Sunday 27/2/22 – a bright sunny day, perfect for a long walk from Hatton Cross to Uxbridge. Michelle, Steve and I completed the next two sections of the Loop on a beautiful spring day, and realised that we are almost a third of the way round!
The first 3.5 mile (6km) section from Hatton Cross to Hayes and Harlington started inauspiciously along a dual carriageway but soon re entered the River Crane Park. Never far from industry and Heathrow Airport the rumble and roar of traffic and aircraft was an ever present distraction. And unfortunately the amount of rubbish strewn about was a sad reminder of unthinking and selfish consumerism, linked with lack of appreciation of the value of green spaces.
On the other hand – thank goodness these pockets of green space exist! The parks and water meadows, along with the river itself, provide valuable habitats for a very wide variety of wildlife, and we saw and heard many birds, including red kites and woodpeckers.
Cranford Park was the highlight of this part of the walk. The Berkeley family had a house and extensive parkland here from 1618-1918. The house was demolished in the 1940’s, but the parkland remains for public use. The family used the house as a base for hunting, and the stables are the only remains of the buildings that used to be here. The woodland nearby is called Dog Kennel Covert, where presumably the hunting dogs were kept. There has been a church at the site of the present St Dunstan’s since Saxon times, and the oldest bell dates from 1380, which is pretty amazing when you think about it!
Coming out of the woods we found ourselves on the Hayes bypass – a particularly unpleasant stretch of road for a pedestrian. Luckily it wasn’t too long before we were on the Grand Union Canal towpath and a more congenial (although still industrial) view. At this point of the canal the Paddington branch starts at Bull’s Bridge, and dates from 1794.
A short walk along the canal took us into Hayes Town, where we found a Costa and had a coffee break! End of section 10.
As expected the next section (7.5 miles / 12 km) began to develop a more rural feel, and become less noisy, and maybe a bit less dirty (in some places at least). The developers of the London Loop had some route decisions to make here, because there are waterways and green spaces in abundance. The result is a really good mix of riverside and canalside paths, with a detour into a 1980’s out of town hi-tech business park – Stockley Park.
Before the development of the business park the area was home to a big brick making industry, where in the 19th century large numbers of men, women and children (as young as 7) worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
We stopped for a sandwich in the park at the Viewpoint – with views right across the Colne Valley. Here we met some people also walking the Loop. I wonder if we’ll see them again?! Then we were back on the canal, taking a turn onto pretty much the last canal to be built in England in 1882 – the ‘Slough Arm’. We crossed first Fray’s River via an aqueduct and then over the River Colne by a bridge. There’s a lot of water round here (and a lot of mud) because then we got to a lake called Little Britain (because it’s shaped a bit like the British Isles…).
It really was beautiful here, the path winding through trees with the river and the lake side by side. The absolute highlight of the day for me was seeing swathes of snowdrops carpeting the ground beneath the trees. It really was fantastic.
Just after this vision of beauty we could hear a lot of laughing and shrieking – and came round a corner to the sight of two totally stark naked men splashing around in the river by a little weir! Wow! 🤣 Michelle pretended to go and steal their clothes – even more screaming! It was sunny – but it wasn’t that warm! So we left them to it, and carried on – back to the Grand Union Canal and finally back to Uxbridge, where we caught the bus home.
This was definitely one of the nicest sections of the walk so far, and I would do it again just on its own.