I tackled this section of the
In order to resolve this and prevent the need for catching a bus at the end of the walk I decided instead to park about halfway along the day’s walk, effectively cutting the walk in two so that I could get the bus during the middle of the day and not at school run time, which is when I expected to finish the day’s walking. I therefore parked the car in Hampton Hill and set off towards Hatton Cross. I regretted my decision almost immediately for I had a feeling that the weather would deteriorate as the day wore on and the highlight of the day’s walking is supposedly the beginning section through
So it was the I skirted Twickenham golf course and various streets of 1930s housing before finally winding up in Crane Park and heading along the valley of yet another London tributary of the Thames, in this case the River Crane. Having finally cleared the suburban streets I enjoyed this section of country walking, with the blossom on many of the trees in full swing and orange-tip butterflies teasing me with their ‘will they won’t they’ landing routine. I soon gave up trying to capture any of them with my camera as I concluded that they don’t ever land on any vegetation but just fly endlessly.
Eventually I reached what is quite a landmark on this part of the LOOP, the Shot Tower, which was once part of a gunpowder mill and now represents the only remaining building (for more details see http://www.twickenham-museum.org.uk/detail.asp?ContentID=256 ). The tower itself is now owned by the London Wildlife Trust and the surrounding area, once a hive of industrial activity, is now a nature reserve. It’s a fascinating place, but with the greening of all the surroundings it is very difficult to imagine anything other than a peaceful past and certainly not the explosive activity it was actually associated with.
Within a few minutes I was disappointed to leave this small linear park behind and head out once again onto suburban roads, this time along the busy A314. Fortunately the walk along the road was perked up by the street trees garishly showing off their blossom, especially the ornamental cherry trees with their big pink puffy flowers. As I passed a large cemetery I noticed two large funerals going on at two separate parts of the site and couldn’t help feel what a cruel day to be buried, with such fine weather all around.
I crossed the railway line and turned left past some very big high rise flats to enter the next piece of countryside in these parts, the rather surprising Hounslow Heath. The map didn’t offer much of a clue as to what was to come, for it looks pretty featureless. However, what I actually discovered was a remnant of the countryside that must have been more commonplace in these parts in days gone by. This is a proper heathland and in remarkably good condition considering all the urban pressures around it. I understand that it once was a common place for highwaymen to ambush unsuspecting travellers and so with that in mind I was careful to keep my wits about me, to make sure that I was alert to any would-be Dick Turpins!
As I crossed the Heath, a couple of things began to annoy me. The first was the very in your face brown path that had been created to cross the common and the second was the increasingly distracting roar of aircraft jet engines that drowned out all the birdsong. The Heath section didn’t last long and after dog-legging around Hounslow golf course I was back to walking along the banks of the Crane once again. Thisas a bit of a relief as by now the day was getting quite warm and the shade of the trees by the river was quite welcome. Before reaching the A30, there were a couple of serious obstacles when I firstly had to negotiate another busy road at Baber Bridge, then a wibbly wobbly boardwalk that looked rather drunk, before having to shimmy along a very large metal fence keeping intruders out of the adjacent business park. I think in the last case I must have missed a turn for the official path seemed to appear the other side of the building. My map however showed the route I took, so be careful if coming this way!
The A30 marked the end of the official day’s walking and in order to get back to the official beginning at
Another word to the wise to to make sure you choose your bus to
After a quick perusal of the river I continued on my way, heading towards the large green expanse of
At the end of the avenue, the park opened out into what I was expecting with clumps of trees dotted around and plenty of ornamental ponds. I soon came upon the first herd of deer for which the park is renowned. In fact for a short moment I could have been forgiven for thinking I was in the Serengeti, such was the size of the herd sweeping majestically across the park in front of me. I couldn’t help but smile at the stag’s proto antlers as it tried to show who was boss by staring intently at me. It didn’t wait to be challenged though as it soon stomped off when I carried on walking regardless.
After my encounter with the deer, the next feature which caught my attention was Heron Pond, a large circular pond further ahead. This had some unusual waterfowl on show, together with a very large Heron looking slightly sleepy but keeping guard over the pond. A coot was equally keeping an eye on everyone passing by from her island nest just offshore, which created a lot of fascination from a group of youngsters. I still had a couple of miles to get back to the car so I left them to it after a few minutes and continued across the park, passing by an old water pump and then crossing the hugely impressive Chestnut Avenue, rather spoiled by the number of cars that use this thoroughfare across the park.
On the other side of the Avenue, I entered the charming world of the Pheasantry. I can’t say that I saw many pheasants (a few peasants maybe!), but this woodland garden was utterly delightful with many rhododendrons and azaleas on show, together with the last of the spring bulb flowers. What really caught my eye were the really strange forms of the swamp cypress plants that grew alongside the waterway through this section of the park. These strange projections are apparently to help the tree ‘breathe’ in the swampy conditions in which they grow. After this delightful walk through the wood, I headed out once again to the North Lodge House, an impressive looking house in its own right. Here I came across a smaller second group of deer. Most of them were laying down – did they know that rain was coming?
It was with some sadness that I left the park, for I had enjoyed the crossing very much. I had about a mile left to the car through residential streets notable for two things – the sheer number of cherry blossom trees all at their zenith, making for an awesome sight and the number of Vince Cable signs adorning properties throughout this enclave of south-west