27th April 2017: Lost River Fleet

This was the last of the series of Lost Rivers of London walks. Starting from Whitestone Pond, where one branch of the River Fleet rises (another branch starts at Highgate) we made our way across Hampstead Heath passing some of the swimming ponds. Then we walked south through the backstreets to Kentish Town and on to St Pancras churchyard for our lunch stop. Here we looked in Old St Pancras church, and saw the Hardy Tree and the graves of Mary Wollstonecraft and Sir John Soane. Passing between St Pancras and King’s Cross stations, we continued south to Clerkenwell and Farringdon. After viewing the last stretch of our route from Holborn Viaduct, we finished at Blackfriars, where the tide was too high to view the outflow of the Fleet from its drainage pipe, so we returned to the Blackfriars pub for a celebratory drink.

The plan for the summer months is to return to continue the Essex Way, arriving at Harwich in September.

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23rd April 2017: Constable Country

An early start saw a small group assembling at Liverpool Street for the train to Manningtree for a circular walk through Constable country. It was a fine day for a pleasant walk through the countryside and villages painted by John Constable. At Dedham we paused for a lunch break beside the river Stour where we watched the boats taking visitors on a pleasure trip. From here it was across the fields towards Flatford where we took a diversion to East Bergholt to see the church and the bells which are housed separately in the bell house. Outside the pub we found Morris dancing in progress and were pleased to find a former Red Rope member, Miriam who now lives in the village, among the dancers. After welcome tea and cake in the village teashop we made our way back to Flatford Mill, where we were glad to avoid the crowds there. Then it was back to Manningtree for the train, and a slow journey home due to delays. It was a most enjoyable day out.


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16th April 2017: Easter Sunday, Woldingham bluebell walk

Ten of us enjoyed a 6 mile circular walk from Woldingham Station in Surrey. The weather was very kind to us and perfect for our walk. We walked through the attractive Marden Park Woods, popped into St. Agatha’s church, which is claimed to be the smallest and highest church in Surrey and walked through swathes of glorious bluebells in Great Church Wood. 
We stopped for lunch along the route of the North Downs Way from which we could see for miles over the ridges and valleys of the Weald taking in distant views of both the North and South Downs.  We proceeded though more woodland until a break at Godstone Vineyard where a few of us enjoyed cream teas and some sampled the vineyard’s wine. 
The final leg of the walk took us past Woldingham school and next to a field of young calves and their mothers.

Marden woods

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9th April 2017: Chalfont and Latimer to Chesham


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2nd April 2017:Bishop’s Stortford to Harlow, sculpture walk

Jo led this walk along the River Stort on a fine sunny day. There wasn’t much sculpture to be seen – most of it is in Harlow Town centre and needs a walk of its own, but we saw a couple at the locks on the way.

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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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