At the start of the London LOOP

Published 10 May 2020

The LOOP starts at a railway station in Erith. The trail is well connected like that. Whoever designed it did it in such a way that it goes past as many train and tube stations as possible. And even some bus stops.

It’s a nice enough train station, but it’s just a railway station. Also I don’t have a photograph of it. So I’m taking a bit of a liberty here and showing you something near to the start of the LOOP. Something that is a little more exciting and interesting. Something that is quite unusual to find in an urban location.

Erith’s pleasure pier.

During the Victorian era Erith had a short period as a resort. There were gardens, a promenade, and – in 1842 – a pleasure pier.

Then in 1865 a sewage pumping station opened a few miles away at Crossness. Raw sewage from the capital was dumped into the Thames not that far from Erith. For some reason – and I don’t really understand why – it started putting off the visitors.

(Useless fact – in 1899 the pumping station engines were upgraded by Goodfellow and Co, based in the town of Hyde, in what is now Greater Manchester. Which happens to be where I grew up.)

With the tourists gone, the wooden pier found a new lease of life for loading coal barges. Eventually it was replaced by a new concrete pier.

And so it was until the 1990s when the barges loaded up for the final time and the pier closed.

The Thames east of the City of London is littered with several piers that are now redundant. They sit slowly, quietly decaying. But they are usually piers in industrial areas. Erith’s was right next to the town. Someone came up with the idea of converting the concrete pier to leisure use. And things went full circle.

It’s not exactly a tourist destination. No one’s going to come for miles around to see it. But for those in the area, it’s a nice spot to stroll on. To get the air. Maybe do a spot of fishing.

And it’s a lot more interesting than a railway station.


Vic Flange

10 May 2020 at 10:11 am

The starting point must depend on which book you use. Back in 2012, I used the Aurum Press guide (author, David Sharp), which has the start at Riverside Gardens. The book notes the designated link to the station though. As you point out, the LOOP (much like its relation, the Capital Ring) are well connected to public transport.

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

11 May 2020 at 8:56 am

I pulled out my original 2001 copy of the Guide Book, to double check what it says. The map does show the section between station and Riverside Gardens as being “station link”. The text says “So you first set foot on the London LOOP at Erith Station.” The PDF on Transport for London’s website shows the first section clearly starting at the station, and doesn’t distinguish between station links and the main route, and the Ordnance Survey map shows a green diamond coming down from the station road with no idea whether that’s the LOOP or something else. So that’s all clear then.

Although as I don’t have a picture of the Riverside Gardens either, I won’t worry too much about it!

Vic Flange

11 May 2020 at 3:52 pm

He he, devil’s in the detail, eh? Can’t say I’m too worried about it. That said.. how about a new quango to properly designate termination points of named walking trails so authors start/finish at the same place? :-)

Oh, and they can put meaningful markers/statues/public art at these points too. I know you have been similarly disappointed to find that your miles of effort are rewarded with zilch: “Err, well this must be the finish point then.” Nice to have some recognisable end point.

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