Beverley Brook Walk - 5th November 2016
Obviously the allure of a minor river spirit compared to Old Father Thames is somewhat less, although gender may have something to do with it. Nevertheless, seven of us - Bernie, Fozi, Fred, Jinan, Ken and Lynne - met at Waterloo Station on Saturday morning to explore the delights of Beverley Brook.
And delightful she was, on the 7 miles that we accompanied her from where she becomes visible to humanity near New Malden to where she meets her father (or mother) at Barn Elms, near Putney.
From New Malden Station it is a half-mile or so walk through pleasant-enough suburban streets and including crossing a golf course by way of a tree-lined track. There is the A3 to cross, too, by means of subway. Beverley Brook appears from beneath the road confined within a narrow, wall-lined gully, together with some nice mossy vegetation which included the rather-rare-in-London, warmth-and-moisture-loving and rather descriptively-named, Navelwort (a possible connection to the Goddess, here?). We paused just for a moment at the beginning of the water-side route to just mention that the brook had its source about three miles away at Cuddington Recreation Ground near Worcester Park, and flows for about 10 miles to the Thames. The name is derived from the beaver – which although believed extinct in Britain for some 400 years is now breeding again – and the word ley, or meadow. In other words, the beaver’s meadow brook.
The brook has been much abused in times past – as have so many of London’s rivers – and has been considerably channelised, so runs between boarded banks for much of its route. However for a few miles – apart from a few detours where it is not accessible due to housing or the like – we were walking along a nice-enough waterway, often with trees either side, and passing through a nature reserve or two - or past playing fields - on the way. The brook flows along the west edge of Wimbledon Common, where it once marked the boundary between London and Surrey, and the scenery becomes more open. We crossed the A3 again at the busy junction by the Robin Hood Gate and entered Richmond Park just as a stream of horses were leaving. In the park we walked for some way with the brook on our right and the open spaces of the park on our left, with distant views of the deer and closer views of the cyclists.
It was actually quite cold – we’d noticed that when we got off the train. Funny that here in the SW (of London, anyway) it seemed colder than in the traditionally cold east of the country (or London, anyway) where we come from. So we were pleased to reach the cafe facilities hereabouts. There were lots of cyclists here, too, plus lots of Jackdaws and people – all tending to eat and drink. Whilst there we had a call from John Hatto – an ex club-member – who we’d pre-arranged would join us. Which he did.
Leaving the park by way of the Roehampton Gate, we walked down an alleyway alongside the park walls, for a short while away from the brook, but which we soon rejoined. Whilst we’d been in Richmond Park we had read notices which told of work being done to improve the ecology of the brook and also help with flood prevention. All the channelisation and abuse over past generations as had adverse effect here as elsewhere, as people are now beginning to realise. Now the intention is wherever possible to remove constricting artificial edging, allowing gravel-banks and eddies to form, and perhaps even a little meandering.
Around East Sheen we were forced away from the water and along roads for a bit, but between some decent allotments with - in places - some rather exotic overhanging vegetation. When we reached the only pub on route – the Halfway House near Barnes Common – we didn’t go in but stood on the adjacent Priests Bridge over the once-troubled water and John told us something about local efforts for the stream's regeneration.
here) a few weeks ago.We crossed two railway level-crossings and then part of Barnes Common, with Chestnut and Sycamore trees in glorious autumn colour, then through a playing field to cross the brook again and walk alongside Barn Elms Playing Fields, once the site of the old Manor House of Barnes. The final stretch is again along a tree-lined track alongside the brook, and then suddenly there is a barrage across the stream – forming probably what is a balancing lagoon and muck-stopping arrangement, but filled with reeds – then another barrage to control water flow, and then out onto the Thames-side track where we had first sighted Beverley Brook on our Putney to Richmond walk (
Then there was just the walk along the Thames past all of the boating-facilities and across Putney Bridge to the station of the same name, and then home. Beverley Brook, I found, had a very pleasant character about her. Thanks to the other pleasant characters who accompanied me on this exploratory walk – and we didn’t get lost at all.
Paul Ferris, 6th November 2016
7.7 miles, 8 walkers
The Last Leg of The Thames Path in London
All good things come to an end, and so our journey both down and up the London section of the Thames Path reached its climax on a bright day, nursing potential rain clouds that held on to their cargo and kept us dry. It could also be labelled a 'Great Trees of London' walk as we had the good fortune to come across - amongst many others - not one but two really wonderful specimens, one at each end of the path.
We travelled to Richmond Station by train from Waterloo, on 22nd October, 2016. After the train, and walking through the bustle of Richmond shoppers, the riverfront runs past a throng of restaurants in the midst of which is an enormously tall London Plane, gracefully occupying its spot for hundreds of years judging by the girth of the trunk. You can only but admire something so lovely and ancient if only for having managed to stay there as London sprawls further and further. The path breaks almost straight out into 'country' passing Ham House, a 17th century house now a National Trust property open to visitors. In the middle of the river at this point is Eel Pie Island, best remembered as a music venue in the 1960 where The Rolling Stones and The Who performed.
Shortly after we approach Teddington Lock, the largest lock complex on the Thames and the point at which the Thames turns from tidal to non-tidal. It also has a very convenient toilet facility, so we were able to stop for a short while whilest some of the walkers took advantage. The Thames here turns from being home to rowing crews to sailing ones, with lots of small boats out and about on the calmer waters.
As we approached Kingston, there is also another little surprise. Just before you reach the latest incarnation of a bridge that has crossed the Thames continuously since the 12th century, in the basement of John Lewis are a pier from the the original bridge and a barrel vaulted cellar from a 14th century merchants house, preserved very nicely behind glass. By way of a thank you to John Lewis for this keeping of history, we stopped there for a lunch break before crossing the bridge for the final stretch to Hampton Court. It doesn't take very long before we come across the grounds of the palace, even though we are still a couple of miles downriver from the building itself. The Roman Catholic Church of St Raphael glows on the south bank, Italian Renaissance in style but only built in the mid 1800s after Catholic emancipation in England, and a number of small aits or eyots as you prefer, both Middle English for 'little island'.
The path-side is joined by a brick wall, part of the grounds proper of Hampton Court, and it is here that you can find the other wonderful tree. There is a gate in the wall, up a few steps, to an enclosure for the casual visitors to admire the grounds and the views, fronted by a large and lovely Stone Pine, known as the Maids of Honour Stone Pine, that makes a beautiful frame for views of the palace. It is to here that we head and to the cafe to celebrate the end of our trek to and from Crayford Ness, some fifty miles away.
One adventure ends, others begin - the path along the Thames westwards into the country beckons...
North Downs Way – Chilham to Canterbury, the final leg
Saturday 15th October saw the final legs of Ken's epic North Downs Way walk – 22 of them, in fact. The 22 legs walked the final leg of the journey which had begun, I believe, at Box Hill on 20th July 2013.
see here). It was an easy, if rather long, journey – with lots of small station-stops the closer we got to Chilham. We were visited a few times on the journey by the train conductor, at first just checking the tickets, then up for a chat. As we approached our stop his on-board announcement of the next station included a greeting and a warning to all of us walkers that whereas we would face rain ahead on our walk, he'd be in Canterbury in a few minutes and totally dry!This stretch began with a group of eleven meeting at Victoria Station for the train to Chilham, where the previous walk had finished on 23rd July (
It had, indeed, begun to cloud over as we'd got closer to our start, but for most of the way the rain held off, or at least only came down relatively lightly. Thus it was that we were able to enjoy a quick look at the attractive village of Chilham, with its quaint houses, castle and 15th C. church, to which we paid a quick visit. Then it was up and then down, and then up and down again in numerous successions – with here and there a levelish patch - as we made our way along the downs.
For a considerable part of the route we were passing through apple-growing areas, at a perfectly good time to do some scrumping if one were that way inclined. Of course, some of the windfalls had already been got-at by wasps and the like, so would have been no good for the supermarket shelves. I am sure that had we tried the good parts, they would have been totally edible and delicious – apart perhaps from the cooking apples. On the large orchard associated with Nickel Farm there was a township of mobile-home type accommodation, specifically for the apple-pickers of whom we saw numbers as we passed through. Shortly after the orchards we stopped for a while at the public house on the edge of Chartham Hatch, then continued through Petty France and a variety of pleasant countryside – including a field with a unicorn posing rear-end-on to us and pretending to be a sheep (or maybe asleep), and another with no white sheep of the family amongst all the black ones. On this stretch too was the Iron Age hill fort of Bigbury Camp – which looked like a hillside rather than a hill fort, as most Iron Age forts do – and an open-to-the-public orchard which looked more like an orchard than the commercial ones do. No Mans Orchard, as it is called, is a rare survival of a traditional Kent apple orchard. We got some apples there, and there was a large snake.
Crossing the A2 (originally a Roman road, I suppose: “A2 Brutus”) we were soon making our way into Canterbury itself. The guide book route into town takes you down London Road, then right into St. Dunstans Street, where we had to wait at a level crossing for two trains to pass. We were in view of the Westgate Towers, said to be England's finest medieval gateway, and where we soon posed for a photograph. Then along the pedestrianised High Street before turning left to the Cathedral Gate. It's funny, but within Canterbury it is difficult to see the Cathedral, and even when we got to the gate an entrance fee tended to make viewing even more difficult. Some of the group elected to pay up and go in, whilst four others walked right around the cathedral by means of the closest roads. Even then, you could only occasionally see the top-most spires. They've got it well hidden.
So, by then the original eleven had split up a bit, and four of us went into a M. & S. tea shop for a cuppa. When we left it was pelting down, but we'd a train in mind and headed fasly and wetly to Canterbury East Station by way of the bus station and the city walls. Gaining those was where we also gained some of the rest of the group, and gaining the station we gained the remainder. So - mostly - we all travelled back together. We had a carriage to ourselves, presumably because the original train conductor had warned all the rest to be on the look-out for us. My O.S. map with its draw-the-route facility made the distance 7.8 miles rather than Ken's guide-book 6, but a grand time was had by all. I think.
I'd not joined in all of the walks that comprised the route from Box Hill to Canterbury, but congratulations to all that did, and to those that did some but not all, and congratulations and thanks to Ken for organising and taking the lead in this most enjoyable venture.
Paul Ferris, 17th October 2016
Thames Walk - Pimlico to Putney and Putney to Richmond
The end is nigh...
The last weekend in September and the first in October saw the anti-penultimate and penultimate legs of the Thames path upstream walk from Slade Green, near Dartford, all the way eventually up to Richmond.
The first of these two legs, on 21st September and between Pimlico and Putney Bridge, had a record turnout of eighteen walkers, including Ros from up near Blackpool, who has been visiting us for a while. A perfect day for a walk, sunny but breezy, not too hot and a not too long a walk to boot. Starting on the north bank to avoid the chaos of building work that is Nine Elms, we crossed the river at Chelsea Bridge, stopping first to admire the handiwork of Joseph Bazalgette and another of those lovely Victorian sewage works buildings that dot the riverside. Opposite the park one of London's lost rivers - the Westbourne, which we had walked in November 2013 (here) - makes its appearances, still gamely clinging on to its existence, as does the Lots Road Power station building, also on the north bank. This power station used to supply all of the power to the London Underground, but has long since been decommissioned and is now, as is the way, being made into luxury apartments that no one can afford. Battersea Park provided us with a comfort stop before we swung inland for a brief detour around the heliport and another huge building being squeezed into a tiny site, and then onwards to Wandsworth Park for a lunch break by the mini golf course. After that it was a short stroll up to Putney Bridge to admire the World War Two machine gun post built almost onto the platforms - part of the defence line of London, protecting the railway from any attack from the river.
Returning to this very same spot the following Saturday, on 1st October, the weather was quite different. We're we deterred? - well a few people must have been as we were reduced to a coven of thirteen and suffered a bit of a delayed start caused by engineering works and the glacial service in a cafe. Shortly after setting off along the south bank we crossed another of London's little-known rivers - the Beverley Brook. Although looking a bit decrepit as it met the Thames, at least this one does have a guided walk attached, which perhaps we should try one day. Usually this stretch is a straight line up the south bank, but again we were foiled, this time by work taking place on the riverbank at Hammersmith. Not to be outdone though, we simply crossed the river and carried on through some very charming houses on the other side. At this point nature struck a double blow, it started to rain and one of the group took it into his head to wander off in search of a wee, and then promptly got lost.
We decided on an early lunch break to dry off, and crossed the river back to the south side on Barnes Railway bridge to recuperate at the White Hart (another pub with some really excellent and attractive bathrooms) whilst directing the lost sheep back into the fold by means of several plaintive telephone calls.
Moving to the north bank had added extra mileage to the route, so it was decided at this point to cut short the journey and only go as far as Kew, but the sun came out and something in the water clearly boosted morale as we positively sped along the next section, past the old Truman brewery, still in operation by by a different company, and the Harrods Depository and arrived at Kew in record time, so much so that we decided to be brave and finish the route properly. That last three miles shot by and then it was time for tea to celebrate in a delightful cafe built into one of the arches under Richmond Bridge.
One more leg to go voyagers!
Sue C., 17th October 2016
Photos by Peter G.
Camping in Suffolk
Nine members of EFOG enjoyed a lovely few days camping at Newbourne Woodland Campsite near Woodbridge in Suffolk, from 14th to 16th September. The site has good facilities, and comes complete with elephants hiding in the undergrowth - not quite life-sized, but big enough to look reasonably realistic! Well, in the dark, anyway! Wehoped there were no lions in the jungle, but the most ferocious creatures we saw were a squirrel and a large black beetle! The first evening we relaxed with a barbecue, having spent some time finding the appropriate places for our tents, putting them up, and getting organised. The following day, Ian took us on a walk. It was an amazingly hot day - more like the middle of summer than September. At lunchtime we stopped to eat at the "Maybush" pub, and in the afternoon we went on a 2-hour boat trip to Bawdsey and back, with a refreshing breeze on the water which kept us cool. That evening, we had an enjoyable meal at the "Coach & Horses" at Melton.
The following morning we packed up our tents, and went our separate ways. We gave Marian a lift, and she had never been to Sutton Hoo, which has an ancient 7th century royal burial site - and a good café/restaurant! We stopped there on our way home, and spent an enjoyable few hours looking at the exhibition, walking in the grounds, and drinking coffee in the dry when it started to rain, although Marian defied the rain and walked to the house which is open to the public. Tranmer House was the home of Mrs. Edith Pretty, the landowner who instigated the archaeological digs at Sutton Hoo in the 1930s. Peter and I had been over the house on our previous visit, and as Peter had absolutely no clothes for wet weather, we gave it a miss.
Another really enjoyable trip with EFOG, and many thanks to Ian S. and Louise for organising it.
Maz & Peter. 30th September 2016