19 August, 2006

London Loop Walks 10 and 11 (part) Hatton Cross to Yiewsley by hidden pathways.

I think I’ve now decided that I’ll do the Loop in the stages I think I can, not the ones that the organisers have done for me. Today’s walk 10 was far too short to justify the tube fare but 10 and 11 together were too long for a day’s walk, especially after night clubbing the night before (and the possibility of night clubbing the night after too!). Hence the truncated version ending at Yiewsley.

Hatton Cross is the station for Heathrow Terminal 4 and is big on 1960s design. I saw a lot of aircraft from here going into Heathrow although I soon turned off the Great South West Road by a little hidden path following the River Crane into Cranebank Water Meadows. These did not look particularly watery but there was an abundance of blackberries, although these were not as nice as last weeks, and many teasels. There were also large dragonflies around, so close to suburbia. The Crane apparently has oxbow lakes (I am revising primary school geography!) which are caused when a river meander silts up leaving the lake behind as a body of water. I think I saw one but could not be sure.

The Middlesex County Council rebuilt the 18th Century Bridge in 1915 so I crossed the crane into a different parish, as marked on the bridge, and into the borough of Hillingdon. The Berkely Meadows were totally empty of people, even the children’s playground had no children playing. There was a fox running around, and – joy of joys – waymarkers for the loop which Hounslow seemed to have forgotten about last walk.
There was also this sign prohibiting horse riding, erected by a town clerk who forgot that trees grew. Looks like his sign has grown into the tree, proving that man proposes but ultimately G*d disposes. Leaving the pleasant meadows behind into a hazardous lane with speeding traffic I came upon another hidden pathway behind a traffic barrier. I was all excited about venturing into the unknown as this path had a distinctly ‘trespass’ feel about it. I crossed a little plank bridge over a stream and came out into Cranford Park. Cranford lost most of its village in the extension of Heston Airport which we now know as Heathrow. The mansion in Cranford Park was demolished in the 1940s as uninhabitable but the little church of St Dunstan remains. As usual, locked when I called. I didn’t see the church of the Holy Angels but would like to if it still exists. Arthur Mee calls it very modern with a hooter instead of bells! St Dunstans had a family coat of arms for the Berkeleys (who owned the estate) on the East wall and a gravestone with a crude skull and cross bones carved on it.
Cranford Park also had this unusual maze cut into the grass. By no means a traditional turf maze it was fun to follow it round. There were one or two more people in this park but I still had the impression it was Friday and everybody was at work. No doubt my boss will tell me if I didn’t go in.
All that is left of the mansion is the stable block, with a clock reputed to have come from Hampton Court (and it was working when I called) and an unusual arrangement of seats set in a hedged enclosure. The stables were closed but are in historic order with many original fittings remaining. Leaving the park by St Dunstan’s Subway which was built to allow parishioners to get to church after the M4 was built, I came into Dog Kennel Covert, a little patch of woodland, which must have been where the mansion’s dogs were kept in olden times. The next point of interest was the Grand Union Canal, where I was greeted by the disgusting smell of coffee coming from the Nescafe factory, on the other bank of the canal. The picture shows the sign giving the distance to Paddington Birmingham and Brentford. Most peculiarly, the canal had water lilies growing in it. I was amazed that they could survive.

Still recalling primary school geography lessons, I had to write a story imagining I was a child on a canal boat on the Grand Union Canal, and how I would do my lessons. The British Waterways boatmen did indeed live with their families on the boats. With the boats gone, a whole waterborne way of life has disappeared. Are they sorry? I don’t know.

I followed the canal to Hayes which is where HMV had their factory in the early 20th Century making 78s and the gramaphones to play them. Arthur Mee says that it is here that melody is made permanent and enduring. Hayes has a pretty library from the early part of the 20th Century but the town itself is not really inspiring. I did not see the old church but there is a 19th century Church (St Anselm) and the large RC church bears the design hallmarks of the 1960s.

Leaving Hayes behind on the Grand Union Canal I came to Stockley Park, with its high tech offices set amongst water features and greenery. The Golf course belongs to Hillingdon Council and the loop passes through Stockley Country Park. Unfortunately this is where it rained and I nearly got soaked but the sun was warm and I dried out. The suspension bridge from one part of the park to the other has this rather curious A shaped pylon.
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After a quick look at the view and getting a bit lost in spite of the waymarkers I was soon back on the Grand Union Canal, with relics of old industry on the opposite banks and fishers on the towpath. Coming to Yiewsley I decided I’d walked far enough today (7.3 miles) so got a bus to Uxbridge and a Metropolitan and Jubilee line train home.

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