The weather forecast was not great today, so we set off for the next section of the Loop early in a bid to escape the rain. We arrived at Kingston by bus and walked to the start at Kingston Bridge for an 8 mile walk to Hatton Cross. We were glad to have our warm jackets, hats and gloves on this cold, grey and windy day.
The first green space was Bushy Park. Bushy Park was originally a deer park for hunting, given to Henry VIII by Cardinal Wolsey, along with Hampton Court Palace which is close by. There are still herds of red and fallow deer although now they live in peace. We saw lots of deer from a distance.
In the woodland were signs of spring among the leafless trees and cold winds.
And so much mistletoe hanging in huge round clumps high in the trees.
Bushy Park is a beautiful park, well worth a visit. More than 1000 acres and lots to see – we barely touched the surface. But onwards we went past some lovely houses and front gardens to the next open green space – Crane Park.
The highlights here are the river Crane and the Shot Tower. The area was once an important site for gunpowder manufacture. The proximity of the river for power and transport, and the relative lack of settlements meant that this very dangerous industry thrived for hundreds of years – right up until 1927.
A short stretch of road took us from Crane Park to Hounslow Heath. Hounslow Heath was once 2000 acres – it is now just 400 acres. This once huge open space, close to London, has been important historically since Roman times (and probably before!). What is now Staines Road was a Roman road, and evidence of Roman settlements have been found. The area has a long association with military endeavours, from James II intimidating Londoners with displays of military power, to a 1st World War aircraft training base.
In the 17th and 18th centuries the area was notorious for highwaymen, and apparently “peppered with gibbets” to deal with them.
“Hounslow Heath,” wrote William Cobbett in 1830, “… is a sample of all that is bad in soil and villainous in look. Yet this is now enclosed, and what they call ‘cultivated’. Here is a fresh robbery of villages, hamlets and farm and labourers’ buildings and abodes!” (Quote courtesy of this website). Goodness me – what on earth would he think of what’s happened here now! Barely any Heath left at all: roads, hotels, massive industrial estates, the airport, cars and planes.
The connection with airfields continued in the 20th and 21st century because of course Hounslow is home to Heathrow airport. Heathrow was just a tiny hamlet before 1929 when the airport was built, and took its name.
As we got closer to the end of this stage the aeroplanes became more and more present. Sometimes it felt like you could almost see the pilot!
Finally we left the Heath, just as the first drops of rain fell, emerging on a dual carriageway for the last half mile or so to Hatton Cross tube station and the journey back.
Back in Hanwell we stopped for coffee and cake before heading home.