This is a lovely little walk, though if you don't like climbing hills, you should probably give it a wide berth, as most of the day is spent either trudging up or sloping down. If, like me, you can't walk past a hill without wanting to stand at the top, surveying the view, then this is probably the best day on the Ring for you.
Things start off innocently enough. A stone's throw from the large Westway Shopping Park that overlooks the starting point of day 9, you find Paradise Fields Wetlands, an enjoyable wetland that kicks things off with a distinctly rural feel. The roar of the aeroplanes from the last few days' walk is pretty distant by this point, and soon enough the Ring rejoins the Grand Union Canal for a while, echoing the flat walking of day 7 and day 8. Look ahead, though, and you can see the slopes of Horsenden Hill ahead, which is where things start to get interesting.
The section along the canal is a little bleak, but things get more enjoyable as the Ring turns back over a foot bridge and into the woods at the base of the hill. It's a fairly easy climb to the top of Horsenden Hill, through woodland and then through grassland, but even if you're allergic to walking up hills, you should make the effort because the views are excellent. The top of the hill is fairly flat and doesn't have too much tree cover, so in the wind it's a fairly gusty place, but this is the price you pay for clear views to the north and west. The view north is particularly interesting, because straight ahead of you is Harrow-on-the-Hill, which the Ring climbs next.
Heading down from the summit, the path wanders for a stretch through the pretty woodland of Horsenden Wood, before coming out into the suburbia of Sudbury. There follows a fairly forgettable stretch of suburban streets and A-roads, but it's not terrible and it doesn't last too long, and soon enough the Ring ducks off to the left, taking a bridleway onto the slopes of the hill that gives Harrow-on-the-Hill its name.
It's a fairly instant transformation from Sudbury to Harrow, a transition from two-up-two-down to a village that is synonymous with the public school that dominates its centre. Harrow feels like a privileged place, and as such it manages to stimulate both pride in one's country, and shame at the unfair class system. I went to school in a place not unlike this, and I still find it slightly unsettling to look at the grand buildings and delightful sports pitches, all wrapped up in an English village setting. The difference between my old school and Harrow is that I went to school in a rural village in Derbyshire, while Harrow is bang in the middle of zone 5; it makes the English country village feeling all the stranger, but for the walker it is a delight.
For Harrow-on-the-Hill is very pretty. There's a small village green – a tiny triangle of grass, but still picturesque – and the school chapel that dominates the high street a little further on, standing in the shadow of the original school building, which was built in 1615, though it's been considerably developed in the intervening years. It's well worth taking a short detour to St Mary's Church: simply follow the signs for the Capital Ring Link to Harrow-on-the-Hill train station, and a hundred yards or so up the hill, the link path takes you into the church graveyard. As one of the highest points in London, it's worth visiting, if only because you'll be able to spot it as you walk away from Harrow, and it's always satisfying to think, 'I was there!'
From Harrow, the Ring heads steeply downhill, past the Music School and across playing fields. When I did the walk there was a diversion where diggers were levelling off a section of land, no doubt for more playing fields, but assuming you can work out where you're supposed to walk, you come to one of the highlights of the Ring. No, it's not a view or a beautiful village, but a stile onto the A404. The reason it's a highlight? Because this is the only stile on the whole Capital Ring, and is worth celebrating for that reason alone.
Nearly home, the Ring passes the dominating buildings of Northwick Park and St Mark's Hospitals, squashed between car parks and a golf course until it pops out into a flat park. Look ahead as you enter the park, and you should see the distinctive hoop of Wembley Stadium rising above the trees, a taster of what's to come on day 10. For now, though, the path skirts the park and reaches South Kenton station, which is where this pleasant jaunt over two thoroughly delightful hills comes to an end.