If you like walking alongside water, then this is the section of the Loop for you. While day 8 is a good walk and sticks to the Union Canal for most of the day, this part of the Loop combines the canal with a number of large lakes that make it hard to imagine you're in Greater London. When the Loop manages to pull this off, it's at its best.
It's not far from Uxbridge tube station to the Loop, and it's worth keeping a look out for the Crown and Treaty pub on your left; this is where Charles I and the Parliamentarians met in 1645 to try to bash out an agreement, but despite 20 days of debate, it came to nothing.
Down on the canal, the Loop heads off along the towpath, past the Swan and Bottle pub and up to Uxbridge Lock, where it's fun to watch the tourist boats bumping and grinding their way through the palaver of getting through a canal lock. A little further on the larger Denham Lock is equally charming, and there's even the attraction of a tea house sandwiched between the canal and the Frays River, which might be a handy stop for lunch if it took you a while to get to Uxbridge.
Enjoy this section, because once you've left the locks, the Loop gets back into rural Greater London; if you've been walking the Loop in order, then the last real piece of rural walking was way back on day 5 in Coulsdon. Although some parts of the Colne Valley can be a little gloomy when the sun hides behind the clouds, the lakes that now fill the old gravel pits are tranquil and pleasant to walk along. It's no surprise that this is a popular fishing spot; it's a long way from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Along the Canal
Even though the Loop passes between quite a few fishing lakes, the canal towpath is the main route, and after a pleasant detour through a wooded picnic spot (marred only by the odd burned-out car, a sight that walking the Loop will surely make you immune to) it's back to a more traditional towpath along the side of the Union Canal. I found the boats along this stretch particularly fascinating; peering into narrow boat windows and imagining just who lives there is one of the most entertaining aspects of canal walking, and the section past South Harefield can be a good spot for people watching. If you're lucky you might also get attacked by the local crusty's dogs; they don't bite, according to the owner...
Fear not, for there's a worthwhile pub about a mile along the canal. The Minnow might feel like a chain pub, but sitting out in its canalside garden on a sunny day is a treat, and as the Loop finally leaves the Union Canal here, it's a good place to stop for a final goodbye.
There now follows a fairly stout walk uphill towards Hill End, where there's a pub that's been turned into a children's learning centre (the pub sign is still there); and from Hill End it's farmers' fields all the way to the busy Harefield Road, another pub (which was advertising all-day strippers when I hurried past), and then a pleasant walk through Bishop's Wood Country Park to Batchworth Heath, where – you guessed it – there's another pub, Ye Olde Greene Man. This is your last chance to grab a drink while sitting outside and looking over the heath; it's a nice spot for an ale.
From the pub it's a short hop along an old country boundary path, through some utterly urbanised woods and into Northwood, where the tube is a short hike along the railway line. Like most Loop days the end doesn't justify the means; this section is a lovely walk with a couple of enjoyable pubs and precious little evidence of London. Enjoy.