London Peace Walk Blog
A few months ago some of us at St Thomas More RC parish decided to do the London Loop, a long distance footpath around the outskirts of London. It’s around 150 miles long, and can be done in long or short sections. I had a rather idealistic notion: firstly, I wanted us to do it for peace, as a way of praying for the city, leading up to the 2012 Games. But there is no tradition of the London Loop as a spiritual pilgrimage path. It is not a walk to Walsingham, or the Camino de Santiago de Compostella.
Walking the London Outer Orbital Path (the LOOP for short) is a great way to get to know London better. At nearly 152 miles (245 km), some like to think of it as the ‘M25 for walkers’ — but it’s a world away from the motorway and has been thoughtfully divided into 24 well marked, bite-sized stages.
Can you find a way to add a peace dimension...?
Walks 1 & 2 My friends were interested in the walk, but didn’t quite see how it was religious in any way. So we chose our first two stretches, Kingston Bridge to Hatton Cross, and then Hatton Cross to West Drayton, simply as pleasant excursions.
Day1: The first outing, on a clear frosty day in early Spring, we discovered delightful sections, such as Bushy Park with its deer, and the River Crane, and the vast expanse of Hounslow Heath.
Day 2: was rather wet and damp, sadly for our one new recruit, and though the Grand Union Canal was in parts picturesque, we made slower progress. Two pressed ahead to Uxbridge, while two of us plodded through persistent drizzle to West Drayton.
Where’s the peace? No great inspiration came to us about peace - the opposite, in fact. On the first walk, as we climbed the path from the Crane river onto a busy dual carriageway behind Heathrow Airport, a woman asked us, ‘Are you foreigners? There has been a murder down on that path, and the police have told us not to use it.’ On the second outing, as we walked along the towpath of the canal, we were looking forward to stopping at a pub nearby for refreshment, but were disappointed to see it surrounded by barriers, and inaccessible. There had just been a stabbing, and it had become a scene of crime. We hoped these episodes would not become a regular feature in these areas which seemed so leafy and calm.
Barbara Kentish is walking the LOOP for Peace in London. Here she describes what prompted her...