diamond geezer

 Saturday, May 14, 2016

The London Loop
[section 10]
Hatton Cross to Hayes and Harlington (4 miles)

It's been some time since I led you along the London Loop, the capital's outer strategic walk, but not for want of trying. This runs up the River Crane, from Heathrow to the M4, isn't the most scenic journey you'll ever make. It's also one of the briefest sections of the Loop, though I somehow walked almost twice as far while attempting to complete it. Section 10 has its moments but, unless you're a completist, feel free to skip. [map] [10 photos]

Step out of Hatton Cross station and Heathrow slaps you right in the face. It's one of the first buildings beyond the end of the southern runway, not quite on the direct line but so close that planes roar past with unexpected ferocity. Traffic swirls around this airport outpost, much of it employees driving to work or buses scuttling between hotels and terminals. The walk begins unpromisingly alongside the busy dual carriageway, then veers off fractionally alongside a row of blossoming horse chestnuts to follow the (private) Eastern Perimeter Road. Cargo terminals and car parks eventually make way for fly-tipped hedges and some elegantly-textured concrete work courtesy of the Piccadilly line. This emerges here from shallow tunnel to pass very low over the River Crane, before dipping back underground on the other side.

I first tried tackling this section of the Loop back in February, when I got all this way only to find the very first bit of path flooded and impassable. Frustrated I decided to return later in the year, assuming any winter drainage issues would be sorted, so you can imagine my despair on turning up in May to find the flooding just as bad. A small lake rippled some distance along the path, and the first bench rose like a forlorn stepping stone across the mire. I'd have got through in wellies, but in heavy duty walking boots I was stuffed, which was annoying, because the detour was at least a mile and a half. But I was determined to get to the other side of the breach, else my eventual circuit of the capital would be incomplete, which meant a long trudge around the British Airways Flight Training Centre and through the mundane backstreets of Cranford.

After a protracted detour, much of which I'd have to immediately retrace, I finally reached a large puddle which wasn't quite the puddle I'd been stopped by in the first place. The Crane has form in this respect, as there are as many as four oxbow lakes lurking within a relatively short stretch of undergrowth, though rather hard to distinguish at this time of year. I enjoyed the fresh verdant solitude, interrupted only by a jet engine wheezing a short distance away on the other side of the main cargo terminal. A murder of crows covered the playing field where the footpath terminated, forcing Loopers through an estate of diamond-tiled semis with thick double glazing, now immediately in line with the airport's northernmost runway.

Peripheral Heathrow is perhaps the ugliest part of London, as boxy hotels rub up against lacklustre housing, and building sites conspire to create more of the same. Best then not to linger on the A4 Bath Road, and to nip across Cranford Bridge (erected 1776, rebuilt and widened 1915) to return to the river valley. This is accessed via Berkeley Meadows, a damp patch named after the area's former landowners, currently teeming with dandelions in flower and in fluff. A deep artificial curve in the grass added for overspill purposes was filled with standing water - unquestionably scenic, but ominous given what lay ahead.

The Loop is poorly signed at the entrance to Cranford Park - it's the left-hand plank-bridge you want, then the right-hand track by the river. And here again the mud began, and the large puddles, and benches you'd not reach in everyday footwear. The park is vast and historic, its meadows speckled with buttercups, but unexpectedly squelchy underfoot if you linger too close to the river, as the Loop chooses to do. Reluctantly I took a minor detour towards the heart of the Green Flag expanse, where a local man was flying his model aircraft with some aplomb, while above the treeline the real thing appeared at approximately one minute intervals.

St Dunstan's church is a highlight of the walk, once under the ownership of the Knights Templar, and its flint tower at least partly medieval. On my visit the churchyard was blessed by gently falling cherry blossom, although I completely missed the plaque to comedian Tony Hancock (whose ashes were scattered here), learning of its existence only much later on an information board while walking out of the park. Perhaps even more impressive are the clock-topped remains of the 18th century stableblock alongside, formerly operated by the Berkeley Hunt, who now chase scents around the fields of Gloucestershire. By contrast the park's Visitor Centre looks a tumbledown wreck, courtesy of an arson attack two years ago, but a much improved replacement is proposed.

Careful screening ensures that the M4 lies entirely out of sight, despite the sliproads to junction 3 running
immediately behind the church. Instead a drab box-subway runs underneath, allowing parishioners from the north to attend services, and the rush of traffic can be discerned somewhere overhead. On the far side the path branches off along a thin strip between woodland and the backs of houses, where tabby cats prowl, before opening out into a meadowy clearing. I should have ignored the Loop's signs and tracked the Hillingdon Trail down to the river, for a last bit of Crane, instead following a hawthorn-lined corridor straight out of the park.

The Crane public house on the corner is now the Yellow Chilli Lounge, Hygiene Rating Zero. The brick Electricity Substation across the road is capacious enough to support the local industrial estate. Nobody walks to the Tesco Superstore by the busy roundabout - the car is king. The arterial road rises up dramatically to cross the canal, affording scenic views of the ex-Nestlé factory. And a chunky stacked ramp leads relentlessly down, and down, to eventually meet the towpath. The Loop's paperwork recommends a brief detour to the left to view Bull's Bridge, a white-arched hump where the Paddington Arm meets the Grand Union. They're right to do so too, even if my attempts to take a decent photo were made much harder by the positioning of a decrepit information board in front and a man swigging cheap cider underneath.

The canal will be the backdrop to the Loop almost all the way from here until the end of section 12. For now there's just a short stretch to the next pub, running alongside the aforementioned Nestlé factory (which no longer smells of coffee) and underneath the Great Western Mainline. Whilst most of the tracks are supported by modern metal, the first span is considerably older and made of wood, its joists cracked on the surface like a distressed antique. Ahead lie a series of ellipsoid flats, the first vanguard of a rash coming to Hayes now that Crossrail is opening the place up. Other than the Old Crown there's not much to enjoy, but the station is thankfully not far away.

» London Loop section 10: official webpage; map and directions; map
» Who else has walked it? Tetramesh, Stephen, Andrew, Mark, Oatsy, Richard, Des, Maureen, Tim
» See also sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 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
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21
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 

eXTReMe Tracker
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
ian visits
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths
exploring urban wastelands

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
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
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