Walking the River Rom

My walk along the River Rom started on the edge of Hainault Forest following a section of the London Loop to our first sighting of the Rom near Carter Lane. This is where I’d initially encountered the Rom, on walks over Dog Kennel Hill, and up the avenue of Redwoods to Havering-atte-Bower. I’d wondered about its course, suspecting its passage to the Thames would not be an easy one as it traversed Romford and industrial Dagenham.
We pass through the streets that lead to Collier Row and down North Street to Romford Town Centre and Romford Market. Leaving the town centre we follow the Rom through a series of parks, Grenfell and The Chase where it becomes the boundary between the London Boroughs of Havering and Barking and Dagenham. In its lower reaches the Rom becomes the Beam River before it runs through the site of the Ford motor works at Dagenham.

London’s Peaks podcast 
London Loop videos 
Hainault Forest video 
Havering-atte-Bower video
The Golden Lion Romford 

Open Street Map “© OpenStreetMap contributors” using data available under the Open Database Licence

State Drive – VYEN
Dream Escape – The Tides
Fresh Fallen Snow – Chris Haugen
Little Drunk, Quiet Floats – Puddle of Infinity

Ghosts of Epping Forest

Ghosts of Epping Forest – a walk in London’s forest

This walk starts in Loughton heading along Lincoln’s Lane towards North Long Hills. We then pass Three Bridges and Fairmead, Hill Wood and follow the path beside Avey Lane to the church at High Beach. We then walk along Manor Road to the Kings Oak talking about the legends of Hangman’s Hill which is said to be haunted, and also the story of John Clare’s walk from the High Beach asylum to Northborough in Cambridgeshire.
From the Pillow Mounds at High Beach the walk takes us past the Epping Forest Visitor Centre, across the road to Kate’s Cellar. Here I lose my bearings a bit and end up by the Robin Hood pub and Thai restaurant. I walk along Earl’s Path back to Loughton Station.

Includes footage of Andrew Kötting dressed at the Straw Bear, shot in Brompton Cemetery in 2016 for my documentary London Overground

Books mentioned:
Saving the People’s Forest by Mark Gorman
London’s Forest by PJS Perecval
Strange Labyrinth by Will Ashon
Out of the Woods by Luke Turner
Edge of the Orison by Iain Sinclair

Open Street Map “© OpenStreetMap contributors” using data available under the Open Database Licence
1866 Map of Epping Forest Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland  https://maps.nls.uk/index.html

Fresh Fallen Snow by Chris Haugen
Tupelo Train by Chris Haugen

Brent Biennial Walks

At the end of 2020 I was commissioned to create three walks linking together artworks in the Brent Biennial. The maps and my notes to accompany the walks are downloadable at the bottom of this post (*the links to the Brent Biennial website no longer work).

The first (map above) started at Kingsbury by Dawn Mellor’s George Michael mural then passed over Barn Hill (Uxendon Hill) with its majestic view over Wembley Stadium with all the echoes of the area’s past wafting across that storied hill. The walk pays homage to the Wealdstone Brook on the way to visiting Carl Gabriel’s sculptures outside Preston Road Community Library. We wander through old Wembley, its farm and park and the ghosts of the Empire Exhibition and Watkins’ Folly before ending the walk at Dan Mitchell’s artwork at Wembley Library.

The second walk starts at the GPO Research Station on Dollis Hill, then takes in For Now’s artwork at Willesden Jewish Cemetery and ends at my own sound piece in the streets of Kensal Rise produced in collaboration with the brilliant Kensal Rise Community Library.

And the final walk links together the artworks along Kilburn High Road.

Download the Maps and Notes below

Hackney Walks – from London Fields to Hackney Wick

When I lived in Hackney in the early 90’s it sometimes felt impossible to escape. It seemed vast. Recent graduates in a time of unemployment, broke and slightly adrift, for a period of time Hackney was our entire world. It was a self-contained realm with its own logic and economics – as well as its own licencing laws. No wonder Iain Sinclair titled his book about the borough that’d been his home since the late 1960’s, Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire.

I was enticed back across the Lea to London Fields at the end of March, to document the home of an amazing character, the type of bohemian maverick that Hackney produced in a manner unlike any other area of the city. Ron Hitchins had been dubbed the Prince of Petticoat Lane and then transformed himself into a Flamenco dancer whose London Fields home became the epicentre of the London flamenco community. He then started creating artworks that were displayed in galleries and private collections around the world. Ron had passed away at the end of 2019, the house had been sold and was being packed up to start a new life.

From Ron’s house I wandered across London Fields and skimmed the railway arches. I saw Beck Road as the thread that linked Ron’s outpost to the tradition of Hackney bohemianism, the Martello Street studios along the way. ‘RIP Genesis’ was still on the door of the Throbbing Gristle house. The canal led me through Hackney to pick up the Hertford Union, drained of water at that time, while the Victorian brickwork in the Cut walls was being repaired and replaced. It brought me back to the edge of Hackney Wick where I’d filmed another walk a few weeks previously, as I repeated a circuit from 2016 logging change in an area claimed as a prime site of redevelopment.

Even in the space of 5 years the pace of change was quite extreme in places. A whole new community had been constructed on Fish Island – a street plan ripped off the grids of New York or some other North American city. It generated its own microclimate of harsh winds and ill omens. The birthplace of plastic had become a Sainsburys local. But the Lord Napier remained sheathed in graffiti.

Secrets of the East: along a Hidden River to a Medieval shrine in Ilford

This January walk takes us once again back into the past, where the landscape reveals the deep history of this area and tells us its stories. We start by exploring two Possible Prehistoric ditches on Wanstead Flats near Centre Road/north of the Jubilee Pond and running Southeast to Centre Road.

You can read the archaeological report here: https://bit.ly/2KLv5ZG

Then we pass through the uncanny suburb of Aldersbrook to pick up the River Roding. We follow the Roding as it runs beside Ilford Golf Club and find the mysterious little Alders Brook, a beguiling rivulet that for some of the year is little more than a muddy ditch hidden in the undergrowth. The dramatic January floods and the high tide filled the Alders Brook with water and revealed it as a flowing river. We follow the Alders Brook as it passes beneath the railway bridge at the Butts (possibly named after the rifle butts on adjacent lands in the 19th Century) and then runs parallel to the Roman Romford Road and returns to the River Roding at Ilford Bridge beneath the North Circular flyover.

The final stretch of our walk takes us up Ilford Hill to the Hospital Chapel dedicated to St Mary and St Thomas of Canterbury. The Chapel was established around the year 1140 by the Abbess of Barking as a leper hospital. It became a stopping place for pilgrims and medieval travellers passing through the area. It’s a wonderful hidden location.