Finland – Oulanka National Park
Date: 22 January 2018
Distance: 3 miles
Now for something completely different on my gap year adventure… snowshoeing in Lapland!
It. Is. Stunning. I’ve not really experienced this kind of snow or landscape before. I’ve seen films where the snow looks like glitter and always thought it was down to poor set design. I was wrong – the snow here twinkles and winks at you like it’s gleaming with hidden seams of gold. The low sun (it rose at 9.30am and set at 3pm) casts everything in a light that made me believe I was looking through rose-tinted glasses. The layers of clothing I had piled on made me look like a Nordic Winter version of the Stay Puft Marshmellow Man from Ghostbusters – but, occasionally cold finger tips and big toes aside, they kept me warm. Which is good because it’s been a chilly -18C here today. My eyelashes froze, as did any hair that wasn’t secured safely under my bobble hat.
I’d like to say I’m a natural at snowshoeing. I’m not; probably because of my ‘off roading’ , I sunk into some very deep patches of snow today with a regularity that no one else in the group managed. BUT… I loved it. Snowshoeing is definitely now on my list of things I like doing, and I’m looking forward to doing more of it next week – hopefully walking a little bit further than the three miles I managed today. Ace fun.
Capital Ring Walk – Day 5
Date: 20 December 2017
Walked From: Finsbury Park
Walked To: Woolwich Foot Tunnel
Distance: 16.5 miles
As today was the last chance I had to complete the Capital Ring before Christmas, I braved the dank, gloomy day to walk from Finsbury Park back around to the south side of the Woolwich Foot Tunnel (where the walk officially starts and ends) – a Thames crossing which has been used by London’s pedestrians for 105 years to pass between the north and south banks of our river, in an area where bridges are somewhat conspicuous in their absence.
I got muddy feet by the New River in Finsbury Park, admired the new urban space that’s been created next to the reservoirs in Hackney and enjoyed Stoke Newington’s super-posh benches in Clissold Park, as well as its atmospheric Abney Park Cemetery (where the founders of the Salvation Army, among many others, are buried).
I strolled through Stamford Hill, an area know for its large population of Orthodox Jews – past young boys wearing plastic bags over their heads to protect the black hats they were all wearing – and really enjoyed the long section of the walk along the River Lee Navigation, past Walthamstow and Hackney Marshes and the Olympic Park.
East London’s ‘Greenway’ – a walking and cycle route build on top of a massive above ground sewage pipe – took me another few miles and then it was a final waterside trot through the area near City Airport, with its weird mixture of smart looking high rise flats and neglected old jetties that look back to the area’s dockside past.
I’m now safely back on the ‘right’ (AKA ‘south’) side of the river and am heading home for a nice hot bath and a hot chocolate: the joys of winter walking! Happy Christmas x
Capital Ring Walk – Day 4
Date: 18 December 2017
Walked From: South Kenton
Walked To: Finsbury Park
Distance: 15 miles
The weather today was glorious – in a clear blue skies and winter sunshine kind of a way. Just the ticket for walking the north London section of the Capital Ring. Plus I had friends around for lunch yesterday, at which I managed to consume a huge amount of food and booze, so it made sense to walk it off…
I didn’t have high expectations of today’s route: I knew quite a lot of it was adjacent to to the North Circular (it has the dubious reputation of being the UK’s loudest road). But, perhaps because of the sunshine, it was actually really enjoyable. First up of note was Fryent Country Park (the name derives from a farm that used to be there, which was owned by a holy order of friars), then the rather lovely Welsh Harp reservoirs near Hendon, and the oddly twee Hampstead Garden Suburb, full of very well looked after handsome family-sized homes, many in that mock Tudor style that was so popular (you even see it in the US – although they just call it ‘Tudor’) in the early part of the last century.
After East Finchley I was back into some prime London walking; lovely Highgate and Queen’s woods (the latter had a cafe with a loo – there are usually still loos in the areas where wealthier Londoners live / walk their dogs. Otherwise they have all been closed because of funding cuts… perhaps less well off people don’t have to pee?) and then the fabulous Parkland Walk – London’s longest linear nature reserve no less, which follows an old railway line all the way into Finsbury Park. Another great walk exploring London.
Capital Ring Walk – Day 3
Date: 12 December 2017
Walked From: Richmond
Walked To: South Kenton
Distance: 18 miles
Today’s stage of the Capital Ring took me from leafy Richmond to suburban South Kenton, via some beautiful waterside paths and a couple of spectacular viewpoints. All accompanied with a healthy wintertime dollop of ice, some snow – and even sunshine at times.
I had company on today’s walk – my friend Peter (bet he didn’t originally envisage spending his day off walking around west London), who kindly paid for my lunch at a ‘two mains for £9.99’ type pub in ‘glamorous’ Greenford before we pushed on through the final seven miles of our leg-stretching stroll around the Capital.
Today’s route covered sections 7-9 of the Capital Ring walk (all of which can be downloaded as very good PDFs from the TfL website) and it has some cracking sections: the watery bit alongside the Thames and the River Brent, the lovely grounds of Syon Park and Harrow School, and the views of London from Horsden Hill and Harrow on the Hill, a part of London dominated by the famous public school and the gentlemen’s outfitters (and other echoes of an imagined genteel past straight out of the Victorian era) that go with it. ‘‘Twas a good walk indeed!
Capital Ring Walk – Day 2
Date: 8 December 2017
Walked From: Crystal Palace Park
Walked To: Richmond
Distance: 19 miles
It was, by London standards, freezing today. But there was also a beautiful blue winter sky and some of the finest walking in London – including Europe’s largest urban park (nope, I didn’t know that about Richmond Park until today either).
Today’s start was the most convenient one I’ll get on the Capital Ring – Crystal Palace is just a 20 minute bus ride (I could have walked, but bearing in mind it would have been on top of an already long walking day I decided to splurge on the bus fare…) away from where I live.
The other good thing about Crystal Palace is that it’s one of the best places in London for fantastic views of the city – a nicer starting point than the Woolwich foot tunnel on a grey and murky day. Streatham Common was resplendent in the sunshine, Wandsworth Prison (where Ronnie Biggs escaped from two years after being sentenced for the 1960s Great Train Robbery) was as forbidding looking as ever, and the windmill on Wimbledon Common seemed as incongruous as always. However, for all the interesting things you pass on this section, it really is Richmond Park that wins all the awards; beautiful scenery, some ancient trees (over 700 years old) and lots and lots of deer. So many, in fact, that there were signs up at the entrance warning of the ongoing deer cull in the park to keep their numbers down. Can’t they go and work for Father Christmas instead? I know they aren’t ‘quite’ reindeer but their antlers really are VERY impressive!
Capital Ring Walk – Day 1
Date: 6 December 2017
Walked From: Woolwich Foot Tunnel
Walked To: Crystal Palace Park
Distance: 18 miles
How do you follow up an iconic pilgrimage walk across Spain and a high altitude trek up to Everest Base Camp? By redoing a 79 mile circular walk around London’s parks and green spaces, obviously.
The Capital Ring spends much of its first 18 miles winding through a remarkable amount of woodland in southeast London. On a dry, early winter’s day, the woods are still clinging on to some of their autumn colour, the pathways carpeted in (perfectly brittle sounding) leaves.
It also passes some fine architecture – including Eltham Palace (above), which has its very own moat, and Beckenham Place, a lovely Georgian building in grounds with sweeping views in parkland that wouldn’t be out of place in the countryside.
Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 12
Date: 23 November 2017
Walked to: Lukla
Distance: 8 miles
Altitude: Sleeping at 2,800m
As the old wallpaper advert of the 1980s proclaimed, ‘what goes up must come down’. And lo, so did I – even if a lot of today actually involved gaining height rather than losing it, as we made our way to the tea house by the side of the startlingly short and sloped airport runway at Lukla in readiness for catching our flight back to Kathmandu first thing tomorrow morning.
Today was blissfully easy walking as my lungs cruised along at under 3,000m. Climbing was almost fun again. I could move at a fair old clip. It was like walking normally is when you aren’t wandering along at altitudes higher than some planes fly at (like our flight tomorrow, for example…). The ‘highway’ was full of school children and donkeys today, as well as the porters carrying their unbearably heavy looking loads up the mountains. When there’s only one road up/down, and that road happens to be a rocky and precarious hillside path interspersed with swaying chain metal suspension bridges, it can get jam packed at times.
The final walk into Lukla was an assault on the senses, as we suddenly hit a concentration of housing, shops, so-called bars and even a pool hall clustered along the mountainside, the footpath full of recalcitrant yaks and donkeys… and people; what felt like lots of people. Time to end this adventure – and start plotting the next (half) gap year adventure. Watch this space!