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.
Inigo Jones building, Forty Hall Enfield.
Here is a Cedar of Lebanon (more about its health), one of London’s great trees. https://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:
Glasshouses, Enfield Chase. The area was covered in market gardens and greenhouses until a few decades ago.
Down to the tracks, free crossing of the main train line north
Grove of Scots pine, Clay Hill
Sight line to Canary Wharf from Enfield Chase
Wood just off the Ridgeway, planted 1991
Line of oaks up to the Ridgeway
Obelisk to George Grey, in Trent Park
View across rolling fields, to Hadley Wood
Pixie living in old oak tree
On Ferny Hill https://goo.gl/maps/S75TUEMsDqk
Some pictures from Colin:
Treeline photo from Charlie Fox: