Twyford Abbey – a deep topographic enquiry

On a wet day in February I headed out with Nick Papadimitriou and Peter Knapp, picking up the threads of the first walk the three of us did together which ended in the dark of an industrial estate somewhere near Stonebridge Park. That walk was almost 10 years ago to the day, 22nd July 2005 – the day after the failed second attack on the tube network; there was a tangible tension on public transport heading out to our rendezvous at Golders Green, the bombers were still on the loose somewhere in northwest London where we were walking.

The journey produced my first videos with Nick that eventually led to The London Perambulator. This walk was tentatively the beginnings of a kind of sequel. The only plan we had was to follow Nick’s beloved Metropolitan Water Main all the way to its terminus at Mogden Purification works. This buried pipe is an unavoidable motif when walking with Nick – it was what guided us on the first walk, it punctuates the traipses in London Perambulator, and appeared again when Nick joined me for one of the expeditions in This Other London. We needed to give it a proper homage after all it had given to us.

In the end, watching it on the screen at the Flatpack Film Festival in the Video Strolls programme I realised that the film was an end in itself – The London Perambulator could have no sequel, if that existed it was Nick’s book Scarp perhaps.


Read a full account of the Twyford Abbey walk here


  1. Janet ketchley   •  

    Having watched your film of Twyford Abbey, THERE WERE INDEED COWS THERE AND PIGS. Lord Iveagh of Guinness had a pedigree herd of Guernsey Cows which were lead across Twyford abbey rd and back to the abbey twice a day by KEN THE COW MAN employed by Guinness. The main rd had BEWARE CATTLE CROSSING SIGNS. I lived in Iveagh Ave having come from a much nicer area in Putney and got teased by the local kids for my posh accent. The Abbey had a wonderful driveway and cedars of Lebanon. Near the metal gates there must still be a graveyard. The school playing field was near the cow field. I remember Judith Charmers opening a fete in the field amongst cow pats. On the other side of the road I remember chris chatter way opening a fete also. I’m afraid I still have nightmares about what 2 of the monks said once but I won’t go into that. This area of London was very genteel because it was mostly owned by Guinness who looked after their employees with the greatest of care. During the film one of you says THE ARROGANCE OF THESE PEOPLE, who did the graffeti. Well look around you I doubt if entertainment has improved since I lived there many years ago, there was nothing to do except go ballroom dancing in the Guinness ballroom twice a year. Nothing for kids to do now Guinness has gone back to Ireland! Of course, we had to behave ourselves and read in our bedrooms. I hade to walk 5 miles round trip to perivale school everyday in all weathers and there was no crossing on the north circular, we just ran across. So we’re probably too tired to do graffiti. I remember Hanger Lane station being built and have lots more inside my head if you are interested. Also the pigs. Turning over the plant tubs in the playground. The school was made of wood with open fires!

    If you want something really interesting I lived and was born in a wonderful house that keeps coming up on the Internet, in Putney. Now that is interesting!
    Hope this has been helpful, please let me know if it is.
    Janet Ketchley

    • JohnR   •     Author

      Thanks for your fantastic memories Janet – would love to hear your story about Putney

  2. Janet ketchley   •  

    Dear John, glad you found that of interest. I was born and lived in a very interesting house in Putney. If you type into safari Violet Villa, 51 Disraeli Rd, London, Sw15 a photo will pop up.
    I have a very good and accurate memory so if you wand me to describe the fantastic inside to you let me know.
    I now live in Kent and I can’t walk very well but if you do a film past that house PLEASE INVITE ME.
    Hope this has been helpful,


  3. Shaun Martin   •  

    Is there any update on Twyford Abbey? I cycled past it yesterday and it’s looking very sad.

    • JohnR   •     Author

      Not that I’m aware of – the planning application was refused and it looks like they’re blighting the building

  4. Jonathan Madden   •  

    This is a lovely piece John, really enjoyed Nick’s ramblings, verbally as well as physically, particularly when his hackles visibly rise at the mere mention of our glorious leader, thank you for posting.

    • JohnR   •     Author

      Thanks Jonathan

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.