One of the great joys of walking in London is the striking contrasts you encounter within very short distances. It’s much more interesting than constant picturesque beauty, which can become very wearing after a while.
Walking with my good friend Kate yesterday, we came across industrial heritage, green fields, historic houses and urban grime all within a four mile stretch of the Capital Ring path between Osterley Lock and Richmond-upon-Thames.
I’ve walked the second half many times before, between Brentford and Richmond via Isleworth’s riverside Old Town (and the excellent London Apprentice pub). But the first section was full of surprises.
We met at Boston Manor’s cute little modernist station and wandered along its suburban main drag before turning off and suddenly plunging into woodland. The path follows the intertwined Grand Union Canal and river Brent, with various locks and weirs. It’s crossed by the M4, the constant thunder of traffic competing against the sound of aircraft turning overhead. Yet it’s also remarkably peaceful, with herons standing stock still on the riverbank and coots with their cute home-made island nests.
A short deviation from the route takes you to the impressive Jacobean Boston Manor, but if you prefer your architecture bland and modern then stick to the path and enjoy the dubious delights of the Glaxo headquarters building.
Just as you approach Brentford, the towpath suddenly veers into a huge shed, built to enclose narrow boats docking at Brentford Basin. With all the bland new apartment buildings that pass for ‘regeneration’ of the canalscape, it’s refreshing to see a structure that has been left to rot, delivering one of the most thrilling spatial experiences you can enjoy in this part of London.