A walk along the Clitterhouse Brook with Nick Papadimitrou

 

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)

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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.

London’s Lost Rivers – the Black Ditch with Tom Bolton

A Walker’s Guide to London’s Lost Rivers – Volume Two

Tom Bolton’s second volume of walks along London’s Lost Rivers traces the paths of eleven subterranean watercourses. Whereas Volume One mapped out the better known lost rivers of London such as the Fleet and the Tyburn – Volume Two is a guide to the more obscure buried streams and brooks that shape the city – the Bollo Brook, Cock and Pye Ditch, Counter’s Creek, Falcon Brook, Hackney Brook, Moselle, and Stamford Brook. Tom took me for a walk along the first river in Volume Two – The Black Ditch, rising somewhere in Stepney Green then wending its way through the East London streets of Stepney, Poplar and Limehouse before making its confluence with the Thames at Limekiln Wharf.

Black Ditch

“In it’s very name The Black Ditch reveals its status an unappreciated river. Despite its route, which runs through the heart of the East End, the Ditch is generally dismissed as no more than a sewer.” – Tom Bolton

Black Ditch

London’s Lost Rivers – A Walker’s Guide by Tom Bolton is published by Strange Attractor Press

Walking the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation

A walk from Chelmsford to Maldon

Chelmsford, the town where the great Elizabethan astronomer, occultist, master magician and advisor to Elizabeth I, John Dee, was educated. And where Guglielmo Marconi produced the world’s first wireless sets, was a great place to start a walk. There’s something in the waters of Chelmsford, the confluence of the Rivers Can and Chelmer on the edge of the town producing a curious Magick, that is channeled into the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation and flows out to the Blackwater Estuary at Maldon. You could sense it in the landscape lining the watercourse, it oozed through the muddy path and stirred in the channels and tributaries that fed the canal. It whispered in the swaying reeds and grasses and rattled the bare boughs of the trees. Maybe it was something the Romans left behind.

Along the Chelmer

My walk began at Springfield Basin just on the edge of Chelmsford where new blocks of flats rise on the sites of the warehouses and wharfs where softwoods from Maldon would have been unloaded and stored. The navigation opened  in 1797 and the last barge floated into the basin in 1972.

Chelmer

It was a wet and misty late morning as I left the town behind and headed through a field of tall dead teasels and beneath a motorway flyover. I was entering the landscape of The Essex Serpent. Progress along the Chelmer was marked by a series of locks – Barnes Mill Lock, Sandford Lock, Cuton Lock. Paper Mill Lock notable as a filming location for the brilliant BBC TV show Detectorists, which is set in the North Essex countryside.

Ulting Church appeared through the denuded trees on a bend in the river where swans munched on greens in the field. The present church dates from 1150 and was once a site of pilgrimage, said to be as significant as Walsingham (although I am unable to find out why).

Chelmer

The mist rose off the river in the last hour of daylight and I wondered if The Chelmer had a deity like the rivers of London in Ben Aaronovitch’s excellent series of books. If such a god/dess does exist they dwell in those reaches near the Langford reservoirs around the point where the Blackwater joins the Chelmer before it breaks free of the Navigation and heads through Maldon to the Blackwater Estuary.

River Chelmer

I followed the Langford Cut as far as the Tesco Extra the size of a village, on the edge of Maldon, and followed the Chelmer to the dock. It was pitch black, the only illumination coming from a lamp on a sail barge moored at the quay. It feels like an unfinished journey – I need to return to walk the Blackwater Estuary out to the sea. On the bus back to Chelmsford I started to plot my return.

These trees have stories – Epping Forest

trees

Epping Forest Walk – Loughton Camp to Epping via Ambresbury Banks

I head into the forest at 3.15pm in the rain – up from Loughton Station straight to Loughton Camp – a place of peace, retreat. Rain taps on the fallen leaves. The gloom and rain mean there’s not a soul around. The mighty trees look over me.

trees

These trees have stories – great mythologies, lineages stretching back millenia. I wish I could hear their tales, if I stand still for long enough and listen to the breeze will I gain their trust?

Epping Forest

Epping Forest path

A large white horse stands on a bend on the the high path through Great Monk Wood like a mythical beast. I chat to the rider and compare notes on traveling through the forest in the last light. We part in opposite directions wishing each other well. I have a distance to go to reach Epping and it’s now just before sunset.

trees

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trees

trees

It’s dark when I cross the road and onto Ambresbury Banks. I stand to admire the deep entrenchment – in many ways more imposing than Loughton Camp.

Ambresbury Banks

Ambresbury Banks

It’s pitch black now – but I have a nice wide path to guide me and the forest to myself. Not even an animal stirs or a nocturnal dog walker. How easy would it be to duck into the overgrowth, throw a tarp over some low branches and bed down for the night?

Trees

A fallen tree by the path in Epping Thicks glows white like a ghostly face on the edge of the path. I feel it in the pit of my stomach – and stand still.  When I move on I see movement through the trees, horses running along the ridge at the top of the forest …. before I see that it’s my walking giving the static tree trunks motion against the lights of Epping Town in the distance, like a woodland zoetrope. How the light plays tricks on the mind in the dark. The running horses were ghosts of my own mind.

The forest is still.

Epping

Epping cricket pavillion on the edge of the forest

 

 

Forest of Surprises

Winter Epping Forest Walk

Epping Forest

Sitting on the outer bank of Loughton Camp looking west into the winter sun fractured through the naked boughs. The Camp feels silent, slumbering, latent. It has a presence, resonating across those millenia since it was constructed when the forest stretched out to the coast and London was a scattering of villages in the woods. I imagine myself watching over a herd sheltering behind the bank, looking over the steep gulley to the west, pulling my heavy cloak around me listening for wolves and bears, hearing boars snuffling amongst the acorns and beech mast. I feel oddly at home in that frame of mind.

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Loughton Camp

Epping Forest

Entering the forest from Loughton, just before 2pm, I felt a calm descend as I made my way over Staples Hill and up to Loughton Camp. The plan was a simple one – meander from Loughton to Epping (or Theydon Bois depending on light and legs).

High Beach Epping Forest

Pillow Mounds

Following the path up Broom Hill to Mount Pleasant I find my way to the Epping Forest Visitor Centre at High Beach. I never quite manage to catch this place open (maybe once 10 years ago with the kids) so it was a pleasant surprise to be able to go for a look around and admire the vintage London Transport posters advertising the forest.

Epping Forest

Verderer’s Path

Epping Forest

view from Honey Lane Quarters

Over Claypit Hill I followed Verderers Path through Honey Lane Quarters, where a majestic view opened up looking over Honey Lane Plain to the hills around Waltham Abbey where I walked just a couple of weeks previously. It’s interesting to read how J.A Brimble laments that this view was obscured by trees when writing his classic London’s Epping Forest in 1950.

Epping Forest

Epping Forest

Crossing Woodridden Hill  (or Woodredden Hill) I entered St. Thomas’s Quarters. The clusters of people wandering from High Beach don’t seem to venture this far from the King’s Oak, and the path along the edge of the farmland offers a wonderful stretch of forest solitude. I’ve walked the other side of this farm to the hills around Copt Hall and Upshire and followed the ridge along to Galleyhill Wood just to the north of Waltham Abbey – glorious walks (followed by a schlepp in the dark through Bumble’s Green to Broxbourne Station). Brimble notes the varied nature of the scenery on this side of Epping Forest and Buxton describes a route similar to the one I follow.

Epping Forest

I crossed the hill into the Warren and entered the last half-hour of daylight. There were three other walkers resting on a fallen tree having a sandwich before turning back down the hill. This beautiful avenue of pines stood guard over the muddy path that snaked its way towards Epping Road and in the direction of Ambresbury Banks.

Epping Forest

An old milestone marked the point where I passed into Epping Thicks. I stuck close to the road, realising that I’d by-passed Ambresbury Banks, and enjoyed this apex of the forest before reaching Bell Common and the descendent through the backstreets of Epping to the station.

 

 

 

First Walk of 2020 – Beyond King Harold’s Tomb at Waltham Abbey

It seemed apt somehow to start the decade with a visit to Waltham Abbey Church and the tomb of King Harold. The supposed burial place of the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, a notable site of medieval pilgrimage and sitting on the Greenwich Meridan. But these weren’t the things that brought me to Waltham Abbey on the 2nd January 2020.

Waltham Abbey

Waltham Abbey WW1 anti-aircraft gun emplacement

A ridge rising on the outskirts of Waltham Abbey had caught my eye on a number of walks, usually at the end just after sunset where it tempted me to climb its summit to catch the last of the light. Then a recent comment on my YouTube channel informed me of a site of interest near Kennel Wood, a First World War anti-aircraft emplacement, which just happened to be in the vicinity of the hill that had called me so many times. This is where I headed after paying homage at the Abbey and Harold’s tomb.

 

Watch the video above to see the hike into the hills above Waltham Abbey around Monkhams Hall.

 

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