Monday was a day for us to relax and indulge ourselves. No walking around the capital this time, we’re going in to it. With a rather exclusive gig to attend in the evening, we decided to make a day of it.
First stop: The Cartoon Museum
If you are a Doctor Who fan in London, I hope you knew about the target cover artwork exhibition in this little building near The British Museum. It was supposed to end on Wednesday, but it has now been extended until early June and is a rare chance to see the original drawings of some iconic book covers that are now kept in private collections along with new illustrations for reissued books.
We’d been to the museum before a year or two ago, but noted the prices had risen, £7 is a little expensive if you’re only going for the small upstairs exhibition but probably worth it if you are in to graphic novels. Unfortunately neither Soph or I are so we skimmed the main room and ventured upstairs. There are 35 pieces on display, mostly from Chris Achilleos and Andrew Skilleter and I certainly spent a while staring at the artwork and comparing it to the scan of the book cover provided next to it to spot the changes made by the publishers such as the removal of Achilleos’ signature on a couple. If you have a spare half hour while you’re in the area, it is worth a look. Kklak!
Second stop: The British Museum
The unplanned trip of the day after we realised we still had far too much time to play with before heading across London for dinner. Tearing Soph away from her beloved Egyptian section, we looked around the Enlightenment hall as we both decided we’d never been in this part. Finding no eternals or guardians, we traipsed through a mind-boggling array of artefacts from all over the world that travellers of the past collected during the age of learning.
Third stop: Dinner
We had dinner in South Kensington just as the heavens opened.
Fourth stop: The Royal Albert Hall
It’s not everyday that the famous music hall hosts 80’s Synth Pop, but on Monday 9th May OMD were in town. Neither Soph nor I were born until the 90’s so, as you can imagine, we lowered the average age somewhat but we weren’t the youngest people and we’d done the same at the gig two years ago in the foyer of the Museum of Liverpool. Despite our youth and the fact that they are the age of our parents, we are big fans of the band and tonight they were playing two of their albums in full – this was a real hardcore fan gig.
The first half was Dazzle Ships, the masterpiece of 1983 that was so poorly received at the time. The band appeared on stage with the customary semaphore flags for ABC Auto Industry before launching into the rest of the album including two songs never performed live in their 33 year history. It was amazing, and by the time they played a few songs from the first album after running out of Dazzle Ships content, nearly the entire hall was on their feet
windmilling dancing – probably not something the Albert Hall usually sees. It was also clear to Soph and I that the people in front of us didn’t really know who they had come to see, they just didn’t seem to understand why these people were signing about cold war divisions to lively electronic melodies!
Queuing for Ice Cream in the interval revealed further people who weren’t quite sure what they were watching. A couple of chaps behind me in the line were actually googling to see what half the songs were – I expect they came along because they liked the hits, but that is not what we got tonight. Part two was the much more critically acclaimed Architecture and Morality. Although this album was much more the hit maker then it’s follow up, it still provides some wonderful melancholic music concrete.
All in all, it was the best evening out for a very long time. Stuart Kershaw successfully filled Malcolm’s shoes, it was great to see Martin out from behind the keyboard to play bass again and we can forgive Paul’s mistakes in Sealand or Andy singing the wrong verse in Joan of Arc – the audience sang the right one anyway! Mind you, the mistakes are forever enshrined as the show was recorded live with CD’s burnt and collected within 15 minutes of it ending.
This was the only UK gig, but they play three more in Germany this week. We’ll see them again on the new album tour next year, I’m sure.
Earlier this week, we walked from Watford to St Albans along the Abbey Line trail. Read part I for more background.
We pick up the tail on Drop Lane, near Bricket Wood. From this point we follow the River Ver most of the way to the finish, with only minor detours away from its’ banks. Heading east along the lane you soon come across the Riverside Way on your right. This ¾ mile path is owned and maintained by Hertfordshire County Council for horse riders as well as walkers. It’s a pleasant easy stroll along the bank of the chalk river, although the channel is man-made, with wooden sculptures spread out along it’s length – although, I wish someone could tell me what some of them are supposed to be. At then end of the pathway, it crosses the river and heads for a car park along a track bounded by a fence on the left and a large hedge on the right. Pass the car park and follow it’s access road to just before its’ junction with Smug Oak Lane. Cross the neighbouring access track to access Smug Oak Lane via the footpath at the bridge. Carefully cross the river and head down the road leading to Moor Mill, an 18th Century water mill that is now a Beefeater Restaurant. It was indeed lunchtime when we reached this point, but we elected to carry on and eat our sandwiches further up the path. The sign on the road for the mill boasts 5 markers for trails of various lengths, with the Abbey Line Trail by far the newest one right at the top.
Continue past the mill and carpark to the back of the building, the path is obscured by the bin store area so keep walking up to the M25 embankment and you’ll soon spot it, once again on the bank of the Ver. I’d love to say how scenic this section is but after the path goes under London’s orbital motorway, it bears right around industrial buildings then left at the road to pass onto an old landfill site; now being reclaimed by nature. Keep walking north through the grassy wasteland as the noise of the M25 slowly fades away. Where the path splits, take the narrower left hand fork through the bushes which leads you out onto Hyde Lane. Be careful not step straight out as it is quite a blind corner where vehicles do move swiftly along. Turn right and follow the lane to the Car Park for Frogmore pits, a fishery in the landscaped remains of old gravel workings that provides habitat for many rare species of flora and fauna.
Take the wooden entrance bride on your right into the fishery and continue along the path in a north westerly direction between the lakes. If you want to leave the route here, there is a short walk to How Wood station away to your left at this point. After a bench the path bears right and eventually splits by an area that dogs seem to love to bathe in – as we found out when we decided to make this our picnic spot. Take the right hand fork onto the river bank once more with mobile homes on the opposite bank – see if you can spot the old London Transport bus stop roundel here! The path is a little muddy here, but you soon come out into somebody’s driveway to reach Frogmore (the road) and Park Street (the village) – those two really sound like they are the wrong way around although Frogmore is also the neighbouring village and to be even more confusing the road is alternatively called Park Street. The road itself is actually a realignment of Watling Street that it runs into at either end, the great Roman road that runs from our old University city of Canterbury to St Albans and then beyond. Standing here it seems strange to think that we used to catch a bus or do a food shop in the Tesco at the other end down in Kent.
Turn left along Frogmore/Park Street/Radlett Road/Watling Street/A5183 (yes there are even more names for this road) into the village. Along the way you will pass several listed structures, what is perhaps by favourite named pub – The Overdraught – and, most importantly for this railway themed walk, the rains of the bridge that carried a spur off the Abbey Line north of How Wood station to the Midland Line during it’s construction to facilitate transport of building materials. This branch was short lived and never used for passenger service although British Railways did apparently look into reopening it as a diversion of the Abbey Line into St Albans City Station. Keep on the road until the pelican crossing outside the Chinese restaurant where you will find a newsagent and recycling bins for toping up of energy providing treats after crossing. Should you wish to leave the walk here, Park Street station is further along the road. Head down Burydell Lane between Park Mill and the newsagent past houses, over the Ver again and past allotments until the path sneaks off to your left at the cottages. Following the fence of the allotments on your left, keep through the wooded area until a gateway into a large open meadow. Walk along the ditch down the middle, following around a bend until it reaches the main fence line. You may need to dodge the sheep here, but now the path crosses a boggy bit where they dare not tread. The route is makers by posts but you may need to venture off it slightly to avoid the worse of the mud here. It eventually leaves the marsh to continue beside the Ver once more briefly until a bridge over it on your left just before the embankment for the North Orbital Road/A414. Cross the bridge and turn right to walk on the opposite bank of the river under the road after which the path soon goes back across the river via a bridge that is starting to become an island as the river flows around the concrete steps. Continue north along the river bank until you pass the car park for Sopwell House Hotel and emerge out onto Cottonmill Lane. This is another dangerous corner for the path to come out on so be careful.
Now for an urban stretch again. Turn left and walk with caution along the road, remembering to keep to the right to face the oncoming traffic. The road bears let then right to bridge the Ver then left again to a Junction. Turn right to continue along Cottonmill Lane that now thankfully gains a footpath. You stay on this street for nearly a kilometre climbing gently uphill until a narrow roadway heads off to your right back down to the river. The path has changes slightly to how the Ordnance Survey print it, at the barrier bear left then right around the playground and keep parallel to the road to cross into an area that seems to be having work done to it with trees felled. Turning left to head north, the path rejoins the river and crosses under another old railway bridge. You’re getting close to the end now, this is the St Albans and Hatfield Railway that used to run from, you guessed it, St Albans Abbey to Hatfield. It lasted 99 years (although passenger services had already ceased by the end) and is now a cycle route and footpath called the Alban Way. It was also another potential candidate in the late 20th Century BR bid to divert the Abbey Line to the City station. Many of the stations and platforms along the route have survived as has the platform at St Albans Abbey which is now used as an access road, take a look at the end of your walk. Another trail I’d like to walk someday I think.
Continue on the bank of the Ver past more allotments as it curves around to the west and passes the ruins of a Tudor mansion built on the site of Sopwell Nunnery after Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. Cross your old favourite, Cottonmill Lane, once more and take the path on the opposite bank of the Ver where it is very clear that modern buildings have once again forced the straightening and realignment of its’ channel. After cutting a corner the path bridges the river and emerges onto Holywell Hill. Welcome to St Albans. The cathedral is up the hill to your right; as is the whole city, the station is certainly not central providing the main reason for many closure and realignment plans of the line. To finish the trail, turn left and walk on until you reach the entrance to the station where the original entrance pillars have been lovingly restored. Unfortunately that is all that remains of any building, nowadays the station is a single platform with a couple of metal and glass shelters and a ticket machine. Don’t forget to look at the tile art by local school children on the fence up the access road.
You have now completed the trail, it wasn’t long was it? But there is more. I mentioned earlier the Abbey Flyer walks. There are four of these short circular walks from the northern stations on the line that duplicate some of the main trail too. Actually, three are circular, one is just the last stage of the Abbey Line trail, so you’ve already done that without realising it, well done! Leaflets for all five walks are on the Abbey Line website.
Next week, we’ll get back to the LOOP.
For this day of walking you need the following maps; OS Explorer 173 London North and OS Explorer 182 St Albans & Hatfield. I would also recommend printing the leaflet for rough directions as the trail is not marked on the map.
There are nineteen Geocaches on or near the route. I do not maintain this bookmark list so do your own research for any new ones.
Soph and I often walk on Wednesdays, this week was no exception. Unfortunately though, I had other commitments in the early evening so we were unable to continue our walk on the LOOP. What could we do? Let’s do a local walk, somewhere we can get home from easily. We looked at the Ebury Way and the Croxley Green circular walks, but I’d done most of them before. Then inspiration struck, we could walk the Abbey Line to St Albans.
The trail was opened just over a year ago with a leaflet produced and markers along the route, but we discovered that these were far form clear and comprehensive. What follows, then, is both our review of the walk embedded inside a walking guide should you wish to try it yourself. As always, I recommend taking an OS map with you – you’ll need Explorer maps 173 (London North) and 182 (St Albans and Hatfield).
The walk starts at Watford Junction, a fifteen minute walk from our house got us there for around half nine. The station itself is nowadays a rather boring 1980’s office block, the third iteration of the station and the second on this site. There is no trail signage here, but turn right as you leave the station and follow Woodford road past the bus station and short stay car park. Keep on until you reach the traffic light controlled junction with Orphanage Road at The Wellington Arms pub, where, if you look closely, you will find the first indication of the trail with a sticker on a lamppost. Ignore this, though, and cross the road before turning right down Orphanage Road as there is no footpath on the left hand side under the bridge. On the far side, at the roundabout, cross the road into the industrial estate and then cross Orphanage Road to reach the left hand footpath. Continue along the road, passing the old London Orphan Asylum on your left. What later became the London Orphan School and more recently Reed’s School moved to Watford from East London in 1871 after a Typhoid epidemic and provided lodgings and education for London’s Orphans. The pupils were evacuated during the Second World War and the building used as an army hospital. After the war, the government kept the building as office for the Ministry of Labour so the school relocated, the building has since become residential accommodation.
Carrying on down Orphanage Road, passing a bus stop and under a bridge you will reach another roundabout. Another sticker points left but, again, ignore this and cross over before walking north up Radeltt road for a few hundred meters before turning right onto Link Road. Cross over to be on the north side of the bridge and here you get a choice – there is a path on both sides of the river, we took the one on the right which is slightly more scenic but the left hand path takes you to the same spot past some allotments. Follow this path beside the river until you reach another bridge. If you took the right hand path you will need to climb up and walk along the bridge to rejoin the path on the opposite bank. Walk under the bridge and continue to follow the path along the river bank. The path is a bit more unkept here, but perfectly passable. After a while you will pop out into an area with a little wooden jetty. Head up the slope or steps to have a look at the wooden carved signs about the Knutsford Playing Fields. Looking towards Radeltt Road, keep right along the top of the bank to a small gate in the fence. Alternatively, you can go through the gate you see straight ahead of you and turn right to meet the other gate 50 meters further down.
Head north east along Radeltt Road until the Junction with Bushey Mill Lane. If you wish to stop here, head left up the road to Watford North station, otherwise cross over onto the wide paved path. This is part of National Cycle Networks Routes 6 and 61, a section called the Abbey Way. It also goes to St Albans but follows a slightly different route. Walk along this route until you reach the A41 dual carriageway. If it is safe to do so, cross using the break in the crash barriers, otherwise, head to the pedestrian crossing on your left but if you do this, do not get fooled by the cycle signs taking you further up the A41, you need to return to directly opposite the path you just came off of.
You should now be standing by a grand set of gates across a long tree line driveway and it is along this that we shall walk for a while. There is a gate to the right through which you can gain access. As you leave the A41 behind you will probably be hearing another roar of traffic ahead and the drive soon raises to cross the M1 on a bridge from where you can see Junction 5-though it’s nothing special. The driveway bears sharply left then right as it depends from the bridge then continues along for quite someway eventually descending into a little wooded area with a cattle grid on the far side. You can leave the walk here to head to Garston station by taking the path to the left. You’ve been on this road a long time, but keep going, you’re not far from the country house it leads to now while entering a grassy meadow which was rather pleasing with the spectacular weather we had on the day. You should hopefully have also been admiring all the wildlife sounds as you’ve walked along the Colne Valley; Peewits, Herons and Little Egrets all make their homes here. After another cattle grid, keep going past the sign that states it is not a footpath. Don’t worry, the owner has granted this a permissive footpath, so while not a public right of way, you can keep going along their drive. When the house finally comes into view take the sandy left fork to skirt to the north of the complex. Past another cattle grid, at the cottage there is a junction of paths and it is likely that you will see cyclists and walkers crossing your way.
Munden House is an 18th Century building with the grounds you are walking through laid out in the following century, however the estate itself dates back much further with evidence to suggest there was a village on the site in Roman times. The house is now a commercially owned property used for filming and functions.
Keep heading in a northerly direction along a track through a field, eventually deciding slightly to pass through a farm yard. Walk along the left hand side of the big barn and continue on the roadway out the other end of the farm. Here the path has been moved slightly from what is listed on the OS map. A new fenced path has been placed to the left of the access gate, go through the slalom and there will be a kissing gate into the field to your right. Cross the field and pass through another gate to climb into the woodland on the far side. Walking in may ensured this woodland was filled with bluebells as far as the eye could see. Once the climbing has ceased, the path will run along the top of the ridge, shortly coming out into a field where you keep to the side with the wooded slope down the the river on your right. Halfway across, the woodland drops away and you walk across a corner of the field towards the house that should now be visible to you, a white marker post will guide you across. Follow the fence line again for 50m until you come to a kissing gate on your right before the boundary curves up.
At this point I need to issue a warning; there is no signage here to tell you, but there is currently works by Affinity Water blocking the footpath we want to follow so until these are finished you should continue in the same field to the lane at the end and turn left to walk down that (very carefully!) until you reach the corner where the path should have brought you out. If the works are finished, read the next paragraph; else skip ahead one. I attempted to find the notice on the Hertfordshire website so that you can determine if it has reopened, but I was unsuccessful. I did however find a PDF notice included in a “Please Note” section of the Countryside Management Service’s walking guide to the Wall Hall estate.
Pass through the gate onto a grassy track down hill between the house and a paddock. The final decent is steep onto the floodplain. Through another gate, you will walk across the end of a field to a track next to the river on the far side. This is were the River Ver merges into the River Colne on it’s long and windy course to meet the Thames at Staines. Turn left, walking east along the bank of the Ver to meet Drop Lane where it turns 90°. To achieve this, we had to squeeze around three temporary fences and be glared at by digger operators, however there was no closure signage on the direction we approached from and only found the notice when we reached Drop Lane.
This is approximately halfway along the walk so I shall stop here and pick up again in my second post. Walking northwest up Drop Lane will take you to Bricket Wood station where an Abbey Flyer walk also starts—more about these next time.
Continuing my exploration of my collection of Scout scarves I have collected over the years, we rejoin in 2011.
13. Gillwell 24 with friendship knot
On my third visit to Gilwell 24, they had changed their scarf styles. Gone were the reflective trims and choice of colours in favour of black with red printing. I don’t know if the colour changes every year like the T-Shirts now, I had just turned 18 so it was my final year attending. Incidentally, we arrived in a stretched Hummer as the minibuses were all in use. Seeing the faces of fellow campers when we arrived was very amusing!
14. 6th Northwood (adult) with iScout tangle
My original adult sized scarf for my group. I display this with a tangle I wore while in the Queens Honour Guard at the cenotaph for Remembrance Sunday 2015 although it wasn’t this scarf. I had replaced my adult scarf earlier that year as the colour had faded noticeably.
15. Brownsea Island with Brownsea Island woggle
I’ve been to Brownsea many times, most recently kayaking across from the main land last summer, so this scarf is the one that is potentially out of sequence as I can’t remember when it was acquired. I do recall, though, that my parents brought it back for me after they visited on one occasion.
16. Chilly Goat Challenge with Scout leather woggle
The Chilly Goat Challenge is my districts annual winter camp for the Scout section. On you first attendance, it is usual that you get a scarf. Most years a blanket badge is produced alongside it so that you still get a memento if you already have the scarf – so far all of these were designed by me. I was rather late to the Chilly Goat party, not having attended as a Scout and was always caught up in the January exam season while I was an Explorer. This scarf is worn with you group scarf for the event only.
17. 2012 Olympics with friendship knot
A strange scarf in that I have no idea why they felt they needed to produce it. Inspired by 2012 it reads, but there were no requirements to ‘earn’ the scarf. You just bought it.
18. REN Network with loose Friendship knot
By 2014 I’d officially been a Scout Network member for several years, but it wasn’t until around this time that we formally ran a district one due to a lack of people around my age. Therefore I was invested very late and, due to university, after most people three years my junior. The investiture was memorable however as it took place in the departure lounge at Heathrow on our way to Kandersteg. I was invested with a woggle but as it is usually worn with my 6h Northwood scarf, I use a friendship knot so the group can come through the Network.
19. RENtenary with Scout leather woggle.
2014 was the centenary of Scouting in Ruislip Eastcote Northwood and we organised loads of events to celebrate, the main one being a district expedition to Kandersteg. This is our expedition scarf (the concept is explained in the notes to scarf 9) with the badge on the back a larger version of the centrepiece of the occasional badge for the year that I had designed.
20. Kanderteg (2014) with WOSM woggle
As mentioned earlier, Kandersteg produces a different scarf design every year nowadays and this was their 2014 design I picked up on the RENtenary expedition.
21. Messengers of Peace
I also picked up another WOSM scarf in their chosen white this time branded with their “messengers of peace” campaign – the idea being that scouts unite the world and bring peace to it. Again, I have never bought the matching woggle for this scarf.
22. Worthgate Scout Group with Worthgate woggle
During my final year at university, I decided to do more local scouting as opposed to the desk based approach I had taken in my first two years. For this I helped a Beaver Colony in Canterbury where my girlfriend had already begun as a leader – after I had pushed her into Scouting. Incidentally, she is now Assistant Beaver Scout Leader at the 6th Northwood.
23. REN with leaders leather woggle
This year I took another role in Scouting and added another scarf to the collection. I am now the District Youth Commissioner for Ruislip Eastcote Northwood, a new position in which I encourage our district to become more youth lead with the young people influencing their own Scouting journey – mine has certainly been a vast, interesting route and long may it continue.
Last week I decided to do something strange. I have a large amount of Scout scarves accumulated over seventeen years in Scouting and I wanted to display them. At a loss for what to write about this week, I’m going to talk you through them; where they came from and their significance to me.
1. Beavers (6th Northwood) with plastic Beaver maroon woggle
I was invested into Scouting on 5th October 1999. At that time every beaver in the country wore the same colour scarf. Turquoise – which is why the modern beaver uniform is that colour – with an awful grey tracksuit uniform. My group badge on the back was the only difference from other groups.
2. 6th Northwood (youth) with plastic red woggle
I moved up to Cubs in 2001. This was the year that the modernisation changes started with new uniforms that year and new badges introduced in 2003. As such, my cub uniform has a mixture of 70s/90s triangle badges and the current round design. The scarf however has been the 6th Northwood group scarf colour since 1932. Indeed I still wear 6N gold to this day. This was my youth scarf that I wore until around 2009 when it was looking a bit short on me and I switched to using an adult sized scarf (number 14).
3. 2007 Join In Centenary with original friendship knot tied in 2007
2007 was the year I moved from Scouts to Explorers and was also, and more importantly, the centenary of Scouting. To celebrate The Scout Association created these colourful scarves for which four badges could be earned to make up a diamond on the back if you completed certain tasks or attended certain events. Join in centenary was a troop night programme with activities designed to look back and forward into Scouting past and future. The Scouting Sunrise was to be on parade at sunrise on 1st April, the day 100 years earlier that Baden-Powell had gathered his first Scouts on Brownsea Island for their first morning on the first camp. Centenary Camps was to attend a camp that celebrated the milestone. Ours was organised at district level. Bring a friend is rather self explanatory, though I can’t remember who I introduced into Scouting that year…
4. 21st World Scout Jamboree with 2007 One World, One Promise woggle
The World Scout Jamboree for 2007 brought Scouts from around the world back to Britain to celebrate the 100 years. My parents, brother and I visited Hylands Park, Essex, for a day meeting people from around the world, trading badges and trying out activities. The scarf also doubles as a map of the campsite when unrolled.
5. Poindextor ESU also with 2007 One World, One Promise woggle
September 2007, I left 6th Northwood to join the Poindextor Explorer Scout Unit. Although I turned to 6N a week later as a Young Leader to support the new leadership team in the Troop. As such, I nearly always wore this scarf and my 6N scarf together. Poindextor still does not have a badge for the back of the scarf although I did begin a design for one while in the Unit. Coincidentally, a production error a couple of years later meant that the yellow trim on this scarf became the same gold as my 6N scarf for newer members. By the time I left the unit I wouldn’t have been wearing the 2007 woggle but I decided to display the scarf with the original design.
6. Gilwell 24 with Gilwell 24 woggle
Gilwell 24 is an annual event for Explorers where the aim is to stay awake for 24 hours by doing loads of activities. This was my first of three visits to the event and I purchased a black scarf and woggle as a keepsake. Many other colours were produced at the time, all with a reflective trim which proved useful during the dark hours of the night. For those that keep track of the events via the T-Shirt colour (it changes every year), this was the red year. This was also the year that Bear Grylls took over as Chief Scout from Peter Duncan, the handover forming the bulk of the opening ceremony for this event. A humorous scarf depicting ‘Bare’ Grylls was produced but swiftly withdrawn after a complaint though not before I had purchased one for my father.
7. 1st Harefield with Scout leather woggle
The less said about this one, the better. I briefly helped an ex-girlfriend of mine with her Beaver Colony at the GLMW Beaver Bonanza. 6th Northwood were also present so i found myself torn between the two despite wearing this scarf for the day.
8. Gilwell 24 with Gilwell 24 woggle
In 2010 I attended Gilwell 24 for the second time. I decided to buy a different coloured scarf to record the different event and opted for white this time. I never did like the bright pink or highlighter yellow!
9. GLMW Kandersteg Expedition 2010 with Scout leather woggle
2010 marked my first visit to the Kandersteg International Scout Centre in Switzerland as part of an expedition organised by the Greater London Middlesex West county. When travelling abroad, it is traditional to wear a scarf to signify which country you are from rather than your group and this is the international scarf designed for this trip.
10. Cow print with friendship knot
As part of the opening ceremony for the Kandersteg expedition, everyone was given a cow print scarf and tasked with getting people to sign it from all over the world. I signed the point. Coincidently, I went on to complete my Queen’s Scout expedition with one person who signed it, though I did not realise until studying the scarf long after that event.
11. Kandersteg with kandersteg woggle
As with the Gilwell 24 scarves, I decided to buy another scarf to show I’d been to the centre. Recently Kandersteg has varied the colour each year as a collectors piece, but I don’t believe this was standard practice until after I purchased this one in 2010.
I bought this at the same time as the Knadersteg scarf, but I don’t know why. It is the scarf of the World Organisation of the Scout Movement and is a ridiculous colour – white will never stay white on camp! I’ve always meant to buy the matching woggle from the online shop but have never got around to it.
This has become rather long. I’ll tell you about the rest later.
The closest Sunday to St Georges day has been the day for a parade for me since I was six years old. This year, however, was extra special. I wasn’t going to be marching the streets of Ruislip, or Eastcote, nor Northwood or even Canterbury as I had done last year; this year I was in Windsor by the graciousness of Her Majesty.
Last year I finally got my Queen’s Scout Award signed off. This is the highest award in Scouting and the Windsor Castle parade has been organised every year since 1934 to recognise the achievements of this elite group of young people. I and 600 other award holders from around the United Kingdom and its’ islands marched from the royal mews up to the Queen’s private lawn, where the public do not usually get to go, for inspection by Prince Michael of Kent, the Chief Scout and the outgoing Chief Commissioner (the having ceased attending these events personally a few years ago). After the inspection, we paraded down to the magnificent St George’s Chapel for the National Scout Service that was relayed outside for friends and family. Finally, upon leaving the chapel, Mr Edward Grylls addressed us from its’ steps before the procession returned to the royal mews via the streets of Windsor.
The day was long and cold, having had to rehearse for several hours in the morning before the parade in the afternoon but I am very honoured to have been there. I do hope that we see more Queen’s Scouts coming out of my District to follow in the footsteps of the two of us there this weekend. It is a throughly enjoyable experience to complete the award and it does give you some level of respect amongst other members of the movement. If you are under 25, go out and do it.
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, we always suggest taking a good map with you.
Our fourth day of walking was our longest yet undertaken. Picking up section 4 where we left off last week, we preceded to then complete the following two sections resulting in a route of approximately 21km. I admit, I probably elected to stop mid-section last time as an excuse to ride the trams but we were also were building up to walking further in the future, the first two walking days disappointed me in how little we walked and worried me that it’d be winter before we finish. So here we go, longer walking days.
Returning on that handy Watford to Croydon train service which Southern never seem that bothered about running we alighted onto a Tram back to Coombe Lane, the change from “Tramlink” to “Trams” starting to become clearer with a few changed roundels. The LOOP soon passes into the grounds of Heathfield, with its’ curious mixture of signage styles (at one point a finger post has a pointer for one direction but a round plaque to show the other way), eventually bringing you out to the house itself, now a training centre for Croydon Borough Council, that looks out onto an impressive view of the Addington area. A similar view is also afforded shortly from the Bramley Bank Nature Reserve, a tiny little wooded area at the end of a lane. This section seems to constantly repeat the pattern of urban, woodland, urban, woodland as it joins the Vanguard Way in Littleheath Woods and emerges into Seldom and Forestdale villages but only after a very confusing turning where you almost double back on yourself after the water tower that is not clear on the map or in the guidebook writing. The Vanguard Way, which the LOOP follows for a few kilometres here, is a 66 mile trail from Croydon to the south coast at Newhaven first developed in 1980 by the eponymous rambling club.
Soon you find yourself climbing steeply in Selsdon Wood, owned by the National Trust but managed by Croydon Borough Council under an agreement dating back to 1936 when the community saved this small area of the former hunting estate as a nature reserve. After descending slightly again the path you turn on to my seem the same as many others but is actually the Greater London boundary with the Tandridge District of Surrey. The track is also part of the Tandridge Border Path meaning that three trails are running as one for this short stretch. The Vanguard Way is the first to split off, it passes down a drive as you pass over it to follow the road behind a hedge. The edge of Fairleigh village is a picture postcard of a surrey village, with a farm and a few houses dotted around, but the LOOP doesn’t linger and presses on down into the valley and back up the other side. The house on the hill in the distance is Selsdon Park Hotel. Soon you pass Kingswood Lodge and enter into Hamsey Green. This path of this final stretch was once again the Croydon/Tandridge boundary and you will see the welcome signs as you come out onto the B269. A big LOOP sign is on the grassy area opposite. Section 4 is complete at last.
The beginning of Section 5 is very exciting. In fact, this whole section is really great. The reason? Trigs, Trains, Planes and the views. So let’s cover each of those in turn. The LOOP soon passes through Display’s Field, unusual in the fact that is is owned but two councils and a charity that have come to gather to provide this open expanse. The path soon goes along the top of the Riddlesdown Ridge, which offers stunning views of the surrounding towns and hills, and passes a concrete pillar. This is the only Ordnance Survey triangulation (or trig) pillar on the LOOP. It is one of around 6500 forming a network around the UK that the OS used to retriangulate and newly map the country from 1935. A vast majority still exist around the country to this day. Once down off the ridge the second reason begins to form. You cross a railway, then a road, then another railway and finally climb a steep road to Kenley Common, but look back when near the top of the road to see the railways spread out in front of you, the one further east high up on a ridge crossing and old quarry. A really impressive sight.
Kenley Common is the next stop, and what was a very important place during the Second World War. After passing through the open area with the pointless gates (why leave the gates in place if you remove the fence?) you can detour into Kenley Aerodrome where you will find the blast bays that would have housed Spitfires during the Battle of Britain. In fact, the whole aerodrome retains pretty much all of it’s WWII appearance, bar a few buildings that were destroyed by fire in the 1970’s. The area was first used to test planes during the First World War before they were sent over to France and proved to be a useful location, remaining an RAF airfield until 1974 when it became a gliding school. We had lunch in this area and watched numerous gliders circling overhead. Finally, the LOOP passes though Old Coulsdon, past the site of two old windmills at Coulsdon Common and into Happy Valley with stunning views all around. The map is not particularly useful here with a conglomeration of so many trails making it impossible to discern which are the LOOP diamonds, but eventually you come to the final leg of section 5 on Farthing Downs. If you thought Happy Valley had nice views, you ain’t seen nothing yet. From the top of this ridge you can see for miles with the skyline of the city discernible to the north. Take some time to read the information boards to find out the history of the area where are there remains of a 7th century cemetery amongst other things. Coming off the hill we reach Coulsdon South Station, which is the end of section 5.The LOOP sign here is an embossed metal one on the station building.
Section 6. We were getting a bit tired by now but were determined to keep going, it being a fairly short section of just 7 kilometres. It’s an interesting section of contrasts but without the lovely views of the previous leg. Soon after setting off you begin climbing a road that never seems to end and contains curious half height bus stops without the roundels on top. Halfway you change boroughs too, leaving Croydon for Sutton, and eventually reach an aptly name pub at the top; the Jack & Jill. This area seems a bit rough, passing along the trail back down hill, we found a lot of litter and fly tipping but also a wonderfully old 1898 metal sign by the side of the path marking the long departed Carshalton Urban District Council. There is a view across the landscape to the centre of London here, by the weatherboarded houses that Surrey County build for soldiers returning after the First World War in an aborted idea to give everyone smallholdings to grow their own.
Lavender fields are the next interesting thing you come across, gloriously bright and fragrant it is a pleasure to walk through here, even ever so briefly. After this you enter Oaks Park where a LOOP sign greets you with information on the area. The estate used to be prime hunting and racing grounds, the house was demolished in 1960 and only these grounds remain. The final leg takes you along a muddy bridleway past the back walks of Her Majesty’s Prison Highdown and on to a golf course that spans across a railway cutting and a very busy road. Section 6 ends very strangely – at a signpost in an overgrown area of woodland between the fairways. The link section to Banstead Station is not particularly easy to follow either, nor is the station itself, that also bears and embossed metal LOOP sign, particularly useful with only a twice hourly service on its’ single track branch line.
For this day of walking you need two maps; OS Explorer 161 London South and OS Explorer 146 Dorking, Box Hill & Reigate. As usual we also had David Sharp’s excellent guidebook with us.
There are twenty-seven Geocaches on or near the section 4 route (some are on the previous walking day), fifteen on or near section 5 and eight on or near section 6. I do not maintain these bookmark lists so do your own research for any new ones.