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.

view from Kingston Bridge, River Thames
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 England.

acid grassland, Bushy Park
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.

deer, Bushy Park
The park is famous for its deer: here we catch sight of our first two of the day, and soon spot many more.

Leg of Mutton Pond, Bushy Park
The curiously named Leg of Mutton Pond

Longford River, Bushy Park
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.

Heron Pond, Bushy Park
An impressive trunk on this tree, looking out over Heron Pond.

stag, Bushy Park
Beneath the tree, centre picture, is our first stag of the day

Chestnut Avenue, Bushy Park
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 never built.

no dogs allowed, Woodland Gardens, Bushy Park
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.

Woodland Gardens, Bushy Park
A glimpse through the wooden fence of what we are missing.

horses, Bushy Park
As we continue around the outside of the woodland gardens, a herd of horses and riders passes us.

Upper Lodge, Bushy Park
Upper Lodge

stag, Bushy Park
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

River Crane
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

River Crane
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 always nice!

Shot Tower
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.

top of Shot Tower
The construction on top of Shot Tower.

Hounslow Heath
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.

boardwalk, River Crane
A boardwalk through Donkey Wood along the Crane

London Loop in Donkey Wood
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.

London Loop in Donkey Wood
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 the end.

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!

London Loop 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.

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Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright (c) Stephen and Lucy Dawson