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Long-Distance Walks with Mark Moxon

London Loop: Day 15: Harold Wood to Coldharbour

Upminster Mill
Upminster Mill

Incredibly, the Loop saves the very worst for last. I would love to be here writing about the perfect end to a lovely long-distance walk, but I can't because day 15 of the Loop is abysmal. I've been straining my brain to think of a worse day's walk, but I genuinely can't; the last 11.75 miles of the London Loop easily rate as the worst day walk I have done, not just in Britain, but in the whole world. It's a really huge disappointment, and to cap it all it's the longest day on the entire Loop.

Windmills and Marshes

The marshes of Hornchurch Country Park
In winter the marshes of Hornchurch Country Park flood to create London's largest freshwater marsh

More banal suburbia takes you to Upminster Bridge tube station where you can take a worthwhile detour to see Upminster Mill, a windmill plonked in the middle of all this development, but for the next mile or so the Loop follows the Ingrebourne Valley Green Way, a tarmac path that winds alongside the uninspiring Ingrebourne River. The urban sprawl is never far away to the right and this is hardly countryside walking, but persevere because a mile-and-a-half from the tube station is Hornchurch Country Park, the first half-decent spot on the walk.

To the River

Concrete barges of D-Day scuppered in the Thames
Scuppered concrete barges lie across the river from Erith, where the Loop starts all over again

Rainham Village is home to an imposing church and an old townhouse called Rainham Hall, though the village feel of yesteryear has been somewhat squashed by its proximity to the train station and a massive amount of engineering work on the Channel Tunnel rail link. Rainham station is also the only option for returning home, which is incredibly irritating because it's still a couple of miles to the end of the Loop at Coldharbour Point, two miles that you have to retrace to get back to civilisation.

Mark at the end of the Loop
Celebrating at the end of the Loop, despite the stench; the gate in the background marks the end of the path