London Loop – Hamsey Green to Banstead and Back?

london loopI wheezed my way to the top of Hamsey Common and then paused, teetering on my hiking poles and steaming like the bagged cheese sandwich crushed at the bottom of my rucksac. I felt ready to reward my efforts with a picnic atop the chalk downs and call a taxi for the homeward journey but unfortunately I’d only covered 2 of the planned 18 miles for the day. This section of the London Loop was already threatening  to take its toll.

The London Loop forms a 140 mile circuit of the capital, covering an unexpectedly rural corridor that still offers glimpses of London’s highrise skyline. It’s an ideal training ground for long distance walkers enclosed within the confines of the M25. Today I was planning on hiking from Hamsey Green (close to Sanderstead in Croydon) across to Banstead and then back as far as required to hit my distance/time requirements.

The schedule for the 100km London2Brighton Challenge has been escalating rapidly and I’m struggling with the time demands required. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not a big fan of walking. The transition from running to long distance walking has not been entirely satisfactory – the walks although beautiful, tend to be so flipping slow and are devoid of the natural running highs and the post run satisfaction and glee. I think I will happily fall back into my weekend run routine as soon as I’ve walked across the finish line in Brighton next month.

Today’s route was inspiring even at my walking pace. Crossing assorted commons, the Happy Valley and Farthing Downs I was spoilt by undulating countryside and the signs of a rich history written into the landscape. Battle of Britain bunkers and observatories still stood on the edge of Kenley Airfield hinting at a time when Spitfires would have ruled the skies and I spent much of the next hour pondering whether I would have enjoyed life in the Land Army.

London Loop - The Happy ValleyIt was a glorious day, one of the few nice days of the year, and so I took an extra-specially relaxed pace, punctuated by hillside rests to admire the view. It’s perhaps not surprising that I ran out of time long before I had finished the desired 18 miles. I called a weary halt to the proceedings about 14 miles along the loop and called for my welcome chariot home.

At this rate I will need to reassess my estimated time to complete the 100km. I’m beginning to think that 27hrs will be much closer to the truth than my initial 18-24 hr estimate. This is going to one heck of a gruelling challenge.

One of the unexpected bonuses of my new “hobby” is that its opened up a whole new world of gadgets and technical outdoor walking gear. Today I was sporting a new pair of Meindl hiking boots and a Paramo Velez Adventure Lite Smock. The latter was bought for its highly breathable and waterproof fabric, but it also sports a bonus array of zips and pockets. Today the huge chest pocket housed my London Loop guidebook and iPhone but on the big day I will ensure it is filled with a multitude of penny sweets. I reckon I can walk for 24 hours providing I never run short of fruit sherberts.

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