Walks with Inner London Ramblers’ Groups 2016

January 6: Along the Grand Union Canal, Kensington Group.  Warwick Avenue to Hanger Lane.  Towpath walk with some colourful graffiti but a lot of litter, toilet stops at 2 Sainsburys.  Good and inexpensive pub lunch at the Grand Junction.  At the second stop, I went on ahead.  Back in London, used my Cotswold Outdoor voucher to buy boots, very comfortable, with a flash of purple round the ankles.

January 9: North Downs with Blackheath Group.  I’d been warned they were a tough group.  I could not keep up, and dropped out when we reached a village, at which point the leader announced they’d pick up the pace.  No problem, got a bus to the station.  The boots coped with the muddy conditions better than I did.

January 13: City Churches part 2 with South Bank Group.  Not so easy leading 20 people through the city streets, but Margaret confidently took us round the route of 14 churches and 1 synagogue as described in a guidebook – not the one I have, unless it’s a later edition.  One church was closed, and Bevis Marks Synagogue would not let us go in, probably she should have checked in advance.  My favourite was the bombed and rebuilt St Ethelburga;s Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, with a meditation tent in the churchyard, my unfavourite St Helen’s Bishopsgate which had cleared out the sacramental aspectts while maintaining ancient tombs and memorial plaques, some of them imported from other churches.  It seemed that worship was a matter of sitting round tables with piles of bibles in the middle, and a music group off to the side.

January 16: Surrey Quays to Blackheath, South Bank Group.  Huge crowd (they said 57, seemed more like 70) gathered outside the station, so I could not hear what the leader, Ann, was saying.  Headed straight for the shopping centre for a toilet stop, then mainly along the Thames Path to Greenwich.  Very good leader, and other members, including a man who had worked in the docks, contributing local knowledge.  Passed St Nicholas’ church in Deptford at 12:30 – it had been open until 12 – worth going back and having a look – West Indian woman vicar, Arab or Indian male curate.  Split up in Greenwich for own lunch arrangements; I went to the Mitre for a good breakfast.  Greenwich Park was no surprise to me, but a break with homemade cakes was.  And I thought we’d go straight from the Heath through Blackheath village to the station, but instead went round through Blackheath Park and heard about the history of the development of the estate.

January 28: Over the cablecar, solo.  A sunny day, so after prayers at the Prayer Space I crossed the river by the Emirates Air Line and walked eastward along the dock, past the City Airport on the other side, until the path was blocked, then returned, heading northward over a road bridge to a network of paths.  It would have been possible to continue to Newham City Farm and, no doubt, other attractions, but I returned to the road which followed the DLR until I could cross the railway by the Excel centre and return to the cable car.  The other possibility would be to walk west to the river Lea and follow it upstream.  I did once follow it downstream from Walthamstow to Docklands, but that was before the new developments.

January 30: Chislehurst to Grove Park with London Strollers.  Fun to get the bus to Chislehurst, passing through several districts I’d never seen.  The walk skirted the south of Chislehurst to the Common and then followed the Green Chain Walk.  There is a small Peace Park in Grove Park, dedicated to Desmond Tutu who was a curate there.  This was an afternoon walk, so no refreshment stop until right at the end.  NB loos in park closed at 3 pm.

February 2: Knockholt to Hayes, same railway line as on Saturday but a bit further out.  South Bank, led by Sue.  Explored Darwin’s sundial, Wilberforce’s oak, and Pratt’s Bottom.  It had been suggested some might stop at lunchtime and visit Downe House, Darwin’s home, but it was closed until later in the month.

February 6: Thames Path and Green Chain Walk from home to Lesnes Abbey, solo.  An accidental walk, with neither proper shoes nor a map, and a pleasant exploration of some unexpected hills.  Must go again when the construction of the viewpoint has been completed.  From the abbey, cross the first road by the overpass, and come down at the second to catch 180 bus back to Greenwich.

February 12: “Alight” project, stations 1-7. Solo. Found out about this from a posting on Facebook.  It is an art trail representing the Stations of the Cross.  My favourites today were both outdoor art: the statue of Gandhi is Parliament Square where the children of an Indian family came up to touch Gandhi’s foot, and the Epstein Madonna and child over the archway to the former Heythrop College in Cavendish Square, with podcast by Rabbi Julia Neuburger, as an example of interfaith insights.  The picture in the National Gallery was also amazing, but spoiled for me because I was not allowed to listen to the podcast on my iPad without headphones – but they do good lunches in the cafe.

February 17: City Churches Part 3 with South Bank Ramblers.  See also January 13 – an even bigger group.  Started from Blackfriars, visiting St Bride’s, the printers’ church. and finishing at St Dunstan’s in the West where William Gulliford entertained the prospective ordinands and team during a diocesan vocations conference, and finally a view from outside the Temple Church.  Four churches were not entered because of admission charges: St Paul’s Cathedral, which I plan to visit during an organized pilgrimage walk at half the usual admission charge; St Botolph without, Aldgate, which is now a Christian Heritage Centre; St Bartholomew the Great; and the Temple Church.  I would have gone in to the latter, as it is in the Alight project, but having spent all my cash on lunch and donations to other churches, could not.  The Salvation Army HQ, where we had lunch, was also on the Alight route, with a collage of children’s clothing for “Jesus is stripped of his garments”.

Sunday February 28: Green Chain Walk from home to Eltham Palace, solo. Bus back from Eltham Church. Pleasant woodland path through Oxleas Wood with cafe and outdoor gym just past the castle.  Eltham Palace expensive even to get into the grounds, but recommended by someone who as a member of English Heritage did not have to pay.  Maybe combine that with the next part of London Loop.

Tuesday March 1: Denham to Rickmansworth with South Bank Ramblers.  Cold wet morning, so went through Denham Village rather than the more exposed path across the golf course.  Then a canal walk through unseasonable swarms of midges.  Great lunch at the Coy and Carp, after which we followed the London Loop over upland fields before descending to Rickmansworth. 7.5 miles.

Wednesday March 2: Faith Walk in St Paul’s Cathedral.  Quite informative – I did not know that many churches point not due east but towards the rising sun on the patronal festival, with some churches being crooked as a result of a change in dedication.  New art to commemorate WWI and all war victims, in the shape of two large white crosses with excrescences of derelict buildings and tanks.  The spiritual component was provided by choral evensong afterwards.  The commentary assumed quite a lot of Christian background – would not recommend this to someone with none.

Saturday March 19: Effingham Junction to Westerham, lunch at Polesdon Lacey.  The afternoon was more scenic than the morning, with a final stretch along the  North Downs Way.  The route could have been extended to take in Box Hill.  South Bank Ramblers.

Saturday March 26: Hayes to Addington with South Bank Ramblers.  Billed as an easy walk with botanical interest, which should have put me off, but it was good to get out of the house, and back before the forecast storms exploded.

Saturday April 2: Plumpton to Lewes with South Bank Ramblers. A gentle morning stroll in the sunshine followed by a steep climb up to the South Downs Way – windy, chilly and scenic.  Great views as we descended to Lewes, where I met up with Andrew and Angela Wingate.

Tuesday April 5: Tadworth Circular with South Bank Ramblers.  Via Epsom racecourse and crossing the M25 twice through underpasses.

Saturday 23 April: Westminster to Bermondsey, solo.  A Shakespeare walk.  The idea was, 37 screens each showing extracts from a play.  Many were not working, or inaudible, but some were good.  The route ended at Tower Bridge but I walked on to Bermondsey station to find out where it was.

Saturday 30 April, Whyteleafe to Woldingham, South Bank Ramblers.  Starting and ending with golf courses, a far easier walk than when I went to Woldingham with the Blackheath group.