Harmondsworth – Medieval London Village Under Threat

This walk, filmed in April 2021, starts over in West London with a walk from West Drayton to the medieval village of Harmondsworth. The village is mentioned in the Domesday Book but pre-dates the Norman conquest with the manor at one time being held by King Harold. The parish church of St. Mary dates from 1067 and its Great Barn raised between 1425 and 1427 was called ‘The Cathedral of Middlesex’ by Sir John Betjeman. The village is now threatened by the expansion of Heathrow Airport with the building of a Third Runway which would involve the demolition of at least 761 homes in the area and the entire village of Longford, according to a report on the BBC website.


The video looks at the buildings of Harmondsworth including the Five Bells pub, the church, tithe barn and Harmondsworth Hall before passing along Moor Lane for a look at the Barnes Wallis memorial. We cross the Duke of Northumberland’s River and the River Colne to Harmondsworth Moor where we stand atop the Keyhole built using stone from the original Waterloo Bridge. Crossing Wray’s River we walk along (or rather hobble, following an accident) Accommodation Road and down to the A4 Colnbrook By-Pass and the the Bath Road and through the village of Longford. The walk ends at Heathrow Airport Terminal 5.
Massive thanks to Alexandre for suggesting this walk.
Reading about the Last Wolf of Perry Oaks from Highwayman’s Heath by Gordon S. Maxwell published in 1935

A walk along the River Pinn following the Celandine Route

I’d passed over the River Pinn on a number of previous walks – usually on treks heading West out of London. It always struck me as a particularly beguiling watercourse trundling down through the western suburbs. I vowed to return and walk its length and one Easter a few years ago set off to Paddington to catch the train to West Drayton and follow the Pinn from its confluence with the Colne back to its source high up in the hills of Harrow. But the rain lashed down so hard, bouncing off the pavement and forming a new river that ran down from Praed Street into the Station, that I had to abandon my venture. It was only in October of this year that I decided to return to walk the Celandine Route, a 12-mile trail created by Hillingdon Council that follows the Pinn

The River Pinn rises on Harrow Weald Common and flows through Pinner, Ruislip, and Uxbridge to make its confluence with Frays River and combined they run into the River Colne on the edge of West Drayton. It is one of the three main rivers of the old county of Middlesex. This time I decided to start my walk at Pinner where The Celandine Route starts at Bridge Street near the junction with Pinner High Street, at the point the Pinn was dammed during WW2 to provide water to put out fires.

The River Pinn at Pinner
River Pinn at Pinner

The green wrought iron railings in a lane behind some shops and offices could only be guarding something precious and sacred. Below trundles the gentle River Pinn, which I greet before the walk deviates from the course of the river through Pinner Memorial Gardens. The watercourse is picked up as it flows through Cuckoo Hill Allotments and I could follow it closely for most of the way ahead.

The Pinn leads us to the beautiful walled garden at Eastcote House which dates from the 17th Century and then to the ancient Ruislip Manor House with its majestic great barn which was built around the year 1300. There is also the remains of a Motte and Bailey Castle on the site, and a branch of Ruislip Library in the Little Barn which was built some point before 1600.

Eastcote House Gardens on the River Pinn walk
Eastcote House Gardens
Ruislip Manor House - River Pinn walk
Ruislip Manor House

It was a walk rich in history, revealing a lost world of Old Middlesex. Where the river curves around Ruislip Golf Course, the Hillingdon Hoard was discovered consisting of Iron Age coins believed to date from the 1st Century BC. They were turned up during HS2 works close to the river, leading to the supposition that they may have been a votive offering. The next site of interest we pass along the river is Pynchester Moat created sometime in the 13th or 14th Century and now slumbering in suburbia.

The rain did come down intermittently throughout the walk but at no point did it detract from the pleasure of this riverine stroll, not even when it became clear that I’d be unable to complete the route in daylight. After crossing the A40 I bade farewell to the spirit of the Pinn and headed off towards a crimson sunset breaking over Uxbridge to mull over the day sipping a mug of tea in Starbucks.

Caught by the River / Video Strolls Film of the Month

caught by the river

It’s great to see my film about an expedition to Twyford Abbey with Nick Papadimitriou and Peter Knapp has been selected by Video Strolls for their Film of the Month slot on Caught by the River. I originally made the film for the Video Strolls programme in the Flatpack Film Festival in 2015.

Introducing the film, Liberty Rowley wrote:

“Starting out, rather unpromisingly, by the A406 in the rain, to find a monastery written about in a book published in 1927, John Rogers follows Nick Papadimitriou – who, as usual, seems more concerned about the route of the mains water pipe – until, quite suddenly, we follow them through a hole in a fence and we are in the dairy of the monastery.”

Read the rest of the introduction and watch the film here on Caught by the River.

twyford abbey

The film was in many ways intended as a return to a walk Nick, Pete and I did together in the summer of 2005, picking up where that journey ended near Stonebridge Park 10 years later. And with our detour to explore the remains of Twyford Abbey, the original expedition following the North West Middlesex Main Drainage scheme remains incomplete. I wonder if one day we’ll finish it, or will it always be the gateway to other adventures.

Big thanks to Video Strolls and Caught by the River for featuring the film.

Corruption and prostitution in 17th Century Holborn

I have a copy of the Middlesex Sessions Records 1612-14 sat on my floor. I feel guilty for leaving it there, pick it up and open at random:

26 July, 11 James I [A.D. 1613].

Roger Williams [Williamson] alias Davies  of St. Andrew’s, Holborn, scrivener, and Margaret his wife, for being common barrators and disturbers of the peace at the same; and for keeping a common bawdy house at the same.

Both guilty. To be carted in a cart from the gaol to their own house, the said Margaret in a blue mantle like a bawd, and there to be openly set in the stocks, and afterwards to remain in prison till they find sureties for their good behaviour.

Prosecutors:- Giles Henley, William Dennis, Roger Usherwood, Christopher Archer, Nicholas Elmye, Robert Osborne.

Sureties for the said:- John Askewe of St. Gabriel’s, Fenchurch, gentleman, and William Roberts of St. Bartholomew’s-the-Great, tailor.

Roger and Margaret sound like a right pair – aside from keeping a brothel and generally creating a racket, barratry was the crime of “bringing a groundless lawsuit or lawsuits” or the corrupt practice of the “sale or purchase of positions in church or state.”

‘The Lost Elysium’ – London walk – Sudbury Hill to Hanwell

'The Lost Elysium' - London walk from Sudbury Hill to Hanwell from fugueur on Vimeo.

Here’s a video I shot on the walk for Chapter 5 of This Other London, following the traces of a neolithic trackway from Sudbury Hill to the Wharnecliffe Viaduct at Hanwell, passing over the top of Horsenden Hill with its wonderful legend of Horsa and his ghostly steed, and through Perivale, the ‘pure vale’.


Taken For Granted (1947) – Mogden


If I ever had a budget to produce a DVD of The London Perambulator this classic 1947 film about the sewage system of West Middlesex, Taken For Granted would be on the extras. It is the backdrop to Nick Papadimitriou’s poetic vision of his region.
Here is he at Mogden Purification Works waxing lyrical about its significance “come and pray at this pile of turds because this is you”

The clip is from the London Screen Archive