1st December 2016:Lost Rivers of London project, the Westbourne

On 1st December six Thursday walkers met in fog and frost by Whitestone Pond at the top of Hampstead Hill to find the source, then trace the course, of the Westbourne.  Below the pond we found a reedy hollow which our book (Tom Holton London’s Lost Rivers 2011) assured us was the spring source.  A little further down the hill was the house Paul Robeson stayed in while playing Othello (received well in London, banned in Washington).  Walking through controversial Branch Hill housing estate and continuing downhill past mansions we saw a cross section of Hampstead life, dark histories lurking in the mists.  We had to accept our guidebook’s assurances that the course of the river (now piped) lay in the back gardens on our right. That was until we reached mansion flat blocks in Cannon Hill, West Hampstead, alongside which we put ears to a manhole cover, as instructed. Sure enough we heard cheerful gurgling, not all of it ours.
In this way we continued, through the fascinating districts of South Kilburn, Paddington and Bayswater, with some further chances to hear storm water, leavened with light sewage, splashing through the pipework.  After crossing Bayswater Road we reached Hyde Park’s Long Water, the ornamental lake standing at the northern head of the Serpentine. We followed the Serpentine through increasing knots, then crowds of walkers-out on what was now a glorious blue-sky afternoon; took the Knightsbridge exit and walked though stately mews lanes (passing the cottage where Judy Garland died) to Sloane Square.  Afternoon tea on the sixth floor of Peter Jones’s rewarded our pioneering trek – though two of us braved the darkening dusk (still with a rosy glow in the west) to walk across the grounds of the Chelsea Hospital to the place on the Victoria Embankment where the piped river discharges into the Thames. Evelyn has divining talents: she pointed to the cross current ripples where, she said, our river was making itself felt on the Thames tide surge.
We want to make such a lost river expedition a monthly event in winter months. So we propose tracing the Tyburn on Thursday 12 January 2017. We will meet at Hampstead tube station at 10.30.
Steve Butters
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27th November 2016: East London canals walk

On this greyish day we explored the canals network by walking a circuit from Limehouse. Starting off along the very straight Limehouse Cut we paused for coffee at Three Mills, where Father Christmas and elves were waiting to draw us in to a Christmas Fair. Most of us resisted and we continued up the Lea Navigation through a post industrial landscape opposite the Olympic Park to the Hertford Union Canal and Victoria Park for a chilly lunch stop. A diversion on the towpath took us on to the Regent’s Canal through Mile End and back to Limehouse Basin and the DLR station.

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30th October 2016: Epping Forest

On an atmospherically misty Autumnal Sunday, 11 Red Ropers took the Liverpool Street train to Chingford, for a six mile circular walk through the green/orange/russet/brown/red leaf-fall delights of Epping Forest.
In a mixed species party of 10 people and a charming Norfolk terrier called Woody, we headed east from Chingford rail station and passed close to Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, while walk leader Steve Butters filled us in on some of its historical associations with its originating Tudor dynasty. Then our route swung north, across the Plain and up the Centenary Way bridleway to the only village in Epping Forest, namely High Beach. I’ll let Steve describe what occurred next…
“The snacks kiosk adjoining the Kings Oak pub provides a good supply of tea, coffee, veggie burgers and chips for bikers and others who stop here [as did we – and their bacon ciabatta gets my double-thumbs-up – TDJ]; and if the weather is mild the central common will suit picnickers. The pub is not recommended, except for shelter if rain is heavy. Those wanting a comfortable indoor lunch break are recommended to take this at The Owl in Lippitts Hill 1.5 miles on.
After a break we now cross the common and turn back south along the lane, passing High Beach Church and several mansions, before taking Pepper Alley towards another fine house. This drive gives way to a narrow path down rough farmland to the respectable village of Lippitts Hill. (It must be respectable, there is a Met Police base here.) A stop at The Owl may well attract support, though be warned that it will be busy [we enjoyed a welcome { tea | beer } break at The Owl, where I met a beautiful tan horse called Munch – TDJ]. From here we strike south through field and woodland paths past Sewardstonebury golf course and onward to Chingford Plain to return to the nearby train station.”
In the preceding week, BBC Autumnwatch 2016 had highlighted how the heavy autumnal dews of October can help bring into view the industriousness of our wild spiders, in spinning their fly trap webs – and this was indeed one of the natural beauty highlights of this delightful walk: 2D and 3D webs spun in trees, bushes, and undergrowth, picked out by the glistening of ultra-fine water droplets condensed upon them from dewfall and mist.
 
Tim Dalinian Jones
 
If you’d like to see 10 photos from our Epping Forest Walk, plus a map, and links to places of interest, please do feel free to visit my:
● ‘Epping Forest Walk – RR.LDN – Sun 30 Oct 2016‘ photo album
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22nd October 2016:The Line

Joanna led a group of 14 on this urban walk following the sculpture trail known as The Line (the-line.org). The start was at North Greenwich where there are 4 or 5 sculptures to be seen, including the Anthony Gormley which has been there since the millennium.The group then enjoyed a ride across the Emirates Airline cable car with great views, to Royal Victoria Dock and a few more sculptures. Next came a ride on the DLR to Star Lane and a short walk to Cody Dock for a refreshment break and a view of Damien Hirst’s contribution (a slice of skin…). Continuing along the River Lea to Three Mills Island there was lots of natural and historical interest, as well as more sculptures. The walk finished at Stratford.

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16th October 2016: Tunbridge Wells

This 10.25 mile  circular walk from Tunbridge Wells train station on a rainy morning, went via Speldhurst, Old Bullingstone and Groombridge for lunch, returning via High Rocks.

tunbridge-wells

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Helen and Woody at the Old Spa.

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October 2016: The Essex Way

Having completed the London Loop (some more complete than others..) the midweek walkers embarked on the 81 mile Essex Way, beginning at Epping and finishing at Harwich. The first section from Epping To Ongar was undertaken by 2 separate groups on 6th and 13th of October. This was a varied landscape through fields and interesting woodland. The second group had a slightly damper and muddier experience, picking up the first mud of the season on their boots -very sticky Essex mud at that. Lunch was on the green at Toot Hill with a drink at the local pub. From Ongar the bus took us back to Epping Station.

The second stretch on 20th October began with the return bus to Ongar. The day was overcast but mostly dry until near the end. The autumn colours had developed since the previous week and there was plenty of hedgerow fruit to be found. The walk took us through fields alongside the River Roding and along pretty green lanes. Lunch was in the village churchyard at Willingale which has 2 churches! We looked in one of them which is no longer used for worship. The other one is undergoing major restoration and currently has no roof, so worshippers must have to go elsewhere! Sadly there was no pub remaining in the village. We finished the section near the hamlet of Peppers Green where there was just a bus stop with an hourly bus which arrived only a few minutes late and took us to Chelmsford to catch a train back to London.

 

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9th October 2016: Abbey Wood to Woolwich via Crossness Pumping Station

Lots of varied and interesting features on this walk enjoyed by 12 of us!

The ruined  12th century Lesnes Abbey must have been magnificent  before  Henry VIII dissolved it.

Great views looking towards the Thames and back into Central London.

Bexley Council’s Lesnes Woods enhancement project, very promising start until the contractors went bust!.

Thamesmead,  60s utopian housing project that never quite recovered from its star role in the Clockwork Orange.….the worst features- some of the leaking flats and walkways – are now being demolished.  The arrival of Crossrail in 2018 will dramatically change the area.

Birds, birds, birds …on Southmere Lake.

Along the Ridgeway…that sits on top of southern outfall sewer

Over the former marshy area reclaimed by the enterprising monks of Lesnes Abbey

On to steaming day at Crossness pumping station, the sewerage plant designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette and opened in 1865 after the cesspits and drainage systems of central London had literally reached breaking point. The highlight was the lovingly restored (it took volunteers 18 years) Prince Consort beam engine.

Back along the Thames with storm clouds and a rainbow behind us …and a family of four seals living on the edge of the river.

Finished with afternoon coffee/tea in the café in the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich.

Link to clip about Crossness Pumping Station: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zlp1aG1VJRI

 

 

 

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