diamond geezer

 Sunday, December 16, 2012

The London Loop
[section 12]
Uxbridge to Harefield (5 miles)

The Colne Valley forms a natural barrier along the western edge of London. The river and the Grand Union canal thread along the border, with a necklace of lakes (formerly gravel pits) to either side. Section 12 is almost exclusively a waterside stroll, no doubt green and pleasant in the summer, but a little bleaker midwinter.

Uxbridge was in Christmas mode. A fir tree in the High Street, Santa selling helium balloons outside the shopping mall, the Salvation Army band playing The First Nowell. I don't think I've ever been somewhere where the people walk quite so slowly, so it's no hardship to escape down the hill to the canal. This quarter of Uxbridge resembles Slough, and not in a good way, apart from a couple of characterful pubs dotted in amongst the lowrise offices.

The Loop proper begins at the Swan and Bottle, as does the Colne Valley Trail which follows the canal all the way to Rickmansworth. A short distance ahead is the first of four locks, Uxbridge Lock, this one double width and being put to good use by two narrowboats as I passed [photo]. The flats on the western bank are a recent erection on the site of a large flour mill. This was originally owned by William King, who named the building Kingsmill, and yes, that's precisely where the loaf-of-bread brand name originated.

Visit an urban canal in December and the banks are often lined with overwintering narrowboats. There are plenty along this stretch, a short bike ride from the shops, with the towpath littered with chopped branches and the occasional axe. While one boat owner crawled inside his floating woodshed, his dog trooped out onto the path and engaged me in a stand-off. I thought I was going to have to abandon my walk there and then, but the hound eventually lost interest and slunk back aboard the boat allowing me to (deep breath) slip past.

The viaduct ahead carries the A40, just before it becomes the M40, across the Colne Valley. And then we're out into proper open countryside, mostly flat and marshy. This is Buckinghamshire, just, then a few hundred yards ahead it's London again, only marginally.

Just before Denham Lock, a footbridge zigzags left off across the river. Take it. OK, it's a diversion, but within half a mile it leads to the Colne Valley Park Visitor Centre, and that's rather lovely. A timber pavilion round the back of a golf course, it's open every day of the year (even Christmas) for the purveyance of information and comestibles. Hot drinks cost barely a quid, served by a cheery volunteer, and there's a particularly good selection of local leaflets and publications too. I guess the place is kept open by the number of dogwalkers round here, the only convenient access being by car, but also worth a break if you're ever here on foot. [photo]

With a descent of eleven feet, Denham Lock is the deepest on the entire Grand Union Canal [photo]. It needs to be deep because the Frays River passes almost directly underneath, such are the convolutions of natural and manmade waterways hereabouts. At sunnier times the grass behind the lockkeeper's cottage is opened as Fran's Tea Garden, but that's more an undercover offering at this time of year, and there was no sign of any business on my passing.

The next footbridge is steep, both up and down, leading across to the first of a sequence of very large lakes. This is Denham Quarry, an area of former gravel pits, now an overwintering hotspot for grebes, shovelers and tufted ducks. The Loop continues along a potholed track between canal and lake, with the occasional angler in a landrover sploshing his way to and fro. Elsewhere they lurk by the waterside in bivouacs, maggots wriggling, awaiting a freshwater bite.

The next viaduct carries the Chiltern railway line, which is Victorian brick and therefore acceptable, but a future adjacent development doesn't have the local community onside. HS2 escapes the capital precisely here, its viaduct on a longer diagonal trajectory across the middle of a lake. A spur line to Heathrow might also branch off here, the majority in tunnel, but a gaping scar left where it buries underground.

For the first time on this walk the Loop deviates from the water's edge, but only because a marina's in the way. Again it's full of narrowboats going nowhere, a few with steaming chimneys, the majority empty. A brief patch of woodland leads to South Harefield, one of London's least well-known settlements, although all you'll see is a commercial estate, a hump bridge and a pub - the appropriately named Horse and Barge.

And then something very peculiar - at least on my visit - an entire mile of canal towpath without a human in sight. Admittedly it was the hour before dusk, but there wasn't a narrowboat, nor a jogger, nor even another walker heading in the opposite direction. Hemmed in between dark trees and a massive lake, I also had to negotiate a particularly muddy stretch of footpath for much of the way. I'm not selling this well, I know, but it's probably glorious along here from spring onwards. [photo]

Black Jack's Lock saw the return of civilisation, and a former watermill that's now a particularly out-of-the-way bed and breakfast [photo]. One particular moored narrowboat displayed a sign reading "For Ducks Sake Slow Down", which might have been a message to waterborne traffic, or might have been for the benefit of waterfowl using the canal as a runway.

It was raining steadily as I reached Coppermill Bridge, now fractionally into Hertfordshire, and the end of this section of the Loop. A welcoming light, and the hearty smell of pie, came from the Coy Carp pub, but I wasn't hanging around. I set off up the hill to Harefield to catch the bus, turning back (with mild awe) to see the darkening Colne Valley spread out before me. I hadn't realised quite how deep and green it was while walking it. Hopefully section 13, when I eventually return, will make that a lot clearer.

» London Loop section 12: official map and directions; map
» Who else has walked it? Stephen, Oatsy, Tim, Londonist, Mark, Paul, Paul, Tetramesh, Richard
» See also section 3, section 4, section 5, section 9, section 15, section 17, section 20, section 23, section 24

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan24  Feb24  Mar24  Apr24
Jan23  Feb23  Mar23  Apr23  May23  Jun23  Jul23  Aug23  Sep23  Oct23  Nov23  Dec23
Jan22  Feb22  Mar22  Apr22  May22  Jun22  Jul22  Aug22  Sep22  Oct22  Nov22  Dec22
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21  Oct21  Nov21  Dec21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
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 

jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
our bow
ian visits
broken tv
blue witch
on london
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
the greenwich wire
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
round the rails we go
london reconnections
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
20 years of blog series
The DG Tour of Britain
London's most...

read the archive
Apr24  Mar24  Feb24  Jan24
Dec23  Nov23  Oct23  Sep23
Aug23  Jul23  Jun23  May23
Apr23  Mar23  Feb23  Jan23
Dec22  Nov22  Oct22  Sep22
Aug22  Jul22  Jun22  May22
Apr22  Mar22  Feb22  Jan22
Dec21  Nov21  Oct21  Sep21
Aug21  Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
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

the diamond geezer index
2023 2022
2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

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
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

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
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

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
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards