Walking the London Loop – Moor Park to Uxbridge

I’m resting after walking Section 11 of the London Loop from Uxbridge to Hayes, so now seems the perfect time to revisit my walk along sections 13 and 12 of the London Loop from Moor Park to Uxbridge taking in Batchworth Heath, Bishops Wood, Park Wood and the Grand Union Canal. This picks up from my previous London Loop walk in July 2018.

Filmed on 20th January 2019

Iain Sinclair – Living with Buildings

“I use my own ways of digressing and picking up on other stories that you don’t expect to find by walking and wandering over the ground that’s been described by other people.” – Iain Sinclair

July 2018 and I found myself back out walking with Iain Sinclair, this time retracing one of the walks in his latest book, Living with Buildings and walking with ghosts. We met by Canada Water Station and Iain explained how the book was associated with the Wellcome Collection exhibition of the same name, but was its own beast driven by Iain’s narrative.

John Evelyn's Mulberry Tree, Sayes Court

John Evelyn’s Mulberry Tree, Sayes Court

We proceeded past the old Evening Standard printing works, now slated for development, through Greenland Dock bound for the Pepys Estate – once the home of film-maker Andrew Kötting and featured in the book. After paying homage we moved on to the next key location in this particular chapter of Living with Buildings – John Evelyn’s Mulberry tree at Sayes Court Park.

Iain Sinclair Living with Buildings

Walking with Iain is always a magical experience, layers of London history and lore kicked up and chewed over with every step along the way.  The book, in some ways, is Iain Sinclair’s most traditionally psychogeographical work, exploring the very tangible relationship between the built environment and  human health and psyche.

I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to further discuss the book and Iain’s work in general at the brilliant Wanstead Tap when Living with Buildings was published in October – as you can see in the video below.

Walking London’s Lost Rivers – The Tyburn

A walk along the course of one of the lost Rivers of London – The Tyburn. This buried river flows from Hampstead through Swiss Cottage and Regent’s Park, along Marylebone Lane, through Mayfair and Green Park beneath Buckingham Palace where it splits into channels and we follow it as it joins the Tachbrook to make its confluence with the Thames near Vauxhall Bridge.

Some notes on the Tyburn from historical sources:
“This celebrated place of execution, which figures so prominently in the records of crime, is said to have been first established in the reign of Henry IV., previous to which ‘ The Ekns ‘ at Smithfield seems to have been the favourite locality for the punish- ment of malefactors. The name is derived from a brook called Tyburn, which flowed down from Hampstead into the Thames, supplying in its way a large pond in the Green Park, and also the celebrated Rosamond’s Pond in St James’s Park. Oxford Street was, at an earlier period, known as Tyburn Road, and the now aristocratic locality of Park Lane, bore formerly the name of Tyburn Lane, whilst an iron tablet attached to the railings of Hyde Park,opposite the entrance of the Edgeware Road, informs the passer-by that here stood Tyburn turnpike-gate, so well known in old times as a landmark by travellers to and from London.”
The Book of Days Edited by R. Chambers pub. 1888

Commenting on the boundaries of Westminster Abbey lands as described in an Anglo-Saxon charter in the Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society published in 1864
“then up along to Tyburne (a name well known to all), a large stream, which drained Mary-le-bone, Paddington, and the country around, and discharged itself into the Thames, opposite Vauxhall.”

Note on the course of the Stream in Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society published in 1890
“the sparkling stream flowed in a channel you might almost span with your foot, running down the hill-side, chiefly in the direction of the Dissenters’ College; but leaving that on the west, midway between the garden wall of Belsize Manor, it proceeded southwards. Bending a little westwards it crossed Avenue Road just beyond St. Peter’s Church, then keeping close to the west side of this road until it reached Acacia Road, at the corner of which it received an affluent from Belsize, and then passed southwards by Townsend Road to the corner of Henry Street; it then diverged diagonally to the corner of Charles Street with Park Road. Formerly an aque- duct conveyed it across Regent’s Canal into the Park, the artificial waters of which it once supplied, and continuing its course passed from the Park boundary at the upper end of Cornwall Terrace, crossing Upper Baker Street, New Street, and then Alsops Terrace, in the Marylebone Road, where a depression is to be seen marking the channel.”

Another note on the course in London by Sir Laurence Gomme 1914
“Thus the King’s Scholars’ Pond sewer was so called because it emptied itself into the Thames at the King’s Scholars’ Pond (near the pre- sent Vauxhall Bridge), on ” the great level extending from the Horse Ferry to Chelsey Mead.” Incidentally it may be mentioned that during the reign of Queen Anne the name of the sewer was dutifully changed to Queen’s Scholars’ Pond sewer. Anciently it was known as the Tyburn brook, and later as the Aye brook, and flowed down the hill from Marylebone Fields, passing near the old village of Tyburn and across the Acton or Tyburn road (Oxford Street) and the present Brook Street, through Mayfair to the Stone Bridge, situated at the “dip” in modern Piccadilly. Passing under the bridge and the high road to Kensington, it entered what is now known as the Green Park. Large ponds were formed in the course of the sewer in this part of the park. At the bottom of the hill the streamlet passed through the gardens of Goring or Arlington House, where Buckingham Palace now stands, and along by the ” coach road to Chelsea ” the present Buckingham Palace Road and what is now Vauxhall Bridge Road to the river. At different periods the stream was altered in various parts of its course, and gradually covered in and converted into an underground sewer.”

Note on Thorney Island and the Tyburn in Middlesex in British, Roman and Saxon Times by Montagu Sharpe pub. 1919
“In Middlesex, on the little eyot or island of Thorney (Thornea, overrun with thorn bushes, in loco terribili) being a delta of land where the eastern arm of the Tyburne, or double stream, joins the Thames two miles south-west of the city of London, there had formerly stood a Roman temple, said to have been dedicated to Apollo, the god who inter alia wards off evil and affords help. It would be used by those who travelled to and fro along Watling Street and the south-eastern ports, to make a votive offering before or after their safe passage across this dangerous ford of the Thames. First, an arm of the Tyburne in the Green Park would have to be waded, and then the other in St. James’s Park to reach the
island, prior to fording the Thames to the Surrey bank where St. Thomas’ Hospital now stands, and thence, before the Romans made a causeway, across two miles of treacherous marshes until the rising ground towards Shooters’ Hill was reached.”

The Library Campaign – Show Libraries Some Love

This is an interview I shot in December with Library worker Alan Wylie about the importance of Libraries and the threats they face due to government cuts.

References used in the video and further information Library cuts:

“Public libraries promote positive reading experiences from the cradle to the grave” – The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/local-government-network/2014/mar/06/world-book-day-libraries-lifeline-literacy-love-books

“Librarians stand for free and equal access to information for all.” from Voices for the Library http://www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk/the-story-so-far/ethics/

“Librarians will work to fight censorship, bias, and false reporting” http://www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk/the-story-so-far/ethics/

BBC article on cuts to Library Services https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-35707956

CIPFA

Lewisham Libraries Cuts https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-36350323

Alan Wylie twitter.com/wylie_alan

Youngsbury Burial Mounds & Abandoned Thundridgebury Church

This walk to the Youngsbury Burial Mounds had been on my itinerary since the summer of 2015 when I’d marked the tumuli and earthworks of the Upper Lea Valley and the Hertfordshire plateau on an old Ordnance Survery map. But somehow I’d never managed to get out there. A few days before Christmas seemed like the perfect time, the day after the winter solstice, when the white light slices through the bare tree trunks.

The Youngsbury Mounds had been excavated in 1890 by County archaeologist John Evans who wrote a report published as, ‘On the Exploration of a Barrow at Youngsbury, Near Ware, Herts’. Here’s an extract from his report:
“The more eastern of the two barrows is recorded to have been opened a hundred years ago by Mr. David Barclay, the then owner of Youngsbury, and there is a tradition of spearheads, coins, and other objects having been found in it, none of which however are now forthcoming. According to Clutterbuck’s account, it was nevertheless Roman pottery and coins that were found in the barrow, which he says proved it to be of Roman origin. Judging from the appearance of the barrow a shaft has been sunk in it from the top, but I am by no means sure that the original central interment has ever been reached. This barrow is of much the same dimensions as the other, the opening of which I am about to describe, and in all probability it belongs to the same period.
Both barrows stand at the edge of a field known as the Hilly Field, and are partially overgrown with whitethorns and maples. On my arrival at Youngsbury,, by the kind invitation of Mr. Giles-Puller, on the 11th of June last, I found that a preliminary opening had been made in the upper part of the mound on the south side. At its outer end this cutting extended over about a sixth part of the circumference of the barrow, but its vertical sides converged so as to leave a face about 6 feet wide at what was apparently the centre of the mound, and at this point the cutting was about 9 feet in depth. The diameter of the barrow as nearly as could be judged is 60 feet, and the height about 12 feet above the surface of the adjoining field.
Clearing out the loose gravel and soil still further, a magnificent sepulchral urn became visible, lying slightly on one side. It had split into three principal sections and a few smaller fragments, but is in wonderfully good condition, and has been well repaired by Mr. Talbot Ready.
It is an olla formed of well-burnt grey ware, with a bold rim nearly an inch in depth round the opening, and its surface ornamented with parallel markings somewhat like corduroy. These at the neck are wavy, but on the body run in graceful curves. This ornamentation is by no means common, but is not unlike that which occurs on some Late-Celtic urns.”

Romano British burial artefacts Thundridge Old Church, Thundridgebury Hertfordshire

Not only was the walk a magical experience, the power of the location that had inspired the positioning of the mounds still resonating across the millenia. But also my subsequent visit to the British Museum to look for artefacts excavated from similar Romano-British burials. Passing the abandoned church at Thundridgebury added another layer to the expedition and reading reports of the site being adopted by ghost hunters and occultists who perform rituals in the medieval church tower. It’s a deeply storied and beguiling terrain – I’m already planning my next trip.