This might be the second shortest day on the Ring – the last day is a tiny bit shorter – but it's small and perfectly formed. Suburbia rubs shoulders with mediaeval buildings, while urban farms boast great city views, and the only problem with the whole day is that it's over before it really gets started. If you're in the mood for a longer walk, I highly recommend extending this day into parts of day 1 or day 3, especially if you're coming a long way to reach the Ring in the first place.
From the constant drone of the A2 at Falconwood, the Ring dives straight into a pleasant suburban park, complete with plenty of tennis courts and dog walkers. If you've just come from the first day of the Ring, you'll notice that the suburbs of Eltham, into which you are walking, are a notch above anything on day 1. Indeed, tucked away in the outskirts of these suburbs is Conduit Head, a tumbledown structure that turns out to be a Grade II listed piece of Tudor brickwork, an indication of the history that seeps through the area.
You might not spot this history along the particularly affluent stretch of North Place, where the houses are huge and the cars garishly ostentatious, and this exclusive theme continues right up to Eltham Palace, the principal country residence of the monarchy from the early 14th to the mid-16th centuries. The palace itself is ticketed – unfortunately I didn't have time to visit – but if you're a fan of things Tudor, don't miss the three cottages on the right just before the palace gates. They're gorgeous, and with the glimpsed views from the Ring of the pleasant palace gardens, you come away with the feeling that this is a rather special part of the world.
From Eltham Palace the Ring turns along a gravel track called King John's Walk and into farmland, though look over your shoulder and there's a great view of Canary Wharf and the Dome, a reminder that you're still well and truly in London. True to form, it's not long before you come to another suburban road and another row of houses, though because this is Eltham, they have rather pleasant rural names instead of numbers. Extending the feeling of a pleasant little corner of England, don't follow the Ring as it turns left down an overgrown path – instead, wander along the road for a few steps, and on your right you'll fine the Fairmount Residential Home, a fairly bland-looking house that turns out to have been the home of the famous cricketer W G Grace. Somehow I always saw him living in a cottage by the village green... but in London terms, I guess this is as close as you can get.
From here it's a short stroll to the end of the day's walk, past the sports fields of Eltham College and the pavilions of the City of London Sports and Social Club, and into the backstreets of Grove Park. It's a pity that it has to stop, but at least it leaves day 2 of the Ring as a great example of how pretty zone 4 can be. And that's not something you can say that often...