The London LOOP is a 150 mile (242 km) circular walk that takes you through green areas on the edge of Greater London. My motivation for completing this is that I really enjoyed walking the Capital Ring, and wanted to set a more ambitious challenge.

Once again I am rating each section and listing good, bad, and unexpected moments.

The TfL website has official maps for the route, but I instead highly recommend this guidebook for detailed instructions and interesting historical tidbits.

On the whole, I enjoyed walking the LOOP more than the Capital Ring. That’s because a big part of walking for me is getting away from the hustle and bustle, and the LOOP is naturally quieter being further out from the centre. This also means that it takes longer to travel to.

Compared to the Capital Ring, the highs of the LOOP are higher and the lows are lower. The best parts of the LOOP (like spectacular views across the city) are amazing but the worst parts (like walking down an A road next to an asphalt plant) are dreadful. On some sections the bad parts cancel out the good parts, but on other sections, the walking is excellent all the way.

Table of Contents

# Section Rating
1 Erith to Old Bexley 2/10
2 Old Bexley to Petts Wood 8/10
3 Petts Wood to West Wickham Common 9/10
4 West Wickham Common to Hamsey Green 8/10
5 Hamsey Green to Coulsdon South 10/10
6 Coulsdon South to Banstead Downs 6/10
7 Banstead Downs to Ewell 2/10
8 Ewell to Kingston Bridge 2/10
9 Kingston Bridge to Hatton Cross 6/10
10 Hatton Cross to Hayes & Harlington 3/10
11 Hayes & Harlington to Uxbridge 8/10
12 Uxbridge to Harefield West 7/10
13 Harefield West to Moor Park 7/10
14 Moor Park to Hatch End 8/10
15 Hatch End to Elstree 6/10
16 Elstree to Cockfosters /10
17 Cockfosters to Enfield Lock /10
18 Enfield Lock to Chingford /10
19 Chingford to Chigwell /10
20 Chigwell to Havering-atte Bower /10
21 Havering-atte-Bower to Harold Wood /10
22 Harold Wood to Upminster Bridge /10
23 Upminster Bridge to Rainham /10
24 Rainham to Purfleet /10

1 - Erith to Old Bexley

Rating: 2/10

The Good:

Walking along the Crayford Marshes give a unique sense of isolation. It’s interesting to learn about the flood defenses, and in summer there are plenty of dragonflies to spot.

The Bad:

It’s a real shame that the first LOOP section is the most desolate and grim one. Much time is spent alongside noisy and smelly industrial yards, and the latter part of the walk is utterly forgettable. On the other hand, the atmosphere of the first half of the section is memorable and gives context to London and the rest of the walk, so my rating doesn’t feel wholly fair.

The Unexpected:

On my first attempt at the LOOP with friends a decade ago, a road repair crew was blocking off this pavement on the A2. It was impossible to reach the footpath without walking on the road, which we did, and got shouted at by the foreman for “walking dangerously”. Could that blue barrier be a leftover from his work?

2 - Old Bexley to Petts Wood

Rating: 8/10

The Good:

Foots Cray Meadows is absolutely beautiful. Besides that, there are many great moments and much variety on this section, including Sidcup Place Park, Scadbury Manor, and Petts Wood.

The Bad:

Foots Cray is an example of a village that would be really nice if it wasn’t dominated by busy roads. Later, you have to cross the big multi-level roundabout “Frognal Corner” - although I found the labyrinth of subways and bridges actually okay to traverse for just the one time.

The Unexpected:

A group of baby moorhens were waddling around the remains of Scudbury Moated Manor, how cute! Petts Wood has a sundial as a monument to William Willett, a leading advocate of daylight saving time, which I’m sure was a good idea a century ago but is a silly practice today.

3 - Petts Wood to West Wickham Common

Rating: 9/10

The Good:

From Farnborough onwards this section becomes sensational walking. Huge open spaces but always varied and interesting. By the time I had passed the Wilberforce Oak and reached Keston Ponds, I had not seen another human in 45 minutes! And that’s on a summer Saturday afternoon within Greater London. Maybe everyone had gone to the beach.

The Bad:

The track next to Shire Lane near Holwood Farm was overgrown with stinging nettles. Ouch.

The Unexpected:

I did not expect to catch a photo of this robin as I normally associate them with winter. I’ll reiterate just how surprised I was by how quiet this section was, even in Crofton Woods near Petts Wood I only encountered a single person. Coming back into Central London afterwards felt jarring.

4 - West Wickham Common to Hamsey Green

Rating: 8/10

The Good:

Spectacular views over London from Addington Hills. Heathfield House was lovely but the loop doesn’t dwell there for long. Overall, the section barely lets up in offering green space after green space.

The Bad:

The section has so many woods and hills, it lacks variety (like ponds/lakes).

The Unexpected:

I was taken by surprise by this horse-shaped fallen tree. I encountered it in the haunted Baker Boy Lane, where the section leaves Croydon and enters Surrey.

5 - Hamsey Green to Coulsdon South

Rating: 10/10

The Good:

Farthing Downs has simply the best view out of anywhere I’ve seen in my London walks. The rest of the walk is a great lead-up to it, with Riddlesdown Park, Kenley Common, Happy Valley, and Devil’s Den Woods. An outstanding walk all the way through.

The Bad:

The loop goes on a long northwards diversion around Riddlesdown Quarry. Because I was trying to get back before sunset, I decided to take a more direct route around the south of the quarry, marked on OpenStreetMaps. I soon discovered why this route is not part of the official walk.

The Unexpected:

My second detour was around the Kenley Aerodrome, which should perhaps be part of the official route. Despite the Ministry of Defence warning signs, there were families playing inside the airfield - which seemed odd given the scary signs. On a side note, it’s interesting just how much of the best woodland around here is owned by the City of London.

6 - Coulsdon South to Banstead Downs

Rating: 6/10

The Good:

Once this section gets going, it’s great, with a lot of variety, keeping you engaged. It’s a shame that more time isn’t spent in Oaks Park; I wandered into the main area and it was one of the better parks I’ve encountered.

The Bad:

The starting stretch is infuriating, spending half an hour going up residential roads, with green spaces beckoning from the sides which you don’t enter. When the trail finally gets off the road (pictured), it was overgrown and infested with flies. Later, crossing the A217 which divides Banstead Downs golf course is not a fun experience.

The Unexpected:

One moment I was fighting through an overgrown track, the next I was suddenly in the beautiful lavender fields of Mayfield Farm, teeming with amateur photographers. How nice.

7 - Banstead Downs to Ewell

Rating: 2/10

The Good:

Ewell has plenty of interesting historical buildings, and a quaint villagey vibe when you first emerge into it. The effect is soon spoiled by a number of busy roads, but at least it lasts for a few brief moments.

The Bad:

The first half of the section is spent walking on pavements in dull Surrey suburbia. Yes, half of the whole section.

The Unexpected:

Nonsuch Park is apparently heaven for dogs, with them running amok in greater numbers than I have seen in any other park. Unfortunately this made enjoying the lush surroundings more difficult.

8 - Ewell to Kingston Bridge

Rating: 2/10

The Good:

Hogsmill Open Space and Elmbridge Meadows are tranquil, and the approach into Kingston is pretty.

The Bad:

This stroll along the Hogsmill River starts pleasantly enough, but three necessary diversions from the riverside go on to ruin it. The first sees you miss the location where Millais painted his masterpiece Ophelia since the path disappears (pictured). The next sees you walk a fair way up the horrible A3 just to find a subway then walk all the way down again on the other side. The last sends you down dull roads past a sewage plant. To top it off, the signage throughout the section was in a poor state.

The Unexpected:

Kingston was packed and looked almost Mediterranean when I arrived there. A heron was watching under the bridge. It was nice after such a disappointing walk.

9 - Kingston Bridge to Hatton Cross

Rating: 6/10

The Good:

Bushy Park is beautiful, enchanting, full of wildlife, and without doubt one of the best experiences on the entire LOOP. Hounslow Heath is intriguingly wild.

The Bad:

The middle part really lets this section down with the large amount of residential walking. Still, it’s interesting watching the character of the streets slowly change between Hampton Hill (pictured) and Hounslow.

The Unexpected:

This boarded up and graffitied white building in Hounslow Cemetery, combined with the towering estates and planes overhead, gives the graveyard a spooky feel. Why do so many of the place names in this section begin with the letter “H”? Hampton, Hanworth, Hounslow, Heathrow, Hatton Cross…

10 - Hatton Cross to Hayes & Harlington

Rating: 3/10

The Good:

Cranford Park is lovely, with big open fields, red cows, a church, and a striking stable blockyard.

The Bad:

Several encounters with loud and busy roads overshadow the nicer parts of this short section. The route sends you 200 metres down the A4 just to walk through the unremarkable Berkeley Meadows, despite there being a cut-through around the back. Later you walk beside the even louder A312 next to an asphalt plant.

The Unexpected:

Hard to believe this idyllic scene is encountered just off the A30 nearby the huge British Airways engineering headquarters.

11 - Hayes & Harlington to Uxbridge

Rating: 8/10

The Good:

The Colne Valley Park stretch here is fantastic. After the pictured Little Britain Lake, it was quiet and picturesque for a long while. The canalside walking which makes up the bulk of this section is almost as good, and never overstays its welcome, with a fun diversion through a business park and golf course.

The Bad:

The Grand Union Canal at Hayes Town at the beginning of this section was in a grim state, full of litter, and with no bird life to be seen apart from a flock of morbid pigeons living under a bridge. To stay positive I’m using a picture from further up the canal instead.

The Unexpected:

Whoever dumped this near Packet Boat Marina does not have a healthy lifestyle. Shortly after, I had to scramble off the track as two inconsiderate dirt bikers came tearing down the towpath.

12 - Uxbridge to Harefield West

Rating: 7/10

The Good:

Plenty more pleasant walking alongside the Grand Union Canal, and the associated locks, marinas, and lakes near it.

The Bad:

Recognising that too much canalside walking on a narrow towpath can become monotonous, the route diverts off round Harefield Marina. However, I didn’t feel this diversion was justified; you get nice views of the lake but shortly turn off and have to walk down a road just to get back on the towpath again.

The Unexpected:

“Fran’s Tea Garden” next to Denham Deep Lock looked so quaint and inviting in the summer sun.

13 - Harefield West to Moor Park

Rating: 7/10

The Good:

Bishop’s Wood Country Park was somewhere I’d like to explore further, and the walking around it was good although a little hemmed in by the clearly marked private farmland all around. I got lost but it was worth it as I stumbled upon rows upon rows of foxgloves.

The Bad:

Across the road from the Rose and Crown pub at Woodcock Hill, a pack of assorted dogs came bolting over to the fence to bark furiously. Probably exactly what their owners wanted them to do. Shortly after, a tough-looking man had to fully exert himself to stop his slavering German Shepherd from charging at me. Later on, I saw somebody else almost become a victim of yet another unruly dog. What is wrong with the dogs around Harefield West?

The Unexpected:

The Moor Park Estate is almost comical in how exclusively it presents itself. So many signs, including an electronic one just to animate “No Through Road”. The estate sums up the vibe of this section for me, rather lovely yet deliberately unwelcoming.

14 - Moor Park to Hatch End

Rating: 8/10

The Good:

This section was great all the way through, featuring a golf course, expansive playing fields, quiet roads, lush woods, and a farm. Just when I thought it was a shame it lacked any really notable sights, the gorgeous Pinnerwood House appeared.

The Bad:

The anti-bike measures deployed throughout the section were both ineffective and slightly annoying. Towards the end, the stiles were in various states of disrepair.

The Unexpected:

I got stuck behind a family whose grandmother refused to cross a stile with a horse blocking the other side (not the same place/horse as pictured). The others tried to shoo it off but it wouldn’t budge. Eventually I got tired of waiting and climbed over, squeezing right past the horse, and after I politely said “excuse me” it moved away!

15 - Hatch End to Elstree

Rating: 6/10

The Good:

Aldenham Reservoir glistening in the summer sun. The woodland in the middle of the section (Grim’s Dyke and Harrow Weald Common) is very nice indeed. The trees are planted far apart, there’s hardly anyone about, the ground gently undulates, there’s history concerning W.S. Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan fame, and to top it off there’s a mysterious telecommunications station.

The Bad:

The beginning was so overgrown I could barely see the path. More generally, there’s a lot of walking along and crossing of busy roads in this section, which sadly interrupts the variety of pleasant areas.

The Unexpected:

At the end of the section in the woods just before Elstree. I had a strange encounter. I heard a harsh, derisive voice shout “are you married?” and saw a shirtless man walking briskly towards me. I passed him and headed towards the source of the shout, a lady just standing there wearing a hoodie and orange reflective sunglasses. She suddenly barked at me “don’t speak!” even though I certainly had no intention to. As I got closer, she asked “it’s a lovely day, isn’t it?” I ignored her and she started cursing at me. Charming.

16 - Elstree to Cockfosters

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17 - Cockfosters to Enfield Lock

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18 - Enfield Lock to Chingford

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19 - Chingford to Chigwell

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20 - Chigwell to Havering-atte Bower

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21 - Havering-atte-Bower to Harold Wood

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22 - Harold Wood to Upminster Bridge

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23 - Upminster Bridge to Rainham

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24 - Rainham to Purfleet

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