30 June, 2006

The River Bed!! Posted by Picasa

Erith to Old Bexley – First walk of the London Loop.

For general comments on Erith please see elsewhere but I have to pay tribute to the staff of Erith Library who supplied me with a photocopiable leaflet (for use in the library only) for this walk – you did me proud!

I will also state from the outset that this is not one of the most prepossessing walks you can do around London: the first section at any rate has scrap merchants, dealers in aggregates, civic amenity sites (that’s rubbish dumps to you and me) and roads crammed with lorries going along at breakneck illegal speeds.

It starts pleasantly enough by the Thames at Erith, and this plaque records the spot.
Loop sign Erith Riverside Posted by Picasa

After you leave the town, you go back towards the river passing industrial buildings busy with lorries (although not on a Sunday). Then, surprisingly you come out onto the London Flood Defence earthwork and walk along the top of this for a while, looking towards the Thames and the shipping, rather than the scrap yards and other industries here. I didn’t see any teasels as stated in the leaflet but the wild flowers were in bloom and looked very beautiful. There was also a view of the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, the clockwise part of the Dartford crossing. Coming to the Darent, the river that runs through Dartford and joins the Thames here, there was another flood defence, which notices warned one to keep off. The tide was out so I did see lots of water birds feeding on the mud flats and some flocks of thrushes. The Cray is a tributary of the Darent, and this path is shared with the Cray Riverway. I walked up the Cray as far as I could until I found myself in another industrial area where the road narrowed and lorries were speeding along. I walked up to the main road and crossed it (it is very busy). I then left the traffic and noise of London behind me in a rural idyll by the Cray. It was surprising how quickly the country changed: one moment all was dirt and industry the next a peaceful river with reeds and moorhens (some with chicks) weeping willows and very little sign of human habitation. Of course, human habitation was very near but it felt like it was miles away. The river is clean and has tiny little fish swimming in it. There were a few suburban bits on this section but not much. Crayford High Street has pleasant gardens by the river with a sculpture put up and made by a local mental health group. Called ‘the Worker’ it does not have a face. I did not take a picture of it. The path passes by a pub called the ‘bear and ragged staff’. This is the badge of Warwickshire and Warwick the Kingmaker. Walking up the next part towards Hall Place is a garage. On the forecourt are two columns which are the remains of Crayford Cinema. They are well looked after and here is a picture of them for you.
Crayford Cinema Posted by Picasa Here you enter Hall Place grounds (see previous entry on Hall Place). Walking here is very pleasant as is crossing into Churchfield Woods. Again one quickly leaves behind the noise of the traffic on Rochester Way. Out of the woods, which would be a romantic spot to take a significant other, I passed by a cemetery and up to Bexley church. This flint church was locked unfortunately. The path comes out by the old mill (turned into a public house) and passes over the Cray again. Here is an old house by the mill.
old house by the mill bexley Posted by Picasa

Up through Bexley to the Railway station then back home via New Eltham. I think that this means I have also done the Cray Riverway which follows this section of the loop and also Section 2.

Evening spent at the V & A Museum cubafest but it wasn't very good

25 June, 2006

London Loop Stage 2 – Bexley to Pett’s Wood

london loop sign Posted by Picasa Bexley – a borough of many surprises. Bromley – the London Borough

What happened to Stage 1? I haven’t done it yet as the leaflets are not available. It was only a chance encounter in Bromley Library that got me the leaflets for stage 2 and 3.

Firstly, although the London Loop is a loop and not a circle (one cannot cross the Thames at Erith unless you have a rowing boat) the promoters insist this stands for London Outer Orbital Path. Not only is this tautologous (London is repeated) it is incorrect grammatically: it should be Outer London Orbital Path (OLOP), but I suspect the name was made to fit the acronym.

I also realised that this walk will be challenging, not just in terms of distance travelled and terrain but also getting to the beginning and end points. Many of the stations are not very accessible from Bermondsey and busses can be very slow. I need to get up very early! Also some of the signage is non existent.

Bexley is a pleasant village with almshouses and a charity antique shop! It still has the atmosphere of a village and a traditional camera shop, traditionally closed on Sunday. I soon left the village behind, joining the Cray Riverway which is the London Loop for this section. I passed a cricket field but the match was over for the day and the cricketers were going home. There was also a family with a well thumbed Loop guidebook, although I soon left them behind as I crossed the landfill site and walked down to the River Cray. ‘Here be Parakeets’ said the guide and sure enough I saw one, in its colourful plumage. There were also equally colourful dragonflies flying around. As it was a fairly warm day, although dull, lots of people were out on walking with their dogs, and it looked to be an amusing thing to do to have the dog race through the river, whether tempted or not by a tasty morsel of meat! I lost count of the number of dogs being exercised and cooled off this way. The first feature I photographed is the five arched bridge over the Cray with a weir.
five arch bridge Foot's Cray Meadow Posted by PicasaFoots Cray meadow is a pleasant spot for walking, picnicking and taking the air and is very well used for these purposes. The walk continues by the Cray until it reaches All Saints Church Foots Cray.
All Saints Church Posted by PicasaThis is an ancient church from 1330 although altered in the 19th Century reached from its Lych gate by an avenue of small yew trees. I was not able to see the interior but it has many historic artefacts.

As this is the beginning of the Cray Riverway there is a commemorative post carved with bulrushes to mark the occasion.
Cray riverway starting post Posted by Picasa

Arthur Mee says that Foots Cray has thrown away its loveliness but I’m not sure how much it had. There is a private school there with the motto ‘While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light’ around its clock tower.
Believe in the light Posted by PicasaThere is also an old black and white house in the high street
Black and White House Foot's Cray Posted by Picasa and a view of the coca cola™ bottling plant that was famous for taking tap water and selling it as Dasani. I walked past the crumbling grandstand (well not very grand) of Cray Wanderers Football Club and some overgrown allotments to come out onto a hill with a pitch and putt course and three giant redwoods. In California (where these trees are native) one of the trees has a tunnel cut through it and one can drive a car through it. These trees could have a tunnel cut for a bicycle or mopèd. This is Sidcup Place and there is a mansion
Sidcup place Posted by Picasa with a beautiful walled garden, full of lavender, roses and other flowering plants. I pressed on across the Sidcup Bypass via tunnels under the roundabout and entered Scadbury Park. This was where the signage almost stopped but I managed to get through the fields and woods towards the old moated manor house of Scadbury.
Scadbury moated manor Posted by Picasa Very much a picturesque ruin it needs an artist to paint it. There were two wells, one on the other side of the moat so this must be the well of loneliness.
The well of lonliness? Scadbury Posted by Picasa After seeing this romantic spot I got rather lost in the Oak and Birch woods of Scadbury Park. Eventually I found Paul’s Cray Road and crossed into National Trust land at Pett’s Wood. I looked for and missed the William Willets sundial. Willets was a London builder and madman who wanted more work from his men (according to one story) or who wanted to play golf later in the evening (according to another). Instead of getting up earlier and doing all his work so he could go home early he had the hair brained notion of setting the clocks forward by 80 minutes in summer and back by 80 minutes in autumn. This scheme was later modified and adopted by Lloyd George during the first world war and has continued ever since.

Daylight Saving Time does not save one second of daylight!

The sundial is marked only in Daylight Saving Time.

I did see a commemorative stone in Pett’s Wood to the person who prevented development of the wood.
Pett's wood memorial stone Posted by Picasa Pett’s wood has substantial suburban houses as per the picture,
Suburbia - Pett's Wood Posted by Picasa and no doubt substantial suburban residents. The public houses were filled to bursting with football fans so I had a take away from a kebab shop where I got a moderately good kebab.

24 June, 2006

A visit to the Crays

A quick look at St Mary's and St Paul's Cray. Not as interesting as I thought but may edit this later

old house St Mary Cray Posted by Picasa

21 June, 2006

My certificate to show I've completed the ring! Posted by Picasa

19 June, 2006

Happy Hampstead

A Sunday walk from Golders Green to Hampstead, taking in some parts of the heath I never knew.

Golders Green is a suburb based on the crossroads of Finchley Road and Golders Green Road. Home to an important London Jewish community I went on Sunday so the shops would be open. Not all were so maybe a Saturday visit would also be worthwhile.

Golders Green is also home to Hampstead Garden Suburb. The Suburb (note capital S), as it is known to its intimates, is an experiment in town planning initiated by Dame Henrietta Barnett and planned by Parker and Unwin, pioneers of garden cities.

Dame Henrietta was the wife of Canon Barnett, who had a parish in Whitechapel. She envisaged a co-operative community of all social classes in a well planned environment which was within a 2d tube ride of central London. After much opposition, which seemed to centre on the fact that she was a woman, she persuaded the landowners to sell the land and allow it to be developed by both copartnership societies (fully mutual housing co-operatives) and private development. This development was strictly controlled aesthetically by Parker and Unwin.

Now the suburb is home to the rich and super rich with cottages for sale at around 250K and the Bishops Avenue containing the highest priced dwellings in London. However anyone can wander at will through the woodlands and open spaces and the townscape is still enchanting. The model for inter war council estates it has flourished!

Famous residents included Barbara Windsor, the blonde beauty of carry on films who lived in previously in Golders Green.

The Heath Extension is an open space dedicated to field sports, which gives on to tranquil woodland, although a group of people indulging in bicycle motocross were told off by one of the Corporation of London staff as I went through. There were ponds with yellow flowers growing in them.

I came out of this section at Spaniards Lane and took a picture of the Spaniards Inn. The inn has associations with Dick Turpin the highwayman and is ideally situated as the two lane, excessively busy, road narrows where the inn is. A good piece of business planning on the innkeeper’s part. I did not call at the inn but walked to Kenwood House. There is an 18th Century Bath house here fed by a chalybeate spring which English Heritage restored a few years ago. The water looks rather murky, perhaps it needs people frolicking in it to keep it fresh.

The grounds of Kenwood were crowded so I left there and walked on the heath for a bit, pausing to admire the views of Canary Wharf and the Gherkin, both clearly visible. I walked down to the actual chalybeate spring on the heath.
Chalybeate spring Hampstead Heath Posted by Picasa Chalybeate is iron water, with a few other minerals and is the same type of water that feeds Tonbridge Wells.

There’s no reason not to walk past the men’s bathing pond so I did- a bevy of beauties. Originally part of the Fleet river the bathing ponds are a bit cold for my taste but the views are good.

One feature of the heath is that there are drinking fountains. As the song goes, There are drinks and girls all over London- I can direct you to the drinks- and here one is.
There are drinks and girls all over London- here's one of the drinks Posted by Picasa

Having got a bit lost here I ended up near Hampstead Heath Railway station, so decided to walk up through Hampstead. I walked past the house occupied by the Poet Keats, before he set out on his final journey to Italy, and past the proprietary chapel of St John, Downshire Hill. This is the only proprietary chapel in London and was built in 1818 for the posh residents of the surrounding area. I wanted to take a picture of this small, pretty but imposing church but there was a police line and a tent nearby and I’m not prepared to risk arrest for taking photographs at a crime scene. The church will be there a long time after the police have left.

Another building on Downshire Hill is stark in its modernity. The Hopkins House is entirely glazed but hardly noticeable from the street. Built in 1975 it is uncompromisingly modernist.

Jack Straw’s Castle, another pub with highwayman associations (not the former home secretary Jack Straw) is now converted into luxury flats, and I was too tired to do a circuit of the Pergola on this part of the heath so I went home.

12 June, 2006

Greenwich Blackheath Lee and Lewisham

A Sunday stroll from Greenwich to Lewisham on a scorching hot summer day. Greenwich is a naval town which has been taken over by the University of Greenwich which occupies the former Naval Hospital. On a former visit I got told off for sitting on one of the chairs in the painted hall there. I couldn't see why as I was directed to another chair that was exactly the same. In the Chapel I could sit anywhere I liked. Greenwich has memorials of England's seafaring past with the preserved Cutty Sark tea clipper and Gypsy Moth IV yacht. I usually walk by the river at Greenwich but this time I walked through the Greenwich Royal Park, past the statue of General Woolfe and the planetarium (being rebuilt).

Cutty Sark Figurehead Posted by Picasa

Blackheath has the atmosphere of a village whilst remaining firmly a Victorian railway suburb. The church is orientated the wrong way for afternoon photographs so I didn't take one.

St Margarets Church, Lee is between Blackheath and Lewisham and the patron is the Lord Chancellor although I suppose it will be the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs now. The church is a commissioners church of thw 1840s (and it really is that orange colour). The spire is rather fine, and there is a visitor's centre for the parish.
St Margaret's Church Lee Posted by Picasa

A short walk led me to Lewisham town centre and the bus home but not before looking at Tower House Lewisham (see other blog for that)

10 June, 2006

Erith and Dartford

Erith on the Thames is an anagram of total and utter toilet – well, if it isn’t it ought to be. The town centre is a series of buildings separated by roads. The library (closed between 1:00 and 2:00) and town hall are separated from the shopping alley by a road. The church is also separated from the shopping alley and the library by another road. Even KFC ™ and the Working Men’s Club are separated from the rest of Erith by a road. There is no feeling of a town centre here. As you can see from the picture even Erith’s heritage – the most important things to a town – is slightly off. The picture shows a half tiled wall with door and a fire assembly point notice. Amazingly this is part of Erith’s heritage. Other towns would have demolished it as an eyesore but Erith sticks a plaque on it and says it was a fire station! I’m glad to know it still has a role in fires even if only as an assembly point. I suppose Erithians can go there if ever there is a fire and watch the destruction. London has a number of memorials to people killed in the blitzkrieg which are buildings left unrepaired after damage but these are now being replaced with plaques and other forms of monument. If this is a memorial, Erith, replace it, it’s not nice.

Erith Heritage Posted by Picasa

Erith was a Royal Naval depot in past days and fitted out the Great Harry, one of Henry VIII warships and the biggest ship of its day. There is a long pier on the Thames and this is a pleasant promenade for erithians although the views are not spectacular. The Thames is wide here and the views good from the new Morrisons which is separated from the rest of the town by roads.

While I was there there was some bellringing on 6 bells from the 160 foot spire of Christ Church. This church is Victorian and if there is an ancient church in the town I did not see it. Arthur Mee says there is a St John’s. Archbishop Tait called Erith the ‘darkest spot in the diocese’ and I can see what he means. I recall a previous visit where I saw the Edward VII coronation window in Christ church. It is a pictorial representation of the King at his crowning, and the church is worth a visit.

My other picture shows the weathership on the library which tells us where the wind is blowing. The library has been modernised (it is the gift of Andrew Carnegie so cannot be closed otherwise the Carnegie Trust will demand its money back) but the motto “Labour overcomes all things” together with the Erith coat of arms is worked into a mosaic in the porch of the library. The library is a grand building (perhaps I should do another blog of library pictures – there’s a thought!) still serving the residents of Erith who can cross the roads.

Erith Library weathership Posted by Picasa


Kent Market town with Coöperative Department Store. Some pretty intense competition from the new retail developments just off centre though. There was jubilation in the streets as England had won their world cup match against Paraguay, although if England can’t win against Paraguay (pop 2 million = 3.3% of UK Population) it really is a poor lookout. Dartford has a chalk and flint chequered church and the little River Darent runs into the Thames here. Wat Tyler, leader of the peasant’s revolt had a cottage here in 1382, and coming to more modern times Mick Jagger went to school here. Tesco want to build a new store on the public gardens here.

08 June, 2006

Cruising down the river on a Tuesday Afternoon

A delightful working awayday on board the Eltham, a Thames pleasure craft. My division at work left Waterloo Pier at half past ten and had a divisional meeting to discuss some issues. We followed this by lunch between Rotherhithe and Greenwich then a glass of wine between Greenwich and Woolwich. We passed by the Thames Barrier and up as far as Barking. In the afternoon we had a quiz on the subjects of music and london. My team came a credible third!

The weather was beautiful and I spent a lot of time on the open deck of the boat. If only all working days could be like that!

The picture shows me on the sun deck and was taken by Janet.

04 June, 2006

Hall Place, Bexley

A visit on a beautiful day to Hall Place, which Arthur Mee said was at the end of a country lane, but that the motor age was encroaching. The motor age has now fully encroached with the A2 running alongside and the roar of traffic everywhere in the grounds. It is still slightly outside of Bexleyheath’s main shopping centre and can be approached through a park but the most common approach is by road. The house dates back to Tudor times and was the country retreat of a lord Mayor of London. It has romantic associations with the Black Prince who spent his honeymoon there. The picture clearly shows the two halves of the house. The tudor half in stone and the 17th century half in brick.

Hall Place, Bexley Posted by Picasa

Its current use is as a function suite for Bexley council where couples can celebrate marriages etc, a museum (in a small way) and a gallery for displaying works by artists. Most of the rooms, including those with very fine plaster ceilings are empty except for a few pictures. The Tudor house has two wings and a great hall, and the masonry of the walls is decorated in a chequered pattern. The newer part surrounds a courtyard. The house was owned (but not lived in) by Francis Dashwood of hellfire club (in)fame.

The glory of Hall Place is the formal and informal gardens with topiary work hedges (in need of trimming) and herb and sunken gardens. The River Cray runs through the grounds.

Bexley parks department also have their nurseries at Hall Place and they have model gardens of different sizes to assist the public with planning their own gardens. A welcome innovation.