-on-Thames to Tattenham Corner
Riverside, street, Crown land and common land
385m ascent
Tattenham Corner to Leaves Green
Woods and commons, with many posts on Banstead Downs
814m ascent
Leaves Green to Erith
Fields and woods, streets and marshes
602m ascent

There is a spreadsheet to help plan walks on the Coal Tax Circuit. It allows you to choose end-points for days out (the start of a day is just the entry after an endpoint, so identifying a single day out needs two endpoints, one on the row prior to the start), and notes connections for buses, trains, etc.

There is also an overall PDF document with the entire path description (287pp), but without the maps.

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