London Loop

The London Outer Orbital Path (LOOP) is, as its name says, a path around the outside of London. It runs for about 240 kilometres (150 miles). Conceived in 1990, it was fully opened in 2001, though the signposting on some sections remains poor or non-existent, despite what the glossy publicity says. The LOOP is widely known as the London Loop (a name suffering from RAS Syndrome), as shown in its official logo.

Officially it starts at Erith on the south bank of the Thames, but I decided that I would start at Enfield Lock, our nearest official stage starting point. My plan was that if I did all of it, I didn't want to finish at Coldharbour Point*, which sounded anticlimactic (though having since been there, I don't think it is, if approached in the right frame of mind), and finishing back at Enfield, through some familiar territory, sounded interesting. I also started at Enfield Lock itself, rather than at the railway station, as that isn't an inspiring finishing point, either. I set myself the target of doing it all in 2006, the first time I have set out systematically to do a long-distance walk in stages like this.

The LOOP lends itself to doing this, as it was designed in such a way that all the stage end points are accessible by public transport, mostly by train or Tube, with all but one being inside Travelcard zone 6.

(*  See my note at the end of walk 4 for more on the ending of the LOOP at Coldharbour Point.)

My walks on the LOOP

Date Official stages From / to With Distance Time Ascent
14 January 2006 most of 18, 19 Enfield Lock to Chigwell George 12.0km 3 hours 10 mins 219 metres
28 January 2006 20, half of 21 Chigwell to Noak Hill George 13.8km 3 hours 40 mins 220 metres
5 February 2006 half of 21, 22 Noak Hill to Upminster Bridge George 10.7km 2 hours 35 mins 85 metres
25 February 2006 23, 24 Upminster Bridge to Coldharbour Point Henry 11.8km 3 hours 25 mins 56 metres
5 March 2006 1 Erith to Bexley Henry 13.3km 3 hours 40 mins 100 metres
19 March 2006 2 Bexley to Petts Wood George 10.9km 3 hours 15 mins 143 metres
9 April 2006 3 Petts Wood to West Wickham George 13.2km 3 hours 50 mins 227 metres
22 April 2006 4 West Wickham to Hamsey Green George & Ellie 14.1km 4 hours 20 mins 412 metres
28 May 2006 5 Hamsey Green to Coulsdon Henry 11.6km 3 hours 10 mins 254 metres
25 June 2006 6 Coulsdon to Banstead Henry 8.3km 3 hours 5 mins 204 metres
9 July 2006 7, 8 Banstead to Kingston George 19.2km 5 hours 10 mins 105 metres
29 July 2006 9 Kingston to Hatton Cross (Donkey Wood) Henry 15.9km 4 hours 40 mins 128 metres
27 August 2006 10, 11 Hatton Cross (Donkey Wood) to Uxbridge George 19.3km 5 hours 40 mins 105 metres
3 September 2006 12, half of 13 Uxbridge to Woodcock Hill, Harefield Henry 12.0km 3 hours 50 mins 164 metres
10 September 2006 half of 13, 14 Woodcock Hill, Harefield to Hatch End Ellie 10.3km 3 hours 15 mins 192 metres
23 September 2006 15 Hatch End to Elstree Ellie 14.7km 4 hours 20 mins 233 metres
7 October 2006 16 Elstree to Cockfosters Henry 18.7km 5 hours 10 mins 337 metres
15 October 2006 17, bit of 18 Cockfosters to Enfield Lock George 15.6km 4 hours 35 mins 208 metres

George did 128km (52%), Henry 91km (37%), and Ellie 39km (16%) - I had both George and Ellie for one walk, hence the sum to 105%.

London Loop stage by stage

The following table summarises the 15 days or 24 sections of the LOOP in David Sharp's guidebook and Transport for London's summary, respectively. (The distances are as given "officially": the TfL distances are sometimes significantly inaccurate; as I walk each section, I have shown the distance on that page..)

8.5 mi Day 1 Erith Section 1 13.5 km
Old Bexley
7.25 mi Day 2 Section 2 11.5 km
Petts Wood (Jubilee Park)
9 mi Day 3 Section 3 14.4 km
West Wickham
8.5 mi Day 4 Section 4 14.4 km
Hamsey Green
10 mi Day 5 Section 5 9.6 km
Coulsdon South
Section 6 7.2 km
Banstead Downs
10.75 mi Day 6 Section 7 6.4 km
Section 8 11.7 km
9 mi Day 7 Section 9 13.6 km
Hatton Cross (Donkey Wood)
10.5 mi Day 8 Section 10 6.1 km
Hayes & Harlington
Section 11 11.7 km
9.25 mi Day 9 Section 12 7.2 km
Harefield West
Section 13 7.7 km
Moor Park
11.5 mi Day 10 Section 14 6.1 km
Hatch End
Section 15 13.3 km
Elstree & Borehamwood
10.5 mi Day 11 Section 16 16.8 km
8.5 mi Day 12 Section 17 13.3 km
Enfield Lock
8 mi Day 13 Section 18 6.5 km
Section 19 6.4 km
10.75 mi Day 14 Section 20 9.6 km
Havering atte Bower
Section 21 6.9 km
Harold Wood
11.75 mi Day 15 Section 22 6.9 km
Upminster Bridge
Section 23 6.4 km
Section 24 7.2 km

London Loop links

  • Walk London's excellent page with free leaflets with excellent maps and directions. You can order the printed leaflets, but most people who can access the website presumably print their own off. They are very good, though sometimes they make distortions of scale and angles, which makes them confusing when compared with the OS maps, and the compass rose pointing north isn't always accurate.
  • The London Loop by David Sharp, the guidebook to the route - a 15-stage version. The 2nd edition was published in June 2006 - as I had the 2001 edition, I can't comment on the revised edition other than to say that in the first edition the directions are very clear and the supplementary information is interesting.  I've heard only two other opinions on it so far, one that it is excellent, the other that it is too vague. It does have a habit of saying "after a while" or "soon", which is rather vague, but in practice it is pretty clear most of the time, but not 100% precise or accurate.  In the winter, when it slipped into a coat pocket, it was convenient; in the summer, the folding leaflet is perhaps handier for a trouser pocket - eventually I ended up doing colour photocopies of the book and printing out those I needed each day, which folded up nicely for a trouser pocket. The maps and text are firmly linked together, so it is easy to follow.
  • Mark Moxon's account of walking the Loop in 15 straight days makes for interesting reading, conflicting fascinatingly with some of the more exotic places he has been on walking trips.
  • Tim Bertuchi's account also covers the Loop in the 15 stages of David Sharp's book, this time taking a year to do it. 
  •, where the authors covered the LOOP in just 8 days.

Home Up Angles Way Capital Ring Chiltern Chain Walk Hertfordshire Chain Isle of Wight Coast Path Lea Valley Walk London Loop Mid-Suffolk Footpath New River Path Norfolk Coast Path North Downs Way Peddars Way Ridgeway South West Coast Stour & Orwell Walk Stour Valley Path Suffolk Coast Path Thames Path Yorkshire Wolds Way