Whereas the theme for day 13 is the canal walking of the Lee Navigation, day 14 is decidedly more urban, though in a rather detached manner. Before this kicks in, though, there's still one small stretch of the Navigation to enjoy as it heads south to the Thames.
Perhaps 'enjoy' is pushing it a bit, though, as the regeneration of the Olympic Village isn't confined to the east bank; no, there are plenty of cranes and scaffolding-clad buildings on the west bank too, so the short stretch of the Ring from Hackney Wick to the start of the Greenway is a great example of the old being crushed by the concrete boots of the new. The old factories sport some impressive graffiti and the area is in clear need of regeneration, but a few minutes into this section, where the Hertford Union Canal splits off from the Lee Navigation, you can see both the top of the Gherkin along the canal, and the towers of Canary Wharf straight on. It's a reminder that Hackney Wick might be at the grittier end of town, but London is growing fast, and it won't be long before the old east end is but a distant memory.
Tucked away in the middle of all this development, and shielded from the rest of the planet by fierce-looking wire fences, are the Lockkeeper's Cottages, best known as the setting for Channel 4's Big Breakfast. It's now a private home, though it's part of the compulsory purchase order surrounding the Olympics, so, as with much of this area, the cottages may well disappear. Indeed, just after the lock, the Ring turns left into the Greenway, and here I came up against my first real taste of the building work that's rapidly changing this area.
The Greenway is a cycle and walking track that stretches for nearly six miles from Hackney to Beckton, but when I wandered through the disheveled entrance gate, stepping over an abandoned bicycle and walking up the ramp to the Greenway itself, I was accosted by two young men in fluorescent jackets.
'Where are you going?' one of them asked.
'I'm walking the Capital Ring,' I replied. He didn't react at all. 'It's a long-distance walk,' I continued. 'Look, there's the sign, right behind you.'
'Oh,' he said, pointing along the Greenway. 'Well, you're not going down there.'
'I'm not?' I asked.
'We've just finished resurfacing it today,' he said. 'It's closed; if you walk that way, you'll just come to locked fences.'
'Um,' I said. 'Ah. Any ideas how I can get onto the rest of the Greenway, then?'
'Can you keep going along the river?' he asked.
'I think so,' I said.
'Best do that, then,' he said. 'Keep going until you come to an A-road, then turn up that and you'll find the Greenway.'
'OK,' I said. 'Thanks.'
And with that I headed off on a detour that, luckily, the map in the guidebook just about covered, and which took me past developments that made my eyes pop out. This is truly the land of the hard hat, and if you're planning to walk through it in the years leading up to the Olympics, you'd be wise to check for diversions before heading out. Just don't expect them to be signposted; I bumped into a cyclist who was also trying to follow the Greenway, and when I told him this section of the Greenway was shut he just shrugged his shoulders and said, 'Yeah, that's how it goes,' and pedalled off into the distance.
I eventually tracked down the Greenway, unfortunately missing out the part of the Ring that the guidebook describes as 'currently the most forbidding part of the Capital Ring, among fly-tips and grim scrap yards.' I'd rather fancied exploring this grittier end of the Ring, but I think I'm too late, as the grit is already being bulldozed into manicured sports complexes and flashy high-rises, and the Greenway itself is a little too cut off from its surroundings to give a flavour of what life is really like out here in the regeneration zone. The Greenway is not unlike the Parkland Walk from day 12, in that it allows you to sneak through the suburbs in a detached manner, but there is one big difference: where the Parkland Walk is along a disused railway line, the Greenway follows a sewage pipe, and I'm afraid it feels like it.
The name of this grand sewage scheme is the Northern Outfall Sewage Embankment – otherwise known as NOSE – and it's a well-chosen acronym. OK, it's a very forward-thinking use of sewage pipes to create a walking and cycling route on top of them, and in terms of what you can see from the Greenway, it provides some spectacular views of Canary Wharf and the Dome while providing a level and easy route towards the east. If I have a criticism of the walking, it can get slightly boring at times, as the charm of walking along the disused railway of the Parkland Walk doesn't really translate to the NOSE... but it's inoffensive enough.
What is offensive, though, is that every few hundred yards there are grates in the ground that reek of sewage. You might expect this kind of smell around the sewage works near the start of the Greenway section, but it continues all the way to the end, and after a few miles of gently wafting stench catching you unawares every few minutes, it's quite a relief to get off the Greenway and back into civilisation.
The suburbs only last for a couple of streets, though, as the final stretch of this section is through the pleasantly landscaped Beckton District Park. It's worth veering off the path to have a wander round the park's lake (which isn't visible from the Ring itself), and before you know it, the roar of City Airport signals the end of this section in Custom House, just north of the Royal Albert Dock. It's not the greatest section on the Capital Ring, but I get the feeling that once the Olympic Village is up and running, it will be a very different story...