Swanscombe Marshes – Thames landscape under threat

A walk around Swanscombe Marshes and Botany Marshes on the Thames Estuary in Kent, near Dartford, starting and finishing from Ebbsfleet International Station. There are plans to build a theme park on Swanscombe Marshes so this beautiful landscape may not be there much longer.

Find out more about development plans for Swanscombe Marshes on the Save Swanscombe Marshes blog.

Walk along the River Roding and back to Leytonstone

National Trust Long Walks

Headed out for a short walk mid-Sunday afternoon and found this book in a charity shop in Wanstead – it immediately became apparent that I’d have to carry this heavy tome as some form of atonement for not embarking on a longer schlep earlier in the day.

Eastern Avenue

My only aim was to head for the River Roding where it passes under the Eastern Avenue in Wanstead. It was unseasonably warm and I wanted to bask in the last two hours of sun.

River Roding Wanstead

My mind meandered in tune to the waters of the Roding, over bridges and past the pumping station. I remember startling a grass-snake along here a few years ago one hot summer morning.

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I only recently discovered D. W. Gillingham’s wonderful Unto the Fields, by chance on a walk from Chigwell to Loughton. It was a glorious discovery, an entire book published in 1953 on the Roding Valley. A celebration from another era of a landscape I’ve come to love. The exploration of the territory in the book begins in November:

“Now I have chosen this November morning to introduce you to the fields because November is the beginning of Nature’s year, like the farmer’s at Michaelmas… The fieldfares especially were numerous today; their chattering could be heard everywhere, for the migration down the Roding valley was at its height. A few redwings had come to the valley before them.”

Roding Valley pylon

Gillingham delights in the fog and frost of November mornings. As the russet rays of sunshine pitch onto the banks of the Roding I feel the heat and remove my scarf. The pylons, our protectors, glow orange.

A1400 Woodford Avenue

Passing beneath the titanic piers supporting the North Circular I feel the energy drain from my legs, my thighs become sore and heavy. I consider jumping on a bus at Charlie Brown’s Roundabout up to South Woodford station and heading home for tea. But I resolve to hike along the A1400 Woodford Avenue to Gants Hill instead. The National Trust Book of Long Walks needs to be at least partially appeased.

Clayhall sunset

The pylon sky sunset glows as I continue along the Woodford Avenue and brings new life to my tired legs. The view of a Toby Carvery across the road also inspires me to pursue the walk – my sons and I had been discussing the prevalence of Toby Carveries in the area before I headed out for reasons I can’t recall. I sent them both the photo below.

Toby Carvery Gants Hill

At this stage I start to see the Beehive Harvester around every bend of the road and tell myself that I should settle down there and read the National Trust Book of Long Walks and make some notes of things that had passed through my mind on the walk – minor meditations that will be gone by the time I reach home. But before it appears I’m tempted to follow Redbridge Lane East to the roundabout by Redbridge Tube Station where I’m momentarily seduced by the Beefeater Red House. I vow to return, for now I have promised the book of Long Walks that I’ll complete the circuit by walking home.

Redbridge A12

There’s something epic and romantic about the A12 – the Eastern Highway out through Essex to Suffolk – carved across a landscape of broad skies. It’s America. It makes me imagine far off places well beyond Lowestoft.

Redbridge Lane West

Along Redbridge Lane West, lamp-posts illuminating leaves. Across George Green to pick up the old Roman marching route back through Leytonstone to home.

 

Harringay Green Lanes to Chancery Lane via Caledonian Road

Tollington Park N4

Tollington Park N4

An unplanned walk – effectively locked out of the house and inadequately dressed. I jump the Overground to Harringay Green Lanes and buy a jumper from TK Maxx. Choosing a notebook and pen to record the day’s walk a man walked into the shop and just said, “Why is life so shit”, then paid and left without another word. Somebody was having a worse day than me.

I notice that the jumper I bought hurriedly is called a ‘Rodgers Zip Jumper’ – nice coincidence even with the alternative spelling of my surname.

There was no entrance into Wray Crescent Open Space sadly. A man sat loitering in a car by the gates with the engine running. Another man just stood on the other side of the fence beside a metal post.

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As I see earthworks everywhere I’m intrigued by Newington Barrow Way just off Hornsey Road – I’m taking the meaning of Barrow as a burial mound rather than the wheeled variety.

The clouds look ominous and on Seven Sisters Road the Heavens open in quite dramatic style and I’m forced to seek shelter in Le Croissant D’Or cafe till it eases up about half and hour later. I contemplate buying an Italian silk scarf calling me from a shop window and still regret not taking the plunge, instead I push on to Holloway Road.

I decide to walk the length of Caledonian Road, ‘The Cally’, one of London’s great thoroughfares. A stocky bald guy walks past muttering to himself.

I find a 1956 edition of Ian Fleming’s Live and Let Die in good condition with the original dustwrapper for 50p. A quick check on Abebooks tells me they go for upwards for £12. I leave it on the shelf for someone else to find.

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Muriel Street, N1

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Priory Heights

I get a fantastic warm feeling as I pass the Rainbow Club where we took the boys to playgroup when they were babies. Now it’s an Escape Room game so they may well return to play there as teenagers. The same glow accompanies me up Wynford Road that I associate with the first steps around the block the kids took as toddlers. Priory Heights casts a benign protective shadow.

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Keystone Crescent N1

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Housmans Bookshop

I spend too long in Housmans radical bookshop and eventually walk away with a copy of Rudolph Rocker’s The London Years for a fiver and four back issues of the New Left Review for a quid.

Round the wreckage of Kings Cross and down Grays Inn Road, into Cromer Street, Argyle Walk and Marchmont Street – the wanders of my Islington years. My purchases at Housmans mean I have to resist the gravitational pull of Judd Books and head on through the Brunswick Centre.

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Through Queens Square with nice memories of studying Experimental Sound Art at the Mary Ward Centre and making recordings of the lamp-posts and park railings.

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Grays Inn Gardens

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Sandland Street

On the far side of Red Lion Square I stop to admire the Geoffrey Fletcher gaslights in Sandland Street before passing through Grays Inn to Chancery Lane Station and back home to Leytonstone.