Stage 36 – Feltham to Hampton Ferry

Fire and Water – a walk from Feltham to the Thames

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.

click to Join the Walk

outer stages

London Spiral

In this hot weather southern England resembles Tuscany, yellow and scorched, as dry as concrete. The parkland at Hanworth has been burnt, most likely by local lads trying their pyrotechnic skills; you can smell the carbon, and birds flit in amongst the seedlings.

hanworth park scorched

Although it’s hot the rivers are not all dried up, there’s been rain. Just as well for it’s here that Thames Water pumps water out of the Thames, filters it, purifies it, and sends it coursing through a network of pipes to our kitchens and bathrooms.

hampton WTW

At Hampton you can see the waterworks from the pavement, but it’s more impressive from the air – see this picture from Black & Veatch (PDF source):

hampton water treatment works black veatch

That yellow filter bed is sand; each bed has to be emptied and cleaned periodically.

tractor on filter bed sunbury

Here’s a Google satellite view:hampton water treatment works

If you’re interested in water infrastructure, join the walk.

hampton villageApproaching the village of Hampton

Meet at: Feltham station (train from Waterloo, Oystercard zone 6)
When: Sunday 12 August 2018, 1pm
Distance: walk 6 miles to Hampton Court station (train back to Waterloo)
Walk takes in: Feltham High Street, Hanworth Park, the reservoirs of Sunbury and Molesey, ferry across the Thames at Hampton.
Cost: free


The walk visits Garrick’s temple to Shakespeare:

garrick temple

garricks temple 2

I often say the London Spiral is defined by the crossings of the Thames, you can only continue where there’s a crossing (read more about this and other crossings Here), but the truth is that in west London the route was shaped more by where Heathrow airport is – I wanted to walk past it and not a trajectory half a mile inside – so the Hampton ferry is a little to the east of the spiral line.

feltham to hampton

Map showing idealised outer arc of the London spiral (black line), route walked (blue line).

hampton ferry

boarding the hampton ferry

passengers hampton ferry

swan and cignetsCrossing the Thames

The London Spiral is a monthly walk, each one picking up the path where the previous month left off, and covering the land and geography of the wider reaches of London.

Next time, Esher to Chessington, 9th Sept.



Walk the flight path to Heathrow’s third runway

Go see something that will soon be gone – the countryside around Heathrow.

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.

outer stages

flight pathFuture flight path, how it looks today

This walk starts off a bit like last month‘s Hillingdon Trail, across marsh lands and meadows along the River Crane. But there’s a difference – the planes: they’re getting bigger and closer. This land will soon be gone, beneath Heathrow’s Third Runway.

In June 2018 the UK government announced its support for a new runway on the land to the north of the current site –

This walk is an opportunity to gaze into the future, seeing what is there now, and what is coming, as the quiet countryside and flat grassy fields give way to modernism and engineering on a colossal scale. If you’re interested in infrastructure, join the walk.

Meet at: Hayes and Harlington station (train from Paddington)
When: Sunday 8 July 2018, 1pm
Distance: walk 7 miles to Feltham station (train back to Waterloo)
Walk takes in: old Nescafe factory; River Crane; the soon to vanish village of Hillingdon; close up view of the planes taking off or landing; Heathrow perimeter and security; environs immediately around the high tech airport.
Cost: free

plane landing heathrow

heathrowMap showing idealised outer arc of the London spiral (black line), route walked (blue line); proposed third runway (grey line)

A look at the Bing satellite image shows there are plenty of green fields.

The London Spiral is a monthly walk, each one picking up the path where the previous month left off, and covering the land and geography of the wider reaches of London.


Stage 34 – The Hillingdon Trail to Hayes and Harlington

The Hillingdon Trail (website): 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.

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

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

ickenham new cut hay fieldNew cut hay meadow, Ickenham ‘marsh’. The bushes show the line of the Yeading Brook.

yeading subway beneath A40The Yeading Brook drifts under the A40 highway

bramble in yeading brook

police caution two smokers ickenhamTwo smokers sniffed out and cautioned by special constables, as we walk by.

birch groveGutteridge woods

album photoThis one could be an album cover!

ginkgo baloba lansbury driveGingko Biloba trees line Lansbury Drive

body builder hayesA strange sight in Hayes, British Body Building competition at the Beck Theatre. Youtube

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

yellow concrete roadYellow concrete road, poured in sections, probably in the 1930s. Block paving more recent.

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 

hayes shelterHayes ‘gold disk’ canopy seat, to commemorate the EMI vinyl record factory nearby

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






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’

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)

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

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.

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. 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. According to Walter Jerrold Rambles in Greater London this archway was originally erected in 1660 at the end of London Bridge as the triumphal arch through which Charles II entered the City on his restoration.

Aeriel view of Wrotham Park and Dyrham Park beyond, (c) Historic England, photo by Damian Grady,

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 trees 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


Some pictures from Colin:



hilly fields park enfield


Treeline photo from Charlie Fox: