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London's Ridgeway: Plumstead to Abbey Wood

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London's Ridgeway: Plumstead to Abbey Wood
Author: thameswater, Published: 31 Mar 2014 Walk rating : Rating:star1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar0 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar0 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
London, Thamesmead
Walk Type: Footpaths and byways
London's Ridgeway: Plumstead to Abbey Wood
Length: 4 miles,  Difficulty: boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
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A 3.5 mile linear walk along London’s Ridgeway, a raised footpath along the top of the embankment of Thames Water’s southern outfall sewer. The path also marks the boundary of Thamesmead, the district built from the late 1960s on former marshland to alleviate overcrowding in other parts of the city. The walk is ideal for those looking for a short stroll in this area of the city.

The walk follows a mix of grass/dirt track and paved paths, the former of which are generally firm but can be a bit muddy in winter and after rain. There are several large kissing gates on route, designed to accommodate cyclists, and the route is relatively flat. The path through Erith Marshes has several tethered horses so take care with dogs on this stretch. Approximate time 1.5 hours.

This is a linear walk and the start and finish points are both rail stations, so it is easiest to travel by public transport. The walk starts from Plumstead Station and the walk ends at Abbey Wood Station. The stations are both on the same rail line, and the train journey between them takes less than 5 minutes.

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Walk Sections

Start to Radio Mast
Start to Radio Mast

Start point: 51.4897 lat, 0.085 long
End point: 51.4946 lat, 0.1015 long

The walk starts from Plumstead Rail Station. Standing with your back to the ticket office, turn left for just a few yards to reach the junction with the main road. Use the pedestrian crossing to cross the main road and continue ahead over the short bridge to cross the second pedestrian crossing (over Plumstead High Street). At the far side of the crossing, fork left down the underpass ramp and then keep left down the steps. Turn sharp right to reach the green kissing gate and green metal Ridgeway sign overhead.

Pass through this gate and follow the narrow sunken dirt path between sections of scrub. Soon the narrow path begins to climb and you’ll merge with the wider grass elevated path, the Ridgeway. Follow this raised straight path ahead, passing a number of CCTV cameras and help points which are stationed at regular intervals.

London’s Ridgeway path (not to be confused with the ancient road of the same name) follows the top of the embankment of Thames Water’s southern outfall sewer. The sewer was designed by Joseph Bazelgette in response to the Big Stink in summer 1858. Recently introduced flushing toilets had dramatically increased the volume of waste and water that flowed into cesspits, which in turn overflowed into street drains. The unusually hot summer of 1858 led to an unbearable stench in the city and prompted the House of Commons to commission the sewerage system. The sewer terminates at Crossness Pumping Station (opened in 1865), which is undergoing restoration and will open as a museum explaining the development of the sewerage system in late 2014. The elaborate pumping station was constructed in the Romanesque style and features some of the most spectacular ornamental Victorian cast ironwork to be found today. It has been used as a set for film and TV, including the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes.

Some way in you will need to fork left down a stone path to pass under the blue road bridge, then follow the path back up the slope to rejoin the embankment. Shortly you will pass a radio mast on the right.

Radio Mast to Erith Marshes
Radio Mast to Erith Marshes

Start point: 51.4946 lat, 0.1015 long
End point: 51.5028 lat, 0.128 long

Keep ahead for some distance further on the long straight path. The brambles and scrub each side make a great wildlife corridor in this part of the city. In the spring, the young trees are awash with blossom. Keep your eyes peeled for foxes which use the scrub for cover.

You’ll notice that the industrial backdrop has now been replaced with residential properties. Known as Thamesmead, this district was developed by the Greater London Council from the late 1960s to move families away from overcrowded Victorian housing (known as slums). The development was a mix of town houses, medium rise and twelve storey blocks. The design proved controversial, based as it was on futuristic ideas which included walkways between the blocks of housing, which quickly became neglected. Lakes and canals were included as it was considered these would have a calming influence on residents, although one basic design failure was a lack of shopping and other facilities within the estates.

Some distance further the path passes under the main road, A2041. Simply keep straight ahead via the two blue kissing gates to continue on the Ridgeway. Across the right now you’ll see South Mere, a large lake. This whole area, close to the Thames, used to be swampy ground known as Plumstead Marshes. The lake was constructed in the late 1960s at the same time as the first part of Thamesmead. Now the lake is a crucial part of the drainage system, it is the head feeder for all the canals in Thamesmead.

Beyond the lake, continue just as far as the next path junction. Turn sharp right here down the tarmac slope. Pass through the blue kissing gate to leave the Ridgeway, cross over the lane and take the blue kissing gate opposite into Erith Marshes.

Erith Marshes to End
Erith Marshes to End

Start point: 51.5028 lat, 0.128 long
End point: 51.4912 lat, 0.1214 long

Keep ahead on this long straight tarmac lane with horse paddocks to the left. There are also many travellers’ ponies tethered within the park to the right, so take care with dogs. Continue down to the signed junction of paths and turn right, signed for Green Chain Walk. At the next junction keep ahead signed for Green Chain Walk and Bostall Woods. Follow the main path as it swings left and climbs, passing an old cannon on the right. Keep ahead over the footbridge which crosses Wolvercote Road.

Pass through the next kissing gate and continue ahead on the Green Chain Walk through this next area of parkland, with housing each side. Just before you reach the next footbridge, fork right down the tarmac slope. Pass through the staggered barrier and go straight ahead on the paved path between houses, Dalberg Way.

As you emerge to the road, keep ahead along the pavement to reach a T-junction with Lanridge Road. Turn left here and then, at the next junction, turn right along the main road with the rail line running to the left. The road swings right to a T-junction, turn left here. At the end of this road, at the T-junction with FelixstoweRoad, turn left and follow the road as it swings right under a road bridge. Immediately after this, turn left up the slope to cross the footbridge. At the far side you’ll reach Abbey Wood Station, marking the end of this walk.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2014 by the author thameswater and may not be reproduced without permission.


The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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