The London Loop in Richmond

The London Loop is a route that runs around the edge of the capital. In the course of its 145-mile journey it runs through and alongside suburban streets, farms, woods, river meadows, recreation grounds, canal towpaths and forgotten bits of heath. The Loop (London Outer Orbital Path) was conceived in 1990 and has only recently come into being. It has been planned to run between public transport nodes and divides up naturally into fifteen comfortable day walks, beginning on the south bank of the Thames at Erith and running clockwise around the capital to end at Coldharbour Point, opposite Erith on the Essex bank.

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Hampton Wick

Kingston Bridge

The LOOP enters Richmond across Kingston Bridge from Kingston-on-Thames. It's said that the original Kingston bridge was once the first crossing of the Thames upstream of London Bridge, which of course would have made it a bridge of strategic importance. On the Richmond side of the bridge you come immediately to Hampton Wick, which despite modern housing and office developments still manages to look much like the country village that it once was. If you have the time to spare, a diversion to the right will reveal some of its charms. The LOOP, however, goes half-left at the main road junction beyond the bridge, passing on the left one of the gates of Hampton Court Park. The park is a remnant of the royal hunting grounds attached to Hampton Court Palace, just over a mile away; it is covered more fully under the Hampton Court page.

Church Grove

About a hundred metres beyond the road junction turn left into Church Grove. This is the B358 road to Teddington and is itself quite busy, but after another 100 metres turn left through a gate, more or less opposite the church. This gives access to a lane, an avenue for most of its length; there appears to be a mixture of allotments and sports grounds off to either side. One thing you will probably notice is the lack of London LOOP waymarks; this seems to be a peculiarity of both Richmond and Hounslow boroughs and you won't see another waymark for nearly 12 miles, until you reach the towpath of the Grand Union Canal in Hayes. Throughout the Richmond and Hounslow sections you really need to keep an eye on the map and guidebook.

Approaching Bushy Park

Bushy Park

Entering Bushy Park

The avenue reaches a gate, the entrance to Bushy Park. The park is vast. It covers an area of roughly four and a half square kilometers. It was one of the areas of land gifted by Cardinal Wolsey to Henry VIII and is almost contiguous with Hampton Court Park to the south, separated from it only by the main road (nowadays the A308) and its accompanying walls, and the Royal Paddocks. Bushy Park has a little more variety of landscape than Hampton Court Park; although most of it consists of the same rough grassland it is dotted with clumps of woodland, lakes, watercourses and sports grounds. We reach the first of these, a cricket pitch, immediately on entering the park.

Bushy Park - the first section, approaching Leg Of Mutton Pond

Immediately past the cricket pitch turn half right on a grassy path (first image above, top row) heading towards an open clump of trees, the Oval Plantation. If you're not sure of your direction then head as far as possible for the eastern corner of the plantation. Just beyond you'll reach the first of two lakes, the oddly named Leg of Mutton Pond. The name probably derives from the pond's irregular shape.

Leg Of Mutton Pond

The pond is a popular hang-out on a warm summer day. The chances are that you'll have seen hardly anyone since entering the park but once you reach the ponds the place starts to come alive. The pond is part of the Longford River, an artificial river channel commissioned by Charles I to provide a water supply for Hampton Court. The river runs for some 13 miles from the Colne to the west.

The water channel west of Leg Of Mutton Pond

The route of the LOOP is a natural excursion among the ponds and channels of Bushy Park and it would be difficult to come up with a better line, but this is after all a park and you have ample scope for choosing your own path and wandering at will. From Leg of Mutton Pond the route runs to the west, along the river channel joining it to Heron Pond nearby. The immediate environs represent English parkland at its best.

Heron Pond

Heron Pond is a gem. The lake is fringed with paths, clumps of trees and swards of short turf, perfect picnic country (and thanks to the nearby car park a fair number of people will be so indulging). It's possible that you'll see some of Bushy Park's residential deer around this area.

Heron Pond

Make sure that you have plenty of film or memory in your camera because Heron Pond is exceptionally photogenic. I actually ran out of memory here when I walked this section in June 2006 (having started out from Malden Manor) and had to go through my shots deleting anything I could bare to lose.

Leaving Heron Pond

The LOOP keeps to the northern side of the pond, which narrows to a narrow channel then broadens out again at its western end. Keep walking in the same direction alongside a further water channel until it vanishes into a culvert, then go half-left and up a slight bank to reach the main road through the park, Chestnut Drive.

Chestnut Drive

Chestnut Drive was originally meant to be a principal approach route to Hampton Court and was designed to sweep towards a new north wing planned by William III; this wing was never actually built and the avenue leads simply to what is now the north gatehouse. About 400 meters to the south is a round pond encircling the Diana Fountain, which is dedicated to the Goddess of Love rather than the more contemporary Princess of Wales. The LOOP crosses the Drive to approach the second gem of Bushy Park, the delightful Woodland Gardens. You will first meet the Longford river again; keep left (south) of this and walk alongside the plantation fence until you find a gate into the wood.

Woodland Gardens

The Woodland Gardens are centred on the Longford river and are about 800 metres long by 300 metres wide. The path follows the river, more or less, but there are plenty of variations to explore. Some exotic species can be found here, notably the swamp cypress whose roots stick into the air by the water's edge like jagged teeth (second image above, top row).

Woodland Gardens

Explore at leisure. There are paths and swards of lush turf and bench seats, there are flowering shrubs including rhododendrons, there are little glades and areas of open parkland and clumps of denser woodland, there are ponds and backwaters. Once again there is plenty to photograph. The Woodland Gardens come to an end but across a brief strip of open parkland is another woodland area that repeats the same theme to some extent, the Waterhouse Plantation. Keep an eye on the map and go half right at each main path junction, to reach a little pond by the cottage of River Lodge. Now go half right again on a significant track heading more or less north (image below).

Upper Lodge

The track reaches the north end of the Waterhouse Plantation  and now runs once again along the edge of open parkland; a ribbon of trees to your left conceals the course of the Longford River, which the LOOP soon leaves behind. The track approaches Upper Lodge (second image above); this is not a single building but a substantial complex, although little of it is seen. The lodge has had various uses, including that of a military hospital and also as Eisenhower's European headquarters during the second world war. I can find no information on its present function.

Deer at Laurel Road entrance

The track doglegs around Upper Lodge to the right, continuing its northward course to approach the northern exit from the park at Laurel Road. This is another point at which the park's herd of deer tend to congregate. They are not tame as such but you can normally get within about ten or twenty metres of them if you're careful.



Suddenly, it all changes. You go through the gate and within a couple of minutes you find yourself in a residential road in Teddington. Cross the main A313 and go straight on into King's Road, then left along Connaught Road; in about 300 metres you cross the A311. Fulwell station lays a quarter of a mile north along this road if you wish to break your journey here, otherwise go straight on into Burton's Lane.

Burton's Lane

You walk along Burton's Lane for the best part of a mile. The road is pleasant enough but it doesn't reach the standards of the residential streets we walked along in Bromley or Croydon. At the point where a major road converges from the left, turn right onto a footpath. This path doglegs a little but then sets out in a direction that would represent the continuation of the main road behind us had it not merged at the junction. This is Fulwell Park, which is partly an area of open heath but in the main is taken up with a golf course and leisure centre. Follow the path (first image, below) past the clubhouse and then out through the car park to the main A305 Staines Road.

Fulwell Park


Staines Road

This is the southern edge of Whitton, a residential area that occupies one of the less interesting corners of Richmond. There's a bit of road walking to do before we reach the LOOP's next green artery, the course of the river Crane; you could more or less please yourself how you reach it but the LOOP's official route has you walking for 500 metres along Staines Road to the east, then left into Close Court Avenue, right into Rivermeads Avenue,  left into Bye Ways and right into Willow Way; at the end of this road (second image below) you reach a T-junction with the B358 Hospital Bridge Road where you go left and almost immediately come to the river bridge across the Crane.

South Whitton

Go over the bridge and then down the bank to the grassy area on the north bank of the river, then along the riverbank underneath a new concrete road bridge, whereupon you reach the green tranquility of the River Crane Park.

River Crane Park

It's peaceful along here. There are housing estates not too far away from either bank of the river but the screen of vegetation is pretty dense and you see little of them. The park is up to a couple of hundred meters wide and there is a choice of tracks for the most part, but I stuck pretty much close by the river bank. Here and there you come to a more open area where you could sit down for a refreshment break if you wished.

The LOOP alongside the river Crane

It seems a long way but in fact it's only some 900 metres after you leave the road that you encounter the Shot Tower (second image below). It is a remnant of the gunpowder industry, which according to the LOOP's guidebook once thrived along the banks of this river. Despite an apparent belief that the tower was used for the manufacture of lead shot, it's said not to be tall enough for that purpose and must therefore have had some more mundane function.

River Crane and the Shot Tower

The riverside route continues, by paths wide and narrow, for another 600 metres to emerge onto the A314 Hanworth Road in Whitton.

Reaching Hanworth Road

Turn right to walk along the road, which we follow for some three quarters of a mile. It's a bus route and has services to Hounslow and to Kingston should you wish to break the journey here. It's rather a busy road and doesn't have a great deal going for it; it's mainly residential though with a smattering of commercial properties and also a cemetery. There are no shops, in case you were thinking of a well-deserved ice cream or cold drink.

Hanworth Road and recreation ground

Once you cross a railway bridge go just over 200 metres further until you come across a recreation ground to your left. Follow its nearside edge (third picture above). At the far end go through the trees to a fence, crossed by a stile. The fence is the borough boundary between Richmond and Hounslow, and the stile is one of the entrances to Hounslow Heath; the journey along the loop continues on the Hounslow page.

Entrance to Hounslow Heath

Back to Borough of Richmond index page

This page last updated 8th December 2006