The most surprising thing about the walks on the western edge of the Capital Ring is how rural they are, despite being right under the main Heathrow flight path and bang in the middle of zone 4. Richmond Park and Syon Park are one thing, but being able to walk for nearly five miles through west London without bumping into anything approaching urban sprawl is no mean feat, and this happy aspect to day 8 is all thanks to the River Brent.
The day starts off with the noise of the M4 pounding in your ears, but very quickly the sound of the cars subsides, and soon enough it's as if it had never been there. The Ring follows the Grand Union Canal again, as it meanders past factories and housing, neither of which manage to make this feel like you're walking through the suburbs of the nation's capital. On the right as the day starts is Elthorne Waterside, where the landscape is positively wild; this nature reserve used to be a refuse tip, and this isn't the first such area on this section. If this is what happens to landfill after a few years, then there is hope for the last section of the London Loop after all...
After about a mile of easy, flat and extremely green canal walking, the Ring turns right at the locks of Hanwell Flight to follow the River Brent, which presents a much more overgrown and interesting take on urban waterways. Unlike some urban rivers I've walked along, the Brent is refreshingly devoid of shopping trolleys, plastic bags and the usual detritus of city life, and there's enough wildlife here to keep up the illusion of countryside, even if the noise of the aeroplanes in the background is still very noticeable. A brush with commuter-ville in the shape of the huge Wharncliffe Viaduct turns out to be charming; as the trains hurtle along hundreds of feet above your head, it's hard not to feel happily detached from all the hustle and bustle of city life. Work certainly seems a long way away at this point.
After the viaduct, the Ring follows the river through Brent Lodge Park, a manicured and pleasant park that's made far more interesting by the spire of St Mary's Church, which peeps through the trees at every opportunity. There's also a maze of yew trees, an animal centre and a playground here, and in autumn the trees are a lovely bronze colour that makes it hard to resist clicking away on the camera.
From Brent Lodge Park the Ring turns into a golf course, and although normally I hate walking through golf courses, this is an example of how it should be done. The path doesn't cross any fairways (at least, I didn't notice if it did), and for a long part of the traverse the path is enclosed by trees and bush, so any stray golf balls have practically no chance of knocking you out.
After the golf course, the path climbs away from the river into Bitterns Field, a huge, open grassland that is another old refuse tip, and from there the Ring enters the large and featureless expanse of Perivale Park, which is home to football and rugby pitches. About the only thing of note is that you can see the hoop of Wembley Stadium from the pitch, which must be an inspiration to the players, but as far as walking goes, it's not a lot of fun. And then the Ring ploughs into suburbia – the first proper 'burbs for some days – and spends the last mile crossing over A-roads, wandering alongside railway lines, and completely failing to spark any interest.
So, this is not the most exciting walk on the planet, but it's still green, pleasant and worth the effort. There are better days on the Ring... but there are worse ones, too.