Transport to and from the path
With London the hub of the nation’s transport network, you won’t have any trouble travelling to the capital. And once you’re in the capital, you won’t have any trouble bouncing back out to the capital’s outer reaches in order to pick up the trail. But be warned: though the services are frequent, it can take an hour or two to travel from one part of London to another.
Transport along the London Outer Orbital Path
The London Transport network is vast, complex and far-reaching. One vital bit of kit to take along is your smartphone. The TfL (Transport for London) website has updates on train and bus times; best of all, type in where you are and where you want to go and they’ll come up with the quickest route. It’s very clever!
Walking the LOOP with a dog
It’s not a problem taking your dog along the LOOP, though you may not be able to let him or her off the lead as much as you can on most other walks. There’s a lot of traffic, of course, but several of the parks also ask that you keep your dogs on a lead.
If your dog struggles to behave when joggers run past, or there are other dogs around, or in crowds, or on public transport, then the LOOP is not the best trail for them.
There is also one place on the trail where dogs are not allowed at all. The Woodland Gardens of Bushy Park are off-limits; luckily, there is an alternative trail that hugs the fence of the Gardens.
One more thing: don’t forget your poo bags. You’ll be doing a lot more pavement walking on this route than on others and the local residents won’t take too kindly to your hound decorating their walkways.
So where might I get lost? The biggest difficulty with walking the LOOP is finding your way. Unlike nearly all the other trails on this site, there are a lot of people who live on or near the LOOP. Unfortunately, that also means you’re more likely to find someone who takes great pleasure in stealing footpath signs, or defacing them, or, perhaps worst of all, adjusting them so they point in the wrong direction.
We’ve been informed that the Inner London branch of the Ramblers Association are taking over the maintenance of the LOOP – and its little sister, the Capital Ring – and hopefully so we can look forward to better signage along the trail. But
So we still think our book will be invaluable for navigation. Because during the research of this book, we separated from the trail countless times, and many were the hours we spent trudging around a field scanning the horizon for a signpost. Annoying at the time, at least it enabled us to discover precisely where hikers are likely to lose their way – and provide detailed instructions on the map to prevent future walkers from doing so.
Or to put it another way: we got lost, so you don’t have to.
Camping and accommodation along the London Outer Orbital Path
Most LOOP walkers live in London, and so won’t be requiring any accommodation. But for those who do, please note the following:
There’s little to no camping along the LOOP. Leave your tent at home.
There aren’t many hostels along the way either, but it doesn’t cost much time or effort to catch a train or tube into Central London where you’ll find plenty.
As for B&Bs and hotels, there are several along the way, and some have some history too. We point out the more intriguing ones in the book. If you’re on a budget, you may find the accommodation offered by the national chains such as Travelodge (who also allow dogs, though for £20 a stay) to be both great value (rooms start at around £29, though you need to book in advance) and they have places dotted all along the trail.
Facilities along the London Outer Orbital Path
Supermarkets, banks, trekking stores you won’t have to walk far before you come across them. The stages usually end near shops. Usually, but not always. That’s no great hardship if the stage is only 3 or 4 miles, but is slightly more galling if the stage is 10 miles or more or if, as happens on a couple of occasions, there are no stops at the stage’s end. So do make sure you read up about your day’s walk before you set off, just so you know whether you need to take provisions with you or can pick them up en route or at the end of your hike.
I suppose the biggest danger on the trail is other people. Though most of the time the civilisation you visit on the LOOP is, well, very civilised, some bits, it’s fair to say, aren’t. I don’t think it’s fair to mention all of the more insalubrious places the trail passes through – though if I ever set foot in Cranford again it’ll be too soon. Suffice to say, there are some rough edges to London, and it might be wise to be off the trail before night falls – these pleasant parks, waterways that you pass through take on a much more menacing aspect after dark.
- It’s not worth rushing through the LOOP. There is a lot to see and plenty of pleasant cafes, pubs and parks where it’s nice to eat, sit and sunbathe for a while. Indeed, treating the LOOP as a series of ‘picnics’ bookended by some hiking is not a bad idea.
- Take a book to read on the train or tube on the way to/from the trail – sometimes it takes a long time to get to/from the trail.
- Take your smartphone with you and download the TfL app.
- On that subject, don’t buy single tickets at train stations – just tap your payment card on the barriers on the way into the station. You’ll save a lot of money that way (as long as you remember to tap out again afterwards).
- Finished the LOOP and want a similar challenge? The Capital Ring is like a concentric circle to the LOOP, lying wholly within the LOOP but still outside of Central London.