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.

London walk 28th December

Old Red Lion pub

It’s become a tradition of mine of over the last 15 years or more to head into Central London late in the afternoon one day between Christmas and New Year to wander the streets around Holborn and Bloomsbury. I started at Chancery Lane and was drawn along Red Lion Street, not noticing before the many times I’d passed this way, that the Old Red Lion pub was the place where the exhumed body of Oliver Cromwell had been stored before his rotting corpse was executed at Tyburn 2 years after his actual death. I can imagine business at the pub was slow during the period that his cadaver would have stunk the place out.

Old Red Lion Cromwell

Orde Hall Street WC1

Orde Hall Street WC1

I turned off Lamb’s Conduit Street into Dombey Street and then followed the curvature of Orde Hall Street. According to UCL’s Bloomsbury Project this parcel of land had originally belonged to Rugby School since the 16th Century and had gradually been developed over the ensuing centuries.

“It was built in 1882 and replaced the former slums of Little Ormond Yard, purchased by the Metropolitan Board of Works to improve housing in the area
It was named after John Orde Hall, member of the Holborn District Board of the Metropolitan Board of Works
It was designed for respectable working people.”

Orde Hall Street

Orde Hall Street Camden Council Estate

Queen Square

Queen Square

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Queen Square

Queen Square always makes me think of Geoffrey Fletcher who I’m sure drew the gas lamp above although I can’t find the reference right now. The square was built in the early 18th Century and is notable for the various medical institutions that surround it, the most interesting to me being the elaborate Italian Hospital which closed in 1990.

Queen Square

Queen Square

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The British Museum

I wanted to visit the British Museum to look at the Romano-British burial urns and grave goods for a video I was in the process of editing. The extra security checks now mean that the queues to enter stretch back along Great Russell Street.

Anglo Saxon jewelry

Anglo Saxon jewelry

Despite my focus on the Roman Britain rooms I can’t help being drawn in by the Anglo Saxon artefacts. We visited Sutton Hoo at exactly this time 3 years ago and the impression has never left me. The intricacy and beauty of even everyday objects seems so at odds with the Victorian image of the Anglo-Saxon era as dark and barbaric.

Supreme Store Soho

Supreme Store Soho

I passed through Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia and crossed into Soho. The spectacle of the queues outside the Supreme Store have become one of the tourist sights of London gauging by the twenty or so people stood opposite taking pictures.

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I then traversed Leicester Square and crossed Charing Cross Road to Cecil Court where the shops were all shut, which is just as well as I may have been tempted to part with too much money for this lovely copy of Colin Wilson’s Adrift in Soho, a story of London’s Beat Generation.

Brydges Place

Brydges Place

I couldn’t resist being drawn along Brydges Place despite the foul stench of urine, accumulated over centuries. It delivered me to the rear of The Harp, one of central London’s finest real ale pubs, where the drinkers gathered in the alley and out the front. It was the perfect end to this winter wander.

 

 

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 from Marsh Lane Leyton, along the Lea to the Wetlands Centre

Marsh Lane, Leyton

Marsh Lane, Leyton

A bright cold Thursday morning, letting my feet guide me.

Marsh Lane, Leyton is full of resonances of my arrival in the area, beating the bounds of the Lammas Lands, a discovery of Country London that I never knew existed.

Marsh Lane Leyton

Marsh Lane Leyton

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WaterWorks Centre Leyton

WaterWorks Centre Leyton

The WaterWorks Centre was shutters down closed. The looming towers rising around Lea Bridge Station now frame the view. I miss the old pitch and put, playing on Saturday evenings with my son following me round, sitting on the tee with a bottle of Strawberry Milk and packet of crisps.

Walthamstow Marshes

Walthamstow Marshes

Frost glimmered on the Lea Bridge Cycle Lane as I headed for the marshes contemplating coffee in the old stately home in Springfield Park.

Lea Navigation Hackney

Lea Navigation Hackney

I didn’t want to leave the Lea Navigation to climb through Springfield for coffee and survey the valley, so kept on the towpath.

A friend knowledgeable in these matters, says that the plants in the water at the beginning of this clip are called Frogbit, which apparently hibernates in winter.

Lea Navigation Tottenham

I sat on a bench beside the Navigation as I approached Ferry Lane enjoying the sun pitching on my face. A smattering of cyclists and joggers passed. All the action was on the water with birds skidding in to land, squawking, wings flapping, heads disappearing beneath the surface, a multitude of voices, songs and calls.

Walthamstow Wetlands

Walthamstow Wetlands

Walthamstow Wetlands

Walthamstow Wetlands

Walthamstow Wetlands

Walthamstow Wetlands

The viewing platform at Walthamstow Wetlands affords a majestic vista back down the Lea and over reservoirs towards Hackney and Leyton. It was almost balmy there, face to the sun.

Forest Road Walthamstow

Forest Road Walthamstow

The view of the building works on Forest Road, Walthamstow from the platform at Blackhorse Road Station was like looking at a gigantic sculpture with the arrangement of green, red and purple structures perfectly aligned. The breeze blocks in the foreground were a bit of a letdown though, I think yellow would work well.