London Loop Walk 12:
Kingston upon Thames to Hatton Cross
29 July 2006
Today Stephen did the twelfth of his London Loop walks, this time with Henry for company. It was a hot day, and an early
start was planned, but we hadn't bargained on the Victoria, Circle, and Northern
lines being partially closed, which delayed our arrival at Kingston. But with
longer and more frequent stops for rest and water, we had a pleasant morning.
So, after a somewhat prolonged journey, we reach the Thames at Kingston Bridge
again on this gloriously sunny morning, apparently the last before the heatwave
breaks, but not before it has made this July the warmest month ever recorded in
After crossing the Thames, we soon find ourselves in Bushy Park, formerly part
of Cardinal Wolsey's Hampton Court estate - a mixture of acid grassland and
wood, with a bit of bracken. The park is the second largest of the Royal Parks
of London (after Richmond Park)
Henry explores the long grass.
The park is famous for its deer: here we catch sight of our first two of the
day, and soon spot many more.
The curiously named Leg of Mutton Pond
A branch of the Longford River carries water to the pond. An artificial cut from
the 17th century, the river was built under the orders of Charles I to carry
water 19 km from the River Colne at Longford to the palace and his new water
features in in the grounds.
Henry as we take our first rest of the day: it felt almost pathetic to be
resting after only half an hour, but it was already hot, and we both welcomed
the break in the shade of the tree.
An impressive trunk on this tree, looking out over Heron Pond.
Beneath the tree, centre picture, is our first stag of the day
Crossing Chestnut Drive between the impressive avenues of trees: in the distance
is Diana Fountain, and beyond that Hampton Court Palace. The drive was built as
the grand approach the north wing of the Palace, planned by William III but
Here we came across the first major obstacle of the LOOP so far - a "No dogs"
sign at the entrance to the Woodland Gardens. Unfortunately, neither the LOOP
leaflets nor the guidebook provide any advice on taking dogs on the LOOP, and
having done 60% of the walk without problems, we had become rather blasť about
it. But fortunately there was an easy diversion around the perimeter fences,
though staring at those fences did become a bit monotonous and made us feel
rather second-class citizens.
A glimpse through the wooden fence of what we are missing.
As we continue around the outside of the woodland gardens, a herd of horses and
riders passes us.
As we reach the exit gate after a superb walk, two more stags, one watching us depart.
After a long suburban interlude walking along pavements, we cross a small
triangle of grassland left over from the creation of golf courses, looking
across to the rackets centre.
Golfers on the practice green
After more road walking, we reach the River Crane, to be our companion (more or
less) for the rest of the walk.
Henry enjoys a rest in the cool shadow of the bridge under the A316
Another rest in a pleasant spot by the river - he got his legs dunked here to
help him keep cool, which he didn't like, but things that are good for us aren't
The building known as Shot Tower. The banks of the Crane were formerly lined
with gunpowder works, and the story is that this tower was used for the
manufacture of lead shot - molten lead was dropped from the top, forming spheres
under free-fall and solidifying by the time it hit the ground. The only snag in
the story is that this tower isn't high enough for that! Probably it was used
either as a watch tower or a water tower.
The construction on top of Shot Tower.
After another hot road walk, we enter Hounslow Heath, and incidentally cross
from the London Borough of Kingston upon Thames into the London Borough of
Hounslow. The former hadn't erected a single LOOP sign or waymarker, but hopes
that Hounslow would be any better were ill-founded, and it was at this stage
that they would have been very useful - the Ordnance Survey map of the area
doesn't show any paths at all - it is just blank white with "disused workings"
on it (very helpful), and the LOOP leaflet wasn't much more helpful, not least
as the marked route looked a different shape from that shown on the OS map.
Henry takes a rest as we cross Hounslow Heath.
The River Crane - possibly. Or possibly the Duke of Northumberland's River, or
possibly a mill race. We saw rather more of the golf course around here than we
were supposed to, but eventually found our way onto the correct path.
A boardwalk through Donkey Wood along the Crane
After passing under the A312, the route then squeezes between factory fences and
the river, but brambles and hawthorn have met in the middle, making the way
quite a struggle - the photo doesn't do it justice and this area is in need of some serious trimming back.
I note that an account from 2005 said that the path here was "very, very
overgrown, so much so that I thought the path may have been diverted and no
longer followed that route", and another from 2004 said that "the path was
overgrown and clearly used very little" - so I hold out little hope of an
imminent change as the situation is obviously long-running.
And as the progress slows to a crawl, another obstacle on the path - rather
easier than the hawthorn and brambles, but still shouldn't be here!
Finally we emerge onto the A30, and the sight of the British Airways World Cargo
building shows that we have reached Heathrow. Although there were aeroplanes in
view during the day coming in to land, they were obviously taking a more
northerly approach than sometimes, and did not disturb us at all, even right at
A pleasant walk on average, but with a superb first few kilometres through Bushy
Park, a lot of roadwalking in the middle, and a moderate end, the whole thing made a bit more
difficult by the complete absence of a single LOOP signpost or waymarker, and
the near-impassibility of the route towards the end. While for me it had to be
done in this direction, for those less dogmatic, do it in reverse
and save the best for last!
Section 9 Kingston Bridge to Hatton Cross: 15.9km plus 0.5km of link walk, 4 hours 40 minutes
(including 65 minutes stopped), 128 metres of ascent.