Come for a walk along the Dagenham Brook & Over Pole Hill

New tickets announced for my walks along The Dagenham Brook and Over Pole Hill

It’s been a fantastic summer of walks for Waltham Forest Borough of Culture as ‘psychogeographer-in-residence’. And now the final two walks have just been announced:

The Dagenham Brook

The Dagenham Brook

The Dagenham Brook, 22nd September 2pm –  book here

Waltham Forest Tours presents The Dagenham Brook with John Rogers, Psychogeographer-in-residence; a guided walk an overlooked stream in Waltham Forest.
Running from Leyton Jubilee Park to Coppermill Lane Walthamstow, the Dagenham Brook leads us through the streets of Leyton and Walthamstow weaving stories as it flows.
John will be joined by a local artist Lucy Harrison as part of this walk. A map of the walk is being produced in by printer Russell Frost of Hooksmith Press, Leytonstone.

Pole Hill Chingford

Over Pole Hill, 20th October 2pm – book here

 Explore the north-eastern frontier of both Waltham Forest and Greater London.
This will take the group up over Pole Hill, the highest point in the borough, which sits on Zero Longitude and was used by the Greenwich Observatory to set its telescope. You will also explore the terrain of the forest fringe.
As part of the walk, John will be joined by artist and illustrator Rachel Lillie, whose recent work includes the exhibition The In-between: An Ode to Epping Forest at Waltham Forest’s Vestry House. A map of the walk is being produced in by printer Russell Frost of Hooksmith Press, Leytonstone.

Lea Valley Walk from Walthamstow to Waltham Abbey

This Lea Valley walk from Walthamstow to Waltham Abbey is surely one of my favourites. I’d finished leading a walk across the marshlands from Leyton Water Works to Walthamstow Wetlands and had the desire to push on into the evening. I headed up along Blackhorse Lane then turned into Folly Lane which opens up the postcard image of the ‘edgelands’ – you could bring coachloads of anthropologists and urban geographers up here to Harbet Road with it’s pylons and fields of fly-tipping, mountains of rubble and stacks of shipping containers.

River Lea Navigation

It’s a relief to drop beneath the North Circular onto the towpath of the Lea Navigation, and slowly chug along the waterway like a listing barge. You note the phases of change passing through the outer rings of the city – London Waste, Ponders End, Brimsdown Power Station, the confluence with the Turkey Brook, Enfield Dry Dock and Enfield Lock, then Rammey Marsh and the final release of passing beneath the M25 and into the beyond.

 

filmed on 28th July 2019

Westminster Protest against Suspension of Parliament

A spontaneous protest was called after the news broke in the afternoon that the Queen had agreed to Boris Johnson’s request to suspend Parliament for five weeks, preventing MPs from debating Brexit in the run-up to 31st October deadline.

‘Stop the Coup’ was the dominant chant from the crowds in Parliament Square and on Whitehall outside 10 Downing Street. ‘When you shut down the Parliament, We shut down the Streets’ a song broke out near the Cenotaph in the dark.

A roadblock formed in Parliament Square leading to an initial angry volley from a cabbie who nearly ran me over. But after a while he settled down in his taxi scrolling through his phone, his smiling passengers departed on foot. The traffic backed up all the way along Whitehall, buses, cabs, cars, and coaches as the singing and dancing grew louder.

IMG_9683 IMG_9685

I went to a pub near Trafalgar Square and quickly edited the footage above and posted to YouTube. As I returned to Parliament Square at 10.30pm a small but committed group still blocked the road surrounded by fluro-jacketed Police. They look to be settled in for the long haul.

 

An expedition to Devil’s Dyke & the Lea Valley Walk

This was a walk inspired by a comment on this blog by Philip Avery that I discovered 7 months after it had been posted.  It was on my video about the walk to Boudicca’s obelisk in the Epping Uplands and Philip’s research had suggested that the British king Cassivellaunus had been defeated by Julis Caesar in 54BC at Ambresbury Banks during his second invasion of Britain rather than Wheathampstead. I instantly googled ‘Wheathampstead Cassivellaunus’ which led me to the image below I captured on the my own expedition to Devil’s Dyke  how could I not visit this site.

Cassivellaunus Devil's Dyke Wheathampstead

The walk starts at Harpenden in Hertfordshire and follows the upper reaches of the River Lea, picking up the Lea Valley Walk as far as Wheathampstead. We then go along the majestic earthwork of Devil’s Dyke, one of the outer entrenchments of Cassivellaunus’s ‘city’ and stronghold of the Catuvellauni tribe (there is another earthwork on the outskirts of St. Albans also associated with Cassivellaunus). From here we follow the Hertfordshire Way to the edge of St. Albans and then pass through part of the Roman city to St. Albans Cathedral drenched in midsummer magic.

 


 

 

Take a look at my latest video: a walk along the Suffolk Coast from Soutwold to Dunwich in the footsteps of W.G. Sebald from the classic book The Rings of Saturn

The view from the hill – a walk to Wooburn

I feel Old old Wooburn more and more every day – the village where I grew up and where a recent family history binge showed roots running deep through the chalk and flint. The sense of it was almost overpowering as I crested the hill marked by Hard-to-Find Farm and approached Bloom Wood. ‘Always was a cold wood, Bloom Wood’, my Dad had said on the phone when I called him on the walk out across Wycombe Rye. And as I discussed my route he could only imagine it coming from the opposite direction – the way from Wooburn, despite the amount of times I reminded him I was approaching from the opposite direction.


Bloom was indeed a cold wood, dense and dark. I was fascinated as a kid by the stories of ‘devil worshippers’ dancing round fires seen from below on Sheepridge Lane. I can’t recall ever entering Bloom Wood. I liked the idea of stumbling upon a coven of Satanists, but it was no longer the 1970’s and too early at 7pm, midsummer. It was exactly where I wanted to be, pushed off the sofa in Leytonstone, out on the edge of East London, mid-afternoon watching Dr Who with the youngest teenager I saw myself on a hill at sunset and knew where the hill would be, more or less. This dappled wood was exactly where I wanted to be right now.

I dropped down the hill and emerged at the edge of the wood where the corn fields had been given over to pasture with a smattering of sheep. Below was Sheepridge Lane where my Nan had lived as a girl in a cottage behind the Crooked Billet earning some coins picking flints from the fields and providing the pub landlord with fresh stinging nettles with which the thrash his wife to ease her rheumatism. The footpath led out into the narrow lane that would have been Nan’s way home, the workers cottages now appeared to be knocked all into one and carrying a hefty price I imagine. The old man had instructed me to have a pint in the Billet garden looking across the lane to the fields rising on the far side, a garden where he told me he’d encountered what must have been one of the last traveling minstrels, an old fella who went from pub to pub singing for beer and a bite to eat kipping down in hedgerows and barns at night. By then, the 1960’s, these old travellers were an unwelcome feature of the countryside.

Wildflowers Chilterns

Flackwell Heath field near Sheepridge Lane

The pub was empty, the landlady the same as when my sister had worked behind the bar thirty years or more ago. I took my pint of Brakespears (brewed nearby in Henley) out into the garden and looked across at Noel’s fields. Red Kites, wing-spans wider than my outstretched arms, rode the thermals in great wide arcs and dove down on fresh roadkill.

The hill in my mind was just across the road, topped with a spinny above Pigeon House Farm. A legsore  winter sunset, I was walking back over those fields with my Dad, must have been four of five years old and I’d just raced to pick up a pigeon he’d shot. He hoisted me up on his shoulders, a drop of blood hung from the pigeon’s beak and I marvelled at the impossible beauty of the colour of the feathers around its throat. I passed the orchard the Old Man planted beside the lane and then rang him from the top of the hill, the view stretching out across Marlow to a wide bend in the River Thames. He remembered that day clearly, and told me a funny story about the burial of a beloved cow in the spinny behind me.

Flackwell Heath

I moved on through Flackwell Heath, echoes of teenage years bouncing off the pavement that followed me over the golf course and down to Wooburn. There was a beer festival in the garden of The Falcon, calling me, tempting me, but my way ahead was along the A40 in the dark, past the Highwaymen’s cave in Cut Throat Wood to the station at Beaconsfield and back to a sofa in Leytonstone.

A Walk through the ancient borough of East Ham

It was two months ago now, on the 11th June, that I set off across Wanstead Flats for a long planned walk through the ancient Borough of East Ham. The regrowth from last year’s fire was evident (as noted before on this blog) and I exited the flats near Manor Park Station. I passed the Earl of Essex pub on Romford Road, now closed and waiting for a new life, hopefully as a pub. The old Coronation Cinema is now The Royal Regency banquetting venue, opened in 1911 as the Coronation Electric Theatre, the last film flickered onto its screen in 1968.

I was thinking of Dr. Pagenstecher’s History of East and West Ham published in 1908 as I made my way along High Street North;

“East Ham is perhaps the most remarkable example of rapid transformation from a rural to an urban community. Its marvellous growth and development is absolutely without parallel in the history of the United Kingdom.”

St. Mary Magdelene East Ham

It was sad to see The Ruskin Arms boarded up. Jimmy Winston, one of the founder members of Small Faces told me the band used to rehearse in the pub when his Dad was the landlord. It’s a pub with a lot of history.

I stopped for a cracking £4.95 veg buffet at Annpoorna Indian Restaurant on the High Street before pushing on past the opulent Town Hall to search in vain for the grave of Druid and antiquarian, William Stukeley in the churchyard of St. Mary Magdalene. Stukeley had been buried at St. Mary’s in 1765 at his request after visiting Rev. Joseph Simms the vicar. Perhaps it was the antiquity of the site that caught Stukeley’s imagination, with Roman burials being excavated by workman. Or the maybe the New Age theoritsts and neo-psychogeographers were correct about St. Mary’s being a nodal point in the London earth grid, a plum location on a ley line. It’s a beautiful peaceful location in any case and the perfect place to end a walk through the ancient borough of East Ham.

 

Woolwich to Thamesmead via Lesnes Abbey – Green Chain Walk

This was a return of sorts, rooted in a pang to partly retrace the steps of my 2012 walk for This Other London from Woolwich to the Dartford Salt Marshes. Back in early June of this year I headed out of Woolwich Town Centre up across Plumstead Common, picking up the Green Chain Walk to Lesnes Abbey, a gem on the edge of woodland overlooking the Thames. Instead of continuing east to Erith I followed the Green Chain down through Thamesmead to the Thames Path, closing the loop back at Woolwich. A glorious South London Loop.