diamond geezer

 Monday, April 13, 2015

THE UNLOST RIVERS OF LONDON
River Pinn
Harrow Weald → Cowley (12 miles)
[Pinn → Colne → Thames]


For most of its length the River Pinn is shadowed by a waymarked trail - the Celandine Route. I like it when this happens because I don't have to faff around with maps wondering which backstreets to divert down next, somebody's already done that for me. Indeed for most of the route there are signs or markers to follow, but not all, and you will get lost if you attempt the route without pre-downloaded material. You'll also not see a great deal lot of the river. The path is often separated from the water by a strip of vegetation, or by streets or gardens, or in one case by a former RAF base. But it is a pleasant walk through London's northwestern suburbs, and at this time of year there are indeed celandines aplenty along the way. [14 photos]



The Pinn departs Pinner town centre to the south, but the Celandine Route heads west. It has its reasons - there's barely anything to see down Marsh Lane, plus the river has to rebound before it bumps into its neighbour, the Yeading Brook. Instead the trail tracks through Pinner Memorial Park to West End Lane, the heart of a pre-Metro-land hamlet, before rejoining the Pinn by some allotments. You can take the council-approved route along a newly-made-up track, but it's much more fun to veer off into the woods (just past the dangling blue rope) to follow a teetering riverbank path. Please don't sue me if the edge crumbles and you fall in, and don't bother clambering over the fallen tree because the path ends shortly afterwards, but there is something 'proper' about taking the brinkmanship route.

At the start of the next clearing the Pinn enters the borough of Hillingdon, where it'll remain for the rest of its course. The council have put up a very strange notice ahead, advising residents that the scattering of human ashes is not permitted because the minerals therein affect wildlife. Perhaps they've been stirred to action by the impromptu shrine to an E-taking schoolboy pinned to a tree ahead, or perhaps they're just a bunch of miserable jobsworths. Long Meadow is a relic from the hayfields that preceded residential development hereabouts, and there's another pub called The Case Is Altered through the trees. More significantly the grounds of former Eastcote House are accessible across the boardwalk, or would be if only they weren't fenced off for major renovation works at present. My visit to the dovecote and walled garden will have to wait for another day.



The riverbank leads eventually to Eastcote High Road, its shopping parade the last opportunity to stock up on provisions for half a dozen miles, before skipping off back between the houses. Large gabled semis make way for one of the largest green expanses along the walk, Kings College Playing Fields, with physical exertion opportunities ranging from badminton to skateboarding (or sitting around and smoking weed, if Saturday's teenagers are anything to go by). The area is overseen by the Friends of Pinn Meadows, an extremely keen local action group, whose conservation day with the Mayor of Hillingdon is commemorated in a newspaper front page pinned to a gate. A muddier stretch leads to a proper meadow, gloriously verdant in high summer, currently fresh-mown and heron-friendly.

By now the walk's reached Ruislip, with historic Manor Farm House a short distance to the south and the Lido half a mile to the north. A thread of watery green passes between rows of back gardens, before the trail makes a rare visit to a residential street. Return requires ducking beneath a vehicle gate, confirming that the Celandine Route isn't pushchair friendly (and is positively wheelchair-unfriendly in places). The Pinn at this point marks the inner edge of the Green Belt - there are no suburbs further out, other than those planned and snuffed out in the 1930s. Through the trees is West Ruislip Golf Course, which leads round to the viaduct over which Chiltern Trains occasionally thunder (and through which HS2 would plough as it exited the capital). For now, most of the time, all is very quiet.

Bending back south into civilisation, the meandering Pinn holds a secret. Pynchester Moat is a defensive Tudor structure located in a bend on the river, square in shape, now little more than a low earthwork overtaken by trees (and an explanatory display board). Ahead lies Swakeleys Park, a Green Flag recreational space, with the Pinn at its heart. The park was carved out of the estate of Swakeleys House, a grand Jacobean mansion built in 1623 for a former Lord Mayor of London. The multi-chimneyed house still stands behind a screening hedge, but requires major renovation, making it an ideal purchase for the overseas billionaire in need of a 23-bedroom London bolthole. Elsewhere in the park I spotted my first bluebells of the year, as well as a small weir over which the river tumbles - which I recorded. If you'd like to hear the Pinn drop, listen here.



Now up to five metres wide, the Pinn disappears into thick woodland before dipping beneath the A40 Western Avenue. Following on foot requires a lengthy detour over a horseshoe footbridge, and then a descent of Uxbridge Common. This would be a lovely open space were it not for the traffic rushing by, although the Pinn attempts to add a dash of beauty, aided at present by a flourish of marsh marigolds on the first bend. Make the most of it too, because if you're following the official trail, this is the last you'll see of the Pinn for over an hour. From this point onwards the floodplain is generally inaccessible, or at least devoid of housing for fear of inundation.

A hike across the common leads to a footbridge over the Metropolitan railway leads to an avenue of bungalows. What I'd recommend doing is venturing into the meadow behind Sweetcroft Lane for a secluded glimpse of the river, but the Celandine Route sticks to the road and invites you to turn off before you reach the bridge at the foot of the hill. The next half mile diversion is thanks to RAF Uxbridge, through whose grounds the Pinn ran before the base was decommissioned, its future now as landscaping for 1340 houses and community facilities. The subsequent half mile has been captured by Hillingdon Golf Club, a miserable bunch whose every gate and boundary fence warns of prosecution should you attempt to enter. Instead you'll be following Vine Lane, a narrow winding street that's one of Hillingdon's more aspirational addresses, to the heart of the medieval village, now unceremoniously dual-carriagewayed.

The trail ignores the Pinn's progress beneath Stratford Bridge at the foot of Hillingdon Hill (no great loss), instead taking a shortcut down the edge of a cemetery. Ahead is the campus of Brunel University, a very shiny thing, and the third organisation hereabouts to capture the Pinn as its own. Shunned, the Celandine Route follows an arrow-straight lane along the southern perimeter, an unmetalled track providing access to the local allotments. At last the river reappears, emerging from between Brutalist towers, and promptly disappearing again into a barred meadow labelled "No Unauthorised Entry". What hazards Brunel students might have created in there I don't know, but by this point you'll likely be wishing you'd abandoned the walk two paragraphs ago.



It's a relief to reach St Laurence's Church, Cowley's 12th century place of worship, and then Robbie Bell Bridge where the Pinn finally escapes captivity. This is Pield Heath, where a broad stream runs between some of the university's sports pitches, with one last dangling blue rope above the ripples for teenage summer entertainment. On my visit bees and butterflies added to the woodland pre-summer vibe, while a discarded trolley subtracted in equal measure. Only infrequently does the path across the common actually border the Pinn, so make the most, because there's no reason to get your camera out after this.

Ahead is the suburb of Yiewsley, where this river terminates, annoyingly unseen. A wall of out-of-town stores almost completely blocks access to the Colne Valley, the trick being to duck through Tesco's backlot and find the towpath exit beneath the multi-storey car park. Meanwhile the Pinn arrives via the back of Currys/Argos, down a miserable concrete channel to a stagnant double pool. Georgian engineering carries the river underneath the Grand Union Canal - if you look across to the other bank you can see it emerge at a lower level. But its final metres play out on private land, behind a major modern canalside housing development, before merging with a thread of the River Colne. Pinn down.


<< 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?
Sun 4 December (8am-10pm)
Tower Bridge fully closed
For one day only, cross the river by free passenger ferry!

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