London Outer Orbital Path
|London Outer Orbital Path|
The London LOOP's logo, a flying kestrel, can be seen on the signs marking the route
|Length||240 km (149 mi)|
The London Outer Orbital Path — more usually the "London LOOP" — is a 240 km (150 mi) signed walk along public footpaths, and through parks, woods and fields around the edge of Outer London, England, described as "the M25 for walkers". The walk begins at Erith on the south bank of the River Thames and passes clockwise through Crayford, Petts Wood, Coulsdon, Kingston upon Thames, Uxbridge, Elstree, Cockfosters, Chingford and Upminster Bridge before ending at Purfleet, almost directly across the Thames from its starting point.
The walk was first proposed at a meeting between ramblers and the Countryside Commission in 1990. It was given an official launch at the House of Lords in 1993. The first section was opened on May 3, 1996, with a ceremony on Farthing Downs, Coulsdon. Other sections followed at the rate of two or three per year as signs were installed and leaflets for individual sections published, the route becoming fully walkable in 2001. Following the election of Ken Livingstone as Mayor of London, the London Loop became one of his key routes, along with its sister route, the Capital Ring.
The route is divided into 24 sections in three groups: the "blue" group in South London, the "green" group in north-west London, and the "yellow" group in north-east London. Each of the 24 sections links public transport nodes, though they vary greatly in length, from 6.1 km (section 14) to 16.8 km (section 16). The guidebook by David Sharp adds together some of the shorter walks among the 24 to give 15 approximately equal stages, designed to be day walks. The table below shows the correspondence between the official sections and Sharp's sometimes longer walks.
Signposts, waymarks and information boards direct the walker along the route. In countryside locations the waymarks consist mostly of a simple white disc mounted on a wooden post, with a directional arrow and flying kestrel logo in blue and text in green. However, local authorities are responsible for funding these signs, so the quality varies from one borough to the next, with some sections not signed at all. The 54-mile blue route from Erith to Kingston is maintained by the Downlands Countryside Management Project, a joint initiative by several councils, and is complete with signs and information boards, in addition to maps available from Tourist Information Centres.
There is no way to cross the river between Purfleet and Erith to complete the loop, although there was once a ferry to Erith which was mainly used by pilgrims on their way to Canterbury. In 2011 a proposal for a ferry to link the ends, and to link to riverbuses upstream at Woolwich, was shortlisted in the RIBA Forgotten Spaces competition.
|4||West Wickham Common||4|
Further reading 
- Sharp, David (2001, 3rd ed, 2010). The London Loop. Aurum Press. ISBN 978-1-84513-521-8.
- John Barber (Illustrator), ed. (June 1999). LOOP Walks: South London. Downlands Countryside Management Project. ISBN 0-9535991-0-8.
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