Section 14 of the Capital Ring: Hackney Wick to Beckton (and beyond!) with the Zenit TTL, Helios 44M, Jupiter Auto 135mm and Lomography Earl Grey film

In mid August a group of friends and I decided to take ourselves out for a photo-walk along Section 14 of the Capital Ring, the 78 mile circular walking route around London.

I decided to take my Zenit TTL along with me as it had been a while since I used it and I wanted a contrast to the more modern Nikon F55 I’d recently taken to Liverpool. The only film I had left was a roll of Lomography Earl Grey 100, so that’s what I loaded up and took out, with the idea I’d home develop later on. Colour photos were taken on my iPhone XR.

Our Day Out

We meet at the impressive new Hackney Wick Overground station, where Section 14 of the route begins nearby on the River Lee Navigation. Down the canal, past Old Ford Lock and the old Big Breakfast house, now well fenced off and protected from view, the walk diverts onto the Greenway, a long pedestrian and cycling path running all the way down to Beckton.

The first part of the Greenway takes in views of the Olympic Park and stadium, and runs to the View Tube cafe where we stop for coffee and cake, fortifying ourselves for the long walk ahead.

Rejoining the Greenway near the new Pudding Mill Lane DLR station, we head South East, crossing the Waterworks River and Stratford High Street, and arrive at Abbey Mills Pumping Station. It’s a magnificent example of ornate Victorian civil engineering, and oddly the sound of music from within gave the impression a daytime rave was in progress.

Moving on, we cross Abbey Creek and head down a long extended section of the Greenway with a more suburban view across rooftops, and a definite whiff in the air that confirms we are indeed walking on top of a sewer.

A considerable amount of time later, somewhere in East Ham, we divert from the Greenway, take a short stroll through some suburban terrace streets and then cross the A13 dual carriageway, finding ourselves in Beckton District Park. It takes several minutes to make our way through the grassy way and to the closed up and derelict looking 80s style park cafe, but that just about marks the end of Section 14 of the Capital Ring. We park ourselves on the grass and whilst considering our next move, I look at some old maps of the area and am excited to find the path behind us used to carry the Beckton Branch of the Great Eastern Railway, which closed in 1971.

Sufficiently rested, we decide to walk on and attempt at least some of Section 15 of the Capital Ring, which goes on around the Docklands to North Woolwich.

Meandering through some post-war housing estates, we pass over Cyprus DLR station and arrive on the water’s edge of the Royal Albert Dock. We hope to find a cafe, but despite the visible local student population there seems to be no such facility open for business. Whilst considering the growing hunger in our bellies we study the planes taking off and landing at London City Airport across the water, and then finally decide to abandon the Capital Ring and make our way to North Greenwich to find food there.

This new phase of our afternoon adventure entails taking the DLR and Emirates “Airline” over the Thames, which offers some lovely photo-taking potential. Once on the cable car I take the opportunity to put my 135mm Jupiter lens on the camera and try to find some nice shots from the air.

The view from the Airline is pleasing as usual, though buffeting from the wind has my anxiety levels spiking, and reaching North Greenwich we make our choice from the depressing range of chain restaurants in the O2 and sate our appetites with burgers from GBK.

One of the peninsula’s newest features is the elevated Tide walkway, which runs only a short distance from the plaza outside the Dome to the bank of the Thames. Stepping up onto the pointless platform we snap a few more photos before deciding to board a Thames Clipper back up the river.

Tea from the boat’s bar is a final treat for the day and we enjoy the fantastic alternative view of the city from the water, passing around the Isle of Dogs, Greenwich, the Tower of London, the warehouses of Wapping and Shad Thames, past St Pauls and the skyscrapers of the City, under many of London’s great bridges and up to Embankment.

Thoroughly exhausted after our ten mile walk and our multiple modes of transport, our journey is at an end.

About the Photos

Having not developed any films at home in about two years, my chemicals were pretty old, but as the developer was a generic Rodinal type formula I thought it might still be good and a quick test with the end of the film looked positive. I gave the developing time an extra 30 seconds as a rough gesture of compensation and was pleased to see a healthy looking negative after the fix and wash.

I scanned on my Epson V550 and made a few tweaks to brightness and contrast in Apple Photos. Only a little fiddling with the Healing brush was required as I blower brushed the negatives thoroughly before digitising, so had pretty clean results.

As usual the Zenit and Helios delivers a timeless look, with nice fine grain and detail on the Lomography film. Some photos seem to be slightly lighter on the left side than right, and I wonder if the shutter might not be moving across evenly at some speeds, but if so it’s quite subtle.

My lack of recent experience with using the camera is also evident as my focus was off in a few shots – the Zenit doesn’t have a proper split prism focusing system and so it’s sometimes tricky to get it right. I’d better get a bit more practice in – maybe on another section of the Capital Ring? Only another 60 odd miles to go.


One thought on “Section 14 of the Capital Ring: Hackney Wick to Beckton (and beyond!) with the Zenit TTL, Helios 44M, Jupiter Auto 135mm and Lomography Earl Grey film

  1. Great pictures and engaging narrative. You should consider offering guided tours, although not based in London I’d be interested and I am sure others would too.


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