Midsummer in Epping Forest

Walks sometimes lead themselves. I left home around 4.30pm on Saturday with no destination in mind. Stopping to grab a Percy Ingle pasty I felt drawn along Kirkdale Road then pushed past Tesco and beneath the Green Man Roundabout.

Leyton Stone

There are roads that seem to contain a mystery even though you know where they lead. They speak of other times and places and suck hard on your imagination. Hollybush Hill from the Leyton Stone has that quality for me so I followed its lead to South Woodford (passing Hermitage Court which will have its own blog post).

I nearly got sidetracked into a musical performance celebrating Magna Carta at the Church near the cinema at South Woodford but decided to stay true to the walk still not sure where to go. Then the forest called me – and that is where the video above begins.

Medieval Leytonstone – Langthorne Park and Hospital

It wasn’t till I entered Langthorne Park just off Leytonstone High Road that I realised I’d only ever been here once – and that was in my early Leytonstone years. The park occupies part of the site of the old Langthorne Hospital which started life as the West Ham Union Workhouse before becoming a geriatric hospital.

The land was originally owned by Langthorne Abbey in Stratford, established in the 12th Century by Cistercian monks. The name Langthorne apparently derives from the hedges of ‘long thorns’ that were grown around the abbey.

 

Leytonstone’s Lost Lido

In this meditation on the Hollow Ponds there are two mysteries left unresolved. Firstly the sign on the boathouse that reads, “Have You Seen the Hollow Pond Bear”. I assumed at the time that it was a reference to the area’s long heritage as a gay cruising spot but on reflection wonder if it might actually refer to a Grizzly. Over at the Welsh Harp Reservoir between Barnet and Brent an actual bear escaped from a menagerie there in 1871. So there is precedent for this kind of thing.

Whipps Cross Lido

Opening of Whipps Cross Lido in 1932 From the Waltham Forest Guardian – credit Vestry House Museum

Absent from the video is the Whipps Cross Lido created in 1905 and returned to the forest in 1983. Wikipedia mentions that it was known locally as “the Batho”. I had half a mind to find the footprint of the site but had spent so long filming the geese in slow-motion that I’d used up my time – the sojourn was over. But somewhere beneath the grass north of the Hollow Pond between Lea Bridge and Snaresbrook Roads there lurks the lost lagoon of Leytonstone.

 

Here’s an interesting article about the creation of the Hollow Ponds from the local paper

Viking Trail to the Beavertown Brewery

Left home at 5pm with no plan except a vague idea to head towards to the Beavertown Brewery at Tottenham Hale and their Saturday taproom which closed at 8. I was torn between my usual walk until dark and/or my knee stops working, and the desire to actually get somewhere by a specified time.

From Midland Road, the schlep of my old work commute with a nod to the home of Harry Beck’s Blue Plaque (but stupidly not shot of it for my walking vlog) then down Coopers Lane and Farmer Road yards away from the wheel screech of Leyton High Road but always tranquil somehow.

Antelope Church Road

So sad to see The Antelope on Church Road boarded up. At a meeting to discuss the future of the Heathcote Arms last week – miraculously re-opened although still owned by a property developer – James Watson from CAMRA told the room that Waltham Forest has lost something like 50% of its pub stock. Thankfully now the local authority seems determined to lose no more – the Heathcote was among a number of pubs granted Asset of Community Value status. Let’s hope that like the Heathcote, the Antelope gets to be reborn.

I decided against the scenic route to Tottenham Hale, down Marsh Lane and over the Marshes because by now I could start to feel the tingle of a Beavertown Gamma Ray American IPA on my taste buds, so opted for the fast track via Markhouse Road and Blackhorse Road.

It’s sad to pass the boarded up Standard opposite Blackhorse Road Tube – once a legendary rock venue. I came here when I was 16 to watch my mate Johnny Lee play with his band. It was a big gig for a provincial outfit – it was said A&R men hung out at the bar looking to spot the next big thing.

The hubbub of the Beavertown Taproom crowd can be heard from a good 200 yards away – I thought it might be me and another 20 or so beer fans sat in the carpark of a Tottenham Industrial Estate. How wrong. There must have been 150 of the trendiest people I’ve seen in one place since I was backstage at a Katy Perry concert. Thank god I’ve got a beard.

Beavertown Brewery tour

After a transcendent Neckoil Session IPA and a Beaver Double IPA I tentatively enquired whether they did any brewery tours, “This is the tour I’m afraid”, the barman said gesturing from the bar to the expansive unit of polished brewing vessels. I must have looked visibly disappointed because he called a fella named Cosmo over and asked if he wouldn’t mind showing me around. At 8pm on a Saturday when they’d been flat out serving for hours they’d have been perfectly entitled to say No – but Cosmo couldn’t have been more enthusiastic, swinging back the barrier and leading me among the brew kit towards a 30 barrel mash tun where 5,500 litre batches are brewed using a tonne of malt for the 5% beers and double that for the stronger beers.

He explained how sugars are extracted from the malt by stewing and steeping it like a gigantic pot of tea. Then it is pumped into a copper for heating before it is cooled where the flavours of the hops start to emerge. The brew passes through a heat exchange into a fermenter where yeast is added and some more hops for dry hopping ‘to give extra hoppy aromas’ explained Cosmo. It is further chilled and carbonated for a week before either being kegged, canned (Beavetown have the best cans), or put into a wooden barrel for barrel-aging.

Beavertown cans

I can think of no finer end to a walk than to be given a guided tour of the brewery of one of your favourite beers. I walked away with the rosy glow of strong beer and a carrier bag containing a Beavertown T-shirt and a mixed six pack. I’ve got one cracked open on the desk beside me now.

Alfred Hitchcock and the Death of a Superstore

I‘ve decided to start a daily vlog of my routine walks (well Monday to Friday) – mainly just local wanderings, occasionally further afield. I normally just record these in my head with notes scribbled in my pocket book and etched into my psyche, but for the sake of YouTube I’ll use the more conventional means of compact camera.

I’ve been watching a few travel vloggers – jet-setting around the globe – Zorbing in New Zealand, Kayaking in Kenya, Skateboarding in Santiago and this is my version – taking a daily schlepp around East London. These aren’t the expeditions into remote London as recorded in This Other London, but spontaneous drifts, meditative meanderings on familiar turf, although I never truly know where I’m going to end up – one morning I set out and emerged through a hedge 3 hours later on the outskirts of Harold Park.

This first one follows a regular trail down Leytonstone High Road, past the Jet garage built on the site of Alfred Hitchcock’s childhood home with the recently painted ‘Birds’ mural next door. I couldn’t resist a look at the dying days of the Homebase DIY store with its empty aisles – it had a creepy Hitchcockian ambience. It’s a glimpse into a near-future where all large retail units will be reduced to this.

Spring on Wanstead Flats

Tested out an old Olympus Zuiko OM 50mm lens on my Panasonic GH3 camera at the weekend over on Wanstead Flats. After a long hibernation you can see Spring starting to visit the Flats.

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I wish I was better at identifying wildflowers – I’ve sat here with 3 wildflower books on my desk, looked at 4 websites and I still can’t identify this beautiful little plant that was growing along the avenue that once led from Leytonstone High Road to the gates of the grand Wanstead House.

I show this picture to my 80-year father who instantly identifies it as Blackthorn. A Druid website says that in plant lore, “The Blackthorn tree is esoterically known as both the Mother of the Woods and the Dark Crone of the Woods.” And is also said to have, “the most sinister reputation in Celtic tree lore” associated with “ill omens” and to witches represents “the dark side of the Craft”.

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I’m going to stick my neck out here and say this is a gorse bush but with the caveat that I could be wrong and they merely look like a gorse to the untrained eye.

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