Richmond Park circular
The inaugural Middle Way walk (a Richmond Park circular) was greeted with a beautiful and warm, partly cloudy day. Five new walkers and nine regular walkers met outside Richmond Station to start the walk toward the Thames. Upon reaching the river we turned left to walk along the Thames path, enjoying the boat houses, boats and people along the way. Before reaching Marble Hill, we turned away from the Thames to head through fields, paths and woodland and, after passing Ham Commons, we turned to enter the park through a rather elegant Park Gate. We headed gently uphill enjoying the lovely green park and occasional deer until we turned right to reach Isabella Plantation.
We took twenty minutes to explore the stunning plants, flowers, ponds, streams, ducklings, bridges, and secret gardens and we all felt we could have spent much more time taking in all the beauty. We exited reluctantly out of Broomhill Gate and vowed to return. (We wondered how the name came about and thought it might be the wife or Spanish mistress of the first plantation owner. I’m afraid the most likely explanation is that Isabella is a corruption of the word “isabel” which means dingy or greyish yellow – the colour of the soil in that part of Richmond Park.) After leaving the plantation, we continued downhill until we reached Robin Hood Gate where we ate our packed lunches while relaxing on logs. We then continued and once again climbed up a gentle hill to follow alongside woodland and between two pretty lakes.
When we reached Pembroke Lodge, the highest point in Richmond Park, we entered the grounds to a spectacular viewing spot looking out over London and beyond. (Someone thought we were looking at the North Downs in the distance.) We drank in the view and headed out of the grounds downhill until we reach Richmond Gate. We happily returned to the station, stopping first for refreshments and reflection on a delightful inaugural Middle Way walk.
Richmond to Putney (Thames Path)
This walk started in Richmond under cloudy, weeping skies and transport difficulties and ended in beautiful sunshine by Putney Bridge.
The overnight news was not good. A track fire at Waterloo had taken out several platforms and delays were predicted. Then in the morning problems arose on the Overground via Gospel Oak. Not to worry, the District Line was in good order and with our WhatsApp group keeping everybody in touch, 13 of our party arrived in Richmond for our 10.30 start. In the meantime however the Northern Line had decided to have a minor meltdown, so those of our group relying on that line were still stuck somewhere in the system.
The group of 13 set off, confident that sooner or later our companions would catch us up and so it proved. Upon reaching the Thames we turned to walk downstream. After leaving the town promenade, we approached Richmond Lock, which was undergoing maintenance and therefore closed to pedestrians wishing to cross the river.
Fortunately our route lay ahead, so we continued downstream with the Old Deer Park to our right. We soon passed Isleworth on the other side of the river, although we were unable to see the town, our view being obscured by the island known as Isleworth Ait, and it was in this area that the rearguard from the Northern Line caught up with us at last. Our route continued to the north-east around the Isleworth meander, passing Syon House on the opposite bank and Kew Gardens on our side. After Kew Bridge, the river turned and we were now heading south-east towards Chiswick Bridge. After passing the National Archives, we soon reached the boathouse belonging to Putney Town Rowing Club, where we stopped for a refreshing lunch break enjoying the calm and peace of the River Thames.
Back on the path we enjoyed the sight and sound of scullers rowing along the river while enthusiastically being encouraged by a shouting coach from a nearby motorboat. The shouting occasionally confused us as we thought it was coming from our own group, but we soon caught on to who the true culprits were.
We next passed under Barnes Railway Bridge where the path curved around to reach the rather oddly named Leg of Mutton Nature Reserve. It piqued enough interest in a few walkers to consider a possible future visit.
Hammersmith Bridge came next along with competition for the above mentioned reserve – the larger and better known London Wetland Centre. While you can reach the wetlands from the path, much of the view is obscured by the beautiful trees and shrubbery. Across the river we soon saw Craven Cottage (home to Fulham Football Club), Bishops Park and Fulham Palace. We passed the famous boat houses and the starting point of the annual Oxford vs. Cambridge boat race. Putney Bridge loomed ahead, marking the end of a lovely riverside walk. After a refreshing, if somewhat warm, beverage, we all headed home in warm sun – a welcome contrast to the weather at the start of the day.
The Grand Union Canal, Horsenden Park and the four mounds of Northala Fields
Luckily the torrential rain of the previous day didn’t return and 18 happy walkers met at Alperton station, greeted by nice weather and no travel woes. We welcomed Richard, new to our walking group, and set off optimistically to enjoy the Grand Union Canal. It seemed we had just begun walking when we were met with a “closed path” sign – a sign which had not been there in any previous visit – and we were forced to take a detour enjoying the streets and sights of Perivale rather than the anticipated water fowl. Not to worry, the road returning us to the canal was aptly named “Horsenden” and it led us right back to the canal, directly to the bridge to cross to reach Horsenden Park. We walked up the hill to get the views (at 85 metres high) of west London, including planes landing at Heathrow, Harrow on the Hill, and Wembley Stadium.
After admiring the views, we descended and meandered through the park until returning once again to the canal.Now we would be able to catch sight of the wonderful cormorants, swans, moor hens, and possibly an owl while we enjoyed the canal walk for an hour or so. We did see some lovely boats moored and on the water and a new walking bridge that has magically appeared very recently. After following the curve of the canal and soon reaching The Black Horse, we were once again met with a “tow path closed” sign and were forced to abandon the peace of the canal walk and
enter the streets of Greenford. We enjoyed the urban walk of window peaking, garden envy, people watching and generally looking at a place we don’t normally see. We once again reached the canal just in time to cross over and head to Northala Fields, after traversing Marnham Fields, a meadow of wild flowers and sunflowers.
Before having our picnic lunches in the warm sun and taking in sights of people enjoying the park, a brief history of Northala Fields was given. Northala Fields was a park created for the locals and four mounds were created to help against noise and sight pollution, using the rubble from the old Wembley Station and White City shopping centre and used recycled timber, plastic and soil throughout the park. It took four years to build and opened in 2008. We all appreciated the children running, laughing and entertaining us with acrobatics and the families enjoying their time together.
After a leisurely lunch we ascended the highest of the mounds at 72 feet/22 metres.We took in views of London, including Horsenden Park, central London, Canary Wharf, St Mary’s Church, the new Wembley Stadium, the Post Office Tower and more. Then a group decided to enjoy the ambiance at the bottom of the mounds while the rest of us climbed the remaining three mounds so we could all proudly proclaim we “bagged four Munros!”. We circled the park admiring the fishing lakes and boating lake (with no boats) before heading out of the park and to Northolt Station for our return home. While not the walk that was planned (best laid plans and all that!) it was a lovely walk with happy walkers enjoying fresh air, sights and friendly patter.
Epping Forest circular
This was one of those walks where the possibilities of getting lost were exceedingly high, given the number of unmarked paths and bridleways shooting off in all directions, and we were so grateful that our walk leader, Jane, had worked so assiduously in advance to plot an eight mile through the woodland and lakes of Epping Forest.
On a glorious early Autumn day we welcomed three new walkers at Chingford Station, re-acquainted ourself with Romeo, our canine companion, and made our way on a broad open path below the Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge and into the forest, along sun-dappled tracks until we emerged at High Beach, for a fine view over the surrounding area.
One of the features of Epping Forest are the number of lakes and ponds created by gravel extraction. We stopped for a while at Wake Valley Pond near the busy Epping New Road, and stopped for lunch by Strawberry Hill Pond, the colour of the water of which was a strangely unattractive sandy brown.
We were now on the homeward stretch, featuring a circuit round the beautiful Connaught Water, created as an ornamental lake in the 1880s. Back in the forest we followed the path to the 16th century Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge. One or two visited this wonderful space while others either stopped for a drink at the adjacent pub or made their way back to Chingford for the journey home to North London.
The Abbey Line Trail
The forecast had not been looking promising for this Middle Way walk, but after asking walkers to wait until the morning for a decision, we optimistically decided to carry on. The sunny skies lulled us into a false sense of security until we learnt at Euston that there was major disruption to the train to our destination. Drat! Taking a slower service in the sunshine we finally arrived at St Albans Abbey station, gathered for a group photo and the heavens opened up! Waterproofs were quickly dug out of bags and a bright green umbrella hoisted: and, so with grumblings of “this wasn’t supposed to happen yet”, we began to walk along The Abbey Line Trail.
In no time we were walking alongside the River Ver. We enjoyed a path of willows and allotments before a section of residential walking. Then we returned to the River Ver and, when reaching How Station, had the option of returning home and out of the rain. But, in for a pound in for a penny, we all decided to carry on. We were soon rewarded with a respite from rain and enjoyed some sun while enjoying a peaceful walk to our lunch spot when the River Ver joins the River Colne. We managed to eat our lunch and remain dry, although the rain began as soon as we set off.
After a short walk through a field, we climbed a short, but very muddy and slippery hill. We walked through woodland, crossed another field and entered the vast, lovely Munden Estate. It was welcome relief to walk on wide pavement and leave the mud for a while. The estate was peaceful until we had to cross the rather loud M1 and return to the path. One more road crossing finally took us out of the estate and a short walk along a road. As we turned along the widening River Colne, we were nearing the end of this wet, muddy, beautiful and varied walk. We had to reach Watford Junction Station and hope the fast train was back in operation. It was and we had a quick journey back. A big thank you to everyone who stayed with the walk and smiled, talked and laughed throughout.
Elstree to Totteridge
On a steely grey day our walk began at Elstree, a very English Hollywood, home to Star Wars and … , er, On the Buses and Pointless. Accompanied by our favourite dog, Romeo, we walked along the pavement of stars and crossed the railway bridge and climbed steeply uphill to reach the ancient oak woodlands of Scratchwood Open Space.
By now the cold was setting in and woolly hats were firmly on as we reached Moat Mount Open Space, the official start of the Dollis Valley Greenwalk.
After a section of up and downhill walking, we stopped for a pub lunch at Arkley, where our food and drink was accompanied by an aroma of freshly applied paint. After refreshment, we followed a road for about half a mile and entered Totteridge Fields Nature Reserve and walked along Dollis Brook. After crossing the meadows of Brook Farm Open Space we reached Totteridge Lane. A short distance ahead was Totteridge Station, where a few reminisced about having been here in Autumn 2017 on the very first CEDU3A long-ish walk.
Lea Valley Walk #1 : Limehouse to Edmonton
Much to the 18 walkers’ pleasure, the first leg of the Lea Valley Walk began with blue skies and mild temperatures as we headed out from Limehouse Station. We quickly arrived at Limehouse Basin, where the River Lea meets the River Thames, and followed the Limehouse Cut (the first navigable canal to be dug in London). Walking along the canal made us forget the hustle and bustle of the city just above us We soon reached the beautiful Three Mills, the world’s largest tidal mill, which has been around since Saxon times and has produced flour, gin and munitions. For anyone interested, it is open for guided tours on Sundays. It is certainly worth a visit, with or without a tour. We then had our first impressive view of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to the right. and stopped for a quick coffee break. Soon, as we passed the last large great reservoir, we crossed the bridge to walk along Walthamstow Marshes, Europe’s largest urban wetlands reserve.
We saw birds of all varieties, houseboats of all size and descriptions and beautiful graffiti on the underpasses. We also, perplexingly, saw trucks parked in some of those same very small, narrow underpasses. Finally we reached our lunch spot at Markfield Beam Engine and Museum café.
The steam engine was built by the Yorkshire born Wood brothers in 1889 and can be viewed on various Sundays from spring. Our blue sky was slowly turning grey and a few sprinkles appeared as we were lunching outside under cover. A chill developed in the air and we donned our waterproofs as we headed off to finish our walk, only to be removed very quickly as the rain disappeared and the chill went away. Relief was felt by all as we had been walking along at a good pace just to avoid the predicted afternoon rain. We then passed a popular rowing area but caught sight of only one rower. She, however, was of a “certain age” and moving very swiftly, so that those of us of that same “certain age” felt a flash of pride. After passing Tottenham Locks, the observant amongst us caught sight of Alexandra Palace’s mast off to the left. We briefly walked alongside Pymmes Brook, past Tottenham Marshes and ended our walk in Upper Edmonton at Meridian Water Station, a first, I believe, for all 18 walkers. It was certainly a much appreciated mostly dry day and we look forward to our second leg when we will leave Greater London and end our next leg at Broxbourne.
Lea Valley Walk #2 : Edmonton to Broxbourne
Although we were forced to cancel the original Lea Valley #2 walk due to yet more dire weather predictions, we were lucky enough to still have two lovely walks, both with very little rain and even blue skies! We started this section along an industrial stretch of the path passing the large reservoirs to our right. When we reached Ponders End we enjoyed some lovely sculptures and diligently looked out for some promised otters, but none were to be spotted. We did enjoy a Heron posing for us and quite a number of geese and swans pairing off for spring. We also saw quite a number of bird species and a few of us learned how to tell the difference between a Moor Hen (who have a red beak, thanks Janet) and a Coot. After a quick coffee stop we walked under the M25 and left Greater London. We enjoyed a great number of boats docked of all types and sizes and with decorations ranging from gardens, to plaster heads and a stuffed dog or fox. We spotted a couple of rowers and a long boat with a friendly couple waving us. Lunch was a bit chaotic on both occasions so best not to dwell on it any more than that. After passing Cheshunt Lock we spotted some Muntjac deer off to the right and stopped to enjoy their company for a bit. The second observant group discovered some colourful mosaic tiles which had been set into the ground along the path. Most of them were covered by growth, but we managed to photograph one which had been cleaned off a bit. We ended our walk at Broxbourne Station after having had two unexpectedly lovely days.
Lea Valley Walk #3 : Broxbourne to Hertford
Finally, able to resume our Middle Way Walks, we once again ambled alongside the Lea River for the lovely section from Broxbourne to Hertford. On both days of the we had some sun, some clouds and some rain, but I think the joy of being together again rather diminished the annoyance of getting wet. Some of us hadn’t seen one another since lock down and enjoyed the chat as much as the views. We walked along Rushymeade woods and past Dobb’s Weir where the river and the navigation path split and we saw the historic 18th century Fish and Eels pub (pictured above right). We passed where the River Stort joins and contemplated a future walk along said river. We then passed Rye Meads nature reserve which we is well worth a visit for any bird lovers amongst us, but we hadn’t the time. We soon had a quick peek at Amwell Quarry nature reserve, but once again had no time to visit. After a picnic lunch, rushed a bit by rain on both days, we continued along the path enjoying the birds and the beautiful autumnal colours. When we reached Ware we had to detour around the closed canal for a brief look at Ware town centre and optimistically noted that most shops and cafes seemed to have remained open. The river soon widens and joins the River Beane and thereafter the beautiful King’s Meads. Upon reaching the end of this section I think all agreed that the best part was the feeling of normalcy once again and a fervent hope we can continue to walk together.