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

A walk along the River Ching

River Ching Walk

I’d been meaning to walk the Ching for years, a beautiful meandering river rising at Connaught Water in Epping Forest and making its way down a narrow strip of the forest, then through the streets of Chingford before passing the old Walthamstow Greyhound Stadium and making its confluence with the River Lea near the Banbury Reservoir.

So it was a great opportunity to include The Ching in the walks I produced as psychogeographer-in-residence for Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture 2019.

River Ching

Connaught Water to Newgate Street

We start at Connaught Water, Chingford, not far from Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge. Connaught Water is named after The Duke of Connaught, Queen Victoria’s seventh son and first Ranger of Epping Forest. Following the river we cross Ranger’s Road and the border between Waltham Forest and the County of Essex. Here we can first notice how the river meanders through the forest edgelands.

We walk over the grasslands of Whitehall Plain, and on Whitehall Road by the old stone bridge we stand on the boundary between the London Boroughs of Redbridge and Waltham Forest. There is something about hugging the edgelands, haunting the borders of an area that gives a particular perspective on what goes on within the periphery.

River Ching

We were fortunate to be joined on one of the guided walks by artist and musician Ellie Wilson, current Epping Forest artist-in-residence. Ellie talked about the ancient lopping rights that existed in Epping Forest and how the legacy of this cutting of the branches can be seen in the growth of the trees. We also listened to some of Ellie’s haunting music made as part of her residency in the forest as we followed the bends of the Ching through the wooded glades. A magical experience.

We leave the river at the mysterious Newgate Street as we come out on Chingdale Road at the bottom of Friday Hill. This illicits the story of a King (Henry VII?) who was served such a magnificient loin of beef at Friday Hill that he took up his sword and knighted it, ‘arise Sir Loin!’ he declared. And since that day this particular cut of beef has been known as Sirloin steak, or so the story goes.

Highams Park to Walthamstow Stadium

The river passes through Highams Park, the waters originally being dammed by the great landscape gardener Humphrey Repton to form Highams Park Lake when he landscaped the grounds of Higham Park House in 1794. Now the river flows freely on its way beside the lake, and we take the path the runs between the Ching and the lake.

River Ching

From here the Ching becomes an urban river. Shopping trollies are cast into its waters as contemporary votive offerings to the River Goddess. It meanders past back gardens, hidden behind the facade of houses, ocassionally glimpsed from a bridge, or down an alleyway where kids hang out after school. Our route takes in Gordon Avenue, Beverley Road, Studley Avenue, the delightful River Walk, Haldan Road then Cavendish Road which delivers us back to the riverbank.

A footpath beside the river guides us into the site of Walthamstow Stadium, once one of the most famous greyhound tracks in the country. Opened in 1929, its grand art deco entrance added in 1932, it closed in 2008. London once boasted 33 greyhound stadiums, now there are just two. Thankfully the art deco features have been retained in the housing development and the stadium neon flickers into life at dusk. Beside the main entrance we can see the Ching before it dives beneath Chingford Road.

River Ching River Ching

The Last Leg

On the other side of Chingford Road there’s a footpath beside the bridge. The Ching guides us through a perfect snapshot of an edgelands environment – pylons, megastores, huge carpark, flytipping in the undergrowth, shipping containers. The river brings us out into Morrisons carpark which is where the guided version of this walk ended. For those keen to see the river’s end you can follow Ching Way out to the North Circular. There cross the footbridge to Folly Lane where you get a final glimpse of the Ching before it makes its confluence with the River Lea just to the north of Banbury Reservoir.

 

Maps of all five of the walks produced for Waltham Forest Tours can be purchased from Hooksmith Press

 

Walk from Brentwood to Grange Hill

Brentwood

I found myself late Sunday morning just to the north of Brentwood at Bentley and decided to walk back towards London. I had no real route in mind other than to end up at a Central Line Station somewhere.

Brentwood
I started off down Hullet’s Lane. It was crisp and cold, a few degrees above zero. I then decided to loop back up along Pilgrim’s Lane and across The Mores, a strip of woodland where last autumn I went looking for Stukeley’s Druid temple.

Brentwood

Guided at this stage by an OS Map, I picked up a footpath off Wheeler’s Lane that ran across farmland. The path ended at a locked gate, the stile wrapped in wire. I had no choice other than to find the diverted route of the path that took me round the farmhouse into a track where I plunged into deep soft mud halfway up my calf. It oozed beneath me like quicksand, I wondered what I had stepped into and how far I’d sink. Cold mud filled my boots but I managed to drag myself out onto solid ground. (I checked the other end of the path where it exited onto the road to find a bull and cow slumbering by the stile).

I decided to stick to the road as I continued through Navestock, passing a large Ice Age pudding stone that had been raised on a plinth to mark the millennium, then crossed the M25. After paying homage to a trig point by a medieval moat on Navestock Common, I followed the long steep track to Curtis Mill Green.

Brentwood

There was a scattering of fly-tipping, further up the track beer barrels lay strewn among the hawthorn trees. There was an abandoned cottage crumbling in the undergrowth. Above the hedgerow the sun pitched on distant uplands, a large hill stood resplendent (Cabin Hill?), just visible beyond were the London skyscrapers.

Brentwood IMG_1324

I hadn’t eaten since 8am and wondered whether the need for food would eventually dictate my route. But the hunger didn’t seem to rise above a slight annoyance.

Curtis Mill Lane
My OS map ended at Stapleford Church so from here I was dependent on my phone for navigation. I found a footpath off the main road across farmland heading for Stapleford Aerodrome. For once, a footpath closure provided a happy accident. Forced to scramble through bushes and leap over a stream I found myself confronted with a second world war pillbox nestled into the riverbank obscured by ivy and an overhanging tree. It would have formed part of the Outer London Defence Ring when the airfield was taken over during the war becoming RAF Stapleford Tawney.

Pillbox Stapleford

WW2 Pillbox near Stapleford Aerodrome,

Crossing the field light aircraft buzzed low overhead coming in to land, the sound of their engines making you think of the Hurricanes and Spitfires that operated from the grass runways at Stapleford until 1943.

Brentwood

More paths across bare muddy fields brought me to a familiar junction near Lambourne Church. The battery on my phone was low and it was randomly shutting down, so it was good to know that I could find my way back to the tube network from here by memory. The ‘ancient green lane’ through Conduit Wood, although only passed twice before had the feeling of home. It’s a landscape I imagine woodland sprites occupy.

My knee decided to lock and cease to function as I reached Lambourne End. An old affliction I was sure had gone away. Maybe it was the cold, yomping through deep mud, and the faster than usual pace, I don’t know. So now it meant hauling my useless left leg down the muddy bridleway (Featherbed Lane) to Crabtree Hill in Hainault Forest. The pain started to ease. I could traverse these paths in the dark (as I have done before, and in deep snow too) if needed and started to think of food and a pint at the Red Lion back in Leytonstone.

conduit wood IMG_1375

I eventually stumbled out of Hainault Forest  across Weddrell’s Plain onto Chigwell Row as the sunset gave way to darkness. I remembered the little office licence where I’d bought a can of cold lager and snacks after a long summer evening stroll and bagged a chicken and mushroom slice and a can of lemon Fanta.

The walk in the dark down the hill to Grange Hill Tube Station was completed in a reverie. The lights of London Town shimmered in the distance.

Grange Hill

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.