Edward Oliver Greer

Writing, Thoughts, Talks

Midweek recipe: Special Pasta

Many years ago I took over the role of catering the annual 6th Northwood summer camp. It’s a big task – nine days and up to thirty people is a lot of food. A couple of years in I started to bring my own recipes in to replace some of the older less successful. I compiled all Keith’s original recipes and my new ones in a handy recipe book we could use year after year. Here is one of my first creations, quick and simple and the Scouts seem to love it.

Serves 4

Ingredients
5 Sausages
150g Mushrooms
1 Onion
150g Garden Peas
500g Cream Cheese
3 tsp English Mustard
500g Fusilli Tricolour Pasta

Method
Cut each sausages into five meatballs.
Slice the mushrooms and dice the onion.
Put pasta on to boil.
Fry the sausages, mushrooms and onion gently for 10 minutes, until the sausages are cooked through and the onions are just browning.
Spoon in the cream cheese and allow to melt.
Add the mustard and peas and allow to simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until the cheese begins to thicken to coat the sausages and vegetables.
Drain the pasta.
Stir sauce into pasta and serve.

Five years of service

This weekend was the Ruislip Eastcote Northwood family camp to celebrate 30 years of Beavers and 100 years of Cubs. I had a surprise though at the closing ceremony and was awarded my five year service award. It’s been an interested five years so I thought I’d examine it.

I’ve detailed before how I joined scouting aged 6 as a Beaver in 1999, but come 2011 I took the next step and took a warrant. Coming to the end of my time as an Explorer Scout, a few months before my 18th birthday I filled in the forms and sent them off. By already being a Young Leader it was inevitable that I was going to go on to become an adult leader. The appointment came through quicker than expected which is why I technically received my 5 years early. Although you only get a warrant from the age of 18, the membership database holds my start date as when my CRB check was applied for, four months before my birthday – they were slower in those days than the updated DBS checks we have now.

However, the first two years as a leader were rather intermittent. My birthday being July, I only ran a few meetings at the end of the summer term before heading off to uni in September. This limited what I could do so it was rare for me to don the uniform during my first two years, only really doing so for camps and large district events at weekends as well as a run of late summer meetings after the end of the term.

In a way, I fell out of Scouting a bit but my placement year allowed me to get back in to it. I returned to my family home to live and work and thus was able to run meetings again during the week. I remembered how much I actually enjoyed it, I was reinvigorated. I knew I couldn’t allow my final year to let me slip through the net once again so I had an idea.

I first met Soph at the end of our first year and we had begun our relationship at the start of our second, but because she wasn’t on a sandwich course like me, she stayed in Canterbury while I was working in London. It was this circumstance that led me to suggest she go and help with the local Beaver Colony (she is better with the youngest section whereas I prefer Scout section where you can do more adventurous activities). When I returned to Canterbury for my final year, and Soph stayed on for a Masters, I went along to Worthgate Scout Group and offered my services. This was what I needed to stay in the loop and it is something we need to encourage with all Young Leaders who may not take the warrant due to university.

It’s been a year since I graduated, and it has been a massive year for my Scouting life. I have been awarded the Queen’s Scout and taken up a new role as the District Youth Commissioner to ensure that the youth have a real say in how their Scouting life is shaped and run. I’ve finally got my hand on the adult training that really should have been done earlier and I am enjoying my larger voice in the wider Scouting community. I look forward to seeing what the next five years bring leading me to a 10 year service award, the one my father was awarded concurrently to me.

Edd

Design decisions

A few weeks ago, I was asked to explain some of my decisions and reasoning I used while rebuilding this website. I wrote quite a long document and have decided to reproduce an edited version for you here. My thanks go to Sheila Shu Cheung who worked with me as the designer on the project.

Design
The 2016 redesign of eogreer.me aimed to fix some of the design faults with the previous version and to provide a fresh slate for this blog when I decided to relaunch it. Shu created some content wireframes as a starting point from which we worked together to create a draft design. The primary font and colours where to be kept as close as possible to the earlier site to ensure some consistency with printed work such as my business cards.

The blog design in particular evolved during the building phase. Initially articles would be limited to a few lines with a click through required to read the rest. It was deemed after discussion with various individuals that as content is rarely more than twice a week, articles should run full length on the main page with pagination after every 10. In doing so, I opted to contain each post in a box, with a small border-radius to make it more pleasing to the eye. The original design was just to have a horizontal rule, but with a lot of text this got lost and blurred the break between articles

Styles
When it came to writing the CSS, it was almost a given that I would use SASS, more specifically the SCSS markup that is closer to normal CSS by retaining the braces. I have used SASS on a vast majority of projects although the framework used to compile varied. This time I elected to use Compass again, simply for it’s ease. I broke the style sheet out into various sub sheets and compiled them together. To begin with a reset based on one by Eric Mayer that I keep at hand for all projects. A variables file contains the colour hex codes and baseline measurements for the grid. Typography was kept together, as were mixins. Each page as well as the header and the footer has it’s own file too with components that work across the site in a ‘generic’ file to avoid code duplication.

Responsive Grid
I knew that I wanted this version of the site to be responsive but as it was a very small site I didn’t want to import a massive grid system. Searching around the internet for ideas, I developed a small set of rules that give a limited amount of columns, but these were all that I needed. A media query collapses the columns into 1 when it hits the variable for max screen width that is declared globally so that other styles may alter on mobile too. The header file also includes the viewport meta tags to ensure that mobile ‘retina’ devices do not show desktop sizes.

Restrictions
Because the site is a WordPress template, the code is not as clean as I would have liked with many concessions having to be made. Using functions such as strip_tags on the navigation, for example, allowed me to clean things up. I favour the clean markup of <a> tags inside a
<nav>tag, where as WordPress nests <ul> tags inside both other <ul>s and <div>s.

Initially, I made the header of the site sticky with CSS and added JavaScript to trigger an animation to fade in my name on the homepage when scrolling down. I removed all this before launch to reduce differences in the behaviour between browsers.

Testing and feedback
When I reached a point where I was happy and I had tested on my devices, I launched the site and got some design and developer friends to make suggestions. Through this process I made some tweaks to the typography, in particular where different sizes of headings sit next to each other. Some copy was also changed to better reflect the new layout.

Widgets
About a week after launching, I decided to add another page that I could use to easily show my progress completing certain walking routes as well as linking to the relevant blog posts about them. To do this, I decided to teach myself something new and build a WordPress widget to make updating the progress easy. As a visualisation I wanted to have a progress bar so opted to use the relatively new progress markup. Due to it being so new, I had to allow various fallbacks for older browsers and even modern ones that do not support it so well. Firefox for example does not have the ability to style the background whereas Webkit browsers have separate pseudo classes for the progress and the background. IE only supports progress from 10 upwards and even then only supports the ability to change the colour. For older browsers, I elected to include a textual representation underneath which also helped to clarify the bar for those which were able to see it. I wrote a blog post explaining more about these widgets when they launched.

Edd

Midweek recipe: Porky schnitzel

Sometimes when it comes to dinner I make something up on the spot based on vague recollections of things i’ve eaten in the past. Monday’s dinner was rather delicious so I thought I’d share it with you all.

Pork schnitzelServes 2

Ingredients
2 or 3 pork leg escalopes
2 slices of brown bread
plain flour
1 egg
block butter
dried minced garlic
dried parsley

100g cous cos
water
1 courgette
1 carrot
a bit more butter

Method
Turn your bread into breadcrumbs and put them in a shallow dish. Bet the egg into another dish. Tip some flour into a third, not too much you just need enough to coat the meat.
Make a schnitzel by coating the meat in a thin layer of flour. Shake off the excess then coat it in the egg. Again, shake off the excess then coat in the breadcrumb. Shake of the final excess and set aside.
With a mandolin or, because they are rather good at taking your finger off too, use a mandolin attachment in a food processor to thinly slice the courgette and peeled carrot.
Make up some couscous, 100g usually needs 160ml of boiling water and set aside to absorb. Boil extra water as a shortcut for later
Melt a generous knob of butter in a frying pan and add some dried garlic and parsley as it melts. Add the pork and fry on a medium-low heat for around 3 minutes on each side.
While the pork cooks, bring the extra water back to the boil in a saucepan and add the vegetables. They only need a couple of minutes.
When the veg is ready, drain it and mix it together with the couscous and a small knob of butter.
Serve the veg/couscous mixture onto plates and place a piece of pork on top. Garnish with some fresh parsley if you happen to have some.

Away from the capital: Farnham

Want a day away from the capital but that is easy to get to? Try Farnham. It just so happens that Soph’s grandparents live there which is our excuse to pop down but here is some ideas for you based on a few of our visits.

Farnham Castle
A short walk up hill from the town centre lies this historic castle. The ruins of the 12th century keep are open to the public for free daily by English Heritage with a small museum also present in the courtyard below. The rest of the more modern (well, 17th century is more modern than the keep) buildings are the Bishops palace and nowadays form a conference centre and wedding venue with other arts of the former grounds used as a cricket pitch.

A castle has been on the site since 1138, built by the grandson of William the Conqueror and was home to the Bishops of winchester for around 800 years. Henry VIII destroyed the original but it was soon rebuilt which is what we see the remains of today. The cardinal who presided on the trial of Joan of Arc lived here for a while but the destruction of the current keep was done in the cvil war, in a similar vain to Corfe Castle, to stop it being used as a fortress.

View from the castle

Waverley Abbey
Ruins of WaverleyIf you enjoy old ruins, then a visit to the other side of the town is in order. Here lies the remains of Waverley Abbey, destroyed by (you guessed it) Henry VIII. It was founded in 1128, with the fist monks shipped over from Normandy, and it lived a turbulent life through flood and only turning very slender profits. After is was dissolved, some of it’s stones were used to construct the manor house on the other side of the river but many walls remain including a marvellous vaulted ceiling. Entry is free, but it is quite a walk down narrow country lanes – there is a car park, however, if you drive down. Wikipedia will give you a lot more of it’s history if you are interested.

The town centre
Lion and lambIf you want buildings that are less open the the elements, a stroll around the town centre may be ideal for you. The usual chain stores are housed in various buildings from across the centuries. A museum is also located in the centre along with parks and public works of art such as the pictured lion and lamb sculpture.

A circular valley walk
Want to get away from the hustle and bustle. Take a stroll down into the valley to the east. We headed out to Old Compton Lane on the outskirts of the town and from there headed down hill paster Culverlands to the pretty High Mill House where you have to rather strangely go through the gate and along their drive. Turn back down past Moor Park Farm and you eventually reach the road and join the North Downs Way. Follow it back to the junction of paths by Culverlands where you can either head back up to Old Compton Lane or turn it into a figure of eight walk and head back towards the station. I’ve included here a handy OS map of our hour long walk.

Farnham Walk

The North Downs Way
While reading up about the national trails before our most recent trip down, I made the discovery that we’ve actually walked some of the North Downs Way without realising it. One day we shall have to walk it properly, but I was amazed to find out that the trail ran past the front door of our house when we lived down in Canterbury, then preceded to carry on along St Peter’s Street and past a flat Soph lived in once before we moved in together drawing a nice neat line between the two. Yes, the trail is definitely one to walk in the future. We know the start, the middle is not far away from the LOOP and we know the area near the end. A fun revisit for the future. Lets finish the LOOP first though, eh.

Edd

The end? How to annoy a collector

Let it not be said that I have a collectors instinct. I collect all sorts of things – and it drives my family mad. One of my many collections is Starbucks mugs. More specifically the 2008 Global Icons series. Let me give you a brief history of the range and my collection before I get to the annoyance. For the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Starbucks wanted decided to create mugs for various Chinese city’s that visitors could pick up. This was not unprecedented as they had produced various designs of city, state and country mugs around the world for years, but this was something new. The design would a brown outline illustration of a local iconic building, person or animal with a coloured background and inside. It did not take long for the design to spread to the USA and Europe and today there are nearly 500 mugs in the range from all over the world.

2013 dealt a major blow to the hundreds of icon muggers. Starbucks replaced the 2008 range in the USA and Canada with a new series of slightly smaller, stylised and overly colourful mugs: the 2013 You Are Here series. Despite many petitions and signatories to keep the icon range alongside, they were gone for good. Around the same time, Starbucks Europe released a YAH for Amsterdam to test the market over here. After half a year, it was discontinued and no further mugs in the series were made for Europe. Icons had survived to live another day.

Fast forward to 2016, and Starbucks open a new store in Johannesburg, South Africa and the story gets interesting. The country mug was an Icon, the city mug was a You Are Here. Icon collectors begin to worry. Shortly after two Indonesian Icons get rereleased after a few years off the market. Icon muggers breath a sigh of relief, perhaps Johannesburg was just another Amsterdam trial? Then news hits, new You Are Here for London, Moscow, Berlin and Munich. This doesn’t look good for the Icons. In the last week, other cities in Europe have rolled out YAH mugs including Paris, Vienna and Copenhagen. Starbucks opened a new store in Nantes which is selling city and country mugs using the Johannesburg combination of YAH and Icon.

So where does this leave the Icons? We’ve had no official word from Starbucks on the issue but it looks like Icon city mugs are on the way out at least. Maybe the county ones will continue, I hope so. In Asia and Oceania, Icons are still the order of the day with no You Are Here’s in sight, but who can tell how long that will last.

International mugs

When I went out to China a few years ago, I picked up the Beijing mug – this was my trigger. Everywhere I have visited since I have picked up the icon mugs of the country and city as well as trading the British Icons to try and fill the backlog of places I visited before I started this collection. When we went to Budapest last month, Gary and Peter (my Hungarian friends and former colleagues who live there) were amazed that while looking at the sights with them, I slipped into a Starbucks to buy mugs. They don’t understand my collecting tendencies. Soph is travelling to France in a few weeks and I have given her a shopping list of my missing French Icons; they annoyingly released the Lille Icon only a few months after I was there. As such, I have a nice record of where I have travelled in the form of uniformly styled mugs. You Are Here’s threaten this. So let’s hope that if they do retire the city icons that they keep the country ones. The only issue now is do I collect the new mugs for places I’ve visited?

Edd

The Rickmansworth Festival and The Ebury Way

Crowds at the canalSaturday 21st and Sunday 22nd May this year was the date for the annal Rickmansworth Festival organised by the Rickmansworth Waterways Trust as the culmination of Ricky Week. The festival is a real mixture. What is technically the main attraction is the display of narrowboats, moored four abreast all the way down from Batchworth Lock to beyond the entrance bridge to the Aquadrome. The towpath was heaving and the boats were impressive and from many eras – cargo barges, those converted to houseboats and new builds too. Live music is performed by the lock and boat trips are available for a small fee.

The festival also spans into the Aquadrome where stalls selling cheese, sausages, handmade gifts and traditional painted barge fare are interspersed amongst burger vans and morris dancers. It’s busy and hard to move through the crowds but the food stalls do offer free samples and we did walk out with cheese and sausages. The final area of the festival consists of a fairground with the usual array of garishly painted rides and games. You don’t need to stay long, but it is worth a visit if you’re in the area. The event is always the third weekend of May and the London Transport Museum occasionally run heritage vehicles though these seemed to be absent this year. It was a few years ago that the heritage A Stock run was put on to tie in with this event.

Soph and I live in Watford, so we had two options to reach the festival. Driving and trying to find somewhere to park in the town didn’t seem feasible so we elected to walk. Luckily there is a handy route between home and Ricky, the Ebury Way – the route of the former Watford and Rickmansworth Railway, the Croxley branch of which is currently being converted into the new Metropolitan Line Extension. The line from Watford Junction to Rickmansworth (Church Street) via Watford High Street opened in 1862 with the branch to Croxley Green opening later in 1912. Both branches were single track west of the junction with the new Watford DC line that opened in 1913 and is now part of the London Overground.

The walking route itself is very easy going. It is actually the continuation of National Cycle Route 6 that we partially followed to St Albans a few weeks ago. It also follows the Colne down so this can be seen as a continuation of the Abbey Line Trail. It begins near the construction site of the new link road which is on the old site of Croxley Green depot, that was used for BR and Bakerloo line trains, and goes through the park up onto the old railway embankment. Here you can look through the fence to see the tracks that the Met will run along in a few years time as well as the Network South East red lampposts that are still visible at the distant Watford Stadium station.

Colne valley view

The route then continues along the old railway across various bridges reconstructed on the old brick and metalwork underneath (where cyclists are told to dismount but none of them do – we were very nearly knocked off the bridge). There are various points where the view is simply stunning across the Colne Valley. Eventually you come pas the back of the Croxley Green business park whose access road resulted in the closure of rail services on the Croxley Green branch by demolishing part of the railway embankment at Ascot Road. The next point of interest is Croxley Common Moor with the buildings of the village visible on the hill in the distance. The Moor is a local nature reserve and often has grazing cattle on it.

The final approach into Rickmansworth crosses the Grand Union Canal and reveals a hint of the routes’ railway history with a gradient marker still in situ beside the path, before the trail weaves amongst newer buildings to bring you out at the site of the old station that is now a Travis Perkins. It’s a short walk – no more than a couple of hours – but worth it just to see the area and to contemplate on how the Metropolitan Railway were mostly to blame for the lines’ demise.

Edd

ADDENDUM TO THE EBURY WAY
The Ebury Way is split over two maps, OS Explorer 173 London North and OS Explorer 172 Chiltern Hills East.
There are seventeen Geocaches on or near the route and inside the Aquadrome. I do not maintain this bookmark list so do your own research for any new ones.

Walking the LOOP part VI – sections 9 & 10

During 2016, Edd & Soph are walking the LOOP for the DofE Diamond Challenge. You can sponsor them on JustGiving. These blog posts are not designed to be a walking guide, merely a run down of what see, and we always suggest taking a good map with you.

LOOP square signAnother week, another part of the LOOP ticked off – starting by the Thames and taking in the sights of Bushy park before heading off to Heathrow and beyond. From river travel to air travel and back to the waterways, these two sections together proved to be a veritable timewarp. We began where we left off in Kingston-Upon-Thames, although it was less sunny than on our previous visit. A brief refreshment at one of the local Starbucks and we were on our way by ten thirty once again; beginning by crossing the river into the the sixth London Borough of the LOOP, Richmond-Upon-Thames which is the only Borough to lie both banks of the river. On these roads, the LOOP signs change from the usual green and blue to black and white squares, making them much harder to see amongst the jumble of other information aside from the fact they they don’t seem to be placed at the junctions you need nor have arrows on. Once into Bushy Park, however, normality is restored.

The park is where we hit our first real snag. At the corner of the cricket pitch we met a group of three ladies that were also completing the LOOP section 9 today but looked rather lost. In my desire to look like we were more prepared, I forged on to the mown grass track I perceived to be correct from the angle of the LOOP maker. Unfortunately, we wanted the one next to it, which was less obvious, but the mistake was soon rectified by walking across the uneven grassland when we saw we were going to pass the wrong side of the trees and observed a marker post on the other path. I was a tad embarrassed though as the ladies had followed us thinking we knew what we were doing, I heard them say “oh, they’re checking” when I pulled out the trusty map to double check. Once on the correct path, the next hour was probably the nicest and most beautiful part of the LOOP so far. Crossing a little bridge, we walk by ponds filled with fish and fed by the man-made Longford river; built under the instruction of Charles I to supply these ponds and Hampton Court that lies just out of site behind the trees to the south west. The most you see of it on the LOOP is by looking down the Chestnut Avenue as you cross it, but the Diana Fountain and that famous maze get in the way. The avenue was planned to lead to a new grand north wing, but this was never completed leaving this elegant treelined road to not quite take you to the royal palace.

Flowers in bloomThe other side of the road leads us into the woodland gardens that are full of blooming plants in pinks, oranges, reds and yellows on this wonderful spring day. The grounds team were out in force planting more beds too. The waterhouse plantation is equally stunning though the final fenced in area, the willow plantation, is far less so. Returning to the park proper you enter an area which seems to be the most densely populated with the deer introduced by Henry VIII, with the area also proving popular with cyclists and dog walkers of all ages. Enjoy this last bit, it goes urban again now. There are a couple of kilometres walking along the suburban back streets of the borough, although one street sign still proudly bears the mark of the previous District of Twickenham, until you cut across the corner of a golf course and plunge back into housing. Eventually you will reach this sections’ river, the Crane that flows from Hayes (where we finished the day’s walking) down to the Thames near Isleworth.

Drop towerCrane Park is an interesting place to walk, evidence from it’s time as a key area for the manufacture of gunpowder from 1766 to 1926 are much in evidence. Before that this whole area was part of the vast Hounslow Heath that has been swallowed up to be all but a kilometre square that we walk through shortly. We ate our lunch sitting on old millstones by a large tower where they formally made lead shot by dropping small blobs of molten lead from the top of the tower into cool water at the bottom. Crude but effective. The ladies from the park passed us here while we took the time to visit the little information centre in the bottom of the tower. The island in the middle of the river here functions as a nature reserve, but we elected to carry on walking though the park where the path eventually lead us out onto a busy road. Don’t worry about crossing too quickly, there are zebra and pelican crossings further down towards the heath. This area used to be home to Britain’s second largest railway siding complex, the Feltham Marshalling Yard until BR closed it in 1969. Some signs of its’ past use apparently remain, though nothing is visible from the road with a large amount of the site having been redeveloped into a mail sorting depot.

Hounslow Heath is the next stop for us. An area famous for encampments, highway robberies and military training down the centuries. It was also the site from which the Ordnance Survey began their first triangulation of Great Britain project in 1784. This small remnant of the once vast heathland is now a nature reserve. Returning to the Crane, this area is not particularly pleasant, very overgrown with a lot of rubbish strewn around the path and river it is also rather dark from the dense tree cover making for a less than desirable walking environment. Thankfully it is not long until you come out onto a road by a patrol station via a squeeze between the cars waiting for the hand car wash. Section 9 finishes by passing through Donkey Wood where we bumped into the ladies again having a late lunch. A brief chat with them told us that they were also aiming to compete the LOOP this year, though taking it at a more leisurely pace than us by only doing one section a day though agreeing that you should never try and follow the directions provided by TfL. They had done so when they completed the Capital Ring last year whereas they had chosen David Sharp’s guidebook to navigate the LOOP which was proving to be far more rural and enjoyable. We left them to their lunch and spent a fun while bouncing on a raised plastic wood effect causeway over the boggy ground bring us to the A312 where we cross the river and complete the final few hundred meters on the other bank until reaching the Great South West Road (A30). As has been stated many times, the section should really end here, but you have to walk down to the pedestrian lights shortly before Hatton Cross station spending a kilometre breathing in the fumes of cars and planes. You can see the LOOP signs on the other side of the road too, right next to the Piccadilly line’s tunnel portal.

Path pondWe waited briefly at the traffic lights to say farewell to the three ladies before starting that kilometre trudge back to the Crane. The road has recently been redesigned down here, finally providing a footpath for us walkers to skirt between the Piccadilly line and the roundabout. Silver Jubilee way has the feel of abandonment with a fire destroyed hut and forever open road barrier but the LOOP soon turns back onto the banks of the Crane to reveal the pond. It was as I was planning this walk that Diamond Geezer coincidentally blogged about section 10. In his post, he describes the path as impassable and thus took a walk through the streets to avoid it. Having come this far and starting to get weary, we decided to go for it and attempt to cross. I had throughly re-waterproofed our boots the evening before in anticipation and, with a stick in hand to poke the ground ahead, began a wary crossing away from the main path, behind the isolated bench. We reached the bench and I abandoned the stick approach in favour of just moving very quickly through the boggy mud and two inch high water. Miraculously we both got through without getting our feet wet, proving it is possible but make sure you have decent boots – I feel the ladies we spoke to earlier may struggle. According to reports, the path is always like this so good luck!

Stable blockSection 10 is actually pretty short and follows the Crane all the way until Bulls Bridge. A short way after the pond and past signs from Hounslow council warning against grazing your horse here, you reach another short urban stretch in Cranford, from which the river gets its’ name. Cranford itself is a anglo saxon for “ford of cranes” meaning the crossing point of the river that is home to Cranes. The problem is that they didn’t mean Cranes, they meant Herons which are a different species, but we shall close over that. The village is really old, being Saxon in origin, though you couldn’t tell that from the semis and office blocks that are now here. Crossing the delightful bridge that proudly bears the arms of Middlesex we cross into my birth borough of Hillingdon (you were briefly in the borough when walking to Hatton Cross and back, but there wasn’t much to see there). Passing through Berkeley Meadows and on into Cranford Country Park it become apparent that Hillingdon must have a larger budget for green spaces than neighbouring Hounslow with well manicured paths and clear informative signage. I especially liked the mini park map installed on the top of the LOOP way mark posts. The sweeping vistas soon pass behind a ha-ha – an old sunken ditch that the Earl of Berkley used to separate the 1000-acre estate from the gardens of his now demolished mansion. In the car park begins the Hillingdon Trail, newly resigned and inviting to complete one day, and we follow this past the delightful old church of St Dunstan, the Earl’s stable block and under the M4.

Bulls BridgeThe final leg is through the urban outskirts of Hayes to Bulls Bridge. I was rather familiar with the massive road bridge that carries the A312 over the canal as well as the underpasses that give access to Tesco due to a group of us accidentally destroying the gear box of a narrowboat here a a couple of years ago meaning a night spent mored opposite the famous Bulls Bridge before a trip to Harefield in the morning to collect another boat. We did eventually make it to Paddington on that trip but it also means I know the street of the canal along which the next two sections pass rather well. Soph had not been on that trip with me, so we detoured slightly to show her Bulls Bridge before heading north west to Hayes to finish the day – and avoiding the glares of the homeless people camped in the bushes along the towpath.

The day had been a real mixture. Beginning in the splendour of a Royal Park before passing through suburbs then onto a lovely reversed walk which later turned rather dingy and awful. Then, again, more urban environment followed by a splendid open area before finishing once more in an industrial heavy area. It has also been a day steeped in transport and industrial history. Ancient carriages would have passed over Hounslow heath, river transport would have steered up and down the Thames with the Crane providing the means for industrial revolution along it’s banks that lead to railways running through Feltham and Hayes and finally to air transport completely transforming a sleepy Middlesex hamlet called Heathrow.

Edd

ADDENDUM
For this day of walking you will need OS Explorer 161 London South with the a very small amount on OS Explorer 160 Windsor, Weybridge & Bracknell. If you have David Sharp’s guidebook you can probably get away without the latter.
There are twelve Geocaches on or near the section 9 route and five on or near section 10. I do not maintain these bookmark lists so do your own research for any new ones.

Not your ordinary blog post

This morning I found myself at a loss for what to write today. This afternoon I found myself with a bit of free time to spare between projects. So I built myself some widgets.

You may have noticed that a new tab has appeared in the menu. You may also notice that a lot of my blog posts are about walks Soph and I have done. So I thought to myself, what would be a really nice way to visually show how far we have walked on various trails. So I built myself a little widget that will render me a progress bar. It’s pretty bog standard and my code is far from pretty but I hadn’t built a widget for a long time so it was a good way to refresh and test my skills.

Uncle Bob, of Clean Coders fame, tells us that part of being an Agile developer is practicing at home away from your work environment. As someone who now works from home, that is a bit strange to say as I don’t quite escape; but you get the drift. This was my practice session for the week and I feel so much better for it.

So, back to the walking widget. What does it show you? Well, not that much. I might add links to blog posts at some point or even make it show progress in kilometres rather than just the stages which are often irregular (the LOOP for example has much shorter stages in it’s northern half than it’s southern), but for now it is just a very nice visualisation of how far we have walked and just how far we still have to go.

Progress Bars

Edd

Walking the LOOP part V – sections 7 & 8

During 2016, Edd & Soph are walking the LOOP for the DofE Diamond Challenge. You can sponsor them on JustGiving. These blog posts are not designed to be a walking guide, merely a run down of what see, and we always suggest taking a good map with you.

After our foray into St Albans last week, we got back on the LOOP on Thursday requiring us to venture on to the little Epsom Downs branch line once more to arrive at Banstead for 10:19. Banstead station is nowhere near the village so we immediately retraced our steps to the obscure section start – a signpost in some overgrown woodland in the middle of a golf course. The LOOP Link across the fairway and through the woods is no clearer on the return journey and this time the brambles seem to have grown up even more. Section 7 is really quite boring. From the signpost you track north through the wood then across the end of the golf course before plunging into suburbia with several kilometres spent trudging along roads. Banstead and the golf course is actually outside the Greater London boundary too, but the first half of this urban stretch is the Borough of Sutton, however you soon come across the border and a big sign welcoming you to Epsom & Ewell and it is in Surrey we stay until well into Section 8 – enjoy it while it lasts.

Nonsuch palaceAfter finally leaving the urban environs of East Ewell, the LOOP brings you out into one of it’s gloriously unexpected meadows once again. This is Warren Farm, managed by the Woodland Trust where a lot of the planting is relatively modern. It connects with Nonsuch Park through the woods on its’ north side. Nonsuch is the remains of one of Henry VIII’s deer hunting parks. He demolished the entire village of Cuddington to build himself a palace here in 1538 although he died before it’s completion. The palace was later demolished in 1682 but you can still see it’s location through three concrete posts (that coincidentally look like trig pillars) that sit along a path just off the LOOP by a modern house on the corner. The pillar furthest away explains the positioning on a plaque. Further along the LOOP you pass an area raised on brickwork, this is a nineteen century recreation of the outline of the banqueting hall that accompanied the palace, that gives you a lovely view down the slope to the Ewell bypass. Although called a banqueting hall, it was more of a hunting lodge where the weary hunters could come and get some grub, although I expect the bypass and sprawling housing puts paid to the ability to stalk deer around here now.

Bourne Hall fountainAnother short urban section takes you past a school that thinks it is a castle and a church tower without a church before passing through the dog gate (look up to see why it’s called this) to the end of section 7 in the delightful Bourne Hall Park. The newsagent on the way in provided us with cool drinks and we stopped for lunch in a shady alcove by a pond on the northern end of the park. Bourne Hall itself was replaced after the original was demolished in the sixties leaving us with a large, round, flying saucer like building that houses a library, community centre, gym and theatre amongst other things. The ponds you see here are the source of the Hogsmill River, which section 8 imitates all the way to the Thames at Kingston.

Section 8 then; much more pleasant than section 7, though very same-y. We walk along the Hosgmill pretty much the entire way but pass through a variety of different environments. As you’d expect, the river near it’s source is pretty small. From the ponds in the park it runs past what was an old water mill that has been rebuilt into offices. There was a second mill too but that burnt down in 1938. Passing under the railway is an interesting experience. There was no path here originally and only a narrow tunnel for the river to flow under the Mole Valley Line from Waterloo so an ingenious idea was to build a wooden causeway on top of the river to allow pedestrians to (almost) walk on water to reach the other side. Be careful though, there is very little headroom and a sewage pipe on the far side is even lower. I had to duck, Soph did not – lucky her! The river is out of the woodland now and into the open, where is confluences with some of it’s tributaries and forms the Hogsmill Nature reserve. There is a track that crosses the path part way along which is where TfL tell you you can walk on either side of the river. Ignore them, cross the bridge and walk on the western bank until the next bridge; the eastern bank is narrow, muddy and not very accessible. Indeed the signage here only tells you to cross and makes no reference to the other way.

Patchwork churchEventually then, after a wet area where we came across a dozen dogs playing splashy-splashy, the river is joined by another tributary and bends through 90º to become the Greater London/Surrey border. It very quickly crosses the A240 where you can either walk down to the pedestrian crossing our pass over via the central reservation. Here I regretted having removed the bottom half of my trousers (they are the ones that zip off to become shorts – I didn’t just cut them) as the path is narrow and overgrown with stinging nettles, it’s not a very nice path at all being rather dark and dingy. If you are following TfL’s directions you will be thinking now that there is an alternate route you can take at the next road junction, indeed OS also show the diamond path signifier going in two directions. Ignore this. You have to take the alternate route. What is listed as the main route seems to have never been built. Where the path should be is a pit of barbed wire and lots of brambles. Follow the signage to do a bit more Surrey Urban walking along roads and quite steeply uphill to the top and pass along an interesting road where it seems they forgot to build the middle bit. Eventually you pass an interesting church on the return back downhill to the river, it is a patchwork of building styles from medieval, 17th century and Victorian eras.

After our detour we finally rejoin the hogs mill for the last leg into Kingston and fully in Greater London as it passes under another railway. After walking on the eastern bank for a while, you are brought out onto a delightful patch called the A3. OK, I may be being a bit sarcastic there, the problem is that you can’t cross it here, even though we can see the LOOP signpost on the other side. We need to get our daily dose of pollution to line are lungs as we hike up to a subway and back down the other side where dropping onto the river plain again does little to dispel the urban air with concrete and litter in addition to the never ending drone of the A3. This area, however, is actually he Hogsmill River Park Nature Reserve and it does get better as you head north. Enjoy it, after we leave here it is all urban and no green. We found that the reserve got notably busier as we approached the turning out at Berrylands where cycling seems to be king. A word of warning, at the roundabout the LOOP signs are twisted the wrong way, follow your map! You need the right most road going uphill before you drop back down to the station. The station offers no facilities and after passing under the railway the delightful smell of sewage greets you. Leaving behind the sewage works you get light industry and then the massive Surbiton Cemetery before reaching the outskirts of Kingston.

Coronation stoneAt the main road we took the opportunity of a nearby newsagent to grab ourselves an ice cream before setting off for the final stretch back along the road to find our old friend the Hogsmill who we had been without since we came out of the reserve back in Berrylands. When we find it, though, we have to keep going past the school to reach a newly paved footpath that can bring us back onto the banks passing Kingston University and very much in a man-made concrete channel now. Two small detours away from the river to skirt a block of flats and then a large road junction bring us under the guildhall complex and onto the final road crossing of the river. On the bridge look back into the front car park of the guildhall to see the coronation stone on which it is said that seven kings were crowned. Cross the road and look back at the bridge from the path on the other side to see it’s original 1293 arches. The final few hundred meters are now swamped with chain restaurants vying for your trade before you hit the Thames and probably a large crowd of people in this very busy area. This section ends rather disappointingly with a small direction sign outside TKMaxx and John Lewis underneath a sign for the Thames Path national trail – but that is one for another day!

Edd

ADDENDUM
For this day of walking you only need one map for a change; OS Explorer 161 London South. As usual we also had David Sharp’s excellent guidebook with us.
There are three Geocaches on or near the section 7 route and 13 on or near section 8. I do not maintain these bookmark lists so do your own research for any new ones.