South West Coast Path: Teignmouth to Dawlish Warren

Tuesday 9th September 2014

5 miles

Toilets: Public toilets, pubs and cafes at Teignmouth, Dawlish and Dawlish Warren.

Having been down to Cornwall a couple of times in the last few years, I’d always been intrigued by the railway-by-the-sea that goes through Dawlish and Teignmouth.  It’s a lovely journey, and you can often see people waving at you as they walk along the beach or the sea wall.  Earlier this year, part of it was destroyed in a huge storm, but it was repaired within a few months.  This year, we decided to go on holiday to Devon and explore it for ourselves.  It felt great to finally be one of the people actually walking along the beach, rather than quickly passing by.  At five miles, we could’ve done the whole thing in an hour-and-a-half, but we took several leisurely hours, stopping to look at absolutely everything.

We arrived at Teignmouth and the tide was right out, so we took the opportunity to walk out onto a far-reaching sandbank and see everything from afar.

20140909_125710There isn’t much to say about the route itself, since we just walked along the beach and followed the South West Coast Path.  What a beautiful day.

20140909_134327 20140909_135000 20140909_135031

We passed the Teignmouth sign at Sprey Point – one of the main things I’d always noticed from the train, and giving us a real holiday feel.

20140909_140544 20140909_140944 20140909_142108

Near the end of the beach, we passed a place where there’d been a landslide and repairs were still taking place.

20140909_143044

So much colour everywhere – the red rocks of Devon.

20140909_144233Shortly after the railway disappeared into this tunnel, there was no more coast path available so we had to do a bit of road walking.  Luckily we passed the Smugglers Inn, where we stopped for a really good late lunch.  (The menu was far more extensive than the one on their website).

Here’s the view approaching Dawlish.

20140909_164651There are two footbridges marked on the map in Dawlish: Coastguard Footbridge and Rockstone Footbridge.  The coast path between the two is currently closed, so we had to take another road detour.  Once the works have been completed, the whole thing will be open.  After the second footbridge, we managed to get back down onto the beach again.

An amazing day out.  Definitely the best day of our holiday.

Posted in Walks | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Grand Union Canal: Watford to Berkhamsted

Sunday 3rd August 2014

11.5 miles

Toilets: Watford Metropolitan Line Station (men’s on the platform, ladies’ outside the ticket gates); Kings Head pub, Hunton Bridge; various pubs in Kings Langley; Paper Mill pub and various restaurants at Apsley Marina; public toilets at car park in Durrants Hill Road, Apsley; various pubs in Hemel Hempstead; Three Horseshoes pub, Winkwell; three canalside pubs just before Berkhamstead Station; pubs in Berkhamstead; platform 4 at Berkhamstead Station (locked when we were there).

The next section of the London Loop was going to be difficult to get to due to various closed railway lines, so we continued with our Grand Union Canal walk instead.  Our experience of the canal so far had been starting off as urban, continuing through some smelly industrial areas, and then continuing through the outskirts of town, not quite urban but not quite countryside – the sort of places that people argue about whether they’re in London or not.

Heading north from Watford, the canal finally gave us a properly rural feel.  We walked past some lovely boats and quiet, sleepy locks.  The Braunston mileage posts helped us keep track of how much progress we’d made.

20140803_105724

20140803_111910

20140803_112102

20140803_112834

20140803_113251

20140803_113542

It wasn’t 100% peaceful, since we had to go under a motorway slip road, the A41, and then the M25.  We could hear the M25 from quite a way away, but the noise gradually faded afterwards.  We appreciated the wildlife, including this dinosaur in Kings Langley.

20140803_122217

There were plenty of boats around, but they were mostly full of people relaxing.  Not many of them were moving about.

We stopped for lunch at Woody’s Cafe at Apsley Marina, a pleasant stopping point.  There were several other options for lunch there: a pizza place called Calzone, an Indian restaurant called Marina Spice Lounge, and a pub, The Paper Mill.

20140803_141442 Between Apsley and Hemel Hempstead, we saw a lot more people out and about.  They didn’t look like long-distance walkers, though.  Lots of local people were using the canal as a route into town.  We passed a lot of new housing developments, many of which were fairly attractive.  As we approached Hemel Hempstead, there were more and more open fields where we could’ve stopped for a rest, but didn’t.  The original plan was to end the walk here, making it 8.5 miles, but we realised it was only three more miles to Berkhamstead, and it was a beautiful day, so on we continued.  Our boat name of the day award went to My Overdraught.

20140803_150646

Further on at Winkwell, we stopped for a quick drink at the Three Horseshoes, a beautiful sixteenth century pub.

20140803_154828

After another quiet patch, we reached a busy area known as the Port of Berkhamsted.  Just after this were three pubs (The Rising Sun, The Boat, and The Crystal Palace), and then it was time to turn off the canal.

20140803_163213

20140803_163333

Berkhamstead Castle is just across the road from the station.  It’s a Norman castle, built nearly a thousand years ago.  The grounds are open from 10am-6pm during the Summer, and 10am-4pm in the Winter, with no entrance fee.  We stopped here for a long rest, having enjoyed our long walk on this boiling hot day.

20140803_164314 20140803_165928

Posted in Grand Union Canal | Leave a comment

London Loop: Hamsey Green to Coulsdon South

Sunday 15th June 2014

6 miles

Toilets: Wattenden Arms, Kenley; The Fox, Coulsdon Common; public toilets at the car park at Farthing Downs; Coulsdon South Station (men’s on the platform, women’s outside the ticket gates).  The Good Companions pub at Hamsey Green has been demolished.

We’re really enjoying the London Loop.  I know it’s easy to keep saying “this was my favourite section so far”, but it really does seem to keep getting better and better at the moment.  It was a day of woods and meadows, some of the best types of paths.  We took a train from Victoria to Sanderstead, then the 403 bus to Hamsey Green.  This only appears to work once per hour on Sundays, so check the timetables carefully before you go.  Depending on where you’re travelling from, you might find it easier to go via Croydon.  We had originally planned to walk ten miles to Banstead (although there are no trains from Banstead on Sundays, so we would’ve had to have taken a detour to Belmont to get a bus from there anyway), but we weren’t quite in the mood for it so we dropped out early.  Compared to last weekend’s scorching sunshine, there were plenty of grey clouds today and it kept threatening to rain.

Anyway, we set off up the road before the path crossed some refreshingly open land, then became enclosed by trees.  We passed a trig point, which I think might be the only one on the whole of the London Loop.  There are a couple on the Capital Ring, on Barn Hill and Horsenden Hill.

20140615_10431320140615_105505

After crossing a couple of railway lines we had a steep walk up New Barn Lane.  Looking back to admire the view, we could see the chalky remains left behind from quarrying.  Kinda like the White Cliffs of Kenley.

20140615_111822There was then an even steeper climb up some stairs going through woodland, before we emerged onto Kenley Common.  What an amazing place – full of open meadows and plenty of space.

20140615_11324220140615_113447

After passing the Wattenden Arms in Kenley, with some beautiful houses nearby, the next point of interest was this observatory belonging to Croydon Astronomical Society.  I hope there’s some cool equipment inside, because it looks a bit of a mess from the outside.  There were some horse boxes nearby, along with some other strange, unidentified buildings.

20140615_12011620140615_120327We stopped for a good lunch at the Fox Inn.  In the car park next door was this poor old Mercedes vehicle which had clearly seen better days.  There was a strong smell of burning, and a local council employee passed by and said it had only appeared within the last day or so.  It was almost certainly a deliberate fire.  Even the wheels had melted.

20140615_134243 20140615_134229

The path continued along the absolutely beautiful Happy Valley, again with a great feeling of open space.  We hadn’t seen that many people out and about up until this point, but a lot more people were out enjoying the space here.

20140615_13523120140615_135539

We continued through Devilsden Wood, then reached a car park at the edge of Farthing Downs.  Again, with an amazing feeling of open space, it’s one of the largest downland areas left in Greater London.  It even has its own herds of cattle and sheep to mow the lawn.

20140615_144233 20140615_144255 20140615_143407

Towards the end, from our high position we could see many of London’s buildings including the Shard, the Gherkin and Canary Wharf.  All of the first four sections of the London Loop has been enjoyable, but this one had a feeling of open space and freedom, more than any of the others.  We ended our walk at Coulsdon South Station, from where the next section will hopefully be just as enjoyable.

Posted in London Loop | Tagged | Leave a comment

London Loop: Hayes/West Wickham Common to Hamsey Green

Sunday 8th June 2014

9 miles including station links

Toilets:  New Inn pub, Hayes (participates in Community Toilet Scheme); Sandrock pub, Upper Shirley.  Note that there are no longer any public toilets outside the restaurant/car park just after Addington Hill, as listed in our 2008 guide book, although you could possibly ask at the restaurant if you really needed to.  There are no public toilets at Hamsey Green, and the Good Companions pub has been demolished.  If you take the bus to Croydon as part of your route home, various pubs and cafes can be found there.

So we’ve already got up to section 4 of the London Loop.  This was my favourite one so far, although it was also the hilliest and it was a hot day.  There was plenty of greenery and woodland walking.  Our guide book was published in 2008 and there have been several little changes to the route, so it’s always worth checking the website for the most up-to-date information.  As with the previous couple of sections, the signposting has getting very frustrating.  There are still far too many places where there are either no signposts at all, or signposts round the corner or just after when we actually needed them.

Anyway, after arriving at Hayes and making our way through the streets to rejoin the route, we passed through Coney Hall Recreation Ground.  In the centre was a Greenwich Meridian stone.

20140608_121011

We went through the grounds of St John’s church.  At the back was a field of horses.  We headed downhill through the field, from which there were lovely views back up to the top.

20140608_121501 20140608_122113

The route turned along Addington Road.  Our guidebook told us to walk down this road and look for a gap in a hedge, but this no longer existed.  Instead, there was a gate very near the corner of Corkscrew Hill, from where we could walk through the playing fields.  After an uphill stretch, we headed along a pathway through Spring Park and Three Halfpenny Wood – ideal for such a hot day.  Half way between the two, the boundary between Bromley and Croydon was marked by this stone.

20140608_125341

After heading along Shirley Road, we stopped for a drink at The Sandrock pub.  We’d already brought lunch with us to eat later, but the menu there looked really good so it’s definitely worth a mention.

The next point of interest was Addington Hills, from where we had extensive views over London.  We could see Wembley Stadium, the City and Canary Wharf, and the hills to the north of London behind them.

20140608_142639

The path then headed past a Chinese restaurant.  Our guide book, and the downloadable leaflet on the London Loop website, mentioned there being some public loos outside, but they seem to have been removed.  Either that, or you could try asking nicely at the restaurant.

At the bottom of the hill we passed the tram stop at Coombe Lane, before passing by the attractive buildings at Heathfield.

20140608_150832 20140608_151131

The directions at this point were confusing, with something having been fenced off and the route possibly having been changed.  As with many parts of the London Loop so far, just one little sign would have made all the difference.  No idea if we went the right way or not, but we soon found ourselves going through the pleasant woodlands of Littleheath Woods and Selsdon Wood, although we probably took a couple of wrong turnings due to yet more confusing signposting.  I can’t even remember exactly where I took this photo of some interesting artwork.

20140608_161915

The path continued past some fields…

20140608_163326

…before finally emerging onto the road that led us to Hamsey Green.  It was a brilliant walk overall, but the ending was a total anti-climax.  The section ended at the site of the Good Companions pub which has now been demolished, with plans to turn the site into a supermarket.  There were a couple of Indian restaurants, a Chinese takeaway and a local shop in Hamsey Green, but I didn’t note their opening hours.  We took the bus to West Croydon with the hope of getting some more choice, and ended up eating at Pizza Hut because it was the best restaurant we could find at the time.  A strange ending after such a beautiful day.

 

Posted in London Loop | Tagged | Leave a comment

London Loop: Petts Wood to Hayes (Jubilee Country Park to West Wickham Common)

Sunday 19th May 2014

10 miles including station links

Toilets: Petts Wood Station; Pub in Farnborough; Church Road, Farnborough; High Elms Country Park; Fox Inn pub, Keston; The Greyhound pub, Keston; New Inn pub, Hayes (participates in Community Toilet Scheme).

Finally, a proper walk!  I’ve spent the last six months up to my eyeballs in coursework deadlines and exams.  Going for a proper walk again was a huge relief.  It was an absolutely beautiful day, with brilliant weather and blue skies, although all my photos came out really badly.

I think I’ve mentioned before that the London Loop is not always favoured among walkers, on account of it being not quite rural enough, and that you might as well either do the Capital Ring, or go out into some proper countryside.  I have also mentioned during some of the canal sections that sometimes, being on the “forgotten fringes at the edge of town” is quite interesting in itself and not necessarily a wishy-washy option.  However, a lot of this walk had a properly rural feel to it.  The route went down quiet residential roads and passed in and out of woodland.  Jubilee Country Park had a great feeling of open space.  As for the woodland later on, I never tire of posting photos like this because it’s my favourite type of footpath.

20140518_115107

I’m going to make a complaint about the London Loop, though: the signposting isn’t excellent, and we knew that already, but it has this annoying habit of having signposts about a minute after you actually need them.  You’ll get to a fork in a path or a confusing bit, spend five minutes looking at the map and working out where you’re supposed to go, and only then do they tell you “yes, it’s this way”.  I’ve lost count of the number of times this has happened, the number of times I’ve wanted to uproot signposts and put them about fifty metres earlier.  So annoying.

We passed through Farnborough, where the High Street had a villagey feel.

20140518_124951

Unfortunately we took a wrong turning after this, missing the public toilet on Church Road.  We made our way through a field back to the proper route, emerging into the grounds of St Giles the Abbot church.

20140518_130459

The next point of interest was High Elms Country Park, which forms part of the High Elms Estate.  Once a private country estate, it’s now owned by Bromley Council.  It was advertised as having public toilets, but the gates were well and truly locked when we got there – very useful for a busy Sunday afternoon.  Luckily there was a loo at the cafe.  We sat outside in the grounds and had a picnic lunch.

Further down the path we passed the High Elms Clockhouse, originally used for letting Victorian farm workers know when their lunch break was over.

20140518_143217

Next up was the delightfully-named Bogey Lane, a lovely winding route.

20140518_14421720140518_130913

One thing I failed to take an even halfway decent photo of was the Wilberforce Seat, where William Wilberforce decided the slave trade should abolished.

There was a bit of a change of scenery at Keston Common, which was a lot more open and contained springs at the source of the River Ravensbourne.  Lots of people were stopping by the ponds and enjoying the sunshine.

20140518_15433720140518_15481620140518_154834

In Keston itself we stopped for a drink at the Fox Inn.  About a minute after leaving, we noticed the Greyhound, which might just have been a better pub.  Always the way.

The path continued through a narrow stretch of woodland full of interesting trees.

20140518_173454

We ended at Hayes, from where we took the train back to Charing Cross.  If you’re looking up train times, make sure you go for Hayes (Kent), not to be confused with Hayes & Harlington.

I know I haven’t exactly sold this walk, but it was actually amazing.  It’s just that I was too busy going “OMG, no more revision!  Look, trees!” to make enough interesting notes about the route.  It’s highly recommended.

Posted in London Loop | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice

Amazing how you can live in London for your entire life, yet still constantly discover new things you’d never seen or heard of before.

Back in October I attended a ceremony at the Cross Bones Graveyard, an unconsecrated burial ground for London’s outcast.  I wrote about how all people are important to the world.  Everyone changes the world in some way, and you don’t need to win the Nobel Peace Prize to make a difference.  A difference, no matter how small, is a difference.  When I walk through ancient cemeteries, I constantly make an effort to pay equal respect to all the graves, especially if the text has been worn away.  Everyone leaves their mark on the world, regardless of whether or not their family could afford a high quality gravestone, or could even afford a proper burial at all.

This afternoon I went to the Museum of London to see the Cheapside Hoard.  The jewels were beautiful, but on the way there I discovered something all the more fascinating.  Just off St Martin’s Le-Grand lies Postman’s Park, joining together the former burial grounds and churchyards of three ancient churches: St Botolph’s-without-Aldersgate, Christ Church Newgate Street, and St Leonard (destroyed during the Great Fire of London and never rebuilt).  Within Postman’s Park lies something beautiful: the Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice.

20140328_141410 20140328_140836The Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice was first unveiled in 1900 and added to over the years, having originally been proposed by Victorian artist George Frederic Watts.  The aim was to recognise people who took part in the ultimate acts of bravery: losing their own lives to save the lives of others.  This is no war memorial, however.  This is about ordinary, everyday people who changed the world in everyday life by making the ultimate sacrifice, yet may have disappeared into obscurity had it not been for this memorial.  They are everyday heroes.

20140328_140639The memorial contains a set of tiles dedicated to some amazing people.  Amazing people like Thomas Griffin, a Fitter’s Labourer who died on 12 April 1899 in boiler explosion at a Battersea sugar refinery, fatally scalded in returning to search for his mate.

20140328_153020I have no idea where any of these people were buried, but I’m glad they get to be remembered.

20140328_15361220140328_153156 20140328_153103 20140328_153413George Frederic Watts himself is remembered here.

20140328_141108 20140328_141101This is an extremely beautiful memorial, but let’s remember that it represents only a tiny fraction of people in the world who made such sacrifices for their loved ones, or who improved the lives of others in countless ways.  For every person remembered here, there must be millions who aren’t.  I hope we can spare them all a thought.

20140328_140741 20140328_140752 20140328_140804 20140328_140702 20140328_140716 20140328_140726

Posted in Days out | Tagged | Leave a comment

Grand Union Canal: Harefield to Watford

Saturday 14th December 2013

5 miles approx

Toilets: Public toilets in Harefield; Kings Arms, Harefield; Old Orchard, Harefield; Coy Carp, Coppermill Lane; Bury Lake; Batchworth Lock Canal Centre; Watford Station (Metropolitan Line).

Last week we only managed to walk five miles because we had such a great time at the Old Orchard pub in Harefield.  This week, we booked a table for an early lunch at the Old Orchard again, then set off on our way to Watford.  We rejoined the canal by Black Jacks Lock.

2013-12-14-963

We saw lots of interesting canal boats along the way, including this one advertising Thorium, the fuel of the future.

2013-12-14-965

I always like the view of locks that are right next to bridges.

2013-12-14-973

The route was picturesque for a while.  A bit further on we passed some sewage treatment works, which smelled just like you’d expect.  Later on were some permanent moorings around Springwell Lock, and we started to see some weird sights.

2013-12-14-974

On the plus side, we were lucky enough to meet a heron who was friendly enough to pose for the camera.

2013-12-14-981

More interesting sights.

2013-12-14-983

2013-12-14-984 2013-12-14-985 2013-12-14-987 2013-12-14-989Later on we passed a couple of turnings off to visit the Aquadrome at Bury Lake.  We carried on to Batchworth Lock near Rickmansworth, where there was a visitor centre and small outdoor cafe.  We didn’t have time to stop for long, as sunset was just before 4pm.  On we continued.

2013-12-14-994

I loved this boat called Crink Cronk.

2013-12-14-995

The canal went under the Metropolitan Line just before Croxley.  It was an interesting mix, such a rural atmosphere but still with the tube in sight.  Whoever lives in the house at Lot Mead Lock could see it from their home.  We kept up a good pace to finish before nightfall, leaving the canal at a small road called Gade Bank, from where it was about a fifteen minute walk to Watford Met Station.  The station is due to close when the Croxley Rail Link is completed in 2016.

Posted in Grand Union Canal | Tagged , | Leave a comment