diamond geezer

 Friday, October 07, 2016

WALK LONDON
The London Loop
[section 8]
Ewell to Kingston (7 miles)


For my penultimate Loop stroll I'm crossing from Surrey into southwest London, and staring at an awful lot of river. Section 8 follows the Hogsmill almost all the way, breaking off only when circumstances and sewage works intrude. I've also blogged most of it previously, back when I was random boroughing, so I apologise if any of it sounds familiar. At least there was half an hour in the middle I hadn't walked before. [map] [6 photos]

Ewell is Epsom's smaller twin, located not on the Downs but at the head of the Hogsmill. The Loop kicks off at the town's most iconic structure, the saucer-like Bourne Hall, squatting at the top of the lawn above the pond like a library from space. Do pop inside and up to the flight deck to check out the museum before you depart. The Loop sets off from an information board by the waterside, then exits the park to follow a chain of woodland north. The path weaves over and between a succession of threaded streamlets, before they eventually get their act together and combine into a single channel. This occurs just in time for the river to duck beneath the railway embankment through a narrow tunnel, with the footpath cunningly following on wooden stilts. This makes for an especially low headroom - a mere five foot four at the far end - so I was particularly surprised when a cyclist came whizzing out of the darkness as I emerged.

Brambly meanders lie ahead, opening out occasionally into meadow spaces allowing canine visitors greater room to roam. The path currently exhibits the first flushes of autumn mud, a few patches of solid surface turning liquid until summer returns again, and the remainder due to follow. At Chamber Mead a tributary of approximately equal dimensions flows in from a nearby estate, crossed shortly afterwards by a dip of stepping stones. Here William Holman Hunt painted his Hireling Shepherd over a three month period in 1851, and had a miserable time of it, oppressed by large flies, the local magistrate and two swans who insisted on nibbling the scenery. Meanwhile his colleague John Everett Millais was busy upriver painting Shakespearean heroine Ophelia floating serenely in the water, at a point we'll be passing in a few minutes or maybe an hour, nobody's quite certain where.



Millais' easel was definitely set up beyond the tiny Packhorse bridge, and the site of the largest gunpowder mill erected in these parts. It was also past the delightfully named Ruxley Splash, formerly a ford, now a considerably more contemporary highway intrusion. It might have been by the footbridge near Riverview School, although the great painting would have been considerably more full of nettles had this been the case. My hopes of taking a photo were thwarted by two modern Ophelias standing on the bridge with their small children, shrieking delightedly as they dropped stones and twigs into the water below. The river remains narrow and shallow at this point, drifting beneath willows and speckled with yellow leaves heading downstream. And this paragraph is all I have to show for the half hour I hadn't walked before - pleasant enough but nothing to write home about.

For the next three quarters of a mile the Hogsmill marks the boundary between Surrey and London. For those on foot the switch happens at Tolworth Court Bridge, once minor, now a roaring dual carriageway. Technically the path continues across the road, but the Loop diverts via the safest sets of traffic lights necessitating a circuitous route that almost lost me along the way. As the river widens so the path alongside it narrows, far less suitable for anything on wheels, nudged up against the rear fence of the Surbiton Speedway. William Holman Hunt's more famous painting 'The Light of the World' may have been painted along this stretch, his Christ-like figure standing in the door of a derelict gunpowder mill and knocking. A scattering of pink 'orchids' enlivens the banks, except this is actually Himalayan balsam, an invasive weed I'll be seeing considerably more of later.

At a small bridge by the Toby Carvery I pause and look over the rail. For a moment nothing happens, then a blue-green flash appears and skims off across the water beneath the trees. All too briefly it's joined by a second, before both disappear over a rooty stump and are hidden from view. It can't be a coincidence that the only other kingfisher I've seen in my life was also on the Hogsmill river, within a mile of this pair, if you ever fancy your ornithological chances. And then the Loop goes wrong. According to TfL's instructions track I can "carry on along the river as it curves to the left passing several sports grounds", and I think that's the way I walked when I was here in 2010. But that route is inexpertly boarded up, and thereby inaccessible, so I'm forced to take TfL's "alternative route" which proves a lengthy diversion.



There is a lane parallel to the river but it's pavementless, and a rat-run, so the alternative involves the avenues of Cuddington. It's an awkward jolt, despite the attractiveness of the houses, and not especially recommended. Try not to miss the turn off down what looks like a cul-de-sac - I did, and ended up half a mile later in Worcester Park. Instead head for the alleyway that leads you back into London, past St John the Baptist, Old Malden, and (eventually) back down to the river. This is another contender for "Ophelia woz ere", specifically Six Acre Meadow on the western bank, annoyingly a few hundred yards back along the unvisited section. I'm not quite sure what's going on here, and why the official documentation is so vague, but it'd be good to see the end of this bifurcation.

The Hogsmill Open Space bestrides the river, covering the zone where house-building has been deemed unwise. The Loop isn't comprehensively signed, but always taking the path closest to the river works a treat, as you'd expect. This is a broadly verdant stretch along a mile of meadow, although plagued in far too many places by Himalayan balsam which appears to have edged out several native species. The Chessington rail bridge isn't too intrusive, but the A3 Kingston bypass is another matter, forcing a subway hike (and offering a rare newsagent opportunity). The Hogsmill is broader now, signalling greater importance as a drainage mechanism, but still with charm... assuming you're not tired of riverside walking by now. But at Berrylands we must say goodbye, and soon you'll be wishing the river was back again.

A parade of shops tumbles down from the local pub, many units now offering hair and beauty treatments or acting as cheap office space. Lower Marsh Lane begins beneath Berrylands station, whose wooden platforms haven't been replaced since the Thirties and still look like a temporary stopgap. The cycleway passes between sludge beds and a sewage works, - the main reason we can't get anywhere near the river, and adding a element of whiff which may make walkers hurry. It's not the nicest setting for Surbiton Cemetery, which is up next, nor for the sellers of granite and marble who congregate nearby. What's odd is how this lane switches from industrially bleak at one end to comfortingly residential at the other, emerging eventually into the outskirts of Kingston. There's rather more busyness as we nudge back towards the river, and across it, and edge back again.



Swan Walk has a community garden to one side and an art gallery at the end, the Stanley Picker at Middle Mill, part of Kingston University London. This sits on a small island in the stream, around which students can be seen milling, and wandering around with folders, and sipping campus coffees, and tapping on screens that might or not be to do with study. The path continues tight up against the playground of a primary school, one of half a dozen educational establishments located hereabouts, then manoeuvres round to a weir by Watersplash Close. Whilst it's nice to see the river flowing freely in this urban setting, tracking it has become a somewhat bitty experience, hurled out onto one last busy main road near Surrey County Hall.

The final few hundred metres are thankfully worth the wait, slipping alongside a tamed channel as the river passes a bevy of administrative buildings - the Kingston Guildhall complex. The most interesting feature, indeed a nationally historic one, is the Coronation Stone. Seven Saxon kings are believed to have been crowned at, on or near this sarsen, including Ethelred the Unready, although it wasn't mounted on a monumental plinth at the time. Alongside is the Clattern Bridge, one of the oldest road bridges still in daily use by vehicles, though the 12th century structure has been topped and strengthened somewhat since. Take the narrow staircase down to reach Charter Quay, a much more modern development of boutiques and pizzerias on the banks of the Thames, potentially softened by the presence of swans and herons. Kingston Bridge is only a couple of bars ahead, and the south London Loop is complete.

» London Loop section 8: official webpage; map and directions
» Who else has walked it? Tetramesh, Des, Stephen, Andrew, Mark, Oatsy, Richard, Maureen, Tim
» See also sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24


<< 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