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.

Along the Pilgrim Trail from Leyton to Stratford City

After popping down to photographer Jake Green’s studio in Leyton to pick up the new and expanded edition of his fantastic book, Pie and Mash (containing my essay The Dead Pie Shop Trail), I went on a wander down to Stratford that I’ve done periodically ever since I moving to the area.

Somehow this route from Coronation Gardens Leyton, along Leyton High Road, past Drapers Fields, Temple Mills Lane, Leyton Road and Angel Lane to Theatre Royal Stratford East, has been a way of taking the temperature of change in the area from just after the time of the announcement that London would be hosting the 2012 Olympics.

Walk along the Walbrook – the City of London’s Lost River

I first did a version of this walk along the Walbrook back in November 2011, but was keen to return starting nearer to one of the supposed sources and also visit the recently opened London Mithraeum that sits upon the banks for this ancient stream. The route I followed in early December, drew from two principle sources – Nicholas Barton’s classic book, The Lost Rivers of London, and a sketch map of London Under Henry II by Marjourie B. Honeybourne from Norman London – An Essay by Professor F.M Stenton (pub. 1934). Stenton’s essay and the map is informed by a contemporary Norman description of London by William Fitz Stephen.

London Mithraeum

The route starts at St. Leonard’s Church Shoreditch, and goes past the Shoreditch Holy Well in Bateman’s Row. From here it follows the course of the river down Curtain Road to Blomfield Street where it was partially excavated during Crossrail works. Then we cross London Wall and go through Angel Court where another part of the river was uncovered in the 1970’s. We go behind the Bank of England at Lothbury then follow the buried river down Walbrook to the Temple of Mithras. From here we go down Dowgate Hill to where the Walbrook makes it’s confluence with the Thames near Canon Street Station.

 

Click here to see my video of another walk along one of the ‘Lost rivers of London’ – the Tyburn

 

Unto the Fields of Buckhurst Hill

This walk and video was inspired by a comment on my YouTube channel, urging me to visit Linder’s Field in Buckhurst Hill. I had to confess I’d never heard of it and in the way that digital maps can deceive you, thought I’d never been anywhere near it somehow.

To make more of a walk, I decided to start down by the River Roding, one early afteroon at the end of November, when really the winter should be starting to bite but in reality it was quite mild. The terrain brought to mind my recent discovery of D.W Gillingham’s wonderful book about the Roding Valley, Unto the Fields, published in 1953.

“Now I have chosen this November morning to introduce you to the fields because November is the beginning of Nature’s year”.

Gillingham writes of the misty, frost covered mornings in November when this winter the frost didn’t arrive until near the end of December. I’m not complaining.

Linder's Field Buckhurst Hill

Linder’s Field Buckhurst Hill

Following a stream through a housing estate, remains of Gillingham’s world, I found Linder’s Field on the other side of a footbridge and realised it was the open space I’d seen from the tube a hundred times on the way to Loughton and Theydon Bois and wondered how to reach it. A magical place sealed from the outside world.

Walking Keiller’s ‘London’ – the first walk

This is the first walk in Patrick Keiller’s seminal film London, shot in 1992, where Robinson and the unseen narrator set out from Vauxhall to walk to Strawberry Hill in Twickenham, which Robinson believes is the birthplace of English Romanticism.

My walk took me from Vauxhall Park through Stockwell and Clapham North to Clapham Common, then Wandsworth Common and Earlsfield. I then passed between Putney Heath and Wimbledon Common and through Alton Estate, Roehampton to Richmond Park. This was a route I had to devise based on only a few images in the film – starting at Vauxhall Park – the only other images used in Keiller’s film between there and Strawberry Hill were of Wandsworth Common and Clapham Common.

Notes:

The film features an audio excerpt from a project at Roehampton by my sister Cathy Rogers.

You can watch London on the BFI Player

The DVD is available here (affiliate link)

More info about Roehampton

The influence of Le Corbusier on Alton West Roehampton is clear, particularly in the eleven-story slab blocks which were inspired by a visit to the recently completed Unité d’Habitation in Marseilles – read more here

Richard Rogers on Roehampton for BBC Building Sights (1996)

Interview with Patrick Keiller about London from May 1994

Adam Scovell’s interview with Patrick Keiller from the British Film Institute, June 2017

The Future of Landscape interview with Patrick Keiller by Andrew Stevens for 3:AM Magazine

Walk of Revelations – Gallions Point, Albert Island & North Woolwich

After my summer walk around the Royal Docks and subsequent video, a local resident got in touch to say they could show me around Gallions Point and Albert Island. We met one sultry midweek morning by Gallions Reach DLR Station to begin the circuit around ‘the island’.

A slogan on one of the developments reads, ‘London is Moving East’, as if this wasn’t part of London and were terra nullius waiting to be claimed. We see the Gallions Point Marina about to be evicted and demolished to make way for the new Albert Island development by the GLA. The planes from City Airport continuously fly overhead and the building of the new runway will increase the number of flights. We also walk through Royal Albert Wharf and see the Riverside development. Two beautiful hidden beaches were visited with incredible views across the Thames. Finally we see the remains of the Royal Pavilion (or Royal Victoria) Pleasure Gardens and the majestic old North Woolwich Station.

Many thanks to my local guide.

The Resonance Radio Orchestra (2009)

Last night reading The Wire magazine in the pub, I recognised a face (and some names) in a fascinating article about London Improvisers Orchestra. The face (and beard) was that of Ivor Kallin, who I realised had been part of the Resonance Radio Orchestra I’d filmed at the opening night of Bob and Roberta Smith’s Factory Outlet show at Beaconsfield Gallery, Vauxhall in November 2009. This was one of the early shoots for my documentary about Bob, Make Your Own Damn Art – the world of Bob and Roberta Smith – that I continued working on for 3 years in total.

So this morning I excavated a hard-drive from my archives and sought out the footage from that night and hastily threw together this edit, raw from the camera. Again I recognised faces in the audience of people I would meet again over the course of making the documentary and beyond. Although it was a film about art, the original music by Bob and Roberta Smith, The Ken Ardley Playboys (also filmed the same night), and The Apathy Band, played a large role in the finished film. Very little of the Resonance Radio Orchestra footage was used in the end so it’s great to have an occasion to share it now.

The Resonance Radio Orchestra in this clip are: Fari Bradley, Ivor Kallin, Simon King, Chris Weaver, Ben Polehill.

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More info about the essential Resonance 104.4fm here

London Improvisers Orchestra is celebrating its 20th anniversary at Cafe Oto main and Project spaces with free workshops (1, 2, 3 December, 2-4PM), open rehearsals (2, 3 December 5-7.30PM) and two concerts (2, 3 December 8.30PM).