The idea is fairly simple, to walk from East to West across Greater London at it’s widest points. Apart from the challenge of crossing the Capital on foot, for me it is also a chance to go to a few places where I’ve formerly lived.
After having a play with the ‘directions’ bit of Google maps, it looked like a walk across London could be done fairly comfortably in three days, with legs of around 13/14 miles. I grew up in the Borough of Hillingdon so it seemed fitting that I should end my walk there. This therefore meant starting at the easternmost boundary of the London Borough of Havering. Actually finding the boundary of Havering was harder than I thought, but I eventually nailed it down to being outside of the M25 and seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
I was keen to start my walk from outside of London which meant that I’d get the Train to West Horndon and walk west.
I walked out of West Horndon station to immediately find that, as I’d suspected, there was no pavement on the road towards London. This was a pain, and a tiny bit dangerous, but there was no other alternative so I steeled myself and got going. I found myself on a country road called St Mary’s Lane and I would be on it for quite a while, at least until Upminster. Whilst the Road had no pavement, there was usually some kind of verge and I was able to avoid any of the traffic.
The views for the first few miles were all farms, fields and the occasional glimpse of the train line. After walking for around 35 minutes and very much in the middle of nowhere, the sign I’d been looking for hove into view – Welcome to The Borough of Havering. This was it, the start of the journey proper and the moment was only slightly ruined by the sound of many dogs barking and yelping at the house next to the sign. A mile or two further on the next big milestone appeared, the M25. Crossing underneath the motorway, I found that I was still surrounded by countryside and when I eventually rolled into Cranham it was a bit of a belief. Civilisation and pavements were very welcome!
A little further up the road I came into Upminster and reckoned it was time for a short break and popped into a coffee shop for an espresso and a glass of water. I did feel a bit self conscious as it was a muggy day and I was a bit sweaty. I got over it and was soon on the way again. Upminster looked nice and suburban but the highlight was a cool looking Windmill.
Before I started I wondered how tempted I’d be about meandering about but as it turned out I mostly just kept to the main road through Upminster Bridge and then Hornchurch. I was then lured slightly off the beaten track by a short walk through Hornchurch Park. My memory of this part of my journey is of a sea of fairly bland suburban housing.
It was then on through the unremarkable Rush Green and then I was over the border into the Borough Of Dagenham and Redbridge. The town hall at least looked pretty cool.
One of the specific places I’d wanted to visit was the Becontree Estate. When it was built after the First World War it was the largest municipal housing estate in Europe. It has some 27,000 houses and over 100,000 residents but yet no ‘town centre’ as such. I found walking through it a strange experience as there were many properties well looked after and clearly loved right next to a place with a fridge in the garden and completely unkempt. There is an ominous uniformity to the style that goes on and on, in my case for nearly an hour.
At the end of the Becontree I entered Mayesbrook park and came out into the much more middle class looking Upney. From here it was was short walk to Barking where I chalked up my next special point, the street where I lived for two years. It was slightly weird to come back here but also nice to leave. This is Barking after all. At Barking station, I called it a day on Leg 1 and headed home.
Next time……it’ll be my journey from Barking to hopefully Kensington.