London LOOP Epilogue – Farewell London

Published 22 June 2016

The skyscrapers of London, seen from Cuckold's Hill
The skyscrapers of London, seen from Cuckold’s Hill, near Enfield

“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”

Were the words of Samuel Johnson ever actually true? In the 21st century, there are plenty of intellectual people leaving London, and there’s a part of me unconvinced that there weren’t good enough reasons for leaving the capital back in the 18th century too.

People leave for all sorts of reasons. There’s the desire to live somewhere a little less noisy and hectic. Others want to be closer to their family. And in recent years, there’s been an exodus caused by the simple desire to be able to afford a house fractionally bigger than a postage stamp.

My partner Catherine and myself had chatted about leaving the London for years, although it wasn’t until one damp November day that a move began to look serious. For on that one day, I handed my notice. A month later I was unemployed.

The ins and outs of why I quit that job, I won’t bore you to death with, but needless to say, you don’t often leave a job that you’re enjoying, especially when – as I did – you have no replacement work lined up, or have some other grand plan like travelling the world or something.

The River Thames at Kingston-upon-Thames
The LOOP crosses the mighty River Thames at Kingston

Slowly it began to dawn on us that we were no longer tied to London for work. Catherine was self-employed and could work from anywhere. And I was sure I’d be able to find something if we left. It was the perfect time to leave. We could go anywhere. It was just a matter of deciding where to go.

And that’s a tough call. When you can go anywhere – absolutely anywhere at all – where do you choose?

We didn’t know.

So we prevaricated, and then an old colleague got in touch and suddenly I had a job again. London clearly wasn’t keen on letting me go any time soon.

The seeds though, had been sown. It was no longer a matter of if we’d move, but when.

And that was why I began walking the London Outer Orbital Path.

View of Canary Wharf from Addington Hill
View of Canary Wharf from Addington Hill

There were many things I’d never done in London. I’d always wanted to watch the Thames Barrier close, but never had. Neither had I been to Brick Lane at 3am to buy a freshly baked bagel. And I love bagels. And I had a list of mile long of pubs I wanted to visit.

But it was the LOOP that I decided I needed to do before leaving. Walking the LOOP would allow me to explore different parts of the city that I’d barely seen, and chance to see what the capital offered beyond its central core. I felt like I needed to know and see that London wasn’t just insane numbers of people, huge traffic jams, and a massive river. I wanted, nay, needed to see a different side of the place I’d called home for sixteen years. But most of all, it would be my grand finale; a farewell tour as it where. And when I’d done it, I’d be able to leave London and fully embrace a new era in my life.

And the LOOP did all that.

No, as a walk, it wasn’t perfect. There was far too much litter for starters, that section to Elstree drove me round the bend, and as for that bit where the LOOP went round a business park… But on the other side, I got to see the Wilberforce Oak, to enjoy some surprisingly tranquil scenes near Heathrow, and to disrupt a herd of deer in a housing suburban estate.

It gave me a fresh insight to the area I’d called home since 1999. I saw that it had so much greenery. I found it had lots of farms, and many wonderful country pubs too. I discovered many rivers, and saw the beauty of its only lavender field, and enjoyed some amazing views.

Walking the LOOP was like being a tourist again, in a place I’d lived in for so long; an ideal way on which to close one era on my life. And if that was not the perfect way to say goodbye to London, I really didn’t know what was.

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