diamond geezer

 Saturday, July 16, 2016

The London Loop
[section 21]
Havering-atte Bower to Harold Wood (4½ miles)

This hike across the top right corner of the capital is a two phase affair, first remote undulating farmland and then a trek through a Havering housing estate. The good news is that the first part almost makes up for the second. And if you don't want to see another human being for an hour, Section 21 is the way to go. [map] [6 photos]

One of the joys of visiting Havering-atte-Bower, aside from the village itself, is arriving via one of London's least frequent buses. On my journey the 375 is reassuringly busy, riding up the hill with a cargo including ten passengers, a suitcase, three gym bags and a bouquet of sunflowers. The sunflowers turn out to be important. On arrival I wander over to the stocks in the corner of the village green, and look back to see the flower-carrier standing alone in front of the church with a red heart-shaped helium balloon bobbing in her hand. She holds it for a minute or two, spinning round to look at the sky, before eventually letting go. The wind picks up the balloon and carries it over the village sign, above the stocks, and over the edge of the ridge, rising higher and higher until it's barely visible below the clouds. Her tribute ascended, she picks up the sunflowers and takes her bouquet into the churchyard, where a significant anniversary is to be commemorated. It's been an emotional launch.

This section of the walk starts at the Royal Oak, where a tactile map of the route now hangs somewhat inaccessibly behind a border of pebbles in the pub's beer garden. A brief path between two cottages leads out back into horse country, at first somewhat sparsely populated, meandering amiably alongside a fenced-off ditch. Close by in the trees is the Round House, a three-storey oddity once owned by a famous rosegrower, whereas the tall circular building easily spotted across the hedge is actually a water tower built to resemble a Norman turret. Across the intermediate field I espy a nucleus of equine folk standing chatting outside a barn, nothing especially conspicuous, but they're to be my last human contact for the next couple of miles.

An overgrown slatted footbridge leads through a brief tunnel of nettles, which makes me glad I've not worn shorts, before depositing me in a delightful hayfield. The footpath tramples across the middle, up and over a gentle rise between butterflies, heading for an isolated tree. You're supposed to walk past it, not wrongly assume that the waymark sign is pointing along the edge of the field, which is how I end up on an accidental ten minute detour. TfL's official new-style map's not especially helpful amid this fieldscape, showing nothing but two different shades of green for a couple of miles, leaving walkers reliant on a sequence of written instructions to find the way. Thankfully I've brought my 2005 London Loop leaflet with me, whose pictorial cartography helps guide me back on track.

An iron gatepost confirms the right route, this all that remains of the royal palace of Pyrgo where Henry VIII's daughters spent a lot of time growing up, and which only Londoners who've ever walked the Loop have ever heard of. The path rises along the edge of a ripening wheatfield crossed by tractor tracks, before entering an enclosed paddock full of horses. Don't worry they won't bite, they barely even move, giving you the chance to enjoy the view from the ridgetop while they graze. This improves further once you're through the next gate, a rusty swinger which looks like it might be attached to the electric fence but thankfully isn't. Downslope the suburbs of Havering, the QE2 bridge and the Swanscombe pylons are easily seen, with the sweep of the North Downs beyond, at least 20 miles distant. That white water tower still sticks up above the woods to the west, while the surrounding arable fields hint confirm the unexpectedly rural nature of this corner of the capital.

Technically there's a direct public footpath to our next target but the Loop clings to the edge of the fields, because that's easier to sign, although the next fingerpost is now semi-enveloped by trees and very hard to spot. A dodgy-looking footbridge with missing planks leads across to the final field, a scrappy affair, now barely 100 metres away from the Greater London boundary. The road beyond the hedge is in Essex, although that's not quite true of the lane you're about to step into, a residential cul-de-sac lined by modern cottages, more a linear hideaway than a community. One resident is out on his ride-on mower, others have Beware of the Dog displayed prominently, and the farm gates at the far end resemble wooden barricades. Hop over a stile to follow a most unusual downhill path - I've never walked anything like it - crossing bubbles of tarmac and tarmac chunks for several hundred yards. And at the far end are the identikit chalets of the Lakeview Caravan Park, at last signalling a return to built-up area.

You could end the walk here, to be honest, indeed I can recommend combining Loop section 20 with the first half of 21 if you fancy nine miles of almost unbroken pastoral. Two buses conveniently terminate at this peripheral outpost, and The Bear's offer of flame-grilled food and Sky Sports attracts several locals, even if perhaps not you.

It's a jolt to be back on residential avenues, passing fake Tudor houses (the perfectly symmetrical timbers are the giveaway) and large St George flags. On Priory Road one angry resident has pinned a notice reading "The Council Are Going To Build Here If We Don't Stop Them" to a tree, along with a planning application number, in a brief gap between properties. I'm more surprised when what looks like a normal patch of suburban greenspace has a dozen deer clustered in the middle of it, jostling playfully, which must be the sort of thing that happens in the outer reaches of Harold Hill. And I very nearly miss the Loop sign directing me into the undergrowth, a thin sliver of woodland amid the housing estate which at its heart conceals Carter's' Brook. For a few hundred utterly atypical yards the path clings to the meandering banks of a very minor stream, ducking over or under fallen trunks as necessary, before disappearing out through a cloud of nettles. Ah, that was fun.

Enough of nature. From here onwards the Loop follows the culverted brook at a safe distance, cutting through Harold Hill along a narrow landscaped flood plain (which last overtopped in storms on Referendum Day). Central Park is quite pleasant, though nowhere near Manhattan standard, and features by its entrance an exceptionally long history of the area (which ends up apologising that absolutely nothing survives). By the playground are three wafer-thin statues of locally-relevant characters, specifically Henry VIII, the founder of the Romford Drum and Trumpet Corps and a Bank of England designer, a truly eclectic threesome. Then follows further estate-edge walking, overlooked by vestless householders, more flags and the occasional windowcleaner, on a less than inspiring hike down to the A12. The official risk-averse advice is to walk 500m up the Romford Road to a pedestrian crossing and 500m back again, whereas there is a unsignalled path straight across the central reservation, and I crossed both carriageways without even having to pause.

The final riverside strip again has no view of the riverside, but it does have the Havering Dog Training Centre, a hut whose presence explains the four leapy collies being exercised outside. It's not possible to follow Carter's Brook down to its confluence with the Ingrebourne because an industrial estate gets in the way, formerly a brickworks, and then the Liverpool Street mainline intrudes. And that's the signal for wholesale suburban retreat, heading to the crossing point by the station down some very ordinary residential streets, past the library and a final pub. This being Harold Wood the pub is the King Harold, overseen by a suit of armour in a white tunic on the first floor balcony. The ensuing parade of shops is pitch-perfect ex-East-End, with bakery, chippy and funeral directors in close sequence, and the great news IT'S A BOY stuck to the window of the hair salon. Crossrail arrives here soon, which may shake the area up somewhat, but even now Havering-Atte-Bower it most definitely ain't.

» London Loop section 21: official webpage; map and directions; map
» Who else has walked it? Tetramesh, Stephen, Stefan, Andrew, Mark, Oatsy, Richard, Maureen, Derick, Tim
» See also sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 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
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