All posts by cedu3aarchive


January 2019

River Lea healthy walk : Tottenham Hale to Ponders End – led by Sally Geeve

We had a good turnout of twenty eight members for the first of the year Short Walks from Tottenham Hale to Ponders End along the Lea.Shaking off the Christmas lethargy, we walked the river path through sometimes semi-industrial, sometimes very rural, landscapes, taking in herons, cormorants and drifting swans – scenes so tranquil that we forgot we were in London until the giant IKEA sign loomed on the horizon and we realised we were quite close to the North Circular. The Ponders End Harvester was a welcome sight at the end of this wintery walk.

Luvvies Laughter and the Lido : a walk led by Oonagh Gay

On a freezing cold but bright day, with very blue skies, we set off from outside Hornsey Town Hall, up Crouch Hill to Cecile Park to see Kestrel House, originally Cecile House, that was the original home of Mountview Theatre School, not far from the former Hornsey School of Art. Then along to the former Park Chapel, now home to recording studios and the Mount Zion Cathedral. At Weston Park we heard about the Clock Tower erected in honour Henry Reader Williams, a local politician who did so much to preserve the green spaces from development in the area. We then sheltered on the steps of The Queens and heard of its history and saw the lovely stained glass for which it is famous. Further along Tottenham Lane we looked at the former Salvation Army Citadel, now The ArtHouse cinema and the YMCA opposite. Then to Park Road and Topsfield Road which featured in an early Madness video. We heard about Maynard (the pub and the road – now Park Road) and the history of Crouch End’s gentrification – and the coffee shop culture which started at Banners. Along the way I noted the many original cast iron street signs high on the buildings along The Broadway and Tottenham Lane as well as an interesting paving slab in Elmfield Avenue (see HHS newsletter 150 of March 2017 for the history of Aberdeen Adamant).

February 2019

Clerkenwell : a walk led by Philip Messent
From Barbican tube to Farringdon, taking in gorgeous churches, the remains of a medieval abbey, an ancient hospital, the eponymous well, and a meat market! Yesterday Philip took the Shorter Walks Group on a wonderful historic tour of Clerkenwell which was like stepping into a Dickens novel & beyond. We had it all with a monastery, priory & nunnery; site where Braveheart was hung, drawn & quartered; prison known for its treadmill & harsh regime and one of the worst slums in London where drunken men & women ‘wallowed in filth’. Not for the faint hearted but we survived! Thanks Philip!

From Ware to Rye House … and beyond : a healthy winter river walk : led by Sally Geeve

Sally’s mission to get us fit and healthy is bearing fruit! Aided and abetted by a unprecedentedly warm and sunny late February day, a group of over thirty members of the Shorter Walks Group met at Tottenham Hale to take the train to Ware Station (flowering baskets courtesy of the Active Gardeners Group of Ware U3A!). In the town centre we soon found the River Lea towpath and turned south toward our first stop at Rye House. The highlight of this stretch was the Amwell Nature Reservewhere we stopped to take in the view of a lake (a former gravel pit) and bird hides, and one or two of our group engaged in conversation with a couple of serious bird watchers. At Rye House we stopped for an extended lunch break in the riverside beer garden of the Rye House public house. Before we moved on we observed a bevy of swans moving gracefully along the river and a motionless lone cormorant drying his wings in the mid-day sun. After lunch the group split, some taking the train back to Tottenham Hale, while the rest of the group (some of whom made a short detour to the historic Rye House gatehouse) switched waterways and made their way along the New River to Broxbourne Station to take the train back to North London.

March 2019

Kew to Hammersmith : a walk led by John Wray

Another sunny day, another walk! Twenty walkers met at Kew Gardens Station for the lastest of John’s curated walks around London. Many were familiar with Kew Gardens and the nearby National Archives, but fewer had probably not previouly explored the surrounding vicinity. This is indeed a prosperous area of West London, judging by the residential streets along which we walked to the first landmark, the curiously elongated church of St Anne’s (clearly the work of many hands) on Kew Green. In the churchyard was a discretely placed health and safety notice, declaring that tombstones are dangerous. We crossed Kew Green, admiring more splendid houses along the way, before crossing traffic-laden Kew Bridge, and then headed east along the river to the former fishing village of Strand-on-the-Green. The tide was particularly low, and it was difficult to understand why so many of the riverfront properties had devised their own flood defences. Leaving the riverfront we made our way to Lord Burlington’s Grade I listed Chiswick House, the jewel-in-the-crown of English Palladian architecture. This was the half-way point and fortified taking refreshment (still in the sun!) at the the Chiswick Gardens cafe we resumed our walk past the church at Old Chiswick and back to the river along Chiswick Mall, where we marvelled at a series of magnificent magnolias in full bloom. This area is full of literary and artistic associations, judging by the numerous blue heritage plaques to be seen. The walked ended at William Morris’s Kelmscott House – here the group divided. Some could not longer resist visiting one the many riverside public houses and dived into the The Dove, while the others made their way to Hammersmith for the journey home before the rush hour began in earnest.

April 2019

Crouch End to Kenwood : a healthy walk led by Deborah Levy

Covent Garden : a walk led by Philip Messent

Our Covent Garden walk began at the the Piazza, formerly home to the fruit and veg market, then to the peace of St Paul’s churchyard. Known as the Actors Church, inside are numerous commemorative plaques to those in the entertainment industry – old and more recent. Just inside the porch is a marble plaque to Thomas Arne, composer ofRule Britannia. Then on to Drury Lane where the theatre was clad in scaffolding and plastic for what looked like a major refurb. On the way Philip pointed out a Blue Plaque to Charles Dickens on a building from which he published his magazine All the Year Round, on Wellington Street. On the corner of Drury Lane there is a very elaborate restaurant, Sarastro, covered in greenery and with a living archway on the side. We passed Drury Lane Gardens, once a burial ground and some beautiful apartment buildings in Broad Court with shell porches. In Crown Court we saw the old Bow Street Magistrates Court, now being developed – probably as luxury apartments. Beside it was a lovely sculpture of a Young (ballet) Dancer. Across the road in Floral Street we saw the high level walkover joining the Opera House to the ballet school, then to Odham’s Walk – a very quiet 1979 GLC housing estate with interesting modern design elements. Nearby, a mural by London street artist Bambi, of Princess Diana as Mary Poppins, with a Harrods bag. In Monmouth Street a plaque to Beatles manager, Brian Epstein. By contrast in Central St Giles, office/apartment blocks in primary colours by architect Renzo Piano, designer of The Shard. Near St Giles Churchyard, high up on the side of an old wall was a lovely Ghost Sign of a Continental Garage, and then to Denmark Street with its shops selling musical instruments. We found the Phoenix Garden, now undergoing a major makeover so we could not go in. We made our way to Seven Dials where Philip pointed out the six sundials on the pillar! We explored the surrounding streets – Mercer Street, Conduit Court, Garrick Street, Bedford Street, Chandos Place, and Maiden Lane, each with its own point of interest, contributing to the history of this fascinating quarter of central London.

City of London Sculpture Trail : with Philip Messent

Once again the U3A Shorter Walks Group was lucky with the weather for a City of London sculpture trail on Monday starting at Liverpool Street Station. Along Alderman’s Walk, in the lovely grounds of St Botolph without Bishopgate we found the first piece, called Untitled! Nearby was a very moving WW1 There but Not There sculpture. At the corner of Wormwood Street and Bishopsgate, Pepper Rock. In nearby Bury Court was our next artwork – The Adventurer, looking like an animated advertising board. Next came Tracey Emin’s pink neon Your Lips Moved Across My Face. In Cunard place we saw a piece of an aircraft named UNIVRS. The next sculpture Climb stood in gardens next to Sir John Cass school. Then, outside Fenchurch Street Station Synapsid – a strange green and yellow sculpture. In Cullum Street was Perceval – a life-size bronze Clydesdale horse with his cart – and 2 very oversized marrows. Artworks in Leadenhall Market included a neon sign I’m Stayingand A Worldwide Web of Somewheres. Next, Stack Blues were a stack of blue blocks, then Numen – silver heads on artificial grass, Body, and Crocodylius Philodendrus was a pile of crocs, turtles, hogs and deer looking like a tree. and finally back at Wormwood Street we saw Bridging Home, London.

Line Sculpture Walk : led by Sally Geeve

May 2019

Greenwich : a walk led by John Wray

A most enjoyable walk around Greenwich led by John Wray. First we viewed the Naval College from across the river, walked under the foot tunnel, through the market, up Groom Hill, through Greenwich Park and then back down to finish with welcome refreshment at The Trafalgar!

June 2019

Parkland Walk, Woodberry Wetlands and Clissold Park : a walk led by Deborah Levy

July 2019

Barnes Bridge to Putney : a walk led by John Wray

Ware to Hertford : a healthy walk led by Sally Geeve

Shorter Walks Group convener, Oonagh Gay, writes : “Lovely walk around Ware along Lea Navigation and New River paths with a common thrown in as well. We were expertly led by Sally Geeve and much taken by the lovely wool hangings in aid of dementia. An active Town Council and U3A in Ware”.

Women of the First World War : a walk led by Oonagh Gay

August 2019

Anarchists and exiles in Fitzrovia : a walk led by Oonagh Gay

Thanks to Oonagh again for a most interesting walk around key sites of anarchist and exile activity from the 1890s up till and beyond WW1. A number of ordinary looking venues such as the Oxfam shop, cafe and pub have anarchist history and the cafe was HQ of the Autonomy Club. Britain attracted exiles as the authorities were hospitable to them, unlike their own countries, where they’d been persecuted. Nice chat in the Kaffeine cafe afterwards.

September 2019

Discovering Hampstead : a walk led by Deborah Levy

“Thanks to Deborah for a lovely ‘short walk’ around the highways and byways of Hampstead and the ponds of the heath. Quite a few of us hadn’t seen some of these before eg the striking St John church and graveyard, where John Constable and family members are buried. Hampstead has the highest number of blue plaques in London and we passed quite a few today.” – Roslyn Byfield.

Canonbury and Newington Green : a walk led by Oonagh Gay
A walk around Canonbury and Newington Green led by Oonagh Gay, looking at the legacy of Mary Wollstonecraft, the origins of the New River and how Daniel Defoe tried to breed civet cats on the Green.

October 2019

Kensington : a guided walk led by John Wray

The walk started and finished at Kensington High Street Station, was just over 2 miles long and took about 2 hours, taking in the parish church, two historic squares, Holland House and Park, where there is a café, as well as many attractive streets and houses in a rich variety of architectural styles.

November 2019

Along the Regent’s Canal from The Angel to Limehouse : a healthy walk led by Sally Geeve

Members of the Shorter Walks Group took advantage of a fine Autumn day to follow the towpath of the Regent’s Canal from the Angel to Limehouse Basin, with a stop for lunch at Broadway Market.

Somers Town : a guided walk led by Oonagh Gay

A visit to St Pancras Churchyard as well as the innovative public housing built in the early 20th century, and the birthplace of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein.

December 2019

Sculpture in the City : a walk led by Deborah Levy

Shorter Walks Group member Graham Bennett writes: “Fascinating short walk around Arcadia, well the City actually, on the excellent Sculpture trail led by Deborah Levy. A chill wind blew but hot coffee and some thought-provoking sculpture and stunning cityscapes stimulated.”




January 2018

Islington and Water : a walk led by Karen Lansdown

Expertly led by qualified Clerkenwell and Islington guide Karen Lansdown, we were taken on a tour of central Islington, with some familiar sights and surprises. The theme of the walk was Islington’s relationship with water, beginning with the Regent’s Canal (tunnelled under Islington itself), the historical course of the New River(well-known, of course to residents of Hornsey). We went into the public spaces of Sadlers Wells Theatre, to inspect The Well (unfortunately not illuminated), admired the buildings and landscaped grounds of the former headquarters of the London Metropolitan Water Board, and shown a series of carvings on a perimeter wall in Myddelton Passage – by, it turns out, members of the Metropolitan Police! Our tour ended in Claremont Square, opposite the extensive reservoir, covered in the 1850s. We were indeed lucky that yet another watery feature, the rain, held off, and we left the Angel after 90 minutes of fascinating history and thinking of Charles Lamb’s friend who fell into the New River in the days when it ran in front of his house in Colebrooke Row.

Spitalfields and Whitechapel : a walk led by Philip Messent

The Shorter Walks group enjoyed a fascinating walk around Spitalfields and Whitechapel, despite some threatening rain clouds on 29 January. Philip Messent showed us 17th century houses, a mosque which had previously been both a church and a synagogue, and a former Rowton Houses hostel, as well as enjoying a delightful tea in the Crypt of Hawksmoor’s Christ Churchacross the road from Spitalfields Market. Other highlights of the walk included the Kindertransport Memorial Sculpture at Liverpool Street Station, Artillery Passage, Sandy’s Row, Tracey Emin’s former warehouse home, the Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor in Brune Street, Spitalfields Market, Huguenot residences in Fournier Street, the Brick Lane Mosque, and Altab Ali Park in Whitechapel, and the Royal London Hospital.

February 2018

Woodberry Wetlands

We were lucky enough to have a rare sunny afternoon for our outing to Woodberry Wetlands, walking along a very muddy New River Path from Finsbury Park to arrive at the East Reservoir, where we had tea at the Coal Hole, before proceeding to the West Reservoir and viewing the extraordinary castle pumping station, built by Mylne for the New River Company. We had the pleasure of a local expert, Nick Higham, who gave us really useful background to the creation and adaptation of the New River, and the successful 1980s campaign to save the reservoirs.

March 2018

Walthamstow Wetlands

Blessed with a sunny spring day for outing to Walthamstow Wetlands and accompanied by an excellent guide from the London Wildlife Trust, we began with refreshments in the beautifully restored Engine House. Walking in a figure of eight over about 4 miles, we learnt about the history and construction of the 10 reservoirs whilst enjoying the views of the semi-industrial landscapes seen over great expanses of water, reed beds, and cormorant-filled islands. A wonderful place to get away from the city – only a few minutes tube ride away.

April 2018

Walthamstow Village

The Group had a really enjoyable walk around Walthamstow Village, which was unknown to us in Crouch End and Muswell Hill.  We saw a range of buildings, from St Mary’s Churchyard to the old Walthamstow Town Hall. We had tea and a chance to look round the William Morris Gallery as well. For once, it did not rain!

Highgate Village

Around 20 of the Shorter Walks Group were blessed with perfect walking weather for our guided walk around Highgate Village. We visited the newer estates of Hillcrest and Highgate before seeking out some of the poets of Highgate, from A.E. Housman to the latter day bard George Michael, whose shrine is now so visible in the centre of the Village.  But we also took in Andrew Marvell, whose lovely sundial poem is displayed below, as we ended our walk at Lauderdale Houseand Waterlow Park, donated by Sydney Waterlow as a ‘garden for the gardenless’.

May  2018

Line Sculpture Walk : a walk led by Sally Geeve

For many of the members of the Group, our latest walk, led by Sally Geeve, was new territory indeed, quite a contrast from leafy Crouch End and Hornsey. What were we up to? Following the Line Sculpture Walk … , but there was so much more to see besides. We met at North Greenwich Station and followed the Thames River path on the perimeter of the O2 Arena, stopping to admire a series of artworks by Alex Chinneck, Thomson & Craighead, Richard Wilson, Gary Hume, and Anthony Gormley. Then it was time to board the Emirates Air Line cable car for views of Canary Wharf, Trinity Buoy Wharf, the mouth of the River Lea, the ExCel exhibition centre and London City Airport accompanied by a gushing promotional audio commentary. Back north of the river made our way via the DLR and a rather unattractive industrial estate, we stopped for lunch at Cody Dock, a wonderful oasis of plants and community activity.
Resuming the sculpture trail we soon encountered a Damien Hirst and further on admired a tower of shopping trolleys (created by Abigail Fallis) reclaimed from the Lea, and appropriately sited adjacent to a Sainsbury logistics centre. The final leg of the walk took us past the historic Three Mills Island, and onwards past two more artworks – the Three Mills Green Memorial, and “Network” by Thomas J. Price.

Soho : a walk led by Philip Messent

About 20 members joined Philip Messent on a walk through historic Soho, starting at the Dominion Theatre and ending at Piccadilly tube station several hours later. In this very small area we heard tales of high and low life, Royalty and crooks, musicians, and comedians, and saw a number of commemorative plaques, featuring, among others, Mary Seacole, the Jamaican nurse “Heroine of the Crimea” – she has a ward named after her in the Whittington Hospital, comedian Peter Cook, Mozart, John Logie Baird, essayist William Hazlitt, botanist Joseph Banks, David Bowie, health campaigner Dr John Snow, and landscape architect Charles Bridgeman. In Greek St we were very lucky to be invited into the House of St Barnabas, a charitable foundation with its own small church, where the Rev Dr Adam Scott, a direct descendent of the Monro family involved in St Barnabas, gave us a talk. Then on to Soho (formerly Kings) Square with many fine buildings on each side including St Patrick’s Catholic Church. In the square we saw the Tudor looking building which was only built in 1925! Originally a disguise for an electric sub station it is now used to store gardening equipment. We went down Romilly Street (home to Kettner’s Townhouse hotel, an historic Georgian building, Frith Street past Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, The Arts Theatre Club, noting that a No. 14 there was a gap between buildings, probably from a WWII bomb in the area. There is now a single storey building Garlic & Shots. At the rear stage entrance of the Prince Edward Theatre was a sign – The London Casino. It says The Worlds Greatest Artistes have passed and will pass through these doors. In Old Compton Street we saw G-A-Y, the site of the former 2 I’s Coffee bar where Cliff Richard and Tommy Steele were discovered, and the Admiral Duncan pub where in April 1999 a nail bomb killed and injured many people. After a break for refreshments in the Soho Theatre bar, we investigated Dean Street including the Kemble House apartments, decorated with plaques illustrating sailing ships, the former Royal Ear Hospital building, with year AD 1816 in mosaic. Then on to St Anne’s Church, Brewer Street Market and finally Broadwick Street, and Carnaby Street.

June 2018

Hampstead : a walk led by John Wray

On a very hot June afternoon members of the Group met at Hampstead Underground Station for a walk discovering what Hampstead had to offer.  Opposite the station we could not help noticing the prominent the clock tower of the old fire station and the  nearby Horse and Groompublic house. In Church Row we saw some lovely architectural features on the houses including demi lune door lights, nice ironwork window features and small balconies and the floppy fleur-de-lys brickwork over one window.  Next we visited the lovely 1745 parish church of St John where John Constable, John Harrison and many other famous people are buried in the church yard. Another church on our walk was the  French Catholic Church of St Mary, next door to which  is the old 1830s Watch House of the Hampstead Police Force on the corner with the very narrow Holly Berry Lane. Then on to Mount Vernon, and  a fading plaque to Robert Louis Stevenson. Above one door a hard to decipher fire insurance plaque and on a garden wall a blue plaque to Sir Henry Dale,  a Physiologist. An unusual house had a plaque to George Romney, the painter. Having seen the lovely Holly Bush pub sign we then past the pub up yet another hill (Holly Mount) , before returning to Heath Street, before finding Flask Walk and the
The Wells and Campden Baths and Wash Houses, an impressive 1888 Grade II listed building. On to Well Walk where there is a plaque to Marie Stopes, and Chalybeate  Well . In Willow Road some nice cottages and an  old Metropolitan Drinking Fountain & Cattle Trough, now planted up. And a house with a red, white and blue roundel window over the door –  an RAF connection? Then, at 1-3 Willow Road, the 3 Modernist, pre-WWII houses designed and built by Erno Goldfinger (No. 2 which is a National Trust property, but was not open). At 23 Downshire Hill was a plaque to the wonderful, female photographer Lee Miller(and her husband Sir Roland Penrose). Across the road was the lovely Grade I listed St John’’s Church. The last stop was the shady garden  Keat’s House in Keat’s Grove  It was here he wrote Ode to a Nightingale. We finished our most enjoyable walk at The Garden Gate pub in the cool garden with drinks and an opportunity to discuss the walk with each other, and to thank John for leading us so well.

Mayfair : a walk led by Philip Messent

This walk was packed with things you may never have seen before and proved that it’s always fun being a tourist in the city one lives in, especially on a perfect sunny day. Who’d have thought Mayfair had a disused underground station and a Turkish barbers which we’re more used to seeing in Hoxton or Green Lanes? And have you ever chilled out on top of an electricity substation? Around 14 of us convened by the statue of Eros in Piccadilly. The first gem of information was that this memorial is misconceived. Eros is a god of love, yes, but it’s a statue to the memory of the philanthropist John Shaftesbury: a different kind of love would have been more appropriate for a memorial. We headed off after this to Piccadilly, first stop the Albany, a set of bachelor’s apartments or ‘sets’ with many famous real life (Gladstone) and fictional residents (including the wonderfully named Pongo Twistleton, a friend of Bertie Wooster). It was great to imagine all the characters and the goings-on. Next to the Royal Academy and a look at the buildings there and the statue of Joshua Reynolds, the first RA President. People asked whether Turner was an academician, but apparently he was too common to be allowed in. We then wandered along Burlington Arcade on our way to the Royal Institution. Did you know that Paul McCartney is the only person allowed to whistle in the arcade? Answers on a postcard please. None of us knew why. Shepherd’s Market next, a contrast to the designer shops, and a buzzy area with ‘real’ shops, cafes and the thriving barber’s, certainly more patronized than the famous Trumper’s, which was completely empty when we had a look in. We then came across the disused Down Street underground, and Crockford’s Gambling Club, still open today. By this time the heat was starting to get to some of us and it was wonderful to come across Mount Street Gardens, shady and calm with the Farm Street Church nearby. Time for a welcome tea-break, which we had in an elegant and classic Viennese-type patisserie. We also saw the beautiful Ukrainian Church from the chilling area (Brown Hart Gardens) on top of the electricity substation on Duke Street, as well as what looked like social housing, a great contrast to the splendour and a reminder that there can be diversity in such an affluent area. Grosvenor Square brought back memories of rallies and demos for many of us, and Hanover square was also a pleasant respite from the heat before we made our way back to the tube.

July 2018

A rural walk around Forty Hall, Enfield : a walk led by Sally Geeve

A 15 minute train ride took us to Gordon Hill, the start of our walk around the environs of Forty Hall. Fortunately, much of the route was in shaded woodland following the course of Turkey Brook, as it was one of the hottest summer days yet. We stopped for lunch at the Forty Hall cafe in the shade of some of the wonderfully aged trees and took some time to wander around the walled garden before completing the circle back to the station… all of us dreaming of long drinks and cold showers.

Made in Clerkenwell: a walk led by guest guide Karen Lansdown

Ten of us braved the tropical heat and headed for Farringdon where we met with our excellent ‘guest guide’, Karen of Lansdown’s London walks who led us through the many unexplored lanes, passageways, squares and crannies of Clerkenwell, enlightening us with its fascinating history. In the 17th century, Clerkenwell was outside the City of London and so was colonised by communities such as the Huguenots seeking refuge from persecution, bringing with them numerous skills such as watchmaking and jewellery, remnants of which still remain. The presence of plentiful sources of water and proximity to London town led to the establishing of many breweries and distilleries, now of course, converted to luxury apartments. Even today, the area retains its reputation as a creative hub, opening the doors of its many architects, furniture designers and jewellers during the annual Clerkenwell Design Week, a wonderful legacy of its roots as an ‘outsider’ village.

August 2018

Trent Park: a walk led by Sally Geeve

A smaller group than usual, due to holidays and last minute problems. We enjoyed a lovely ramble through Trent Park, which had a lot more footpaths through woods and over fields than the rest of the group was aware, so thanks to Sally for careful preparation. The weather was perfect for walking, slightly overcast, with a bit of a breeze. We started from Cockfosters and Sally showed us how to walk along a footpath to enter the Park and enjoyed some scenic views over a field (was this really Enfield?) before having a cuppa at the Animal Sanctuary hut. We planned to visit Trent Park cafe for lunch. Only hitch—a half hour wait for sandwiches for a group of 6, so we enjoyed the much more efficient service at Cockfosters cafe instead!

Fitzrovia and Bloomsbury : a walk led by Philip Messent

Luckily, the weather was much more refreshing than of late and Philip took us to Fitzroy Square, pointing out the plaque to Virginia Woolf, and then the statue of Francisco Miranda, the 18th century liberator of South America. We went down Charlotte Street towards the new development which has replaced the old Middlesex Hospital, and we were all charmed by the Fitzrovia Chapel, the only part of the hospital to survive. Built at the end of the 19th century in a Byzantine style, the chapel is open on Wednesdays and hosts lunchtime events one Friday a month. After that we walked through to Russell Square and down towards St Georges Bloomsbury, a Grade 1 listed church by Hawksmoor, with the most curious church spire in London- George I sits on the top! We visited Bloomsbury Square and had tea at St Georges, Holborn, in Queen Square. Some of us then went on to look at the Foundling Museum before ending the tour.

September 2018

Notting Hill : a walk led by John Wray

Members of the Group at Ladbroke Tube station, and headed south to the Portobello Road area. We passed a Serbian church and community centre then, at 240 Portobello Road, a Japanese restaurant, formerly a very large pub (Shannon’s Market Bar), now very exotically decorated. Our first stop was at Tavistock Road where we saw two plaques to the ladies who founded the Notting Hill Carnival and a row of multicoloured houses. Across Acklam Village market we saw Trellick Tower, wrapped in scaffolding for renovations. On the wall of the Canada Blanch Spanish School were lovely cartoon depictions of people and places of the area by Fiona Hawthorne. The Portobello area has many Spanish connections and a huge mosaic commemorating locals who fought in the Spanish Civil War. Among the many colourful shops selling hats, jewellery, food and much more were the Electric Cinema and the antiques markets founded by Susan Garth who has a blue plaque on the Red Lion building. Then to Kensington Park Gardens, a very posh area of huge houses and apartment blocks. In one, no. 7, lived Sir William Crookes, a chemist and physicist. Some apartment blocks had archways and iron gates to their rear communal gardens. Others had lovely iron railings and balconies. One had a built in bootscraper. From Lansdowne Rise we could see the ruins of Grenfell Tower. In Clarendon Road we saw terracotta pots in profusion reminding us that the area was once known for its clay, brickfields and potteries. At the back of Hippodrome Mews (there used to be a racecourse in the area) is an old kiln attached to a house. Next came Norland Square and Norland Place. Norland Nannies started in Norland Place 125 years ago. The Norland Estate includes Norland Place and Square and was 52 acres when laid out in 1839. Between the homes was a remnant of former times – Queens Dairy at 7 Queensdale Road with a lovely old shop sign. In Holland Park Avenue is a wonderful old butcher’s shop, Lidgate, with lovely tiling. By now were all in need of rest and refreshment. Some of us went for tea, coffee and cake and then on home.

Regent’s Canal towpath healthy walk – Islington to Limehouse Basin : a walk led by Oonagh Gay

After meeting at the Angel station Helen Bembridge took us, via Boris Johnson’s house, to visit a house in Noel Road where she had lived as a student. It was a house that had been owned, or lived in, by various interesting people, including Paul McCartney. We then joined the Regent’s Canal for the rest of the walk. The canal is lined with buildings which include old warehouses, some converted for work or living spaces, new apartments, some more affordable than others, and social housing. We stopped for lunch at the now very fashionable Broadway Market with its profusion of places to eat and drink. After leaving the market we passed Victoria Park, a welcome green space developed in the East End in the 19th century. We crossed a humpbacked bridge over the entrance to The Hertford Union Canal which leads to the River Lea Navigation. The canal then passes a green space in Mile End which includes a “green bridge” over the Mile End Road. Beyond this is the Ragged School Museum which was founded by Dr Barnardo and includes a reconstructed Victorian classroom. Shortly afterwards we came to Limehouse Basin after passing under two railway bridges of historical interest. There is also the entrance to Limehouse Cut, which leads back to The Lea Navigation, and views of the Thames.

October 2018

Autumn Colour: Kenwood to Golder’s Hill Park : a walk led by Sally Geeve

Blessed with a crisp, sunny, autumnal day, a record 23 of us strode out across Hampstead Heath. We soon departed from the tried and tested paths and intrepidly crossed the Spaniards Rd into the woodlands of Sandy Heath, ostensibly to see some autumnal colour but, the season being so mild, the trees were not yet ready for a big display. We arrived at Golders Hill Park and had a pleasant time in the sun exploring the grounds and taking refreshments at the cafe there, before setting off through the woods of West Heath and finding the pergola of the Hill Garden, a wonderful relic of faded grandeur. Now at Jack Straw’s Castle, we dispersed – some to walk back across the Heath to Kenwood, some to catch the 210 home, after discovering some of the lesser known areas of a familiar old friend.

Southwark and Bankside : a walk led by Philip Messent

River Lea from Tottenham Hale to Three Mills : a walk led by Sally Geeve

21 of us set off from Tottenham Hale in glorious sunshine to explore the Lea Valley Walkdown to Three Mills. Most of the group left at Hackney Wick, but some of us pressed on past the Olympic Park down to Bow and the beautiful Three Mills. It was much warmer than we expected, and not so many bicycles as on the Regent’s Canal. We were surprised by the wide open landscape of the Walthamstow and Hackney Marshes, and intrigued by the history of the Avro aircraft firm, one of the first to achieve commercial success. All along the Lea there is increasing evidence of gentrification as more apartment blocks are being built, but also of a thriving canal boat community.

November 2018

Muswell Hill and pop music : a walk led by Sally Stevens

Wapping High Street : a walk led by John Wray

Members of the Group met at Tower Hill Station in bright sunshine anticipating a walk along the Thames to Wapping and beyond. Any hopes of completing the walk received an early set back in St Katharine’s Dock when, contrary to the weather forecast, the heavens opened. After sheltering for a time, the lure of coffee and cake became irresistible, so much so that when the walk resumed, the party of walkers was depleted. Wapping is an early exercise in urban gentrification: the Victorian warehouse buildings have been converted into flats and discrete restaurants, and an estate agent or two. It all seems a little lifeless. Along the riverfront are a series of new residential buildings with splendid views over Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf. The group came across a few interesting traces of the old Wapping – the Georgian Pier Head, the tower of the bombed St John’s Church, the blue-coated figures on the facade of Old St John’s School, and of great interest to those interested in industrial archaeology, the former Wapping Hydraulic Power Station, which following its closure, was for much of the early 21st century an arts and restaurant centre before its closed in 2013, some say, because the noise irritated the neighbours in their warehouse conversions! Nearly opposite this building stands the Prospect of Whitby public house, and here the walk terminated with drink and conversation before the journey back to North London.

December 2018

Richmond circular : a walk led by John Wray

15 of us assembled at Richmond station for a walk around this lovely riverside area, ably led by John Wray. Fortunately the weather was dry and we didn’t encounter much mud. We walked to Richmond Green and saw what remains of the royal palace, before finding a new way down to the river. We then ascended Richmond Hill to the ex-Star and Garter servicemen’s home, wondering why the nearby nurses home was derelict, when we spotted a huge crack in the building! Clearly good foundations are essential around Richmond. We then walked down to Petersham and along the Thames path back to the White Cross pub. We had laughed at the sign indicating the entrance to use when the Thames was in flood, but by the time the last of us left the pub after our festive drinks at 4.30pm, the tide was washing up nearby!




October 2017

River Lea : a walk led by Sally Gee

We were very lucky with the weather, as we assembled at Finsbury Park to catch the train to Cheshunt. Sally led us along the canal towpath to a cafe just near Broxbourne station. The sun shone, the leaves were beautiful and we had some fascinating conversations.

November 2017

Moselle River walk

Member Lesley Ramm writes:”About a dozen of us met in Priory Park to see where the Moselle River runs under the basketball pitch near Middle Lane. Then we crossed High Street Hornsey to Moselle Close and then Penstock Path where the New River crosses the Moselle. Again underground. After crossing Wood Green High Road we entered the Noel Park estate and Moselle Avenue. In Vincent Road we saw old brickwork of a bridge that the Moselle runs under.Then along Lordship Lane to Lordship Rec – where we saw the Moselle above ground! After a coffee break in The Hub we skirted the Broadwater Farm estate and crossed Lordship Lane and entered the Tower Gardens estate. We made our way to All Hallows Church and churchyard and into Tottenham Cemetery. We ended our walk in White Hart Lane and caught the W3 back to Hornsey. This two and a half hour walk was in lovely sunshine. I met people I have met on other U3A groups and some new ones as well. A lovely afternoon thanks to our new Crouch End & District U3A.”

December 2017

Queenswood to Alexandra Park : a walk led by Mike Gee

The Shorter Walks Group enjoyed a lovely walk on 18 December through Queens Wood, Shepherds Cot and Ally Pally Park taking in the Meadow Orchard project at the back of the Queenswood Medical Centre. Many thanks to Mike Gee of Greenacre Walks as guest leader.


December 2019

Oonagh Gay : The Pioneer Women MPS

After a long struggle, women over 30 gained the vote in 1918, but little thought had been given to the prospect of women MPs. The first few women who managed to be elected were resourceful and brave. Nancy Astor is well known, but have you heard of Margaret Wintringham or the Duchess of Atholl? In 1929 only 14 women were elected out of a House of over 600 men, and it took until 1957 for Hornsey to get its first woman MP, Muriel Gammans. This talk brought to life some of these early pioneers who had to navigate a Commons not designed for them.

November 2019

Professor Ian Christie : Rescuing a pioneer: Britain’s forgotten creator of cinema

Not many people, even among film enthusiasts, realise that what we know as cinema really started in London in 1896. Robert Paul demonstrated his new projector on the same day at the Lumieres reached London, and within weeks both their and his shows were competing at major music halls in Leicester Square. But unlike the Lumieres, or indeed Edison, Paul wanted to expand the range of what animated photography could do. Over the next five years, he pioneered multi-scene fiction films, literary adaptation, documentary and many other kinds of film. With his wife, he opened Britain’s first studio, in Muswell Hill, in 1898, and built up a substantial international business – not only in film, but also in scientific instruments. So why is Paul not better known? Ian offered some suggestions, as well as showing a selection of Paul’s surviving films.

October 2019

Hugh Hayes : A Park for Finsbury 

Hugh’s talk outlined the complex history and reasons for the creation of Finsbury Park over nearly thirty years up to its opening in 1869, followed by some highlights from its history, including the public meetings that were held in the park, the park during the second World War, the Finsbury Park Theatre, and the £6 million pound restoration of the park in 2002-7, looking at changing attitudes to parks, followed by questions. It was illustrated from Hugh’s large collection of ephemera relating to the park.

September 2019

Jan Marsh : The Pre-Raphaelite Sisters

Dr Jan Marsh is the curator of a new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery opening on October 17th focussing on the women assosciated with the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Attention is usually given to the male artists of the brotherhood but the women were vitally important to the Group as muses, supporters, models, stylists, partners and several were notable artists. The talk and the forthcoming exhibition featured twelve of the women and Jan’s talk offered illuminating insights into their importance to the movement. Much research had gone into finding out more detail on their lives and has revealed many stories of success, frustration, sadness and inspiration. Some of the women are relatively well known, such as Effy Millais and Christina Rossetti, but we discovered the work of less well known women such as Evelyn De Morgan Jane Morris and Maria Zambaco.

July 2019

Roger Hamilton : Climate Change – Where Are We Now

June 2019

Jayne Forbes : A Solo Traveller’s Tales

Many of us are cautious about travelling alone, but CE&DU3A member Jayne Forbes is something of an expert, having crossed the Sahara, trekked the Himalayas, swum the Amazon and just accompanied by a backpack and a good map. Jayne shared her experiences, which include dining out on tarantulas in Cambodia and crossing a minefield in Western Sahara. She has travelled throughout India, China, the Middle East, Europe and South and North America. Just about everywhere except Antarctica. There have been funny and challenging moments; dodging bandits and happy coincidences to share with us. Jayne is just back from 3 months in Africa and we were lucky to catch her and share her expertise and experiences before she heads off again. You will never fear travelling alone again!

May 2019

John Hinshelwood : Crouch End and District: a photographic record from 1860 – 1920

An intriguing glimpse back in time to see how our area looked between 100 and 150 years ago. The Hornsey Historical Society acquired a collection of prints assembled by the North Middlesex Photographic Society in 2001. John Hinshelwood catalogued the collection and created a digital database of the prints, several of which were included in the National Photographic Record Association’s collection now held by the V&A Museum. This talk outlined the work of the local Photographic Society in recording local landmarks for the photographic record & survey of England’s buildings, monuments and customs of historic interest made in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

April 2019

Ahead of our very first Annual General Meeting, we welcomed all the way from Durham acoustic duo, Carol and Steve Robson, who are Fool’s Gold. For an hour or so the audience became honorary Geordies and was entertained by stories and traditional songs from the North of England and further afield, as well as being introduced to one of our most impenetrable dialects. After a cautious start the audience thoroughly warmed to Fool’s Gold, and joined enthusiastically in the choruses requested of them. The show ended with a renditon of Leadbelly’s old favourite Goodnight Irene.

March 2019

Sandra Clark : Singing witches, authenticity and innovation: Macbeth on the Victorian Stage

Macbeth was one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays in the nineteenth century, and all the major actors, including Samuel Phelps, William Macready, Sir Henry Irving, Helen Faucit and Ellen Terry, tried their hand in the main roles. Productions were characterised by music and spectacle, including large numbers of singing witches. One of Shakespeare’s shortest plays often took more than three hours to perform. The talk considered the range and variety of the productions and the innovations some performers introduced.

February 2019

John Withington : Living to 100 – The Secrets of the Centenarians

Those who came to a very well attended meeting were treated to an entertaining talk by author and TV producer John Withington on living to 100: he was delighted to meet our very own centenarian, Betty Romary (pictured above, with CEDU3A Vice-Chair Sally Whitaker) who recently reached this milestone. Drawing on a wealth of studies and statistical analysis John outlined the factors that could lead to living to one hundred – being female, a good diet (Mediterranean, of course – and avoiding a full stomach), no smoking, no or low intake of alcohol, education, affluence (a higher than average number of centenarians live in Monaco!), a working life that did not involve heavy manual labour, perhaps being a member of the Royal Family, and of course, genes. John illustrated his talk with the stories of centenarians – from all walks of life, including the Labour MP Manny Shinwell (the only centenarian to speak in the House of Commons), cigar-smoking comedian George Burns, the film star Olivia de Havilland, the singer Vera Lynn, song writer Irving Berlin, architect Oscar Niemeyer and aircraft designer Thomas Sopwith, among others. At the beginning of the meeting John asked for a show of hands to ascertain how many would like to reach 100 (not many, it transpired). By the end of the meeting perhaps a few more thought that becoming a centenarian might not be such a bad idea after all …

January 2019

Peter Cox : The History and Development of John Lewis and Waitrose

Drawing on the research for his book Spedan’s Partnership: The Story of John Lewis and Waitrose (2010), the centenary of Lewis’s Big Idea, to give the business to its employees – thereafter called Partners – in the form of a Trust, Peter Cox told the story of Spedan’s vision, its early years, how it battled through a testing period during and after the war after its main Oxford Street store was destroyed by bombing, down to its position of pre-eminence today. He brought the story up-to-date and outline his U3A project to document the changing face of the high street East Finchley, Muswell Hill, and, hopefully with a bit of help from CEDU3A members, Crouch End.





December 2018

Elizabeth Woodcraft : Hi-Heel Sneakers – Morals, Motown and Milkshakes in the early 60s
Elizabeth’s talk invoked a few memories for those who grew up in and could remember the late 1950s and early 1960s. She described what it was like to be a mod girl from an Essex council estate when morals and society were changing. It was the era of Aldermaston marches, mods and rockers battling on the beaches of Brighton, Clacton and Margate, Soho coffee bars, and a new American-influenced music played through transistor radios tuned to Radio Luxemburg, and later the pirate radio stations, Radio Caroline and Radio London. The talk was accompanied by a set of slides featuring fashion trends and culinary delights, featuring Frey Bentos canned meat products, evaporated milk and bottles of Camp Coffee, as well as some sexist advertisements for household appliances.

November 2018

Francine Bates : The golden age of the music halls – the stars, the theatres and the songs
The talk briefly covered the history of the music halls culminating in their heyday in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the emergence of super stars like Marie Lloyd and Gus Elen. Francine Bates, accompanied by Ben Coleman on piano illustrated the talk with some popular songs of the era, with help from the audience participation.

October 2018

David Hunter : Poetry and passion on the front line – a French poet at war
 Guillaume Apollinaire is now recognised as France’s greatest WW1 poet. His vivid, often highly erotic, poems were inspired by his service as an artilleryman and infantry officer on the Champagne front, as well as by two passionate wartime love affairs. In the centenary year of both the signing of the Armistice and Apollinaire’s death, Crouch End & District U3A member David Hunter’s absorbing presentation explored the poet’s life during 1914-1918, and asked what his poetry told us about Apollinaire’s  poetry can tell us about France’s distinctive experience of the Great War.  We learnt also about his connections with Picasso and Cubism, and his experiments in the use of typography to express his poetry. The talk was accompanied by readings in French of a selection of his work by Marie-Pierre Pérez, and concluded with a recording of Hugues Cuenod of Apollinaire’s poem Bleuet set to music by the composer Francis Poulenc

September 2018

Margaret Greenfields : Britain as a nation of migrants … A 2000 year old history of migration to the UK in record-breaking time
Margaret presented a history of known migration waves to the UK: commencing with the Roman era and concluding with an exploration of the patterns and impacts of 21st century migration, on British demographics, social engagement and ‘public trust’. Within this talk she highlighted both typical push/pull factors associated with migration (ranging from being a member of a conquering army to economic opportunities; or as a result of war in countries of origin) and invited the audience to reflect with her on how policy and public discourse have developed (or recycled) narratives and responses to the ever controversial issue of engagement with ‘new Britons’.

August 2018

Luke Alder : The Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art
The speaker, Gallery Director, Roberta Cremonchini, was unable to attend, but her assistant Luke Alder took on the task at the last minute. He was a very good presenter of the talk with great slides showing examples of the Collection, housed in a beautiful Georgian building in Islington. The Collection is some 120 Futurist paintings, drawings etc by Italian artists collected by American Eric Estorick and his wife Salome. They set up a foundation for their collection which was eventually housed at 39a Canonbury Square. Luke also told us that as well as the permanent collection they have regular special exhibitions, the current one being The Art of Campari – a collection of advertising material for the company founded in 1860.

July 2018

Carl Parker : What is terrorism?
▶︎ Download a summary of the talk

June 2018

This month’s speaker was Louise Stewart, the Chief Executive of Alexandra Park and Palace Charitable Trust. This Grade II listed “Palace of the People” was built in 1873, its subsequent history defined by fire. It was second of these on 10 July 1980 (remembered by many in the audience) that provided the impetus for a long-term restoration programme, which, with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund grant in 2013, has allowed the refurbishment of the Victorian theatre, the redevelopment of the East Wing, home to the historic BBC studios, in to a social and vibrant space fun and entertainment Louise stressed that that it was not all about the theatre, and that the 196-acre park was equally important.


May 2018

This month’s speaker was former St Petersburg university lecturer, BBC World Service employee since 1991, and Crouch End & District U3A member Alexander Zhuravlyov. The theme of his talk was the rise and rise of Vladimir Putin, and he asked the question: Putin forever? How did this former KGB agent become long-serving President of Russia? Alexander looked at Vladimir Putin as a manifestation of the major trauma that Russian society went through following the collapse of the USSR. He also challenged the perception of many people that Russia is a communist, or, at best, a post-communist country, and discussed the sociology and pychology of his mass support. Alex answered his question by opining that what Putin represents is forever. Alexander gave his views on a number of questions from the audience, including Putin’s relationship with Donald Trump, the Russian mafia and the State, and impossiblity of democracy ever being established in Putin’s Russia.


April 2018

 Our speaker in April was Graham Bennett, a member of the Crouch End &District U3A. He took us back to a time when an exciting and groundbreaking Dance Company came out of Russia, created and led by the impresario Serge Diaghilev. This was the Ballet Russes, which for 20 years brought together some of the greatest artists, composers and choreographers of the time to collaborate on the creation of dances that shocked, entertained and enthralled audiences and which had a very special relationship with London. The talk described the careers of two of Diaghilev’s leading dancers, Lydia Lopokova from St Petersburg and Hilda Munnings from Wanstead, whose name would be changed to Lydia Sokolova. Lydia Lopokova was to marry the leading Economist, John Maynard Keynes. Graham pointed out many places around London that had close association with the Ballet Russes, including the studio in Floral Street where Pablo Picasso painted a frontcloth for the ballet Le Tricorne, The Three Cornered Hat, and the many venues where the company performed, including the Coliseum, Royal Opera House and the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. The talk was illustrated with images of the imaginative sets and costumes that the company created, many of which have survived to this day, and, most importantly, looked at the legacy that Diaghilev left behind which created the dance scene we enjoy today. The founders of some of our major dance companies were all members of Ballet Russes at various times, Marie Rambert, Ninette de Valois, Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin.

March 2018

Our speaker this month was Robin Lustig, long-time presenter of BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight. He talked about his career as a newsman and the major events that he reported on – for example, the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the inauguration of Barack Obama, when he visited Alabama to gauge to reaction to this event by interviewing African Americans and white racists. He had visited over 90 countries, including Afghanistan and pre- and post-Saddam Iraq. Looking over his long career, first in print and later in radio journalism, Robin gave an insight into the how technology was revolutionized the business of reporting stories. He explained that when he first started out, there was not the immediacy of digital technology, and one of essential aids to getting information was the public telephone box! Now of course everything was now so different: the internet has totally changed the way people got their news. He warned, however of the dangers of fake news, and made a plea for people to still buy print newspapers before they disappeared. The world still needed investigative reporting. Robin recalled that his favourite interviewee was Nelson Mandela, and his most distasteful Serbian war criminal Radovan Karadžić. He had also been moved by interviewing young people in Africa, and learning about their ambitions. Speaking about the BBC, Robin explained that it was unable to compete with the power of FANG – Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google, although for about 42p a day for the licence fee payer it represented great value, particularly in the delivery of news. One of his concerns was that budding journalists were no longer coming from all walks of life: often such people had be supported financially in the early years of their careers perhaps by family members who had the means to support them. After his talk, which was interspersed with readings from his autobiography, Robin took a number of questions from an attentive audience.


February 2018

Jennifer Bell, John Hinshelwood, Valerie Flessati and Joanna Bornat from Haringey First World War Peace Forum, described the work of the group. Since 2014 they have been researching the lives of men who resisted conscription during the First World War in what is now the London Borough of Haringey. They shared the fascinating and hidden stories of a part of London which saw the highest proportion of conscientious objectors in Britain between 1916 and 1918, and spoke about a successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid to erect a local memorial to the 350 local men who stood out against war.


January 2018

Our first meeting of the year in our new venue attracted a record turn-out of members, to hear a polished presentation on the plans for Hornsey Town Hall by the project architect, Katy Ghahremani, a director of Make Architects. Planning permission for the scheme was granted by Haringey Council in December 2017, and work is expected by carried between 2018 and 2020. The main thrust of the presentation was how an at-risk and Grade II* listed building from 1935, built to the designs of architect Reginald Uren and an outstanding example of Modernist architecture, was to be restored to its former glory. With the help of specialist conservation teams and drawing on archive sources, Make Architects will oversee the restoration of the former town hall to include workspaces, event venues and a hotel. The scheme also includes the redevelopment of the square in front of the building. The cost of the restoration will be funded by a number of residential blocks to the rear of the town hall. Judging from the questions posed by a number of U3A members, the residential element of the scheme seems to be the most controversial.



December 2017

For our final Monthly Meeting of 2017 we welcomed art historian Estelle Lovatt for her talk on Fun and Irony in Art. Illustrated with a series of paintings ranging from the Renaissance to contemporary art, her presentation pointed out the use of hidden, deceptive or playful images by the artists, and was both enlightening and entertaining. Estelle’s presentation helped many of us to better understand the work of Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, advising us to “just think of it as a self-portrait” when Emin’s ‘unmade bed‘ came up on the screen. Once again this was a very well-attended event with the welcome addition of mince pies and mulled wine to finish.

November 2017

Our November speaker was historian and sociologist of economics Tiago Mata, Lecturer in Science and Technology Studies, University College London. His current research involves a study of “economic journalism”. His talk was essentially a history of The Economist magazine, and its role in disseminating and interpeting news of the economy, from both a liberal and conservative point depending on its editorship and ownership.

October 2017

At the October meeting Peter Cox read excerpts from his book Growing Up in London. The book is based on interviews with over 100 U3A members, aged between 75 and 95. For the audience of about 100 members of the Crouch End & District U3a Peter’s talk was a nostalgic trip, evoking many memories of growing up in war-time London, and the austerity period thereafter … memories of life at home and at school, illness (before the National Health Service, food, shopping, the outbreak of war, the Blitz, being evacuated from London, military service, leisure entertainment, and love and marriage.


In March 2019 members of the Longer Walks Group of the Crouch End and District U3A who signed up for the London Loop completed their journey, which began in April 2018.

4 April 2018 London Loop 1 : Erith to Bexley

We marked the start of our 150 mile journey in Riverside Gardens, which as the name suggests borders the Thames. Sadly though, we soon lost sight of the river as the route took us through Erith, past some industrial units before we reached it again. From here the Loop sets off along the Thames for a while, sharing its path with National Cycle Network Route 1 and the Thames Path extension. With the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge in front of us, the landscaped landfill sites on the north bank, we followed the path alongside its many recycling plants. This stretch provided not the leisure and pleasure activities we associate with walking alongside the Thames, but formed its industrial core, notably transporting and managing the rubbish that we Londoners generate. I heard a number of terms being used to describe this stretch including: desolate, bleak and perhaps my favourite – dystopian. Added to this sense of melancholy was the forlorn sight of a horse being tethered to a stake. But the sky was vast, and after a while many of us found some strange beauty in our surroundings. At the very least there certainly was a feeling of space, and with the hawthorn bushes beginning to show their leaves, a sense of spring around the corner. At Crayford Ness we headed off south alongside the Darent River on a high and windswept grassy path which together with the brutalist Darent Barrier forms part of the flood barrier arrangements for the Thames. We then reached our third river of the day: the Cray and followed that until we were faced with more breakers yards, scrap merchants and large lorries delivering more rubbish to be treated as we approached Crayford. Here we stopped for a picnic lunch, just outside Lindy Lou’s Tea Room – apparently a pun on its origin as a public toilet. Heading off towards Bexley via the Hall Place Park some of us noticed, at its entrance, slender columns carved with shells and ferns, remnants of the canopy of the Crayford Cinema. And it was just after this that John averted a near disaster; the path was suddenly blocked by drainage works. With satnav at hand he was able to navigate a diversion over the busy A2 and finally into Bexley. It certainly wasn’t the prettiest of walks, but that probably isn’t the point. A long journey such as the Loop will have its high and lows, and if we want to learn more about the outer fringes of London then this was a good starting point. But what the day highlighted for me was our disregard for nature: we were continually affronted by rubbish lining the path and litter choking urban streams. On a lighter note, well done everyone for finishing it, especially those walking with injuries or recovering from illnesses … and we made a few friends along the way.

6 June 2018 London Loop 2 : Old Bexley to Petts Wood

Getting to Bexley Station by train from North London proved unexpectedly challenging, so the walk started later than planned – but it was well worth the wait! On a beautifully sunny day we renewed our acquaintance with the now clean River Cray, home to dace and pike, and a watchful heron. This stretch of the walk took us through unspoilt countryside, made even more attractive by a lake and a late eighteenth century five arched bridge in Foots Cray Meadows, associated with the landscape architect ‘Capability’ Brown. We stopped for lunch at Sidcup Place, recently converted into a large public house. Resuming our walk we came across a moated manor in Scadbury Park Nature Reserve. After a stroll through the National Trust’s Willett Memorial Wood, we crossed open fields to Jubilee Country Park, from where we headed towards our destination (Petts Wood Station) through the ancient woodland of the National Trust’s magnificent Petts Wood, saved for the nation from developers by Colonel Francis Edelman and others. This was an indeed a splendid section of the Loop, and we wondered if this would be bettered on our orbital journey.

4 July 2018 London Loop 3 : Petts Wood to West Wickham Common

Today we walked in the footsteps of giants, reached one of the Loop’s highest points, came across the source of a Thames tributary, walked through an ancient sunken green way curiously called Bogey Lane, and passed through a dingly dell, grassy glade and timber revetment. We weren’t going to get lost either, amongst the 9 walkers I counted 3 versions of the guide to the Loop, 2 sat navvy type things and an Ordnance survey map. And the Loop itself was exceptionally well marked, so all bases were covered. We soon made our way into Jubilee Country Park full of beautiful blue flowers, which I since discovered are chicory, then into first Sparrow and then Darrick Woods. These like the several woods that were to follow, provided a welcome shade from the sun. We stopped at a pub in Farnborough for a quick (coffee!) break and then headed off through the open grassland of High Elms Country Park with spectacular views south to the North Downs. The next section was an uphill walk through the Holwood Estate where, at the top, a historic site awaited in the shape of a stone bench and the remains of an old oak. This was/is the Wilberforce Oak, a tree that hosted a major historical event. Here William Wilberforce held a conversation with then Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger that eventually led to the abolition of slavery. The oak tree isn’t much to look at now; just the hollow remains of an old tree trunk. A replacement tree was planted in 1969 using acorns from the original, although storms put paid to it in 1987. However another sapling – a third generation – was planted, and grows next to its parents. And it was around these trees, and their remains, that we ate our lunch. The route entered Keston Common, with its two small lakes that sit at the source of the River Ravensbourne. This bubbles up from a spot called Caesar’s Well, and then starts its journey through south east London eventually to join the Thames at Deptford. The path continued pleasantly alongside Hayes Common and then West Wickham Common to reach the end of this section before reaching Hayes Station where a train was waiting to take us all back to London.The GPS calculated that we had walked a distance of 9.9 miles. Our final stretch of the journey through London Bridge to the tube, we decided, would easily take us over 10 miles!

18 July 2018 London Loop 4 : West Wickham Common to Hamsey Green

A group of ten assembled at Charing Cross, heading for Hayes and a walk along Saxon footpaths and bridleways from West Wickham Common to Hamsey Green. Sadly we were unable to locate a promised sign for the Ancient Order of Froth Blowers, which is supposed to adorn the route. However we did come across a Meridian dalek. Erected by Bromley Council in the late 1990’s, this obelisk was somewhat of a disappointment, with its flaking paint and clumsily painted lettering suggesting a good idea that was poorly executed. Although much of the walk was through woodland, commons and nature reserves, once again we met up with piebald horses – a common feature of this section of the Loop. Following a steepish climb up the Addington Hills, we were rewarded with an outstanding panoramic view of London. Although we could not see Windsor Castle, as one guide book suggested, we were able to see the arch of Wembley stadium, the skyscrapers of the City, Canary Wharf and the O2. In the late afternoon, several woods (one of which was delightfully called the Three Halfpenny Wood) provided welcome shade from the July heat. A beautiful day indeed, made even better by a bus arriving at Hamsey Green just in time to take us on our journey home.

1 August 2018 London Loop 5 : Hamsey Green to Banstead Downs

Another foray into south London. A group of nine met at East Croydon Station and took the bus to Hamsey Green to resume its orbital walk. After a few cooler days in this long hot summer it was perfect weather for tackling this long although quite undemanding section, apart from a fairly steep climb (with steps) up a ridge to pass Riddlesdown Quarry, and later Kenley Common, after which we passed the Norman Fisher Observatory. Those who had been on the Longer Walks Group walk in early July were delighted to re-visit Happy Valley and Farthing Down (the most southerly part of the Loop walk) for a stop for lunch in a welcome shady spot. This was in contrast to the next stretch through the outskirts of Coulsdon (little of architectural interest here bar a neo-Georgian post office of 1935). Our journey then took us into the London Borough of Sutton, through the Woodcote Estate and Oaks Park, talking in a lavender farm (don’t pick your own!) and a golf course. Here the London Loop was erratically signposted. As a result we became involved in a brief dialogue with a group of golfers as we crossed one of the fairways, narrowly avoiding being struck by a wayward ball. Feeling a little unwelcome we eventually discovered an unmarked path through undergrowth which brought us to Banstead Station for a slow journey home after a walk of about 11 miles.

15 August 2018 London Loop 6 : Banstead Downs to Kingston Bridge

We soon found the start point, rather incongruously in the middle of a small wood adjoining a golf course, but were soon back in the suburban streets of Sutton. A decision was made to increase our pace to reach Warren Farm, not a farm in the traditional sense, but land given over to the Woodland Trust following a dispute over its becoming a site for housing development. A relief certainly for us walkers. Then we entered Nonsuch Park, an open space that once contained one of Henry VIII’s palaces. There are few remains, other than the lower brickwork of the banqueting hall. Next came the village of Ewell with its motley collection of historic buildings including a Victorian castle and prison for local miscreants, which doubled up as a fire station. A huge statue of a dog on top of an arch welcomed us into Bourne Hall Park. I was told by a fellow walker that this statue commemorated a heroic act by the animal. A short tea break followed in the flying saucer shaped 1960s building in the Park, the interior layout of which offended the sensibilities of all of us. It was in this park that we found the source of the Hogsmill River, that we were to follow, more or less, (with a quick stop for lunch in the gardens of a massive carvery pub, fending off the wasps) to its mouth – the Thames at Kingston. Although the walk formed a corridor through the suburbs (apart for a couple of annoying detours through more suburban housing and the need to cross the busy A30), it was monotonous, and also overgrown in places. I think we were all more than happy to reach Kingston where our leaders highlighted the stone upon which seven Saxon kings were crowned and the 13th Century Clattern Bridge. After the stunning walking of previous sections, this stretch was as a bit of a disappointment, but I was reminded of the comment made at the outset, a journey such as the Loop will have its high and lows. Sadly though I was reminded of a further observation made at the outset: that of our disregard for nature: not only by rubbish lining the path but also now of invasive species, with Himalayan Balsam dominating the riverside growth coupled with the first, of what I suspect is many, sightings of the bright green parakeets. But I was more than impressed, and heartened, by the solitary woman attempting to tackle one of these problems by picking up the litter. By the time we came across her, the sack was full. – Ruth Hayes.

5 September 2018 London Loop 7 : Kingston Bridge to Hatton Cross

Eight walkers crossed Kingston Bridge before taking the tree-lined entrance to Bushy Park – then on through grassland, plantations and woods; skirting ponds and following waterways. We side-stepped a bootcamp and encountered deer and other natural delights, including the rare vision of a swamp cypress’ aerial roots. Traversing the grand avenues of horse-chestnuts and limes leading to Hampton Court Palace, we came across a vast old hand-pump that made us stop and smile.Lunch was beside the River Crane at Shot Tower, originally part of 16th Century gunpowder mills that used the waters of the Crane to drive mill-wheels. With Heathrow’s flight paths directly above, the route from Hounslow Heath to walk’s end was accompanied by aircraft noise – whilst visually our tranquil riverside meanderings included sight of a heron, seemingly as unconcerned by us as by the overhead roar of engines. This was a 10-mile walk of contrasts. Tube seats from Hatton Cross offered welcome comfort after another lovely day’s walking.

19 September 2018 London Loop 8 : Hatton Cross to Uxbridge

After we eventually found the well-hidden start to this windy walk, we were pleasantly surprised by the peace and quiet of the River Crane Park, a contrast to the racket of the aircraft and the busy A30 road. The tranquillity was short lived. Once leaving the Park we walked through a residential area, right underneath the flight path of landing aeroplanes. Any passenger happening to look out of their window would have seen a band of walkers staring upwards, mesmerised by the proximity of the jets and their noise. But soon we reached the open space of Berkeley Meadows, and then Cranford Country Park, at the north end of which is the lovely Dunstan Church and the former stables of the Berkeley Hunt. Then through a subway under the M4 (more noise) into the woodland of Dog Kennel Covert. The guidebook promised that the ‘thunder’ of the traffic would give way to the ‘twitter of songbirds’. We were not convinced. At last we reached the Grand Union Canal, taking a small detour to look at the lovely, but graffitied Bulls Bridge which marks the start of the Union’s branch to the Paddington Basin. We followed the rather featureless and sadly litter strewn towpath until we reached Stockley Park, reclaimed from derelict brick building works and rubbish dumping site to become a high tech business park and yet another golf course (the guide book advising us to ‘give a cheery wave to golfers’). It was at the club of this golf course where we were hospitably provided with benches for our picnic lunches. Then through another industrial estate back to the Grand Union Canal, and then on to the rather pretty and considerably cleaner Slough Arm, apparently almost the last canal to be built in England. Here we came across a Coal Tax obelisk, before leaving the canal to follow the beautiful River Colne almost to our destination, passing the lovely Little Britain Lake, reclaimed gravel pits, on the way. On the edges of Uxbridge the Loop rejoined the towpath, for a short while before a detour took us to the station for a long ride home on the tube clutching a well-deserved cup of tea.

3 October 2018 London Loop 9 : Uxbridge Lock to Moor Park

This was, as they say, a walk of two halves, and the Loop at its best. The first section was largely watery, for the most part heading northwards following the towpath of the Grand Union Canal, with a couple of diversions through wooded areas. We were treated to herons parading along the banks and red kites circling above us. And, in contrast to earlier sections of the Canal, here it was litter free and the water appeared clean and healthy; we were also finally free of the Heathrow flights.   A pub with a large, but totally empty beer garden stood at the halfway point, marking our departure from the Canal. A perfect location for lunch, we thought. Our usual politeness prompted a request to eat our picnic lunch outside but with a guarantee from each of us to buy drinks. But no. We were told that, if we wanted to stay, we would have to buy one of the perfectly good meals available. We packed up and left the deserted garden. We set off eastwards into the countryside and after a stiff climb and a walk through Park Wood, found a grassy field, with cows safely fenced off, sat in a circle and ate our lunch discussing the pros and cons of being courteous. We followed the Loop through more fields bordered by plenty of stiles, and after walking through a small shrubbery emerged into a breathtaking panorama of Hertfordshire fields and woodlands, although those with keener eyesight pointed out another golf course. This we narrowly avoided by turning into the beautiful Bishop’s Wood Country Park. But it was from here that we were failed by the Loop signage and had to rely on a walker’s downloaded Ordnance Survey map to navigate us to Moor Park.

17 October 2018 London Loop 10 : Moor Park to Elstree

Our plans for an early start to tackle one of the longest stretches of the Path were thwarted by mayhem on the underground. And by the time our frazzled group finally congregated at Moor Park, a light but persistent rain had started. Not the fine autumnal weather promised by our various forecasts. We trudged off to join the Loop with a slightly heavy heart as our guide books hinted at confusion to come in the several woods we had to cross, advising us to ignore certain signs and find hidden paths, as well as keeping a wary eye open for golf balls on the courses that straddled the walk. However we navigated the first golf course without injury and found ourselves in the beautiful, if soggy Oxhey and then Nanscot Woods, and the eagle-eyed walkers amongst spotted the Loop signage to direct us seamlessly through. We came a bit unstuck in the following open fields, and a helpful bystander suggested a short cut to catch up with the Path. A unanimous decision felt that this was not in the spirit of the Loop, so we found the Path through a muddy farm to pass the lovely house of Edward Bulwer Lytton. Then on through a stretch of farmland before climbing up to the second golf course, and into the gloomy woods where we found a plaque commemorating WS Gilbert who died here, trying to save the life of a swimmer in the now dried-out lake. The next segment meandered through Stanmore Little Common, then on a straight northbound path right underneath the M1, to skirt past the southern end of Aldenham Reservoir, and then along the reservoir itself. The homeward stretch yielded a sign to Elstree station, our relief was short lived when someone pointed that the Loop took on its own loop via some open farmland and yet another golf course before we reached our destination. It was the strangest of walks, certainly scenic in places, but oddly melancholic, perhaps because the dampness underfoot and the abundant fungi and berries reminded us that winter is around the corner, but not yet near enough to yield the trees in their autumnal colours. It was also irritating, the continual twists and turns in the route meant that we had to have our eyes glued to our guidebooks to keep us on course. But, for the most part, on course we kept, and that was down to the group working together as a brilliant team.

14 November 2018 London Loop 11 : Elstree to Cockfosters

The first part of this section was grim, following a very tedious road for the first mile or so, but adopting the tried and tested approach of walking like the clappers along the boring bits we soon entered the beautiful old oak woodland of Scratchwood. But this respite was short lived. We met the A1 and were faced with a half mile walk south along the carriageway to reach an underpass, and then a half mile trek back north. Various approaches to managing this were suggested. A minority wondered whether we could leap across the two dual carriageways during a lull in the traffic, but the purists reminded us that we have to take the rough with the smooth and of our no short cuts agreement. An interesting idea emerged though: as a fitting legacy of our walk we could start a campaign for a footbridge for future Loopers. We were soon rewarded as we entered the lovely Mount Moat Open Space and then the picturesque Dollis Valley Greenwalk as far as Barnet, where some more route marching took us along the streets to find a welcoming pub whose staff didn’t seem to mind us eating our packed lunches in the gardens. For the final stage, the guidebook more than kept its promise of encountering one of the ‘finest parts of the Loop’. It started with a climb through King George’s Fields into Monken Hadley village which is full of history, charm, architecture, a pond complete with swans, some serious wealth – and sadly some unnecessarily aggressive security measures. The final stretch through a woodland path in Monken Hadley Common was glorious, with the sun now low in the sky. It is well worth a revisit – especially as it is so easy to reach. A short detour to Jack’s Lake (permit needed for fishing) presented us with fabulous views of the trees at their golden autumnal best. From there it was just a hop, skip and a jump to the tube, and the easiest of journeys home.

9 January 2019 London Loop 12 : Cockfosters to Enfield Lock

It was the most gorgeous of winter’s days, with the bluest of skies and the crispiest of temperatures when we set off towards Trent Country Park, the start of this section, and into Enfield Chase. Although most of us were familiar with this stretch, it still managed to look stunning with is bare trees and long vistas, landscaped in places but with enough woods to provide some sense of wilderness. Then across farmland we followed Salmon’s Brook for a mile or so, leaving it to climb a steep hill to be rewarded with a wonderful view of the City of London, a pointer of how far we had come on the Loop and how soon we would reach our final destination – much of our conversation was about planning a future walk. Before then, though we followed another waterway, Turkey Brook, accompanied rather alarmingly by the sounds of gun shots, which we were relieved to discover came from a clay pigeon range. Soon we crossed the aptly named Hilly Fields Park, and into Forty Hall Park where we stopped at a lovely, welcoming café for lunch. With our spirits high, we headed off for the last and thankfully short section of the walk through the suburbs of Enfield: over the A10 (and those us who remembered the previous walk were delighted to find a bridge exactly where a bridge should be), passing a vast but strangely interesting cemetery (unlike earlier walks punctuated with golf courses today’s walk had more of a graveyard theme), and meeting up with Turkey Brook again. By now the Brook had become an eyesore, clogged with rubbish – shopping trolleys, old pushchairs and quite literally a kitchen sink. It was a relief to get to the station.

Wednesday 16 January 2019 Loop 13 : Enfield Lock to Chigwell

We re-joined a thankfully short stretch of litter strewn Turkey Brook, and headed off towards Enfield Lock where we had a brief encounter with the Lee Valley Walk, before finding the Lee Navigation towpath. From there we crossed the unremarkable
Sewardstone Marsh Nature Reserve to make the climb up into the Sewardstone Hills giving us a glorious view over the Lea Valley and King George’s Reservoir. After a series of stiles and confusing directions we found ourselves in Gilwell Park, glimpsed the Scout Association’s national headquarters then climbed into beautiful Hawk Wood on the fringe of Epping Forest. The Loop headed south alongside another golf course towards our lunch destination, the heavily punned, but delightful Tee café. With rain threatening, we decided to up our pace for the next section which took us back into Epping Forest past Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge up towards Buckhurst Hill. We dropped into Roding Valley with its meadows, recreation grounds and a large lake – dug to provide the nearby M11 workings with gravel. And it was this motorway we soon had to cross, before as our guidebooks advised us ‘to grit (our) teeth’ to follow the road into Chigwell, which was described by Charles Dickens as the ‘finest place on earth’. We were promised a great view across the Valley towards London, but this spectacle was thwarted by the by now drizzle sodden clouds. At last we found the tube station, which apparently has the second lowest annual number of passengers. I can see why.

Wednesday 6 February 2019 Loop 14 : Chigwell to Harold Wood

Our penultimate walk on the London Loop was unexpectedly more of a challenge than anticipated, not that the terrain was particularly difficult. However the recent snow and ice had melted, leaving extremely muddy paths and treacherously slippery stiles of which there were more than a few … and the boots felt heavy.
Our tentative steps along sodden open ground required a degree of dogged concentration, making it difficult to appreciate the panoramic views of Canary Wharf and environs. Our group was smaller than usual, and we very much missed our GPS expert, as we negotiated the fairways of Hainault Golf Course, where the finger posts were few and far between. Fortunately this walk has a good deal of superb woodland where the ground was drier: in Hainault Forest Country Park, we were mightily impressed by an avenue of giant redwood trees, or Wellingtonia. After a short stop for lunch we encountered a couple of pheasants, discovered a two stranded wrought iron gate posts from a long-demolished country house, and on the latter stages of the walk on the edge of Harold Wood we were amazed to see a family of deer wandering on pasture in front of a housing estate. Here we followed Carter’s Brook (and its proliferation of discarded cans and plastic bottles), until we reached Harold Wood station for the journey back to North London.

Wednesday 6 March 2019 Loop 15 : Harold Wood to Purfleet

All bases were covered on the last but longest stretch of the Loop, by appointing three navigators, pinpointing a number of cafes for breaks and identifying two escape routes back to London if the threatened showers morphed into downpours. From the station we soon entered the rather featureless Harold Wood Park, walked into Pages Wood, a heartening example of Forestry Commission planting on brownfield sites, and following a series of muddy paths along the edges of fields, we reached Upminster. We searched in vain for a sighting of a smock windmill, though disappointed none of us were tempted to take a train home or even stop for a break. From there we followed the Ingrebourne River through Hornchurch Country Park, its many pill boxes reminding us of the Park’s role as an RAF station during Second World War. We stopped for a break at the wonderful Ingrebourne Valley Visitor Centre which overlooks the beautiful marshland and reed swamps of the Valley. Refreshed, we climbed Ingrebourne Hill, which is in fact a reclaimed site just some 20 metres above sea level, but from the brow we could see giant wind turbines and Rainham, our second and last escape route. Here we had lunch in the gardens of the beautiful Georgian Rainham Hall, after which all of us voted to walk the final 5 miles to the Loop’s end. The first part wasn’t pretty, under motorways aptly described in the guidebook as a hell’s cave of concrete pillars and through industrial estates, but soon we were walking between the Thames and Rainham Marshes Nature Reserve, and it was this path we followed towards our final destination. Along the route we spotted Erith, where our journey began almost one year ago and 150 miles away, with the same huge skies, and a desolate but oddly beautiful landscape. We stopped at the RSPB café for a final cup of tea, and were warmly welcomed by the ornithologists who immediately identified our species as Last Legged Loopers. From there, in the absence of any signage that formally marked the end of the Loop, we adopted the last Waymark as a symbol of our achievement. The Loopers have Looped.

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