16 Cracking Sights You’ll Never Forget About Walking the London LOOP

Published 7 December 2016

LOOP sign in trees, on Harrow Weald Common
Harrow Weald Common

Talk about great walks in London, and some people will laugh at you. But they are wrong. London has some great scenery, and much of it can be found on one of its major walking routes: the London Outer Orbital Path, or LOOP.

And if you walk it, you’ll find plenty brilliant things on your journey. There will be many wonderful sights, including these:

1. Standing on a pleasure pier

Erith Pier
All the fun of the seaside at Erith Pier.

A pleasure pier, in London? Well Erith is a former resort town. Yes, that’s right, a resort town on the banks of the Thames, and the town’s pleasure pier was first opened in 1842.

Although the town’s role as a leisure destination, the pier continued in commercial usage. But some things go round in circles and the concrete replacement of the wooden original was re-opened to the public in the 1990s. Now you can stand quite far out in the Thames. Yes, it all looks a bit grim at low tide, with the mud oozing around the pier’s struts, but it’s still a sight to behold, and an experience to enjoy.

2. Tranquil waterside locations

The River Cray at Foots Cray Meadow
Water flows!

The LOOP spends a lot of time near the water, be it rivers, streams, lakes or canals. Some of them are a bit grim looking, but others provide wonderful locations to sit in an oasis of calm and tranquillity, and just watch the world go by.

3. Curiously named roads

Road sign for Tent Peg Lane
Next door to Guy Rope Alley.

Well why would you not call a road ‘Tent Pag Lane’?

4. A sense of history

The remains of the Wilberforce Oak tree
The remnants of a tree.

On your walk round the LOOP you’ll find a rather significant oak tree, or at least the remains of it.

It was under the tree’s branches in 1787, that one William Wilberforce declared to the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, his intention to abolish the slave trade in Britain.

The tree itself was hit by lightning so isn’t in much of a state these days. But there is a commemorative bench, a lovely view and a real sense of history about the place.

5. A lot of walks in the woods

Woodland of Harrow Weald Common
The enchanting Harrow Weald Common

London’s a concrete wasteland, isn’t it? The chances of finding enchanting woodland are absolutely zero.

Or so they say.

6. Amazing views towards the City

Skyscrapers and towers of the City of London, seen from Havering
Views like this always make me think of sci-fi films where the protagonist has to get to a city from a desert.

You stand looking out over an area of that seems to spread for miles and miles around. And then, there in the middle, shimmering rather in the haze are the skyscrapers, all glimmering in the light like it’s out of some sort of sci-fi movie or something.

But this isn’t some desert in America, and you’re not staring at Los Angeles. No. That’s the suburban sprawl of London; the tower blocks are of Canary Wharf and the City of London. And this isn’t fiction. This is the LOOP. And it’s mighty fine.

7. Places that just make you feel extremely happy

A bench in Happy Valley
Be happy in Happy Valley.

How could being in a beautiful place called Happy Valley not lift your heart even just a little bit?

8. Stepping out into the unexpected

Mayfield Lavender field in full bloom.
It’s an explosion of purple!

How many walks can you do in Britain where you can get to the edge of a field populated only by a glum looking horse, cross a style hidden in some trees and then find yourself suddenly immersed in a field of purple lavender, full of Japanese tourists?

Well if there’s another walk where this happens, I have yet to do it.

9. So many great parks

Leg of Mutton Pond in Bushy Park with multiple willow trees in the background.
Weeping willow trees surround a pond in Bushy Park

Believe it or not, there’s lots of parks in Greater London and some of them are special, so very special indeed. Whether it’s Crane Bank Water Meadows or Nonsuch Park you’re walking through, you’ll be sure to be experiencing some of London’s finest parkland.

10. Deer!

A group of deer in Bushy Park.
Deer in Bushy Park

Yes, we all know there’s deer in London. I mean, the Royal Park that is Richmond Park is full of them. Not that Richmond Park is on the LOOP, but Bushy Park (another Royal Park) is and that has plenty of them too.

But that’s not the only deer you might find on the LOOP. For if you’re really lucky you might come across some in a suburban housing estate in the east of London. I found them running past several semi-detached houses in Harold Hill.


11. Accidentally stumbling upon a truly amazing pub

The very heavily filled interior of the Roebuck Inn - including a bus stop on the wall.
Wouldn’t want to be the person to have to dust this lot!

There are many rather naff pubs in London. And there are many good ones too. You don’t always know what you’re going to get though when you open the door. But when you open a door and find a pub that has its own bus stop, well you know you’re in for a treat. The Roebuck pub in Hampton Hill, is certainly not one to miss.

12. Walking under aeroplanes

A plane flies low over Hounslow Heath
A plane flies over Hounslow Heath

Truthfully, Heathrow Airport is not one of my favourite places to be. In fact I really don’t like the place. It’s all too big, too stressful, too boring. The only time I’ve ever felt excited at any airport was when I got there and found that British Airways had upgraded me to Premium Economy.

Thankfully the London LOOP doesn’t go into Terminal 5, although it does go near the airport. Very close in fact. Right under the flight path in fact. And that means that as you’re walking along the LOOP, you can stare up and admire the undercarriages of 747s and so on.

13. Art

Pipe based art work at Ingrebourne Hill
One art please!

Be it strange tree sculptures or curious collections of metal pipes, what is there not to love about public art on a walking route?

14. Crime and punishment

Stocks and whipping post at Havering-atte-Bower
Stocks and whipping post at Havering-atte-Bower

Get your rotten tomatoes ready, it’s time for some public humiliation!

Hang on, what’s that? The use of the stocks and whipping post haven’t been a punishment for crime for centuries? Well why is this one still here?

15. Remnants of war

A Tett's Turret in Hornchurch Country Park
Remnants of World War II litter Hornchurch Country Park, including several Tett’s Turrets like this

Thankfully the days of war in Europe are long gone, helped by the fact that the countries of Europe started working together for a common goal, deciding it truly is better to put aside their differences and to work together to make the world a better place.

The countryside of the south of England is a reminder that we didn’t always have it so good. There are several areas on the LOOP where the gently decaying concrete of World War II defences can be found, and you even get to walk past the place where RAF Fighter Command was based during the Battle of Britain.

But nowhere will you find so many reminders of war than at Hornchurch Country Park, where you’ll find Tett Turrets and pillboxes aplenty.

It’s hard not to stare at them and think of the military personnel who would have had to use them.

16. Returning to the beauty of the Thames

Coldharbour Point - the original ending of the LOOP
Coldharbour Point – the original ending of the LOOP

The Thames. The mightiest of rivers. The waterway that made London. It’s where the LOOP starts, and it’s where the trail ends too. And it’s splendid.

Yes the LOOP may end in the shadow of a rice factory near a former rubbish dump, but the Thames is still majestic. Your journey is ending, and you’re doing it in style.


Matthew King

7 December 2016 at 8:06 am

You could easily add the site of the Battle of Barnet and the discarded WW2 barges near Rainham to the list. I have fond memories of doing the LOOP and discovering all that unexpected stuff. I also especially remember the field after field of buttercups near Botany Bay. Great path, much underrated.

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

7 December 2016 at 9:07 am

I can’t deny that the barges were a very strong contender. To watch them gently decaying in the river, topped with gulls and other birds, as the bright springtime sun glared off the Thames, was certainly something I won’t forget. Rightly or wrongly, I left them out as I’d already included two other items from my final walk. Plus I may need material for a follow-up!

And yes, I’d say it’s an underrated walk too. I’m glad I did it.

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