Back in January 2009 I started walking the LOOP, the circular route of about 140 miles that runs around the whole of London. I started in Erith and got as far as Berrylands in June; and that was as far as I got. It was just after then that I met my now fiancee and she literally stopped me in my tracks!
However a new year has started and we have decided to complete the LOOP together, going in the opposite direction, and yesterday walked the route from Purfleet to Upminster Bridge.
It started with a stroll along the Thames estuary to our left, with RSPB marshland and birdwatchers to our right. It was a sunny day but there was still somehow a sense of desolation to the area, probably down to the lack of anything growing other than grass, thistles and the odd bush or tree.
Nearby to Purfleet was the remaining Magazine, the last of five, that used to sit here full of gunpowder received from Waltham, standing ready for use in wars gone by. Nothing now but a long brick house, it seems a sense of waste for something that could be turned into a community hall or craft hut.
Continuing on, with Erith on the opposite bank, we first passed a huge landfill site and waste management centre, before coming across jetties and factories. Beyond Coldharbour Point, and just before the Tilda Rice factory, were a group of concrete barges slowly dying and sinking into the mud.
These were originally towed across the channel and used in the D-Day landings before subsequently becoming part of the estuary flood defences. Now they simply sit, retired and unused, apart from a possible resting point for birds.
Across more grassland from here, running alongside drainage ditches, as far as Rainham where a new footbridge was being built. Rainham village itself was an attractive looking place, with tudor style pubs and a complete late-Norman church.
After Rainham we came into to Ingrebourne hill, and as part of a slight diversion climbed to the top where a kind of pyramid gave fantastic views to the surrounding area. Heading back down we followed the path towards Hornchurch Country Park with paths through trees and grassland, with several cycleways, a lake and the River Ingrebourne.
The river stayed a constant companion from here on in to Upminster, next to small grassed areas perfect for local dog walkers and children, as well as an outdoor gym. There was plenty going on at Hornchurch FC, while the surrounding houses still covered in Christmas lights were quiet, before finally, unfit and exhausted, we made it to Upminster Bridge station just in time for sunset.