Second World War Buildings on Wanstead Flats

Wanstead Flats

I’ve long been intrigued by the concrete foundations of a World War 2 building in Long Wood on Wanstead Flats. I first stumbled over them in the dusk some years ago, wondering what could have been buried in this small patch of woodland.

Wanstead Flats IMG_2340 IMG_2341

There was a small lump of concrete in the scrubby grass in front of the wood that was probably a remnant of the World War Two buildings that stood here.

Wanstead Flats IMG_2349 IMG_2355

At first I thought this was the concrete base of an Second World War anti-aircraft gun, but sebsequent reading appears to point to this being some sort of auxiliary building associated with the war effort.

Wanstead Flats IMG_2358

There are a number of Second World War relics on Wanstead Flats, most obvious are the barrage balloon posts. But there are also some white panelled buildings used by the ground staff and a squat brick building by the petrol station that was apparently a decontamination block. In the central section of the flats, where there was an Italian POW camp my son found a rusty metal box buried in the ground that may have been associated with the camp.

 

Here’s a great walk around the Second World War history of Wanstead Flats from the Leyton & Leytonstone Historical Society

Two nights by the Thames at Hampton Wick

Thames Path

A fantastic opportunity dropped into my inbox one day – to stay for two nights in one of Fuller’s Beautiful Bedrooms at the White Hart Hotel at Hampton Wick. It was almost too good to be true, the perfect sponsored tie-in, Fuller’s – brewers of London Pride. I didn’t hesitate to accept.

I built a 3-day itinerary around my stay at the White Hart:

Day 1 – walk the Thames Path from Richmond to Hampton Wick
Day 2 – Hampton Court Palace and continue along the Thames Path
Day 3 – Bushy Park and time permitting continue along the Thames Path to Walton or double back along the Thames to Strawberry Hill (Horace Walpole and all that)

Richmond

Thames Path – Richmond to Hampton Wick

I’ve been slowly making my way along the Thames Path over the last year or so and had made it to Richmond during the summer. Having a base at Hampton Wick would allow me to explore this next stretch in a little more detail. It was raining heavily when I arrived in Richmond and I wished the ferries were running – a grand way to arrive at Hampton Court. But alas they only operate in the summer season from March till October, so I made my way along the Thames Path in the rain.
Even in late November the Thames is resplendent – the water running fast and high, the river ever threatening to breach its banks and flood the path. I passed the magnificent Ham House and the famous Eel Pie Island, home to one of the tidal Thames last boat yards.

Ham House P1150735
A stone monument just before Teddington Lock marked the end of the jurisdiction of the Port of London Authority, the Lock itself the end of the tidal Thames. Passing this point is a hugely symbolic moment on a passage along London’s sacred river. In Ben Aaronovitch’s brilliant Rivers of London novels this section of the river is the borderland between the domains of the deities of the Upper and Lower Thames – Mamma Thames and Old Father Thames. Another stone on the riverbank denotes the border between the Royal Boroughs of Richmond and Kingston.

Eel Pie Island
At sunset I arrived at the ancient town of Kingston-Upon-Thames (Cyninges tun), coronation site of seven Anglo-Saxon kings. The Coronation Stone still stands in the town centre with the names of the Anglo-Saxon kings who ascended the throne carved around its base.

White Hart Hotel

The White Hart Hotel – Hampton Wick

Crossing the old bridge over the Thames I was reminded of passing this way in the opposite direction earlier in the year walking the London Loop. After three hours walking in the rain I was ready to take refuge in a comfortable inn and there right opposite the end of the bridge was the White Hart Hotel where not only would I have a room for two nights but dinner and breakfast as well.

White Hart Hotel

I was greeted by an open fire and a friendly receptionist who told me that my room, the Jane Seymour room, was her favourite in the whole hotel. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I have to be honest and say I was blown away. This was not a room but a suite. A portrait of Jane Seymour seemed to be indicating the way to the huge four-poster bed. I carefully took off my muddy boots by the door. There was a large bathroom where the deep bath filled in less than ten minutes, the soak in that tub was in itself dreamlike at the end of a rainy walk along the Thames Path. I donned my bath robe and made a cup of tea from a wide selection and munched the complimentary handmade biscuits, before having a snooze on a mound of soft pillows on the bed.

White Hart Hotel

Dinner took the experience to the next level. The menu was extensive and creative. For the first night I had the Owton’s dry-aged 8oz sirloin steak with triple cooked chips, grilled tomato and mushroom, plus a watercress and herb salad, which I washed down with two pints of Fuller’s London Pride. The steak was cooked to perfection, the beer was fresh and clear, and the service was exceptional. A fire crackled away by the wall throwing out shadows onto the deep wood interior of the restaurant. I wafted back up to my opulent room in a daze and supped a bottle of London Pride from the mini bar in front of the TV on the sofa before crashing out.

White Hart Hotel

Thames Path to Hampton Court

Breakfast the next morning of course had to be a Full English (which I had without the beans and black pudding) and like dinner the night before was spot on. It set me up nicely to stroll the next stage of the Thames Path to Hampton Court.

P1160322

Hampton Court Palace
It’s a delightful 3 miles along the Thames from The White Hart to Hampton Court. It was a brisk bright morning, sun shimmering over the surface of the river – perfect walking weather. I wondered whether the £23.75 admission to Hampton Court Palace would be worth it, but to be fair, although steep that ticket opened up a world of wonders that would keep you occupied for an entire day. I drifted in awe through the apartments of William III with stunning views out across the gardens. Henry VIII’s great hall is like stepping back into the Tudor world (minus the disease and executions). I even managed not to get hopelessly lost in the maze.

I wanted to get more of the Thames Path under my belt so headed over the bridge to East Moseley in the last hour of light as a glorious sunset painted the sky deep orange. Moseley is an ancient settlement, recorded as far back as the 8th Century, and looks a fine town worth exploring. The opposite riverbank is decorated with a colourful parade of stationary houseboats, the most notable of which contains Pink Floyd’s recording studio. As I started to wonder about how to return to Hampton Wick a lovely lady walking her dog offered to give me a lift across the river in her boat. In the summer months they run a ferry service here that’s been in operation for over 400 years.

Thames Houseboats

White Hart Hotel

Dinner at the White Hart

A shower back in my opulent room at the White Hart and the ambience of Hampton Court lingered around the four-poster bed, an extension of the Elizabethan experience. It’d only been a day but the dining room had started to feel like home. I went for a full three-course meal
–    Fuller’s London Porter smoked salmon
–    Malt & barley smoked cod
–    Vintage Ale Sticky Toffee Pudding with Fuller’s salted caramel ice cream
This was naturally washed down with a glorious pint of London Pride. Everything about that meal was on point – from the sourdough bread that came with the smoked salmon, through the chive butter sauce on the cod to the incredible Fuller’s Ice Cream. I celebrated by taking a pint of London Pride back up to my room.

White Hart Hotel

Diana Fountain P1160742

Bushy Park

It was difficult to choose what to do with my final day – Strawberry Hill has intrigued me ever since seeing it in Patrick Keiller’s film London and visiting for a writers’ conference some years ago. But with the bright clear morning sky Bushy Park was calling. After a marvellous breakfast of Eggs Benedict served on an English Muffin and a fruit salad it was time to say goodbye to the White Hart. I was sad to leave that beautiful bedroom with its sumptuous bed and cosy Elizabethan vibe. But those two nights by the banks of the Thames at Hampton Wick with stay with me for some time to come.

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.

 

Across the Marshes from Leyton Filter Beds to Walthamstow Wetlands

This is the second in my series of walks for Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture 2019.

We start at the Leyton WaterWorks Centre, part of the Lee Valley Regional Park. I find the Essex Filter Beds one of the most beguiling locations in East London – for its role in providing the booming population of the city with clean drinking water, and the way it has become a haven for plant, bird and insect life. It’s a real oasis in the East.

We move on past the abandoned pitch and put, which I still dearly miss, and pay homage to the course of the old River Lea by the Friends Bridge (important not to cross here as it takes you over the border into Hackney). The path that leads beneath Lea Bridge Road and along the top of Leyton Marshes apparently follows the course of the aqueduct that linked the filter beds to the reservoirs at Coppermill Lane.

Waterworks Leyton

Walking across Leyton Marshes always reminds me of joining the New Lammas Lands Defence Committee on a Beating of the Bounds in 2006. They talked about the ancient common rights of pasture that existed on the marshes based around the Lammas grazing system (‘Loaf Mass’). The importance of learning the boundaries of your parish. Grazing on the marshes ended in the early 20th Century but Belted Galloway cattle have recently been reintroduced to helped rebalance the ecology of this precious landscape.

Leyton Marshes

Marshlands WF Tours.00_13_08_10.Still018

Sandy Lane takes us to the railway arches where A.V. Roe built his notorious tri-plane in 1909. From here we enter Walthamstow marshes.

John Rogers Marshlands walk

Guided walk July 2019 – photo by Marco Visconti

The walk ends at Walthamstow Wetlands, taking in the tremendous views of the reservoirs from the Coppermill Tower.

 

Films of East London at Leytonstone Loves Film

We’re really excited to be able to present this fantastic programme of Films of East London for Leytonstone Loves Film on Saturday 28th September, 12-3pm at Leytonstone Library, Church Lane E11

Leytonstone Pop-Up Cinema Presents

Anarchist Rabbi

12.00 The Anarchist Rabbi + Q&A with Adam Kossoff


Leytonstone-based film-maker Adam Kossoff’s documentary, narrated by Stephen Berkoff, tells the story of German anarchist Rudolph Rocker’s London years of campaigning with the East End Jewish community.

UK 2014 Dir Adam Kossoff 45 min

What Have you Done Today Mervyn Day
13.15 What Have You Done Today Mervyn Day? (12) + Q&A with director Paul Kelly


Shot during the summer of 2005, this enigmatic film was the second collaboration between Saint Etienne and director Paul Kelly. It follows a young paperboy’s adventure across London’s last remaining wilderness in the Lea Valley on the eve of the Olympic development.

UK 2005 Dir Paul Kelley 48 min

Please note, this film contains infrequent strong language.
Lenny's Documentary

14.15 Lenny’s Documentary (18*) + Q&A with director Ian Bourn

A one person monologue talking through the script for a planned or imagined documentary. Lenny, is obsessed by a bleak vision of his past and present circumstances, but the visual metaphor Leytonstone High Road reccurs as a glimmer of hope.

UK 1978 Dir Ian Bourn 45 min

Please note, this film contains frequent very strong and derogatory language throughout.

Sunday Walk – Wanstead Flats, North Circular and Hollow Ponds

Wanstead Flats

Wanstead Flats

The desire was stay local – within the gravitational field of home but still get in a decent walk. My instinct was to head to the far side of Wanstead Flats and take it from there.

The area of Wanstead Flats burnt so badly last summer gives off a glorious smell of resurgent wildflowers.

IMG_8837 IMG_8838

The ragwort was alive with caterpillars of the cinnabar moth munching on its leaves, ingesting toxins to make themselves unpalatable to birds. Ragwort and the cinnabar caterpillar appear to have an interesting relationship that makes for a diverting spectacle on a summer stroll.

barrage balloons wanstead flats IMG_8846

I always have to pay homage to the barrage balloon posts and marvel at their continued survival.

Wanstead Park

Wanstead Park

After a stop at Aldersbrook Petrol Station for a Starbucks and Greggs donut – which has become one of my favourite Alan Partridge style treats – I head down Park Road and through Wanstead Park which looked as glorious as ever.

St Mary's Wanstead

The bells of St. Mary’s Wanstead tolled as I stood admiring the Borough of Redbridge’s only Grade 1 listed building. I’ve been told St. Mary’s has an interesting crypt that I’ve yet to visit but the interior of the church is a real gem of the East. The graveyard has burials dating back to the establishment of the original medieval church.

Wanstead War Memorial

Wanstead High Street

There’s clearly a Sunday Scene on Wanstead’s wonderful High Street and I bumped into my eldest son carrying a toy keyboard he’d just bought in a charity shop as he headed to a park bench with his mates. A gentleman approached who watches my YouTube videos to ask if I’d made one on the Wanstead Slip and told me of a relic of Wantead House that now resides in a back garden somewhere along Grove Road. It was great to hear his stories of old Leyton and Stratford.

IMG_8871 IMG_8873

Snaresbrook – South Woodford

I decided against heading into the forest at Snaresbrook and carried on along the tree-lined road towards South Woodford stopping to take in the modernist glory of Hermitage Court.

IMG_8880 IMG_8886

North Circular – South Woodford

Heading up Grove Hill at South Woodford I came to the Willow Path that crosses the North Circular. This seemed like an ideal location to take a selfie which I posted to Instagram as ‘North Circular Selfie’. I’ve been meaning to make a film of a walk round the North Circular (perhaps over two days rather than one long schlep) for some time but now wonder if documenting the walk with a series of selfies charting my gradual decline as the pollution takes its toll might work better.

IMG_8891 IMG_8892

Carnarvon Road, South Woodford

Carnarvon Road, South Woodford has some incredible buildings. Firstly you’re greeted with what appears to be the back of some kind of industrial building – although I couldn’t locate the front. Then across the street is this beautiful modernist block that looks as though it may have an interesting former life.

IMG_8895

Epping Forest

I must have walked past this fine oak tree just off Epping New Road at South Woodford a hundred times without noticing this plaque commemorating the planting of the tree by the Lord Mayor of London in 1932 in celebration of the Jubilee of the opening of the forest.

North Circular

Waterworks Corner

At the Rodney Smith stone I decided to turn for home rather than push on through the forest. This of course brought me to one of my favourite London views, from the bridge back across the North Circular at Waterworks Corner. I took another ‘North Circular Selfie’, naturally.

IMG_8914

Walthamstow to the Whipps Cross Lido

I passed through the narrow strip of the forest that takes you behind the Waterworks and St. Peter’s Church emerging at the very tip of Lea Bridge Road. It’s interesting to note that the gate off Snaresbrook Road is labelled ‘Snaresbrook Lido’ and not ‘Whipps Cross Lido’ or ‘Leytonstone Lido’ as I’ve seen the swimming pool named elsewhere.

IMG_8915

The Hollow Ponds

The Hollow Ponds was the perfect place for the walk to end. I rested under an oak tree and nearly nodded off serenaded by the rustling of leaves in the early afternoon breeze.

 

 

Walking the London Loop – Hayes to Kingston

It was great to be back out on the London Loop – picking up in Hayes on the May Bank Holiday Monday (6th May), where I’d finished back in March on the section that I’d followed down from Uxbridge. The first part of section 10 continues along the canal a short distance, past the rubble of the Nestle factory, as far as the River Crane, which takes on the role as titular spirit of the walk for much of the day. Then we visit the peaceful storied church of St. Dunstan’s where a memorial to the great comedian Tony Hancock is nestled in a corner of the churchyard.

The next part of the walk through Cranford Country Park towards Hatton Cross is characterised by jumbo jets skimming the rooftops as they came in to land at Heathrow. Seeing London’s great terminus sat on what was once a corner of Hounslow Heath (the ‘heath row’) gave me an enormous desire to jump on a plane and head off traveling once more.

London Loop Section 9

Section 9 finds us again following the River Crane down through spindly woodland to Hounslow Heath, full of memories of ending the first walk here for my book, This Other London. I even found the bench on a mound were I sat and ate a snack in the May sunset those seven years ago.

There was more roadwalking ahead, another section of the Crane, and skirting Fulwell Golf Course before reaching Bushey Park just before sunset. The deer roamed and grazed and I meandered to the gate exiting to Hampton Wick as the dark arrived.

The Thames twinkled as I crossed the great stone bridge into Sunday night Kingston, too late to seek out the King Stone which awaits the start of my next venture out onto the London Loop.