Very simply, this was attempt to walk across the whole of Greater London, east to west, at it’s widest points. I reckoned that this would take 3 days with each leg being approximately 13-15 miles. In Part 1 I walked from the farmlands of the eastern edge of the London Borough of Havering to Barking. In this leg I was hoping to get from Barking to somewhere west of Hyde Park.
Despite having lived in Barking for about 2 years I’d almost never been anywhere apart from the train station, the supermarket and my house. It was therefore a bit of a revelation to finally go down Barking High Street and find a few pleasant looking buildings and a church. I didn’t linger though and made my way to the London Road and was soon over Barking Creek and the A406 (North Circular) and into East Ham.
For this bit of my walk I decided to keep off of the main road and walk through the suburban streets. This meant that I got to see street after street of slightly down at heel terrace housing, broken by the odd newsagent, internet/mobile shop and (in)convenience store. In this way I passed East Ham, Upton park and Plaistow, the latter having quite a nice station building.
I then headed south-west getting nearly as far as canning town, where I wasn’t paying attention and actually walked well out of my way. I headed past Star Park and on into an industrial estate with some scary looking ‘Private Property’, ‘No entry’ signs. I’m normally someone who takes notice of these kind of signs but I also knew that the alternative way round would be miles so I decided to just go for it. As this was a Sunday, no-one was there and I didn’t get stopped. I’d picked this route as I wanted to see what the view was like over the River Lea/Limehouse Cut. As it turned out a bit dingy. I then found myself at the A12 which I hoped to find a pedestrian crossing at Bromley-by-Bow. I did find a crossing but it meant going up to the flyover and down again to use a tunnel and then up the flyover on the other side and down again. Phew. I was now in Tower Hamlets.
My route through the old East End was quite meandering and on the whole I was quite surprised by the mix of housing. There are clearly quite poor areas but these are next to a number of new builds and trendy looking houses. This was most marked when I was in Stepney Green and On one side of the road was a series of grand georgian town houses and on the other is a dog eared looking council block. Very odd.
The Mile End Road again had a mix of amazing old buildings and skuzzy looking mobile phone shops. I decided to get off the main road at Whitechapel and go by the back-streets until I got to Brick Lane. Here, of course, I came into the trendy, vintage clothe wearing set. I was very hungry by now as I’d been holding out to have a salt beef bagel at one of the brick lane bagel shops. It was delicious.
From the top of Brick lane I made my way over to the Boundary Road Estate which was built at the end of the 19th century and is one of the first pieces of social housing. It was built on the site of the notorious slum ‘The Old Nichol’. I have to say that it still looks very nice!
City of London
I walked past St Leonard’s church and across Shoreditch High Street and I was in the city. Again I decided to explore the back streets rather than the main thoroughfares, this time along Rivington Street. Crossing Great Eastern street I made my second navigation error of the day and went south on Paul Street and it was quite a while before I realised that I was not travelling east. I discovered my mistake and turned the right way into Finsbury Square. From there I skirted the Barbican and then up Whitecross Street (no market today) and on to Old Street. From here is was going to be a straight line for a while.
Old Street turned into Clerkenwell Road, then Theobald’s Street in a long stream of shops, pubs, café’s and houses. I was getting a bit tired by now but had a goal in my head to get a certain distance in the bag.
I turned into Oxford Street, a place that I’ve been down many times. This time, for the first time I looked up at the buildings (like a tourist) rather than the shops and was surprised about how many cool old buildings there were.
I turned off Oxford Street about half way along and walked on Wigmore Street that runs parallel. This eventually led to the eastern end of Hyde Park where I had a nice walk in the afternoon sunshine.
I finished my day at Queensway tube station at the north western corner of Hyde Park having walked 14 miles. A pretty tiring day!