2019 – A Great Year of Walking

A review of my walks in 2019 on my YouTube channel – a fantastic year of hiking.

From river walks along the Tyburn, Roding, Thames, Philley Brook, Ching, Dagenham Brook, Hogsmill, Crouch, and Lea to the woodlands of Epping Forest and the wide open spaces of Wimbledon Common and Wanstead Park. The London Loop featured large as I covered the sections from Moor Park to Ewell. I walked the first stage of the Essex Way from Epping to Ongar. I strolled the East London streets of Old East and West Ham, the beautiful porticos in Modena, Italy. And every step of the way you were there – Thank you so much for joining an amazing year of walking in 2019.

There’s more to come in 2020!

 

Music used in this video: Fern by ann annie / Fresh Fallen Snow by Chris Haugen / Tupelo Train by Chris Haugen / Pachabelly by Huma-Huma / Ambiment – The Ambient by Kevin MacLeod / Nevada City by Huma-Huma / Breathing Planet by Doug Maxwell / Little Drunk, Quiet Floats by Puddle of Infinity / Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 by Liszt

Psychogeographer-in-residence walk No.5

This glorious walk over Pole Hill and along what J.A Brimble called the ‘western escarpment’, is the final video in my series as psychogeographer-in-residence for Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture 2019.

We begin at Chingford Station, an early staging post for forays into Epping Forest when it was declared ‘The People’s Forest’ by Queen Victoria when she came to Chingford in 1882 in celebration of the passing of the Epping Forest Act of 1878 which preserved the forest for the citizens of London. Queen Victoria’s 7th son, the Duke of Connaught, became the first Ranger of Epping Forest, and our walk heads along Connaught Avenue.

At the end of Connaught Avenue we start our ascent of Pole Hill, the highest point in the London Borough of Waltham Forest. At the summit is a trig point and an obelisk bearing two plaques. The first notes that the “pillar was erected in 1824 under the direction of the Reverend John Pound M.A. Astronomer Royal. It was placed on the Greenwich Meridian and its purpose was to indicate the direction of true north from the transit telescope of the Royal Observatory.” The second commemorates the association with T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) who owned this land until 1922 when it was incorporated into Epping Forest.

Often overlooked though is the concrete base of a Second World War Anti-Aircraft Gun which would have scanned the skies above the Lea Valley as German bombers made their way to wreak destruction on the London Docks.

psychogeographer

We follow the footpath through woodland and descend into the valley of the Hawksmouth, before climbing once more, this time across Yates’ Meadow and Yardley Hill. From here are some of the finest views of London as we stand perched on its northeastern border, with Essex behind us. The towers of the City shimmer in the distance calling to mind PJS Perecval’s description of London’s orgins as a “stockade in the woods – the Llyndin of the ancient Britons.” (London’s Forest, 1909).

We retrace our steps back down the edge of Yardley Hill, and into Hawk Wood. One of the participants in the guided walks I led with artist Rachel Lillie, emailed me with this note on the possible origins of the name of Hawk Wood, “In 1498 William Jacson of Chingford Halke (Hawkwood) was a member of the Swainmote Court. Halke in Middle English meant a refuge, retreat or hiding place. It also has been said that Hawk means a nook of land in the corner of a Parish.”

psychogeographer

Crossing Bury Road we enter Bury Wood till we reach the point where the Cuckoo Brook crosses the footpath. From here we turn across Chingford Plain, a place I end many forest walks bathed in glorious sunset. Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge stands proudly on the hill from where Henry VIII would watch the hunt on the plain below. A Brewer’s Fayre sits invitingly next to the Hunting Lodge or you can continue across the grasslands where cattle graze back to Chingford Station.

A walk along the Dagenham Brook

This walk following the Dagenham Brook was the fourth in my series as psychogeographer-in-residence for Waltham Forest Borough of Culture 2019. The Dagenham Brook started life as a humble ditch rising in Higham Hill with sewage flowing into it from Walthamstow. The name comes from the ‘Dagenham Commissioners of Sewers’ under whose jurisdiction it fell.

We start the walk on the corner of Ruckholt Road and Orient Way where an embankment and trenches from Roman or Romano-British earthwork and Roman burials were excavated, leading some historians to speculate that this may have been an important waystation on the Roman road between London and Colchester.

Leyton F.C

We then follow the Dagenham Brook across Marsh Lane Fields (Leyton Jubilee Park) then through the Warner Estate and onto Lea Bridge Road. I was joined on the two guided walks by artist Lucy Harrison who explored the life of the Warner Estate in a fascinating project, WE. We take a look at the abandoned ground of Leyton F.C once one of the oldest football clubs in London, founded in 1868 – now derelict.

From here we cross Lea Bridge Road and walk down Blyth Road (also part of the Warner Estate) and up Bridge Road to Markhouse Road. This is one of the old roads of Walthamstow crossing Markhouse Common. The name derives from ‘maerc’ meaning a boundary as the boundary between Leyton and Walthamstow ran through Mark House manor. Markhouse Common was sold to property developers in the 19th Century.

We turn into Veralum Avenue then Low Hall Road and South Access Road passing the Walthamstow Pumphouse Museum. Low Hall Manor was a 14th Century Moated manor house with extensive grounds – two-storey timber framed building like the buildings in Tudor Close. The 17th Century farmhouse was destroyed by a V1 flying bomb in 1944. The Dagenham Brook probably fed the moat.

Dagenham Brook

We walk around Low Hall Sports Ground and into Low Hall Wood Nature Reserve to look at Owen Bullet’s artwork, The Clearing, and pick up the Dagenham Brook. Turning into North Access Road we see the River Lea Flood Relief Channel and pass by St. James Park. We walk beneath the railway bridge and turn into Salop Road then Elmfield Road. We follow Elmfield Road round until we reach Coppermill Lane and the end of the walk.

Many thanks to Max ‘Crow’ Reeves for joining me on the walk. Take a look at Max’s photo book following a season with Clapton CFC.

Hooksmith Press maps

Further history of the Dagenham Brook can be found here in the Victoria County History

London Loop – Section 8 Kingston to Ewell

London Loop Section 8 – Kingston to Ewell

Always great to revisit summer walks in these cold winter days. Back in August I picked up the London Loop Section 8 in Kingston and followed it to Ewell. This section of the London Loop follows the Hogsmill River for long sections, crosses over a barrow in slumbering suburban streets, and passes through one of Britain’s most beloved sitcom settings in Surbiton.

 

Here’s an edited transcript of the video

Great to be back on the London Loop down here at Kingston on Thames? I don’t even know bit of a walk I’m doing here through Kingston along the Charter Quay is actually on the London Loop, but I’m going to walk along anyway.

This is the beginning here at Kingston. Picking up from where I left off in May and I don’t know where I’ll end up, but I want to have a look at the King Stone. This must be the Hogsmill River, which is where we start the walk, before the Hogsmill is about to make its confluence with the Thames. And here’s the London Loop sign, which I found by accident, next to this kind of really old battered phone box.

The King Stone, the famous Anglo Saxon coronation stone, and these are the names of the Anglo Saxon Kings, that are said to have been crowned upon this stone:
Edmund, Adelstan, which I think is Athelstan – Michael Wood, the great historian considers him the greatest of Anglo-Saxon Kings. Edward, Adelred, another Edward, Edwic, Eadred. Actually the name Kingston isn’t derived from this coronation stone,  according to Steve Roud and his book London Lore a really wonderful book, Kingston actually was already in use before the first known coronation and it means a Royal estate or palace and the actual word is Cyningestun. What a great thing to kick off this section of the London Loop.

Coronation stone kingston

I started the London loop, I think it was January, 2018 this is the furthest out for me being in Leytonstone and I started at Enfield. I come all the way around now to Kingston, took a while to get here. I’m walking the London Loop anti-clockwise. I don’t think there should be a way you do it personally, but all the directions are given in a clockwise direction.

The walk I’m doing today is territory which is completely unknown to me. So we’ve come across that dreadful roundabout there.  It has the feeling of Slough or Reading. It’s like a big town. Then we’re going to go pick up the old footpath here.

I had a brief chat with my friend Nick Papadimitriou on the phone, and he said, apparently this is a Richard Jefferies river, mentioned in piece called London Trout (in his book Nature Near London).

We have an interesting I bridge above the Hogsmill opened in 1894. We now go down this little path between the river and the school.

London Loop sign

What’s the other association with the Thames at Kingston, of course is Jerome K Jerome’s three men in a boat. That’s another area where the associations of Caesar’s invasion of Britain.

The Stanley Picker Gallery, which I wanted to visit for a while, looks closed. Had some interesting exhibitions in the past. Center for Sseless Splendor, sounds great.

You can mostly do the London Loop without a map. I think. It’d be interesting to see if I can get away with it today. I have got both the TFL maps I printed out and an Ordinance Survey map. I’ll see how far we get just following the London Loop signs.

[I went the wrong way almost instantly] It’s quite funny after saying that about the London Loop signs, I followed the sign in the direction it was pointing and actually took me away from the river and when I looked at the map on my phone,  it was quite a long way off course.

I think that’s King Athelstan school. Well after that rather curious contradiction in the London Loop signs, we’re back on track.

Athelstan Road
We continue down Villiers Road and head towards Berrylands Station. Turn off Villiers down Lower Marsh Lane, which promises great things, doesn’t it?

The Western section of the London Loop really is an edgelands ramble, isn’t it? Here we’re walking between a water treatment works and a cemetery can’t get much more edgelands than that.
Wow. It’s really is a major water treatment works, isn’t it? These great temples rising from the undergrowth.

Berrylands Station, believe we just carry on under the bridge here. This is great. This little stack of pallets here, stuff with straw and twigs and what have you is a breeding habitat for stag beetles. Isn’t that great? This is an interesting parade of shops here.

London Loop

The Hogsmill at Kingston

So I’ve managed to go a little bit astray there just as I was saying about freewheeling it. But at that point  I ended up following a tributary of the Hogsmill, so I’m just going to loop back on myself slightly.

[In a street somewhere in Surbiton] This is a history of really fascinating architecture. It’s kind of like a mixture of arts and crafts and and kind of modernism Bauhaus in suburbia.

It’s not as bad as I thought. It only took me about 10 minutes to get back to the Hogsmill. I don’t regret that little diversion as a delightful little tributary of the Hogsmill.

You down the road here and then there’s an underpass. I just have to find the path now.

Here we go back on the London Loop. I really got that urge to go backpacking again.

Wow. This is lovely, beautiful, big open space opening up, green parakeets, glycerine through the branches. It this really beautiful Willow arch somebody made.

This mosaic on the wall. They’ve really captured the magic of the edgelands in this bit of artwork. It’s a reference to a Millais, the famous image of Ophelia floating drowned in a river. Well that’s actually was painted, near here in the Hogsmill river.

London Loop

There’s climbing quite steep Hill now. This is the parish church of St John the Baptist Malden

Barrow Hill, ‘barrow’ as we know is a burial mound that makes you wonder whether that was once a burial mound on this Hill here.

At that point in the year, now we’re about two thirds of the way through the year when you start to reflect on the walks you’ve done throughout the year. Some, absolute cracking walks this year. It’s been a great year of walking and they come back to in little snippets again,

A Toby Carvery a real symbol of the edgelands of as much as I bought a water treatment works.

A sign for the County of Surrey, you have to come up on cross this race track here they call a road then just on the other side carry on.

I have to say the Hogsmill has been one of the most of the delightful London tributaries that I’ve ever walked along. Really picturesque the whole way.

Somehow managed to turn this into an 11 mile walk. West Ewell Station is where I think I’ll end today’s walk. It must be what, six o’clock ish? What a cracker, the London Loop always delivers.

The Essex Way – Epping to Ongar

A September walk along the Essex Way from Epping to Ongar taking in Toot Hill and Greensted.

The Essex Way is an 82-mile long distance path from Epping to Harwich that I’ve been planning to walk for a few years now, but never quite made the time to do it. So one Sunday in mid-September I decided to walk a section from Epping to Ongar taking in beautiful countryside on the very edge of London where the Central Line trains used to scuttle through the fields until 1994.

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.

 

In the footsteps of W.G Sebald – The Rings of Saturn walk Southwold to Dunwich

A walk along the Suffolk coast from Southwold to Dunwich

While on holiday in Southwold in August, I was determined to complete the walk from Southwold to ‘the lost city’ of Dunwich described in W.G. Sebald’s hugely influential book, The Rings of Saturn

The book is based around a journey on foot along the Suffolk coast from Lowestoft to Bungay and takes a number of long disgressions into the past. I purchased The Rings of Saturn on my way to Southwold in 2013, knowing only that it was set in Suffolk. When I turned to page 75 I saw a photograph of the Southwold lighthouse that we were staying beneath.

Southwold lighthouse

Sebald arrives in Southwold “footsore and weary” from his long walk from Lowestoft and rests on Gunhill. He describes a visit to the Sailor’s Reading Room. After a few days in Southwold he sets off over the bailey bridge across the River Blyth, along the disused railway line to Walberswick, then a long schlep along the beach to the ‘lost city’ of Dunwich.

I attempted to follow this route on that first holiday in Southwold, but turned back at Walberswick. Our return after an absence of a few years gave me the opportunity to finally follow Sebald’s footsteps from Southwold to Dunwich, a truly magical and memorable walk, captured in the video above.