Thirty one Polyramblers including one new member, welcome Shola, joined me in near freezing conditions for a gentle walk through the streets of the City of London. This square mile is the oldest part of London dating back to AD50 when the invading Romans established a settlement they called Londinium.
Most of us started the walk with a visit to the Mithraeum which displays the ruins of the Roman Temple of Mithras that stood on this site 2000 years ago. A short sound and light show attempts to recreate the rituals of the Mythrean cult practiced by the Roman army. Sections of the old City wall were viewed, the best preserved being adjacent to the church of St Giles without Cripplegate close to our much needed lunch break at the Barbican Centre. We also saw remains of the Roman fort and visited those of the amphitheatre beneath the Guildhall Art Gallery with its graphics cleverly showing how it would have originally appeared when it had a capacity not far off that of the Royal Albert Hall.
The walk also focused on Medieval London. We saw several Livery Halls and many churches often rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London and the sites of several public executions and red light districts.
A visit to the church of St Bartholomew the Great, the finest Norman church left in London, afforded a welcome escape from the cold. Used in many films it is home to stunning contemporary pieces of art including Damien Hirst’s Exquisite Pain, The Risen Christ by Josephina de Vasconcellos and Roldan’s Madonna and Child.
We also visited Postman’s Park with its unique memorial wall to heroic ordinary men, women and children which was created in 1900 by the Victorian painter and sculptor George Frederic Watts. Briefly entering Islington we saw Peabody buildings and walked through the historic Burnhill Field cemetery burial place for London non-conformists including such great poets and writers as Milton, Defoe, Blake and Bunyan.
Looking up at the departure board at Waterloo Station our train appeared with the unexpected word CANCELLED! Oh no! I enquired at the information desk; ‘a faulty train’. They were sorry. The next service to Witley would be a full hour later. I had previously realised that an 8.8 mile walk from Witley might be an issue because of sunset at 16.04 so this was bad news indeed.
A few minutes later several more of my fellow ramblers arrived and with everyone’s help we figured out a new plan of getting the 10.00 train to Haslemere (a fast train which does not stop at Clapham J nor Witley) and doing the walk in reverse [gulp! Never done the walk in that direction]. The ramblers due to join our now non-existent train at Clapham could join our new train at Woking. We got the comms out in a scramble and set off. I thought we might not have time to complete the walk because of the later start so I changed the route to end at Chiddingfold where we could get a bus back to Haslemere.
Anyway, enough of all that train stuff. It was a crisp autumnal day, with a nip of frost in the early morning air but dry and sunny. Lovely for the time of year. The route itself is very rural, deep in the bucolic countryside. We visited an old well (now disused) just on the edge of Haslemere High Street then plunged down into the valley which has several National Trust farms with many small meadows. It was still very muddy in places which surprised me because we’ve had little or no rain for a week. We made good progress in spite of the leaf fall obscuring the path in some places. My thanks to Mary for helping me throughout the walk by reading the guide book steps in backwards order and reversing directions which can’t have been easy.
We had a brief lunch just after 13.00 standing up in a field with the birds looking on enviously. It was a lovely sunny afternoon. We carried on through the fields until eventually getting lost in a large undulating wood near Sydenhurst Farm (I found this part hard to follow on the map). After about 15 minutes lost in the woods we got back on track. It’s surprising how difficult woods can be sometimes! At one point I looked back and couldn’t identify the way we had just come…
Then we had a relatively easy walk to Chiddingfold. Which perhaps restored my credibility as a walk leader a little bit! We got to Chiddingfold just after 14.00 and it was still early so I figured it would still be possible to make it to Witley before sunset. Five of our party opted to leave the walk at this point and caught the bus back to Haslemere. Fair enough, this was the official end of the revised walk anyway and some people had to get back by a certain time and there was always the worry about further train cancellations. Also the pub at Chiddingfold looked inviting!
The remaining eleven of us climbed up a steep slope above the village and headed for Witley.
It was a glorious autumnal afternoon. We clambered over many tall stiles and passed through fields and a muddy wood with signs warning not to stray off the path because of shooting parties! No shots were heard and later we safely crossed the railway line between Witley and Haslemere. No barriers here so you just have to look both ways first. We passed through another muddy wood and by a donkey sanctuary and arrived at Witley station around sunset. We had made good time. We were the only passengers at the little station and then an announcement came saying our 16.17 train to Waterloo was no longer stopping here! It duly shot past us at high speed looking fairly empty. Thanks SWR! So rather than wait and hope for the next one we decided to go south by train to Haslemere. After a half hour wait while getting cold we got the next train to Haslemere and from there it was but a short wait before we were on the next train bound for the big city.
It was a good walk in spite of the train problems and I think everyone enjoyed their day in the countryside. My thanks to everyone for bearing with me and helping find a solution to the broken train!
In spite of the wet conditions and a discouraging forecast, 15 Poly Ramblers gathered at Ruislip station for a walk through woodland, open countryside and canal towpath. The rain had largely stopped by the time we set off but the sun failed to make an appearance all day. Even without the sunshine the woodland of Bayhurst Country Park and Ruislip nature reserve was lovely, although the HS2 works we had to divert around were a little less lovely and some of the stiles were in poor condition. Eventually the route took us to woodland above Harefield Parish Church and a peal of bells heralded our arrival (or maybe they were for the wedding). We made our way uphill to Harefield Village and then down, up and down again to reach the Grand Union canal towpath. We headed north and stopped at the Coy Carp pub for lunch. After refreshments we continued north on the towpath to Rickmansworth where the majority of the party went in search of tea. Having searched in vain for an independent tea shop we ended up in one of the chains.
It was lovely to see Julie again on a visit from Brisbane. She enjoyed the weather if no-one else did.
Gillian. Photos from Joyanna, Hilary, Melida and Gillian
Rain, cold and grey skies for weeks before; rain, cold and grey skies predicted for weeks after but, on the day of the walk, the weather was wonderful. Warm – for November- with a few feathery clouds in an otherwise perfectly blue sky.
We were lucky enough to have attracted two potential new members who met us at Haslemere station. The walk goes straight up onto a lovely path and then into the woods so there was no trudging through outskirts before the real walk begins. A lot of the day was in woodland but light enough that the sun shone through and lit up the crimson and gold of the fallen leaves and it wasn’t as muddy as had been predicted so it was really the most perfect autumn walk.
We stopped for lunch at Fernhurst where, apart from the pub, there is a tennis club with a small cafe attached and enough benches for us all to sit in the sun and observe local life. A couple with a very nice large dog appeared and we discovered that they had found it on the road and were trying to find out who its owners were. No vets were open on Saturdays to read its microchip, assuming it had one, and they needed to get home to their own dog so one of our new members swung into action. She had worked for the RSPCA and made phone calls but, unfortunately, they weren’t able to help and we needed to got. As we left, a man was seen, waving his hands and looking apologetic. There was a happy reunion.
The next part of the walk was going up a steep sunken lane which was tough going but nothing like as muddy and tricky as it has been in the past so no scrambling up the bank was needed. Eventually we emerged onto Marley Down with beautiful views over the hills, then back into the woods and on to Haslemere where we rewarded ourselves with tea at one of the very nice cafes.
Ten intrepid Polys met at Totteridge and Whetstone station on a bleak, wet morning. They were rewarded by an unexpectedly lovely walk, all within the London Borough of Barnet, and some good
weather including quite a bit of sunshine. After walking for a short while along by the Dollis Brook, we briefly passed through some typical suburban streets before reaching Totteridge green and from there on to Darlands Lake Nature Reserve, where we followed the Folly Brook. The terrain was extremely waterlogged but fortunately a raised walkway has been installed. In the spring wild anemones, rare snakeshead fritillary and wild garlic flowers can be found here. Darlands Lake used to be the boating lake for the grand Copped Hall, which dominated the hillside. We emerged from the woodland into what used to be the the parkland of Copped Hall and made our way steadily uphill towards Totteridge Lane with its grand houses. By this time the sun had come out and we were able to enjoy views all the way to Canary Wharf. The area is extremely rural, with farms and stables, as it is protected as part of the greenbelt. We stopped to picnic in the grounds of the church in Mill Hill, just before it started to rain, and enjoyed a drink at The Three Hammers Pub. We passed the Sheepwash Pond where animals were washed before being driven to London for slaughter. We struggled to drag ourselves out of the warmth of the pub, but after waiting for a heavy downpour to stop, we set off and again the sun came out! The afternoon took us through several soggy meadows before we went uphill to Totteridge Common and from there back to the tube station. We agreed that we had been lucky with the weather and that this walk should be repeated in future in the spring to appreciate the flora.
Susan (photos by Hilary, Susan and Gillian)
The Polytechnic Rambling Club – Walking with friends