Full Circle

Yesterday, my mum and I somehow managed the entire Circle line – all 21.7 miles of it, even the extra bit out to Hammersmith. In 10 hours we covered the best part of 23 miles, including stoppages and slightly getting lost, and we made it to the end damp, utterly knackered but in excellent spirits.

We arrived at Paddington at about 9.15am and set off round the circle. We’d decided to do the circular bit first so that we could decide whether or not to continue on the extra leg, and we wanted to come up Queensway at the end of the circle, so we hit Edgware Road next.

This is a genuinely fantastic walk – going through central London and past some amazing landmarks. Walking from Kings Cross to Farringdon is the longest stretch in the first half, and probably the most boring, except for one moment when you crest a slight hill and suddenly see St Paul’s and the Shard on the skyline in the distance.

Everything went fairly well until we decided to cut through Liverpool Street Station from the back entrance by the enormous bronze sculpture. We came out the front and went left instead of straight on, and ended up doing two sides of a triangle and walking past Aldgate from the wrong direction.

We were amazingly lucky with the weather for the most part. One intense downpour hit just as we were eating sausage and bacon sandwiches in the Embankment Cafe, but apart from that we made it round to Paddington only slightly showered upon.

We weren’t quite so lucky after we decided to carry on. We had a half pint in the Dickens Tavern before we took on the last 5.7 miles from Paddington to Hammersmith. I’m glad we did, because I didn’t feel like I’d really pushed myself when we got round the circle – but goodness me the last three miles were extremely hard work.

We had to hide in a florist near Ladbroke Grove, and when another really intense downpour struck we were in the wide open near Shepherd’s Bush. We ended up huddled under a bus shelter, and I was seriously considering packing it in. But thankfully the rain held off and the sun came out a little as we did the final stretch.

Infuriatingly, we went past at least 5 stations that weren’t on the Circle Line and therefore didn’t count. For the record, I’ve walked past Shepherd’s Bush, Regents Park, Aldgate East, Euston and Marylebone, and probably at least a couple of others. Big day. All that for 35 stations – 32 of them new, putting me over 50 stations for the first time.

If I was doing it again, I’d definitely reverse the order and do the extra 6 miles first – Hammersmith to Paddington is definitely the least interesting part of the walk, and I think it’d be much easier and more morale-boosting to be completing the circle at the end.

I hadn’t realised till I started properly planning this walk that the Hammersmith and City line follows the exact same path as the Circle line around this stretch, and only has a (relatively) small branch that splits off to go north-east. So I’ve decided to count yesterday’s walk as 2/3 of the Hammersmith and City line as well. Because it’s my crazy plan so I can. So there.

Thank you to everyone who’s donated so far – and most of all thank you to my mum, without whom I would never have gotten to Hammersmith.

Planning: the outline


One month in to the training programme, and already it’s started to make a real difference to my fitness. I’m up to running two whole minutes at a time – don’t laugh, this is a big deal for me – and with luck and perseverance I’m on track to finish the first major training stretch at the end of March. At that point, in theory, I’ll be able to run for 6 miles or so without stopping, and I’ll be starting to do endurance & strength training for my legs.

So between the end of March and the end of December, the Tube lines. There are 11 lines in total, and the plan is to walk as many as possible end-to-end in single days. But the sheer length of some lines means that’s not going to be possible – even if I’m fit enough to walk all day, some of them are 45 miles long. And some of the lines have multiple end points, and I’m still planning how to tackle them.

Here’s the plan – at least, as far as I’ve worked it out so far…

First, the Waterloo & City line – at about 2 miles long and with only 2 stations this should be by far the easiest, so it makes sense to me to do it first. So probably the first or second weekend in April will be the right time to start – and I’m going to be recruiting some walking buddies to come and do the easy one with me and help raise some cash.

The Victoria Line is relatively straightforward and not too horrendously long, coming in at just under 15 miles from Walthamstow Central to Brixton. Hopefully this will be the second walk, on the third or fourth weekend in April.

The Circle Line is actually not too bad, at 21.5 miles. Definitely a challenge, but I’m going to give it a go as a single-day walk – after all, if I get tired or can’t make it round in time, I can always hop on a Tube and head home, and finish it another day. Aiming to do this one in May, when it’s not too hot but the evenings are getting lighter.

The Jubilee Line is well over 47 miles and totally impossible to do in a day – I’m thinking of splitting it into three chunks of 15 miles or so each, and walking those in May and June.

The Bakerloo Line is a straightforward one that, at just under 18 miles, should be achievable in a day. The central London sections will be slow, but I reckon it should be possible to walk within 6 hours, so that’ll be a full Saturday in June.

The Hammersmith & City Line at about 21 miles should be another full Saturday’s walk, most likely in July.

The Piccadilly Line is unexpectedly huge – more than 35 miles even if you ignore the Uxbridge branch completely – so I’m splitting it into two or three chunks. Haven’t decided what I will do when yet, but most likely each will be 10-15 miles long, and will be completed during July and August.

The District Line is an absolute sod, what with having no less than 5 branch endings – but by the time I get to this one in August I’ll already have walked most of its length along the Circle and Hammersmith & City lines. I’m going to treat the remaining walk as Ealing Broadway to Wimbledon – possibly via Richmond depending on how fit I’m feeling and how long it takes.

The Metropolitan Line is another unexpectedly large one at 35 miles from Chesham to Aldgate station. I’m going to try and do this one in two chunks of about 17 miles each during September.

The Central Line is a tricky one, as it’s 45 miles long and goes right through central London. So the plan is to split it into 3 and walk it in chunks during October. Provisionally, the plan is to go Epping to Liverpool Street, West Ruislip to Notting Hill Gate, and finally Liverpool Street to Notting Hill Gate on Hallowe’en weekend dressed as a zombie, with as many zombie shuffling friends as I can manage to bring with me to do a street collection as we go.

Finally, the Northern Line – this is my home line at the moment, though I suppose by November it might not be any more. Still, it’s a long one – by my reckoning, 23.4 miles going from High Barnet to Morden via Charing Cross – and I reckon it should be possible to do in a day if I get a move on. So this will be the home stretch, sometime in November.

There are going to be various branch lines and bitty pieces that won’t get walked, under this plan – and I reckon that’s fine. I might try and fit in a few of the branches I haven’t mapped into the longer walks while I’m training, or in December when I’ve completed most of the map, or I might incorporate them into the challenge later on – or I might not do them.

This challenge is going to evolve and change as it goes on, but this is my basic blueprint for how it’s going to pan out.

My legs are going to be so sore…