Chilterns Walk from Bulstrode Camp to Wooburn Green

The Queen and Albert pub in Wooburn Green wasn’t were I expected to end up when I boarded the 3.15pm train from from Marylebone to Gerrards Cross the week before Easter. Notre Dame was burning down on the TV on the pub wall, an event that had been unfolding whilst I’d been walking over the Chilterns unaware. It was good to hear the Bucks accent from the chatter between the friendly lady behind the bar and the two other punters. It was great to be back in the village where I grew up.

My intention that day had been simple – to take a look at the Iron Age earthwork at Bulstrode Camp, Gerrards Cross. I had a vague childhood memory of people talking about this ancient site but no clear memory of having visited. And with my interest in earthworks and burial mounds it seemed natural to seek out Bulstrode Camp, situated as it is just beyond the borders of Greater London.

Bulstrode Camp map © OpenStreetMap contributors  Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 https://www.openstreetmap.org/copyright

© OpenStreetMap contributors Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 https://www.openstreetmap.org/copyright

Bulstrode Camp is the largest hillfort in Buckinghamshire, spanning over 26 acres (other notable Bucks hillforts include – Whelpley Hill, Ivinghoe Beacon, West Wycombe, Bolebec’s Castle). A ‘plateau camp’, it sits atop a steep escarpment and is today encircled by a private housing estate. Dog walkers perambulate the perimeter as if repelled from the interior by a magic spell. I strode straight across in a bisecting line – better to take in the scale of the earthwork from its interior. It’s a powerful site, even more imposing in this age of bits and bytes.

Hedgerley Bucks

With the site surveyed and recorded on camera I still had around 3 hours of daylight left so headed out over the fields of Bulstrode Park to Hedgerley Village where the parish church sits high on a hill surrounded by a bluebell wood. At this point the temptation to strike off for Wooburn was too great.

The lowering sun sliced shafts of light through the pine trunks in Egypt Woods as the pheasants gave out their evening call. My Dad would have had a field day and we briefly spoke on the phone discussing the best route to Wooburn (he thought I was way off course).

My chosen path took me over Littleworth Common and now the journey took on the feel of a return to a childhood home as Wooburn Common (the land of the ‘fuzz hoppers’ as my Nan would call them) showed itself nearby on the map.

Egypt Woods

I arrived beneath the Radio Tower at the top of Farm Wood at the hour of sunset. This tower loomed over my childhood as a mysterious structure poking out of the dark wood above Wooburn Park where I spent all my summers with my Dad as he played for Wooburn Narkovians Cricket Club. I had only been this close twice before (at night with the Scouts and with my kids about 10 years ago).

From the edge of the wood, in the last light, I looked down across Wooburn, the river valley carved out by a glacial flow that deposited a rock that still sits idly on the Green by the bus stop. The River Wye gently trundles along its floor. I stood there as day slid into night before making my way across the park to the pub.

 

Vincent Van Gogh in Brixton – with Iain Sinclair

“I enjoy the walk from home to the office and in the evening from the office back home. It takes about three-quarters of an hour.”

– Vincent Van Gogh, 30th April 1874

A chilly December day and an invitation from Iain Sinclair to look inside the Brixton residence of Vincent Van Gogh, where the Dutch artist lived for a year between 1873 – 1874. The plan is to then follow Van Gogh’s footsteps on the daily walk he took to work at a commercial gallery in Covent Garden. Iain had recently been commissioned by Tate Etc. magazine to write an article on Van Gogh as a walker to coincide with the Van Gogh and Britain exhibition at Tate Britain that runs until 11th August.

“So I began, unpremeditated, a series of walks through those odd, unreal, summer days while I attempted to connect Van Gogh’s English addresses. Surviving houses and chapels, in the end, feel less significant than the movement between them, when weather and light and random encounters effect an interweaving in the strands of time.”

– Iain Sinclair, Tate Etc. Issue 45

Van Gogh Ramsgate

Van Gogh sketch of Ramsgate

Van Gogh didn’t start producing art until he left London, aside from occasional sketches in the margins of letters he sent to his brother Theo. But he did spend a lot of his time in Britain walking, not only in London but also when he worked in a school in Ramsgate.

“Always continue walking a lot and loving nature, for that’s the real way to learn to understand art better and better. Painters understand nature and love it, and teach us to see.”
– Vincent Van Gogh, January 1874

Van Gogh House

Van Gogh House, 87 Hackford Road

Our journey starts though, at the San Mei Gallery nearby in Stockwell, the owners of which have recently purchased the property at 87 Hackford Road and are in the middle of a grand restoration project. Livia Wang told us about their plans for the Van Gough House, to host international artist residencies, tours and workshops aimed at the local community, and a studio space. I remembered the production of Nicholas Wright’s play, Vincent in Brixton that I’d seen multiple times while working at the National Theatre in 2002. Nicholas Hytner’s magical production brought that Hackford Road home vividly to life, featuring a debut performance by a young Emily Blunt playing the landlady’s daughter, Eugenie Loyer, with whom the Dutchman fell hopelessly and unrequitedly in love.

“My dear Theo,

I now have a room, as I’ve long been wishing, without sloping beams and without blue wallpaper with a green border. It’s a very diverting household where I am now, in which they run a school for little boys.”
– Vincent Van Gogh, 30th April 1874

Vincent in Brixton

flier for the event I produced and hosted at Brixton Art Gallery, 2002

Iain leads the way from the house in Hackford Road up Van Gogh Walk and onto Clapham Road. He notes the speed at which Van Gogh must have walked in order to do the journey in 45 minutes. We proceed along Clapham Road, past Kennington Park and the Old Town Hall down Kennington Road to Lambeth North, Victorian Van Gogh era houses lining the route. We cross Westminster Bridge, a point in his commute that the painter in embryo noted in his letters, the light over the Thames.

Van Gogh Walk Cutdown 1.00_10_22_15.Still013

Lambeth Walk

Van Gogh Walk Cutdown 1.00_12_44_03.Still015
We then proceed along Whitehall to the National Gallery and Iain can’t resist going into the gift shop to buy a postcard of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, another piece of the painter still in London. The final leg of the journey takes us along the Strand and then ascend Southampton Street where there’s no trace of the gallery where Vincent worked selling prints to affluent Londoners.

 

You can book guided tours of the Van Gogh House here

The Van Gogh and Britain exhibition at Tate runs until 11th August 2019

 

River Roding Walk – Wanstead to Buckhurst Hill

A walk along the beautiful River Roding from Wanstead to Buckhurst Hill on the 24th February – a day when it felt as if Spring had come early. This is one of my favourite walks – following the meanders through Wanstead, Woodford to Buckhurst Hill (although I’ve yet to walk the Roding beyond Debden). The wooded ridges of Epping Forest rise on the horizon, herons glide over the rushes, and I once saw a snake slither across the path one summer near Woodford Bridge.

 

Transcript of the video

Just a footstep step away from the brutality of Eastern Avenue. We have the glorious little River Roding.
Such a beautiful day. Today is the 24th of February and it feels like spring is really here. And what better thing to do on a day like this than a wander along this beautiful river, the River Roding. This is actually one of my favourite little walks along here. Longtime viewers of the channel may remember the videos I made probably three years ago now, so it’s overdue a revisit, although I don’t expect it to change very much.

One Sunday, about a month ago, I hadn’t been out for a walk, and so I suddenly headed out about an hour before sunset and walked that last hour along here and it was really, really wonderful.

Here’s the first of a collection of really quite interesting and lovely bridges over the River Roding. Forget the bridges of Madison County. Here’s the bridges of the Roding Valley.

This section of the River Roding here is flowing through Wanstead, or ‘Wan Stead’, the white house ‘Woden stead’. I was up here yesterday, given a little tour of the churchyard and the church of St Mary’s Wanstead, really glorious church and still has a very active and quite sizeable congregation. However, their regular services are under threat for some reason. So there is a Save St. Mary’s Campaign.

I’ve been asked a few times about the viability of kayaking or canoeing on the Roding and when you see it here, you think that looks like a reasonable idea. Further along it looks a little bit trickier and the water at the moment is actually quite shallow.

Here we have our next bridge. It’s amazing the variety of bridges on this river I suppose because they were all built at different times. We have a fantastic old pumping station, great cathedrals to the Victorian industrial age aren’t they.

I saw a little grass snake along here once when I was walking along in the morning, I doubt, I’ll see anything today, but you never know.

Just stopped back there by the pumping station to make a little video talking about the things I take on a walk with me. Sean, South London gardener Sean, walking the London Loop Sean, he requested it and I’ll upload it as a separate video though, but it means I’ve been sat there for a while so I better crack on.

All hail the pylon

Sounds like a rather obvious thing to say, but with river walks it does make a difference which side of the river you walk on and the first few times I walked along the Roding I walked on the other side there just like a big park mown grass and it takes you right underneath that pylon. Whereas on this side, a bramble covered bank you’ve got the pylons here and then you’ve got these industrial units that run alongside the Roding.

The first time the jacket comes off after winter is always a magical moment. A day that is marked in the memory for a long time. 24th of February, 2019 look, here I am just a shirt, I could even just be down to a tee shirt if I was a little bit more adventurous, but it’s a big moment, no jacket.

This is where we pass beneath a number of big busy roads. I think that’s where approaching Woodford or in Woodford, I think we’ve got a combination of the North Circular, the Woodford Avenue, maybe a little bit of a feeder road for the M11.

We have to cross the busy road here. This is Charlie Brown’s roundabout and there is some delightful old footage on YouTube of Charlie Brown’s roundabout being built. I believe there was a pub here wasn’t there, called the Charlie Brown? I know there’s going to be several people in the comment section who know all about this.

I should have said this back at the beginning of the walk, the Roding rises up near Stanstead Airport, I can’t remember the exact name of the little village where it rises, and it makes its way down through the Essex countryside and then it’s confluence with the Thames is down at Barking. I’ve walked it as far as Abridge. I have crossed it other points further North, but it’s a little bit more difficult to follow after Abridge. The footpath doesn’t run along the river, so you’re zigzagging across it. But I would like to go and walk the upper reaches of the Roding at some point because it’s such a beautiful, magical little river.

Some glorious birdsong in the trees and bushes on the river bank here. The birds are obviously very happy that the weather’s improved. The path here is so overgrown I don’t think it’s legitimately passable, so you have to go up service road here that goes to the waste disposal, sort of recycling area and see if I can get back on the river further up. If you’re interested in the idea of edgelands, you could do no worse than walk along the River Roding, classic edgelands in the urban part of it anyway. Everything you could want along here.

I do remember actually going along this little sort of alleyway. So that’s the way ahead. Couple of different generations of Thames Water facilities here. The more a recent utilitarian brick block on the right, and then the picturesque what I would guess is a Victorian utility over there. Close to the banks, the river. The Wynn Valley pumping station.

Now we’re back on the banks of the River Roding.

Here we have another bridge across the river. I don’t think any two bridges have been the same so far. We start to see the terrain around the river open up slightly, passing through Woodford still heading towards Buckhurst Hill and the wooded Hills there rising in the distance, which I guess must be the edge of Epping Forest.

How good does it feel to have a 5.30pm sunset? It’s funny, isn’t it? It’s just that extra sort of hour from a month ago is enormous. It feels like we’re being propelled into a glorious summer. It’s just after four. Now about a quarter past four, and this is obviously, as I’ve said, probably every walk, this is a time when the magic happens. This is glorious. It uplifts the soul as you walk into the sunset.

So a little bit of a decision point coming up ahead because when we get to Roding Valley, that’s where can’t carry on to Buckhurst Hill you have to kind of go up the hill and around to rejoin the river. So I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do there. I suppose we’ll see, we’ve still got a little ways to go before that and actually really glorious section of the river.

The Roding Valley hinterland.

So peaceful here. I suppose it’s the time of day and also as the river kind of frees itself from the urban fringe.

That’s interesting. I have no memory of this housing estate here beside the river makes me wonder whether it’s been built in the last three to four years. [Looks at map on phone] This is where I am. Looks as if this estate is part of the old London Guildhall University sports ground. That’s my Alma mater.

Believe the word meander is the name of a river in Turkey. I extrapolated that information from the title of a book where a guy kayaks along the Meander in Turkey. It’s a book I really need to read, isn’t it?

Here we have the bridge that carries the Central Line, over the River Roding, really majestic structure.
This is one of my favourite little stretches of the river, it’s where my first walk along the Roding ended and I think I may end today’s walk here as well. The other side of this recreation ground, you have to depart from the river and work your way up through the streets of Buckhurst Hill and do a big loop to rejoin the river at the park where I was recently. If you look at the video, I go to Linder’s Field. That’s a continuation of the Roding there.

I’ll just walk to the far end of this recreation ground here where the allotments are and where the Roding then can be left in peace for a while before it gets to the Roding Valley recreation ground at Buckhurst Hill, and we were just before Christmas.

What a really wonderful walk. I’m so glad I came back out here today, to mark really what I hope is the beginnings of spring. You can never be too sure, it did snow twice in March last year, but no, not this year. Anyway, again, thanks again for coming with me, see you on the next walk, wherever that may be.

Walking the London Loop – Section 11 Uxbridge to Hayes

A walk along Section 11 of the London Loop from Uxbridge to Hayes and Harlington.

This was a glorious section of the London taking in the Grand Union Canal, River Colne, and Stockley Park on the route. One of my favourites so far. This western edge of the London Loop is characterised by watercourses – rivers, canals, lakes, and the industrial western fringe of London. It is classic edgelands territory.

This was an eventful walk. I was pelted with great lumps of hail and briefly lost my bearings where the River Colne feeds a series of fishing lakes.

London Loop Section 11 map

Then there was a curious a towpath encounter with a guy in shades at the junction of the canals near West Drayton who told me how the barges were once used for drug dealing (in the 1980’s), stashes in the bushes, even underwater, old Hippies making a few quid and serious criminals with connections at Heathrow. It’s all changed now, he tells me, but “it was a war zone down here 30 years ago”, he says as his parting shot. Walking on, not more than 100 yards, three skinny pale furtive blokes hunched under a bridge over the towpath – doing business. They shoot me a furtive look. Is this what prompted the man in shades to stop me – a warning of what was ahead?

The other side of West Drayton, at Stockley Park is a Black Mirror Techno World presaged by a large Tesla dealership. Eerily silent on a Sunday afternoon as early evening light broke through the leaden clouds.

The London Loop always seems to deliver – looking forward to the sections ahead.

The Mayor’s London Borough of Culture Walks

John Rogers walks Leytonstone

Come for a walk with me to celebrate Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture 2019

I’m really excited to be leading a series of walks for Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture, running from June to October 2019.

The walks will explore various aspects of Waltham Forest from its topography, culture, overlooked heritage, and psychogeography. Local people of interest will join me on the walks – to contribute to the pool of knowledge. The aim will be not simply to impart information but to share a way of looking at the landscape and the built environment. In the words of the legendary music journalist Greil Marcus the walks will aim to reveal, “the unknown facets of the known, astonishment on the terrain of boredom, innocence in the face of experience”. A bespoke map of each walk is being produced by artist & printer Russell Frost of Hooksmith Press, Leytonstone, who created the fantastic artwork at the top of this post.

Here are the details of each walk with a link to book tickets:

 

Walk 1: Leytonstone’s Lost River – The Philley Brook (Fillebrook)

Book here

John Rogers Philley Brook walk

Philley Brook walk – photo by Vaseem Gill

An interactive walk that follows Leytonstone’s buried river, The Philley Brook (Fillebrook). The walk will not only trace the course of the river but also look at ways of identifying buried rivers and streams. We’ll explore aspects of the history and culture of the area as they relate to the meander of the Philley Brook. Participants will be encouraged to make a record of their journey as part of the experience. We’ll be joined by a Leytonstone film-maker and artist Ian Bourn. Includes bespoke printed map by Hooksmith Press/Russell Frost
Date: 9th June, 2pm
Duration: 2 hours
Price: £10/£8 concs

Book here

Walthamstow Marshes
Walk 2: Marshlands

An edgeland walk that explores Waltham Forest’s historic marshlands. We traverse the ancient Lammas Lands and explore the rich heritage of the area from the Bronze Age through to the birth of the aviation industry. Participants will be encouraged to make a record of their journey as part of the experience. We’ll be joined by local historian, David Boote from the Leyton & Leytonstone Historical Society.
Includes bespoke printed map by Hooksmith Press/Russell Frost
Date: 14th July, 2pm
Duration: 2 hours
Price: £10/£8 concs

Book here

 

Highams Park Lake

Highams Park Lake

Walk 3: The Ching

A meander along the beautiful River Ching that flows through Waltham Forest from Epping Forest through Highams Park and the streets of Chingford to its confluence with the River Lea near Banbury Reservoir. Participants will be encouraged to make a record of their journey as part of the experience. Includes bespoke printed map by Hooksmith Press/Russell Frost.
Date: 18th August, 2pm
Duration: 3 hours
Price: £10/£8 concs

Book here

Dagenham Brook

Walk 4: The Dagenham Brook

This overlooked stream that runs from Leyton Jubilee Park to Coppermill Lane Walthamstow, leads us through the streets of Leyton and Walthamstow weaving stories as it flows.  We’ll be joined by Leyton artist Lucy Harrison. Participants will be encouraged to make a record of their journey as part of the experience. Includes bespoke printed map by Hooksmith Press/Russell Frost
Date: 8th September, 2pm
Duration: 2-3 hours
Price: £10/£8 concs

Book here

 

IMG_4720

Walk 5: Over Pole Hill – Where Time Begins

The north-eastern frontier of both Waltham Forest and Greater London. This takes us 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. We also explore the terrain of the forest fringe and the borough boundary. We’ll be joined by artist and illustrator Rachel Lillie who has a special interest in Epping Forest. Participants will be encouraged to make a record of their journey as part of the experience. Includes bespoke printed map by Hooksmith Press/Russell Frost.
Date: 6th October, 2pm
Duration: 2-3 hours
Price: £10/£8 concs

Book here

Waltham Forest Tours

More information about other Waltham Forest Tours events can be found here

 

 

Endymion’s Dream – Celebration of Steve Moore at Brompton Cemetery Chapel

Brompton Cemetery

Saturday saw a magical event in Brompton Cemetery Chapel as people gathered to celebrate the posthumous publication by Strange Attractor Press of Steve Moore’s book, Selene: The Moon Goddess and the Cave Oracle, “an examination of the origins, dream-explorations and mystical practices centred on the Greek deity Selene.”

Alan Moore Brompton Cemetery

Alan Moore

Alan Moore Brompton Cemetry

screening of South London psychic circuit with Iain Sinclair – directed by John Rogers

Unearthing

The event started with a screening of my film with Iain Sinclair where we walked Steve Moore’s ‘psychic circuit’ around Shooters Hill, a landscape he mythologised in his novel, Somnium. Then Alan Moore read from his essay, Unearthing (the inspiration for the film I made with Iain Sinclair). Andrew O’Neill recounted how, grieving after Steve Moore’s death in 2014, he went wild camping in Epping Forest and encountered a vision of Steve on a horse and cart with Selene by his side. John Higgs talked about the scene in Steve’s Shooters Hill home following the discovery of his body, a scene he had described years before in one of his dream journals.

Brompton Cemetery Chapel

Brompton Cemetery Chapel

Alan Moore, Andrew O'Neill, Mark Pilkington, and John Higgs

Alan Moore, Andrew O’Neill, Mark Pilkington, and John Higgs

Brompton Cemetery

Brompton Cemetery

Endymion’s Dream was produced by Strange Attractor in association with the London Month of the Dead and hosted by Mark Pilkington.