24 May, 2007

On the new River Path from Broxbourne to Enfield

AMWELL, perpetual be thy stream
Nor e’er thy spring be less,
Where thousands drink who never dream
Whence flows the boon they bless.

Too often this ungrateful man
Blind and unconscious lives;
Enjoys kind Heaven’s indulgent plan
Nor thinks of Him that gives.

So says the quaker poet, and good quality water is certainly a boon but this path isn't. It's dull, dull, dull, although there were a few good photo ops.

The photos show (a) the first glimpse of Canary Wharf (the building with the pointy roof shown in the blue circle in the smaller photo.

This next photo shows the M25 London Orbital motorway which the New River crosses the motorway by way of an aquaduct in two concrete channels.
The final picture shows the Docwra Aqueduct which doesn't really do anything as the New River is actually diverted to Walthamstow reservoirs.
Really this walk went past some very dull areas, and even Theobald's Park, that royal spot, didn't add anything to the thrills. I think I'll breathe a sigh of relief when it's over.

On the way back, via Great Cambridge Road I saw a conservation area on a council estate and a great big church of the 1920s. I think this will provide much better fodder.

20 May, 2007

Salford (and Manchester)

When I visit Manchester I usually stay in Salford, so I thought I'd have a look around Salford for a change. Salford is little brother to Manchester and appears in the bit I visited to be much more run down. It is the place where Coronation Street (tm) is based. There is the eighteenth century church of the Sacred Trinity, which has a goth night on one of the fridays in the month. It is also cris-crossed with railway lines.

18 May, 2007


A visit to Portsmouth for the Benenden Society Conference. The conference was held in the Portsmouth Guildhall, a Victorian structure that appeared to have been rebuilt in the 1950s possibly after bombing. The hall was quite opulent with tapestry hangings at high level.
Portsmouth and Queen Mary share a motto - Heaven's light our guide - which in Portsmouth's case I assume relates to Navigation. I don't know why Queen Mary (nee Mary of Teck) had it or who had it first.
Portsmouth is always quite an exciting city guided by heavenly light or not. It has a large naval population and a large student population too. The pubs are certainly lively, and the swearing from the Navy girlfriends and wives is quite surprising to hear in the pubs and clubs. There are lots of coöp stores in the town but you'll have to see the other blog for those.

The conference dinner was held in the shadow of the fairly new Spinnaker tower

in one of the boathouses in the historic naval dockyard. We had a very good (cold) dinner and entertainment by a local band. The DEFRA delegation strolled back to the hotel around midnight.
Portsmouth is worth going back to.

07 May, 2007


A May Day visit to Brighton to go to a party at Mike and Ken’s. A most enjoyable party but the weather was unkind and very gloomy. The seas were rough too so here’s a historic picture of rough seas at Brighton.
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04 May, 2007

Hertford to Broxbourne on the new river path

"He maketh the wilderness a standing water
And water springs of a dry ground
And there He setteth the hungry
That they may build them a city to dwell in"

"He opened the rock, and the waters gushed out;
They ran in the dry places like a river."

Thus says the psalmist and this was Hugh Myddleton's vision. London was thirsty and Hertfordshire was wet (it still is). A new river was needed to quench the thirst of the capital and bring water to London. Royal Jeweller to King James I and VI Myddleton was main promoter of the new river.

It wasn't too easy to find New Gauge, the official start of the New River and the New River Path from Hertford East Station, but I made it eventually. The gauge measures the amount of water Thames Water takes from the River Lea to supply North London with its drinking water. It is many millions of litres a day. The New River is then fed by an enormous spring, forming a small lake at Chadwell with an old gauge building, more of a shed really. The New River still provides around 8% of London's drinking water and the route passes Amwell where there are stone monuments to Hugh Myddleton. These are inscribed with poems which has inspired me to begin each section of this walk with a poem. After Great Amwell the path passed by the Great Amwell War memorial and passes Stanstead St Margarets. At Stanstead St Margarets there is a very large ecclesiastical looking building which I believe is a school. It is also the home to SM Coaches, which always amuses me when I go to Harlow.

I had to deviate from the path at this point, walking past a school at chucking out time - a most unpleasant experience. I got back on to the New River and came to Rye House. By this time I was in need of refreshment so I called in at the pub for a refreshing lime and soda. Rye house is now an RSPB Bird sanctuary but it was at the centre of a (possibly manufactured) plot to assasinate Charles II and his son James who had converted to Roman Catholicism and prevent a return to the throne of a Roman Catholic. The plan was to ambush Charles and James as they came back from the races at Newmarket, a regular haunt of the 'merry monarch'. Unfortunately there was a fire in Newmarket and the races were cancelled and thus the King his son went home early. All that remains of Rye House is as shown in the photo. The New River has a gentle slope of about 1:100 which means it is very level. The next point of interest was Ware as in the great bed of Ware, now in the V&A Museum. The Great bed is around 11 feet square and was made as a tourist attraction. It can sleep five or six people, which must have been very warm. "'ere: stop poking me!"
Ware is a pleasant town for a stop to eat lunch and visit. It has a lot of buildings that would be black and white if the plaster was removed, although black and white buildings were traditionally covered with plaster giving the origin of the name 'Pargeter'.
I didn't see much in Ware but was soon back on the New River. Passing some pumping stations and the backs of houses and crossing busy roads was not ideal but functional. The river runs on an embankment which is most peculiar. I decided to stop at Broxbourne, where there is a bus service to Harlow, and where I also once saw three young men use the river as a urinal after a drunken night out (on their part, not mine).

03 May, 2007

Southend and Rochford

A visit to Southend. Southend is an Essex seaside resort with the usual facilities, including the longest pier in Britain. The pier is so long there is a railway on it to take visitors to the end. I didn't go on the pier but I walked along the front, although it is a River Thames estuary front rather than a sea front. On the front there was a party of girls from a girls school who asked me if I could answer some questions. I was desparate for the loo at the time so I couldn't oblige.

However I did speculate on the nature of the questions: Are you in Southend for business or pleasure?
For pleasure.
Are you having any?
I don't think I should answer that one.

I wasn't having any pleasure at the time. Westcliff on Sea was a higher class part of Essex with the Southend Art Gallery (closed for lunch).


In Rochford there are many old houses including Lord Riches almshouses built for poor folk in Shakespeare’s time. Rochford hall was where Anne Boleyn was born, but that house has been demolished and the present house, once a refuge for displaced puritan ministers is now a clubhouse for golfers. Penelope Devereaux was loved by Philip Sydney, one of the cavalier poets but she married Robert Rich who followed the puritan way of life. Rochford old church owes its grandeur to the hall and its tower is a fine example of early Tudor brickwork.

02 May, 2007

The interesting places on the way to Brighton?

A purposeful visit to the small towns glimpsed from the window of the train on the way to Brighton.

Haywards Heath is a little town that isn't near the railway, so it meant a decent walk up to the high street and St Wilfred's Church. Actually the double octagon Library also looked rather like a 1960s church, complete with two very short spires over two cone shaped copper domes. I didn't take a picture but there are pictures on the web.

The next point of interest was the muster green with flowers. The High Street begins with St Wilfreds church and the heath and has the usual array of small town shops.

Horley is in the Mole Valley in Surrey and here the town is built near the railway although the old church was too far away to walk. It's a bustling town with a Waitrose superstore.

The picture shows St Wilfred's Haywards Heath

These places are not quite as interesting as you think.

01 May, 2007

A visit to York

York is an ancient cathedral city and the County town of Yorkshire. Founded by the Romans, it was largely redeveloped in medieaval times, to leave the street pattern existing today.

I visited York to attend a meeting, and stayed on after it was over to do some sightseeing. And what sights! York is a medieval city with many ancient but reformed churches and the glorious minster, seat of the Archbishop of York, Primate of England, although nobody calls John Smetanu a primate. Well, not to his face. The Primate of England has responsibility for the bits that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of All England does not cover.

The Committee Meeting was held in a very atmospheric room in the Black Swan, an old manor house where General Wolfe’s mother had lived, now a public house. You don’t want to see my colleagues so there isn’t a picture of the room, although someone said satanic rituals took place in the room where we were meeting. I think that might just be the bands the pub hires.

I visited some of York’s old churches including St Helen’s Stonegate, which is the church of the York glass painters’ guild, and there is plenty of glass in it. Some members of the guild are buried here.

St Martin Le Grand is a church that was partially destroyed by enemy action in the second world war in a Baedeker raid, designed to sap civilian morale by bombing important historic buildings. The meadieval builders knew their stuff though and much of the church is still standing. The church has a beautiful ceiling with painted bosses, a spectacular font cover and a wonderful east window showing St Martin. Of its modern adornments is a very curious organ, extremely small and all in clear Perspex so the workings can be seen. There is a large clock on the outside wall.

Holy Trinity Goodramgate is a redundant church cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust. The church has 17th century box pews which Arthur Mee doesn’t like as he calls them crazy. There is an old three decker pulpit and a piscine, as well as two old stone coffins.

I got a nice warm welcome at St Michael le belfry. One of the church sitters said I looked like a tourist, I have been called worse! I was only half a tourist that day. St Michael’s is in the shadow of the Minster and was where Guy Fawkes was baptised in 1570. One of the plotters to restore the Roman Catholic church to Britain he was discovered in time to prevent this disaster. England commemorates its deliverance on 5th November every year. The church was rebuilt in the time of Henry VIII. The church is well worth a visit.

A kind lady let me into St Mary’s Bishophill for a brief walk round although the church wasn’t open. The church is one of the few anglo catholic churches in York with a beautiful reredos of Victorian times.

I also saw Clifford’s tower, (see picture left) the Norman castle on a motte. Alas, in the 12th Century the York Jews, who had sought sanctuary in the tower were either massacred or committed mass suicide.

I didn’t neglect the street of butchers – or Shambles – with its overhanging houses to keep the sun off the meat. You could shake hands with your neighbour through the top storey windows. The Shambles is mentioned in the doomsday book and is now full of chocolatiers, souvenir shops and the shrine of Margaret Clitherow of York who was pressed to death for refusing to plead in court when accused of being a Roman Catholic. The shrine is maintained by the Roman Catholic church.

The City Walls sparkled in the sunshine as the stone dissolves in the rain to keep them clean. I walked along them for a few stages, but they were not particularly thrilling where I walked. From some parts I could see Terry’s sweet factory. Terry’s peppermint creams were always a treat.

York has few modern buildings as the conservation lobby has become stronger since the 1970s. Modern buildings can be as good as anything our forbears put up provided they are not stinted. In York I come to the Theatre Royal. This has a new(ish) café bar area with octagonal columns enclosed in glass. It’s definitely worth a look, but would not be allowed in York today. Good modern architecture, which this is, is not well appreciated.

People who believe in Karma will be disappointed in this one. I was in the Museum Gardens where there was a young man smoking dope on the grass down a bank from where I was walking. As he got up to go, he lost his phone from his pocket. I shouted after him but he didn’t hear, so

I went to get the phone to chase after him, or hand it in to the police, but slipped and fell. I wasn’t hurt apart from the pain of hitting the ground but so much for trying to help people.

York’s a lovely city and well worth a visit.