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Archive for the ‘london’ Category

Autumn in the Royal Parks

Richmond Park, south west London

Red deer stag

Red deer stag

My original plans for a walk in Kent on this day were abandoned due to massive disruption to train services after a fatality at Swanley, but rather than head home and waste a day of glorious autumnal sunshine, I decided to head back into London and then south west to Richmond Park. At this time of year, the Park has two very unique spectacles on offer: the vivid autumn colour of the Isabella Plantation, and the astonishing display of deer in rut when the stags and bucks vie for status and mates in an often violent fashion. I last visited Richmond Park back in May, but the Park changes with each season and, as I mentioned before, it is somewhere for which I have great affection, so a return visit could never come too soon.

Start: Petersham Gate TQ182732

Finish: Richmond Gate TQ184737

Length: 4¾ miles – allow plenty of time for deer-watching!

How to get there: I took the train to Richmond (from London Waterloo or Clapham Junction, with South West Trains), but could also have caught the District Line or Overground. Then, from the bus stop just outside the station entrance, I jumped on a 65 bus towards Kingston, alighting at The Dysart Arms; the 371 runs along the same route. The bus stop is adjacent to Petersham Gate, a pedestrian-only entrance into the Park. At the end of the walk, as it was a pleasant evening, I strolled from Richmond Gate down Richmond Hill back into the town centre, but if you’ve walked far enough the 371 stops just outside Richmond Gate. Alternatively, turning left and walking down Star and Garter Hill takes you to the Dysart Arms bus stop to pick up the 65.

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A great walk through the best green space any city has to offer.

Capital Ring, Section 6 (sort of), Wimbledon to Richmond

Red Deer, Richmond Park

Red Deer, Richmond Park

I have written before about the ongoing attempt some friends and I have been making to walk the Capital Ring in its entirety and in order. But enthusiasm seems to have waned, and, to be honest, having looked at the map, some sections  – where the Ring largely follows uninspiring suburban streets – don’t seem to be worth the effort, so the idea of completion may now have gone out of the window. But one stage that simply cannot be ignored is that which begins in Wimbledon, crossing Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park to end by the Thames in Richmond. Parts of the route are as near to wilderness as you can get in a major city, matching the most attractive rural landscape for beauty. And for me, there is the added bonus of nostalgia as the route passes through places I played as a child, and somewhere I once worked in what might be the best job I ever had.

Start: Wimbledon Station TQ248707

Finish: Richmond Station TQ180751

Length: 8½ miles/5 hours

How to get there: Strictly speaking, this section of the Ring begins at Wimbledon Park tube station, on the District Line, but because it was a more convenient place to meet, we began at Wimbledon. Numerous buses, South West Trains services from Waterloo, the Tube, and Tramlink from Croydon make it a very easy place to reach. Returning from Richmond is just as easy: train (to Clapham Junction & Waterloo, or to north London and Stratford), bus or tube once more.

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A surprisingly green walk along a disused transport link in North London

Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace, North London

Crouch End Station

The disused platforms at Crouch End Station

The stimulus for this walk came from attending a talk by Oliver Green, curator of the London Transport Museum, held at the Museum of London but one of a series of fascinating (and free!) public lectures arranged by Gresham College. In his talk, Mr Green discussed pre-and post-Second World War developments on the London Underground. One major project was the ‘New Works Programme‘, begun in 1935, which included proposals relating to what is now the Northern Line – the Northern Heights plan.

Back in the 1860s, the Edgware, Highgate and London Railway (EH&LR) had been busy proposing and constructing a line between Finsbury Park and Edgware (with a branch to Muswell Hill), eventually opened on 22nd August 1867 shortly after the EH&LR had been taken over by the Great Northern Railway (GNR). An extension of the Muswell Hill branch to Alexandra Palace was opened by the Muswell Hill & Palace Railway on 24th May 1873, but closed almost immediately when the Palace burnt down only 16 days later; re-opened in 1875, by 1911 this too was under the control of the GNR.

Under the Northern Heights plan, London Transport proposed to take control of and electrify these existing lines, replacing ancient carriages pulled by obsolete steam locomotives with modern, efficient electric tube trains. Also proposed was an extension to the Northern Line from Edgware to Bushey Heath. Construction commenced in the late 1930s only to be halted on the outbreak of war. But when peace returned, post-war austerity and the advent of legislation to create a Green Belt around London meant that the incomplete works were never re-started, despite the extensions being marked as ‘Under Construction’ on tube maps for a number of years. The electrification plans never fully came to fruition, while the early but unfinished stages of construction for the Bushey Heath extension now lie abandoned in fields near the M25. Between Finchley and Edgware, electrification only reached Mill Hill East and the remaining line never reopened to passenger services. It continued to serve goods trains until its final closure on 29th February 1964, leaving only the stubby branch off the Northern Line still in use today. A similar fate befell the line between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace: passenger services ended in 1954, and after a few years of goods-only usage, the line gradually closed in stages such that all traffic ceased by September 1970.

The line of the railway between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace is now a linear park, a green ribbon winding its way stealthily through the suburbs of north London. Plenty has been written about the Northern Heights (and this great video explains the Bushey Heath extension) and many others before me have followed its abandoned trackbed – what is it about disused railway lines that so fascinates so many people?

Start: Finsbury Park Station

Finish: Alexandra Palace Station

Length: 4½ miles/3 hours

How to get there: Finsbury Park is very easy to reach: by tube (Victoria and Piccadilly lines), by bus or by First Capital Connect train services from Kings Cross or Moorgate. The return from Alexandra Palace is by train back to Kings Cross or Moorgate. An Oyster card can be used for both journeys, probably the cheapest option.

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Further exploration of historic London

Walking the London Wall – Cripplegate to Blackfriars

The remains of the west gate of the Roman Fort

The remains of the west gate of the Roman Fort, in an underground car park below London Wall

The second part of my walk, in which I continue to follow the line of London’s Roman and mediaeval Wall, finding monumental stone towers amongst the modernity of the Barbican, and discovering impressive and well-preserved subterranean remains of a Roman Fort and Amphitheatre, both astonishingly rediscovered after centuries of burial. Then past landmarks synonymous with London’s criminal past, before twisting and turning through narrow lanes and alleys to meet the Thames at Blackfriars.

Part 1 of this walk, from Tower Hill to Cripplegate, including travel information, can be found here

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Tracing the boundary of historic London in search of a dirty Roman ruin (no, not Silvio Berlusconi)

Walking the London Wall – Tower Hill to Cripplegate

London Wall at St Alphege

Salters' Hall Garden and a section of London Wall: originally Roman, but incorporated into the 11th Century church of St Alphege, and with 15th Century brick battlements.

I recently attended a tour at the Museum Of London, of which more later, which (together with my recent visit to Reculver) inspired me to try and trace the line of the Wall that originally surrounded the City of London to see what remains. Roman in origin, the Wall has seen a swelling City burst its bounds over the following centuries and has at various times and in diverse places been altered, added to and obliterated. Yet, despite the phenomenal change the City has seen in the two thousand years since Roman invaders first settled there, some surprisingly large chunks of the Wall still remain, in wonderful juxtaposition to the modern office blocks. And its legacy can also be seen in any A to Z, in many of the street names and landmarks so familiar to modern Londoners, many of whom are likely to be entirely unaware of the history beneath their feet, or, as I discovered, tucked away around a corner or down an obscure sidestreet.

By and large, I followed the Museum’s ‘London Wall Walk’, originally devised in 1984 and marked with plaques along the route, some of which are in poor repair or have been removed as the City has rebuilt itself. The booklet that accompanied the Walk is out of print, but can be downloaded in sections from the Museum’s website; I’ve merged the separate sections into one handy pdf file which you can download here.

Start: Tower Hill Station TQ335807

Finish: Blackfriars Station TQ317808

Length: 1¾ miles; allow plenty of time for exploring

How to get there: Plenty of options! Tower Hill is on the Circle and District Lines and is also within a few minutes walk of Tower Gateway (Docklands Light Railway) and Fenchurch Street (National Rail, served by c2c). Currently, Blackfriars is a little more complicated in that the Underground station is closed while the National Rail station (served by First Capital Connect) is open on weekdays only while extensive engineering works are carried out as part of the Thameslink Programme. However, nearby alternatives are available – City Thameslink (National Rail) and Mansion House (Circle/District Lines) amongst others – and this being London there are plenty of buses serving both start and finish.

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Walk London - Winter WandersAs Winter follows Autumn, so Walk London’s Winter Wanders follow their Autumn Ambles, which I mentioned last year. Held this year on the weekend of Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th January, the programme is as comprehensive and diverse as that last Autumn, and, having enjoyed a selection last time round (including a ghost walk and a tour of underground London, albeit above ground – no, seriously, it makes sense if you were there), I’m looking forward to this.

Full details of all the walks, including tours of historic and literary London, riverside rambles along the Thames Path, walks to the Olympic site, and, further out, sections of the London Loop, Green Chain and Capital Ring are available on the Walk London website.

Now, which to choose……….?

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Open marshland and riverside walking in south-east London along the courses of not 1, not 2 but 3 rivers*

*comes with free scrapyards

London Loop Stage 1: Erith to Bexley

Looking eastwards along the Thames at the mouth of the Darent

Looking eastwards along the Thames at the mouth of the Darent; in the distance, the towers of the Dartford Crossing

About 18 months ago, I joined a group of friends on a walk from Bexley to Petts Wood, following the River Cray in the south-east London suburbs; at the time I was vaguely aware that this was part of a route that circumnavigates the capital. In this way, what began as a pleasant Sunday afternoon walk has now evolved, as detailed previously, into an attempt to complete the entire London Loop in a clockwise direction, of which about a third is now complete. But for the challenge to be fully met, I needed to head back to the start of the Loop and fill in some gaps. Thus it was that I took advantage of a sunny yet cold wintery day and headed for the south bank of the Thames in north Kent to walk the very first stage from Erith to Bexley. One adjective to describe this stage: industrial. Much of it concerned with dealing with the crap that people throw away. Even some parts of the route that felt ‘wild’ could not evade the detritus of modern man, ever-present either visibly or lurking beneath the surface. To be fair though, the route also includes attractive stretches following the courses of 3 separate rivers, in wide-open marshland and along backwaters, through parks and woodland. But, as I’ve mentioned before, that’s part of the attraction of the Loop: it’s London in its entirety, warts and all.

Start: Erith Station TQ511781

Finish: Bexley Station TQ493734

Length: 8½ miles/4 hours

How to get there: Both start and finish are in Travelcard Zone 6 and are on routes served by Southeastern, about half an hour from Charing Cross, Waterloo East or London Bridge.

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