Saturday : The LDWA Capital Challenge 2022

LDWA - 2022 Capital Challenge Walk

Despite upgrading to a larger server, the quantity of images that I’m putting on this blog is eating up too much space, so I’m putting more photos on Flickr. It should be possible to see the images above by using the arrow on either side of the photo, but if not click on the photo or go directly to https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjzJBef.


Liam had parked his car at the Ibis hotel in Barking, which was a very good decision as it meant he could drive us to Stratford, where we’d get an underground train into London Bridge. That avoided the one mile long walk from the hotel to Barking railway station, as I didn’t want to do extra distance in the morning. I confess to not being an athlete, and we imagined Dave Morgan awake at 5am doing physical stretches excited about his day of walking and perhaps going for a little jog, whilst we pondered why we hadn’t just decided to spend all day in London pubs. It’s that sort of negativity that I need for events like this though, cold, harsh realism. 27 miles is a long way…..

Westfield shopping centre at Stratford is surprisingly quiet at 07:00. That’s primarily because it’s shut, which I had forgotten about.

It’s still possible to walk through the shopping centre though, even before the shops have opened.

Jumping (we were still energetic at that point, we more slumped onto trains later on in the day) onto the Jubilee Line at Stratford, to get to London Bridge. The journey was surprisingly busy, but one of the advantages in starting at the beginning of the line is getting a seat. If you’re going to walk 27 miles, a little sit down is highly recommended.

Liam needed a coffee, but I couldn’t be coping with that decadence so early on in proceedings, but I did use the little tap in the cafe provided for drinking water to top up my empty water bottle. That proved to be a strategic decision that saved some time later on.

The start of the walk. We could hear Dave from about 200 metres away, he was clearly energetic and ready for the off. I took some photos of South Wales group for him and was impressed as his used his authority to muster everyone together for their photo shoot. I felt like a lie down and a chicken bake if I was being honest, but I didn’t say anything.

Liam, as we arrived at the first checkpoint at Cutty Sark. For anyone interested in further information about this walk, the route description is available.

I took these photos only twenty minutes apart, but they show a very different weather picture over London. The day was warm, although that was more obvious in the second half when there wasn’t the breeze from the river to cool down.

I’m not going to post lots of photos of this walk here, for reasons given at the beginning of the post. So, I’ll post my thoughts here in one great lump. That’s probably not the best way to describe my prose, although, actually, it probably is. Anyway, I digress already.

The walk started at The Scoop, the outdoor amphitheatre located by Tower Bridge, which we then proceeded to walk over at the start of the walk. I know this part of London reasonably well, although the route went through some parts of St. Katherine’s Dock that I wasn’t aware of. By that, I mean I’ve only walked as far as the Pret at St. Katherine’s Dock. There was then a Waitrose which I ignored as I can’t be coping with those prices. I mention this as there were around ten other members of Norfolk & Suffolk LDWA walking the event, mostly in one big bunch, but there was also Rob who started a few minutes after we did, but his faffing about in Waitrose meant that he never caught up.

We went through the Shadwell Basin into the excitement of Canary Wharf, quiet since it was a weekend. We used the deluxe toilet facilities in Canary Wharf, noting that the security staff looked horrified at 150 people suddenly turning up with backpacks. We did look like we were launching an Extinction Rebellion type assault on their building (although it was mentioned by someone that they’d been pre-warned, but nonetheless….), but I’m pleased to say that everyone was very well behaved. LDWA members always keep it classy.

It was enjoyable seeing the animals at Mudchute Park and Farm (apparently the largest urban farm in Europe), a really little slice of the countryside in the city centre. It was then through Greenwich Foot Tunnel, with a note that we’d be disqualified if we used the lifts, although one was out of order anyway (before anyone asks, I didn’t try, I just saw the signs). The whole Mudchute area is a little odd in terms of its history, it’s named after the mud that they dumped there whilst building the nearby docks, apparently quite foul smelling since they’d dredged it up from the riverbed.

Then it was by the Cutty Sark to the first checkpoint, with a photo of Liam there further up this post. That was the six mile mark, and I thought it all seemed very manageable so far. I might not have mentioned (ahem) that I walked the LDWA 100 last year, and my favourite walk surface is firm pavement and on the flat. The walk was certainly delivering that, I was quite delighted at the arrangements.

Powering on by the Old Naval College at Greenwich, going by the cable cars and then approaching the Thames Barrier. I was surprised to see just how much residential development there had been on the north side of the river over the last decade, although I imagine a huge chunk of these flats are buy to let or Airbnbs. The walk into Charlton Park, where the second checkpoint at twelve miles was located, was again relatively effortless. I must admit to thinking that the walk was 26 miles (it’s actually 27), so I thought we were doing well to be nearly half-way without anything snapping or falling off.

We saw Dave and his wife Gill lingering by the cafe at this point, and we walked with them for most of the rest of the walk. Gill, if I may be so bold, is the sensible one, who understands that hills aren’t really something that should be sought out and her definition of a hill was far closer to mine. Dave seems to think that a hill is anything with an ascent of over 5,000 metres, whereas I’m nearer to one metre gradient being classed as a hill. Without realising, Liam and I kept up with Dave, and I think my app at one point thought I was in a bus as we were walking so quickly.

The second half of the walk was very different to the first, moving away from the cool river breeze and the views of the River Thames, we moved into a more urban area, navigating mostly through various parks and woods. I hadn’t realised that Charlton and Eltham had so much parkland, but they’re fortunate with what they have and it showed a different side to the area to me. We walked past the front of Eltham Palace, which I had heard of before, but never seen, it’s an English Heritage property which charges £17.60 to get in, which seems a bit steep (like the hills around here). But, we hardly had time for that anyway even if it was free.

The third checkpoint was at 20 miles and was at St. Edward the Confessor Church in Mottingham. There wasn’t much food provided by the organisers, although they had warned about this before. I had already acquired a sandwich, but Liam took the opportunity to pop into the Co-op for a quick lunch. We saw another entrant say “oh, I don’t need to do this bit, it’s just the checkpoint”, which was either someone who didn’t want to pay for the event, or, perhaps more likely, someone who wanted to take part but the event was full. There were 200 entrants on the event, with a no show of around 30, and it filled up relatively quickly. These LDWA challenge events are often very popular, it’s best to get in early, and they’re much cheaper than most other running and walking events.

It was lovely to see Gail and John here, which proved very helpful for another reason, which was that Dave walked with Gail for several miles. We saw her jogging to keep up, but Gill and I didn’t say anything, we were pleased for our pace to be slightly relaxed. There was apparently a rare pillar-box, but I have to confess that I wasn’t reading the route description, I’m very much a GPX person. The last couple of miles of the walk weren’t quite as exciting, they were very residential and I was getting tired, but these sections always drag for me. I wondered why the organisers had taken us down a couple of back streets near to the end, but I’m fairly sure that it was to show us some interesting street art on the walls, including a rather colourful bird.

It was a relief to get to the end point at St Hugh’s Community Centre with the LDWA volunteers here offering a great welcome, and at least two agreed how brave I’d been. Dave and Gill were there, with Gill looking entirely pleased to be finished. Dave looked the same as when he’d started which annoyed me, but I didn’t say anything. Rob arrived in around ten minutes later, he’d managed to spend the entire walk alone, never catching up with us, nor slowing down for the rest of the Norfolk & Suffolk to catch up. We never did see them, they arrived back a long time after us, but there were rumours they’d stopped for a sleep and picnic halfway through.

As an event, this was one of my favourite ones, because I do like urban walking, although the hills in the second part of the walk were sometimes a little tiring, especially Shooters Hill (Mountain). The location of the walk allowed entrants the chance to get food and drink from anywhere they wanted en route, so the catering was less than at other challenge events, although I appreciated the ready supply of water and the Mini Cheddars. I’m quite easily pleased really…..

We did think about stopping at a pub for a drink or quick meal, but it felt wrong because we’d see everything walking by. There’s something not ideal physiologically about enjoying a lingering drink and seeing every other entrant charging by. Mind you, we walked by a Brew By Numbers bar in the morning that I didn’t know existed and if it wasn’t 10am, I’d have been tempted to stop there. But they didn’t open until 11.30 and I’m not sure Liam would have approved of standing there for 90 minutes just to wait for a bar to open.

The local group has three different routes for the Capital Challenge, they change them every now and then to keep it fresh, and sometimes have gone to the north of the city. I can well imagine taking part in this event again in the future, although it might not be quite as exciting and enjoyable if the weather was unfavourable, a wet London isn’t always a joy to behold with trying to dodge being splashed by cars and the like.

It was agreed by everyone that I had been very brave. I’d add that the LDWA isn’t a competitive organisation, so no-one is ever concerned (it’s rarely admitted to anyway) about how fast they went compared to other people . Well, I came 50th out of 180 entrants, so I decided that today I was competitive as this was about as far up the leader board (not that we have leader boards) as I’ve been. Although I suspect part of the reason is that a lot of people were lingering for a leisurely lunch rather than bolting around, but 50th is 50th…..

Then Liam and I skulked off onto the Overground train, changing at Canada Water and then limped onto the Jubilee Line.

Normally I’d have just walked through Westfield to get back to the car, but, on this occasion, it was just as easy to get the DLR one stop. Unusually for Liam, he had forgotten what level he’d parked the car on, so we spent some time finding it. To be fair to him though, this was an emotional day with all that walking, so a few lapses were very forgiveable.

Liam, ready to go after dropping me off at Welwyn Garden City. I’d add he’d been quite brave as well throughout the day.

Into the Travelodge at Welwyn Garden City, after I had told the receptionist how brave I’d been. After getting the room, that gave me time to post on social media a very similar story to what I had bored the receptionist with. I decided against leaving the room for the rest of the day, I had some snacks left and felt that I deserved a very long lie down. All in all, a very lovely day.