Sunday sunset walk through Bush Wood

Bush Wood

The Shard seems to be aligned perfectly with the avenue of trees that cuts across Wanstead Flats from Leytonstone to what was once the grounds of the grand Wanstead House. I believe I’ve erronously claimed in the past that this avenue was laid out by Humphrey Repton (confusing it with the avenue of trees he planned in Wanstead Park near one of the lakes). The sunset reveals this alignment in the startling burnt sky. One of the reasons the last light is a perfect time to walk on Wanstead Flats.

Bush Wood

It was dark by the time we looped back from Blake Hall Road, following the path to Bushwood Lodge, and then turning into Bush Wood. Our passage through the woods was illuminated by a full moon casting a crystal trail through the muddy woodland. This pond in Bush Wood has always had a slightly mysterious tinge, often dried out in summer, in winter it lurks like a magic bog among the trees. The moon sat above the bare trees solely to cast moonbeams into this very pool.

Walk from Brentwood to Grange Hill

Brentwood

I found myself late Sunday morning just to the north of Brentwood at Bentley and decided to walk back towards London. I had no real route in mind other than to end up at a Central Line Station somewhere.

Brentwood
I started off down Hullet’s Lane. It was crisp and cold, a few degrees above zero. I then decided to loop back up along Pilgrim’s Lane and across The Mores, a strip of woodland where last autumn I went looking for Stukeley’s Druid temple.

Brentwood

Guided at this stage by an OS Map, I picked up a footpath off Wheeler’s Lane that ran across farmland. The path ended at a locked gate, the stile wrapped in wire. I had no choice other than to find the diverted route of the path that took me round the farmhouse into a track where I plunged into deep soft mud halfway up my calf. It oozed beneath me like quicksand, I wondered what I had stepped into and how far I’d sink. Cold mud filled my boots but I managed to drag myself out onto solid ground. (I checked the other end of the path where it exited onto the road to find a bull and cow slumbering by the stile).

I decided to stick to the road as I continued through Navestock, passing a large Ice Age pudding stone that had been raised on a plinth to mark the millennium, then crossed the M25. After paying homage to a trig point by a medieval moat on Navestock Common, I followed the long steep track to Curtis Mill Green.

Brentwood

There was a scattering of fly-tipping, further up the track beer barrels lay strewn among the hawthorn trees. There was an abandoned cottage crumbling in the undergrowth. Above the hedgerow the sun pitched on distant uplands, a large hill stood resplendent (Cabin Hill?), just visible beyond were the London skyscrapers.

Brentwood IMG_1324

I hadn’t eaten since 8am and wondered whether the need for food would eventually dictate my route. But the hunger didn’t seem to rise above a slight annoyance.

Curtis Mill Lane
My OS map ended at Stapleford Church so from here I was dependent on my phone for navigation. I found a footpath off the main road across farmland heading for Stapleford Aerodrome. For once, a footpath closure provided a happy accident. Forced to scramble through bushes and leap over a stream I found myself confronted with a second world war pillbox nestled into the riverbank obscured by ivy and an overhanging tree. It would have formed part of the Outer London Defence Ring when the airfield was taken over during the war becoming RAF Stapleford Tawney.

Pillbox Stapleford

WW2 Pillbox near Stapleford Aerodrome,

Crossing the field light aircraft buzzed low overhead coming in to land, the sound of their engines making you think of the Hurricanes and Spitfires that operated from the grass runways at Stapleford until 1943.

Brentwood

More paths across bare muddy fields brought me to a familiar junction near Lambourne Church. The battery on my phone was low and it was randomly shutting down, so it was good to know that I could find my way back to the tube network from here by memory. The ‘ancient green lane’ through Conduit Wood, although only passed twice before had the feeling of home. It’s a landscape I imagine woodland sprites occupy.


My knee decided to lock and cease to function as I reached Lambourne End. An old affliction I was sure had gone away. Maybe it was the cold, yomping through deep mud, and the faster than usual pace, I don’t know. So now it meant hauling my useless left leg down the muddy bridleway (Featherbed Lane) to Crabtree Hill in Hainault Forest. The pain started to ease. I could traverse these paths in the dark (as I have done before, and in deep snow too) if needed and started to think of food and a pint at the Red Lion back in Leytonstone.

conduit wood IMG_1375

I eventually stumbled out of Hainault Forest  across Weddrell’s Plain onto Chigwell Row as the sunset gave way to darkness. I remembered the little office licence where I’d bought a can of cold lager and snacks after a long summer evening stroll and bagged a chicken and mushroom slice and a can of lemon Fanta.


The walk in the dark down the hill to Grange Hill Tube Station was completed in a reverie. The lights of London Town shimmered in the distance.

Grange Hill

Fitzrovia Chapel

Fitzrovia Chapel

An unexpected London treasure sits just off Mortimer Street inside the new Pearson Square development, the old Middlesex Hospital Chapel. Fitzrovia Chapel, built in 1891 by John Pearson, is the only surviving building of Middlesex Hospital which was established on the site in 1755. The Hospital was sold to developers in 2005 and demolished in 2008.

Fitzrovia Chapel

The English Heritage listing for the chapel states that the interior is of “polychrome marble and mosaic decoration” in an “Italian Gothic style”. The “Font is carved from solid block of deep green marble with symbols of Four Evangelists at each corner and inscribed with Greek palindrome copied from the font of Hagia Sophia.”

Fitzrovia Chapel

I wandered in one lunchtime and was blown away by its beauty. Now managed by a trust, Fitzrovia Chapel hosts events and concerts, corporate shindigs and product launches. I was told it’s particularly popular with the local fashion industry. At the time I visited there was an installation that was part of the Frieze Art Fair.

It’s definitely worth a visit when you’re in Central London and open Wednesdays 11am – 4pm.

 

Art Assembly at Walthamstow Town Hall

Things to Do in Debden When You’re Dead

Brilliantly bizarre end to Art Assembly on Saturday in the Council Chamber at Walthamstow Town Hall. I’d been commissioned to make this film (Things to Do in Debden When You’re Dead) with theatre Director William Galinsky, who’d been asked to re-animate the corpse of William Morris. William Galinsky had responded by writing an unfilmable script – but the idea of attempting to shoot a zombie sci-fi Blader Runner film about William Morris’ News from Nowhere in a day, a week before the screening, was too tempting to turn down. Luckily artists Jessica Voorsanger and Bob and Roberta Smith agreed to take part – Bob playing himself having his chest ripped open by the sock puppet offspring of William Morris. And Jessica as herself who then is zapped into the future and returns as a cyborg Space Captain to wipe out the sockie Morrises and avenge her husband’s death – obviously. Brilliant satirist, Miriam Elia played a gentrifying alien arts administrator and my son, Oliver Rogers, who’d come along to help out with lighting and setting up the camera played opposite Miriam, doing a great job of improvising his lines.

Art Assembly

William Galinsky and the Intergalactic Arts Alliance

The film kicked off the session at the end of Art Assembly, a day-long programme of events around Walthamstow, as a provocation to debate the subject of whether ‘artists should try to change the world’. The panel was chaired by William Gallinsky with the two alien representatives of the Intergalactic Arts Alliance (or something like that) played by Ezra and Miriam Elia, who set the tone by stating that their interest in the arts was to push up property prices. It produced an fascinating debate that veered between absurdity, seriousness, righteous indignation, and incomprehensibility. Which is exactly how it should be.

 

 

 

London Loop – Section 8 Kingston to Ewell

London Loop Section 8 – Kingston to Ewell

Always great to revisit summer walks in these cold winter days. Back in August I picked up the London Loop Section 8 in Kingston and followed it to Ewell. This section of the London Loop follows the Hogsmill River for long sections, crosses over a barrow in slumbering suburban streets, and passes through one of Britain’s most beloved sitcom settings in Surbiton.

 

Here’s an edited transcript of the video

Great to be back on the London Loop down here at Kingston on Thames? I don’t even know bit of a walk I’m doing here through Kingston along the Charter Quay is actually on the London Loop, but I’m going to walk along anyway.

This is the beginning here at Kingston. Picking up from where I left off in May and I don’t know where I’ll end up, but I want to have a look at the King Stone. This must be the Hogsmill River, which is where we start the walk, before the Hogsmill is about to make its confluence with the Thames. And here’s the London Loop sign, which I found by accident, next to this kind of really old battered phone box.

The King Stone, the famous Anglo Saxon coronation stone, and these are the names of the Anglo Saxon Kings, that are said to have been crowned upon this stone:
Edmund, Adelstan, which I think is Athelstan – Michael Wood, the great historian considers him the greatest of Anglo-Saxon Kings. Edward, Adelred, another Edward, Edwic, Eadred. Actually the name Kingston isn’t derived from this coronation stone,  according to Steve Roud and his book London Lore a really wonderful book, Kingston actually was already in use before the first known coronation and it means a Royal estate or palace and the actual word is Cyningestun. What a great thing to kick off this section of the London Loop.

Coronation stone kingston

I started the London loop, I think it was January, 2018 this is the furthest out for me being in Leytonstone and I started at Enfield. I come all the way around now to Kingston, took a while to get here. I’m walking the London Loop anti-clockwise. I don’t think there should be a way you do it personally, but all the directions are given in a clockwise direction.

The walk I’m doing today is territory which is completely unknown to me. So we’ve come across that dreadful roundabout there.  It has the feeling of Slough or Reading. It’s like a big town. Then we’re going to go pick up the old footpath here.

I had a brief chat with my friend Nick Papadimitriou on the phone, and he said, apparently this is a Richard Jefferies river, mentioned in piece called London Trout (in his book Nature Near London).

We have an interesting I bridge above the Hogsmill opened in 1894. We now go down this little path between the river and the school.

London Loop sign

What’s the other association with the Thames at Kingston, of course is Jerome K Jerome’s three men in a boat. That’s another area where the associations of Caesar’s invasion of Britain.

The Stanley Picker Gallery, which I wanted to visit for a while, looks closed. Had some interesting exhibitions in the past. Center for Sseless Splendor, sounds great.

You can mostly do the London Loop without a map. I think. It’d be interesting to see if I can get away with it today. I have got both the TFL maps I printed out and an Ordinance Survey map. I’ll see how far we get just following the London Loop signs.

[I went the wrong way almost instantly] It’s quite funny after saying that about the London Loop signs, I followed the sign in the direction it was pointing and actually took me away from the river and when I looked at the map on my phone,  it was quite a long way off course.

I think that’s King Athelstan school. Well after that rather curious contradiction in the London Loop signs, we’re back on track.

Athelstan Road
We continue down Villiers Road and head towards Berrylands Station. Turn off Villiers down Lower Marsh Lane, which promises great things, doesn’t it?

The Western section of the London Loop really is an edgelands ramble, isn’t it? Here we’re walking between a water treatment works and a cemetery can’t get much more edgelands than that.
Wow. It’s really is a major water treatment works, isn’t it? These great temples rising from the undergrowth.

Berrylands Station, believe we just carry on under the bridge here. This is great. This little stack of pallets here, stuff with straw and twigs and what have you is a breeding habitat for stag beetles. Isn’t that great? This is an interesting parade of shops here.

London Loop

The Hogsmill at Kingston

So I’ve managed to go a little bit astray there just as I was saying about freewheeling it. But at that point  I ended up following a tributary of the Hogsmill, so I’m just going to loop back on myself slightly.

[In a street somewhere in Surbiton] This is a history of really fascinating architecture. It’s kind of like a mixture of arts and crafts and and kind of modernism Bauhaus in suburbia.

It’s not as bad as I thought. It only took me about 10 minutes to get back to the Hogsmill. I don’t regret that little diversion as a delightful little tributary of the Hogsmill.

You down the road here and then there’s an underpass. I just have to find the path now.

Here we go back on the London Loop. I really got that urge to go backpacking again.

Wow. This is lovely, beautiful, big open space opening up, green parakeets, glycerine through the branches. It this really beautiful Willow arch somebody made.

This mosaic on the wall. They’ve really captured the magic of the edgelands in this bit of artwork. It’s a reference to a Millais, the famous image of Ophelia floating drowned in a river. Well that’s actually was painted, near here in the Hogsmill river.

London Loop

There’s climbing quite steep Hill now. This is the parish church of St John the Baptist Malden

Barrow Hill, ‘barrow’ as we know is a burial mound that makes you wonder whether that was once a burial mound on this Hill here.

At that point in the year, now we’re about two thirds of the way through the year when you start to reflect on the walks you’ve done throughout the year. Some, absolute cracking walks this year. It’s been a great year of walking and they come back to in little snippets again,

A Toby Carvery a real symbol of the edgelands of as much as I bought a water treatment works.

A sign for the County of Surrey, you have to come up on cross this race track here they call a road then just on the other side carry on.

I have to say the Hogsmill has been one of the most of the delightful London tributaries that I’ve ever walked along. Really picturesque the whole way.

Somehow managed to turn this into an 11 mile walk. West Ewell Station is where I think I’ll end today’s walk. It must be what, six o’clock ish? What a cracker, the London Loop always delivers.

The William Morris Resurrection at Art Assembly

Up till 3am last night finishing a short film about William Morris I’ve directed for this wonderful event tomorrow at Art Assembly, part of Waltham Forest Borough of Culture. So I’m a little tired today but excited to be screening something very different. Here’s the blurb for the event:

The William Morris Resurrection – Sat 23rd November 5-6pm, Walthamstow Town Hall – Art Assembly

A panel of experts, Two Aliens, One Universe, One Question: Should artists try to change the world?

Join us for the debate of the ages, where we discuss why artists can’t stop trying to save the world… Imagine if William Morris woke up 140 years in the future like the hero of his science fiction novel News from Nowhere…  Would he find the creative utopia he had dreamed of or would he be bitterly disappointed by the state of the world and of the arts community in particular?

Join us and arts professionals from all over time and space to explore the role of the artist past, present and future. The event includes the world premiere of a new short film by William Galinsky & John Rogers –  THINGS TO DO IN DEBDEN WHEN YOU’RE DEAD – featuring Miriam Elia, William Galinsky, Ollie Rogers, Bob & Roberta Smith, Jessica Voorsanger, an alien who thinks he’s Antony Gormley and a miniature Rutger Hauer.

The event includes contributions from some of the UK’s most vibrant artistic minds as well as some light relief at the end of an action packed Art Assembly. This event is presented as part of Art Assembly, a one-day festival to explore how art can make a difference.

 

Make Your Own Damn Art at Regent Street Cinema

Regent Street Cinema

Q&A – Travis Elborough, John Rogers, Jessica Voosanger, Bob and Roberta Smith

John Rogers

John Rogers and Travis Elborough

Regent Street Cinema

Regent Street Cinema

Q&A – Travis Elborough, John Rogers, Jessica Voosanger, Bob and Roberta Smith

 

Great evening last Friday at the screening of my documentary about Bob and Roberta Smith, Make Your Own Damn Art at presented by Heavenly Films at Regent Street Cinema. It was a wonderful experience to revisit a film that premiered in 2012 at the East End Film Festival. As Bob commented in the Q&A, it really captured a slice of time, filmed over 3 years between 2009-2012.

Art Assembly

The next day saw another chapter in my collaborations with Bob and his wife, artist Jessica Voorsanger, as we worked together on a slightly bonkers film for Art Assembly this Saturday 23rd November to be screened at The Resurrection of William Morris.