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.

Suburban Safari – Ruislip Gardens to Gerrards Cross

There is something about the far reaches of the Central Line, it appears in my mind as a far off land on the edge of the known world, which is nonsense because I grew up in the provinces beyond – just down the A40 in Bucks. Either way it lurks there pinged up on the dot matrix display on the platform teasing me, urging me to abscond.

So abscond I did, alighting after about an hour at Ruislip Gardens. It had been bucketing down when I’d left Leytonstone and the sky was still smeared in thick grey clouds when I’d changed at North Acton. But crossing the road to the Yeading Brook at Ruislip Gardens the sun broke out and beckoned me down the tree lined path.

Skirting Northolt Aerodrome on the far side of the Yeading Brook, I crossed a meadow where someone was camped out living in the trees and I momentarily saw it as a kind of idyllic life. I’ve noticed this a few times on walks on open ground around the city, make-shift homes erected beneath the trees, clothes hung on hangers from branches, peculiar domestic touches for such a rustic setting.

So glad to be out in the city fringe I strode across a wide open meadow only to find myself angle deep in water, unaware I was in the middle of Ickenham Marsh where a canal feeder for the Grand Union trundles beside the Yeading Brook. There were common rights of pasture on the marshes and cattle were still grazed here in the early 1960s. There wasn’t so much as a dog when I sloshed through.

I go round in circles a lot when I walk – not helped by following a meandering brook that has a canal feeder then passes under the A40 and when I follow a footpath into a mire of suburban streets that only has one road in and out. However I was entertained by a brick Tardis disguised as an electricity substation and a row of modernist semi-detached houses that looked as if they’d been air-dropped from Los Angeles.

Somehow I found my way to this majestic spot where the River Pinn passes along a brick culvert beneath the Uxbridge bound tube line. The Pinn, although a modest watercourse running from Pinner to Yiewsley must surely be one of the most beautiful London rivers. I don’t understand aesthetics well enough to be able to back that up – but I crossed it 3 times on this walk and it made me stop dead in my tracks on each occasion. Sights like this deserve a double page spread in National Geographic.


The 100 foot elevation of Uxbridge Common offers a panoramic view of the London skyline from the Shard on the right to the Post Office Tower to the left and I’m guessing Euston Tower behind it. The Common once stretched for hundreds of acres, 4 miles in circumference till 19th Century enclosures reduced it to its current 15 acre plot.

There was a point when I thought I’d get no further west than Uxbridge. It was 5.30 when the suburbs throb to a different rhythm – out here that’s home time. It took me half-an-hour to find a way out of the traffic vortex whipped up by the Uxbridge Roundabout, back I forth I roamed with my life in my hands before I found a way off Harefield Road to the banks of Fray’s River.

Then followed a series of beautiful clear watercourses – Fray’s River, Shire Ditch, The Grand Union Canal and the Colne. I seemed to be forever crossing bridges, zigg-zagging along riverbanks to find crossings – I counted at least 6 bridges before I reached Denham.

I hadn’t seen anywhere to buy food along the way – not even a kiosk at Ruislip Gardens. I scoffed a fistful of sweet ripe blackberries marinated in exhaust fumes in an overgrown footpath long ago abandoned beside the A40. That would have to do for a while.

I’d roughly set my course for Denham where I followed the River Misbourne to this abandoned football pitch with knee high grasses and an old brazier for beacon fires although there were so many heretics out in the Chilterns you’re never too sure whether they had a dual purpose.

I never thought I’d get so excited by the words Wild Bean Cafe but I nearly leapt for joy when as I approached it across the forecourt of the BP garage on the A40. They had no samosas and you had to buy a 4-pack of Stella and not just a single can so I settled for a chicken and bacon sandwich, cappuccino and a doughnut.

The overdose of calories consumed in a neat brick bus shelter pushed me over one last field in the setting sun just after 8. I emerged back on the road in the gloom for the slow trudge into Gerrards Cross. I scoured Tesco for a souvenir but ended up with a copy of Private Eye which I took to a sofa in The Elthorpe Hotel with a pint of ale before the 10 o’clock train into Marylebone.