London Loop Walk 13:
Hatton Cross to Uxbridge

27 August 2006

Today Stephen did the thirteenth of his  London LOOP walks, once more with George for company. A signal and points failure on the Piccadilly Line meant that we had to wait nearly 20 minutes for our train at Finsbury Park, which of course in turn meant that it was absolutely packed. Poor George had a very trying journey, sitting on the floor of the train while ever more people tried to squeeze in around him. But he was very patient, though as the train emptied a little, he started darting for the door at every stop - 26 stops on the Tube is very boring, especially for a dog, who can't see out!

A30 road near Hatton Cross
But eventually we arrived at Hatton Cross station, and then had a 900 metre walk along the A30 Great South West Road to reach the River Crane and the start proper of the walk. The oddities of Green Belt planning means that Heathrow Airport with its packed buildings and very high land values is on one side of the road, and a farm on the other.

no pedestrians sign
Ducking round the cutting that carries the Underground trains, we reach this potentially intimidating sign - "no pedestrians", backed up by dire warnings of trespass, CCTV cameras, and barriers across the road. If there were a LOOP sign, it would be more reassuring that we count within the "except for access" exemption, but we haven't seen one of those since we left Kingston - Richmond, Hounslow and now Hillingdon boroughs obviously having failed to buy into the LOOP in the same way as the southern boroughs or Havering.

Ox-bow lake, Cranebank
We then make our way along Cranebank, parallel with the River Crane, but the river is largely out of sight, though these stagnant ox-bow lakes show its former course.

British Airways aeroplane near Heathrow
Aeroplanes were close overhead

A4 Bath Road, Cranford
Emerging from the river at Cranford, after a short bit of housing, with aeroplanes extremely loud and low overhead, we find the
A4 Bath Road, which we cross.

Cranford Bridge
Cranford Bridge is on the site of the ford over the Crane that gave Cranford its name. There was a bridge here by 1274, and as the engraving shows the latest bridge dates from 1915. Here we rejoin the Crane once more for a walk through Cranford Park.

River Crane, Cranford Park
The River Crane looks very pleasant here. Cranford Park was the site of Cranford Manor House, site of the Berkeley home from 1618 to 1918. The house was demolished in 1945 and the park is now managed by Hounslow council.

Ha-ha, Cranford Park
Looking towards the ha-ha that formerly enclosed the manor house here.

St Dunstan's church, Cranford Park
St Dunstan's church, now cut off from its parishioners by the M4 motorway. This church was once the chapel of the Knights Templar, and churches have stood on this site since Saxon times.

Stables, Cranford Manor House
The former stables date from the 18th century, and have recently been restored: they were once the headquarters of the Berkeley Hunt.

Grand Union Canal from A312
After passing under the motorway and along the Crane a little longer, we reach the A312 which rises over a large bridge, from where we look down on the Grand Union Canal, to be our companion, more or less, all the way to Harefield (on the next walk). The Nestlé coffee factory is in the distance on the left of the canal, filling the air with the smell of coffee.

pedestrian ramp
To get down from the road to the canal towpath, we are forced to use this enormous, never-ending ramp, which must have cost a fortune to install, so much so that they couldn't afford the stairs that most pedestrians would prefer, instead forcing us on a 200-metre detour to descend  perhaps 12 metres.

Around this point, I reached the 100-mile mark of my walk around the LOOP.

Bulls Bridge Junction bridge
On reaching the towpath, a short diversion to the east brings us to Bulls Bridge Junction, where the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal turns off left towards the basin at Paddington (with a connection to the Regent's Canal) while the main line continues on towards the Thames at Brentford. The whitewashed bridge does look very impressive, particularly against a blue sky on this delightful day.

London Loop waymarker
As we continue west along the Grand Union Canal towpath, the walk stops playing with the boundary between Hounslow and Hillingdon as it has been doing all day, and moves firmly into Hillingdon. And what is this we see (just!)? A LOOP marker, the first since 9 July. It has seen better days, true, but it is a sign of better things to come.

Bridge 196, Grand Union Canal
Bridge 196 on the Grand Union Canal. The LOOP leaflet says the bridges are numbered from Birmingham, but of course they are numbered from the north end of the Grand Junction Canal, at Braunston in Northamptonshire, where the Grand Junction met the Oxford Canal.

Stockley business park
Just after that, the designers of the LOOP decided that towpath walking (particularly without any locks) might get monotonous, and decided to give us some variety and let us explore the environs. Here we find ourselves in Stockley Park, a mixture of business park, country park and golf course, all built on a reclaimed landfill site, another of the LOOP's favourite places.

Stockley business park
"Pedestrians keep to footpaths" it says - presumably intended to be prescriptive rather than descriptive, it ignores the very obvious fact that the road behind it has no footpaths - and that way the LOOP lies.

Heathrow Airport from Viewpoint hill
After passing through another LOOP favourite, the golf course, we cross on a bridge high above Stockley Road and climb to the top of the hill named Viewpoint. From there we look back to Heathrow Airport, which still seems quite close considering we've been walking for quite a while now. The control tower is the high tower centre-right.

Stockley country park and bridge
Looking back across the bridge we've just crossed to the golf course in Stockley Park. The BT Tower (formerly the Post Office Tower) was visible on the horizon.

Grand Union Canal, West Drayton
We then made our way back down the hill and returned to the canal.

Cowley Peachy Junction
Here we approach Cowley Peachy Junction where the Slough Arm turns off to the left.

Slough Arm, Grand Union Canal, Cowley Peachy Junction
Cowley Peachy Junction from the bridge, looking along the Slough Arm. The flood gates dating from 1881 can just be seen on either side of the canal, put there, as the Slough Arm is heading off over an embankment and aqueduct, to close in case of a breach in the bank to protect the water in the main line of the canal.

Behind the hedges lies the Packet Boat Marina, a new marina from 2003 which is already full. Its name derives from the passenger packet boats which ran from here to Paddington at high speed, the lock-free pound facilitating the run, which had priority over all other traffic. The much faster railways eventually out-competed the passenger canal services.

Fray's River aqueduct, Slough Arm
George on the aqueduct over Fray's River, an artificial loop of the River Colne, created to supply water to power six flour mills.

London Loop signpost
We cross Bridge No. 1 (now the second bridge since the building of one to access the marina at the junction) over the Slough Arm, and then reach the lake called Little Britain. The LOOP publicity says that it is so named because it is shaped rather like Britain (which it is), but the OS map shows an area to the east called Little Britain - so which came first? The sign has "Enfield" for the first time (albeit a fair way from where I will finish at Enfield Lock).

Little Britain lake
The sign pointing straight on, together with the slightly vague instructions in the guidebook but mainly my own inattention led to me going astray here, continuing around the Little Britain lake.

River Colne
Although I don't know it yet, I should be on the other side of the River Colne, here. When we emerged onto Old Mill Lane, it became apparent where we had gone wrong, but starting to feel weary, retracting steps adding 1km to the walk wasn't attractive, so we walked along the pleasant Old Mill Lane, sandwiched between the River Colne and Fray's River until we reached Iver Lane, where we rejoined the LOOP proper.

River Colne sign, Uxbridge Moor
The guidebook describes the next section along the Colne as "narrow, often overgrown, near to slithering into the river - a path in dire need of some loving care". This attractive wooden board, with a long list of funding bodies at its base, suggested that things might be better than the book suggested.

River Colne, Uxbridge Moor
And indeed clearly effort had been spent, with some surfacing and cutting back having been done - though we were still sandwiched between the vegetation which won't take much growing to be a nuisance again, and the very high barbed-topped steel fence, keeping us out of a huge area of tarmac and gravel. Compared with several other bits of the LOOP (notably through Donkey Wood, but also a few sections along the Hogsmill valley) this was now quite acceptably passable.

Grand Union Canal, Uxbridge
Leaving the Colne we walked through Uxbridge Moor to rejoin the main line of the Grand Union Canal, which we followed into Uxbridge

Swan and Bottle pub, Grand Union Canal, Uxbridge
The Swan & Bottle pub from the bridge which is the end of the LOOP proper.

Uxbridge Lock, Grand Union Canal
But it seemed a shame not to keep going a little bit further and visit Uxbridge Lock, which (unlike most of the towpath) offered scope to sit down, and provided a sense of finale to the walk.

A very pleasant walk, and, much as I love canals, the decision to go off exploring away from the Grand Union on two occasions was the right one by the route designers. Somehow it was a particularly wearying walk - perhaps the large amount of gravel on the towpaths was hard under foot, together with the lack of obvious places to stop and rest, but also the 100-minute cramped stand on the Underground getting there meant that I started off rather tired, which didn't help. But a grand day out.

London Loop Section 10 Hatton Cross to Hayes: 6.1km plus 0.9km of link walk, 1 hour 50 minutes (including 25 minutes stopped), 35 metres of ascent.
London Loop Section 11 Hayes to Uxbridge Lock: 11.3km plus 1.0km of link walk, 3 hours 50 minutes (including 60 minutes stopped), 70 metres of ascent.

Previous London Loop walk London Loop   Next London Loop walk


Back Up Next

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