After the majesty of Richmond Park, it would be fair enough to assume that the next few days of the Capital Ring would pale into insignificance. But like all good bands following up a classic album, the Ring doesn't try to compete, but instead it heads off on a new and refreshing tack. Although day 7 is one of the shorter days on the Ring, coming in at a meagre 3.8 miles, it really manages to pack in the variety; indeed, if you're looking for an extra day to tack onto the Wimbledon Park to Richmond leg, then you're much better off choosing this section over the dismal walk from Streatham to Wimbledon Park.
The day starts off by the River Thames in Richmond, where the going is flat and it's easy to slip into a rhythm. Keep your eyes peeled to the right, though, as there's a slotted metal post by the side of the towpath that shows the original meridian line, before it was moved to Greenwich. The white building in the distance is Kew Observatory, which dates from 1769.
The river walking continues for a while, crossing over Richmond Lock to the north bank of the Thames, and wandering past some extremely well-located housing developments that make the mouth water. The river, though, is at its most beautiful here, with plenty of greenery on the bank that frames the view east towards Isleworth Ait, an island in the middle of the Thames that, being a nature reserve, is completely devoid of buildings and people. Passing a collection of houseboats and weaving off the river for a few moments to avoid an inaccessible part of the bank, the Ring turns back to the Thames for the last time, in order to visit Isleworth.
It's a great place. From the decking outside the Town Wharf pub – through which the Ring's public right of way plunges regardless – to the stone tower of All Saints Church, Isleworth is a real charmer. It's hard to believe that this is zone 4; if it wasn't for the planes churning overhead every few minutes, Isleworth could be a pretty little country village.
After the church, the Ring veers left and away form the Thames, which it doesn't reach again until the very end of the walk. Luckily the theme of today's leg – river walking – doesn't end here, but first the Ring cuts straight across Syon Park, home to the grandiose Syon House and a garden centre that has a welcome refectory tucked away behind it. Syon House itself is a bit of a tourist attraction, with a butterfly house and a grand old glass conservatory, but it makes for a pleasant stroll before the path suddenly bumps into busy traffic in the centre of Brentford.
The noise doesn't last, though, because a few yards down the main road through Brentford, the Ring starts to follow the Grand Union Canal, which it sticks to until the end of the day. The canal basin area in Brentford has been completely redeveloped and is now a tidy, modern and surprisingly pleasant part of the world; sometimes modern developments can feel unwelcoming and unwarranted, but I rather liked the clash of modern apartments and narrow boats. A little further along the canal is a single remaining warehouse from the days of old, and its dilapidated and downright spooky atmosphere made me glad that Brentford has got in with the new and out with the old.
This theme doesn't stop here. The canal winds on past the huge, mirror-clad headquarters of GlaxoSmithKline, and all around the sounds of heavy industry feel at odds with the tranquil and downright rural feeling of the canal. Trees line the banks and ducks swim alongside you as the GSK building pops in and out of view, and although the noise pollution is hard to ignore, it's about the only kind of pollution around. This is probably the only part of the world where an iPod would positively enhance the walking experience; something from the chilled section of one's music collection would suit this part of the Grand Union far more than the clunking of heavy metal you get from the invisible but audible factories that live round here.
The worst part, though, is the noise of the M4, which starts out as a background hum and develops into a full-blown roar, and it's at this point that day 7 ends and day 8 begins. Luckily, the photos only tell the story of how pretty this part of London can be, which is definitely the best way to remember it.