Stage 34 – The Hillingdon Trail to Hayes and Harlington

The London Spiral, a walk around London from the inside out, has reached its outer circle, and over the months ahead will be exploring those parts of Berkshire, Surrey and Sussex that melt into the edge of the metropolis.

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It’s a series of walks, each one picking up the path where the previous month left off, and covering the land and geography of the wider reaches of London.

outer stages

Meet at: Ickenham station (Piccadilly and Metropolitan lines)
When: Sunday 10 June 2018, 1pm
Distance: walk 6 miles to Hayes
Walk through: Ickenham marshes (not so damp these days), woodland, hay meadow, botanic gardens
Cost: free

The Hillingdon Trail (website): more about the walk …

I had wanted to walk to Heathrow Airport, but it’s too far from where we left off last time, in Ruislip, in the suburbs. We’ll get there next time, let’s focus on this stage out west of London in flat, once boggy, now carefully managed Ickenham marshes.

It’s an ideal summer walk, bushy and grassy, languid and empty. We follow the Yeading Brook through woodland and meadow. It’s quiet, but in places the peace of the flat land is undermined by the growls of the bikers in their field, and suburban indy gangs in Hayes fighting in the street for no good reason. Folks, that’s what I saw.

hillingdon trailGateway to Ickenham Marshes

crack willow ickenham marshCrack willow trees like this flat wet area

yellow board roadFollow the yellow board walk

yeading subway beneath A40The Yeading Brook drifts under the A40 highway

bramble in yeading brook

birch groveGutteridge woods

ginkgo baloba lansbury driveGingko Biloba trees line Lansbury Drive

wood carved sculpture botanic garden hayesSculpture in the botanic garden by Beck Theatre, Hayes

lake farm country parkHay meadow, Lake Farm country park

BMXers hayesBMX bike riders

fight on dawley roadStreet fight, Dawley Road

accident on M4Commemoration, and traffic accident beyond, crossing the M4 

Map showing idealised outer spiral (black line) and route walked (red line):

 

 

 

 

 

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Stage 33 – The Pine Trees of Pinner

Hatch End to Ruislip: about the walk …

The towns around Pinner (north west of London, map) are pretty much contiguous housing, however you can still glimpse how the land must have looked a hundred years ago just before the suburban expansion overtook the fields and woods. Where the houses reach a limit, paddocks and cottages are still to be seen.

pinnerwood housePinnerwood House beyond its ‘moat’hidden-london.com/gazetteer/pinnerwood-park/

It’s hard to look further back into history though, Grim’s Ditch looks more like a woodland path than a defensive or territorial boundary from three centuries before the Romans (alternatively, three centuries after the Romans, when the Saxons were establishing a foothold) http://londonhistorygroup.com/archives/listings/grims-ditch.

tsudoi with pony

The houses are conservative, quintessentially English semis and detacheds, not a modernist mansion among them, unless you include the council-built blocks. A whole century of modern architecture has failed to take root in the outskirts of Britain.

albury drive hatch endAlbury Drive Hatch End

What impresses most are the trees. There are mature and varied individuals everywhere, a true suburban arboretum. Here we are grateful for the planting and foresight of residents a generation or two ago. The firs in particular, including North American Redwoods – still youngsters in tree age – Austrian Pines and Scots Pines. And plenty of decorative, flowering trees – cherries, horse chestnuts – appreciated in a domestic area.

scots pines on grimsdyke road hatch endScots pines on Grimsdyke Road Hatch End

giant sequoia on Boniface WalkGiant sequoia on Boniface Walk https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sequoiadendron_giganteum

From the height of the Pinner Hill golf course we can see across the whole Middlesex basin to the hazy towers of London. Bring your binoculars.

pinner hill golf course

The trees reach a crescendo of species in the Eastcote House park by the River Pinn.

gina eastcote flower bed

The second aerodrome we encounter on this westerly route around London (first one at Elstree here) is RAF Northolt, which is celebrating 100 years of the Royal Air Force. Many of the fighter planes that repulsed the German aerial attacks of the Second World War took off from here, including the legendary Spitfire, piloted often by Polish airmen, and we can see a model of it from the road. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_Northolt

RAF 100 flag

northolt airfieldNortholt RAF airfield

South Ruislip underground station has a concrete frieze by Henry Haig, an artist known more for his stained glass.

south ruislip station friezeSouth Ruislip station ticket hall and frieze

Meet at: Hatch End station (overground train from Euston, or change at Queens Park from the Bakerloo line)
When: Sunday 13 May 2018, 1pm
Distance: 6 miles
Walk to: South Ruislip (Central line)
Cost: free

 

Exploring the Outer Edge of London

8th April: Elstree to Carpenders Park

If you’re curious about the country that lies just on the edge of the TFL train network, yet still within the M25 motorway, join us as we start our descent past the aerodromes of west London, beginning with the Elstree Airstrip.

flyelstree.co.uk-Webcamimage from the Elstree Aerodrome webcam 18 March 2018 18:10

great oak on the trail to butterfly lane

muddy spiral path oxhey

Meet at: Elstree and Borehamwood station (train from St Pancras)
When: Sunday 8 April 2018, 1pm
Distance: 6 miles
Walk to: Carpenders Park (train to Euston)
Cost: free

radlett park elstreePath through Radlett Park Elstree

winter oak by aldenham reservoirWinter oak by Aldenham Reservoir

caldecote farm trackCaldecote farm track, right by the M1 (map). I was too far from the pheasant.

st margarets school busheyOne building at St Margaret’s school, Bushey

ponies busheyPonies, near Bushey

crows perch oxheyCommunications tower and Crows on bare tree

pond by airfieldPond by Elstree Aerodrome

merry hill road boundary treeMerry Hill, flowers, Bushey, and how it looks in autumn (google street view):

merry hill road boundary tree

carpenders park closed on sundaysCarpenders Park square, closed on a wet Sunday

 

Stage 31 – Enfield Chase part 2 – the very top of London

We had a nice westerly walk across the far north of the metropolis, just scraping that part of the country that is not London, feeling beyond the ridgeway the cool snowy breeze of Hertfordshire, and beyond it Yorkshire, and a hint in the rolling earth of the uplands of Scotland.

This month continues that experience, picking up at Cockfosters – the last station on the Piccadilly line – and walking across the clay hill countryside to Elstree and Borehamwood. It’s often roadside, because the land is enclosed by country estates, with some bridleways, so boots recommended, though dancing shoes may be better as Elstree is where the BBC records many of its most popular shows, like Strictly Come Dancing!

Meet at: CHANGED – Cockfosters station (Piccadilly line)
When: Sunday 11 March 2018, 1pm
Distance: 8.8 miles
Walk toElstree and Borehamwood
Cost: free

clearing the path above hadley woodClearing the footpath above Hadley Wood station

aerial view wrotham and dyrham beyond historic englandentrance to dyrham park17th century entrance to Dyrham Park

Aeriel view of Wrotham Park and Dyrham Park beyond, (c) Historic England, photo by Damian Grady, http://services.historicengland.org.uk/capability-brown-map/index.html

cedar monken common Cedar of Lebanon at Monken Hadley Common

monken hadley common

monken hadley common summer googleHadley Common in full leaf (c) Google

hurst cottageHurst Cottage Hadley

 

Stage 30 – Enfield Chase part 1 – the top of London

February 2018:

The London Spiral, a walk around London from the inside out, has reached its outer circle, and over the months ahead will be exploring those parts of Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey and Sussex that melt into the edge of the metropolis.

I was greatly honoured to have Charlie Fox join the walk as we made our way along the northernest, outermost stretch of the Spiral, heading west across the Enfield Chase. Much of the inspiration for the spiral walk around London came from my meetings with Charlie. He is the artistic director of Counter Productions, leader of InspiralLondon, interested among many things in walking as artistic practice, and he’s already walked the spiral in its entirety all the way to Gravesend.

I first met Charlie in 2014 when I was looking to get to know London far more extensively and deeply than my knowledge at that time. Charlie was pursuing an ambition to set out a route across the capital that would act as a walk, as a stage for artistic expression, as an opportunity for artistic and social intervention, as a social network, and as a contribution to a wider walking-as-art practice across Europe. Not only did he move much faster than me – or rather covered more distance in each excursion – he is also keener to see the spiral become a full fledged trail.

Charlie had taken part in the Marseille 2013 European City of Culture activities which had created a Metropolitan Trailway in and around the Mediterranean port town, that was part of the reason we chose to begin the spiral at Kings Cross – which is linked by rail all the way to Marseille.

I joined Charlie in his early preparatory work, including laying out the spiral route, walking some early stages (Finding the Centre, Hoo Peninsula,…) and we walked the first few stages together (Kings Cross, Regents Park, Hampstead Heath). I appreciated his focus and intent. However ultimately I realised that Charlie wanted to do something by himself, and that my vision and reason for doing the London Spiral was a separate initiative. So while he pressed on to reach his goal, from Stage 5 I took a slow train and since then have been following the spiral 5 or 6 miles at a time, the second Sunday of every month.

Although my walk’s not the same as Charlie’s in terms of purpose, it is the same in terms of route, and our walks prove that the concept of a spiral walk around London is viable – at least two groups have made this epic journey; and not just one-man-bands either, but motivated and interested groups of walkers who want to explore the whole city, uncover unknown areas, and connect to the the city and call it their home.

This stage of the walk:

The outer bound of the spiral runs just inside the M25 motorway, within its acoustic footprint to quote Iain Sinclair, and while visually it’s countryside, the few roads mean the spiral is a racquet of traffic, so we turn off along the London Loop for some peace.

Meet at: Turkey Street station, (trains from Liverpool Street), 1pm
When: Sunday 11 February 2018
Distance: 6.5 miles, country paths, woods
Walk toHadley Wood station
Cost: free

inigo jones forty hall enfieldInigo Jones building, Forty Hall Enfield.

Here is a Cedar of Lebanon (more about its health), one of London’s great treeshttps://foursquare.com/kevan/list/the-great-trees-of-london. The tree below is not the cedar though, I think it’s a willow, and it’s been circled in brushwood:

brushwood hoop forty hall

greenhouses enfield chaseGlasshouses, Enfield Chase. The area was covered in market gardens and greenhouses until a few decades ago.

down to the tracksDown to the tracks, free crossing of the main train line north

scots pine grove iiGrove of Scots pine, Clay Hill

royal chase

sight line to canary wharf from enfield chaseSight line to Canary Wharf from Enfield Chase

ridgeway wood 1991Wood just off the Ridgeway, planted 1991

tree line up to the ridgewayLine of oaks up to the Ridgeway

obelisk trent parkObelisk to George Grey, in Trent Park

hadley wood on horizonView across rolling fields, to Hadley Wood

pixiePixie living in old oak tree

colin maz rosie ferny hill On Ferny Hill https://goo.gl/maps/S75TUEMsDqk

 

Some pictures from Colin:

fortylakeside

bandstandhillpark

hilly fields park enfield

 

Treeline photo from Charlie Fox:

treeline

Stage 29 – The Remnant Forest

One discovery I have made on my quest to explore London by walking, which I did not anticipate, is how much woodland there is around the city. The Spiral has passed through frequent patches of mostly young trees, and not extensive, but together they surface a pre-historical glimpse of the ancient forest that covered this land.

epping which way

On this walk we tramp through Epping Forest, beginning at The View, at Queen Elizabeth (the first)’s Hunting Lodge. A view which may be essentially unchanged since she used to come here 475 years ago.

connaught ponies

connaught trail

But if the woods are so old, how come the trees are so young? These are not ancient trees even if the sites are mentioned in medieval texts. Judging by their girth they’re no more than one or two hundred years old, spindly and low. The beeches here in Epping are not like those you see at Burnham, and none of our forests are as grand as in France.

Meet at: Chingford station, (trains from Liverpool Street), 1pm
When: Sunday 14 January 2018
Distance: 4.5 miles, much of it muddy, cafe half way
Walk to: Enfield Lock station
Cost: free walk through Epping Forest to Enfield station

 

Here are some of the woods we’ve walked through on the London Spiral:

epping hutches

connaught pondFrozen Connaught Water

bridge over cuckoo brookFootbridge over Cuckoo Brook

Carroll’s Farm (map)carrolls farm

Compare this scene in 2018 with sixty five years ago:

Photo from Bob Wheeler:
Have just rummaged through some old photo’s I took when probably around ten years old, living at Buckhurst Hill and out on my bike in 1953. They show the cottage and duck pond a short way along the road from Gilwell Park just before heading downhill to the Lee Valley (and at that time its hundreds of commercial greenhouses mainly growing tomatoes). 
I was trying to persuade my father to go and look at it as we were thinking of moving but he just scoffed saying we needed a sensible brick built home with future potential, not a rubbishy old wooden cottage. He eventually bought a 1930’s property on a bungalow estate just outside Romford. It would be interesting to know the comparative prices of both properties today!

carrolls farm viewing

 

sunbeam on edmontonSunbeam over Edmonton, and William Girling Reservoir

leila stile

sara judy gilwell hill

 

This is upland, channeling the reservoirs and Lea river below.

king georges reservoir tree

river lea

enfield lockEnfield Lock

 

Some photos by J. Lawson:

IMG_2213

jane- carrols shed

jane- gilwell hill

jane- stile gilwell hill

jane- lea or lee

jane- swan + geese

jane- enfield lock

 

Central Line Loop

We headed for the big loop in the London Underground Central Line, Barkingside. Still in Zone 4, then crossing into Zone 5 at Buckhurst Hill.

central loop

And then it SNOWED!

snowman

barnardos village

Barkingside is home of Dr Barnardo’s. In the mid nineteeth century Dr Thomas Barnardo wanted to do something about the poverty he saw around him in the east end of London. In 1870 he opened a home for orphan boys in Stepney, then three years later he bought land and built the houses around the church at Barkingside, miles out in the country, and provided a place for young women. That was a hundred and fifty years ago. Forty years ago I remember helping Barnardo’s, they had a furniture outlet in Gorgie in Edinburgh.

barnardos hq + youth magistrates court

Bob grew up around here and can remember the fields before they built the Barnardo’s HQ (above left), and the young offenders magistrates court right next door. I asked him, How come there is still a need for a charity, after all this time? It’s not the same, he said. It’s not poverty. And indeed if you look at the research on https://www.barnardos.org.uk/, you can see where the focus is today [December 2017]. The website banner headlines read Help us be there for sexually abused children; Should we be paying more attention to who is following our children online? Shop our Christmas Range Today!

A bit further on there’s another physical sign of the change in how we see our children since 40 years ago – Andersons has built a school for autistic children on the old Spurs training ground. Like Barnardo’s there’s private house development to help raise funds. Their focus is on preparing autistic teenagers for further education, and employment.

We crossed Claybury Park (leaflet).

claybury park

claybury woods

Christmas decorations at Little West Hatchlittle west hatch

Luxborough Lane:snow walk luxborough laneThis feels like the far north east of London, miles away, fresh air, but it’s still well inside the M25.

M25

Meet at: Barkingside station, Central line, 1pm
When: Sunday 10 December 2017
Distance: the walk is 4.2 miles, not far
Walk to: Buckhurst Hill. Queens Road below
Cost: free

queens road buckhurst hill

A couple of weeks before:spiral-stair-tree Spiral stair around tree, Claybury Woods

claybury park underused Not much use made of the apparatus in Claybury Park on a sunny Sunday afternoon

cross the M11 Cross the M11

viaduct river roding luxborough lane Footbridge and rail viaduct over River Roding at Luxborough Lane.

This neighbourhood was pre-fabs after the war, then rebuilt in the 1970’s; every street named after a tree – Chestnut, Maple, Walnut, Elm, and more, mostly not represented by actual planting, except here on Hornbeam Close:

hornbeam close

An excellent walk in north east London. Next one takes us onto the London Loop. You can join us. Second Sunday of the month.