Marathon day: the Capital Ring and Dollis Valley

As I’ve probably mentioned before, I am far from fit and although I have lost some weight in the last few months I am still probably between two and three stone over my healthy weight. I lead an almost completely sedentary lifestyle and the LEJOG walk poses a real challenge – it’s been a very long time since I did any long distance paths and I am acutely aware that the start of LEJOG (2nd June) is now only a matter of seven weeks away. After yesterday’s satisfying but short walk, I decided I needed to do a longer walk (and one not completely on the flat), to up my mileage and test how well I coped with walking two days in succession.

Accompanied by a colleague, today’s route went from home in Leytonstone, following the Capital Ring route up as far as Hampstead Garden Suburb and then the Dollis Valley Greenwalk and cross-country to the Orange Tree in Totteridge. Google guesses that it’s about 18 miles but that doesn’t include some of the ins and outs of the route so I think it may have been slightly longer. It was a lovely route – I haven’t walked any of the Capital Ring before and it was a pleasure from start to finish. I’ve lived in London nearly all my life but today’s walk was almost entirely through green places that I had never been to and didn’t even know existed.

Today was the London marathon, and perhaps because of that the streets round Leytonstone and Stratford were almost deserted when I left home. I sauntered along enjoying the quiet and the sunshine, and was rewarded by the lovely feel of new grass underfoot on the pristine new playing fields which nobody is allowed to use yet. The river looked absolutely stunning in the sunshine:

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The Lee canal (apparently, for those who like me were wondering, the Lea Valley and Lee Navigation refer to the same area, but the convention is that the Lee refers to the manmade aspects such as the canal) was similarly quiet. There were a few rowers and I spotted the same canalboat I saw going through Stonebridge Lock yesterday, motoring slowly south in the warm sunshine.

After a contemplative intro, I joined my colleague at the cafe in Springfield Park – some excellent coffee and a great smoothie – and then we headed off. The walk went through lots of green bits of London that I had never visited or never heard of – Springfield Park, Abney Park and the Parkway (London’s longest nature reserve) were particularly lovely revelations – and it all felt surprisingly far removed from the streets not far away.

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We stopped for lunch at a pub in Highgate and then followed the Capital Ring route round through Hampstead Garden Suburb, before picking up the Dollis Valley Greenwalk and heading north.

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The woods all through the walk were filled with birdsong and spring flowers – bluebells, hawthorn, cherry trees, cowslips – and there were surprisingly few people around for most of the route. The only downside was finding, midway through the afternoon, that the chocolate I had carefully stored in my bag last night had been removed by my son – so no ‘pick me up’ snack! My lovely new boots (gradually getting more worn in) were a delight – no blisters or hot spots at all – although I haven’t worked out a solution to the ‘waterproof Goretex equals very hot and sweaty feet’ problem. I suspect that even more technical socks are the solution and am going to test a few.

We finished at the Orange Tree in Totteridge, where we sat on plastic chairs by the side of the pond and congratulated ourselves on a walk well done. Not a marathon, but a good day’s walk nonetheless.

Snapshots: A bright green parakeet in the trees by the edge of Hackney Marshes; weeping angels and broken columns on the graves in Abney Park; bluebells and wild garlic in Highgate Woods; a man in a Tendulkar shirt diving to catch a cricket ball in the local park; rainbow graffiti blending with the greenery on the disused railway arches along the Parkway; bright yellow kingcups at the pond’s edge; a cold glass of white wine in the afternoon sunshine. Lovely.

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