One of the things I was most excited to start once we got back to London was the London LOOP, a 242km walking trail around the very edge of the city which is divided into 24 numbered sections. TfL provide a detailed walking guide for each one on their website and last Sunday we kicked off our long journey with Section 15 (Hatch End to Elstree). Then today we made an ambitiously early start for a Bank Holiday Monday to go back up to Elstree and pick up Section 16 to Cockfosters. Both of these sections were at the extreme end in terms of section length (16/17km) so after several hours of walking we were tired and eager for lunch, but it’s a really nice routine to get into and when we finally complete it all I’m not ashamed to admit that I will be printing off the certificate as a prize for myself. Check back in a year or so!
I’m not going to do exhaustive reviews of each walk – there are plenty of better blogs for that. But the first section really brought home to me some things which are pretty distinctive about this country… or at least very different to the US. At one point we tramped through a field which bordered the M1, for example, and it was so tiddly compared to any freeway which cuts through Chicago. You also wouldn’t find any public footpath there which cut through a private golf course, or passive aggressive signs which reluctantly acknowledge your legal right of way.
And, as ever, I’m filled with mixed emotions about the Green Belt. I’m proud that, as a Londoner, you can get on a train and be out in the countryside in half an hour. It’s no doubt a good thing that the city wasn’t allowed to sprawl forever into low-density suburbs. At the same time, I’m just really sad that Elstree South tube station will never exist, and the Northern line will never join up properly as it should have done. Still, so far on the walks we’ve been treated to a good mixture of fields, woods and playgrounds as well as quiet residential streets and outrageous mansions, and I suppose that concreting over many of these would have been the price for a more satisfying Tube map in the end.
Other than starting the LOOP – and, of course, lots and lots of phone calls with recruiters and job interviews – I’ve caught up with my uncle Andrew over a hearty lunch at Arthur’s Café (great place) and had a very meandering and enjoyable tea with Sally. My mum also bought tickets for us (along with Tash, Katie and Cormac) to see Small Island at the National Theatre. I read the book a few years ago and my memory of the plot was a bit hazy, which in some ways is the most enjoyable state of mind for watching an adaption because you have some references but also surprises. I really enjoyed the production, as well as the theatre itself.
Finally, Randi and I spent a morning traipsing around Clapham and Balham and admiring these new areas of London where we might be interested in living. Despite my hardwired aversion to South London it’s also true that I’m looking for somewhere new which we can both explore together, and I can confirm that both of these places seemed pretty… liveable. As attractive as open fields are, though, I can safely say that we won’t be going so far out to actually live on the LOOP 😉