diamond geezer

 Sunday, December 14, 2014

compass pointsCompass points
(an occasional feature where I visit London's geographical extremities)
NORTHWEST London - Drayton Ford Bridge, Springwell Lane, Mill End


London has no right to continue as far northwest as it does, no right at all... except Middlesex did, and so the deed is done. The former county's western boundary followed the River Colne, as does Greater London's today, all the way up from Heathrow to Rickmansworth. After ten miles of north/south the Colne valley bends off to the east, and it's at this point that the London border breaks away from the river to pass between Moor Park and Northwood. A snout of land sticks up in the intervening space, a mostly-unneccessary corner of Hillingdon where almost nobody lives and which might as well be in Hertfordshire. The fact it's still not gave me the excuse to visit.

I made my assault on the northwestmost point in London by walking up the Grand Union Canal. This intertwines with the River Colne for miles, the towpath an easy track to follow even at the height of midwinter. Heading north from Harefield, the Colne breaks away at a bridge by a sewage works with a particularly pungent aroma, creating an outer London island between the two waterways. Here you'll find the Springwell Reed Bed, the largest reedbed in the capital, where dry grasses rise above head height from squelchy water. There's no immediate access for those on foot, not until the canal reaches Springwell Lock and a path leads off, back round a hidden lake.



The lock is your typical Grand Union construction, with a low arched bridge to carry Springwell Lane across the water. London's Low Emission Zone starts here with a heavy climb Harefield-ward, or there's an access road to the left leading to the Springwell Chalk Pit, which Doctor Who's pretended is an alien planet on many an occasion. Two buildings that look like waterside warehouses are in fact recent blocks of flats, these where London's northwesternmost residents live, somehow further from Charing Cross than inhabitants of central Watford. And here too is the start of the Hillingdon Trail, a 20 mile ramble across the borough to Cranford, perhaps not best tackled in December.

Those in search of extremity must head northwest up Springwell Lane. That's past a yapping hellhound behind locked golden gates, and watching out for haulage company tipper trucks careering down the lane never expecting to meet anyone on foot. Concealed on the left is Springwell Lake, accessed via London's northwesternmost car park, a remote and uneven affair targeted at twitchers and wildlife lovers. Meanwhile across the hedge on the right is another large expanse of water, Inns Lake, the smallest of several hereabouts but still a massive 16 acres in size. A multitude of wintering birds hang out around here, so now's an ideal time to visit, and isn't that a heron standing motionless on the far bank? We'll come back this way, if that's OK.

It's not far along the country lane until London peters out. To one side of the road a screen of trees hides something drably levelled, then the big warehouse behind a security fence is Mill End Pumping Station, the capital's most northwesterly installation. And that's the boundary with Hertfordshire ahead, at Drayton Ford Bridge, a very short span carrying the lane over the River Colne. It's not much of a river here, more a tamed channel, but that was deemed good enough back in the day for the edge of Middlesex to be so aligned. Two objects confirm that we're in the right place, one a Welcome To Hillingdon sign on a pole, the other a white coal tax post tucked into the verge above the stream. There used to be a pair of these boundary markers here, but the other is the unlucky soul spirited away to the Guildhall Museum in London an an exemplar exhibit, but currently consigned to the stores.



A few steps further on are the western outskirts of Rickmansworth. Interestingly there's no sign to announce this, as if the county's trying to keep stumm, but I knew immediately because I recognised the design of Three Rivers' lampposts. A couple of cottagey houses kick swiftly in, then the Uxbridge Road, then the outlier estate of Mill End. Plenty of people live here, tucked higher above the flood plain, in Metroland avenues ideal for learner drivers. I passed my driving test barely a mile away, and failed it twice too, never realising that London was quite so close at hand.

Finally, let's retreat to the joys of Greater London's borderline waterworld. These lakes all used to be gravel pits, extracted between the wars, and gravel from here was used in the construction of the original Wembley Stadium. Now they're part of an extensive nature reserve, each with footpaths round the perimeter, and a splendid stomping ground if waterfowl are your thing. The largest is Stocker's Lake, from whose banks I spotted cormorants, moorhens, coots and a black swan, plus something unidentifiably chunky nesting in part-submerged woodland. The county boundary cuts straight across the lake, with the well-known Rickmansworth Aquadrome spread out on the eastern side. But why go there when you can revel in the capital's distant wetlands, beyond the canal, for a birdwatching bonanza?



See also
NORTH London: On the clockwise hard shoulder of the M25 between junctions 24 and 25, just north of Crews Hill station [map] (I visited in 2004)
EAST London: Just off Fen Lane between North Ockendon and Bulphan, east of Mar Dyke but west of the Dunnings Lane crossroads [map] (I visited in 2011)
SOUTH London: On a bend in Ditches Lane, just north of St Peter and St Paul Church in the village of Chaldon [map] (I visited in 2007)
WEST London: At the exit for Poyle on the roundabout above junction 14 of the M25, close to Heathrow Terminal 5 [map] (I visited in 2009)
» see all four geographical extremities on a Google map


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Saturday 10 December (1-3pm)
Bow Church Christmas Fair
Festive fair with mulled wine & music at St Mary's in Bow.

twenty blogs
853
arseblog
ian visits
londonist
scaryduck
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
onionbagblog
edith's streets
spitalfields life
linkmachinego
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2015 index
diamond geezer 2014 index
diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
penelope
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
itv