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Long-Distance Walks with Mark Moxon

London Loop: Day 7: Kingston to Donkey Wood

Woodland Gardens in Kingston
Woodland Gardens in Kingston is a totally wonderful little place

This is a fascinating walk, not because it's full of amazing scenery – it's not – but because it's a lesson in how varied London really is. This section of the Loop starts out in Kingston, one of the poshest parts of suburban London, and ends in Hatton Cross, right under the screeching flight-path of Heathrow's jets. It's a walk from rich to poor, a journey from a place where people complain about an imaginary litter problem, to a place where people do nothing about a genuine one. At the start of this walk you're surrounded by people who drink tea at four o'clock; at the end you bump into the poor lost souls who tuck into their first cans of Stella at 9am. This is a nine-mile journey from tweed jackets to tracksuit bottoms, and it's a walk every Londoner should do at least once.

Daffodils in the Waterhouse Plantation
Daffodils in the Waterhouse Plantation

Into the Middle Class

The Shot Tower in Crane Park
The Shot Tower

If Kingston is where the rich people live, the Loop soon drifts into the realm of the middle classes. Along Cobblers Walk the Loop takes us through Teddington; this is Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph territory, as you can see from the contents of the green recycling boxes outside the expensive houses by the golf course. The Loop is still very much in the money here, though when I walked across the golf course there was a massive amount of construction going on; it looked like a large, modern block of offices rising from the ashes of the old clubhouse – or maybe it was a new clubhouse, I couldn't tell – but soon enough the Loop ducks back into suburbia, through twee names like Bye Ways and Willow Way, and finally into Crane Park.

Under the Jets

An aeroplane flying overhead
Low-flying planes are a fact of life as you approach the runways of Heathrow

From Crane Park the Loop crosses a railway line and enters Hounslow. Compared to Kingston this is a different world, and Hounslow Heath manages to retain its rough edge. The heath has a chequered past and a chequered future; it's a rough place, both botanically and sociologically, and when I was there it was amazing how many people on the heath had long hair, multiple piercings and Staffordshire bull terriers. It's easy to get lost, and a sign on the way in mentions that the adder, England's only poisonous snake, has recently been spotted here. It doesn't help you feel at ease.