What’s Happening Here? Olympic Park survey

Pudding Mill Lane

 Pudding Mill Lane

The no-show of a herb forager for a walk around Pudding Mill Lane gave me the opportunity to log developments around the site as part of my on-going obsession with the Olympic zone. It appears as if not a great deal has changed around Pudding Mill Lane over the last five years or so other than the appearance of this signage. ‘What’s Happening Here?’ seems to capture the mood perfectly.

Pudding Mill Lane

“Pudding Mill Lane is one of the five new neighbourhoods being created as part of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. In total, 33,000 new homes will be created on or around the Park by 2036.

Over the two Pudding Mill sites (including this one at Pudding Mill Lane) we’ll be creating:

  • 1,500 new homes
  • 36,000 sqm of employment space
  • A nursery
  • A health centre
  • Community spaces.”

https://www.queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk/

IMG_2668

UCL East

UCL East – East Bank Stratford

 East Bank / Stratford Waterfront

Heading back towards the Olympic Stadium the hoardings have gone up around the East Bank development. Here’s the official description of East Bank:

“East Bank is a new powerhouse for innovation, creativity and learning on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It is a unique collaboration between world-leading universities, arts and culture institution that opens up opportunities for everyone who visits, lives and works in east London.”

It’s divided into two sections – UCL East (pictured above), and Stratford Waterside which will contain:

  • Sadler’s Wells East, a 550-seat theatre and hip hop academy
  • UAL London College of Fashion campus for 6,500 students
  • V&A East a new museum at Stratford Waterfront  (V&A will also have space at Here East)
  • The Smithsonian Institution will have presence on the site in partnership with the V&A
  • ‘State of the art’ BBC music studios

Olympic Park

Waterden Road

Last night walking through the Olympic Park towards the London Stadium along Middlesex Way the footpath was closed – a regular feature in the Park since it opened after the Olympics. The ‘What’s Happening Here’ signage explained that this was due to changes to the road layout that will connect the South of the park to Waterden Road – presumably as a consequence of the developments around East Bank and Pudding Mill Lane. This potentially means a significant increase in traffic cutting through the park from the West disecting the parkland leaving the area between Waterden Road and the Eastway as the last remaining open space in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (see map below). And I believe the area marked as Hopkins’ Field is earmarked for housing development (although that could be incorrect).

London Olympic Park Map

“© OpenStreetMap contributors” https://www.openstreetmap.org/copyright

London Olympic Park

“© OpenStreetMap contributors” https://www.openstreetmap.org/copyright

The London Loop – Ewell to Coulsdon

It’d been too long since my last walk on the London Loop back in August 2019, when I’d walked section 8 from Kingston to Ewell. Summer felt like a distant memory when I alighted at Ewell West Station to pick up London’s 150-mile orbital walking trail.

London Loop Section 7 (walking in the reverse direction)

This section starts with a magnificent piece of modernist architecture at Bourne Hall, a giant flying saucer shaped 1970 building that landed on the grounds of the former Garbrand Hall. The route takes you through a fine park with a lake and fountains close to the headsprings of the Hogsmill River that was the principal feature of Section 8 of the London Loop.

Through the village of Ewell we cross into Nonsuch Park, once one of Henry VIII’s hunting grounds that boasted a palace unlike ‘nonsuch elsewhere in the world’, so it’s said. This is a park that invites digression from the main route of the Loop across it’s wide lawns and along avenues.

Ewell

There’s a mile or so of road walking on the other side of Nonsuch traversing streets of postcard suburbia before coming to the end of Section 7 (or the start if walking in the clockwise direction) on Banstead Downs Golf Course. This was the site of one of the more intriguing features of the walk, and one not mentioned on the Tfl guide. Marked on the Ordnance Survey map are a series of tumuli that at the time I found difficult to identify. Checking online after the walk it seems if the Gally Hills Tumuli are in fact Saxon ‘hlaews’, a relatively rare type of burial mound in England with only around 50 or so being identified. The Historic England listing states that these would have been for ‘high ranking’ individuals. An excavation revealed “an extended inhumation with a bronze hanging bowl, a shield- boss, a split socketed iron spear-head and an iron knife.” Two of the mounds still stand in the rough beside the fairway watching the golfers and the ‘loopers’ pass by.

There is a detailed archaeological report here: THE SAXON BARROW AT GALLY HILLS, BANSTEAD DOWN, SURREY by JAMES F.BARFOOT and DAVID PRICE WILLIAMS

Banstead Downs

London Loop Section 6

Section 6 continues across Banstead Downs with some glorious views back across the London basin, towers poking up on the horizon. We then follow Freedown Lane – a long track that runs behind High Down Prison. The prison wall that we walk past is one of the remains of the Victorian asylum that previously occupied the site. Just beyond the prison, there were the remnants of what must have been a signficant building half buried along the top of the bank. Being that the prison was built on the land of the former asylum and hospital, I’m not sure what was here, my best guess is that they were ancillary buildings connected to the hospital, perhaps relating to its wartime use.

The Loop takes us through Oaks Park, landscaped for the Earl of Derby in the 18th Century (the fella who gave his name to the famous race at Epsom). Many of the old trees remain as does the stone grotto. I would liked to have dwelt here awhile but was up against the light, although I was still able to enjoy more fine views back across London.

Banstead Downs

The path progressed across a lavender farm with an old red phonebox in the middle of the field – glorious I imagine in summer. Then across Carshalton Road Pastures, a ridge of chalk downland at the northern extremity of the North Downs. We pick up a sunken path topped by what the Tfl leaflet calls an “ancient hedgerow”, bringing us out onto a housing estate initially developed for returning soldiers from WW1. It’s streetwalking from here down the hill to Coulsdon, with its appealing High Street blighted by angry rush hour traffic and the end (or start) of Section 6 of the London Loop.

Can’t wait to get back out there – the London Loop never disappoints.

A walk along the Clitterhouse Brook with Nick Papadimitriou

 

A41 bridge

Cricklewood Lane

The other day I found myself crossing over the A41 where it intersects with Cricklewood Lane. This bridge instantly triggered memories of walks with Nick Papadimitriou, starting in the summer of 2005, that often took us over this metal bridge with the Hendon Way pulsing below and views of the distant high ground that would later become the subject of Nick’s celebrated book, Scarp.

Clitterhouse Brook

The Clitterhouse Brook

It’s been a few years since I last walked with Nick, following a period of time when we made The London Perambulator, then our radio show on Resonance fm, Ventures and Adventures in Topography. So I was delighted to find him there stood beside the Clitterhouse Brook on Child’s Hill (ok, I rang on his door). Nick spontaneously suggested we walk the length of the Clitterhouse Brook to the point where it makes its confluence with the River Brent at Brent Cross.

Clitterhouse Brook

The Hendon Way

We crossed Basing Hill Park where the water laid heavy on the path, and then walked along the Hendon Way, taking the subway beneath the road to Clitterhouse Recreation Ground.

Clitterhouse

Clitterhouse Recreation Ground

The Clitterhouse Brook

The Clitterhouse Brook

“Clitterhouse Farm means ‘clay house’ farm. Earliest known origin of this farm dates from c.1321 when it was owned by John de Langton. Up until around the 1770s it was a manor and was owned by St Bartholomew’s Hospital from the 15 th to 20th centuries. ” The survey by Cranfield University mentions that some of the farm buildings still exist in one corner of the playing field.

(Geophysical Survey of Land at Clitterhouse Playing Field, Brent London, 2015)

IMG_2927

Tin Town

We followed the brook into a postwar housing estate that Nick said was know locally as ‘Tin Town’, due to the metal cladding on the houses.

Clitterhouse

Clitterhouse

Brentfarm Cottage, Nick told me was the site of a sewage farm now occupied by a school. The Hendon Fever Hospital was also located hereabouts on former farmland sold off in the 1880’s.

Clitterhouse Brook

The Clitterhouse Brook gushed from a concrete pipe and flowed beneath the North Circular to make its confluence with the River Brent on the far side of the road near Brent Cross Shopping Centre. It was a majestic sight to see this suburban stream rushing to meet its mother river before working its way to the Thames at Brentford.

It was also great to be back out walking with Nick again.

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


UPDATE

A week before the lockdown I returned to Wanstead Flats to connect these Second World War sites together into a walk for this video

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.