I tackled this section of the
LOOP as a result of a trip to Heathrow to drop off my in-laws a few days after the volcano ban had been lifted. I had a slight pang of regret that I hadn’t been able to take advantage of the flight ban that existed during those crazy few days, since to do so I think would have left a unique memory of this section of the LOOP. As it happened, I discovered that a pocket devoid of change is not the best preparation for a walk ending in the vicinity of as it restricted my options to park to basically none! Heathrow Airport
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
Hampton Park. Instead, the path through this part of winds around various slabs of suburbia trying to establish a route through the various green corridors that still exist.
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
I had to walk about half a mile or so down to Hatton Cross bus station to get the onward bus. This is NOT a pleasant walk, but for most people there aren’t many alternatives, so try to block out the traffic, the fumes and the planes and look for the positives (such as the weird little farm opposite Hatton Cross bus station!). Kingston Bridge
Another word to the wise to to make sure you choose your bus to
wisely. There are a couple of alternative services plying the route, but get the wrong one (as I did) and you will find yourself going on a very long journey. It took almost an hour for me to make the trip and it’s only about 8 miles by the quickest road! Anyhow, after a frustrating journey back to the beginning I found myself on the opposite bank of the Kingston Thames to where I had left the route on my first outing back last October. Considering it was now early spring I was surprised how little had changed since then. Most of the boats were still in their same mooring spots and many of the trees had similar amounts of foliage on them, albeit they looked a bit fresher now!
|Bushy Park Deer|
After a quick perusal of the river I continued on my way, heading towards the large green expanse of
(http://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/bushy_park/), which is effectively the back Bushy Park garden of Hampton Court Palace and the second largest park in Greater London. This is the part of the walk I had been looking forward to most (which is part of the reason I chose to do it last) and you can imagine how much I cursed when I realised how much the clouds had rolled in. By now it was positively overcast, meaning that my pictures would be a lot less interesting. It was too late by now to do anything of course so I resolved to enjoy it nonetheless. First impressions were very positive as I entered the park via Church Grove Gate and headed down through the avenue of horse chestnuts, already wearing the summer clothing of leaves despite it only being the end of April.
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
for the forthcoming election. I felt fairly sure he wouldn’t have much trouble hanging on to his seat! About fifteen minutes after leaving London I found my car once again. It was a slightly disjointed walk on account of the awkward transport and parking arrangements, but the sections through Bushy and Crane Parks were a delight, making up for some of the other ‘blah’ parts of the walk. The going was pretty easy, but if I did this again I would make sure I planned better and do the whole lot via public transport. My car turned out to be a bit of a liability. Bushy Park