A walk along the Clitterhouse Brook with Nick Papadimitriou

 

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.

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.

A walk along the River Crouch

I scribble some notes down at Althorne Station, 8.15pm with ten minutes till the train comes along the single track Wickford to Southminster Line. It’s Monday 29th April, and the last light is fading. I’m parched and hungry at the end of a 17-mile walk from South Woodham Ferrers. I’d intended to start further along the River Crouch, at North Fambridge and walk the 10 miles to Burnham-on-Crouch, but somewhere on the train journey out from Stratford I’d started to wonder whether 10 miles was a long enough walk and toyed with the idea of starting at South Woodham Ferrers without properly thinking it through. I unconsciously alighted at South Woodham and it took me two hours to fully realise the implications of my mistake as the river path doubled back in a broad meander towards the outskirts of South Woodham Ferrers. Vast tidal mudflats stretched out ahead where I’d mistakenly assumed the path would continue towards North Fambridge. I was left with no choice but to follow the footpath around the ebb and flow of the river and then inland along Stow Creek to the disused railway line near Stow Maries. What had been intended as a straightforward, too straightforward, walk along the River Crouch had become a fieldpath ramble, an exercise in stoicism.

River Crouch Walk

River Crouch Walk

River Crouch Walk P1110196.MP4.00_00_06_22.Still001

By the time I reached North Fambridge it was 5pm, I’d drank all my water and burnt through the sandwich munched back at the beginning of the walk (I’d planned for a 10-mile walk afterall) and had already walked 12.5 miles to reach my intended start point. I looked forward to restocking at North Fambridge for the 10 miles into Burnham-on-Crouch, a couple of cans from a shop sunk on the riverbank and something to munch on, anything, as the hunger started to reach my legs.

There was not so much as a solitary shop at North Fambridge (population 835), and the only pub was closed for refurbishment. I was directed towards the marina where I was told there was a café, a 20-minute detour that proved fruitless as the café closed at 2pm on a Monday. There was an outdoor tap that couldn’t be trusted.

River Crouch Walk

I weighed up my options. Quit and head home. Catch the train to Burnham-on-Crouch to eat and drink then walk back along the estuary, or just call it a day at Burnham. None of them appealed. I hate giving up on a walk so on I pushed along the Crouch, 5-miles to Althorne, the next station. Heading off along the riverside path my hunger suddenly abated and my thirst subsided. I got used to my physical state, accepted it as the price of continuing the quest. Lots of memories, moods and associations swept over the evening-lit mudflats – backpacking, Bondi, a school trip to Swanage. Good feelings.

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Reaching Althorne at sunset I tentatively asked a dog walker near the boatyard if there was a shop or pub nearby, ‘Not for 50-miles’, he laughed. ‘It feels that way,’ I replied and off he walked. I sat on a stile and looked along the estuary towards Burnham-on-Crouch and decided it would be madness to continue. So I headed up the lane to the station and the wait on the deserted platform for a train back to Stratford.

River Crouch Walk River Crouch Walk.00_28_22_19.Still015

 

 

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.”

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