5th March 2017:London Loop, Hayes and Harlington to Uxbridge

Three of us did this west London stretch of the Loop, ranging from the light industry of H & H, past some of the “highest of hi-tech corporations” (according to the TfL guide) to the outskirts of rural Buckinghamshire. It was a four seasons in one day kind of walk, with wind and hail but also bright sunshine and welcome signs of Spring – snow drops, pussy willow, nesting birds and wild garlic. As always on my walks, the lunchtime pub was closed!


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23rd February 2017: Lost River Effra walk

This lost river is well documented but various authors offer alternative courses for the Effra.  Never mind the lost river, we were lost several times looking for the start line between Crystal Palace Station and Westow Park; fortunately Joanna knows the area.  The authorities suggest that the spring waters of Gypsy Hill produce a true source on the lower corner of Westow Park, whence we set off in earnest.  Upper Norwood slopes house the Virgo Fidelis convent, set up by royalist nuns fleeing the democratic revolution in Paris 1848.  This was later flooded by the river sufficiently to destroy its retaining wall; the nuns are buried behind the convent buildings near the old river course. We marched along Elder Road, past a grand sheltered housing range, on to West Norwood.  Here some of us briefly explored Southern Metropolitan Cemetery (home to Isabella Beaton and Henry Tate) while others took coffee in a nice shop.  A trek into West Dulwich enabled us to explore Belair Park whose pond outflows into the Effra sewer.  Walking past the Picture Gallery and along genteel arts-and-crafts Burbage Road to Herne Hill Village, we crossed Half Moon Lane to reach the top of Brockwell Park, whose springs and ponds also feed our river.  This is where we picnicked under threatening skies before sauntering down past Effra Road and Water Lane into central Brixton.  We cheated here, taking a bus to the Oval Cricket Ground, where we  learned that its curved embankments were formed by digging out the Effra for its sewerising burial.

Crossing the charming Vauxhall Park, we made our way to Brunswick House on Nine Elms Lane to take afternoon tea among the brilliant bric a brac of the Lassco antiques company.  Finally, passing through the oppressive St George’s complex (previously the Effra Site) to the somewhat windswept Thames Embankment, we found the tide low enough to take the slipway beside the Vauxhall Cross Spooks Palace (housing the SIS) onto a pebble beach.  Here we found two massive outflow gates and associated apparatuses.  The first is the exit for the Effra Storm Relief Tunnel which gurgles below the spooks’ basement gym; the second, older, outflow on the other side of Vauxhall Bridge, was the place where Effra Creek once allowed riverine activities, though probably not the apocryphal Queen Elizabeth I boat-borne visit to Sir Walter Raleigh for tea in Brixton. This was a testing walk in breezy conditions – but full of interest.  In several quaint old pubs along the way Joanna is well remembered.

Our next expedition on Thurs 16th March will follow the two mile stretch of the lost River Walbrook from Shoreditch through the City to its Thames outflow.  We will meet at Old Street Station at 11.00.  However, Veronica is to organise a breakfast time trip up the Walkie Talkie to its splendid roof garden before this, at 9.30.  Details will be posted on this blog and the email round-robin around 9th March.


Steve Butters


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19th February 2017: Six parks and a canal path. St James’s Park to Regent’s Park

Don led this green London ramble. The planned route was St James Park (via Admiralty Arch); Green Park; Hyde Park; Kensington Gardens; Holland Park (probable first lunch stop); then via Notting Hill and Portobello Road market to Grand Union Canal with its houseboat community and gardens, which we follow for four kilometers to Little Venice and Regents Park.   (afternoon tea in a canal-boat cafe in Little Venice.)

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5th February 2017: Chelsfield Circular

After a few minor train hiccups, we all met up at Chelsfield Station for a circular walk led by Jessie. The walk took us through parks, woodland and fields in a green area within the London travel zones. Near the end of the walk the pub in Chelsfield was very welcoming, perhaps a little too much as we missed the train back, the station being some distance from the village. But we didn’t have long to wait for another.


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2nd February 2017: River Peck and the Earl’s Sluice

The starting point of this south London trail was known to several of us. The Honor Oak had long been a key point in Camberwell; there Queen Elizabeth I joined in may dancing in 1602. In the 19th century thousands demonstrated to preserve the common of One Tree Hill and ever since this scrubland has remained in public ownership. Two years ago some of us gathered near the hill to remember our comrade Pauline; she was buried nearby in Camberwell Old Cemetery. We sauntered down the slope to the edge of the quirky Aquarius Golf Course (built over a wide vaulted reservoir) and then around avenues into the charming Peckham Rye Park. Here the brook winds through ornamental gardens and open spaces to the north end, where it disappears into the sewer system, and can be heard beneath a manhole cover. After exploring the park we crossed the soggy-bottomed Peckham Rye Common. We were led by Joanna through bohemian back streets to a craftspeople’s colony around the Bussey warehouse in Copeland Road. In the bistro gourmet burgers and salads were the order of the day. After lunch we trudged around South Bermondsey’s complicated road works (not to mention the notorious Millwall Den) to join the Earl’s Sluice and at last reach the Surrey Docks. Greenland Dock proved a chilly expanse, South Dock a well-heeled marina. The walk ended at the pier where our two rivers finally reached the Thames, mixed with the waters of the docks complex. Coffee in Canada Water Library had been well earned.

Next outing on Thursday 23 February: the lost River Effra

We will meet at Crystal Palace Station at 11.00. This walk goes over the Upper Norwood ridge to explore West Norwood Cemetery, where the river is briefly visible. From the cemetery we take back avenues through Streatham and Brixton and on to the Oval Cricket Ground. (After passing Brockwell Park, we will nod towards Effra Road, more than once the scene of rioting, which is actually the boundary of Effra Farm and not the course of our river.) Our seven-mile trek takes us to the HQ of our country’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) in the basement of which runs the final outflow of the Effra. We should knock and ask to have a look. There are possible tea places around Vauxhall Cross if we search – or there is Pimlico across the river.

Steve Butters
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30th January 2017: Hampstead Circular walk

Ten turned out for this despite the rain forecast. On the way to the heath we passed Burgh House and John Constable’s house in Well Walk before joining the cheerful family strollers brought out, rain or shine, by Sundays. Through rough grassland to the vantage point of Parliament Hill, St Paul’s barely visible but the Shard standing tall. On the east side of the heath we ascended past all the boating and bathing ponds and across the top meadow to Kenwood House, our lunch venue. We considered going in to view old master pictures but as rain was gathering force we pushed on through the estate and across Spaniards Road to explore first the Heath Extension (scrub, swamp, football pitches) and then the central part of Hampstead Garden Suburb. It had become rather damp for a nature walk but steady rain did not detract from appreciation of Unwin’s sedate arts-and-crafts family houses and Lutyen’s monumental churches. Turning back by the school named after the suburb’s foundress Henrietta Barnett, we made brisk progress on the homeward stage and at the last found a comfortable bookshop in the village, where hot teas revived us.

Steve Butters

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28 January 2017: Red Rope London Party

The annual party, hosted by Jessie, was a great success. It was good to see so many members there, and the food and drink was plentiful!


Debbie and Dermot at the party

Debbie and Dermot at a previous party.

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