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

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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.

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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