London’s Lost Route to the Sea – Amberley to Ford

4th June & 10th June 2016

Amberley to Ford – 15.33km (9.52 miles)

The reason that i have two dates above is that i have walked this section twice now, once with Belinda, Tim and Kiah on the 4th and then with PK on the 10th which was a good shout as i got to see some of those things that you miss the 1st time round. I shall start the Blog with the trek on the 4th.

4th June 2016 – The night before i was on a numpty bowling night so the head was a little hazy this morning, i must do my planning better……lol. However the start of the day on the train couldn’t have gone smoother after the trouble i had had with them yesterday, cancellations because of sickness and signalling problems. It’s great to have company on my walks and Belinda, Tim and Kiah joined me today for the walk from Amberley to Ford.

On the last leg of the trek i completed the recognised long distance ‘Wey South Path’ and now it is a case of navigating my own route as close to the river and canals as possible; which for this stage will be no problem at all.

The 1st bit of todays trek is across the causeway at Amberley which is not the safest of walks as we have to duck in and out of the recesses on the bridge as cars would pass really quickly and close, it’s not that wide so was a bit scary, fortunately this was only a short bit and on leaving the road we join the banks of the River Arun and start following the course of the river. The river at this point has now become tidal and the tide is coming in with the flow heading inland, bringing lots of seaweed flotsam in with it.

After passing through a few fields we enter South Woods where we are greeted with the soft smell of wild garlic again, the path is still following the river and the ground is quite wet in places, over the last winter this area would have been flooded as the river had burst it’s banks on quite a few occasions. This was probably the reason that all the board walks were in a shambles and falling down, the boardwalks would have enabled you to walk this route when the river is really high and coming over the banks, however they wouldn’t be very effective now. In South Woods you often get people wild camping under the chalk cliffs which is not strictly legal but the little clearings make great camps. We also came across a rope swing that someone had put up and attached to a massive tree, i so wanted to have a go but on looking at it i was concerned that the combination of straps and rope wouldn’t hold my weight, i thought it was best not to chance it.

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A few days before the trek i had kind of told Belinda and Tim that it would all be flat as we were following a river, however i forgot about the little climb of about 48 metres on the outskirts of Arundel park, not good for Tim’s knees but hopefully not to bad. The descent back down to the river took us through the tiny hamlet of South Stoke with it’s Saxon Church ‘St Leonards’ that has stood there since the 11th century.

We rejoin the river and continue heading south along the banks, passing through some cow fields before reaching Offham and the famous Black Rabbit pub that has been here for over 200 years. The outdoor seating area here is fantastic as it overlooks the river and has a variety of tables and chairs, a bit cheeky but we decided to sit at one of the benches and sneakily eat our sandwiches, cheese and tomato for me and egg mayonnaise for B & T made by Tim in the morning to Belinda’s exacting standards. The river at this point now had reached it’s high tide and was static with no flow. In the past you would have been able to hire boats from here for pleasure on the river.

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After lunch we continued passed the Wildfowl & Wetlands Centre and you could hear the calls of various birds including seagulls that have probably flown in for the free lunch. After a few more kilometres winding around with the river we reached arundel, a beautiful market town with a castle, cathedral and many ghost stories (i’ve taken the tour). We stopped here as i it was time for an ice cream, i had the Rocky Road flavour and B & T the Brownie & White Chocolate flavour. Arundel also makes a good beer, so it would have been rude not to stop off at the Arundel Brewery Shop and get some local beer for when i got home.

The route took us through Arundel Town and past some very old cottages that must have seen plenty of history and then out into the fields to wind our way down to Ford. The South Marsh Mill could be clearly seen on the East side which is now a house, but was built in 1830 and operational up until 1922. On our side we passed Billycan camping, a site set up with Bell tents, Yurts and Tipi’s that you can hire to get away from hustle and bustle of modern life.

Tim’s keen eye spotted many mullets swimming in the shallows of the river that was now on it’s way out, however my eye was not as keen as i kept missing them, but then again Tim is a seasoned angler and knows when to spot a good fish. The clouds and haziness had cleared towards the end and the temperature was rising; which was beginning to sap our energy. As we passed under the railway at Ford we could see the inlet where the Portsmouth section of the canal joined the river. This housed a few house boats but only went in about 50 metres before being blocked by a wall where most likely the lock would have been.

On leaving the river we pass another 11th century church at Ford before joining the road and seeing the last remnants of the canal going underneath. On this last part of the walk we joked every time we saw a train go past that that was our train, even though we knew that there would be plenty more, however the joke nearly back fired as when we were walking up to the station the level crossing gates went down and a train came in, we had to muster up some extra energy and run for the train that we caught by the skin of our teeth and just got on.

On putting my feet up in the garden when getting home the ‘Sussex Gold, beer that i bought tasted so good……..

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10th June 2016 – PK has so got into this walking now, he wore his old boots into the ground and were dumped in a bin at Cranleigh and now he is talking about getting a new rucksack to replace the trusty old one that he currently has, i better not take him ‘Cotswold Outdoors’  as it took me one and a half hours to buy my new one, well i had to make sure it was comfy and looking back that was good hour and a half spent. Anyhow the fact that PK has got hooked meant that he couldn’t miss a stage so i was more than happy to redo this section again, particularly as more beer would be involved……

After catching a delayed train to Amberley we set off on the same route as before, which was across the causeway and around the river to South Woods where the rope swing was. Me being the big kid i am meant that i just couldn’t resist it this time and had to have a go, so i tentatively tugged on the rope and straps and it felt relatively sturdy so it was a case of going for it. So i climbed up the roots of the tree with the swing in tow and jumped on the stick and gripping the rope between my legs………yay it held my weight and was great fun until trying to get off which was not going to be so easy as it was not in easy reach of the ground with my legs, after a bit of cramp i managed to dismount the swing, although good fun i thought having another go was pushing my luck.

When we reached the Black Rabbit this time we stopped for a cheeky drink, i had a fruity seasonal beer called Bouncing Bounder made by Badgers and PK had a cup of tea…….really……lol, i suppose he is older than me.

Between the pub and Arundel meant going through the cow fields again and previously the cows were further into the field, but this time they were on the path and looking at us face on, PK took the option to give them a wide berth and myself, feeling brave decided to stick to the path, the cows (actually bulls when i had a closer look) were far too hot to be bothered with me, in fact one even let me stroke his nose and that is really brave for me.

In Arundel after a quick walk around we decided to eat in the Red Lion opposite the Market Square, PK had the usual pie and i opted for the asparagus tart with a pint of Sussex Gold beer, nice!

The last bit of the walk down to Ford was quite muggy and warm and even rain but didn’t take long at all. Another great hike completed even though i’m still struggling with hay fever. Bring on the next one…………

London’s Lost Route to the Sea – Newbridge to Amberley

2nd June 2016

Newbridge to Amberley – 20.91km (13 miles)

PK and i caught the train to Billingshurst which is the nearest point to todays walk and trekked across the fields for a few kilometres to where we left off last time. The grass is quite long at the moment and paths over grown with nettles, good job i didn’t put the shorts on today, however as i was to find out the long grass will play havoc with mine and PKs hay fever. On heading down the hill from Billingshurst towards the old canal a young deer leapt up out of the grass and ran across the field in front of us, speedily bounding and skipping away.

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We are still following the Wey South Path and today will be the last leg of this recognised long distance walking route, but not the end of the challenge. The canal will only be recognisable in stages with some of it passing through private land. The first part of the walk was through fields next to the River Arun, which is still only a few metres wide and the canal is barely recognisable at this point, mind you a little further on it became more apparent. After rejoining the canal for a short way we reached Lordings Lock, Aqueduct and water wheel. The Lock is completely dry now but was once filled by the water wheel lifting water up from the River Arun and into the lock, the waterwheel is totally functioning and after a bit of research i found photos online when it was filled up in 2007.

We were able to follow the canal for a couple more kilometres, which although had water in was exceptionally overgrown with weeds and reeds, the canal society need to get the jungle busters in on this section!  At Haybarn Farm we come across a working swing bridge which at this point is the only functional bit, as the canal is still very overgrown here. At this point we leave the canal for a while and walk through some more fields, woods and a road before we meet it again briefly at Pallingham Quay, that in it’s day had some minin docks and a stone workshop. From here to Stopham the route involves mainly walking along country roads that left the river and canal and passed by Coombelands racing trainers and the gallops where they train many winning racing horses.

After walking through the woods at Pulborough Park Plantation you can see that the Arun has over millions of years cut a valley into land with some really steep sides, almost gorge like. As we came out the woods the pub was there in front of us and lunch was a welcome break, for lunch PK ordered the mandatory Steak Pie and i had a Halloumi and Mediterranean Vegetable sandwich. The River here is now considerably wider than it has been previously and Stopham Bridge spans across the banks that in the 17c was a drawbridge that was later altered by raising the central arch which allowed the larger barges through.

After lunch we continued south following the route of the Arun Navigation which was built to cut off a corner of the River Arun and save about three and a half miles to do this route they had to build a tunnel at Hardhat that passed under a road and railway as well as a hill. The Hardham tunnels are  now not passable as they are blocked in the middle and are also hidden away from the path, however PK and i found the the Southern Entrance to these tunnels through the nettles and behind some metal grating, as we peered in you could feel the cold air coming out, huff was on our breath as we breathed. Back on the path and the cowslip was as tall as us and brushing past this is really setting off the hay fever, we also heard the chirps of baby birds and looked up to see holes cut in the trees where the sound was coming from, these nests must have been made by a woodpecker. At Greatham Bridge we once again briefly rejoin the Arun and the opportune moment to have a game of poo sticks (Yes! PK won), but there was no sign of where the canal actually joined. Greatham bridge in the main is a fine example of a stone bridge but following a storm was damaged and the portion that was washed away of the bridge was replaced with a steel section.

We follow the river for a short way and then leave it to wend off a little way from us as we walked through the Amberley Wild Brooks, an area that i think would be impassable in the winter as the ground was quite soggy in places and it’s been so dry recently. I have never walked across these brooks as in our teenage years we set out through here on a night hike and got freaked out for some reason and legged it back, however during the day there was nothing to be afraid of. Coming out of the wild brooks and swamps we enter the old village of Amberley, it reminded me of an old french town and you can imagine a really good community spirit here.

The end of the walk is met with a 68m climb up the downs to the South Downs way where the Wey South Path finishes, i was hoping that they would be some sign that we were either at the start or the end, but no there was nothing apart from the South Downs Way sign…….doh!. A short walk down the hill and we were back at the station and the car, a long but good walk today however all the long grass and overgrown paths meant that our hay fever has been a problem, we also both managed to see a rabbit and dragonfly but no kingfishers……….

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London’s Lost Route to the Sea – Loxwood to Newbridge

7th May 2016

Loxwood to Newbridge – 10.61km (6.59 miles)

A short leg today, but probably the right choice after a night out with the lads. Today is also the hottest day of the treks so far. PK, Cookie and i started at Loxwood where we left off last time and the weather had certainly brought out the visitors today as the car park was nearly full and people were milling about everywhere as well as taking the boat trips up and down the canal.

The first part of the walk was from the Onslow Arms along the the fully restored and navigable part of the canal. As we were walking on the towpath we caught up with a slow moving barge that had a party on, the champagne seemed to be flowing and lunch being passed around, how civilised. We followed alongside the barge and as it went through the locks we would help by opening the gates for them once the water had drained through the sluice. Our walking pace was a little faster than the boat and after a while we left it behind, but it did catch us up when we stopped for lunch at the Drungewick Aqueduct. This part of the canal is bordered by farmland and at this time of year the primroses, bluebells and wild garlic are all in full bloom.

The canal from here continues a little further but unfortunately across private land so we had to leave it here and follow footpaths once again as close the route as possible. After following the road a short way we entered some more woods that were carpeted with bluebells and giving off that lovely sweet aroma.

We walked through some woods and farmland of which we were to see and amazing abundance of wildlife, such as alpacas, herons, hawks and geese to name a few. We then reached the B2133 at Newpound Common and still no sight of the canal just yet, we had  a short walk along this road which links Billingshurst with Loxwood before turning off and rejoining the footpaths once again to take us back to the canal.

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We rejoined the canal at Loves Bridge which is reputed to be one of the most beautiful bridges on the canal, not sure why it is so called although their is a Loves Farm nearby too. From here we are able to walk alongside the disused canal once again, this section also with water in albeit static. The walk from here down to Newbridge was alongside the canal with the River Arun to our left which at this point is no wider than a few metres and also restricted by fallen trees. On this section of the canal there was a disused weir that is still used as an overflow should the water level rise too much and Rowner Lock which is no longer in use, but was used by the canal’s restoration society to practice lock renovation techniques on, there also used to be a lock house here but we could find no evidence of it. Unusually at this point an electricity pylon straddles the canal with its feet either side on the banks, this would certainly not have been here in the canals heyday. A little further along and there was a fully restored lift bridge too, it’s good to see evidence of renovation but it will be a long time before it’s navigable again in it’s entirety.

The last bit of the walk today took us through a cow field which normally wouldn’t bother me however today some feisty cows decided to get a bit too close to comfort, making us think of escape routes to get away from them should they charge, i suppose the worst case would have been to jump in the canal…..lol. After a lot of looking over our shoulders to see what they were up to they eventually all ran off in the other direction.

Newbridge Wharf was to be the finish today and is the end of the Wey & Arun Junction Canal that we had been tracking and now becomes the Arun Navigation which is the last link to the River Arun.

London’s Lost Route to the Sea – Cranleigh to Loxwood

1st May 2016

Cranleigh to Loxwood – 12.86km (7.99 miles)

The sun is shining, it’s bank holiday weekend and a great day to continue the walk along the lost route. Susan, PK, Cookie and Kiah have all joined me on todays trek from Cranleigh. The hike started with a brief walk along the road before heading back across the fields to the canal of which we followed a short way before it then cut through private land meaning that we had to follow the footpaths close by and leaving the edge of this disused waterway. We decided to play the ‘Penny Game’ which is something that we used to play in the car with the children (and occasionally still do), The game is very simple in that you have to name an object or animal or anything really and the first person to see the said object wins a penny. So i suggested a Kingfisher, PK a Rabbit and Susan a dragonfly and we then had to keep our eyes peeled for the rest of the day.

The first half of the walk did not continuously follow the canal as it went through a lot of private land and this meant that quite a bit of the walking was on minor roads. However the second half of the walk was to be completely different as we would rejoin the exact route of the canal. After walking across open farmland at the start of the day, we were now going into Sedghurst Wood where the canal winds it way through. As we walked in to the woods we were met with a beautiful sweet smell and a sea of blue, the blue bells were out in full bloom and we had never seen such a lovely display as here, the good thing too is that it was not awash with people wanting to catch a glimpse of the flowers.

A little way in to Sedghurst Wood and following the edge of Fir Tree Copse nature reserve we rejoined the canal, which some parts were totally dry. This section was so quiet, when you stopped you could hear just the birds calling in the trees, and only occasionally did we pass someone. The woods surrounded the canal and the sun filtered through the trees which added to it’s beauty, however a lot of trees were also growing out of the canal itself. I would definitely say that this has to be one of my favourite sections of the canal so far.

The section from Cranleigh to Loxwood would once have had thirteen locks, taking it down a gradual gradient when heading south, however as most of the canal is now disused these locks although marked on the map have disappeared since the closure of the canal in 1871. The first lock that we came across was Gannets Lock that was under reconstruction by the Wey & Arun volunteers, there were about half a dozen men milling about and relaying bricks to form the side walls of the lock. There was no water at this point and talking to one of the volunteers he suggested that although this lock should be finished in September 2017, it won’t be navigable for a while yet as they need to get some permissions to restore the canal going through some private land. The canal has been under restoration since 1970 and this section leading up to Loxwood has had many of the locks reconstructed and made navigable since 2010.

The last few kilometres of the walk took us alongside the restored navigable part of the canal and we started to see many more walkers out for a sunday afternoon stroll that had parked up and walked from the visitor centre. We also saw one of the three canal boats that they have full of people enjoying a coffee whilst taking a trip up the canal, seemed quite civilised to me. We finished our walk today at the visitor centre and Onslow Arms in Loxwood, at this point we were now getting peckish so we decided to sit outside and have some food, which when served up was was really good portions and certainly welcome after the days walk. Over our meal it did start to get a little nippy in the air, so soon after finishing the meal and reflecting on the day we decided to look at the visitor centre at which point we watched the canal boats come back in from their trips and pick up the next lot of visitors.

Loxwood is approximately half way through my challenge as i have covered 106 kms from the Bank of England to here and i estimate about the same again to get to Portsmouth. So far over this distance we have seen many things such as Alpaca’s and Parakeets, but today not one of us saw a Kingfisher, Rabbit or Dragonfly…………

London’s Lost Route to the Sea – Guildford to Cranleigh

17th April 2016

Guildford to Cranleigh – 15.94km (9.9 miles)

Just before i start telling you about todays trek last week i completed the missing link on the Weybridge to Guildford leg. If you can remember we had to divert away from the canal because of a police investigation and walk through residential streets instead, well i decided to take half an hour out of my busy working day to just walk the 1.4km that we missed. The weather was really warm and i ended walking just in shirt sleeves. This little walk took me along the canal under the A3 and into the outskirts of the city centre, a peaceful walk at the start with the birds singing, i heard a rustling in the grass, took a look and a snake slithered off, i didn’t see it enough to work out whether it was a grass snake or adder. As i passed under the A3 the traffic was stationary above, which made me thankful that i was walking rather than sitting in the traffic, a detour home will be in order to avoid that.

Back to today’s trek with PK, Cookie and Kiah.

We started by the canal in Guildford where we left off last time, it was a saturday and the streets were busy with shoppers, yet the canal that runs right through the centre seemed to be a level of calm and with just a few walkers, cyclists and joggers but no mad rush of the hubbub of the city. The Wey Navigation cut through the city and before long we were leaving the centre and into the leafy suburbs, the path was now to become very muddy and wet due to the recent rain, this was going to make the walking a little more testing.  The canal started meandering through the Surrey countryside and locks were to become less frequent, after about 3 km into the walk we had an unplanned initiative test and that was that PK’s hike boot of 20 years was to become a flip flop as the heel came away, after a little thought he re-tied the laces such that they wrapped around the sole holding it on, all was good again for the next few hundred yards when unbelievably the other boot decided to do the same, I got to admit I did find it exceptionally funny and couldn’t stop laughing.

We followed the Wey Navigation south for a few more kilometres to Shalford, past the old Gunpowder store, a wooden hut that stood on cement mushrooms, which was used to store the explosives being transported up the canal. At this point, on the Wey Navigation is  the junction with the Wey & Arun Canal of which we are to follow, the main Wey Navigation continues to Goldalming. This is another major milestone in the walk which means we have now completed the Thames section and Wey Navigation section.

We veer off down the Wey & Arun canal branch which at this point is only about 1km long before it goes through private land and comes to an abrupt end. We will still be following the Wey South Path but as the majority of this particular section is either disused or on privately owned land we will therefore be following the route of the canal as closely as possible. After crossing the A281 we joined the ‘Downs Link’ path. This is an old disused railway line that linked Shoreham with Guildford, it ran from 1865 and would carry both freight and passengers, this new line would speed up the transport in the south and ultimately saw the demise of the Wey & Arun Canal, as this was competition on a different level. However just four months before it’s centenary in 1965 the line closed.

After a short straight walk along the disused railway we came across the disused ‘Bramley & Wonersh’, all the platforms remain in place and you could visualise the splendour of the steam trains pulling up here, in the waiting room on the platform was a replica of an old timetable and a local drinking special brew too. At this point we are to take a short detour into Bramley to stop for lunch at the the Jolly Farmer. A quick scan through the menu and the choices were made however, unfortunately the venison pie had sold out the night before so i ended up settling for the ham, egg and chips and as i was in Bramley it would have been rude not to have the homemade Bramley apple crumble for dessert. Kiah and Cookie for most of the lunch sat there quietly under the table until Kiah spotted something on the fireplace that she took a dislike to, we are not quite sure if it was the stuffed foxes head that was in a snarling  pose or the ventriloquist puppet with it’s fixed stare into the bar, whichever it was set her off barking, which in turn then set Cookie off…..great!

After lunch we rejoined the ‘Downs Link’ and continued to follow the Wey South path, every now and then you would get glimpses of the old canal with it’s green weed growing in as there is no longer any flow and the water is static. The next challenge we faced was that PK’s sole of his boot was to completely come off, flapping around by the shoe lace that was used to hold the heel on. After some quick thought i rummaged in the first aid kit and found some medical tape with we would use to strap the boot up. Bizarrely enough the very same thing happened to the second boot in such a short distance too.

After following the Downs Link for a few kilometres we then left it to track a small section of canal, before walking through fields in which the River Wey flowed through. This part of the walk was probably the muddiest and certainly the most trying on the patched up hike boots. Another section of the path was completely blocked off by the river flooding, however we were determined that we were not going to turn back on ourselves so chose to hop over the barb wire fence and around the flood.

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The muddy path then turned into a more substantial road as we entered the outskirts of Cranleigh and we were still following small sections of the canal that hold water. At this point the path gave us a little test as it seemed to disappear through a tall garden gate, we were a little wary of entering as it was some ones garden, but true enough the path went right through the middle of their garden. The last kilometre of the day took us past some greenhouses growing lettuce and we finished the trek just south west of cranleigh. On walking back to the car, we stopped at the shop to get some refreshment and at this point PK dumped the well worn boots in a bin, sad times…….lol.

London’s Lost Route to the Sea – Weybridge to Guildford

31st March 2016

Weybridge to Guildford – 23.22 km (14.43 miles)

It was good to have Paul King’s company today as he joined Cookie and i on our trek down the Wey Navigation to Guildford (i think he may regret that decision when he gets up on Friday though). On the way from the station to the canal Paul showed me 23, Waverley Road a brick end of terrace cottage that was the house his mum grew up in.

The walk today started at the Weybridge Town Lock and will track the Wey Navigation South to Guildford, we set off along the edge of the canal and Addlestone Road, the canal being higher than the road and held back by it’s robust sides. As we leave the road side we turn into the countryside and see the first of many narrow boats and barges,the best named narrow boat i saw was one that was painted entirely green and called ‘The Marrow Boat’, i kind of found it funny at the time. Not long after setting out we came across the next lock which was Coxes Lock, the deepest lock on the Wey Navigation at 2.59m and next to it a building of three mills that provided Surrey with grain, paper, metal and accommodation for 207 years, the mills finally closed in 1983 and have since been converted into apartments.

The Wey then took us past the village of Addlestone and the many varying houses that backed on to the canal, most with jetties and private boats. We could hear in the distance the steady drone of traffic noise that gradually got louder as we walked further along the canal, the source of the noise was the M25, London’s orbital motorway, we passed under the motorway which was towering above on massive graffiti clad pillars, at this point the M25 also passes over the railway and the junction of the Wey Navigation with the Basingstoke Canal. Three very different generations of transport infrastructure all in one place above each other, showing how much history has changed in the way that goods are transported, it really makes you think.

The canal run alongside the M25 for just over a kilometre and it was really noticable when we turned away and the drone of the traffic gradually faded, its incredible how far away you can hear the hum of the traffic. At least the only stress we had was when to have lunch and not amidst the hastiness of the traffic whizzing past.

After several more locks and quite a few more kilometres we were beginning to get hungry and needed to refuel, so our conversations turned to ‘pies’ and how great it would be if the planned pub stop had one on the menu, will still however had a couple of kilometres to go. We passed by John Donne’s residence who was a poet & cleric and the ruins of Newark Priory which has been on an island of the Wey since 1312 and has fallen ruin since Henry VIII rein. It is now a grade 1 listed ancient monument and is on private land so cannot be accessed.

The towpath from here was very peaceful and the call of the birds was certainly beautiful and interspersed with the tapping of a woodpecker in the distance. However one particular bird gave us a bit of an issue as there were two swans, one sitting on a nest slightly down the bank and on the path was her partner guarding her welfare and making sure she was safe, this posed a problem for us because it would hiss whenever we approached. After a bit of thought i decided to pick up Cookie (PK can fight his own way past) and hastily walked past, fortunately he could see that we meant no harm and just raised it’s wings a little and gave a slight hiss as a warning.

Just after 2pm we arrived at The New Inn on the banks of the Wey near Send. We sat at a table outside as the sun was shining and it was quite warm, we both looked at the menu for two seconds and although there was quite a choice we only saw the ‘Steak and Ale Pie’ as we had talked ourselves into it for the last hour and a half, the pie lived up to expectations and it was delicious, the meat was so tender and flavoursome. We had a brownie desert and washed it down with soft drinks. Cookie absolutely loves chips and PK gave her one but accidentally dropped it just out of her reach, she could just about reach it and lick it with her tongue, but couldn’t quite hook it back to eat, on realising this he thought it would be funny to tease her, how cruel was he! We spent about an hour at the pub watching life on the canal go by and as we left the garden had filled up with people.

There was a great deal of flotsam on the canal and this was down to Storm Katie as it had taken it’s toll on the trees during the previous weekend as many had toppled into the canal and were causing obstructions, this meant parts of the navigation was closed to boat traffic and gave the canal workers a bit of a headache in working out how to safely get them out. After a further hours walking through the cow meadows next to the Wey we could once again hear the rushing noise of people in their cars heading to or from their varied journeys as they travelled  on the A3. We walked parallel to this road for a short while and then came to the last lock of the day before Guildford and we were met by a terrible stench of sewage works and shortly after a dustcart depot.

We were now sensing that we were nearing Guildford as the area was becoming more built up and our realisation that we were in the suburbs was when we came up from the towpath and had to cross a really busy road, on the other side of the road our walk by the side of the canal on the towpath would now need to take a detour as the police had cordoned off the path and were carry out a search for a missing person. The detour took us through a housing estate and then across the A3 of which we managed to keep sight of the canal through the gaps in the houses. We rejoined the towpath and walked the last couple of kilometres into the city centre passing under the railway viaduct that was originally a wooden structure built opened in 1845 and then rebuilt in brick in 1912. PK certainly was beginning to flag on that last leg as he mentioned that he had never walked so far in a day and it’s a good job that he said, “At what point do we leave the canal to get to the station” and with that i looked at the map and said “Just here” and found the path to the station, who knows how far passed we would have gone if he hadn’t brought that small fact up, lol.

London’s Lost Route to the Sea – Kingston-upon-Thames to Weybridge

24th March 2016

Kingston-upon-Thames to Weybridge – 17.06km (10.6 miles)

Cookie and i start the day by crossing over Kingston Bridge to the North side of the Thames, this way we can follow the river as closely as possible. The weather today is looking a bit inclement so we have prepared ourselves for rain later in the day.

Once on the other side of the river we entered into Hampton Court Park, the park had a gravel path right next to the Thames and would lead us round to Hampton Court Palace. On this path we once again saw a pair of green parrots with red beaks flying between trees, bemused by this i googled why we keep seeing parrots in London, apparently they are called Kingston Parakeets and estimates are that there is about 6,000 in the wild in South London. It is not known how they were introduced into the wild but the theories are that they escaped when making the film African Queen, they escaped during storm damage in the 1987 hurricane or Jimi Hendrix released them in Carnaby street in the 1960’s. whatever the reason they were lovely birds. Shortly after i also saw a Jay singing in the trees too.

Within the first hour of walking i had reached Royal Hampton court palace, however no royalty have resided here since the 18th century. The building is a grade 1 listed palace that has seen much British history since it’s completion in 1521 and is now open to the public who can visit the palace and the grounds, the garden contains a maze and apparently the worlds largest vine.

We walked through the front garden of the palace and then crossed back over to the south side of the river, here we walked past East Molesey where we stopped in Hurst Park and had lunch over looking the Thames and Hampton on the far side. A lot of dog walkers were in the park and having lunch seemed to attract them over much to Cookies annoyance and mine come to think of it. I exchanged texts with Susan who was at work and mentioned how lucky i had been so far as the rain hadn’t arrived and the ten minutes later it chucked it down, doh!.

Luckily from East Molesey the route was tree lined which protected us a little from the rain and it was also becoming more rural, with less people walking the path than before. We passed by Sunbury lock and headed on round to Walton on the Thames passing by a lot of utility company sites that fortunately were behind a wall. At Walton on Thames there was a ‘Walk for Health’ group meeting up and as i approached they thought i was going to join them, i kindly smiled and walked past, they followed me for a while but then veered off in another direction.

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After leaving Walton on Thames it was then only a couple more miles until we were to reach Weybridge and the route was again tree lined but with more farmland to the side. At Weybridge we were then faced with a dilemma as i had not got a map and the Thames Path was to continue via a ferry, so i had to google on my phone to see if i needed to take this boat, however i soon discovered that i didn’t as you could clearly define where the Wey connects to the Thames and a short walk across Hamhaugh Island would lead us to the Thames Lock which was where we were to leave the Thames and join the Wey navigation south. This is the 1st lock on the Wey Navigation and another milestone in the journey as we would now be leaving the Thames behind and heading south. At the lock there was a little barn with some museum boards up, telling you more about the history of the waterway.

From the Thames Lock it was a short walk along the canal which was a very tranquil and peaceful section, giving us a taste of what was to come further on. There was some very exclusive residences here with large gardens and all with boats. After about a kilometre we reached the Wey Bridge the final stop for the day.

London’s Lost Route to the Sea – Putney to Kingston Upon Thames

March 23rd 2016

Putney to Kingston upon Thames – 21.78km (13.53 miles)

Putney Bridge is the start of not only the Oxford/Cambridge Boat Race but also the start of todays trek. I am on my own today as Susan is at work and Cookie has not been feeling 100% so thought it best not drag her along for 21km. As i leave the bridge and descend back down to the Thames path i am amazed by how many rowing clubs are along this stretch of road, i noticed a few rowers had Oxford  and others had Cambridge written on there sweatshirts and then a little further on all the TV crews were setting up and laying cables in preparation for the 2016 race on Sunday (27th March), i’ll need to watch it this year as i walked the whole length of the race route today.

At the end of the road out of Putney the path turned into a gravel track and is bordered by trees and the London Wetlands Centre, however on looking over to the other side of the river the area was so much more built up, you could also see Fulham Football Club. For 30 seconds the area was really peaceful, with just the sounds of the waterfowl and the odd rower going by splashing on the water and the other 30 seconds the piece was shattered by a jumbo jet going over, every minute i counted a plane going over descending and heading to Heathrow Airport, this went on all day, therefore walking for 4hrs meant that 240 planes would have flown over.

The trek today will not be a straight walk as the Thames at this part curves it’s way around the land, which means i’ll go around two big loops of the river. After completing the first loop i pass by the town of Barnes where Ninette de Valois lived in a house facing the Thames, Ninette was the founder of the Royal Ballet School. A little further on i walked by another town Mortlake where the old ‘Stag Brewery’ had been operating since 1889 and brewing Heineken and Budweiser here until it closed in December 2015, later this year it will be redeveloped, most likely changed to more luxury thameside residences.

The second loop on the river took me past Kew and Kew Gardens. The gardens have been here since 1840 and are now designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, they hold the worlds largest collection of living plants and are open to the public. I chose to eat my lunch just outside the gardens overlooking Syon House on the other side of the Thames, this house was built in 1547 and after a varied history is now the home to the Duke of Northumberland and his family. After lunch i continued on walking around the outskirts of the Old Deer Park and then on to Richmond. At this point more and more islands started appearing on the Thames which for some reason are called ‘Aits’, some of these are inhabited and have many houses on.

Just before the town of Richmond i saw a graceful Heron in the ditch that was carefully pacing around looking into the water for any fish that it can catch for it’s lunch, i stood and watch for a while, but i think he decided that lunch would not be caught here so he moved on. Richmond Lock built in 1894 and now listed was situated just before the town and is the furthest lock downstream on the thames, which was built to maintain a certain level in the water upstream of the lock, you can walk over to the other side as this is a sizeable lock and forms a bridge. Richmond is a waterside town and has a lovely promenade on it’s shore to the river which has a few bars and a place where you can hire bikes. An old steamship was also offering trips up the river, so tempting but i thought that would be cheating, may be another day.

Two more notable house’s were passed on the walk and these were Marble Hill House and Ham House, both great examples of English historical architecture and have played an important part in the history of England, they are now both owned and preserved by English Heritage and the National Trust.

It was quite a long stretch between Richmond and Kingston which was becoming quieter as the planes were becoming more distant on this section i passed by the Ham Nature Reserve, Eel Pie Island and Teddington Lock before reaching the ‘Half Mile Tree’ denoting the distance left to Kingston. The tree up until 1951 was an Elm tree believed to have been 500 years old, however this was replaced as it had become dangerous and to this day still marks the half a mile to Kingston Town. The last half mile was now becoming more built up and after a short walk through Canbury Park i arrived at Kingston Bridge.

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London’s Lost Route to the Sea -City of London to Putney

20th March 2016

City of London (Bank of England) to Putney – 15.61 Km (9.71 miles)

Today is the start of the 2016 challenge of following London’s lost route to the sea, a route taken during the Napoleonic war that would be a safe transit for the gold bullion from Portsmouth to the Bank of England and also the wages for the sailors coming back the other way. This system of canals were used only for a short period as the end of the war meant that trade could be done by the sea again and also the rise of the railways saw a much more efficient means of transport. This unfortunately means that the route is no longer navigable as much of the canal is now disused and also on private land, however there is a recognised route from Weybridge to Amberley following the canal as near as possible, the rest of the route can be quite distinguishable of which i will navigate as near to the canal as possible too.

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After parking up at Three Bridges Susan, Cookie and Myself caught a train to London Bridge followed by the London underground to Bank, on exiting the underground we came up into Threadneedle Street right outside the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange, this is an area i had not been before. The Royal Exchange was built in the 16th Century to act as a centre of commerce to the city of London, it now houses offices, luxury shops and restaurants. Just across the road from here is the Bank of England, where the gold bullion would have arrived. The Bank of England which is the central bank to England has been sited here since 1734 and is the second oldest central bank in the world.

From here we walked down towards London Bridge, which was to take us past ‘The Monument’ a column designed by Sir Christopher Wren to commemorate the great fire of London and stands 221m away from where the fire started in the bakers in Pudding Lane, there is a climb of 311 steps to the top, so decided to go to Pudding Lane rather than climb the steps up the tower. I was really disapointed in Pudding Lane, perhaps i just expected it to be olde worlde but it was very modern with offices and a small plague marking the spot where the bakers shop was, if you didn’t know it you could have walked straight past.

A short walk from here and we were at London Bridge where we would join the Thames that would be with us for the next three treks. The view of Tower Bridge was quite spectacular. Once on the other side of the Thames the path took us through Borough Market, which is a market where you wouldn’t go hungry as there is so many food stalls of all kinds from around the world. Just through the market and round the corner you are greeted with  the Golden Hinde, Sir Francis Drake’s ship that he circumnavigated the world in, at the entrance to the boat there was an explorer scout group carrying out some investitures, great place for the ceremony, you could also see that they were also taking part in the alternative Monopoly run too.

The path here was quite busy and then getting extremely busier at the Southbank, so much so it really slowed the pace down. It was a hive of activity with Yoda levitating, human statues, musicians and a guy making huge soapy bubbles, certainly an exciting stretch of footpath with so much going on. But such a contrast as you pass under Westminster Bridge the crowds just disappear and we were left with just a few people taking their Sunday afternoon stroll. At this point we have a great view of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament over the other side of the river.

We continued along the Thames and chose to have lunch in Battersea Park, as we entered the park from the road it became a more calmed atmosphere, an unusual bird call caught my attention so on looking up there were two green parrots in the trees, they flew around from tree to tree and then off to another part of the park, it was most bizarre. Another feature of Battersea Park was the large Buddhist Peace Pagoda standing just in from the Thames, the pagoda is there to inspire peace amongst all in the world and was built in 1985. After lunch we continued  on our way west along the Thames, and the area from here was to now become much more residential with large blocks of apartments that have sprung up, a quick peek in the estate agents revealed that some of the apartments cost millions, there were also many varied house boats on the river too. The path continued through the residential areas, past Prospect House where George IV frequented and into Wandsworth Park, where we saw some chalking on the ground saying ‘Almost There’ so apt for the days walk as it was true. Before long we arrived at Putney just as a second hand market was clearing up and todays walk was to finish at Putney Bridge. A short walk up the high st took us to the station where we would catch the train back.

 

 

Seaford to Eastbourne

12th March 2016

Seaford to Eastbourne – 20.72 km (12.87 miles)

A day of ups and downs it was and certainly the toughest part of the coastal walk so far, they call it the Seven Sisters but i’m sure i went up and down a lot more hills than that.

The day started in Seaford and we was to be a little delayed in setting off as just as i had got out the car and onto the promenade a little old lady called Jean fell over in front of me, i rushed over to help pick her up only to find out that she had a lot of pain in her hip and wasn’t able to get up, another couple had also stopped to help, so i decided to call an ambulance and ended up waiting about 45 minutes for it, shortly after arrival they started to deal with her so at that point i left them to it and set off.

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The first of many hills was Seaford head a climb of 80m, not a massive climb but quite steep and tested the knees straight away. At the top the beauty of the days walk was to become apparent, we were leaving the flat coast of Seaford behind and entering a dramatic landscape of undulating chalk cliffs.

Dropping down from Seaford Head took us into Cuckmere Haven, the estuary of the River Cuckmere, this meant that we were going to have an inland walk of about 1.5km to cross at the road bridge. The path that led us inland was quite muddy which meant a lot of slip sliding about. On reaching the road we crossed over to the Seven Sisters Countryside Centre which had details of the area and local walks, there was also coach loads of tourists too all walking down the beach trail path to the sea, so from here the rest of the trek was not to be alone as there would always be others walking to or from the same direction. It was probably the glorious weather that tempted everyone out as although it was a little hazy it was blue skies all round.

From Cuckmere Haven i followed the South Downs way back up to the cliff tops and started on tackling the Seven Sisters, a series of hills that have been cut in half with rolling downs one side and sheer drops on the other. There seemed to be more than seven hills and after many ups and downs and testing of the knees we dropped down into Birling Gap

Billing Gap has for a long time now been one of my favourite spots as it can be so peaceful, but today it was absolutely packed with people. It also gives you some fantastic views back towards the Seven Sisters. The coastguard cottages built here have been used in many films Birling gap is also subject to a great deal of coastal erosion as currently there are only a few cottages left compared to 1905 when there was four more. Now for me a decision needs to be made, Do i turn inland to East Dean and catch the bus or do i head on over Beachy Head to Eastbourne, the latter would be the choice, so uphill i set off once again.

The hills up to Beachy Head are higher but not so steep as the Seven Sisters. It was a more gradual climb out of Birling Gap up towards the ‘Belle Tout’ Lighthouse, now disused and converted into a luxury bed and breakfast, the light house was moved back 17m in 1999 as it was becoming to close to the crumbling edge, the whole building was raised up and put on rails to gradually move it back. A little further on we were then able to see ‘Trinity House’ the current Beachy Head Lighthouse that stands prominently in the sea at the base of the cliffs. This lighthouse has been manned for 80 years and since 1983 has been totally automated. The walk continued upwards to Beachy Head itself which stands at 164m above sea level, the highest point of the day, there is another visitor centre here and lots of tourists wandering around and some very close to the edge. From here it is to be downhill all the way into Eastbourne which i thought might be easy, but this was even more of a killer on the legs as the first bit following the south downs way was really steep. On the descent we were to get our first glimpses of Eastbourne and the pier in the far distant, the goal was in site. The end of the South Downs Way and ultimately the South Downs came abruptly to a road which was to lead us into the town, we dropped down off the road onto the Western Parade promenade. The promenade walk took us past another Martello Tower and the bandstand, that claims to be the most used in the UK, i must admit that it was quite impressive and just past this was the pier, looking good and fully open albeit with a building missing following the fire that it suffered in 2014.

The bus stop was right outside the pier and after a ten minute wait i got on the number 12 that would take me back to Seaford. It stopped in the town centre and i’m sure every foreign student in Eastbourne got on and then at Exceat loads more foreign students got on, now i was beginning to panic as i was right at the back with a dog and rucksack and needed to get off soon…….doh.

Back in Seaford i was really pleased with myself regarding the achievement today and overall, it was great to see a beautiful sunset over the English Channel. Now home and to the pub.

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